Monday, June 9, 2014

June 9 (Day 160) - Most incredible ride of the year!!!

What I didn't know when I got into Kayenta yesterday was that it is the gateway to Monument Valley (MV). This natural wonder sits just north of the city and, from what I can gather from the array of languages I heard at Burger King yesterday, is quite the international tourist destination. My destination for tonight was Bluff, UT. I had two choice for potential routes. The gray route on the map below would take me around MV and keep me on the very biker-friendly Route 160 for most of the day. It would also minimize the amount of climbing I would have to do. The blue route below would take me right through MV but require 1,500 extra feet of vertical gain. I had also heard from multiple sources that Route 163, the road through MV, deteriorated once I crossed into Utah from Arizona. Bad roads rank right up there with wind as the biggest headache a biker can encounter. My head was telling me to take the gray route and my heart was telling me to roll the dice and head straight into MV. The blue route it was!

More than any bird I have seen or person that I have met on this trip, this ride will stay with me for the rest of my life. The shear natural splendor and beauty that I witnessed today was essentially indescribable. I understand that this scenery is the same when viewed from a car, but being on the bike made me feel like part of the landscape rather than a visitor to it. The slow pace at which I cycled today allowed the magnificence to truly sink in. As I climbed each each hill or turned each corner, I tried to imagine what I night see when the next canvas was fully unfolded. In each instance, the reality dwarfed the mental image I had conjured. The decision to ride this route today might ultimately prove to be the best decision I have made or will make this year. It seems completely insignificant compared to the scenery, but I was able to add a family of Sage thrashers (#466) right as I began the descent into MV. With that, I will shut up and just let the pictures speak for themselves. 

I should mention that the fears about Route 163 in Utah were completely unfounded. The Arizona section of the road is in incredibly good shape, so there is a noticeable difference the instant you cross into Utah. However, the Utah stretch of the road is perfectly serviceable; The road and actually got better and better and I moved north through MV, into the town of Mexican hat, and finally onto Bluff. If you ever have the chance to ride this route, it most definitely worth it!

The road into Monument Vallay from Kayenta

State #21!

The famous scene from Forest Gump!

Canon 17-40L at 17mm on EOS 7D
1/500 at f/13, ISO 320

Canon 17-40L at 17mm on EOS 7D
1/640 at f/13, ISO 320

Canon 17-40L at 17mm on EOS 7D
1/320 at f/16, ISO 320

There should be so much more to this post, but since the internet at my motel sucks, this is it for now. #veryveryveryfrustrated 

OK, Internet is borderling working again (its the next morning). I am just going to add a few more pictures from the Utah section of the ride. These miles were equally spectacular!

Climbing in the canyon lands

Steep hill to reach top of mesa/plateau

Plateau top - very flat and open

San Juan River in the town of Mexican Hat, UT

Tomorrow its onto Colorado! I hope to be able to do some roadside birding as I roll towards Cortez, CO!

1 comment:

  1. I'm obsessed with these photos! I fell so head over heels in love with this landscape when I drove through there last fall. Glad to hear you're enjoying it so much too.