I have done a few small, one day rides around the southern part of AZ to get more familiar with the bike. I think that is part of the planning stages.
It is a big motorcycle, and it is still a little new to me, so finding out how it performs on a longer trip – as well as finding out how well my backside performs as well – was the reason for the ride. I also wanted to see if I remembered anything at all about camping.
I learned a few other things last week as well.
Phoenix to Bluff, Utah.
I left at 6AM and it was chilly. Heading up the old Beeline Highway (Hwy 87), I remembered all the times my dad and my brothers and I would be on that stretch of road heading up to the Rim for a weekend at the cabin.
Those days are gone now, but the memories stay in the back of my mind as I rolled past the Saguaro Lake turnoff. A few miles further the road goes up the face of a small mountain and immediately drops down the other side heading toward Sunflower.
And here was a spot I learned something else about motorcycling. Sometimes you may have to pick up the damn bike.
I turned off on a small road and immediately tried to turn the motorcycle around… on an incline. And I dropped it slowly and without skidding. Just slowly sat her down on the kickstand side. I have watched Youtube videos of how to pick up a motorcycle, but I hadn’t actually done it yet. My bike weighs nearly 850 pounds when loaded and gassed and she was both.
The first time was a total bust. I pushed and pushed, but it felt like I was pushing against a building, not something that would ever move. So I headed over to the side of the road to see if I could get someone to help me.
After standing there for a few minutes I realized I needed to be able to do this. Standing on the road in Alaska may be a long damn wait, and apparently I possess the needed skills for dropping a huge motorcycle on her side.
I went back to the bike and tried it a second time. Nothing. I started to feel a bit of a panic setting in.
And I stopped it cold. “Failure is not an option,” I said out loud and headed for the bike a third time. I just was not going to stop pushing until either the bike moved or a pulled a muscle. Or two.
It moved… slowly at first and then I just kept pushing and up she went. I cautiously put the kickstand back down and sat there for a few minutes feeling pretty drained.
But a little proud too.
I headed on to Payson without any more excitement.
Up the hill I started and it began to get colder and colder. At the top, I stopped and put on my rainguards to keep the wind off of my feet and ankles and found the little lake there to be nearly full. I also found snow. Which sort of explains the very cold conditions I was riding in.
I thought about breakfast in Heber, but it was so darn cold I just wanted to keep going and get to Holbrook thinking that may be a bit warmer and a good spot to stop for a while. And it was a bit warmer, thank goodness. The sky was filled with clouds, but the intermittent sun felt warm on my face.
I gassed up at the end of town and then began to look for the road up to Chinle. Having grabbed a power bar from the gas station, I just wanted to ride and find a spot to savor the silence of the res. A few mile north and I found a small cabin I wanted to photograph, so this would be a good spot for my bottle of water and power bar breakfast.
I immediately discovered that it had recently rained there and the sides of the road were slick, sloppy mud. NOT a good place to park a motorcycle or worse – to drop one. I found a bit of a wide spot and gently parked the bike on the shoulder of the deserted road.
Just south of Chinle the road rides the crest of a plateau. Looking east you can catch glimpses of a wild, untamed terrain of sandstone and rock. I found a little pull off there to make a photograph and waited until a white truck came into view on the road beneath me.
The storm in the distance had been stalking me since Holbrook, and now was getting visibly closer to me as I made a few shots. It was when I noticed the rain entering the valley on the other side that I decided I may have overstayed my time there and quickly repacked the gear on the bike.
A few drops caught me just outside of Chinle, but the big V-Twin kept me at a good, steady clip and I outran the storm… for now.
I barely stayed ahead of that fast moving storm system. Stopping to take photographs along the way kinda slowed my pace. I would gain a good lead, see something I wanted to shoot, and skedaddle out just before the drops started. Cat and mouse for sure… and I was the mouse.
I had wanted to spend the night in Mexican Hat, UT, but I needed to find a campground and get the WiFi set up for a show.
Which was another learning experience for me. Remember the rain? Well, it had muddied up the roads into the campgrounds really well, and I remind you that my motor is NOT a dirt bike, nor does it handle well in 6 inches of sloppy mud.
I ended up at the Kokopelli Inn in Bluff… not my favorite hotel in my journeys so far. I have heard of paper thin walls before, but never really experienced them until the Kokopelli. But the room was clean and I was tired.
All told – 415 miles. Ass was not sore. Yet.
Bluff UT to Kanab, UT
The sun was had just risen when I departed Bluff heading toward Mexican Hat. I wanted to get to Mexican Hat because of Route 261 and the infamous Moki Dugway that was literally carved out of the side of a bluff a few miles out of Mexican Hat going north. It was carved for trucks to bring Uranium Ore down from the top of the bluff to the mills in Mexican Hat. It is unpaved, steep, and with super tight hairpin curves. They feature it on “Hell’s Roads”, so you know – I had to ride it.
And I did. The views were spectacular, but anyone would have to be dumb as a bag of nails to fear the road. Go slow, and don’t drive off the edge. Seems pretty simple to me.
Below is a shot of top of the Moki Dugway.
I was now entering the Glen Canyon Recreational area and would soon be at Hite, the farthest most tip of Lake Powell. There is a bridge over the Colorado River, and it begins filling the lake at that point.
Except it doesn’t anymore. Hite was a grand destination for vacationers. A beautiful part of the lake, it was a prime spot for enjoying the amazing beauty of Glen Canyon, and the water sports the lake brought to the camping area.
Hite was a grand destination for vacationers. A 0nce beautiful part of the lake, it was a prime spot for enjoying the amazing beauty of Glen Canyon, and the water sports the lake brought to the camping area. Now the waters are gone due to the drought, and the river simply runs its course without getting close to the camping grounds and amenities of Hite.
For motorcyclists, this may be one of the best roads I have ever experienced. Absolutely astounding twisties and magnificent views.
You can see the boat ramp at Hite Campground from this view taken across the canyon. Simply amazing.
In the photo above you can see the “Castle” rock formation in Capitol Reef National Park.
I grabbed lunch at “Blondies” in Hanksville. Good burger, even better service. I chatted for a while with a couple from somewhere near Salt Lake who were heading down to Colorado for some ‘getaway’ time.
Pulling out of Hanksville I immediately found some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen. The road was amazing as well. In some places it had 14% grades and hairpin turns with steep drop offs.
This road is prime motorcycling nirvana.
After I left Torrey, the road began to wind up to the top of a mountain with spectacular views. I also encountered a great deal of snow as well as a very cold ride.
Escalante was next, but I had spent so much time making photographs I had to blow through it and Bryce in order to get to Kanab before dark.
Next time, I will have more time to just play.
Below you can see the amazing view from the top of one of the mountains I crossed.
Kanab UT to Phoenix.
Uneventful and hot. I took very few photographs because of an urgency to be home for a family situation.
I rode over 400 miles per day, and found it to be very doable.
WHAT I NEED TO WORK ON
Mounting and unmounting the bike with backpacks loaded on is quite difficult. I have to throw my leg straight over instead of sweeping in an arc. This puts a lot of strain on my left ankle and foot. I need to toughen that up and soon.
I also need to learn how to camp more comfortably on the motorcycle. Being minimalistic as I am, I may have to force myself to add a few more items to the pack to make sure I have a pleasant experience roughing it.
A great trip – but cannot wait to get back to do it in a week instead of three days.