Fifth Update – End of an Affair

I’m recharged! I got a motel in Monticello, Utah, early Sunday night – 4:30pm. Unwound, relaxed, sent out my 4th Update, and got to bed early. Awoke at 6:30, refreshed, and loaded up to leave. There were several off-road motorcyclists staying at the same motel. They trailed their bikes to Utah from Texas and were now spending a week off-roading the National Parks.

I’ve had that experience with Michele’s son, Philip, and his two sons, Alex and Sebastian, in the Arizona desert around Scottsdale. It’s a lot of fun but there is good reason the off-roaders wear calf-high hard-shell boots, knee, elbow, chest protectors, and full-face helmets. Spills in the loose sand and rocky terrain are not uncommon. As I recall, I shed a share of O neg that day. Airplane pilots either follow Visual Flight Rules (VFR) or Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). Rosie and I ride IFR (I follow Roads).

I’m heading toward Bryce Canyon National Park, about 300 miles away. En route I plan to visit the Natural Bridges National Monument. Traveling down Rt 191 from Monticello, there were many signs announcing deer crossings. I saw at least four of these animals standing beside the road and several dead carcasses. I’ve had the pleasure of a deer collision once before, so I’m motivated to keep a sharp eye out.

That collision years ago had a happy ending. The deer was killed, the motorcycle was totaled, but I walked away unscathed. Well, almost unscathed. I had dressed to cash that day. I wore leather chaps, motorcycle boots, gloves, a leather jacket over my dress shirt and tie, and a full-face helmet. There’s a reason cyclists wear leather. When I was ejected from the bike and began a 75-yard slide down the highway, the leather absorbed the abrasion and slowly ground itself away. When I stopped sliding, I had no pants on, the sleeves of my jacket and shirt underneath were in tatters, the toe of one boot was filed off, and the jaw portion of the helmet was broken. But other than a few scrapes, I was walking around just fine.

The main point of contact on my slide was the billfold in my right hip pocket. It had been given to me by the Harvey Hubbell Co, a manufacturer we represented. The billfold was pulp, as was my drivers license, social security card, and a one dollar bill I kept in the wallet. I sent the remains of the wallet to Hubbell with a brief explanation of its destruction. My final sentence was, “Thank you Harvey Hubbell, you saved my ass.” By return mail, Hubbell sent me two billfolds, with a note, “Hubbell covers all bases, and in case, both cheeks.”

The Natural Bridges site was well worth the visit. A desert stream flowed through this area millions of years ago eroding the sandstone deposits. Gradually, it hollowed out openings in the canyon walls. The openings are huge. The Owachomo Bridge spans 180 feet, is 106 feet tall, and only 9 feet thick at its top. The three bridges in the park all use Hopi Indian names; Owachomo “Rock Mound”, Sipapu “Place of Emergence”, and Kachina “Rock Art Symbols.

The rest of the day I traveled toward Bryce Canyon. Not expecting to arrive until late afternoon, I planned to find a campsite or cabin near the park entrance and explore it the following day. Although I spent several hours on the highway, the sights en route were other-worldly. Similar to the formations in Canyonlands these seemed much closer and enormous. I sometimes felt I could reach out my hand and touch the canyon walls. Part of the way I was at elevations above 10,000 feet and needed my heavy jacket, gloves, and even turned on my heated grips.

I made several stops trying to photo the awesome appearance of the topography. You just had to be there to feel the impact of those surroundings. A motorcycle gives you an experience like no other vehicle. You not only see things around you, but you smell it, hear its subtle echoes, and feel it’s vibrations. I sometimes think I am riding into the big screen of an Imax movie.

During each of the previous days, the sky has been a mixture of puffy white clouds surrounded in blue, and yet in other sections dark clouds with shafts of falling rain are visible. Several times I have stopped, put on raingear, and covered my baggage with garbage bags, only to be completely missed by the showers. Sometimes it might sprinkle for a minute of two.

