Elevation gain: 2,992 feet
Time in saddle: 3 hours, 45 mins
Today was a great day one! Beautiful blue skies and my first time exploring the Colorado National Monument. I stopped several times simply to take some of these photos and could have taken many more. According to the National Park Service: "Colorado National Monument preserves one of the grand landscapes of the American West. But this treasure is much more than a monument. Towering monoliths exist within a vast plateau and canyon panorama. You can experience sheer-walled, red rock canyons along the twists and turns of Rim Rock Drive, where you may spy bighorn sheep and soaring eagles." I didn't see any wildlife - perhaps 2,000+ cyclists scared them away.
The climb up into the Monument was a good challenge for the first day, and thankfully not as steep as some of the training rides I have been doing. Once up top, the road rolled along for several miles and then it was a fast and furious descent into the little town of Fruita - a town with a great slogan: "WTF!" (Welcome to Fruita). About 16 miles of flat riding through farmland brought me back to Grand Junction.
It was a short day - thank goodness because tomorrow is a long one - over the Grand Mesa for more than 100 miles into Hotchkiss.
Not much sleep last night (only about three hours), a combination of afternoon coffee, a cranky cooling system in the hotel room, and I suspect some mild worry about the week ahead. Hopefully, none of those issues will show up tonight and I can get some good rest heading into the longest ride of the week.