Adventures in the American Southwest
So, after 6 days of riding in northern and central California https://www.bcsportbikes.com/forum/sh...-Ride-May-2016, and after numerous remarkable roads (most of them pretty demanding), the time came for 'something completely different'. Friday May 20, 4 of us remained ( Carl, Dahl, Scott, and I); our friends had now all headed back north; and roads eastward beckoned. But first there was the small matter of getting out of California... It's a BIG state...
day 3: retreat for re-tread
My original plan had been to carry on east from Show Low to Eager AZ, then ride the superb Coronada Trail ( US 191) south, then break east, etc, etc... But that was all too ambitious anyway, so the nail was in some ways a welcome reset. The tire had held air overnite, and some phone calls had revealed the desired round black object at GO AZ Motorsports in Scottsdale, so the day opened with a wonderful 90 miles southwest on US 60, to Globe. Well, except for car, who lit off north to explore the Grand Canyon etc on his own - perfectly understandable, since it was so temptingly close.
US 60 is almost entirely a 'nice' ride, but the 8 mile section down into and back up out of the Salt River Canyon, about mid-way, is absolutely superb.
Salt River Canyon
https://c3.staticflickr.com/8/7244/2...92e8a4b3_c.jpgIMG_4935 (1024x768) by Don Serl, on Flickr
https://c1.staticflickr.com/8/7490/2...934e7814_c.jpgIMG_4939 (768x1024) by Don Serl, on Flickr
The first 30 or so miles of US 60 leading from Globe towards Phoenix is actually really nice, but it's crowded, so enjoyment is limited. Then it's flat, then freeways... and it's hot, too. But GO AZ is soooo impressive when you get there! It was opened as a 'dream' motorcycle dealership a few years ago, by a guy named Bob Parsons, who made a fortune with Go Daddy, the domain names king. The facilities are huge ( 3 buildings, test track out back, etc), and the service and attitudes are top-notch. It's actually worth a visit, just to see how motorcycle retail can be done, if all the right elements fall into place.
https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7695/2...2fdb1871_c.jpgIMG_4953 (1024x768) by Don Serl, on Flickr
https://c1.staticflickr.com/8/7397/2...188dbeb7_c.jpgIMG_4955 (768x1024) by Don Serl, on Flickr
While Scott was getting his bike re-shod, Dahl took the opportunity to slap on a new front too, since it was available, then we buggered off north, back into the cooler heights, returning to Payson for the nite. America's Best Value drew us in again ( nothing to complain about), and the local 'legend', the Beeline Cafe ( serving since 1962, and shows it! in a good, stylish way..) pretty much next door, served us well for dinner and breakfast.
We somehow covered 400kms that day, despite being in the shop for a really big chunk of it...
day 5: Monument Valley and into southern Utah
Amazing Scenery Day!
From Chinle, we ran northeast about 80 miles to Kayenta, much of it on the quite scenic Navajo 59. Then it was north 20 miles or so to Monument Valley, one of the great wonders of western North America. Dahl suggested tea at Gouldings Lodge, and we spent a wonderful hour soaking up the ambiance before setting off into the valley itself.
El Capitan (yes, same name as in Yosemite), north of Kayenta AZ
https://c5.staticflickr.com/8/7311/2...0710f973_c.jpgIMG_5045 (768x1024) by Don Serl, on Flickr
https://c8.staticflickr.com/8/7431/2...9a6f5f45_c.jpgIMG_5066(2) (1024x637) by Don Serl, on Flickr
One knows, of course, that this spectacular desert landscape has served as the backdrop for generations of western films, but the landscape itself, 'in the flesh', is much more impressive than I thought it might be - vast and extraordinary. And still with a pleasant tinge of green, this early in the year...
https://c3.staticflickr.com/8/7371/2...7c1bbe93_c.jpgIMG_5074 (1024x768) by Don Serl, on Flickr
https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7262/2...091fc2d8_c.jpgIMG_5084 (1024x768) by Don Serl, on Flickr
https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7391/2...fe59edd9_c.jpgIMG_5098 (1024x768) by Don Serl, on Flickr
Monument Valley straddles the eastern Arizona - Utah border, and from there we began to work our way back north and west, headed 'towards home' - the trip had passed its apogee.
