When Char and Pat hit me up about doing a Southern Utah ride with them, the answer was YES. I hadn’t seen their proposed route, and I didn’t care. I had complete confidence that it would be a great route and a great experience. They are, after all, some of my favorite humans.
A few nerdy details: In my other travelogues, I’ve included gas mileage notes from every fuel stop. Though I still calculated my mileage at every stop, I didn’t keep notes this time around. That is typically born of an overriding fear of getting stranded between fuel stops. I know this route well enough to know that I won’t be getting stuck between far flung gas stations, and – I’m carrying 100 miles worth of extra fuel – for me, or for some stranded person we may encounter.
I just installed a new Barnet Clutch kit (plate and 48lb springs). I’m super interested to see how my bike performs now, between the much hotter intake I recently installed, and this high performance clutch.
Pat showed me his proposed four day route – pretty much identical to my May Southern Utah ride, and I was 100% happy about that. the stretch between Bryce and Mexican Hat was certainly made by the good Lord for motorcyclists… except for one part.
Saturday 10 Oct: Salt Lake City to Bryce Canyon, UT: 293 miles:
Though I absolutely love traveling, the initial departure is usually a bit stressful for me. I rely on checklists and usually stay up way too late the night before doing last minute preparations.
I went into the garage with my packed travel bag and began fastening it onto the rear of my bike. Next, I situated the extra gas can and began tying it down with an elaborate matrix of bungee cords. A though drifted through my mind like a feather in the breeze on a warm summer day:
“What would you do if your fuel line broke in the middle of a ride?”
“Ha, I’d fix it, of course”, and I didn’t think another thing of it.
My whole motorcycle can be torn down and rebuilt with approximately 7 tools. I always have them tucked away in my saddle bags. When I first took up the idea of riding motorcycles, I knew that I’d want to learn motorcycle mechanics too:
not only because I’m curious,
not only because I’d rather do things myself than pay $300 in shop time plus parts,
but mostly because I wanted to create a relationship of trust between me and my machine. Doing my own work and knowing how every part of my bike functions would help me feel connected to my machine. It would instill confidence in my ride, which is something you cannot put a price on.
I rode from Stansbury Park to Cottonwood Heights. We met up at Char & Pat’s house, topped off our tanks, got coffee, and embarked southward toward Price by way of Spanish Fork Canyon.
We stopped in Salina, UT for lunch. Their Main Street is a boneyard of mom & pop businesses that succumbed to economic storms. One survivor was Mom’s Cafe. When in Rome, you order the chicken fried steak. Mom’s was delicious. 9/10, would order again.
Later in the afternoon, we stopped for a break in Antimony, UT – population 120. Two items of note:
I’m not saying that the 120 residents of the Antimony definitely are polygamists, but I am definitely not saying they aren’t.
“This is the kind of place a horror movie starts in”, Patrick observed.
We put our kickstands down, peeled off leathers and helmets. Pat went inside to survey the refreshment offerings of Antimony Mercantile. He emerged with a cold beer for him and Char.
“Yep. That place is run by polygamists. The burgers smell good, though.”
Say no more. I also would like a cold drink, purchased from a real life polygamist. I entered and discovered his statement about the burger aroma to be true. There’s nothing quite like the umami of a well seasoned griddle. I purchased a can of Bud Light from the cashier in the pioneer dress. As I waited for my debit card to process, I wondered if her particular sect of Mormon fundamentalism looked down upon barley water in the same way that the Mormonism of my youth did.
I was tired enough from the ride that I didn’t think to ask her feelings about Joseph Smith while I was buying that beer.
We sat on a piece of cement and sipped our beers.
“What did you think of the cashier in there?” Pat asked.
“Polygamist, for sure. She wasn’t wearing that pioneer dress ironically. She totally meant it.”, I observed.
“What do you think her name was?”, quizzed Char.
“Ruth!” “Sarah!” “Esther!”, we all spouted off whatever female Biblical names we could think of.
“Her name was definitely not Tiffany.”, Pat concluded, telepathically insinuating that Tiffany was a stereotypical stripper name, and that she was definitely not in that trade.
