2017— Denver to SLC, the 2017 MOA Rally, and Home again

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This is heading south on RT163 heading into Monument Valley from Utah into Arizona.

Trip wise, this was the best of the best for me. Utah was spectacular. Any pictures you’ve seen are no comparison to the real places. I saw so many different panoramas, vistas, canyons, buttes, mesas, deserts, forests, and cliffs that all I have left in my brain are distant memories, fond but distant. Unbelievable sites on an amazing ride.

On the Road Again (Part 1)

Well by the time you all read this (all three of you) we’ll be riding in the wild west, probably (on Sunday) somewhere on the Million Dollar Highway headed to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for dinner at 5:40PM on Monday. Bill Kenney, an efficient and accomplished tour master, took a shot and called the North Rim people and got a cabin (the ones they tell you to reserve two years in advance). Someone had just cancelled. We are very fortunate indeed. Way to go Billy.

My plans had included visiting some friends in Fort Collins on Saturday so I was already booked to arrive on Friday, but that at 10PM Denver time. Not only that but the friends had to make a quick exit from Colorado on June 30th to head east to Philly to be close to their oldest daughter who is being treated at a hospital there (we are all hoping and praying for her healing and complete recovery).

Bill called with the amazing news and I switched my flight to 6AM Friday morning (7/7/17) to arrive in Denver at 10AM. My alternate plan had me sitting in a hotel room for two days waiting for the rest of the gang to arrive on Sunday. Bill and our new traveling partner, Kyle, would be arriving at 11:30AM. The plan was to get the bikes Friday afternoon from the warehouse, stay in Denver Friday night and start our trip Saturday morning. So far so good. O! I have to replace my headlight bulb. Hopefully that will happen Friday afternoon.

I actually manage moto trips (all my trips actually) like this; I simply don’t believe I am actually going until I am gone. I try to prepare mentally by making sure I’ve gone over the packing, have my essentials, my riding gear, etc. but the actual trip itself can’t be a reality until I’m riding over the Rockies at 12,000 feet above sea level. Then it all hits me. I have some vivid memories of the trip to Montana in 2015, but memories can only provide so much. The actual experience is the real deal and that takes place moment by moment, turn by turn, vista by vista, breakfast by breakfast, conversation by conversation.

Our route is fairly well set for the first three days. Saturday will take us up north through the Rocky Mountain National Park ridge road, over the mountains (the summit altitude is just over 12,000 feet) and down again to Grand Lake (about 120 miles), We then head west over towards Kremmling, south to Silverthorne where we pick up RT 70 for a short stretch. We’ll probably spend Saturday night around Glenwood Springs for a total of 300 miles for the day.  Sunday we’ll head south on the Million Dollar Highway (RT550) and maybe end up in Cortez, AZ or Farmington, NM for the night and then on Monday ride to the North Rim (about 340 miles).

If you are interested in some amazing pictures of the North Rim area check out this guy’s website: http://adamschallau.com/photos-grand-canyon-north-rim/. Hopefully we’ll get to see a spectacular sunset, the night sky and the sunrise as we head north toward Utah.

We’ll save the Utah leg and the rally stories for next month’s Rumble. Safe travels to all who remain behind and to Dave, Vasilios and Mike who are on their way cross country (I’ll wave on my flight Friday when we are over Illinois and Nebraska). Eleven from The Ocean State BMW Riders should put us on the map at the rally. I’ll let you know how we make out with the water balloon surprise for Carl on his birthday.

On the road,
JT

Here’s a brief description of the first two days, July 8th and 9th 2017:

On the Road Again (Part 2)

To say the least all went as planned for our small group, in fact I can honestly say that it went better than I could have even imagined. Me, Bill and Kyle (our junior-achiever) all arrived in Denver on Friday July 7th and caught a cab to Great Plains Moving & Storage at 4655 Geneva St. (in Denver). What an operation. We were escorted by a nice lady into the huge warehouse where we claimed our bikes. Bill’s bike and mine were right on the end. Kyle’s was buried in an aisle so she told us to have a seat in the lounge, which we did. About 15 minutes later we were escorted to our waiting, unpackaged rides. I’m not complaining but Bill and Kyle’s bikes were pointed toward the exit gate. Mine was pointed toward the dumpster. Ummm?

