Friday, June 24, 2011

Grand Junction, CO to Green River, UT on US Route 6


Grand Junction, CO to Green River, UT



Before leaving Grand Junction this morning, I hit some local hot-spots.  Some are well-known, others are so incredible, they will be soon.


Stagecoach at the Museum of Western
Colorado
Grand Junction, CO

It’s just a few blocks walk to the Museum of Western Colorado.  Sure, it’s a Historical Museum of the area, but a bit more interactive than other don’t touch museums of the same ilk.  You can climb inside a real stagecoach, peek into the cockpit of a full-sized Cesssna 151, walk through a dark “uranium mine,” sit at a desk in the one room schoolhouse.  Yes, there are firearms galore and Native American artifacts, but it’s a nice way to get a 20-30 minute overview of this section of the country.

Next – and this is a MUST DO – immerse yourself in the magnificent sandstone formations that define Grand Junction at the Colorado National Monument.  This is not a man-made sculpture or little ole plaque, but what should be (and what is in line to be) a new National Park.  There are 11 canyons among the striated and weathered sandstone, and you can take day hikes or drive on an incredible 26-mile paved road.  Columns of Red and white Navajo sandstone and Green Shale have eroded to form otherworldly shapes.  If you are here, this place is a “Can’t Miss.”

"Coke Oven" formation
Colorado National Monument
Grand Junction, CO

Colorado National Monument
Grand Junction, CO

Colorado National Monument
Grand Junction, CO



Tammy Allen's Work Desk
Allen Unique Autos
Grand Junction, CO

Allen Unique Autos
Grand Junction, CO

Allen Unique Autos
Grand Junction, CO

JFK Transport Ambulence
Allen Unique Autos
Grand Junction, CO

Allen Unique Autos
Grand Junction, CO

Allen Unique Autos
Grand Junction, CO

Allen Unique Autos
Grand Junction, CO
Another “Can’t Miss” is close to Route 6 on your way West out of town.  I will preface this by saying that I’ve been to many, many Classic Car Museums on this trip and on others.  But I have never in my life been to one as cool, unusually spectacular and PINK as just-opened Allen Unique Autos.  That’s because this Car Museum is owned and operated by WOMEN – very unique in itself in a very male bastion world.  Tammy Allen, her daughter Misty, and Tracey run this incredible place which is at once a showroom, event space and limo-rental service. Two pink benches flanking the entryway testified to the fact that Allen Auto is not your typical man-car-fan collection. To say the “waiting room” is kitschy would be an understatement; a metallic naked woman bowsprit juts out over the reception desk, black and white animal print vies with pink accessories – but it all works.  And then – the candy-colored antique cars.  Holy Model T!  Is that a violet paint job??  There’s a lime-green 1950 Mercury, a 2008 Viper Hurst dressed in flat gold (one of only a few made), and the only somber note in the 80-plus bunch; the  1963 US Navy Pontiac Ambulance used to transport JFK to the hospital after he was shot.  Tammy has eclectic taste when it comes to her collection, but she also offers some of the most fun “rides” in her fleet of limos.  She’s got Nicolas Cage’s 2007 Rolls Royce, and a pink (of course) stretch MiniCooper (isn’t that an oxymoron?) outfitted with Barbies and a hot tub; popular with the little girl birthday set. Tammy also collects celebrity memorabilia, like Elvis Presley’s pants and an iconic statue of Marilyn Monroe (one of 20 made) – all scattered among the cars.  Allen Unique Autos is bound to be a Destination Attraction very soon.

Back on Route 6W, which pairs with 70Bus and Route 50 here, you’ll see signs for Dinosaur Journey Museum.  Go.  It’s a lot of fun, and you’ll learn something amid the moving, roaring animated T-Rex (the largest robotic T-Rex in the world) and spitting Dilophosaurus.  There’s also a 5.3 Earthquake Simulator you can stand on.  That shook me up a bit!

I followed 70WBus/6/50 out of Fruita (seeing no signs for the Headless Chicken, unfortunately.  And I was so looking forward…..) past a electric generating station, industrial plants and a large Livestock Auction house with sorry looking (doomed) cows.  Past dusty Loma, I reached Mack and a strange Route 6 End sign, signifying that I had to jump on I70 here.  It’s not REALLY the end of 6, as the route continues on into Utah on 70. 

Of course, on the Interstate, there’s a huge Welcome to Utah sign.  And then, glory be, another huge “ROUTE 6 GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC” sign, too!!  Good job, Utah, I thought to myself. 

