Sand Island to Cortez - Grand Junction to Durango 1991 - CycleBlaze

April 19, 1991

Sand Island to Cortez

It is cold this morning when I arise.  I am glad it is only three miles to Bluff, where I can warm up 
Over breakfast and coffee.  Once there, my breakfast is OK (my standard sausage and eggs), but the rather severe waitress seemed a bit put out to have me there. It may have just been her manner though - she has an almost pioneer appearance (ED: or perhaps she's turning up her nose at the fact that I haven't had a shower since Blanding, a hot, hard 230 miles back).

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After breakfast, I did some more restocking of my supplies, including the purchase of a new book: People of Darkness, a Navaho mystery by Tony Hillerman.  I hope it's a good one - there is quite a small selection here, not surprisingly.  On the way out of town I stop at the Bluff Trading Post, hoping to find some more film - I'm almost out.  I do find some film, and also a tee shirt with Anisazi figures on it.

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The road to Montazuma Creek follows alongside the San Juan River and is a fairly easy ride, except for a slight headwind.  Montezuma Creek itself brings the most unexpected find of the tour - a bakery/deli in an old warehouse.  Over six cookies, a hard boiled egg and two cups of coffee I discuss life with the owners, an unusual couple who are perhaps in their sixties.  Remarkably, they used to do restaurant work at the bakery in Lincoln City (ED: the Oregon coast town just an hour  west of our home in Salem).  They gave me their names and address so I can let their old boss know where they are living now.  I have a mission to accomplish on the coast now when I return home! 

They aren't too happy to be down here though.  They complain that the Navajos give them a lot of trouble.  They also say that they are on the wrong side of town.  In fact, they aren't in Montezuma Creek at all - they are in West Montezuma Creek.  This sounds a bit presumptuous to me, as though they regarded themselves as a suburb of a community with a population of about fifty.

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After six flat-free days, I have two in the next ten miles - one while leaving the bakery, and one immediately after a Navaho lady pulled off the road and offered me a ride to Cortez.  Both were caused by thorns.  I have a nightmarish vision of constant flats for the rest of the long day ahead, but no others occur.

I do have another, more significant equipment problem though.  My crank (I think) is making a progressively worsening grinding noise whenever I exert too much force on the pedals.  I think I've perhaps got a broken bearing or two.  It probably isn't too good to ride on it, but hopefully it will get me to the airport.  I don't see a lot of other choices.

I stop once more, in Aneth, another small community with only a convenience store.  It looks like this village is here because of oil drilling activity - pumps are active all along this stretch of the San Juan.  Over a coke outside the Aneth store, I flirt with a beautiful Navajo boy of about age three.  He is loudly outfitted in a red cowboy hat and kaleidoscope pants.

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The next thirty or forty miles, near Four Corners, are rather monotonous - the country is generally featureless, and for hours there is no shade and no reasonable spot to rest.  There are only a few things that occur to me to take a photo of - a lovely mare and her colt, and Sleeping Ute Mountain - but even these are not captured, since the battery in my camera suddenly died today.

(Later, at the motel, I got the camera out to see what kind of batteries I needed.  Surprisingly, I found a large hole in the bottom of the camera instead of batteries - the mount had fallen off!  Happily, all of the required pieces were still in the bottom of my pannier.  This explained a mystery - I was pretty puzzled that they had given out so totally and abruptly.)

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I do take one break, on a guardrail along a gully crossing, which holds me until the junction with highway 666 where I find a convenience store and three apparently resident mongrel dogs.  Only one, which looks a bit like a whippet, looks at all healthy.  One of the others has mange, and the third has a bad eye and an ugly six inch open sore on its side.  I have a quart of milk and a small bag of chips, but it is hard to get much pleasure from it as I am surrounded by beggars.

It is getting fairly late in the day now (its four PM), I am hot and a bit anxious over my creaky crankshaft - so I am delighted to be bolstered by a stiff tailwind for the remaining twenty miles to Cortez.  Sleeping Ute Mountain looms large on the left, a wall of high cliffs approaches ahead, and in the distance Shiprock and Mount Hesperides are occasionally seen.  There are also some new roadside blossoms out (helping to break up the monotonous stream of broken beer bottles which has decorated the roadside ever since Mexican Hat), a golden eagle, and perhaps a new species of jay.  It's a frustrating stretch to ride without a functional camera.

Cortez itself is decidedly unlovely, to my eyes anyway - constant billboards, car lots, motels, and so on.  I can't see much attractive about it, other than it's setting.  I decide to make a last motel stop here, hoping that I will still be reasonably presentable on the day after tomorrow for the flight home.

Today's ride: 80 miles (129 km)
Total: 570 miles (917 km)

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