We geared up and were soon on our way to our hotel, the Motel 6 in Aurora, CO. What a dump. We got our room and the bikes squared away. Bill was gracious enough to do his last (well almost last) mechanic work while on vacation and installed the new low beam, headlight bulb on my K12. (Thanks again Bill.) There was a Texas Roadhouse across the street so off we rode. We enjoyed a nice meal, gassed up for Saturday’s ride, and headed back to the M6. As we pulled into the motel lot something flew over my head. I got off the bike and picked up the remains of a smashed, plastic dental floss package that had apparently been the UFO that had flown over my head. Bill and Kyle saw it too. As I started walking towards the lobby door a person approached me. To be completely honest this person was a bit disheveled, young (maybe 22), and I was not 100% sure if she was a she or a he. I was pretty sure she was a female so I went with that. I’m not trying to be offensive or politically incorrect, but she said, “Did you see what she did to me? I know you did. She assaulted me right? She assaulted me! You saw it. Right?” I kept walking toward the motel entrance and said something like, “Sorry, but I didn’t see anything.” The other person of this dynamic duo was definitely an older woman (45 ish) who was sitting in her blue SUV and talking on the phone. The younger woman started yelling at the older woman as I walked into the lobby. The manager was standing at the door observing the encounter and was also on the phone. “We get a lot of crazies here. It’s Friday night in Aurora,” she said. We went upstairs asking ourselves if our bikes were safe for the night.

About ten to fifteen minutes later I looked out our room’s window into the parking lot below where the local PD had arrived in force. There were about four cop cars and six or so officers in the lot managing the event. The younger woman was whisked away in cuffs, and the older woman probably went back to work. I believe she was looking for someone named John. I also think I heard the name “Jack Riepe” mentioned, but I can’t be absolutely sure about that. Anyway that was our first night in Colorado.

Day 1 (Saturday, July 8, 2017)

Saturday we rose early and headed north west toward Estes Park and then on to the Rocky Mountain National Park. The park owns the highest altitude paved road in the USA, RT34 the Trail Ridge Road. We rode over it. The cool mountain air was about 55° at the summit and the day was spectacular.

We had gotten separated on our way to Estes Park. Bill and Kyle had pulled ahead at some point and I was enjoying myself tooling along at five over on my way to our rendezvous at breakfast. As I came around a corner there was a sheriff’s truck pulled over on the right with lights a’blinking. As I rode past the scene I saw Kyle pulled over and off the bike. Earlier in the day we had had the conversation about speeding in Colorado and that 20 over was “driving to endanger” resulting in a suspended license and the confiscation of the motor vehicle. I stopped about 20 yards ahead and waited. The sheriff walked over to Kyle and handed back his paperwork, gave him a lecture (or at least that’s what it looked like to me) got in the truck and drove off. You can ask Kyle about the details. The Sheriff didn’t give him a citation but rather a warning. Kyle and I soon made it to Estes Park and enjoyed a nice breakfast at “The Egg and I” with Bill who had arrived a few minutes before us.

I wasn’t as lucky as Kyle and in fact had the unfortunate experience of having a face-to-face conversation with a Federal constable just after entering the park. Officer Baer pulled me over and informed me that I had violated a federal ordinance, crossing the double yellow line.

Now my bike has this small problem with the side-stand. I need to be on level ground or on an incline that goes from lower to higher on the side-stand side, or the bike will tip over. So here I am stopped on a mountain road and I can’t park my bike due to the direction of the incline. As I stay with the bike, holding it up, the officer (who was a very nice guy) asked me if I was new to motorcycling? I smiled and said, “No officer,” and explained the side stand problem. Holding the bike steady (since I can’t put the side stand down) I try to take my helmet off. “Do you mind holding this helmet?,” I ask. He says sure and asks if he can put it on the hood of his Park Ranger SUV. “Sure, thanks,” I reply. Next was the wallet, license, registration and insurance card. I just handed him the wallet and said, “It’s all in there, sorry.” He got out the ID stuff and handed me back the wallet, all while I held on to the bike. In the back of my mind was a visual picture of next year’s Faux Pas award going to me for when my bike went over a cliff at RMNP. Fortunately that didn’t happen.