An old man pulled up in his Ford Taurus. He simply pulled onto the shoulder of the road, going the wrong way. Proper parking is obviously a thing reserved for city folk. He moved slowly and wore his cowboy hat with conviction – like a crown. As he moved toward the entrance of the Mercantile, he made eye contact with us that bordered on a sneer. It’s hard to tell with old people, though. Regardless, we were sizing each other up. For what, I do not know.
“Pa must be stopping in to check on the wives”, I postulated.
A few minutes later, Pa emerged with a 30 rack of Bud Light, shuffled toward his Ford, glanced our way, gave an barely perceptible nod, and drove off. Maybe Pa is a Jack-Mormon polygamist.
Next up: The peacock and the hen. Mother Nature gives a fascinating treatise on the value of males and females in the way the bird kingdom is decorated: males have the most flashy, beautiful plumage. Females are typically dull, grey, and ready to camouflage into their environment. An awkward couple in their late 20’s pulled up to the one operational gas pump, labeled “prepay inside only”. The guy clearly goes to the gym 11 times per week – not just to lift away his demons, but for the free tanning bed access. The girl’s oversized grey hoodie downplayed everything pretty about her. She seemed along for the ride – with him, and in life. Once they realized we were the only other humans around with some possible connection to the real world, they smiled, made eye contact, and asked where we are headed and from. All three of us guessed their point of origin: Draper, Utah.
Pat humored the possibilities: “Where are you guys from?”
We tried to find that calm middle ground between familiarity and delight at our correct prejudice.
“Ah, cool. Drive safe!”
One sip of beer after Mr & Mrs Draper left, an older woman pulled up in a similar fashion to Pa. She did the old lady scowl toward us strangers, shuffled inside and returned to her car.
A shifty wind blew up some dust. Pat went exploring the perimeter.
“Dude, the longer we are here, the weirder it gets. People are just appearing, walking around toward nothing. Weird people.”
He didn’t say the actual word, but I could tell he was really saying is that if we stayed too late, and if a full moon came out, we’d be stuck in the middle of a zombie outbreak.
5 gunshots rang out from a nearby field.
I stood up to begin my pre-ride rituals: locate gloves, keys in ignition, check out fuel levels, ensure saddles bags are closed up, put on my jacket…
….and in that very instance, a small stream of gasoline began streaming in a gentle arc, out onto my boot and the ground. I looked closer and saw that in this very moment, a tiny hole formed in my fuel line. For a moment I was stunned, wondering how something that was not there 3 seconds ago could now be there, and with such potentially bad consequences.
I immediately shut off the petcock (that’s what they call the valve that turns the fuel supply on or off, weird, I know).
Where does the word ‘petcock’ come from, you ask? The word has two parts:
pet – derived from the French word for ‘small’, “petit”
cock – derived from 15th century usage meaning “spout or faucet”
I’ll just let that one marinade for a few moments.
…. so anyway, ‘petcock’ means “small faucet”, which is exactly what it is on a motorcycle engine.
It As the small stream died down, I grabbed pliers and a knife from my tool kit. I removed the fuel line and inspected the possibilities for repair and future problems. I cut off the offending section of line, stretched the slack from the line, and re-attached the line to the fuel tank. All of this took about 60 seconds.
As I started a pre-ride inspection, I thought about that odd feather of a thought that drifted through my mind this morning, and wondered what came first – the chicken or the egg? As much as I wanted to have another beer and try to solve the Observer Effect and the rest of quantum physics, I completed my pre-ride inspection. Satisfied that my bike was road worthy, we commenced down a charming yet creepy canyon that most certainly holds zombies…
Polygamist zombies, none of which are named Tiffany.
We arrived at our motel in Bryce just before sundown, perfect timing. We checked in and promptly got in line for a seat at the adjacent diner.
After a bowl of chili and a beer, we retired for the evening. Char slept quickly. Pat and I got sucked into an old Chuck Norris movie. The program was riddled with painfully long commercial breaks. Perhaps more accurately, they had movie breaks in between commercials. 7 / 10 commercials were from two different law firms who are recruiting victims of sexual abuse while in the Boy Scouts of America.
