The thought occurred to me on Friday morning while riding through sheets of sleet through Park City, Utah, that motorcycle riding gives my hyper-vigilance something better to do.
That part of my brain is completely engaged in all the parentheticals imaginable while navigating my bike through the fog of my face shield between Land Rovers, Audis and BMWs. In fact, it serves me well on every trip on a motorcycle. I’d forgotten how much since it’s been an awful long time between them.
So this, my first commute, is the trip from our apartment in North Salt Lake to our little house in Hurricane as I get ready to start Summer semester. It seemed fitting at the time to mark the start of this trip with a shot of the This is the Place monument, the spot, I guess, where my great, great, great, um, great uncle leaned up from his wheelbarrow and said, “This’ll do.” Not according to historians, I know, but were I to a point of not being able to Moses any further, that’s what I’d say. And it seems more and more is being discovered these days about how things historically Mormon have been taken a bit out of context.
Here I was heading the opposite direction up Emigration Canyon. As the KLR climbed I was reminded what it’s like to feel temperature change, something we’re mostly insulated against in the cages of our cars. It felt great, even reaching the dew point, manifest by my helmet’s face shield, blurring my vision with the vapor of my breath. And I was chasing a thunderhead.
At the Little Mountain summit you can see north into Parley’s Canyon across Little Dell Reservoir.
I got on to I-80 to Kimball Junction and picked up 224 to Park City, braved the sleet and rain to 189 taking me to Heber City where I had a hot cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich at Kneaders. I stayed on 189 past Deer Creek Reservoir.
The skies cleared for the descent down Provo Canyon. Got to love that ride.
I picked up 89 in Provo and rode it to through Springville and on through Thistle. Some say this little ghost town is the site of the country’s most expensive landslide. In 1983 land gave way and dammed up the Spanish Fork river, submerging the railroad town. Highway 89 winds through it.
I stayed on 89 to Fairview and picked up 31 up the canyon to 9000 feet.
Get on to any forum dealing with any kind of motorcycle and you’ll find a plethora of opinions on gear, regardless its application. Everyone has an opinion and are happy to express it. If the gear works the way it’s supposed to, it goes background, unnoticed. When it draws attention to itself, it’s typically not because it out performed expectations, it’s due to some disappointing performance or failure. Cruising over the summit on 31 everything that kept me comfortable went transparent. It all combined to let me concentrate on those hyper-vigilant what-ifs.
Crossing over the La-Sal National Forest, 31 drops down into Huntington Canyon. This is sacred ground for me – the place where my father and his family spent the summers of their young lives. They spent them here:
I’ve written before about the Stuart Ranger Station as well as the fire that just about destroyed it and the heroic efforts in saving it. The Seeley fire destroyed over 48,000 acres through the canyon causing a domino effect of landslides and heavy flooding that have shaped the canyon into scattered debris fields along the river with little growth returning to the canyon’s hillsides.
It’s been four years. The Forest Service has been hard at work restoring campsites and removing debris from the river, but Mother Nature is taking her time.
Highway 31 winds down to Huntington and the ride is a motorcyclist’s dream. Highway 10 took me south among the coal trucks across I-70 to Highway 72, a continuation of the thrills provided by 31. Seventy two crosses the Fish Lake National Forest. There’s not a whole to look at, but anything would be little more than a distraction from the demands the road is making of your ride.
And it only gets better. Seventy two to Highway 24 via a little shortcut out of Fremont, zip through Lyman, Bicknell and Torrey and mount the All American Road, Utah’s Byway 12. I watched the clouds change form over Boulder Mountain and knew there’d be both dropping temperatures again and something to behold from Boulder’s vistas.
Like most contexts this magnificent, the photography does little justice. A cross-country cyclist joined me on the above vista just having climbed the southern access to Boulder. He’s from a spot near Sheffield, England and started his trek in San Francisco. We chatted about how so many are flocking to the National Parks these days with little regard for the West’s little secrets like this. Tough for them, we agreed.
I took the Burr Trail at the town of Boulder in hopes to find a spot at the Deer Creek Campground, but to no avail, so I rode on to Escalante where all State and Forest Service campsites were full as well. I ended up at an old stand-by in these situations, the Escalante Outfitters.
Along with their little cabins they have a half dozen tent sites and were happy to accommodate the KLR to be adjacent one.
It’s been fifteen years since I used this tent. It was like camping in a tube sock.
The rest of the gear became background though, doing the job they were designed to do. Technically, the tent did as well, it just wasn’t designed for this overweight fifty-something to easily slip out of his clothes into something comfortable for sleeping.
Check that box for a gear upgrade. Other KLR boxes were checked as well: this trip sorted out the suspension for me – it’s crap – that will be replaced as soon as possible. Crash bars, too, along with a better skid plate, and grip protectors. From what I’ve read, I thought I’d appreciate a higher windscreen, but the stock one is fine. And so is the seat. Maybe I’m just a numb-ass, but it was no less comfortable than the Corbin seat on the Blackbird or the Mustang seat on the Valkyrie.
I met a very nice couple from Switzerland who challenged my mediocre French for most of the evening, but we had shared meaning and a lot of laughs. Got a bar of Swiss chocolate out of the deal.
I doubled back ten miles early Saturday morning on 12 to get some sunrise shots at one of its greatest vistas.
Makes my throttle hand twitch.
I dropped into the east entrance of Zion National Park, which today was officially Zion National Parking Lot. I’ve never seen so many people there.
They were even climbing the walls.
The last leg before arriving in Hurricane was the only off-road segment I dared for this trip. Sheep Bridge Road confirmed all my misgivings about the KLR’s suspension. Granted I had her taxed beyond what Kawasaki’s engineers had planned for the bike, but it confirmed that it’s time for a fix.
It’s been time for this fix as well; the ride, on a motorcycle, through remarkable country, pressing all my senses into the good air along the way, helping me to do what I seem to forget all too often, to sort it out, breathe it in and let the vigilance go.
This route is 507 miles.