He asked me a bunch of the typical questions (Where are you coming from?, Where are you going, Do you have a weapon?, etc.) that I answered without guile. He was in the truck for about ten minutes and came back out with “the ticket”. He kind of apologized for having to give me the citation but gave it to me anyway, asked me to enjoy the rest of my time in Colorado, and to have a nice day. As he started walking away I said (with a bit of a grin and my eyes glancing over at the helmet), “Officer could you hand me my helmet?,” He smiled and handed me the helmet which was out of my reach on the truck hood, and offered to help me hold the bike steady as I geared up and left the scene. All went smoothly after that.

Bill and Kyle (who typically travel at higher velocities than me) had already passed the scene where I was stopped. They actually saw the officer following me for a half-mile or so before he pulled me over. I proceeded to the summit on the Trail Ridge Road maybe a few miles and twenty-minutes behind my two amigos.

The Trail Ridge Road is a beautiful ride topping off at 12,183 ft. The summit is marked with a small sign but just beyond the summit is a pull out with some amazing views. There are no trees or even any shrubs at this altitude. Also near the summit is the Alpine Visitors Center. I should have stopped and got my official national park sticker. Maybe next time. The descent is just as pretty. You also ride through Milner Pass and the Continental Divide. A few more miles ahead is the Kawuneeche Visitor Center where I reconnected with Bill and Kyle. After a quick pit stop we moved out and proceeded out of the park toward Grand Lake. We continued along 34 to RT40 west and then RT9 south to Silverthorne and a short blast on RT70 past Vail. At Grand Junction we picked up RT50 south to Montrose, CO where we spent the night. We did about 550 miles on day one and enjoyed a great steak at the Ted Nelson Steak House. Another small detail about the approach into Montrose was that we all passed the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, a small national park just outside of Montrose. Too bad because that would have made it ten national park visits for this trip. Day two would be the Million Dollar Highway.

Kyle had expressed that his goal was to go to as many National Parks as possible. With RMNP already in the books and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon (part of the Grand Canyon National Park) on our itinerary for an arrival Monday afternoon Bill and I figured why not. We hadn’t really planned anything beyond Monday other than ride Utah to our heart’s content (eventually making it up to Salt lake City and the MOA National Rally), and from what we had already experienced on day one it looked like coming out west was a brilliant idea, especially if you like riding on amazing roads through majestic mountain canyons, massive pine and aspen forests, awesome desert scenery, iconic mesas, buttes and assorted thousand foot tall vermillion cliffs, and almost no traffic at all (except maybe a cow or squirrel — did I tell you I ran over a squirrel?).

So the die was cast. On Day 2 (Sunday, July 9, 2017) we would ride the Million Dollar Highway south, zip over to Mesa Verde National Park, and then move on to Page, AZ near Lake Powell for the night.

Day 2 (Sunday, July 9, 2017)

We started the day like any other. Up early and on the road after a quick cup of coffee. Breakfast would be a couple of hours and a couple of hundred miles later… not sure where. The morning was cool and as we made our way through town I decided to bundle up a bit. Bill and Kyle were already in the twisties when I started my climb. Bill had first mentioned this road back in 2015 when we split up in Fort Collins, (with me eventually heading north to Billings and him heading east, back home to RI) but due to some heavy construction he hadn’t been able to travel the entire length of this scenic byway. The Million Dollar Highway is a part of US RT 50 that starts (or ends depending on which way you look at it) in Montrose, CO and travels south all the way to Bernalillo, NM, just north of Albuquerque. Here’s a brief description of the road from Wikipedia:

“Though the entire stretch has been called the Million Dollar Highway, it is really the twelve miles (19 km) south of Ouray (CO) through the Uncompahgre Gorge to the summit of Red Mountain Pass which gains the highway its name. This stretch through the gorge is challenging and potentially hazardous to drive; it is characterized by steep cliffs, narrow lanes, and a lack of guardrails; the ascent of Red Mountain Pass is marked with a number of hairpin curves used to gain elevation, and again, narrow lanes for traffic—many cut directly into the sides of mountains. During this ascent, the remains of the Idarado Mine are visible. Travel north from Silverton to Ouray allows drivers to hug the inside of curves; travel south from Ouray to Silverton perches drivers on the vertiginous outside edge of the highway.”

