The Bonello gang, Monty Carrie and Zoe are on the road again. We are off to Colorado and Utah for a couple of weeks. If you remember in 2012 we sold all the ATV stuff. Somehow we came to the decision we were getting too old to be out in the back country riding by ourselves. Well, apparently we have found the fountain of youth because we are no longer ‘too old’ for those adventures. After a summer of sitting around practicing to be old,Monty said we needed to look back and see what we really enjoyed doing and rethink our brash decision to give it up. Long story short, we bought a 2016 Polaris RZR and plan to spend some time riding again. We are excited about it.
First stop on this trip is to visit family and friends in Grand Junction, Colorado. We took the route that we’ve taken many times but not recently. After driving through Phoenix in 108 degrees it was refreshing to spend the night at the Bonita Campground north of Flagstaff, it is one of our all time favorite stops, great camp hosts, nice place to walk and the pine trees smell wonderful. The temps were chilly and felt great. We enjoyed meeting a guy from Tucson, Mark and his wife were on their maiden voyage in their new motorhome. Fishing is his thing and he and Monty told fish stories and talked about the streams in Montana.
Moving on the next day, we were surprised at the changes on the Navajo reservation around Tuba City and Kayenta. They have added a solar and wind farm along with a correctional facility and made some good road improvements. During the 27 years we have been traveling through the area these are the first significant changes we have seen. Hopefully it means more jobs and opportunities for the Native Americans there. If you ever go through that area stop in at the Burger King in Kayenta and look over the nice display about the Navajo Code Talkers during WWII. It is worth the stop.
It is always a treat to drive through Monument Valley, what an interesting place. We enjoyed pointing out various places we have stopped over the years. One particular plateau is almost like a second home, we have over night camped there so many times when we had the truck and camper. I don’t think the motorhome could make it through the creek.
In our younger years when we vacationed until the last minute and drove home at night we ran into a herd of sheep on the highway, not literally, thank goodness. It sure slowed the trip, sheep just don’t hurry and neither do the herders.Then there was the time someone forgot to close the gate and there were horses everywhere. This trip was quiet but beautiful scenery.
Just over the San Juan River is Bluff, a wide spot in the road, with a gas station, post office, and a couple of small mom and pop motels. A little farther down the road are the signs and photo op pull out for the unusual balanced rock called Mexican Hat. Nothing has changed there, a few people with their cameras in the pull outs. Actually in these days of political correctness I’m surprised someone hasn’t petitioned to have the name changed to Sombrero Rock.
We passed Elephant Feet, two towering rocks that really do look like giant elephant feet, the Navajo woman selling handmade jewelry was there but she had a tiny house instead of a canvas canopy. Down the road passing the entrance to Canyonlands National Park, we reminisced about camping there along Indian Creek. Those were the early days, we were tent camping and riding double on a dirt bike. Ah, those were the good old days! Sitting around the campfire one night we invited a couple over from a neighboring campsite. We spent a delightful evening with a midwife and parson from Germany. One of their main concerns was that so many Naaaa-vaaaa-ho women were sitting by the road selling jewelry. Where were the men?
They were reluctant to ask, but really wanted to understand the liquor deal in Utah. They had a couple of beers but weren’t sure they should be enjoying them. We did our best to explain, but I don’t think they were buying it. This was the first of many times we have enjoyed the company of Europeans traveling through the Southwest.
We had a wonderful visit in Grand Junction with Monty’s daughter, Noel, her husband Paul and of course the absolutely charming 4 year old, Will. He introduced us to his little brother, Max, 3 months old. Will is really struck on his Grandpa and the pair were a treat to watch together. The family is delightful and it was a good time. We had seasonal pizza from the Hot Tomato, this month the offering was was peach and prosciutto. I’m thinking there is no season for prosciutto but peaches are definitely in season and they are to die for. The pizza was very good, just a perfect combination.
The produce alone is worth the trip to Grand Junction. We spent Saturday morning at the Farmers Market and picked up softball size peaches, tomatoes that actually looked, smelled and tasted like tomatoes, pears that were tree ripe and ready to eat and Olathe corn right from the field. We enjoyed a visit with Monty’s sister, Kay, and our friends Evita and Jim took us out to the auction/feedlot for dinner. I was afraid it was like a lobster pound, pick the one you want. Thank goodness that didn’t happen.
Leaving Grand Junction we enjoyed passing through Moab, Utah. What a great place for all things outdoors, Moab sits on the Colorado River, it is a mecca for mountain bikes, ATV, jeeps and river rafting. The town is one main street with delightful shops and plenty of outdoor adventure stuff. The gas stations are busy and while we were gassing up I struck up a conversation with the people next to us. They were from Vermont so it was easy to chat since we were there last year. They just retired and were visiting all the National Parks in the Southwest, they loved the Grand Canyon and spent six days at Canyonlands and Arches on their way to Capitol Reef, Zion and Bryce. I was excited for them, so many beautiful places to see for the first time. We will continue to return to these places over and over.
On the way to Marysvale, one of the little towns on the Paiute trail, we passed through Blanding, Utah. Blanding holds a special place in our hearts for a couple reasons, first they have a small museum with the most incredible display of Native American pottery ever seen in one place. Rumor has it that a lot of it was confiscated from illegal pottery hunters many years ago, there was a big to-do about the antiquities act, etc. The second reason is the night we spent at the Prospector Motel and breakfast at the Elk Ridge Cafe. More on that later.
We arrived in Maryville at the RV park we thought we wanted to stay in but it wasn’t. I mean who plants an acre of grass and then posts signs all over it no dogs! REALLY, what is grass for? The only place to walk Zoe was a fenced gravel ‘dog park’. We stayed there two nights and moved into town with most of the other riders and decided it was much better. We could walk Zoe all over Marysvale, (two streets) we sauntered past the pizza shop/sub shop and the gas station, there are a few houses but that’s Marysvale.
