Loma to Rangely on Rt 139 + ADD NEW ROUTE
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From Loma, Colorado (15 miles west of Grand Junction), head north on Route 139. Turn left (west) just before Rangely, at the stop sign, to get into town.
Loma has only a convenience store for gas and snacks, but they welcome bikers. Generally, Loma is a small farming/ranching town.
This trip has three main attractions, however, the beginning isn't one of them. The first 14 miles are pretty barren desert with little vegetation and poor road surface. Although, as you get across this area, you will have a view of the Book Cliffs, as they are called, since the layers of sedimentary rock could be visualized as a book on its side. The vegetation becomes more attractive with pinion and juniper trees at the lower elevation, changing into Gamble oak and large sage bushes. If you have never ground sage leaves between your fingers and smelled the aroma, then stop along the way and do so.
You'll climb about 4,000' up to the top of Douglas Pass (8,268' at the top) where you will stop to stretch and view to the south. Nice view. Caution: don't let your gloves blow over the side!
Going down is more of the mountainous vegetation. Since this area is dryer than much of the Rockies, there are not many tall conifer trees. The scenery down is quite lovely, but you'll be going slower than any cars. The turns are sneaky, so don't let other drivers rush you. From the top, and much of the route on to Rangely, gives good views of the colorful layers of sedimentary rock. Often these rock walls are right next to the highway.
As you level out somewhat, at about mile marker 53 (mm53), you will be coming into the BLM's designated Canyon Pintado National Historic District. This area was named by Father Escalante in September, 1776, when he first traveled this route with other explorers who were looking for a good route to Monterey, California. They discovered many petroglyphs (rock carvings) and pictographs (rock wall paintings) down along Douglas Canyon.
There are marked stops in a half dozen places to view the rock art, but the three easiest to get to are at mm53.5, 56, and 56.5. These are remnants of rock art from the Fremont and Anasazi (from 1,300 to 600 years ago), and more recent Ute Indians. Some of the petroglyphs are thought to be from the Barrier Canyon people of 11,000 years ago.
Along the way there are a few abandoned pioneer cabins and numerous natural gas taps and pumping stations. Besides ranching, gas production is the biggest land use.
The end of the line is the small town of Rangely where there are motels, cafes, and gas stations.
Most of the route is on old pavement with many potholes and cracks. But it does give a rider a chance to zig-zag around for a good purpose. All of the lower roads have only wide sweeping turns, but both sides of Douglas Pass are steep and have 20 mph turns.
Grand Junction has everything, Loma has only a convenience store, Rangely has food and gas.
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