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2016 Ride Across America

Day 5 - Durango, CO Loop to 4 Corners - 225 miles
Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Morning came too soon.  I went down to the Super 8 breakfast nook and had an uninspiring breakfast of a waffle, yogurt, coffee and took a banana back to my room.  Right then I decided this would be the last Super 8 motel for a while.  It had rained last night and was still drizzling this morning.  I don't mind riding into rain when on the road, but the thought of going out and removing a cover off a bike and packing a wet cover into luggage never appeals to me some how.  Depressing actually.  It was supposed to get better, so I lounged in my room with even more coffee while I poured over my laptop and Basecamp to see what else I could see while riding to the Four Corners Monument.  The purpose of this day was to make sure I not only touched 2 new states I hadn't ridden in (Arizona and New Mexico), but actually to ride a bit in them too.

Today was a purple colored GPS map day.  The first picture below shows the route planned.  It nearly resembled a circle or a fitting loop.  North-north east out of Durango on US-160 hugging the San Juan National Forest to the north on to Mancos, CO, then west to Cortez, CO, just touching the Mesa Verde National Park.  From Cortez, I planned to follow US-160 south-south west to its intersection with US-491 and then bare right to continue west on US-160 heading west-south west to the Four Corners Monument.  From the monument, I would continue south-south west on US-160 for 5.5 miles in Arizona to the intersection with US-64 at the nearly extinct town of Teec Nos Pos.  Taking a hard left onto US-64, I would ride another 4.2 miles south-south east before leaving Arizona and entering New Mexico.  Another 23 miles east would get me to Shiprock, New Mexico and another 25 east to the outskirts of Farmington, NM.  I would jump around the top of Farmington to get on US-516 heading east-north east another 8.5 miles to  the small city of Riverview where I heard there was a Aztec Ruins National Monument.  After stopping there, I would ride the 35 miles or so north on US-550 back to Durango.

The ride on US-160 to Cortez was beautiful.  It was a nice multi-lane highway going up and down with a few nice curves and almost no traffic.  I stopped on the east edge of Cortez to gas up, and then stopped again for lunch at a Wendy's on the western edge.  It occurred to me that there was little in the way of towns or other commercial stops between here and possibly beyond the Four Corners Monument so I took care of my body then.  Heck it was noon at the gas station. 

Travelling south on US-160, and about half way to the turn west to the monument, the high desert landscape showed up and it got considerably warmer.  At the same time, I began to notice ominous, black, angry looking storm clouds on the horizon trailing sweeping lines of heavy rain.  Oh my,... it seemed like I was riding right towards them.  One in particular caught my attention.  When the highway turned, I thought, hey, there is a chance I could outrun it to the monument, or it might even turn and miss it altogether.  The closer I got, the more certain I became that it was headed straight for me.  Maybe it wouldn't get there until I was on the road again?  We'll see.

If you read the link to the Four Corners Monument (above), you know the Native American tribes (Navaho and Ute) own the land and charge $5.00 to enter the monument.  I pulled up into a large group of Harley's in the parking lot and walked into the monument area itself.  

As you can see, the corners monument itself is kind of cool.  There are signs saying you only have a minute in the center to make sure others get a chance to pose.  When I walked up, there were three young men having their turn.  I took a picture of them (facing north - which looks like clear skys).  Also notice that the entire 360-degree structure is outlined by stalls for Native Americans to sell their craft items.  Instead of walking to the center, I took a movie walking around it.  I also took a picture of the commemorative plaque out by the flag pole.  The last picture is looking south as the rain cloud loomed closer, lightning dancing out of it.  I jumped on my bike and headed for the highway again before it got there.  Putting rain gear on and off is a real pain when it's warm out.

Hwy-64 heading east at the bottom of the loop was interesting.  Not exactly a fun road (it was flat and straight), but it offered some great views of the mountains and plains all around, the ever changing weather, and this unique view of a strange lone rock poking up called "Shiprock".  It reminded me of Pirates of the Carribean or Black Sails.  Really, it did look ominous with rain clouds all around it.

When I arrived in Riverview, NM, I followed my GPS to the Aztec Ruins National Monument.  I didn't know what to expect, but this turned out to be one of the most organized park sites I visited during the entire trip - maybe because it's so small?  In retrospect, I wish I had given myself more time.  Unlike many NP or NM sites that have guided tours, this one offers you a self-guided tour "book" with numbered stops and a page or more to read about what you are seeing.  You can walk through the ruins as quickly or as slowly as you like and take as many photos as you want without being scuried around on a timetable.  You just return the guide book before leaving.

The first picture below is where the park and ruins are.  As you can see, it's a small and short foot path and at the end of a residental street.  I've included an arrow to point it out.  As you can see, I wandered a bit north and back while the GPS howled it would need to recalculate, and then once again when I was leaving on the east side of the Animas River it decided I needed to recross the river.  It was just too damn slow telling me I was on the right track, so the Animas River got crossed three times when once would have been enough.

Some of the pictures here are meant to be viewed in portrait mode because the spaces are small and fit better that way, but the web site creator I'm using likes landscape mode only in this type presentation, so sorry.

The stone work was amazing.  Strangest thing was the size of the doorways.  They were all incredibly short.  I'd say about 40".

US-550 north to Durango was uneventful and actually numbing, and I felt closed in.  There was actually some traffic late in the afternoon, and traffic lights here and there as I neared Durango.  Like Aurora back in Seattle.  Back at the Super 8, I showered then when down to the desk and asked the staff where a good place for dinner was.  They pointed across the street and said there was a good ribs place.  I went back to my room and started planning the next day and uploading Facebook pictures.  Next thing I knew, it was pitch black out.  It was nearing 9:00 PM, so T-shirt and all, I rode across the highway.  I found the place only to see they were cleaning up and closed early on Mondays !!!  WTF?  So with no real riding gear on, I rode into downtown Durango and had another Denny's meal, and then endured a pretty chilly ride back to the motel for the night.  It was a surprizingly good day.