There are plenty of ways to stay in shape while working on the road. You can haul a mountain bike across the Book Cliffs on your back. Maybe lug a snowboard down number 9 at Breckenridge. It’s not for everyone but it can be that easy. Just don’t end up jacking a tree with your head bone. Blue Monkey 22.
Any bloke who has trouble carrying a surfboard through the windy streets of San Juan Del Sur is likely a complete poser. Welcome to nailtravels where you are smack downtown in the pose capital of the known universe. In this episode of “How Much Can You Hurl?” we venture to Green River and the beautifully remote deserts of southern Utah for some off road bike “riding” to the Little Elliott Mesa.
“It’s full of stars”
It was the middle of the afternoon, the hottest part of the day when our travel team sputtered into Green River on fumes. We enjoyed a can of lunch in the shade by the same river we’d crossed in Wyoming a few weeks earlier, named so because of it’s color at times during the year. Now Colorado lay behind us, along with plenty of regret, broken banjo strings and what remained of the leftover summer tour team. They had begun dropping like flies on a piece of burnt pig bone. It was time for the piper to be paid and the juice was surely running. By now, Thatcher would be headed to Nevada to help some zealots build a church in the desert. “The Mystic Order Voodoo Moonpies”. Destined to fail in a hail of ATF gunfire. And I thought they were nuts in Tomball. The Adventure Wagon, albeit out of transmission fluid, has pointed us to the golden sunsets of Utah and the fun and discovery that await us within the sweet embrace of the Book Cliffs.
The Book Cliffs are a series of desert mountains and cliffs that run from western Colorado to eastern Utah. They are so named because the cliffs are composed of Cretaceous sandstone that top many of the south-facing buttes and appear similar to a shelf of books. If you’re from Louisiana, a book is made of paper and has information about stuff in it. It would tell you that the Book Cliffs are world-famous for free style biking. Off road motorcycle riding. Not bicycling.
Green River is a small town located between Grand Junction, CO and Provo, UT. Considering Utah’s gas stations are further apart than Honduras’ you’ll probably want to stop in. What you’ll find is sure to be a right pleasant surprise. The town has all the necessary amenities including restaurants, hotels, library and post office. Our campsite was a few miles out of town in a dune sea that overlooked the mesa and surrounding prairie. Look for dirt roads at the west end of town that lead to the mesas. Save the occasional passing moto-cross rider, the spot is entirely private and the views are spectacular.
It’s not just a bike ride. It’s cross fun at its best, cross fit at its worst. The bike is part of the getting there but in the mochila are other necessities that may just come in handy. What, really, is there to do in the Utah badlands?
Stretching almost 200 miles from east to west, the Book Cliffs begin where the Colorado River descends south through De Beque Canyon into the Grand Valley (Palisade, CO) to Price Canyon (Helper, UT). The Book Cliffs appear mostly along the southern and western rim of the Tavaputs Plateau. The cliffs are composed of sedimentary materials and are within the Colorado Plateau geologic province.
North of the Grand River is a wide valley, in which are Cretaceous rocks, the bluffs bordering it being of upper Cretaceous age, beyond which are the Tertiary strata, forming the “Book” or “Roan” Mountains, which are a series of plateaus, next to each other, with cliff-like edges, forming a series of terraces. These features run all the way north to the mountains of central Utah.
The Book Cliffs are one of the world’s best places to study sequence stratigraphy. In the 1980s, scientists used the Cretaceous strata of the Book Cliffs to develop the science of sequence stratigraphy. The Book Cliffs have preserved excellent strata of the inland basin of the ancient seaway that stretched north from the Gulf of Mexico to the Yukon in the Cretaceous time. Components of deltaic and shallow marine organisms are well preserved in the cliffs.
In the remote eastern part of the state, the 2000-foot cliffs will blow off your brain bone when you first see them. Although remote, a trip to the cliffs will provide a wide array of outdoor activities. From far away, everything looks smooth. Don’t believe it.
