HBN Boondocking the Nation: 17 Days, 8300mi, 1 Motel
For 17 days in early September, I made my first trip west at age 24. I battled a plains crosswind, rode the highest paved road in the nation, slept under the Canyonland stars, beheld the end of the road at the Pacific Coast, lanesplit in CA, rode Point Reyes with the Darth Peach and accomplished 1000mi in 24hrs and 1500mi in 36hrs with no receipts...just for myself.
I invite you to accompany me through this compilation of journal entries and photographs taken during my trip of growth and exploration across the US and back.
CritterII hogging the road in Kansas
My first view of the Rocky Mountains
Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CO
Camping in La Plata Canyon, CO
Mesa Verde, CO
Near Four Corners
Sunrise over Moab
Hiking with the Three Stooges Stromin' the San Juans overlooking Montrose, CO
Drainage Tube "Hotel"
Pacific Coast Highway
(More Pics to Come)
Sept 2, 2010 (Night Pre Trip)
Sept 2, 2010 (Night Pre-Trip)
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I looked at my map earlier; I was not going to pack it as space was tight. So far so good (space wise) so I threw a coat of packing tape on it as a cover from the rains of the Pacific Northwest or plains cold front. “Critter II”, my 2004 VStrom 650 is mechanically prepared but hopefully my bent/weak Happy Trails racks will hold up. That, and I don’t know the last time, if ever, the swingarm pivot was lubed – special wrench needed. New wheel bearings in October perhaps. I suppose I should be asleep already but the prospect of relaxing on my couch to Nick Drake on the stereo and an oil lamp from which to write keeps me awake. The Dogfish Head India Pale Ale is a gift from Chris for putting up Andrew as a group of us repaired his wrecked CX500. He made it home in time for college while I selfishly go on my first vacation in two years. The first of its kind for me, I will be living on my mount for three weeks or more if I play my cards right. We will cover back roads, gravel, highways corkscrewing up intoxicatingly high passes. This trip of my design, may it come to bring extraordinarily unforeseen trails, views and lessons.<o:p></o:p>
<o:p>My gear layout. Not nearly as much stuff as people usually pack for CrossCountry</o:p>
<o:p>Critter II Compactly Loaded</o:p>
<o:p>Locally caught Trout, Rice, Veggies and a Dogfish Head IPA :1drink</o:p>
DAY 1 (Sept 3, 2010)
DAY 1 (Sept 3, 2010)<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>
I awoke this morning still sleepy from my five hours of rest. I wish I could say I was too excited to sleep but I could have stayed in bed awaiting the sunrise. I made a breakfast and packed all the remaining perishable food items in the house (I think ;) into the spare space in my cases. I geared up in my boots, stich and Arai helmet only to realize I forgot to descend into the crawlspace to turn off the main water valve to my home in case of a leak. Helmet and Gloves off then down I go. Once complete, I regear then drop off the last small plastic bag of trash in a dumpster nearby. I stopped at the gas station, fueled up, checked tire pressure, reset the trip odometer and set forth into the still darkness of pre-dawn.<o:p></o:p>
On the interstate, the temps continued to fall. I left home wearing mesh gloves at 68F and I was soon cresting the gaps into WV in the 50’s. No worries, my trusty wool sweater is keeping my core warm. The sky is dark as I roll south at 5:30. Soon I see some light above the eastern ridges playing on the clouds with slivers of light blue and orange. My new day of discovery, turning on familiar I64, I slide past the sights I’ve seen before paying them little attention now…too close to home. I am soon in Beckley, WV and stop for fuel at only 180mi. My fuel receipt calculation yields a depressing 40mpg! Perhaps my gear weight or the 70+mph speeds are causing such poor mileage. I keep the speed lower and average 46 out of my next tank. I thought there may have been something wrong with Critter II. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that turning toward home crossed my mind once or twice. Fortunately, I kept on. The WV line faded after the gold capitol dome and the obese town of Huntington with its cornucopia of warm colored fast food signs poking on high poles over the grease pits below.
A cruiser rider is stopped on the side of the road. I stop to help but he has a tow-truck on the way to pick him up and take care of his flat. See ya cruiser dude.
