Stopping in Sun Valley for a quick sandwich and rushing back to the road, I planned for a long day. With nothing much holding my interest between here and Southern Utah I blasted down 93 until I hit Internstate 84 and then finally picking up Interstate 15 north of Salt Lake City. For the first time since I left Seattle about a month ago, I found myself in the “freeway zone”. It’s the most uncomfortable and mind numbing experience on a motorcycle. No matter how fast I’m going, cars and trucks will barrel on up my rear and pass me at insane speeds. Sure, if I was in a car I’d probalby be doing the same thing. Doc doesn’t provide me with much wind protection. The small fairing keeps some of the wind off my chest. And battling the wind at highway speeds for hours at a time drains the energy out of me like no other kind of riding. When I finally settle on an Econo Lodge in Provo, UT all I could do was unlock the door and flop on the bed and stare at the ceiling until I passed out. Didn’t even get a a chance to take advantage of the free wireless internet. Too tired to write, to tired to unpack anything but the toothbrush and clothes for tomorrow. Thousands of miles south from Alaska and the Yukon, the next morning I changed my riding gear strategy. Pulling the goretex liner out of my jacket and pants and exchanging my Comfort Temp long underwear in for capilene/silk long johns and a t-shirt. Expecting the thermometer breaking temperatures of the Southwestern desert in August, I opened every vent on my suit and headed on down the road.
Taking Utah route 24 to Loa and Torrey at the gates of Capitol Reef National Park, I climbed to 10,000 feet, faced chilling rain and a hail storm that sounded like a bad Micky Hart experiment beating my helmet. So much for taking out my gore tex and dressing light. Yet dumping down into Torrey the temperature warmed but the rain and wind didn’t subside. “Did you run into that hail,” the man with his young family piling into a Land Rover asked. “You better be careful, those roads are slick.” He sped off with the nose of his 4-year old daughter pressed against the glass looking at me as they headed for the pass. Judging weather and making decisions to move is much different when traveling by motorcycle. Concepts of flash floods, lightening and temperatures are much higher considerations than when locked into the comfy cage of an automobile. I filled up with gas and braved on into Capitol Reef. And I’m glad I did. Taking a side scenic tour through Capital Gorge, the road is paved for 10 miles than dirt and through sheef cliffs of red rocks, wind and water shapped sandstone and shapes and colors so dramatically different than the 10,000 miles I’d traveled to get here.
There’s something about the Utah and Arizona deserts that move me like no other. The sheer desolate location and the amazing beauty and color inspire me to ponder the millions and millions of years that nature took to build this playground and desert stage. While I won’t visit the five national parks that I believe everyone should see before checking out, I would ride through the lands home to Zion, Bryce, Canonyonlands and Arches National Parks. But for me, I’ve been here before so I choose to trod the off the beaten track inlcuding Natural Bridges National Monument, the first national monument created by Teddy Roosevelt. A National Monument, unlike a National Park, doesn’t require an act of congress. A president can simply make the call. Then south through monument valley where I ride through Navajo country and gaze at the magic lighting hour at more desert scapes the lock me in a gaze and send my mind drifting.
Grabbing a few photos of the Goosenecks of the mighty and muddy San Juan River, I walk precariously to the edge of what must be 500 or more foot drops deep into the San Juan River. A couple sitting on a bench nearby watch me as I teeter toward the edge. The clumsy motorcycle boots catch a rock and I stumble nearly tumbling down to my demise. I hear gasps. But I catch myself. And a couple photographs. The couple walk up to me. “We thought you were going down,” they divulged. “It sure looked like you would.” I hope to make it to Phoenix in the next couple days. I will visit Al Jesse, the legend behind Jesse Luggage, the alluminum rear panniers that carry the bulk of my gear. Dropping this heavy motorcycle several times calls for a Jesse tune-up of sorts.