Three of my favorite things!….or at least two. In this expansive post, we have a wide range of experiences: Chance meetings, spontaneous adventures, beautiful National Parks, free beans, French invasions and the lights of Las Vegas. I also finally ask Annie the question that she has definitely not been waiting for.
I’ll just pick right up where I was last time…
Sunday, August 18th, 2019 (cont.)
Southern Utah, USA
I continued on through Boulder, entering the Grand Escalante National Monument. In some places on this road, you can see canyons to both sides.
I hopped off and took a short hike to an outcropping to capture the following picture.
When I returned, a rider was waiting with arms stretched out in a questioning pose. Soon I recognized my friend, RTW (Round the World) Paul! He had recognized my trunk/sign and was nice enough to stop to say hi.
As I said a couple of posts ago. We had tried multiple times to arrange a meeting on a couple of different continents. Now we were having our second encounter, completely by accident.
We rode towards Escalante together, stopping for a few photos.
I rode a little faster than normal because I was trying to look cool. What would you do if you were riding with a living legend? 🙂
He had mentioned right when we met that he’d felt a sporadic buzz coming from his Super Tenere. When we stopped for gas in Escalante he found the culprit: Five broken spokes! Undeterred, he just got out his tool kit and went to work.
If Paul McCartney told you he needed to write a song real quick, you’d ask him if you could watch, right? Accordingly, I had to ask RTW Paul if I could watch his process. He is a talented mechanic and this was a once in a lifetime opportunity!
I enjoyed chatting with him as we sat there. It was a real privilege to be able to pick his brain about all things related to motorcycle travel.
In terms of packing we have a very different philosophy….or maybe it is more accurate to say that he has a philosophy and I have no clue what I am doing. 🙂 He recently wrote an article about packing for around the world motorcycle travel in just 40 liters of space. (LINK HERE). This includes everything except for electronics.
To put that into perspective, my trunk alone represents about 120 liters of storage. Between it, my two side cases and the frunk, I have 206 liters of lockable, weatherproof, knife-proof storage. On a normal day, I’m probably using about 150 liters of that capacity. I guess my philosophy was that since I had no clue what I was doing, I wanted to allow for as much space as possible. You never know when someone is going to give you some beans… (read on).
Paul was going to camp just outside of Escalante and we agreed to go together. Though it is not in my nature to pay for lodging in North America (just 8 times on this trip), it was worth the meager expense to spend some more time with him.
As we ate and chatted, a Canadian gal named Jamie came over to join us. She was a welcome addition to our group.
Paul had been working to convince me to back track and take one of his favorite rides in the world. He even told me that he wanted his ashes scattered along this route. I thought that maybe he uses this line anytime he’s trying to convince someone to take a certain ride. Calling his bluff, I offered to scatter his ashes the following day if would be like to be cremated that evening. He seemed reluctant to undergo the procedure.
Monday, August 19th
I waved Paul off in the morning.
He had successfully convinced me to change my plans for the day. If someone like him tells you that a route is a “must ride,” there is little room for argument. I so enjoyed spending more time with him and am looking forward to our next accidental encounter.
I chatted more with Jamie this morning and she told me that she was going to throw away five cans of Canadian maple beans. I rescued the entire quintet.
I know there are some Canadian readers here. I might pose a question to you, since Canadian cultural norms often elude me. Is “The Giving of the Beans” some part of the Canadian courting ritual? Am I now expected to deliver a moose hide soaked in maple syrup to her father within a fortnight? Any light on this subject would be much appreciated.
No need to adjust your monitor, I was indeed heading east. I would be taking the Burr Trail out of Boulder, a wonderfully scenic and exciting road…straight through this canyon:
The switchbacks along this route are very interesting. Paul had advised me to make sure I look back up once I reached the bottom. From the top it looks like this:
But from the bottom it looks like this. There is no sign of any road:
How about another sped up video? You guys have earned it.
Pro tip: On hot days like this one, it is vital to stay hydrated. The best way that I’ve found to test hydration level is to keep singing. The vocal cords are one of the first things in the body to dry out, signaling that you need to drink more. Pay no attention to the people raising their eyebrows as you belt out “Mama Mia.”
The trail passed through Capitol Reef NP for a brief time.
I had let some air out of my tires, preparing for rough roads, but most of this trail was well paved. This was surprising given the remote location of the road and how many parts were chiseled deeply into the rock.
There was gas around the little town of Ticaboo. It was strange seeing the armadas of dry-docked house boats in such a dry location.
These boats are used on Lake Powell, the second largest man-made reservoir in the US (behind Lake Mead). I thought I had better take a picture before it is all dry!
There is a steep descent called the Moki Dugway, from which a spectacular view can be seen.
The little road to the left of the screen is the path through the Valley of the Gods, my next adventure. The towering formations on this stretch were some of the most spectacular that I saw in the state.
At one of my picture stops, I met a yet another nice family from France. It was at this point that I began to believe that they may be formulating a plan to invade the American Southwest. When they saw Annie, they were immediately drawn in.
