A new state, a new state to love! Utah and its five National Parks are up! This post details our first few days in the state which included Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks. I make a new friend, ride on a rim, almost die for a phone and meet some goblins.
Friday, August 16th, 2019
Somewhere near Mesa Verde, Colorado, USA, Earth
I was so happy to enter this state. Armed with my National Parks pass and carrying my standard allotment of enthusiasm, I had high hopes for this place. I’d only entered this state one time previously and that was in the previous millennium. This visit was far overdue.
Utah is home to song place Cedar City, number 84 of 92 on our list. That city lies in the SW part of the state. Getting there would take some time, as I would find plenty of things over the coming days which would demand me to stop and say “Ah…..” From arches to canyons to hoodoos to goosenecks, the sights of this state kept a perma-smile on my face. I’m sure I got lots of red dust in my teeth.
Route for the day:
I really liked the “Life Elevated” slogan on their welcome sign. So much so, that I am going to propose a similar slogan to my home state once I finish my journey. “Nebraska: Life Flattened Out.” I believe this is just the slogan to lift us from the 50th placed state in tourism.
Utah’s scenery asserts itself quite suddenly. The rocks get bigger, redder and occasionally more holey as one nears Moab.
The Wilson Arch, right off of the highway:
The McDonald’s in Moab wins the award for fastest restaurant internet speed of the trip, so I lingered there for some time getting media sorted and trying to wait out the most intense heat of the day. But I couldn’t resist the call of the National Parks for long. Arches was the first of five on my list.
I rode straight to the Delicate Arch, as I wanted to make sure I had time to see that. This formation is featured on the majority of Utah’s branding, from its signs to its license plates. If it ever goes down, they are going to need a new symbol.
The hike to the arch is about 3 miles round trip. That doesn’t sound so bad, but it is over some tough terrain with steep climbs and the temperature was still around 100 degrees F (38 C).
Looking back down from the climb up this rock slab. I don’t think Annie’s trunk is quite visible from this distance:
Like so many hikes though, it is definitely worth the view.
At the risk of being overly dramatic, I almost had a serious accident here. I swapped phones with a guy from Colorado to get a picture of myself by the arch.
As I was taking his photo, he looked to his left and said, “Uh-oh…” I saw where he was looking and saw somebody else’s phone slowly sliding down the rocky incline. The picture below shows the incline and the drop-off below:
When I saw the phone sliding, I instinctively started running along the edge of this rim to try and intercept it. I lunged at the last moment and got a finger on it, but couldn’t quite stop it. It was only then that I looked down and realized that I was close to having a fall that would have done serious damage to me.
As I reflected upon it later, I decided that this would have been an acceptable way to die. Not that it is worth dying for a phone, but it is definitely worth dying trying to do something nice for a stranger. I would gladly accept an end like this
A reader must always be suspicious when an author relays a story which which shines such a positive light on themselves. I realize that including this tale will have done some damage to my ethos. However, I think it is worth its inclusion as a powerful device of foreshadowing should I meet my end in some similar action at any point in my future.
There’s so much more to see within the park, but I did a rather brief tour of the remaining sights.
There are rock formations of every shape and size spattered around the park. There’s even one that looks exactly like a ….uhh…. popsicle. ….yeah, it totally looks like a popsicle and absolutely nothing else.
The bizarre Balanced Rock:
For the brief time I spent here, I felt like I did the park justice. I returned to the visitors center to fill up my water bottles before finding a spot to camp for the night. In the parking lot I met this wonderful French family who became my instant friends:
We had a great time chatting and thanks to the fact that their English was great. I also improved on my French “Rs” during the course of the conversation. 🙂 Pascal is a musician and songwriter and he told me that he was going to write a French version of the song so that I would have to come to their country. Bring it on!
I found a nice place to set up camp on some public land not too far away. Though it was an isolated place, I would not be alone for long. A new friend from Utah was about to join me.
As regular readers of this quality publication can attest, I have a very difficult time making friends. Accordingly, I had taken out an ad in the Salt Lake Tribune, attempting to lay out my requirements:
“Wanted: One Utah friend. Must be willing to accept shipping/delivery responsibilities for various phone parts, be an avid motorcyclist, speak Arabic, have a deep understanding of German abject art, work as a film curator and always travel with a sarong.”
Despite these broad, easily-fulfilled requirements, I only had one qualified applicant. Meet my new friend, Davey, and his WR250, Midnight Mullet.
An alternative version of the story above is that I actually just met Davey on ADV Rider and he offered to show around some of the highlights of his state. I like my version better though.
He met me at my campsite and we connected right away. I could tell that we were going to have a great time together over the coming days.
Saturday, August 17th
I woke up knowing that it was going to be a great day. We were on the precipice of so many amazing sights. Further adding to the ambiance of our tranquil campsite was a hot air balloon in the morning.
Our first stop would be Dead Horse Point State Park. With a name so alluring, you know it has to be good! It is situated in an interesting location. Though it is a state park, it is primarily an overlook for Canyonlands National Park. As we pulled in to the parking lot, I saw a familiar van and soon some familiar faces. It was my French family from the day before.