The logical way to get north is to take UT 261 north from Mexican Hat. This is flat at the bottom and flat at the top, but features a 3 mile, 1500 ft climb on gravel as the route picks its way up the face of an impressive scarp at the "Moki Dugway". No issues, but not exactly sportbike heaven!
https://c1.staticflickr.com/8/7122/2...dbb01fba_c.jpgIMG_5184 (1024x768) by Don Serl, on Flickr
UT 95 offers great riding in an awesome landscape, all the way from where you join it near Natural Bridges National Monument, to its end at Hanksville. However, the section near Hite, at the crossing of the Colorado River, and especially as you work up the North Wash, is an absolute joy. Sweepers do not get better, nor do they occur in better surroundings! Shame about the wind - couldn't really fully turn it up, with uncertain buffetings going on, unsettling dynamics. Still, for me, this was one of the highlights of the trip...
https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7518/2...768aab66_c.jpgIMG_5217 (1024x768) by Don Serl, on Flickr
There's not much of interest in Hanksville, except for a store / tourist centre built into a rock. I suppose it stays cool in the summer...
The run west on UT 24 to Torrey is really good too, and has a superb canyon section about two-thirds of the way toward the destination. Here we were lucky enough to have booked into "The Broken Spur", which was a wonderful place, with nice rooms, reasonable ( tho not cheap) pricing, good food, and impressive views. This was one of the best nites of the trip.
The Broken Spur
https://c5.staticflickr.com/8/7337/2...690e7b42_c.jpgIMG_5232 (1024x768) by Don Serl, on Flickr
490 kms 12 hrs door to door ( much sightseeing, many photos)
day 6: across southern Utah - canyons galore!
Utah State Highway 12 runs 124 miles from Torrey UT ( Hwy 24) to Hwy 89 between Panguitch and Hatch, and passes thru some of the most spectacular scenery in North America.
...and it was frikkin cold when we set out at 9am! Then we climbed to about 9400 feet... The aspens were nowhere near budded out, and there were remnants of snowbanks in sheltered gulches. (Did I mention I sent my heated vest home? Rookie error!)
https://c5.staticflickr.com/8/7288/2...022b480b_c.jpgIMG_5243 (1024x768) by Don Serl, on Flickr
A sharp descent takes one down into the little burg of Boulder UT. It was tempting to ride the Burr Trail eastward, out and back ( i had done this, complete, a few years ago, and it's perhaps the most 'charming' canyon I've experienced), but we continued west into the Grand Staircase - Escalante wilderness. This other-worldly region is criss-crossed by a maze of canyons and barren rock swells , and was one of the last areas in the USA to be connected to 'civilization' by road. It's still 'way out there', in all senses of the word!
https://c7.staticflickr.com/8/7756/2...8262b725_c.jpgIMG_5260 (1024x768) by Don Serl, on Flickr
https://c1.staticflickr.com/8/7438/2...6fde0826_c.jpgIMG_5268 (1024x768) by Don Serl, on Flickr
https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7510/2...3e329032_c.jpgIMG_5255 (2) (1280x362) by Don Serl, on Flickr
The scenery chills out a bit over the next 40 miles to Tropic UT, where we had a lunch break at Clark's ( a good BLT, always my 'test'). Then in a few miles we climbed to the entrance to Bryce Canyon. This is one of the most spectacular sites in the area, but when we were confronted with having to pay US$25 each for entry, we succumbed to 'canyon fatigue' and turned away. Luckily, there is a side road to "Fairyland" before the paid portion, so you can enjoy a 'touch' of what the 'real' canyon is like for free. And if you were ambitious, you could walk a couple miles of trail and get to the 'famous' views on the cheap...