We were going south of course. It was amazing, scary, fun and will never be forgotten. O!… and look up vertiginous when you get a moment. Red Mountain Pass is at 11,018 feet and I was very glad I had bundled up. It was probably only 45° to 50° in the cool mountain air. Later in the day at Mesa Verde National Park it was over 100°. Talk about mood swings.

We met up again in Durango for breakfast at the Durango Doughworks. Next stop Mesa Verde National Park only 40 miles due west. Mesa Verde was a pleasant surprise. We did the visitors center and picked up the first of our little oval NP stickers. Kyle had gotten the National Parks passport booklet and was getting it stamped at each park we visited. Mesa Verde is the site of the pueblo, cliff dwelling, native American people group who populated the area during the 13th and 14th centuries. The ride to the interior of the park takes you up a canyon road with a ton of hairpin turns and switchbacks. Once you arrive at the top of the plateau you are in the early stages of the recovery of a burned out forest (major fires burned out of control in 2000 and several following years). The view is amazing. You can actually see the towns of Cortez and Mancos off in the distance. While up on the plateau you can also visit the ruins of the cliff dwellings. There are several different sites you can travel to and we all went our own way exploring and riding for a couple of hours and eventually all made it back to the visitors center. Next stop Page, AZ about 260 miles west.

The thing I remember most about this leg of the trip was just how much land there is out there. Some of the roads would run straight for miles through desolate and arid desert and then, where the road ran along side a river, everything turned green and lush with small farms or ranches along the way. Then, just as quickly, you would come through a small town and be in the middle of some amazing rock formation or another twisty canyon road. I kind of remember it but not really. It’s a sensory and visual overload that is hard to explain, except with words like awesome and amazing that really can’t describe the actual experience. Maybe “I want to go back again,” says it best.

So we started in Colorado, cut through the far south-eastern corner of Utah and then dropped down into the north-eastern corner of Arizona. Day three (Monday, July 10, 2017) would find us at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. I’ll save that for next month.

Addendum

As you enter Utah from Colorado things kind of change. Simply put, Utah is different (at least for me). RT41 CO becomes RT 162 UT and we headed north along the San Juan River in a large arch through Montezuma Creek and Bluff. A few miles past Bluff you start to turn south and far off in the distance I saw Monument Valley for the first time. It’s unmistakable even from 40 miles away. RT162 becomes 163 and as the topography changes the valley fades from view as you drop down into Mexican Hat. We took the appropriate pictures and continued on our way. In just a few miles the towers of the valley come into view again only this time they are much closer, larger and more real. The next few miles are magical as you approach this well known and much photographed panorama. I thanked God for the privilege of enjoying it on my bike, on a beautiful summer day in July in my sixty-eighth year.

At Kayenta you pick up RT160 West to RT98 for the final approach to Page. There were just enough raindrops to cool things off a bit as we traveled alone on RT98. The last five miles were very hot and Page was at least 102° when we arrived. The hotel room was nice and cool. We had diner at The Dam Bar & Grill. By this time we had our routine down pat. Whoever saw the server first asked for three glasses of ice water and a pitcher as well on the side. Tomorrow the Grand Canyon.

I didn’t come to this philosophical conclusion during the trip but a week or two after we all got home safe and sound. It’s not your possessions, or your savings, not even your job or your family that provide your greatest rewards. Each of these things are huge blessings in themselves, but the greatest blessing, at least for me, is the journey itself. Being alive and experiencing the adventure of a trip like this is not to be missed. Putting my fears and anxieties aside, jumping on the k-bike in some far-away place I have only seen in pictures and riding along the road less traveled is simply the best way to spend any day.

On the Road Again (Part 3)

Day 3— Monday, July 10th, Page, Arizona to The North Rim in Grand Canyon National Park

A few weeks before we left Bill texted me about his magic moment. “Het JT I got a cabin at the North Rim for Monday July 10th. Can you do that? It means we’ll have to leave earlier than planned.” Most people reserve these cabins a year or two in advance. Someone had just cancelled and we lucked out.

My plans had already changed. My friends in Fort Collins wouldn’t be in town so I was hanging out at a hotel for two days (anyway) waiting for everyone to arrive. I jumped all over the new arrangements. I’d been to the more tourist focused South Rim but never the North Rim. Bill also made reservations for dinner that Monday night at The Lodge Restaurant, the only place to eat for 70 miles.