Into Kentucky now yet the hills and trees still look the same. Not much to say about KY other than I dislike horses, nothing evil, just not my bag. Louisville had some neat bridged and Muhammad Ali is their “George Washington”, his face posted on huge building side murals.<o:p></o:p>
<o:p>Lunch at a gas station consisted of cold leftover trout and rice.</o:p>
Onward, I crossed into Indiana and begin to feel the distance. A new state, both mentally and physically, the corn and food crops are expansive. I notice almost every farm has a small marsh or pond for hunting, water scarcity protection or a birding protection area tax write off? I saw my first Oil Derrick Pump Jacks and smiled with wide-eyed delight as I naively rolled past. Illinois was more of the same. I drive directly into a large storm but it only lasts a few minutes and I am soon dry again.
Missouri is where I rest now. I got a little turned around in St. Louis but the sight of the Gateway Arch and riding over the mighty Mississippi River, albeit on a traffic jam of a bridge, solidified my westward intention. How strange it will feel to be in California and think of the many miles left to turn and go home.
Getting turned around in downtown with tall buildings stretching around me.
Riding down the interstate I spot a food sign. Woah! A White Castle! With college memories of Harold and Kumar :stoned I exit and try my first "slider"
Unimpressed, I put on my helmet and get back on the road.
I ride on Historic Rt. 66 for a bit and turned toward Steelville and the Mark Twain N.F. for camping.
This hot homemade job rolled past. The son in the passenger seat checked out my bike as he rode past. Now that is what I call a "woody"
Not willing to pay, I spotted a powerline cut off on Rt.8 and rode the grassy easement behind some trees and parked out of sight of the road. It is here that I write this entry, hanging from the trees in my Hennessey A-Sym Hammock, beans in my belly and Kansas on my mind. Colorado tomorrow??? Perhaps ;)
Stats for the day:
DAY 2 (Sept 4, 2010) MO > CO
DAY 2 (Sept 4, 2010)<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>
Sitting in an open air live concert in downtown Boulder, I can only think of how far I have come in this one day. I awoke in a hammock in the cool Missouri woods, the dogs barking at me a mile off when I set up last night commenced at 4:30am when I unzipped my down mummy bag and cracked the Velcro barrier exiting the hammock. Riding by 4:45, I set out into the dark back roads on an unfamiliar state with no idea of going north to I-70 or south to the more scenic Kansas 400, all I knew was…WEST!!! Down dark two lanes I twisted into the pre-dawn. I had enough fuel for another 100 mi, or until the sun came up.
After continuing through the German-settled river town of Westphalia by the Osage River, I took a quick rest to view the river fogs below the horizon’s orange ribbon of dawn.
A little history about Osage County
Meandering northwest, I made the capitol, Jefferson City, by sunrise and had my picture taken by a passerby at the state capitol.
His comment from the idling pickup truck “Virginia Aye? I will be there next week on business.” This reminded me of how far I am from home, but more importantly, how much farther I have yet to go.
I succumb to a toll road, the Kansas Turnpike, which gave me a stub with no prices listed. Expecting a $5- $10 Baltimore/NY Style charge at the end, I was relieved when the smiling attendant asked $1.25 please. “Now that I can afford” I exclaimed. Some time later, I came across another toll and almost asked “How many more between here and Denver” but stopped short. I’ll take em anyway.
I must admit I was slowly becoming impatient for the long flat stretched of nothingness I have heard about in prairie country. I should have been more careful with what I wished for. Soon, the turns in the road became non-existent or only at right angles when diverting around a field.
The acres of corn gave way to grasslands and large cattle operations…then back to corn.
I had never seen this specific strain of corn with its long fluffy top giving it a much different appearance to the feed corn to which my eastern eyes were accustomed.
The occasional town punctuated my 70mph drone across the grassland providing opportunities to stand on the pegs or stop for gas and a drink of water from my camelback.
A real "Fix-Me-Upper".
Magic Eight Ball for Luck
I had only apples, pear and a regrettably unhealthy McDonalds Sausage Burrito in a moment of frugal confusion brought on by a cunning billboard design team. Bastards!
Over each low rolling hill I’d climb, then down to see the frequent windmill assumably generating electricity for the pumping of water to cattle. The temperature rose quickly as the sun swung around to my face. I forgot to put on sun screen each time I stopped, remembering 20 seconds after I exited town and resumed my 70mph pace.