Passing through Escalante, still 45 miles from the Bryce park entrance, It started a serious downpour. Unable to see safely, I pulled to the side of the road and struggled to get into my raingear. This was not going to be a one-minute shower. Finding shelter under a restaurant porch, the owner came out and suggested a camp just down the street with cabins.

The only cabin left was their deluxe bungalow that normally rented for $160 per night. However, the clerk took pity on my dripping appearance, called the owner and let me have the place for half price. It had a living room, bedroom, and bathroom. It’s full kitchen, large screen TV, couches, overstuffed chairs, and tasteful decorations are going to make my tent difficult to compete. When life gives you lemons … ah ha, lemonade!

One of the other benefits of this resort was that it had a liquor store. At the end of a long day in the saddle, I do enjoy a cocktail while unwinding from my travels. I had packed a small bottle when I left Bloomington, assuming there would be a CVS or Big Red Liquor on every town’s street corner. Not so in Utah. Many counties are dry. And those that have a state liquor store seemed hell bent on reforming those enjoying the Devil’s brew. After three days on the wagon, I stopped at a visitor’s center to ask which counties ahead might sell booze. I was told none, but if I was willing to take an eleven-mile detour (22 round trip), the town of Bicknell had a store. I was willing. They had one alright, but state stores are closed on Sunday and Monday. Why Monday, I asked. Because that’s family day in Utah. How nice.

So Tuesday morning I awoke in my luxurious bungalow (inside toilet and kitchen sink) and did some laundry. Then asked at the office where the liquor store was located. “Oh, right here,” was the reply. It was a closet in the corner of their shop. “we don’t open until ten, state regulations.”

So, after biding my time, I made my selection from the ten or so varieties of libations offered and headed down the road.

By jove, I’m enjoying that refreshment right now as I sit on my porch swing at a KOA cabin in Richland, Utah.

Bryce Canyon was an hour from Escalante. However, the roadside topography is amazing. It’s hard to keep your eye on the road. I’ve been trying to figure out a schedule for the rest of my trip. This day is September 4th. I need to be home on the 11th, because Michele returns from France on the 12th and I said I would be there. It will take me 3 ½ to 4 days of travel to return. So I need to be heading East no later than the 8th.

I planned to spend the day at Bryce. The visitor’s center lady suggested an afternoon route that would hit most of the high points. Her suggestions were excellent. The two most popular view points are Sunset Point and Inspiration Point. It was difficult to find a place to park at each of these sites. Sightseeing bus companies pick patrons up outside the park and drive them to these hot spots. And what a view it is. From our lofty viewing elevation, the canyon below is populated by towering spires and thousand-foot shafts. One description claims the canyon acted like a huge drain hole, experiencing eons of flooding that poured into the canyon, eroding all but he more durable rock formations. It’s a scene from a fantasy movie.

Moving on from the two popular sites, the Natural Bridge, Agua Canyon, and Yovimpa Point are almost as mesmerizing. Where in the world can you see sights like this?

Working my way back to the park entrance, I prepared to start my trek east. I was nearly 600 miles from Denver so felt I ought to get started. Again, dark clouds shared the skies with the white clouds, however the dark ones seemed more in the direction I was heading. If you don’t want it to rain, take an umbrella so using that logic, I donned my rain gear, wrapped my duffel bag in waterproof wrap, and covered my GPS in a sandwich bag.

It didn’t work. It rained occasionally, but for only short periods. Visibility is my concern. I look through six different sides of lenes and both sides get wet, my windshield, my helmet visor, and my glasses. My Goldwing has the feature of being able to raise and lower its windshield, so I can eliminate that lens by lowering the glass. Soon I was out of the dark cloud regions and connecting to Interstate 70.

It was only 4:30 but again I’m pooped. My GPS indicated there was a KOA with cabins just 20-minutes ahead, so off I headed. And here I am, enjoying my libation, and signing off until the next time. Thanks for all your replies to the newsletter receipt. It’s fun having you VIPs along on this trip.

One thought on “Fifth Update – End of an Affair

  1. Nice read, JIM! I believe this will make a great travel book — with the addition of pics!
    Safe travels!

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