'Fairyland', Bryce Canyon
https://c7.staticflickr.com/8/7322/2...aa1d7a99_c.jpgIMG_5280 (768x1024) by Don Serl, on Flickr
After all this scenery, you might think the day was over, or at least could not be topped. Well, you'd be wrong! Just another hour and a half down the road lies Zion National Park, and the 15 mile traverse of the park from the east entrance to Springdale is EASILY worth the twenty-five bucks! Fact is, I'd love to go back, and spend several days, wandering canyons, climbing mesas for views, and soaking up the atmosphere. This is a sandstone Yosemite, much more varied, and in many ways more interesting. Again, the word 'awesome' comes to one's lips...
https://c7.staticflickr.com/8/7497/2...3a587ee8_c.jpgIMG_5299 (1024x768) by Don Serl, on Flickr
https://c3.staticflickr.com/8/7424/2...2d405393_c.jpgIMG_5301 (768x1024) by Don Serl, on Flickr
https://c2.staticflickr.com/8/7660/2...04fd4355_c.jpgIMG_5312 (1024x698) by Don Serl, on Flickr
After a cold drink and a long lie in the shade on some cool grass in Springdale, we rode our last leg of the day, down into St George, where the St George Inn and Suites provided comfy accommodation and the Black Bear took care of food and drink needs. How much scenery can one absorb in a day? I don't know, but this had been excessive!
390 kms 9 to 5.
day 7: into the desert: Nevada
Nevada does not sit high on most people's lists of great places to ride, but that is to not appreciate more subtle pleasures than twisty roads. Fact is, I'd submit that US 50 is one of the 'great' motorcycle rides of western North America, and even worthy of repeats. The highway runs across 'the grain' of the land, and broad desert valleys are intercalated with varied crests, each with a distinct character, and all featuring entertaining riding. It is NOT just flat, straight, and boring!
Nor is it always hot. It was nippy when we left St George at 6:45 am, and it got colder as we climbed onto the plateau to the north. There is a surprising extent of agriculture around Enterprise, then the country dries out as you break west thru Modena, out of Utah and into Nevada. By the time we fuelled in Panaca, the air temperature was almost reasonable, but the cold desert wind accompanied us all the way north to Ely, and beyond.
US 93, south of Shoshone
https://c3.staticflickr.com/8/7661/2...9d61fb75_c.jpgIMG_5328 (1024x768) by Don Serl, on Flickr
At Ely, we split up. Dahl continued north, riding for home, while Scott and I bore off west, aiming for the truck and trailer in Sacramento, still a long way away. And it stayed cold, with fresh snow plastering the heights on each ridge that we passed thru, especially in the higher eastern section of the route.
Somewhere on US 50. Raingear for warmth...
https://c5.staticflickr.com/8/7442/2...7c70079e_c.jpgIMG_5340 (768x1024) by Don Serl, on Flickr
Dropping into Austin NV. Great curves...
https://c1.staticflickr.com/8/7439/2...0d75e6ee_c.jpgIMG_5356 (1024x768) by Don Serl, on Flickr
As you make your way west, the elevation drops, and finally, round about Cold Springs, it gets to be 'warm'. And, for a few miles, very 'desert-like':
https://c7.staticflickr.com/8/7405/2...d8de5459_c.jpgIMG_5383 (1024x768) by Don Serl, on Flickr
There were some jets 'at play' somewhere near Fallon, and it turns out this is where the Top Gun school is now located. And then it was into civilization... and terrible traffic on I-80 for the final 20 miles or so into Reno. We took refuge from the gridlock is the first available lodging, a Super 8 attached to a casino in Sparks. The rooms were OK, but the only food available was in the casino, and it was quite dire. Still, we survived, and the end of the trip was perceptibly close as we drifted off to sleep.
this was a big day: 830 kms 10 1/2 hrs but mostly 'easy rolling'