Never have I seen so many Sun Flowers
And more Sun Flowers
With sun-reddened nose, I would peer over the next rise, imagining the Rocky Mountains materializing in view but at 300mi, I knew it was wishful thinking. Stops for fuel broke up the trip and allowed my muscles rest from the stiff crosswinds.
As a geographer, I always get a kick out of locational oddities and imaginary lines.
For 300mi, I was forced by nature’s pressure differentials to ride at an angle skewed left of the horizon. Looking to the south before my head was jerked back, I cursed the expansive prairie winds yet reminded myself “This is what it’s all about”. It wouldn’t be a real trip without adverse conditions. I am reminded of a quote by Robert Pirsig in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”<o:p></o:p>
“There’s nothing up head that’s any better than what is right here”
A classic toaster tank R75 in a small "Speed Zone" town.
I was an insect slaughtering machine!
My dreams of riding west, the arid deserts and rocky mountains ahead only to be unlocked by this crucible. I stopped at the “Welcome to Colorado” sign and a passing Illinois motorist with a Harley in the truck bed stopped and offered to take my picture with the sign. I gladly accepted and spoke with him about his past injury and how distance riding is out of the question now. He is going riding out in CO and it is his first time this far west as well. I accepted his photo offer yet regret not returning the offer. Like my inattentive lacking applications of sunscreen, I kicked myself 20seconds after the fact 5 miles down the road.
After endless distant highway miles with 10mi vistas, I crested a rise in the Arapaho and witnessed, for the first time in my young life, the Rocky Mountains. I let out a loud “Yippeee!” and pumped my fist in the air like any immature easterner would after 1500 miles and a lifetime of anticipation. I finally “Feel West”. I zoom out on the Garmin Nuvi GPS to see the entire nation, my nation, with my motorcycle icon left of center approaching the mountains of my dreams. As Christian, a buddy back east said, “Once you see them, add three hours of travel time till you actually reach them” He was absolutely right.
Eventually, after crossing through hours of Colorado which could easily be confused for Kansas, I meet I-70 and jumped on the fastest legal speed limit highway I have ever driven. The posted 75mph speed limit was sure to suck down my freshly filled gas tank so I kept at 70mph and enjoyed the view of the setting sun on the Rockies. What a feeling of accomplishment. The sun, which burned into my tearing eyes for the past desolate 150mi was obscured by clouds as I rolled into Denver. The golden arcs of a Rocky Mountain sunset, bright rays burn holes through the fluffy pink condensation aloft. “Is this real?” I ask myself, rolling past the Denver International Airport.
On 270, an eight lane wide race track, I spotted a rider broken down in the left shoulder adjacent the fast lane sandwiched between the jersey wall and speeding traffic. I stopped on the safer right side emergency lane to lend a hand but she waved me off. The car reversing up the fast lane was there to help her and I honestly would not have been able to frogger my way across the massive interstate. It would have been interesting to witness just how she made her escape though. Hopefully a passing police car would stop and help her.
An oil refinery off the roadside
20 minutes later, I turned into Boulder and immediately thought I was tricking my grumbling stomach into smelling fresh foods. No, I was not imagining things. The scent of exotic spices, sweet baked goods and BBQ pork all wafted through my helmet and I opened the visor to take it in. I crept up on the downtown, letting my nose guide the way. The culprit: a sea of vendors at a free outdoor concert, thousands relaxed taking in the mild summer breezes while enjoying local ales and roasted meat. I worked through town past the walking mall and parked uptown at my cousin’s apartment. I sent an “OK” message on the SPOT tracker, stowed my gear and put on more “civilian” clothes than boots and bicycle shorts. With crocs and a pair of convertible pants on, I walked the ½ mi to the downtown bustle to explore the night life.<o:p></o:p>
People were everywhere milling about and I walked around for an hour in awe of where I am, the different appearance of the many young folks in comparison to back east, the smells of garlic pasta, Vietnamese dishes, fresh coffee and Nag Champa incense wafting from the cafes and open store fronts.
I walked over and checked out the concert then retired to the open patio of a coffee shop/bookstore.
Sitting in the metal chair sipping a Boulder blend, I people watch and write this journal entry waiting for my cousin to get off work at 10. They have a Tesla Dealer in town:eek1
An old church door walking back to my cousin's house.
After returning and meeting up with my cousin, we head out to a downtown bar and I get a few slider burgers for $5 and we chat till about midnight. I am tired but enjoy the company and immensity of the distance just covered.