Pat and I both share non-sexual-abuse-privilege. It’s a rare class in today’s society: none of our relatives, clergy, or scout leaders touched us inappropriately; and we only dreamed that the girls at school would do so. A little whiskey, along with that privilege, allowed our humor to get pretty dark about this topic.
But hey – if you happen to have been molested by your scout master, you have until November 16th 2020 to file your claim and take part in the lawsuit. Now you know, and as they say….
Sunday 11 Oct 2020: Bryce to Mexican Hat: 291 miles
Fairly well rested, I showered, had some motel room coffee, and did my journaling (a lot of the writing you are reading happened on the road with my iPhone and a bluetooth keyboard)
Speaking of iPhones as creative tools: I decided not to pack any camera gear other than my iPhone 11 Pro Max. It is a surprisingly capable device, and I love that it takes up virtually no space. There is a certain elegance to the iPhone being one’s sole creative device while on the road.
For whatever reason, I spend a lot of time as a lone wolf.
It’s not that I want it that way… but wait –
I also believe that, for the most part, the broad strokes of our lives are the way they are because we want them to be that way. Humans can be wonderfully flexible, resourceful, creative creatures. History is full of stories of people radically changing their lives. The evidence suggests that I do, in fact, like being alone. And yet –
In my adult life, a heart breaking number of beautiful moments have been spent alone. Like …
… watching a late August thunderstorm fracture apart and turn Logan Canyon into a mystical, foggy wonder land.
… magical experiences at Burning Man
… the way dinner turned out last night, and how perfectly the wine paired with it.
…. to name a few. Things like that are fantastic of themselves. To experience them alone is to be a fortunate soul. Speaking of wine – the only thing that makes a good bottle of wine better, is to share it with someone who appreciates it like you do.
…and so it is with life.
I love my life. I am thrilled to be alive, I enjoy this game so very much. The only thing that can make it better, is communion:
…to witness a thing, to be witnessed witnessing by someone who really gets it, and then to witness them witnessing you witnessing it all.
To be truly seen is a rare and beautiful thing.
Let me tell you a few things I love about riding solo:
I can take as many photo stops as I want without worrying about making anyone mad
I can go whatever speed suits me
If I can get out of traffic, I get to experience ‘the open road’. Seriously, my friends, there is something mystical about being out in the air, speeding over the pavement, the laws of physics rumbling in two cylinders beneath you, with nothing but mystery and possibility ahead for as far as the eye can see…
It’s not the same in a car. It’s a straight up spiritual experience on a motorcycle.
If riding a motorcycle on the open road is Wagyu beef, riding in a car is bologna. Oh you are in a Porshe? Congrats on your expensive bologna.
The second there’s another driver in front of you, even if it’s your riding partner, that spell is broken. You now must be aware of their movements, and you are serious about safety, learn to anticipate their movements so that you can maintain safe following distances, etc. The experience goes from transcendence to work.
It’s my favorite kind of work, but… you get the picture.
This is my first long distance group ride. (Unless noted, all of my rides I post about are solo excursions).
It is a different experience to ride with another – speed must be constantly mediated to match theirs. Route must be agreed upon. Everything is a group decision. When I ride solo, it’s so much more expressive. Everything is on my terms. There is a brilliance and a freedom in that, that isn’t present on this journey so far – the upside, though, is that we get to make memories together. It’s the price of witness.
Having done this ride both solo and with friends, I now get to ask with a certain kind of scientific clarity:
Would I rather do it alone, or with friends?
I’m super tempted to say “Both! I don’t have to choose!”
However – the final currency in this equation is very finite:
The finitude of time creates a situation where we must make choices. Suppose I can go on 5 road trips this summer, they can be all alone, all with groups, or a certain mix of the two, but in every scenario, I’m doing trade offs between desirable elements.
Choice is a function of our 3D world of gravity and time. Our realm is defined by opposites: day / night, up / down, hot / cold, full / empty, male / female, etc…
You can have this, OR this. Not both. Not in this game. It’s like Burning Man: this game is all about how you relate to an abundance of choices and a finite amount of time & energy.
I am prone to think past the “or” game, and to realize there is a way of being that, at least, recognizes other dimensions to choices, namely, the word “and”.
Perhaps the “and” game is a hint of a 4D realm, but one we do not yet live in.