Things to do at the Book Cliffs:
- Off-road Biking: Lord knows, I’m no great mountain biker. Heckfire. We Florida boys ride downhill just to come back up. This trip begins on one of the trails that meanders through the dune sea. These endless waves of shale dunes last all the way to the edge of the mesa, which seems to trap you with either its immense gravity or fantastic tractor beam. Stay on the trail as you approach the cliffs. If you wander off, you’ll end up hauling your bike through washouts and dried river beds, over hills of rock and soft sand. For hours you will be lost in the hot sun, without sufficient water to fight off the encroaching heat stroke. You will lose the ability to walk or even hold down fresh water. Your pee will be a dark yellow color for an entire week, but go ahead. Have fun. The idea was to bike ride through the desert at sunrise. Who cares that it’s already ten when you’re hitting the road? I’m sure everything will work out fine.
- Rock Hounding: Take a chisel and small hammer so you can pop open stubborn geodes and find the treasures inside. Pry apart flat pieces and find the fossils hiding within. Having no idea (as usual) what to look for I still came away with some manner of opaque crystal and an Indian cultural artifact that I lost in the city park as I was beaten by the daily afternoon sandstorm. Remember that these wind storms can crop up any afternoon about three p.m. and can last for ten minutes to an hour. They don’t bring rain or cool winds. Just blinding sand and buckets of it. The high winds took the groundscore ez-up from Hulaween and turned it into some twisted jungle gym from south of hell. We also lost a Panama hat, a half can of evaporated milk, and my dinner.
Searching for rocks and crystals is a fine past time for when you’re heaving in the shade of a bush. In Live Oak we learned that both the grit tree and the glitter tree offer little shade. In Utah, we learned that no trees offer little shade.
- Photography: The Book Cliffs stretch for almost 200 miles from eastern Utah into western Colorado. These isolated cliffs are uniquely beautiful and a fantastic place to explore nature photography. The setting sun offers panoramic views of the surrounding desert and mesas. Keep up with all our social media sites for more real time, summer tour photographs. You have to admit, it’s a little funny. Remember, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. In between sandstorms, slide in and enjoy some down home good cookin at the West Wind.
The West Winds Restaurant is open 24 hours a day seven days a week, and has been serving the travel industry for more than 30 years. This is a clean comfortable environment, and a friendly courteous staff. Thanks to Anna who took care of our needs and didn’t even make a face. She could tell how much we enjoyed Dr. Pepper on tap. They have a wide variety of items on the menu, with breakfast served 24 hours a day. There are daily specials, and home made soups. The portions are large, and you will not go away hungry. They offer everything from, Mexican food, seafood, steaks, burgers, and sandwiches, build your own omelet, and home made chicken fried steaks, and many other traditional, and specialty items. I took the rest of my steak home and shared it with the Chihuahua. She had eaten enough sand to last her a while.
Their menu has a child’s section, and all meals are available for take out. Everything is fresh, and cooked to order by our well trained staff. There is also a gift shop located in the restaurant, full of items that feature a local flair, and plenty of hats, T-shirts, and souvenirs. Utah State liquor store is also located in the gift shop. So if you are looking for anything from a mouth watering stack of pancakes, a fat juicy steak, or just a hot cup of coffee, and a friendly, familiar face stop in. Thanks to Allen at West Wind for joining the nailtravels network of friends across the U.S. Please swing in the next time you are traveling through Utah and tell them nailtravels sent you. Visit their webbsite and like their Facebook page. Next time, I will be having the burger. Like my mother, I’ve never met one I didn’t like.
Keep up with the nailtravels summer tour as we head to the NW String Summit in Oregon and Rockygrass in Lyons, Colorado. Oh, you say you’re tired. You don’t want to be a father? You don’t want to go to jail? Not of that matters now. Your laws? Your commandments? Not anymore. It was always going to be this way. This is not over until I say so. No one gets out of here alive. I don’t care what your mother told you. Now, be quiet or I swear to God I will turn this website around.