Tomorrow I will take a day off from riding and day hike in the Rocky Mountain National Park. I hope the elevation doesn’t kick my ass...<o:p></o:p>
DAY 3 (Sept 5, 2010)
And on the third day he rested. I could easily gear up and take off to explore the mountain passes but this notion would be rude to my hosts. I have decided to use the day to slow my haste, relax, go for a hike and enjoy Boulder. Up at 6:30 as usual, I am the only one awake in the apartment till 10:30. I spend the time reading “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and trying not to get too fidgety sitting still. I make a cup of coffee on the patio and soak in the warm morning sun, a little closer to the sky, a little higher in the atmosphere.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>
They wake and Matt drives us up to Rocky Mountain National Park. The route out of Boulder affords a beautiful view of the expansive grasslands as far as the eye can see. The temperature is already warmer and in the mid 80’s but the park’s higher altitude assures a more comfortable hike/climb. Descending on Estes Park, my cousin points out the Stanley Hotel, site of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining”.
What an awesome Charger RT!
Estes Park Cops roll in style. Just watch out for those cliffs:evil
After a stop at Safeway for snacks, we dive into Labor Day Traffic at the park entrance. The scenic drive up to the parking area is nothing short of spectacular for these eastern eyes.
The 13-14’000 ft peaks surrounding us grow closer as we drive higher into the park amongst the throngs of Labor Day tourists, myself included. We hike to glacial lakes; I see alluvium and moraines for my first time.
My cousin and I taking a break to eat a granola bar and enjoy the cascading stream.
The epic crags force me to bend my neck back accessing their relief and geologic composition.
Here I am stunned by the beauty of this unique terrain.
Thousand year old pine
Fly Fisherman are in every lake trying their luck.
Over Here! Over Here!
We hike a diverse eight miles through dense pines, white aspens and arid sage shrub circling one peak.
Longs Peak in the distance. Gimmeslack has summited this 14 footer.
I just thought this couple looked good in the picture. I bet they'd like a copy.
One of the lakes had an emerald green hue to it. The wind picked up here and the clouds got darker so we started back for the car.
The drive back to town is uneventful and I let my cousin take Critter II for a ride around town. He returns with a big smile on his face and is later seen picking through ads on craigslist for inexpensive motorcycles. Along with his roommates, we make the short drive into Boulder for a Thai dinner. I wind up paying for a split meal with one of his roommates but $7 is a small price to pay for their half. The generous offer to stay two nights and take me around the sights was well worth my small investment. We retire and play guitar on the patio, talking in the warm winds well into the night. I eventually explain I must rest and fall asleep around midnight to sounds entering an open window, of breezes flapping the porch awning and whooshing through the neighborhood trees. Tomorrow I explore Colorado.<o:p></o:p>
DAY 4 (Sept 6, 2010)
Day 4 (continued)
The sun sinks lower
Ratfink, our local Valley Tag Cache, joins me for the meal.
Returning to the bike, I make a cup of coffee, enjoy a Fun Size Snickers and smoke my pipe.
A local with his dog in the bed of the truck passes by and asks how I’m doing. Life is good<?xml:namespace prefix = v ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:vml" /><v:shapetype id=_x0000_t75 stroked="f" filled="f" path="m@4@5l@4@11@9@11@9@5xe" o:preferrelative="t" o:spt="75" coordsize="21600,21600"> :nod <v:stroke joinstyle="miter"></v:stroke><v:formulas><v:f eqn="if lineDrawn pixelLineWidth 0"></v:f><v:f eqn="sum @0 1 0"></v:f><v:f eqn="sum 0 0 @1"></v:f><v:f eqn="prod @2 1 2"></v:f><v:f eqn="prod @3 21600 pixelWidth"></v:f><v:f eqn="prod @3 21600 pixelHeight"></v:f><v:f eqn="sum @0 0 1"></v:f><v:f eqn="prod @6 1 2"></v:f><v:f eqn="prod @7 21600 pixelWidth"></v:f><v:f eqn="sum @8 21600 0"></v:f><v:f eqn="prod @7 21600 pixelHeight"></v:f><v:f eqn="sum @10 21600 0"></v:f></v:formulas><v:path o:connecttype="rect" gradientshapeok="t" o:extrusionok="f"></v:path><?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:lock aspectratio="t" v:ext="edit"></o:lock></v:shapetype>Tonight will be a cold one though sleeping at 8000ft. I have on my layers and knit cap fully expecting this to be one of the coldest nights of my trip. My back is getting cold writing this outside the bag so it’s off to sleep.<o:p></o:p>
Day 5 (Monarch Pass > Durango)
I awoke nestled in the aspens after a cool night in my tent. I probed my face outside the small breathing hole in my Kelty Light Year 20F Down Mummy Bag quickly deciding to go back to sleep. Too cold yet to ride but nice and warm inside my bag. After a strange dream where two urban teen girls commented after my tired and worn Puma shoes, I unzipped the bag and changed into clothes for riding. With stiff chilled fingers, I made a cup of coffee after packing my gear. Savoring the warmth radiating from my tin cup, I sat on my pannier lid procrastinating the cold ride down to Hwy50. I put on my heated gear, thumbed the starter and let the bike warm up and lubricate the engine’s top end. The thermometer read 28F @ 8:05AM. I cruised out of the forest into ranch land, the crisp morning air carrying earthy pungent scents from the cattle sharply illuminated by the rising sun.
The temperature rose a bit.
Out on 50, I passed a couple of BMW riders but no Harleys this early. Must be the cold.
Thats a new one for me :thumb
I braked for gas in Gunnison then across the street for a sticker at a huge Taxidermy shop.
The temps rose into the upper 40’s and it was shaping up to be a gorgeous day. Down to Blue Mesa Lake, I rode out near a boat ramp then onto the beach to take a pic of the blue water. The combined weight of rider, bike and gear made riding in the soft sand a chore in balance and front end traction.
I snapped a panoramic shot and took time to lube my dry chain.
The sweepers along 50 were a welcome blast.
...a minor preparation before my turn onto Hwy 92 on the North Rim of the Gunnison, the twists and properly banked curves skirt the canyon rim, a 1000ft drop down to the rapids and brown crags below. I take some snapshots while negotiating the turns and am the only vehicle riding in the northern direction.
I take liberty in exercising the bike, carving turns right and left and back wearing out the sides of my tires, mostly neglected after the thousands of flat miles to arrive here. I make a U-Turn at a viewing point and exit the way I came in.
There it is below.
About 2mi from the terminus with 50, I come across three V-Stroms, fully loaded exiting a gravel road.
I loop around alongside them noticing their oval ADV Stickers on the mud flap. I give them the ADV Salute and they enthusiastically return it with broad smiles :fyyff It turns out these three from Arkansas and Texas are the “Three Stooges”, currently in the middle of a group ride reported on the RR section of the forum.
I ask to join them on their morning ride and to my surprise, they oblige. Weaving up the twists of Hwy 92 then 50 toward Montrose, I am reminded of how much fun it is riding with similar bikes and the welcoming family that is ADVRider.com.
They are super loaded down with, cases, tank bags and extra luggage behind their seat. I cannot imagine riding on dirt with such loads is easy or fun but they seem to be having a blast.
We turn right off 50 away from the string of RV’s and slow vehicles and pass into Black Canyon National Park. For lack of research, I would have bypassed this exquisite geographic feature had I not met them this morning. My annual pass gets in one of my new found ADV family saving him the $15 fee.
After chatting near the entrance and removing my heated gear in the now 80F temps, we descent at 16% grade down the East Portal.
The switchbacks to the river are quite steep and slow providing opportunities to enjoy the view and absorb the warmth. Down at the river, the temperatures rise into the mid eighties as we survey the dramatic relief above. Truly remarkable.
We rise back up on the twisty grade, V-Twin exhausts notes reverberating off the canyon walls.
Riding to the end of the rim road and park, we stop to take a scenic 2mi hike. Through aged Pinyon Pine, Scrub Oak and Sage, I absorb the new smells and sights welcoming the exercise.
What would one of my reports be without the flower shots :dunno
The hike was well worth the views of the immense canyon, “painted” ribbons of quartz and panoramic views of Sand Dunes and Montrose far below.
"I dare you to talk out to the rock"
Gettin' all hot hiking in my stich'
Montrose in the distance.
Spotted this in the parking lot. What can I say? It's true :evil
Heading out of the park.
