Road trip – Grand Junction. 4/22/21

Today is our third day in Grand Junction so we are sort of hunting around for things to do. We decide to go to the Museum of Western Colorado, have lunch, and do a little urban archeology.

The Museum of Western Colorado has a very interesting section about the indigenous people of the area, the Utes. The first people, the Toltec, were born from seven caves and were the forerunners of the Aztecs. The Toltec despised the Aztecs and thought they were lower than dogs. The Aztecs, however, were fierce fighters and drove out the Toltec and adopted their creation story. Through studying the Utes, anthropologists have found not only a common cultural thread but also commonality of language with the Aztecs. The Utes were driven out of the Grand Junction area and white settlers were invited in by the US government in the 1880s.

Aztec and Ute Legends – the picture on the right shows the Aztec/Ute creation story of the seven caves.

Western Colorado has been the site of uranium mining since 1898. With new applications for radium the area saw a boom of mining in the early 20th century with radium being worth, in today’s dollars, $2700 per milligram. The mining boom busted in the 1920s due to discovery of deposits in the Belgian Congo. A new boom started in 1935 and continued after WWII due to the government stockpiling uranium for nuclear weapons.

John with info about the uranium boom

Next we head downtown to look at the older buildings in Grand Junction. Mostly the older buildings can be identified by their upper stories. The street level story has usually been repurposed. A lot of the buildings, John comments, have been 19060s-ified with ugly facades which is too bad.

A look along Main St. The original plan was to sell lots that were 25 feet wide and encourage merchants to buy more than one.
This bank building constructed in 1910 was originally only two windows wide. It was widened to four window in 1921.
The first wing of the Grand Hotel was built in 1895 and it was enlarged in 1906.

We catch a late lunch at the Main St. Cafe which is in one of the old buildings and has a 1950s theme. I have a salad and sandwich and enjoy reading the numerous signs that abound.

A tasty salad on a yellow Formica topped table
I enjoyed this sign.

We are both tired out and decide to go back to the hotel which is quite a distance from downtown. Later we go downstairs in the hotel and sit in the bar (!) and have a glass of wine and a burger.


Road trip – Grand Junction, CO 4/21/21

This morning after a glacially slow breakfast at the hotel we make our way over to the Colorado National Monument. The Monument is  sparsely attended today so that means we have it mostly to ourselves! Since we are starting at the east entrance we plan on driving the Rim Rock Drive stopping at the viewpoints and when we reach the Visitor’s Center near the west entrance we will do a short hike.

The first stop is Cold Shivers Point. Is that because the wind is blowing and it is still quite chilly this morning or because standing near the edge of the No Thoroughfare Canyon makes one shiver with fear?

Looking down into No Thoroughfare Canyon
Feeling a little vertigo, John?
Mary’s cool with the heights

The next stop is at Red Canyon Overlook.  This is a canyon within a canyon or a hanging canyon. The softer rock eroded quickly (relatively speaking) until it reached the harder rock and then the erosion came to almost a standstill. Only fast moving streams managed to carve out a notch in the Precambrian metamorphic and igneous rock.

The city of Grand Junction is framed by the hanging canyon with the notch at the end.

Back in the car we go to the next overlook, Ute Canyon View, which also has a short Ute garden interpretive trail. On the trail we learn that yuccas have their needles arranged in a spiral fashion to funnel scarce rain into the plant. Also that these yuccas are completely dependent for pollination on one insect, the yucca moth.

Spiky yuccas

The shrubs and low trees that dot the desert landscape at this elevation are pinyon pines and juniper.  The placard informs us that the needles on the pinyon pines grow in pairs.

Pinyon pine needles
View of Ute Canyon

Our next stop is at Fallen Rock Overlook.

The fallen rock which broke off but just slumped down is behind me to the right. I am wearing a neck gaiter. It is easy to pull up and act as a mask when people come by or when we are at the Visitor’s Center.

We are interested now in getting to the Visitor’s Center and only stop at two of the last four overlooks. Some grand views are available to see at Grand View Overlook.

Hoodoos at Grand View
I am taking this picture of John at Grand View when a couple from NC comes up and offers to take one of us.
The wife of the couple takes several shots of us and they are all great. I hope that the ones we took of them came out as well as ours did.

Our plan at the Visitor’s Center is to 1) use the restroom and 2) do a short hike along the rim. Pictures from the Rim Trail –

Hoodoos near the Rim Trail
Another formation with its weathered cap rock
John at the Rim Trail sign post
John standing next to a ledge with layers of sandstone rock

It is well after 2 PM now and time to find some lunch. John suggests we find a vegetarian restaurant somewhere in Fruita, CO, the closest town to the Monument. After finding zero vegetarian restaurants and zero Middle Eastern restaurants we decide on Mi Ranchito, a Mexican restaurant which has gotten 4.5 stars on Yelp. We are tired and hungry which is never a good combination for ordering well.

We start out with some chips and salsa plus beer.
I order one shrimp taco and some beans.

We head back to the hotel and catch up on our email and lie about playing games on our iPads and nodding off (me.) Dinner around 8 PM is a trip downstairs to the restaurant in the hotel for an order of chicken wings (mostly for John) and a salad for me.

Road Trip – Green River, UT to Grand Junction, CO. 4/20/21

We decide that due to the lack of restaurants and grocery stores we are going to depart Green River today instead of tomorrow. We know there will be more amenities in Grand Junction so we will stay there an extra night. On the way to Grand Junction we will take a hike and spend part of the afternoon taking care of laundry.

Our hike overlooks the Rabbit Valley with the LaSal Mountains in the background out towards Moab.  The hike is called Trail Through Time. It has explanatory placards which we really like.  The hike is a loop and is about 1.5 miles long. We know it will probably take us two hours what with reading all the placards.

A view across the Rabbit Valley towards the LaSal Mountains.

An active dinosaur dig is going on here during the summer months. There are some dinosaur fossils still in situ with explanations about what they were and when they  traversed the earth.

We start by an area of paleo soils. The soils here were laid down during the Jurassic Period when this area was near sea level with rivers running through it.  The occasional overflow of these rivers laid down layers of mud. The faster drying mud is now reddish stone and the slower drying mud is the gray-green.

Red and gray-green paleo soils
Mary in front of the paleo soils perusing the hike

Many of the fossilized dinosaur parts are hard to see and harder to photograph but I do take a reasonable picture of the vertebrae of a juvenile diplodocus.

The dark formations in the circled area are the juvenile diplodocus’s vertebrae

The hillside is all rubble from erosion which helped to expose the dinosaur fossils. We see more dinosaur vertebrae and a hip joint. The really good parts like skulls have been dug out and are in a Colorado museum.

John taking a break near the top of the hill

After our hike we still have about an hour to Grand Junction. We are hoping for pho for lunch but are not sure of what is open for in-person dining. Eating a bowl of soup in the car is not appealing.

Even though the internet says that Pho 88 is only open for take-out and delivery, we figure with the changing restrictions now that people have started getting vaccinated that maybe the restaurant will be open. Yay! It’s open and we see people inside. We both order a bowl of pho and commence slurping.

Beef pho with accompaniments

We get to our hotel around 3 PM and take care of our laundry before leaving for dinner at a place we think we have eaten at before now called Le Rouge.

As it turns out, this is the same restaurant we dined in back in 2009. It used to be called Moulin Rouge but ran into trademark problems with the real Moulin Rouge in France. So now it is just Le Rouge and the menu is similar to what we ate before.

We both have the foil gras as a starter. It is strangely unseasoned and needs quite a bit of salt. It is served with toast, thyme, and a sweet, fruit sauce.

Foie gras with toasts, thyme, and jam sauce

For our main courses John has coquilles Saint Jacques. It is kind of a minimalist approach and I might have ordered for myself if I had known it was not going to be in a heavy cream sauce.

John’s modern Coquilles Saint Jacques

I decide to have an appetizer and a salad to split with John. The salad is interesting. It is endive, salad greens, and apples topped with a pistachio/beet dressing. The appetizer is crab cakes with corn and a spicy remoulade sauce.

We also have a bottle of Chateau de Coing 2011 Muscadet.

This is the nicest dinner we have had so far on the trip. It was not perfect but it was so nice to have a pleasant fancy meal.