This is the part of the country I dreaded driving the most; whenever I fly coast to coast, I peer down into the vast brown wilderness imagining that this Western Desert land is relentless and uninhabited.  From there air, there seems to be no signs of life in what look like mounds of dirt that go on and on.  On the ground, though, it’s a bit better.  There’s not much in the 70 or so miles between Mack and Green River, Utah, which is probably why Green River is an oasis of chain hotels, motels and not much else.  I decided to stay the night here at the Holiday Inn Express; one of the nicer lodgings in town. 

John Wesley Powell History Museum
Green River, UT
The hotel just happened to be right next door to a great attraction; the John Wesley Powell History Museum, which depicts, both in movie-form and exhibits, the man who first ran and mapped the dangerous Colorado River in the summer of 1869.  It boggles my mind to think that just a mere 140 years ago, the river that is such a draw for Whitewater enthusiasts was virtually unexplored.  This museum is homage to the man and his team who risked their lives and successfully navigated the River.

John Wesley Powell History Museum
Green River, UT
You begin by watching a very well-done 20 minute movie (shown in a nice, comfy movie theater) that dramatically recreates the expedition of 1869  - a successful navigation of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.  The rest of the museum contains signage and artifacts from the area and lots of information about John Wesley Powell himself.   The guy was no “river rat” but an accomplished Professor of Geology who moved from his home in New York to Illinois to teach at IL Wesleyan University.  At the conclusion of the Civil War, government funds were available to push for a Westward Expansion (thus the building of the Railroad at that time), and I guess Powell couldn’t resist exploring the unknown.  He made it out of the Canyon alive (obviously) and pushed for the creation of the US Geological Survey in 1879.  He became the Survey’s Director from 1881 – 1894. 

Ray's Tavern
Green River, UT
There doesn’t seem to be a “downtown” Green River, just a few restaurants, a bunch of hotels and some boarded up establishments, but I saw the town in a new light after dining with salt-of-the-earth friendly Mayor Pat Brady and his lovely wife, Kathy.  They are proud of their little town of 900 folks and I discovered that because Green River is a crossroads virtually in the middle of nowhere and an hour away from some of the best recreation and natural wonders of the world, it’s a magnet for thousands of tourists, a twice-a-day Amtrak stop, and gathering spot for people from all over the world. 


Ray's Tavern
Green River, UT

Mayor Pat Brady and wife, Kathy Brady
Green River, UT

Cathy Gardener, owner
Ray's Tavern
Green River, UT


Soon-To-Be-Famous Hot Apple Pie
Ray's Tavern, Green River, UT
No-Frills Burger and Hand Cut Fries
Ray's Tavern, Green River, UT
One of the places everyone seems to end up is Ray’s Tavern, owned by Cathy Gardener.  If Cathy were in New York, she’d be Elaine of Elaine’s – she knows EVERYONE and if she doesn’t, she’ll know them by the time they walk out the door.  This is a whitewater rafting hangout known for its great burgers.  Of course, I tried one and found it to be superb.  Nothing fussy, just perfectly charred fresh ground beef and a side of hand-cut fries.  Cathy brought over her own just-baked Apple Pie – and I’ll declare right here and now that as much as Ray’s burgers entice hungry travelers, Cathy’s Apple Pie will do so and more.  Mark my words.

"The Ratio"
Green River, CO

The Ratio
Green River, CO
After dinner, Pat and Kathy Brady drove me around Green River.  This modest place is known for its melons; Green River melons are sought after by foodies for their sweet, juicy properties.  Besides serving as Mayor, Pat is also a math teacher for grades 7-12.  He took me to a strange, just-built, Stonehenge-ish site at the top of a hill overlooking I70, called "The Ratio."  Designed by an Australian artist and commissioned by a man who lives in Seattle, it’s a tangible representation of the Golden Ratio made out of solid cement blocks and topped by a block entirely gilded in 24 ct. gold leaf. It’s a wonder, an oddity and strangely beautiful, and Pat had no idea why it was built here, specifically.  But it definitely puts Green River on the map for something entirely different.

Over a hot breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express the next morning, I spoke to Oil and Gas executives and Geologists from Nigeria and saw several Japanese families.  This place does draw visitors from all over the planet.  Who knew?


2 comments:

  1. That violet Model T is none other than the late Don Tognotti's "King T". Winner of the 9 foot tall America's Most Beautiful Roadster Award in 1964 at the Oakland Grand National Roadster Show.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice Article! Thanks for sharing with us.

    Jungle Cottage

    ReplyDelete

Please leave your comment here: