I recently started grad school, and it's ruined my ability to take long rides. So, when spring break finally rolled around, I gave myself the week off from work and headed out to Utah.
Started with brunch with the girlfriend, and then it's time to hit the road!
The first planned stop was actually a day in Vegas with some fellow classmates. Near Calico Ghost Town, I found some entertaining backroads to explore.
Vegas! Caught some March Madness and the usual crap, and it's off to Zion the next day.
My first time in Zion. Even views from the cheap motels were nice.
Meet Baby Jack (Skellington), my travel buddy. Here we are entering the park to try and catch the sunset.
The view from Canyon Junction
Even though it was 40 degrees outside, there were plenty of people trying to take quality photos of the sunset.
Saw this guy on my way back to the motel after sunset.
Thanks to ADVRider, I learned of a dirt road called Smith Mesa that provides a more exciting entrance into the park, so the next morning I doubled back and tried to find it.
Eventually, you have to detour around Hurricane Mesa Test Facility - which makes me think of Half-Life.
Heading towards Zion on Smith Mesa. The road is in generally good shape, though there are some serious ruts caused by trucks trying to navigate the road when it's muddy.
Encountered some wild horses but I could never get closer than this without scaring them away.
Entering Zion NP.
Also near Zion is the ghost town of Grafton. I decided to check it out, and encountered this sign.
Grafton - only 3 buildings remain from a settlement formed by Mormons fleeing religious persecution.
Baby Jack takes a break.
Also checked out the Grafton Cemetery. Four years after the town was founded, a series of disease and freak accidents killed a large percentage of the population. Most deaths were from diptheria, but two teenage girls died when a swing broke! And a young boy was dragged to death by a horse. Then there was the Berry family...
...all 3 members of the family were killed by Navajo raiders, and the entire town fled to safety soon after.
Heading back to the park...did I mention it was COLD? Hooray for heated gear.
One of the most interesting features of Zion is a 1.1 mile tunnel cut out of the rocks back in the 30s. There are a few cutouts in the rock, like the one in this photo.
That same cutout from inside the tunnel.
Leaving the park, I caught this guy making a ridiculous face.
And then two guys play fighting.
Something else I found on ADVRider while trying to plan a route - Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, the largest no-kill shelter in the US.
Behind the shelter is this sign, which commands you to explore.
On the unimproved road is Angels Rest, a pet cemetery. I had to take a look.
Lots of pet graves, including "Spud". Great name for a rabbit.
Approaching Horseshoe Bend - you can sort of see the silhouette from here.
Yours truly pondering if I should wait for sunset to try some more photos. I decided not to.
Upper Antelope Canyon. It's famous for light beams that shine through, but that only happens for a couple of hours a day.
I took way too many photos of light beams, so I'll just show a couple here.
You're not allowed to go into the canyon without a Navajo guide. Sometimes the guides cheat and throw sand up in the air to make the beams more visible.
Or they'd throw sand onto this and create a 'sandfall'
Alright, one last beam and we're out of here.
I've been trying to get to the dirt loop in Monument Valley for years, so this was a personal highlight for me.
Saw a couple of mountain goats climbing around one of the monuments.
That's a big rock.
Leaving the park floor - probably the best $5 I've ever spent. Road conditions were good. Some minor rocky sections and two very minor sandy bits. Nothing I felt too uncomfortable on with a loaded (though 1-up) 1150GS.
Making my way towards Mexican Hat for the night, I saw a scene that’s pretty well-known. Remember where it’s from?
Sorry for the poor quality of the photo. Had to show you guys this beer - Polgamy Porter. The slogan: "Why have just one?" I asked myself the same question.
Mexican Hat. Eagle-eyed viewers may notice that someone made a tiny replica in the bottom right corner. There are multiple options to get to the hat in terms of dirt roads, but one of them was too steep and rocky for me, so this is as far as I got. I try not be too aggressive when riding by myself.
Goosenecks State Park
En route to Valley of the Gods. This is technically my first ever water crossing. Please, hold your applause.
Valley of the Gods.
Valley of the Gods road from up on the Moki Dugway
Met two British tourists that apparently fly in every year to Vegas, rent Harleys, and then explore for a week or two. Cool chaps. They weren't very happy about this road on the Harleys, though.
The Dugway is a series of switchbacks that changes over 1000 feet in elevation over 3 miles. Parts of it also seem quite dangerous, as exampled by this truck.
Or this semi.
Natural Bridges Monument
Yet another road I discovered thanks to ADVRider - the Burr Trail.
Lovely switchbacks on the Burr Trail
Unfortunately, I didn't get to finish the Hell's Backbone loop. Got turned around here as the road turned into snow and mud.
I had bought a local brew at my last gas stop to enjoy when I got to the top of the backbone. I figured I might as well enjoy it, even if I got turned back. So I used the snow for the one thing it was good for - refrigeration.
Entering Bryce Canyon National Park
Sunset Point, Bryce Canyon
Last day of the trip, I decided to take a detour through Death Valley. First stop, Rhyolite.
This thing always makes me laugh.
Sentimental graffiti on a 60's Impala.
House made of glass bottles, one of the few buildings kept intact after the town was abandoned. Restored by Paramount Pictures in 1925.
Out of all the buildings here, the brothel is in the best condition. The front door is locked…
…but the back door is open. Ha. Here’s the oldest signature I could find.
My primary goal in going to DV was to see Titus Canyon. The only access is a one way dirt/gravel road from the eastern side of the park.
After 12 miles or so, you start getting into the mountains and an elevation of around 4000ft.
Before you get to the canyon, you’ll discover Leadfield. That’s some impressive advertising – though what’s even more impressive is that a town only lasted 6 months. Baby Jack has preferred words.
If I had to guess, it's a late 20's Model T?
One of the few remaining buildings...
...and one that wasn't so lucky.
Finally - the opening to Titus Canyon
More of the canyon
Freedom! Oddly enough, the hardest part of the ride was right after you exit the canyon and get back to two-way traffic. The gravel gets deeper and looser.
Obligatory “Panamint Springs wants HOW MUCH for gas?” photo.
I had no idea that there was an ADVRider Noob Rally going on this weekend, so I was surprised to encounter a fellow inmate (fishwhisperer) who filled me in on the details. I joined him for a drink while he explained what the plan was, but I didn't think I had the bike or the time to enjoy, so I headed back home. Hope you guys had a blast!
While we were sitting at the restaurant, a whole bunch of trucks came in with some beautiful bikes. Here was one of my favorites.
Leaving Death Valley.
My approximate route. Thanks for reading!