I got some more French lessons and enjoyed meeting them. 🙂
I headed south for just a bit longer, finally running out of daylight around the rock formation called Mexican Hat. I found a place to camp here, though the ground was so hard that I could scarcely get a stake in. No worries. It’s not my first rodeo.
Tuesday, August 20th
When in Mexican Hat:
The goals for the day were to see a few more of the items on the checklist Paul had given me and make up for the backtracking that I had done the previous day.
First up was Goosenecks State Park. This site is a wild meander of the San Juan River. Perhaps the aerial view is the best way to show it.
I hiked all over the place trying to get the perfect panorama, but I couldn’t quite capture it. You’ll just have to go there yourself!
I crossed the border into Arizona and saw Monument Valley from a distance.
I tried to log some miles before the heat became too oppressive. The scenery wasn’t as outstanding as the previous day, but I did meet some nice grazers whom I could assk for directions.
I stopped at the library in Page to work for a few hours during the hottest time of the day. More on that later…
My home for the night was just north of the town of Kanab. It was calm enough that I got out my clear coat and put some initial coats on my windshield. I was working to waterproof my new country flag stickers.
Wednesday, August 20th
*the sound of horse hoofs*
“OH HEY LOOK. SOMEBODY SET UP A TENT THERE.”
“YEAH, THERE’S A MOTORCYCLE TOO. THAT’S NEAT.”
Other than that interruption, I had a calm night. Bryce Canyon was up next on my National Parks tour.
I thought Bryce Canyon offered some of the most unique views among the Utah National Parks.
I met a nice family from Italy and received a sticker from their motorcycle gang.
The Italian language wins the award for the best way of saying good luck. “In bocca al lupo.” This is literally “Into the wolf’s mouth.” 🙂
I didn’t spend a ton of time at Bryce, but I got in a decent hike and felt like I got a good feel for the park.
I got back on the road and headed towards Cedar City, my next song place.
I am going to break out of chronological order and skip ahead to my time after Cedar City. I ended up spending five nights there and having a wonderful time. I think it makes more sense to encapsulate that experience in its own post. Step into my time machine (watch your head!) and let’s skip ahead….
Monday, August 26th
I had just one of the five National Parks left to visit in Utah: Zion. I got a decent start to the day and made it there in good time.
I was disappointed to find out that they do not allow personal vehicles into the canyon at this time of year. It is just shuttle buses. I’m still not sure why, but I decided to forgo this ride. I was maybe feeling a little “canyon’d out” by this point and I was ready to do some riding after being parked for a number of days. I decided to just do the Zion-Mount Carmel highway instead.
The long tunnel, only lit with various “peek-a-boos.”
After just a couple of hours I got back on the road. Sorry, Zion, I’ll be more thorough next time. I rode on to St. George and stopped to do some writing. After publishing a post, I got a call from my friend Natalie in Joplin, MO. Adam and Natalie have been amazing supporters of my quest in so many ways.
They were the ones that purchased my National Park pass for me. By this point, that represented about a $200 value! Natalie saw my update that I was going to Las Vegas and said that they’d like to get me hotel room on the strip that night. My initial response was, “Well…I already had a shower this morning…” but it didn’t take long to convince me.
For those of you impressed by their generosity, I would say that it needs to be put into some context. They are both teachers, so they are basically swimming in money. If they weren’t supporting me so comprehensively, they’d probably just buy another yacht or private island or something else equally extraneous.
(Seriously though, thank you!)
I’m not sure why I felt like visiting Las Vegas. This might sound ridiculous, but I was just really curious what it smelled like. I suppose that is as good a reason as any for visiting a place.
Part of the reason for my stop in St. George was to try to wait out the worst of the afternoon heat. My plan worked splendidly, as it was just a mild 106 degrees F (41 C) when I got back on the road. 🙂 It was not a very enjoyable ride, but the scenery was pretty good for being a freeway.
Additionally, entering Nevada for the first time in my whole life brought a smile to my face. It had been a long time since I had entered a state which was totally new to me. I would just be doing a quick swing through this time, but I will return later for song places Reno and Winnemucca.
Adam and Natalie put me up in the “Strat” on the north end of the strip.
The view from my 19th floor room was wonderful. Walking into a hotel room is such a treat. With so many nights in my tent, my appreciation for a place of my own has increased greatly.
I headed out to take in all the bright lights and fake landmarks. I ended up walking a little over seven miles this night.
I’m not going to tell you what I did this evening. That would not fit the theme of Vegas. However, I can tell you that I was definitely NOT walking around with a tall boy of High Life in one hand and a Black and Mild in the other. I’m a good Christian!
Furthermore, I can absolutely verify that I was NOT singing along at full voice to Cher’s “Believe” while it was the theme song for the Bellagio fountain show. That was definitely somebody else!
I was really tired by the time I made it back to my hotel room, so I didn’t take the ride to the top of the observation tower (which is actually the tallest in the US).
Tuesday, August 27th
I did sleep for a bit, but I was up before 5 with a mission in mind. One of my motivations for coming to Vegas was to get some video of Sonic running down the strip among all of the lights. I figured early morning before sunrise would be the best time for this. I don’t love the media that I got, but given how early I was up that day, I have to share it!
