Utah

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7/16/2007    Welcome to Utah!

Rather than ride back to the paved road the way that we had come, Darren and Paul felt adventurous and wanted to ride up the dirt road.  Darren’s GPS indicated that it would lead back to the road on the other side of the mountain.  The well-graded gravel road led up the mountain with switchbacks until Darren’s GPS led us to take a trail to the left leading back down.  The road was quickly becoming overgrown with high grass and had obviously not been used for a long time.  The boulders and ruts were getting thicker and I was getting nervous.  I slowly made my way through the obstacles.  Paul was ahead of us, a skilled rider that had no problem getting through the difficult sections of the road with street tires on his 650 Vstrom!  Darren tells me that there are only a couple of miles left before we intersected the main road and rode ahead of me. As I rode along the narrow path I noticed a steep drop to my right, very close to the path that I had to take.  I made the mistake of looking down at it as I slowly rode by, dropping the bike toward the ledge and dumping my body over the edge.  I was hanging onto the right handgrip until my feet found their place on the rocks below me.  After confirming that I was not hurt, I called for Darren on with the bike2bike communicator.  Hearing no response, I yelled down the road.  About 5 minutes went by before Darren and Paul came walking up the road – Darren had also dropped his bike.  They pulled the bike upright – careful not to dump the bike over the ledge and rode it down the remainder of the road.  Darren had dropped his bike at the very end of the road – at a wire gate that he saw at the last moment and thought was closed.  His reaction on the bike had left it on the ground.  Come to find out, Paul had opened the gate ahead of us and it was Darren’s mind playing tricks on him.  After assessing that there was no real damage to the bikes, we headed on the sealed highway to Utah. 

It was dry and it was hot as we headed into Moab on highway 46.  On the way, in the midst of increasing canyons, boulders and desert landscapes, we passed the small community of Bedrock – giving me images of The Flintstones.  It was a wonder that the town had not cashed in on the name…

On highway 191 leading north into Moab, we stopped for a little break at the Hole N’ The Rock – a unique 5000 square foot home carved out of a huge rock.  There were also gift shops, gardens and a somewhat cheesy petting zoo.  Albert and Gladys Christensen built the home. Albert also completed an impressive sculpture of Franklin D. Roosevelt on the face of the rock above his home.  We walked around the outside of the home, but were unwilling to pay the entry fee to see inside, although I am sure it was very impressive. 

We rode into Moab and located Arrowhead Motorsports, a homegrown internet-based business that had been very successful, and spent a few hours picking out goodies for the bike – including my new battery.  It was the hottest part of the day and temperatures were close to 100*F.  We dropped by a grocery to pick up supplies for dinner and headed toward a cool camping cave that Wayne, our new Irish tattoo artist friend, had recommended.  He had given Darren directions.  As we headed down the dirt road looking for the cave, Darren and Paul hit deep sand and Darren (through the bike2bike) told me not to come any further.  I took a walk through the desert rock formations and found a small shelter from fallen boulders that looked perfect for cooking, although it was much too small for sleeping in.  As I walked back to the bike, I found a perfectly desert-cleaned bone, probably a femur of a deer.  I took it back to the bike with the intention of finding a way to connect it onto the motorcycle. 

When Darren and Paul returned, we all agreed to camp in the open space beside the road, where others had camped before and made a fire-ring from stones.  The wind was very strong and tested the tent’s strength - which was not much!  Darren went to the nearby store for beer and ice while Paul and I set up camp.  I showed him the shelter I had found and we took all the cooking supplies over to it.  

When Darren returned, he realized that he had broken the bike2bike antenna from his top box with the beer and ice he had been carrying on top of it.  He tried to search for it along the road, but was unsuccessful.  After making fried rice in the stone shelter, we ate dinner and sat around chatting about travel, motorbikes and motorbike racers.   

7/17/2007 Arches

We packed up and rode down the street to Arches National Park.  The park contains the world’s largest concentration of natural sandstone arches.  There are over 2,000 arches within the park’s boundaries, as well as massive balancing rocks and soaring pinnacles.  We followed the paved 36-mile scenic drive that visits the major geological formations.  Paul seemed to have the energy of a teenager – jumping and running up the trails, clicking his heels together in mid-air.  Darren and I agreed that we would adopt him as our grown son and he quickly became Paul Jr. to us.  The heat of the day was again upon us and I was feeling pretty crappy.  I chose to stay in the shade of a small tree rather than complete the 3-mile trail to Delicate Arch.  Delicate Arch is one of the more recognized attractions due to its picture on the Utah centennial license plate. 

