The longest leg of our trip started an hour late and extended another hour because of delays, turning a nine-hour drive into an 11-hour marathon. But we enjoyed spectacular views along the way, as well as long periods of silence thanks to spotty cell service (which affected our Amazon Music stream) and losing ourselves in our thoughts.
Without question, the most scenic portion of the drive was throughout the Curecanti National Recreation Area on the Gunnison River. The fifth largest tributary of the Colorado River, the Gunnison was dammed in the 1960s to create three large reservoirs: Blue Mesa, Morrow Point, and Crystal. The volcanic Dillon Pinnacles, pictured, are but one example of the stunning vistas to be enjoyed along the way. The distant San Juan Mountain peaks, the reservoirs and rivers, the lush valleys and rugged hills all combine to present an ideal recreation area filled with marinas, campgrounds, and lake access points. If you’re going to spend 11 hours on the road, consider this part of Western Colorado. You won’t be disappointed.
We arrived at our overnight destination, the Grand Junction KOA, in time to take in the sun setting over the Rockies. The campground was at capacity, with children playing and grown-ups enjoying fireside chats. Again, Chef Cliff delivered a delicious dinner of grilled pork loin chops, cob corn, and shishito peppers.
As we traveled from Amarillo to Grand Junction, we learned a few things worth sharing:
- Never assume that other drivers will notice that you’re towing a 25-foot travel trailer and give you the space you need to maneuver at the gas pump.
- Never think that a gas-station’s prepackaged “deli sandwich” will ever be as good as one you could make for yourself.
- Never underestimate the determination of a driver in a passing vehicle to get ahead of you, even in the most dangerous of circumstances.