The road to Gunnison, Colorado

We woke to clear skies that promised to be perfect for travel.  After a quick breakfast, we did the last-minute preparation to leave.

It seemed strange moving on.  We had been in the Colorado Springs area for almost two months and the town was beginning to be familiar to us.  The stay was enjoyable, but this wasn’t the place to permanently settle.  So, our quest continues.

The last of the equipment was stowed, wastewater tanks were drained, water was disconnected and the power plug was pulled.  Jeanne turned the ignition key and after a month of inactivity, the motor rumbled to life.  The suspension aired up, slides were pulled in, landing gear was retracted and blocks were stowed.  The coach was moved onto pavement and the Jeep was hitched.  One last check and we were on our way.  Goodbye Colorado Springs.

Our eventual destination was Grand Junction, Colorado, which is on the west side of the state, almost to the Utah border.  The plan was to make the trip in two parts, spending two nights in Gunnison, Colorado, which is about half way.  The route would take us over US-50.  The challenge of the day would be getting over the crest of the Rocky Mountains via the 11,300 foot Monarch Pass.

We quickly left Colorado Springs behind and started into the mountains in the small town of Canon City.  For about half the drive, the road followed the Arkansas river.  The drive was scenic, but the winding road required my full attention to navigate.  At the small town of Salida we started a slow ascent towards Monarch Pass.  In the thin air, the coach wheezed up the hill.  Fortunately, we were behind a 18-wheeler that would pace us on this portion of the drive.  Obviously, the driver knew the road and was not in any hurry.  Portions of the road were being improved and flagmen stopped us twice to allow for one-way traffic.  The truck headed the procession, followed by us and a long line of cars.  After what seemed like the world’s longest drive, we made it to the summit.  It would be all downhill to Gunnison from here.

The descent wasn’t any easier.  Following the truck down the hill, we both used our engine brakes to hold us back.  The noise echoed through the canyon and must have been annoying to the cars behind us.  Our top speed downhill was 25 miles per hour.  The three runaway truck ramps were not-so-subtle reminders to keep our speed under control.

Eventually the road flattened out, the truck sped off and the cars passed.  With the traffic behind us held up by the construction, we were all alone.  We noticed the stream running beside the road was now flowing west, which meant we crossed the Continental Divide.  Any rainfall or snowmelt would eventually make its way down the Colorado River to the Sea of Cortez.  This was the same water source that formed the Salton Sea we visited while staying in Indio, California.

Around 2:00 PM, we pulled into the campground just west of Gunnison, Colorado, checked in and set up.  There was still plenty of sunlight left so we decided to do a little exploring.  Without any plan, we headed north through town and stumbled into a canyon formed by the Taylor River.  Without a doubt, it was one of the prettiest places we had seen on our entire trip.  We pulled off the road to linger by the side of the river.  The sun was going down and it was getting cool in the shadows so we decided to head for the coach.  We would revisit this spot tomorrow.

It had been a long day and we didn’t want to cook.  On the way back we looked for a place to eat.  Near the campground was a restaurant named The Trough.  The sign out front showed a cartoon image of a pig eating at a trough and advertised ribs, steaks and such.  I’m not making this up.  It looked like a family place and we decided to give it a try.  Looks can be deceiving.  It turned out we had stumbled onto a popular white-tablecloth restaurant.  It was a little more than we wanted to spend but we had an excellent meal.

We returned to the coach and spent the rest of the evening quietly watching TV and reading.

Contemporary Note: Our motorhome included a factory-installed engine brake, a devise that uses engine compression to hold the vehicle back on downhill runs.  I can’t remember how many times this saved us from careening downhill and/or burning up our brakes.  I never worried about the uphills, but 32,000 pounds of vehicle can quickly get out of control on a downhill.