In Montrose we separate as they make for the cycle shop to replace two broken fork seals. I gas up in Montrose and refill my now depleted water supply. Riding south on 550, the sky grows dark ahead at the imposing 14-15k ft peaks and high passes. A few sprinkles and I stop to don my rain gear for the first time of the trip. Big green oversize plastic flapping, I continue on toward Ouray and the rain stops and sweat begins.
I stop for an overpriced sticker (little did I know I bought two stuck together) and remove the rain gear. I’ll risk it. Riding south out of Ouray is a blast and affords spectacular vistas of the town and highway heading north through the canyon.
I come across the familiar construction signs and soon hit a line of stopped cars and one-way pilot car led construction work zone. We wait for 10 minutes or so then are allowed through.
I take the break to have a snack and photograph a nearby flower.
I eventually make my way past the cars and slow dual sport bikes speeding off into the road ahead.
The temps fall to the low forties as I cross the pass in descend into Silverton.
The rain picks up but I don’t stop to add gear since I’d have to languish behind the others again. More construction greets me in Silverton so I take the time to stop and put on a wool sweater. Much better!
Letting the cars pass and gain distance, I have the soggy Million Dollar Highway to myself riding up to Red Mountain Pass. The rains intensity increases yet I push on.
The cold doesn’t bother me, for I know I will soon be in 70F Durango 30 miles or so ahead.
The slick road descending to Durango was stressful and both front and rear tires lost traction more than once sliding over the oily tar repairs.
Fortunately, the slippery conditions lasted only 5 miles and I was soon on dry pavement gleefully eyeing the rising thermometer digits. I called my folks while riding to say “Hi” and while talking, passed an old fashioned Steam Locomotive: The Silverton to Durgano Line. Too Cool! <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>
Durango seems like a neat town, the southwest and Spanish influence evident in architecture and foodways. I forego the cheap fuel (duh should have stopped) and head west passing bicyclists on a rally pushing through the summer shower sprinkles.
I check my map then rise to La Plata Canyon making camp in the San Juan National Forest by a low wide river and large pines.
My firs site, seen below, was filled with bear scat. I moved on up a ways in a vain attempt to avoid becomming a meal.
La Plata Canyon where I bathe in the frigid waters.
I cook a meal of celery, beans, carrots and rice then savor the coffee, Snickers bar and piece of pie over a fire that warms my soul.
The bear scat in my site is not an assuring site so I pack my food well into my locked panniers. I experiment with a long exposure shot of my camp just before it begins to sprinkle. After extinguishing the fire and covering my bike, I retire to my tent, falling asleep to the relaxing sound of raindrops on the fly. <o:p></o:p>
Day 6 (LaPlata Canyon, CO > Canyonlands, UT)
Day 6<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>
LaPlata Canyon > Canyonlands, UT<o:p></o:p>
The pitter patter of raindrops on my tent stirred me awake. It was 5:45AM and I had slept magnificently after my warm meal and campfire. I packed up the wet plastic gear, mindful to dry it later when I stop for the night. Exiting La Plata Canyon in the grey pre-dawn, I had my first Reindeer sighting as it ran across the roadway, its large antlers
dancing away through the Sage. I made west for Mesa Verde and filled up the tank in Mancos. I noticed the “Frybread and Green Chile” restaurant open for breakfast and have been kicking myself for not stopping ever since. I wanted to try Frybread on this trip and regretfully have not.
I ascend Mesa Verde up a winding road to the mesa top.
It is too early for the construction I will encounter on my exit. I eat a pop tart and drink a cup of coffee waiting for the visitor center to open.
Riding through the park, I am presented the vast discrepancy between the green hills of verdant Colorado to my left and the arid brown desert to my right.
Warmer weather is on the way…eventually. It begins to sprinkle as I pull in to the Palace Ruins and take a photograph of the exceptional 800 year old site.
Continuing back to the Spruce Tree Dwelling, the barren landscape of blackened Pinyon Pine is otherworldly. The natural lightning sparked forest fire of 2003 have left bleak and eerily quiet areas through the park.
Parking under the cover of an overhanging tree canopy, I don my rain gear and descend the modern rain soaked paved footpaths. I note the steep cliffs to my side and can only imagine the skill and effort required by the natives to scale up and down to their home using only hand and foot holds straight up the rock.