Returning to Moab, we were all hungry and needed a break from the miserable heat.  I was suffering and Darren was rather uncomfortable, while Paul seemed to be in his element – I guess after riding through the Sahara, Utah is easy…  We spoiled ourselves by eating a very late lunch at a Mexican restaurant.  Then we continued to spoil ourselves by getting a hotel room.  We basked in the cool air conditioning!  After relaxing for a bit and letting the heat of the day subsided into the early evening, we took a walk through town and relaxed for a while at the local brewery.  Moab has a good number of artist studios and galleries, as well as an overwhelming number of adventure sporting outfitters.  For someone who is into cycling or rock-climbing, this would be a major destination.  4-wheel drive enthusiasts and adventure motorcyclists are drawn here for an abundance of off-road opportunities and the amazing surrounding landscapes.  They even cater to river rafters and kayakers along the Colorado River.  

7/18/2007  Canyonlands

The beds at the Inca Inn were just as the sign outside advertised – ‘the best in town’.  We all got a great night’s sleep and agreed to continue the gluttony by extending the hotel stay into another night.  Leaving our gear in the hotel room, we rode down Potash scenic byway 279.  The paved road follows the Colorado River for 34 miles as it meanders west of Moab past ancient rock, dinosaur tracks and Native American Rock Art. When the pavements ends, the gravel and dirt road led through some amazing scenery and impressive overlooks into the canyons.  The number of canyons and impressive rock formations extended across the landscape as far as the eye could see. 

 The unpaved portion of Potash Road continues as it enters the boundaries of Canyonlands National Park.  There is an intersection where one can continue off-road travel inside the canyons along the 100-mile White Rim Road or choose switchbacks leading up the side of the canyon to join the national park’s main paved road.    We chose the switchbacks.  I found these a little challenging as my bike began to overheat from the slow riding and excessive heat of the day, reaching close to the 100*F level. 

Canyonlands National Park is the largest national park in Utah and is divided into 3 districts by two rivers – the Green River and the Colorado River.  The districts are known as the Island in the Sky, the Needles and the Maze.  Twenty miles of paved roads lead to many of the most spectacular views and we set out to explore the many panoramic landscapes.  The Island in the Sky is actually on top of a massive 1500-foot mesa, providing views in every direction of canyons within canyons.  Paul really impressed us when he zoomed past both Darren and I to tackle some canyon curves.  It was clear that he had some talent. 

It was late afternoon and we were beginning to get low on gas.  Darren and Paul wanted to take shorter unpaved Potash Road back to Moab, while I chose to take the longer paved route.  I figured they would enjoy going a bit faster without me.  I rode back to town with an average speed of about 60 mph and stopped at the gas station to fill up.  I was surprised to hear the guys pull up outside the hotel room less than 5 minutes after me.  They must have really been moving quickly!

Once again, we had dinner at the Mexican restaurant and as the evening set in, Darren and Paul discussed motorcycle maintenance and tires.

7/19/2007  Diversions

We enjoyed Paul Jr.’s company immensely, but we knew the time had come to let go of our adopted son.  He still had a lot to see in the world and his pace was too much for us.  We just couldn’t keep up with him…so we said our goodbyes and he rode off into the morning sun to complete his little “putt-putt” trip - as he put it, “one putt to Panama, one putt to Ushuaia”.  We hope to be lucky enough to catch up with him again one day!

We had decided back in Colorado to divert from the TAT at this point and turn north on paved roads.  We were both very interested in seeing Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks and my off-roading skills simply weren't developed enough to take a heavily-loaded, large dualsport through some of the challenging TAT trails.  We also felt our slow pace may prevent us from reaching Alaska before the weather turned cold, so turning north on pavement may allow us to reach this destination faster.   

We packed up from the hotel and hung around Moab for a few hours taking care of some errands.  We finally began heading north on highway 191 just after lunch.  Darren had been noticing some problems with his bike’s performance.  The bike was making a jerking feeling.  On the highway in the highest gear, it would only reach about 70 mph with the throttle pinned open.  He thought that the in-line fuel filter that he had installed back in Boulder might be causing this when it was so hot outside that the fuel was boiling within the filter.  So he stopped in a bike shop just outside the town of Helper.  He was going to remove the filter and see if it resolved the problem.  Unfortunately he had some trouble getting the new tubing to fit and had to muscle it together.  In the process, a piece of the carburetor snapped.  A friendly patron on a Harley Davison was super nice and helped Darren as much as he could.  He called to a friend of his named Bill in Spanish Fork (opposite from our planned route) who was a good mechanic and organized for us to stop into his place for assistance.  Darren used some Quik Aluminum putty to temporarily fix the snapped piece and we rode toward Spanish Fork on highway 6 to see what could be done.  On the way, we saw our first forest fire – the reddish-orange reflection in the plumes of smoke looked amazing and frightening.  There was construction on the highway and we were stopped in traffic for some time as we worried about the temporary fix.  If the aluminum putty didn’t hold, the bike would be inoperable. 

