Early in our trip we stopped for a lovely 5 days with family in Grand Junction, a growing town in a valley that sits at the western foot of the Rocky Mountains some 30 miles from the Colorado- Utah border. Two decades ago I came to Colorado after college to spend two weeks with my aunt and uncle, and pretty much never left. I moved down into Grand Junction where I met Colin at the Crystal Café; he was sous chef, and I was waiting tables while I figured out what to do with a degree in astrophysics. Less than a year later we moved just north of Denver to Fort Collins, where I landed my first museum job, but the Western Slope has always been home. We were glad to back.
In addition to seeing family, we had work to do. From even a brief week on the road, we had learned much and were eager to make some tweaks to Rocinante.
With some finagling and teamwork, we got the little trailer through the low entrance and inside the spacious garage. We set to work with Command Strips and nails, loading and unloading, working on gas connections, and paring down the things that in theory we needed, but in practice now seemed quite unnecessary. We also took a moment to examine the issue of a water leak, and were grateful for easy convenient surroundings (not to mention much-appreciated mom-made sandwiches halfway through, as much for their nourishment as the mental break) as we removed the electric panel and took out the shower unit to access the problem under the sink.
I spent some time with my aunt Susie – there’s always fun and games and adventure to be had with my awesome aunt, who lives in the moment, is surrounded by animals, and always knows a great place for lunch (what’s not to love?), while Colin hung around with his folks and his brother and family. Family time is precious indeed.
The Grand Valley is rich old trucks and fruit trees. Grand Junction’s nearby sisters, Fruita and Palisade, are planted with orchards, vineyards, where the warm valley microclimate provides cool nights and warm days to support early blossoms and later fruit ripening. Palisade Peaches are unbeatable. In Colorado, we say that friends don’t let friends eat California peaches – and every year we get at least a couple of boxes of sweet, flavorful Grand Valley peaches from the fruit stand at Hetherington Orchards (Colin’s favorite from his many years in the area) to eat and process into pies.
The valley is surrounded on three sides by the Bookcliffs (with its iconic Mount Garfield), the Mesa, and Colorado National Monument. A Junction native always knows which cardinal direction they face by looking for any of these, the way a Denverite orients by the mountains in the west.
Despite their daily familiarity, getting up into those high places is a treat. So, on our last day before departure, we took Colin’s folks on a half-day’s excursion in the Colorado National Monument. It was a relief to take a break from Rocinante’s maintenance, and to spend some time hanging out with these good people whom we both love so much. We packed some snacks and loaded ourselves and Katie into their car, with the variety of clothing needed to accommodate the combination of warm sun and strong wind so typical to this environment.
Driving up and up, with the rugged landscape, dramatic views, and stunning cliff drop-offs, we marveled at beauty of the Colorado Plateau.
Beginning with our visit to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, we’d commenced our journey into the vast canyonlands of the west, which would take us from Colorado through Utah, Nevada, and Arizona before we reach the Mojave Desert and continue on toward the ocean.