The Spruce Tree Dwelling is in a state of “stabilization” by the Park Service employees and archeologists. Restoration entails reconstruction while their emphasis is on maintaining and preserving what still exists.
I speak to the tall ranger of Native American descent and he invites me into the underground kiva below his feet.
Descending the wooden latter to the ceremonial sacred chamber, I can only imagine how special spirituality was to these people of the canyon walls.
I spend some time taking in the smell, dirt floor, dry environment and smells of the kiva before climbing the ladder out the small opening above.<o:p></o:p>
My hike out of the canyon in my stich’ with thermal layers underneath left me hot and sweating by the time I crested the rim. Because the wet under layers can be a dangerous combination with evaporative wind-chill on a motorcycle, I take time to examine artifacts and information within the visitor center.
Walking back out to the bike, the rain has stopped but the thick fog has set in.
The 20mi back to the main entrance is filled with 20-30ft visibility and many one-way flagmen signaling construction delays. I make it back out and under the ceiling cloud layer then set on toward Cortez.
At Wal-Mart, I stop to get a replacement butane/propane mix bottle for my single burner Brunton Piezzo Stove but they do not carry the specific bottles. I leave empty-handed and ride SW toward the Four Corners area. http://lh5.ggpht.com/_hocjXhMjgf8/TK...0/102_0108.JPG
The clouds burn away and I am soon flying through the yellow dessert on arrow-straight roads in the land of the Ute Mountain People.
Representing for the Cat Herders and BWDR :super
I make the Four Corners soon and forego the touristy $3 fee and congestion of campers and holiday makers. A pic of the sign out front will do me just fine.
I clean the residue of white salty dried rain drops from my visor and windshield then head north into Utah for Arches National Park.
Continuing through the desert, I watch as gas prices soar from $2.99 to $3.06 to $3.09 and finally $3.12 where I finally stop in Blanding, UT. Sure, I could have made it further but it is not worth the risk of running dry.
Horses just graze around the town beside the roadway with no fences or concern.
The scenery slowly changes from Sage brush hills to sandstone cliffs and eroded curious rocks balanced on precarious parapets.
Massive wind turbine blades are stopped along the side of the road awaiting a truck repair.
I stop shortly to refill my water bottle and camelback at the “Hole in the Rock” tourist curiosity home built completely inside the sandstone wall of a cliff.
Eyeing the massive storm cloud directly ahead, I manage to elude the falling rain bands and keep dry in the desert as the La Sal Mountains absorb the moisture.
Moab materializes from the valley dotted with adventure travel services, pizza joints, SW style MX food and the adobe architecture characteristic of the southwest. I lust after the Moab Microbrewery but Arches call and it is sadly already 3:00PM.
Entering Arches up the twisty switchbacks, the road spills out into a surreal landscape of formidable towers and valleys forcing me to look over my shoulder for Road Runner and Wiley Coyote.
I am unfortunately only able to spend a few hours in this complex and massive park. Edward Abbey would shake his head with disappointment. Alas, I make an effort to see Delicate Arch, hiking to the distant upper viewing area, Fiery Furnaces and the renound Landscape Arch.
The hike to Landscape Arch through the steep sandstone walls and sandy desert made me wish I had left the stich back at the bike. It garnered many quizzical looks from beat red tourists in Polo shirts, Tevas, shorts and sunhats.
I took my photos and left my footprints in the red sands. Leaving the park at 5:45, I was mildly concerned as to where I was going to sleep for the night. I discovered finding cover in the desert is not as simple as the deciduous forests back east. I needed to weigh my options as fast as the falling sun shading a myriad of hues on the warm sandstone cliffs.
Never did see a Bighorn. Looks like I'll have to come back :deal
While procuring my Arches sticker, I asked the helpful ranger at the visitor center who suggested camping at Big Mesa off Rt. 313 on BLM lands just NW of Arches. Just the advice I was looking for!<o:p></o:p>
In the parking lot, I got a call from Dad asking why my SPOT Tracker had stopped in Mesa Verde. It turns out I had improperly set it to tracking and all my friends and family following back home were becoming concerned. I turned it on while sending off a few emails in the parking lot then made my way out of the park.
A rainbow greets me as I leave and I take it as a sign of good luck.