We reached Spanish Fork and rode to Bill’s home.  Bill was an older gentleman who had a nice collection of motorcycles and many years of experience. He was friendly and helpful, but we realized that there was a Kawasaki dealer down the road in Provo and decided to wait until morning to see if they could help us with a genuine part replacement.  Darren had snapped the spring on his side stand while riding in Colorado and had been using rubber strips from an old tire tube until he could find a replacement spring.  Bill had a drawer of springs and helped Darren fix that problem while we were there. It was dark by the time we rode to Provo to look for accommodation.  The hotels were full, overpriced or very dingy with permanent residents.  Since it was so late, we opted to go ahead and eat out at Fazoli’s Italian Fast Food and then headed for the KOA campground to sleep for the night. 

7/20/2007  Hard to find good help these days…

We rose early and found the Kawasaki dealer.  When they opened we approached them with our problem.  Since they didn’t have the part in stock (as we expected), we suggested that they take the part from one of the bikes on the show floor and we would pay to have the part expedited to the shop to replace it.  After a bit of negotiation, they agreed to do this, but then told us that they would charge us a full hour of labor for the convenience.  In the end, it wasn’t worth the high service charge and we opted to look elsewhere.  We went to a Best Western to use the Internet and contacted multiple dealers in the area.  Many didn’t have a KLR on their show floor or they were simply unwilling to help.  Finally, South Valley Motorsports in Salt Lake City came through for us.  After speaking with them on the phone, we rode to their shop in Salt Lake City.  They were extremely helpful and friendly and showed genuine enthusiasm for our trip.  We sincerely appreciate their help and return the favor by placing their stickers on our bike and raving about their service here on the website.  Thanks a bunch, South Valley! 

After stopping into Wal-Mart to stock up on grocery supplies, we headed east toward the small town of Kamas and Hwy 150.  This appeared to be the most direct paved route to Wyoming – apart from the Interstate - and my map indicated it was a scenic ride through national forest, which generally means good, possibly free, camping.  I did not realize that we were headed along a well-known scenic byway called Mirror Lake Highway, which passed through higher elevations with cooler temperatures surrounded by the Wasatch-Cache National Forest.  As we entered, we found there was a pay station for recreation fees into the area ($3), but the young woman at the booth informed us that we didn’t have to pay if we didn’t want to because we were on motorbikes.  She said that the forest rangers just found it too difficult to enforce with motorcyclists.  The 55 miles leading to the Wyoming border was filled with both free and paid camping, hiking trails, and scenic overlooks.  There were quite a few fishing lakes and wildlife seemed to thrive here – a sharp contrast from the desert we had left only yesterday morning.  We found a place to camp near a meandering river along a gravel road off the main highway.  We were not allowed to build a fire due to the danger of forest fires in the area, which was understandable after we had seen the plumes of smoke in the air the day before.  It was a Friday evening of a holiday weekend – July 24th was Utah’s Pioneer Day.  This is a celebration specific to the state of Utah to honor the Mormon pioneers that settled the area while fleeing religious persecution.  Apparently the parades and fireworks to celebrate this holiday exceed those of July 4th in Salt Lake City.  With the possible extended weekend and the relatively close proximity to Salt Lake City, I expected this to be a busy camping area.  All evening we continued to see and hear vehicles pulling through the area looking for a good camp spot in the darkness. 

7/21/2007 Cuberant Lake

When I awoke to the forest and it’s more comfortable temperatures and fresh air, I immediately felt better than I had in days.  I convinced Darren that we should spend a second night there and enjoy the area.  We agreed to take a hike in the forest. 

We ended up taking Cuberant Lake Trail because it was a nice length for a day hike for us, 6 miles round trip.  The trail was a multiple use trail that had been used by horses that day, leaving the additional obstacles of their droppings to watch out for.  The path covered many steep areas, leading up and down through rocky outcrops as we slowly gained elevation.  We hiked 3 miles into the forest to Cuberant lake where we had lunch on the boulders beside the picturesque setting.  The lake was covered in Lillie pads, their blooming flowers and surrounded by forests.  It was remarkably peaceful.  The 3-mile return hike was challenging because of the altitude, steep ascents and descents, and we lacked a sufficient quantity of water.  Once we reached the trailhead, we immediately traveled to pick up some additional water. 

We spent the remainder of the afternoon relaxing around the campsite, reading a novel, listening to the radio and watching the deer that freely roamed through the forest. 


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