How proper is it to entertain the “and” game, if it’s not a practical reality? Is it even wise, or even ethical, to encourage our fellow travelers to the “and” game, when it’s not the one we are playing right now?
It’s a bit like announcing that refreshments will be served after the game is over, half way through the game. It takes everyone’s mind off the game and decreases the enjoyment of the present.
I’m reminded of the first game of “or” vs “and” that was played in the Human story: Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden:
The Garden was a situation of complete abundance: everything they needed was completely and constantly present. Lucifer, the light bearer, took the form of a serpent and invited Eve to gain further light and knowledge by partaking of the fruit that God forbade her and Adam to eat. “You will become like the Gods, you will become wise”, he promised her. While we will never know her true reasons, Eve took the snake up on the the deal and ate the fruit. She then witnessed something that Adam had not witnessed… what it was like to eat the fruit.
Have you ever had an experience that was so phenomenal, you would call it one of the meridians of your life? For me, one of them is the fist time I saw RUSH in concert. My life was different after that. Think of the most amazing thing you’ve ever experienced – there is a certain kinship you automatically feel with someone else who has experienced it, too, and those who haven’t are, in a sense, a different species. They life in a different version of reality than you do.
Eve, having this new experience that completely shifted her paradigm, realized that her relationship with Adam had come to a fork in the road. She could no longer be with naive Adam. Her eyes had been opened, and they simply would no longer be able to relate. She loved Adam (good thing they didn’t have Tinder back then, no telling what she would have done with all that choice at her fingertips), and didn’t want to lose him. She petitioned for him to have the same experience she had, so they could relate, and thus, be together. Adam also partook, and together, they experienced the first primal paradigm shift of human consciousness:
The introduction of opposites:
male / female, naked / clothed, obedience / disobedience, etc, etc, etc.
This is where ‘original sin’ comes from, by the way: Once Adam and Eve were made aware of opposites, Satan invited them to take a side and feel shame, which is just veiled hatred, for the other position.
“Look, you are naked! God is coming, he will be upset to see you naked, you should make some aprons with leaves and cover yourselves”.
This is not a commentary on how God feels about nakedness, it simply observes that Satan arbitrarily chose one of the two positions and invited them to feel shame and therefore prejudice and hatred. The tendency of all humans to become aware of opposites, be cultured to take a side, and then abhor the other – is original sin. Every human is born into it.
Every “or” question we face is primal. It echoes the basic human condition.
Back to Eve’s situation – go solo or try to bring her ride-or-die partner?
Adam did not flinch. He was ready and willing to navigate whatever scenario Eve’s decision got them into, in favor of them continuing their companionship.
It is not good for man (or woman) to be alone. There is something primally important about witness and co-creation.
It’s so primal, it shows up in the way we try to persuade our friends and family to do things in certain ways… to watch the same movie we want to see… try the same food we want to try… travel to the same places.
I boldly claim that this is at the heart of ‘smell my fart’.
It’s an innocent desire.
God, where were we?
Oh yes. I was wondering whether this trip is best done alone, or with friends.
With friends – for sure.
Sure, alone, I may have enjoyed a little more mental bandwidth, but I would also give up the massive benefits of
- Laughing with a friend at weird things on TV at the end of the night
- Taking pics of each other in cool places
- Making memories of seeing the cool places together
- Knowing I have support if something goes wrong
Cooperation is the cost of companionship, and it is the deal of the day.
We stopped for fuel, coffee and snacks before embarking toward Mexican Hat.
Prior to my first Southern Utah run, one of my seasoned biker friends, Doug, told me about a guy who you can call if you ever have any bike problems. “He” doesn’t have a name, exactly. Doug called him some kind of ‘motorcycle doctor’.
“He works on everything. Harleys, Japanese bikes, BMW’s, you name it. He’s great”, Doug gushed.
Fast forward to today: it’s mid-day. We’ve stopped in Escalante to get snacks and decide our next move. We had only been parked for a few minutes. A man in a blue denim shirt jumped out of a red truck.
“Everyone’s bikes running okay?” he called out as he walked toward us.