The sun was just coming up when I got to the south end of the strip. I got a great photo at the iconic Las Vegas sign, which was almost worth getting up that early…almost.
Replicas of this sign are all over the place. The one pictured below is in central Brazil, the state of Mato Grosso. I took this photo over a year ago with the intent of sharing it in this post. Please don’t ever question my commitment. 🙂
Riding back up the strip:
Back near the Strat, I made a stop to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. Annie and I have been together for awhile now and I thought it was high time for me to ask if she would accept a 10mm socket as a token of my love. In typical Annie fashion she said, “Yeah, sure, I suppose.”
I packed up in my beautiful hotel room and said goodbye to my fantastic view.
I thought I would go up to the observation tower this morning, but it didn’t open until 10. I was eager to make miles before the heat was too intense so I decided to hit the road.
I hadn’t gambled at all the night before. The table games have too high of stakes for my budget and I just couldn’t find a slot machine that piqued my interest. I wondered if Honda made a slot machine. But nope, only Harley was found.
There exist some Johnny Cash slot machines and I tried to track one down the previous night. But nope, only Willie Nelson was found.
I thought a Star Wars slot machine would be appropriate. I would have had a blast with my “Never Tell Me the Odds” gif if I had won a lot of money on one. But nope, these machines were discontinued once Disney bought the rights to the franchise. It seems like only the most iconic, culturally influential, milestone films get made into slot machines these days:
I felt like I still needed to do something irresponsible while I was in town and I finally had the perfect idea. I rode to the south side of town to the only sports book that was open in the morning.
That’s $50 on the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl! It’s like printing free money! The 5 to 1 odds were pretty terrible, to be honest, but this seemed like a good way to punctuate my time in Las Vegas.
So how would I sum up Las Vegas? In terms of this journey, I’d say the experience that it most readily compares to is eating a guinea pig (THIS POST). To enjoy yourself, you have to squint a little and not pay full attention to what you are doing. If you open your eyes too far in Vegas you’ll start to see the 401ks being squandered, the marriages being ruined, the mind-boggling amount of water and electricity being wasted and the multitude of people sleeping on the streets.
Does that make it wrong to enjoy a place like this? That’s a moral question that each person has to answer for themselves. I’m still not sure how I would answer it for myself.
There was one more sight that I wanted to see in southern Nevada: Hoover Dam. This engineering marvel was created in the 1930s. It formed Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the US, which is the principal water supply for California, Arizona and Nevada.
I enjoyed seeing the “bath tub ring” marking the high point of Lake Mead:
The surface of the dam was more wavy and variable than I was expecting. Looking down it is nearly vertigo-inducing. The best view is from the bridge looking back at it.
If I ever write a piece of post-apocalyptic fiction, it may well revolve around this structure. Would the person who controlled the dam be the most powerful person in the western hemisphere? I had a hard time thinking of any other place as important. This structure controls water and electricity for a huge number of people.
What a wide variety of experiences these days represent! When I tell the tales of Cedar City, which were sandwiched in the middle, the variety will be ever more exaggerated. The American West has been wonderful so far. At the risk of revealing spoilers, it’s just going to get better.
(Still) 9 to go!
Stay lucky, everybody
Realtime update: In my last post, I forgot to add in some of the pictures that Davey took during our time together. I’ll add them back in to my last post once I get a chance. I wanted to post them here too since they are great, especially the first one.
I’m still in the Tucson area. I haven’t visited Catalina yet, so I still have some work to do here.
The phone saga:
I don’t know where else to put this story, so I’ll just add it here. To recap, my primary phone, a first generation Google Pixel, stopped accepting a charge when I was in Colorado. I suspected that something had shorted on the charging port board, so I shipped a new one to Utah. I also ordered a new battery and some phone tools. Davey in Utah received and delivered these to me.
A few days later, I finally had a place to work on the phone: A library in Page, AZ. On most modern phones, the only way to work on them is to first remove the screen. This is the most delicate part of the process and has surely been the voiding of millions of warranties. I’d never attempted it before, but I figured it was worth a shot.
I didn’t have a heat gun to melt the screen adhesive, so I just laid it on Annie’s engine block for awhile. I worked slowly and carefully to separate the screen, but still cracked it in a couple of locations. It finally came free though:
I continued with the disassembly here until I ran into a snag. They had shipped the wrong screwdriver (I needed a star-pointed T5) so I couldn’t get any further. When you are so far into a project like this, that is really frustrating.
I searched around town for the correct screwdriver, but came up empty. So to in the next town, Kanab. My first stop in Cedar City was at the hardware store, where they had the tool that would work. I carefully took the internals of the phone apart and swapped out the charging board:
I reassembled it, and much to my delight, the charging symbol illuminated:
That night, I reheated the adhesive on my engine again, then left it under a rock in my tent to hopefully seal the screen.
It is now back up and running, working almost perfectly (the microphone only functions sporadically).
Like a trusty back up quarterback, my old Samsung S5 filled in well while the Pixel was injured. I had to spend more time editing the photos, but it can still take some good shots. Cheers, old friend!