Epic Road Trip 2017 (Day 12)

Published on September 8, 2017

In Rock Springs, I had planned to stay in a hotel and, given the weather of the previous day, I was glad I did. After meeting some other fellow bikers, I decided to stop a little early today in Grand Junction. The days started out with another section of Highway 191 known as the Flaming Gorge Scenic Byway.

Flaming Gorge was so-named by explorer Major John Powell for the red rock which forms the side walls. The highway starts out tame before giving way to steep grades and dropping into the valley. Once there, I saw first-hand what a massive earthquake fault looks like. Thi particular one was responsible for the Rocky Mountains and it was uncanny to see a vertical face where the fault was pushed up, followed by a steep decline to a large gulch before it climbed back up to a high mesa.

Highway 191 in Utah and Wyoming is just as breathtaking as the Devil's Highway from Morenci to Alpine in Arizona. The views range from rolling plains to red rock desert to alpine forests and meadows in the mountains nearing 8,000 feet in elevation before dropping you down into the Uintah Basin.

In Vernal, Utah, I changed highways and headed toward Colorado, past Dinosaur National Monument. The highway traverses the high desert of eastern Utah and western Colorado and is part of the Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway. South of the town of Dinosaur, Colorado, is a region explored by the Dominguez-Escalante Expedition which sought a route to the California Missions. It slowly climbed into a higher valley before presenting more challenging grades to traverse the final pass which descends into Loma, Colorado.

The pass would have been a great deal more fun, but I hit another rainstorm on the ascent with tight switchbacks (10 to 15 mph) and S-turns. The rain subsided just before reaching the bottom of the pass, providing some opportunity to lean more into the turns. At the bottom, I rode into Loma before cutting over to Grand Junction for the night.

What I Learned

Pronghorn Antelope can achieve speeds of up to 45 mph and have been pushed toward the Flaming Gorge because their historic range has been overtaken by cities. The Uintah Basin was once a sea floor and is the most fossil-rich part of the North American continent. The Dominguez-Escalante Expedition is a misnomer brought on by anglicanization. The expedition was actually conducted by Fathers Francisco Dominguez and Silvestre Velez de Escalante. Escalante actually denoted Father Velez's origin of Escalante, Spain, not his last name. As one of the historical marker signs put it, it would be like calling the "Lewis and Clark Expedition" the "Lewis and Carroline County, Virginia Expedition".

Entrance to the Flaming Gorge Scenic Byway
Plains of the Uintah Basin
Cloudy/smokey view of the Flaming Gorge Reservoir
Mine Lookout
near Dinosaur National Monument
Looming thunderstorm