The Long Way to Durango: Sleeping on the Side of the Road

Durango to HanksvilleAfter the rain the night before, when we left the hotel rooms at 7:00 am it was blue skies. We wanted to make a couple of stops along the way—one at Mesa Verde and Kathy wanted to tick Four Corners off her bucket list (it’s the only place in the country where the four corners of any state meet). In this case Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. So after a sweet roll at the hotel, we hit the road. The ride between Durango and Cortez is a beautiful ride.

We had been talking about stopping at Mesa Verde National Park for a couple of days, so decided we could afford the short detour despite  the 350 or so miles we’d be in the saddle (our original destination was Torrey—more on that later). After a few minutes in the visitor’s center, we entered the park. One thing I love about the National Parks is how they seem compelled to follow the contours of the landscape when they build their roads. Riding inside this particular park was very fun.

Looking down on the highway to CortezWinding turns had the bikes leaning into the curves as we climbed to the top of the mesa. We didn’t realize how far we’d climbed until we stopped at a lookout and looked down at the highway to Cortez below us. There wasn’t much traffic to get in the way and all of us commented that the ride in was one of the things we liked the best about Mesa Verde.

It’s pretty hard to believe that the structures we were looking at were around 800 years old. These people were masons—they knew what they were doing. I took several photos of the sites we stopped at and hiked around. The guide told us that there were about 10,000 people living in the Mesa Verde area of Colorado at the height of the community. And, the population of southwest Colorado was probably greater then than it is today.

Mesa Verde 3The mesa above this area would have been covered in cornfields rather than the pine and juniper that thrives there today. This was an agricultural community with a thriving population. I wonder if there will be remnants of our homes 800 years from now?

After descending to the valley, we had lunch in Cortez and prepared for the increase in temperatures as we headed south to Four Corners and then northwest on highway 95 to Torrey, UT.

I filled my hydration vest just outside of Blanding and was glad I did as the temperature climbed over 90 and hit 100 (according to the folks in Hanksville). 95 is a beautiful highway we practically had to ourselves. After crossing the bridge over the Colorado River, we stopped to stretch our legs. I took a photo of Phil’s and my bike, before we mounted up for the next couple hours of riding. Unfortunately, my battery had given up the ghost.

Highway 95We tried a portable charger we had with us, but it didn’t have enough juice to get us started. After an hour or so of trying everything we could think of, we decided to split up and try to find a tow. I would remain along the side of the road with my bike while Phil and Kathy rode into Hanksville to find someone who could tow me into town where we could try to locate a battery and continue on our way.

Stocked up with some water I settled in for what I thought would be a couple hours wait. When rescue hadn’t come at 10:30, I figured I would be stuck here until morning and fell asleep looking at the beautiful stars. Sometime between Midnight and 1:00 am, I was startled awake by the bank of spotlights on the tow truck Phil had sent to rescue me. If you’re ever in a bind and in the area, Jeff and Carolyn Kiteley of Kitely’s Place Towing are awesome.

“You don’t look very stressed out,” said Carolyn as she climbed out of the truck. “Most people out here in the middle of the night are pretty stressed by the time we get here.”

I figured there was nothing I could do about the situation and was pretty tired, so I just did what came naturally.

Let me just say, standing on the angled flatbed of a tow truck holding onto the front brake as the driver lifts you up in the air in the dark is a little unsettling—maybe even trippy. Fortunately Jeff knew what he was doing and my bike was strapped down and headed for Hanksville.

I found out what the delay had been on the ride back. Kathy had somehow fried her transmission and couldn’t get over 40 mph on the way into town. The arrow on the map above is about where we stopped. And, once they got to Hanksville the phones were down, so Phil had to go in search of Jeff’s home at 11:00 pm and rouse him from bed to go out into the desert night to find me.

Needless to say, we didn’t make our hotel reservation in Torrey and there wasn’t a room available in Hanksville. In the wee hours of the morning when I arrived, we were bivouacked on some picnic tables next to the gas station/convenience store and because of the state of Kathy’s trike, there was no way we would be able to continue on. Phil had called Kelly and he would meet us in the morning to tow our bikes home.

If there’s anything I’ve learned about motorcycle touring, it’s to expect the unexpected. (And, you should never ignore that little voice in the back of your head that suggests it’s time to gas up, check the oil, or put a new battery in your bike.)  Most of the time everything is fine. The equipment performs as it’s supposed to and things go off without a hiccup. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case and a good attitude and keeping calm is the only way to deal with things like rain, mechanical failure, sleeping on the side of the road, or maybe even on an old picnic table.

We made it home safe and sound; and Kathy’s bike is in the shop as we speak. My bike is in the garage waiting for her new battery. Kelly came through for us like the great friend he is. And, since I was the only one who was able to get a few “Zs” on the picnic tables, I got to ride Phil’s Ultra Classic home.

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Filed under Utah Rides, Western Rides

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