I turned onto 313 and chased the sun driving deep into the dark canyon then up to the rays over the rim of Big Mesa. Once topside, I turned at the sign for Big Mesa Group Campground and found it deserted except for one VW Westphalia popup camper van. The roofed awnings and picnic tables were just what I needed to park the bike, set up my tent under and lay out wet gear to dry in the breeze.
I ate my first meal of the day, Chicken Ramen, at 6:30PM while savoring the dynamic colors of a desert sunset. 3G mobile access granted permission to send friends photos of the day’s incredible scenery and my nifty sleeping shelter. After my meal, I make some coffee and have Snickers while watching the sun’s light fade away.
Crawling into my bag, I am reminded that the locals always know the best spots. It’s a good policy to ask when in doubt.
I keep my boots in the tent just in case whatever lives in this hole decides to pay them a visit.
Nice Report. Looking forward to the rest.
I need to get to Colorado...:lurk
Oh the memories you are bring back. Thanks for taking the time to share your story. Keep up the good work.
Great ride report! You have a great way of telling the story! Thank you
Day 7 (Canyonlands, UT > Las Vegas, NV)
Day 7 (continued)
Approaching Zion, I see a Honda Civic parked facing a fence, its female driver reading a book. Thats strange. I then notice that the field is full of bison lounging around. These are the first bison I have seen despite the many warnings and signs elsewhere.
Unfortunately, the roads of Zion were undergoing major construction and removal. The delays were frequent and the road through was a variation of fresh new pavement, chewed up asphalt or just plain gravel. I followed a couple from Oregon who I chatted with at every one-way construction stop.
The checkerboard rock pattern is very neat and right along the road.
There are a number of tunnels through the rock. Some of them have cut out windows offering glimpses of the walls and mountains in the distance.
I briefly stop on my way out at the visitor center for a sticker and I was off. I aim to return here in the future to explore more of the park and do some hiking to really enjoy what it has to offer.
This Morgan from Georgia catches my eye. This shots for you Dad :wave
Out of Zion, the elevation falls and temperatures rise. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>
I stop at the Arizone sign and I offer to take the photo of another stopped couple. They return my offer.
Not 30 minutes later, we meet up at the next state line :rofl
My aim was to camp at Lake Mead National Recreation Area but cheap hotels and the prospect of a warm shower draw me closer and closer to Las Vegas. The hustle and bustle of the city traffic is a huge shock from the miles of empty desert I enjoyed the last few days.
Jet Fighters from Nellis AFB fly low over the highway and I crane my neck watching them pass.
The sun sets on the surrounding mountains in a brilliant color spectrum.
I aim for the bright lights and tall buildings, soon finding myself on the 8 lane Las Vegas Strip craning my neck at the casinos sky scrapers, shows on the roadside and throngs of humanity crossing when the signal so commands. It is almost too much to absorb while trying to pay attention to busy traffic, obey the laws and ride a motorcycle. I turn off the strip and eventually find a Motel 6 beside I-15 advertising $33.99/night. I’ll take it!
I get a room, leave a dirt ring in the shower, do some laundry in the sink and unpack all of my gear onto the bed for reorganization. After getting things settled, I pull out my phone and set it to navigation by walking toward downtown. I take off down the long industrial road of closed $19.95 hotels in contrasting darkness to the rest of town. The smell of blunt smoke emanates from a parked SUV. Walking up to an I-15 overpass, I stop at the sight of a homeless camp along the pedestrian walkway…uh I guess I will take another route over. Eventually, I walk under a casino and am spit out at the foot of the Luxor Hotel, its giant golden Sphinx and Pyramid of cascading lights well worth a snapshot.
I walk the strip for about 6 miles absorbing the lights, smells and fake people.
Wait where I am I again?
A tricked out Valkyerie outside Hard Rock Cafe for LadyDraco and HighBinder.
Presumably illegal South American immigrants attempt to hand out exotic call girl cards at almost every corner while their Asian supervisors pedal around on laden bicycles, brake lights flashing, refilling their card stacks.
And a trip to Vegas wouldn't be complete without this guy:
I grow tired as it is 11:15 and return to the motel, passing a drunk lying on the sidewalk as the police pull up. I check on clothes drying by my AC unit, repack some more gear and catch up on the recent news from NPR and BBC on my phone. Crawling into the questionable bed, I know I will only be here till 4 or 5AM then set off on the highway. California in the morning!!!<o:p></o:p>
Great RR HBN.... :lurker
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