We met interesting people, I have to tell you about Barb, 75 years old, a recent widow, from Payson, Arizona. She and her husband had been riding in this area for many years and have lots of friends that come to ride every year. So she came to see everyone and ride with them by herself, she had a new Can Am (off road machine like ours but bigger). She drove up in a truck pulling a 5th wheel toy hauler! We were in awe of this little lady. We had a 5th wheel for a few years and it was so much work we finally sold it. How in the world she manages all of that is beyond us. She’d been away from home for five weeks, the first few weeks spent in Colorado riding. You gotta admire this gal. Funny the place she mentioned riding in Colorado was the same one that the guy we talked to in Flagstaff had been fishing. We’ve been in that area many times but never stayed at that particular place. OK, it is on our list for next summer.
Later in the day we met Tom, from Prescott, AZ. He is an experienced rider with a RZR like ours, well not exactly like ours. His must have every extra add-on imaginable and turbo charged to boot. He was fun to talk to and he and his wife were expecting five other couples from Prescott to join them for a few days of riding. The following day we met all them at a pull out on the trail. One of the couples had a four seater and in the back was the most magnificent dog we’ve ever seen. Lambo was a rust colored Newfoundland weighing in at 160 pounds. We got to pet him and he was so gentle, we’ve never seen a kinder face on a dog. Gosh we loved him. The people were OK too. A lot of people like to ride in groups, but we prefer to ride by ourselves, I just like to know that there are other people out there on the trail. If you have a problem it is nice to know that someone might come along.
Why We Love to Ride
Memory didn’t fail us, we love everything about riding the trails. Our RZR doesn’t have a windshield, the roof is about two feet above our heads, the doors are quarter doors so there is a lot of open space, like riding on the quad we used to have, but this has roll bars and comfortable seats. When we quit riding, these type of machines (side-by-side seating) were just beginning to show up on the market. Monty said the only thing he misses about the old ATV is the fact that we were snuggled in together, I could whisper in his ear and had my arms around his waist while we rode. I love that guy.
This RZR handles like a dream, I drove it and it is really fun to drive. I could use the old joke, you can tell the happy rider by the bugs on their teeth but that is sort of silly, I’ve never seen bugs on Monty’s teeth, but he is indeed a happy man to be out here riding again. He started riding dirt bikes as a kid and has always ridden trails all over Utah and Colorado.
We moved on from the Paiute trail over to an area that is a sentimental favorite. We have spent many weeks here riding over the years. The only problem this time is the remoteness of the area and the size of the motor home. But we managed to find a hidey hole to park it and the riding was good. The scenery here is a lot like Sedona but without the well dressed people and trendy shops. The red rocks and canyons are beautiful. Arch Canyon is our favorite, we used to walk there every evening and watch the sunset on the red rocks. Neither of us can explain just what it is about this place but it has a spiritual quality that speaks to us.
We used to tent camp between Texas and Arch canyon, on a little two track road. One evening we sat on the edge of Texas canyon admiring the view, and there was the most beautiful blonde bear eating berries 50 feet below us in the canyon. He was a really big bear, it looked like he had put away a lot of berries that summer. We were thrilled to see him but later that night while we were getting ready for bed in the tent we sort of wondered where he went and whether he was still hungry!
Beautiful Reason to Ride
On the way to this mountain area we passed the area that we walked out of about 25 years ago. (Our Desert Trek) Now it is called the Glenn Canyon Recreational Area but at that time it was just miles and miles of red dirt, white canyons and nothing else. In those days we gassed the truck and ATV at the gas station in Blanding and never saw anyone again until we came back down and gassed to go home. It is hard to believe that we camped and rode all over these mountains and never met another person for five days.
On that day years ago,we decided to ride down across the desert near Lake Powell. It was great riding and we had a good time until something went terribly wrong and we were stuck out there. We had to make decisions that would affect us for a lifetime. Which way to walk, up to our camp at 8,500 feet or across the desert toward Lake Powell. It was 4:00 in the afternoon and 28 miles to our home base to retrieve the truck and just about the same number of miles to Lake Powell and help.
To make a long story short we walked the almost 28 miles to Hite Marina. We walked all night without a flashlight, on a night with no moon. I followed the line of Monty’s white socks through the desert hour after hour. We had our emergency water, two granola bars, and a CB radio that we could never reach anyone on. We didn’t sit down until we could see the highway, we were afraid if we sat down we wouldn’t be able to get up again. We walked for 12 hours and arrived at the marina about 4:30 in the morning and waited for help. It was the most incredible experience of our lives and we are forever bonded by it.
After getting help at the marina, we broke down our camp, went back and picked up the ATV and spent the night at the Prospector Motel in Blanding. In the morning we had breakfast at the Elk Ridge Cafe. Everyone having breakfast at the cafe seemed perfectly normal and we looked around and wanted to shout, “Do you know what we did, we stuck together, we made good choices, it was the longest night and hardest thing we’ve ever done, but we didn’t give up and we did it, together”.
One last ride this trip on a forest service road along Cottonwood Creek, partly on Ute Indian land. It was one of our best rides the scenery is beautiful, we’ll make that trip again.
I might clarify something here. These RZR’s and ATV’s are used on existing forest service roads or designated ATV trails. We’ve never seen anyone tearing up the environment. The plants and animals are safe. The trail system in Utah is well marked with numbers, and difficulty level, they loop and connect and you can ride for miles. Our Paiute Trail map will get a lot of use!