WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: WanderRockies 4 - Paonia, Colorado
Date: Fri, 21 Jul 2000 22:20:22 -0700

    Eternal vigilance is the price of contentment, too.

    As I have mentioned before, it is prudent to frequently check your bike for anything out of ordinary. Big problems often start as small clues. I had been checking the bikes by walking around them and taking in the whole scene without studying anything in particular. Everything was normal when we covered the bikes last night.
    This morning I stepped out and removed the covers. Then my eye caught an anomaly. There was a series of drops of yellowish fluid directly beneath the front disk brake. It is human nature to react before acting. What sorts of thoughts race through your mind when panic tries to grab hold? Fear and futility rise in a rush. Gag. We're 150 miles from the nearest dealer, if I lose front brakes will I lose the rear too, how far can I go with only engine braking and not stopping ... wait. Wait just a second. Investigate. Analyze. The brake housing is not wet. What's that smell? It's not brake fluid.
    Woof! The answer came from the end of the building. Woof! And the pawed perpetrator of panic trotted away.

    Precisely at the Colorado border, the lay of the land changed as though a different crayon was used to color on this side of the line. The land went from flat and red to rumpled brown with spots of green shrub. The hills of the Rockies were beginning with the crystal line of the Colorado River.
    Rebecca was leading again, and precisely at the Colorado border a left fist thrust triumphantly into the air. Another state claimed, and success of the journey was easily at hand.

    So, of course, we take a detour. From Fruita, I led into the Colorado National Monument. A two lane road climbs several thousand feet up to what I call the Swivel Neck Mesa, but on the map is the Uncompahgre Plateau. "Uncompahgre" is probably an Indian word for 'incomparable'. To truly enjoy this road you must be able to turn your head more than 90 degrees in either direction. While riding. Lizard Canyon, Wedding Canyon, Monument Canyon, Ute Canyon, Red Canyon, Columbus Canyon, and (I kid you not) No Thoroughfare Canyon make the 30 miles force you to consume an hour in passage. This is drop jaw beautiful. If you haven't seen the Grand Canyon, this is excellent practice for the wow factor. Rebecca called it Riding the Rim Rock.

    Another quick jaunt on the Interstate and we jumped off at CO65 to climb up up and up through the aspen forest to the 11,000 foot top of Grand Mesa. It seems most if not all of Delta County is visible from the crest, and I could point to the mountain above Paonia.
    Soon enough we were at the foot of that mountain, and the sparkling little town of Paonia was ours to enjoy in the quiet before the rally. Paonia is small enough to not need a stop light on its three block main street, yet it is large enough to have a movie theater playing first run shows. Like many small towns, the number of churches is approximately equal to the number of bars (are drinkers denominational?). But it is the city park which makes the rally special. Two full square blocks with hundred year old trees shading a lush lawn beside a ball field and a grandstand. Perfect for motorcycle camper gatherings.
    Named by marble mouthed miners for the peonies which abounded nearby, the entire town of Paonia gets involved in the rally. The American Legion provides food and beer, the high school sells lunches and washes bikes, the middle school has a bake sale table. Even the local businesses participate by being designated stops for a 'poker walk' instead of a poker ride.

    We find an outstanding quality local restaurant and settle in to rest, weary but pleased. The biker lady has earned her rally pin.

    Rebecca's observations for the day: The water swirl marks 1000 feet above a cliff floor are humbling to make you realize how long time can last. A sentinel rock guarding the canyon opening looks like it is waiting for what must eventually come - whatever it may be, it is patient. The deep red of the polished rock surface is a more striking color than one expects from the earth.

233 miles
Green River I70 CO340 I70 CO65 CO92 CO133 Paonia
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

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