(This is probably the best picture of Davey’s sarong. He likened it to the prescribed towels from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.)
We had a leisurely breakfast at the overlook spot, enjoying the chance to get to know each other better.
We continued on to Canyonlands NP, getting a closer look at the canyons carved by the Colorado and Green Rivers. There is a road that runs down into the canyon, right along the rim. The view makes it hard to focus on the task of not riding off of a cliff.
There are a set of switchbacks which wind down further into the canyon. I’ll post a sped up video of the descent below. Take your Dramamine now!
This was a really fun ride! The road continues along a lower rim below. If we would have had all day, we easily could have spent it exploring these roads.
I found it absolutely fascinating that in the middle of this canyon, their stood a proud pit toilet.
I asked Davey to set the Over/Under on how many rolls of toilet paper were inside. He was spot on with two. What can you say? The man knows his canyon rim pit toilets.
He got some great media of me, perched up on one of the hillsides.
I should probably add “photographer” to my list of requirements the next time I am looking for a new friend in Utah.
We headed north from the park, en route to Goblin Valley State Park. After spending a spell riding on the interstate, we stopped for a bite to eat in Green Valley. It was here that Davey discovered a tire issue on his bike. He thought about heading back home, but decided to stick with me for the rest of the day.
As we ate, I worked on cutting out the country flags for my windshield. Davey had brought me a scissors for this task. We probably spent about two hours there, waiting out the heat, while having wonderful conversations. I hope the story of how he met his fiance gets used in a sitcom sometime. 🙂
We decided to stay off of the interstate to save on his tire and ended up finding a fascinating little road. Davey had first seen it referenced in a ride report from RTW Paul (the “round the world” biker who I met in Colorado in my previous post). It was an old abandoned road that went back and forth between pavement and gravel with absolutely zero traffic.
Once we got back to the highway, Davey spotted some dunes which had obviously been used as an off-road playground. Science has yet to explain the pecularity of the human male. Nearly all species and genders are able to make more wise, informed decisions as a group, but the human male is the outlier. The more of them you get together, the poorer their judgment is. So when Davey asked me, “You wanna go drop Annie in that stuff?” I instinctively affirmed.
I made a video of some of our highlights of our ride there. These are fun memories. As funny as it looks from my perspective, it must have been even more comical when one could see Annie’s trunk tearing around these dunes. Even though Davey’s “Midnight Mullet” was probably around 250 pounds lighter, his street tires made it tough riding for him as well.
If I can isolate that strange sound I make at the 0:31 mark, I think I will make it my new text message notification sound.
We didn’t quite have enough daylight to make it to Goblin Valley, so we set up camp in our own personal canyon.
One interesting feature of this site was an abandoned old car. Can anyone identify it?
Inline 8 engine:
This insignia on the trunk:
Davey and I spent the evening swapping stories and solving all of the world’s problems. You’re welcome, earth.:-)
Sunday, August 18th
We packed up and rode to Goblin Valley. This state park is perhaps the most well-named state park in the country. There are an absolute plethora of hoodoos in this valley.
As one explores, there seem to be an increasing amount of formations that look like pointy noses, furrowed brows and crooked smiles.
This was such an interesting place to visit and I am so glad Davey recommended it. The only way I would have enjoyed it more would have been if I was about 25 years younger.
I would be heading south from here, so Davey decided that this was where he would split off and head back to Salt Lake City. He took some time with me looking at the map and giving me recommendations for the remainder of my time in his home state.
I so enjoyed our brief travels together. Most can match my speed, many can match my endurance, some can even match my frugality, but very few can match my enthusiasm. I think it was Davey’s enthusiasm which I appreciated the most. I hope we will be able to travel together again in the future.
I also appreciated his radiator themed joke:
Back on my own, I met another nice French family in a rental van on my next gas stop. The French just love Annie!
I really enjoyed riding through these desert landscapes for the first time. There is such a sense of freedom out here. “No tresspassing” signs are the exception rather than the rule. There are so many places where one could blaze new trails all day long.
Capitol Reef NP would be my third of the five Utah National Parks. The park is a long, narrow area, measuring 60 miles from north to south and only 6 miles east to west. The scenic drive only goes a short ways into the park, but it still offers some great sights.
I almost needed to mount my helmet cam in portrait orientation!
I’m going to leave off there for now. It turns out I will need two updates where I thought one would be appropriate. There’s still lots more to see in this remarkable state.
(Still) 9 to go!
Stay enthralled, everybody
Realtime update: I’m hanging out in the Tucson area with my new friend John. I’ve fallen a bit behind here, mostly due to the quality of experiences that I’ve been having. Cedar City was sensational, Winslow was was wonderful and Arizona has treated me so well (other than babies being born at inopportune times…but that’s a story for later).
I’m hoping to get three updates out this week, so hopefully I can stay focused. As always, thanks for experiencing this journey with me. Though it is getting more difficult to devote time to my writing, knowing that there are so many people coming along is great motivation. 🙂