“Yep, all good!” we answered back. He greeted us, asked the perfunctory questions about origin and destination, and handed us all his business card:
I then made the connection- this is THE motorcycle ‘doctor’ that Doug was telling me about. I was quite thrilled to be making connections such as this, especially one that could really save someone’s day.
Should you ever need his services in the Southern Utah area, here is his info:
The Desert Doctor
120 S Center St, Escalante, UT 84726
We stopped for lunch at the Burr Trail Grill for lunch. I had a filet of trout over with rice with pine nuts. The fish was perfect in every regard and paired wonderfully with the citrus notes of the Wasatch Ghost Rider IPA.
We continued our ride along Route 12 and Highway 95.
I often postulate that there are 3 proofs that there is no such thing as an all knowing, all loving, all powerful God:
- pubic hair
Brothers and sisters:
Route 12, Highway 95, and the invention of motorcycles themselves, are evidence that there is, in fact, an all knowing, all powerful, all loving God.
Sunday evening turned into the most difficult motorcycling I’ve ever done. For now it will suffice to day that it completely wore me out for the remainder of the trip.
A statue of Mary stood at the bottom of staircase leading to our room.
“Mary, you’ve seen some strange stuff in your days. Throw me some help, if you can”, I prayed, as I walked past her the first few times.
Monday 12 Oct 2020 Mexican Hat to Moab by way of Monument Valley: 169 Miles
Today’s ride is vastly shorter, and I’m very happy about that. A number of factors have made the miles on this trip far more difficult than on other rides. I’m beyond exhausted and looking forward to a good meal, a cold beer, and a warm bed in beautiful Moab.
We spent the morning cruising around Monument Valley. Though it was closed to visitors, we still were able to enjoy it from the public roads:
In between Monument Valley and Moab, we made a few sight seeing stops:
Moab was exactly what I hoped it would be: a delicious dinner at Moab Brewery, a gorgeous evening ride along the Colorado, a long soak in the hot tub, and a comfortable bed. I didn’t take any photos, you just had to be there.
Tues 13 Oct: Moab to Stansbury Park – Home. 281 miles
We got up, packed, and set out for a proper breakfast before heading homeward. The Jailhouse Cafe was delicious. It boasted the honor of having served Dr. Stephen Hawking when he visited. It was reported that he was thrilled to see an actual dark night sky – his visit to Moab was the first time he had ever truly seen the stars. I ordered an omelet with some kind of pesto situation going on – it was delightful.
The only stops we made were for gas. Everyone wanted to get home as early as possible to decompress a bit before work the next day. We were back in Utah County by 2pm.
We visited a Harley Davidson dealership; Char is shopping for a new motorcycle for herself. There’s just something about a Harley Dealership that feels like a Disney Store in the mall.
It’s like Metallica trying to sound angry and rebellious on their latest album, now that they are all rich, happily married, comfortable and sober.
Have you ever seen the movie “Waiting”? Do you remember the scene where Jennifer Anniston’s character is getting harassed for not wearing enough “flair”?
It makes me wonder if the guys who work at Harley dealerships get bonuses for every hardcore looking tat they get. Maybe Harley has tattooing as part of their employee benefits package.
Anyway, we looked at a few bikes that are guaranteed to make you feel like Jax Teller (or Jax Teller’s old lady that finally subdues him, fixes all his problems, changes things at the club and rides with the boys).
I think that after you’ve paid $20,000 for that motorcycle, you deserve to let yourself to pretend to be whoever you want to be. 😉
Before you leave the dealership, don’t forget to pick up a “Live to Ride / Ride to Live” patch for your leather vest. People need to know that you’re a real biker.
The rest of the ride home was beautiful. I rode around the south end of the Oquirh Mountains, up through the West Desert, and into the Tooele Valley. I stopped in for one of my favorite creature comforts – a bowl of smoked brisket chili and a stein of their red ale at Bonneville Brewery.
It felt really good to arrive home, park my bike in the garage and get out of my riding gear. In the words of the late, and great Rush drummer:
When I’m riding my motorcycle, I’m glad to be alive. When I stop riding my motorcycle, I’m glad to be alive.– Neil Peart
Thanks Char and Pat for being such great friends and road fellow travelers. I can’t wait to hit the road with you guys again.
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