We left Page bright and early, and we hadn’t traveled more than a few miles on RT89 before we hit some gorgeous, downward canyon sweepers. Our first destination was Jacob Lake for breakfast, then on to Zion National Park, Utah and then back again to Jacob Lake where we would head south on RT67 the only road in and out of the North Rim area.

The route took us south on RT89 and then north again on RT89A through the amazing and beautiful Vermillion Cliffs. We also crossed the Navajo Bridge, a span that carries you across the Marble Canyon and the Colorado River almost 500 feet below.

One of the wonderful aspects of this trip was the seeming endless transitions from high desert, to mountain pass, back to desert canyons and then into a lush green Ponderosa Pine forest. RT89A is just one of these routes. After the Vermillion Cliffs you travel almost on a straight line for about forty miles until you start the climb up into the Kaibab National Forest. You literally come around a corner and down into a ravine and you are in the forest. The road goes from dead straight to a nice mix of sweepers and twisty hills until you reach Jacob Lake. Page to Jacob Lake was about 100 miles and it was time to eat and gas up, which we did with many smiles and a good appetite at the Jacob Lake Inn, elevation 7925 feet.

Our next stop was Zion National Park. Our dinner reservations were at 5:45PM back at the North Rim and we wanted to arrive around 4PM to get a quick shower and see some of the sites before we ate. Zion was only about 50 miles west so our plan was to enjoy all that on Monday and then travel Utah the rest of the week before arriving in Salt Lake City on Thursday or Friday for the rally. The road to Zion was mellow but beautiful. We passed through a couple of small towns and were soon at the entry gate.

Zion is majestic. Bill and Kyle got ahead of me quickly so I just took my time and enjoyed the eye feast. Huge cliffs rise to a thousand feet right from the canyon road and the twisting road pours out the visuals in abundance. I stopped a couple of times to take some pictures and eventually got stuck at the entrance to a one-way tunnel. After a twenty minute wait we got underway again. Construction of the 1.1 mile Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel began in the late 1920’s and was completed in 1930. At the time that the tunnel was dedicated, on July 4, 1930, it was the longest tunnel of its type in the United States. The purpose of the building the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel (and the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway) was to create direct access to Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon from Zion National Park.1

After exiting the tunnel you continue down the canyon for several more miles and each turn continues to amaze with new views and vistas. Zion was my favorite of the five national Parks in Utah. When you get to the park exit you enter the town of Springdale. Think tourist town with lots of gift shops and hotels. It was hot so I stopped at a Shell station for a cold drink. There were a few Harley bikers there who asked me about my ride. They were headed into the canyon on the upward way. I told them my story and off they went. Kyle arrived to gas up and said he saw Bill a few minutes earlier but couldn’t find him now. We decided to continue on RT9 west to Hurricane, UT and then head east on RT59 and RT359 back to Fredonia, and then RT89A back to Jacob Lake and then head south on RT67 to the North Rim where we would either meet Bill or eat diner without him.

RT59 and RT359 are straight and flat with almost no traffic. The speed limit was a guideline. After we got to RT89A Kyle zoomed out of site and I enjoyed RT67 alone. It wasn’t what I expected. I entered the North Rim gate and ran into my roommates in the NR parking area. We quickly checked in to our cabin (#92) and got ready for dinner at 5:45PM. Bill had actually turned around at Springdale and rode back up the canyon while we took the longer, circular RT59/359 route.

When we arrived at The Lodge Restaurant (elevation 8,297′) for our 5:45PM reservations we asked the maitre d’ if we could get a window table. The sun was low in the sky and the canyon was lit up. He said he would try but there were a couple of other people in front of us. I said something like, “We rode all the way from the east coast to get here, you’d think we could get seated. We have a reservation.” The guy asked us where we were from and we said Rhode Island. He was from Boston. Go Sox! He called a server over and said, “Seat these gentlemen at table 5.” We said thanks and were escorted to our window table with an amazing view of sunset at the North Rim.

Diner was, dare I say, amazing. I had seared rare tuna with a cayenne and cumin crust, braised short ribs of bison and bread pudding a la mode for dessert. We were all in a state of disbelief at where we were and how we had come to be so fortunate.

Some friends back home accused me of being a “show-off” when I shared this experience with them. Believe me I don’t deserve it, but when it comes your way all you can do is be grateful and tell others of your good fortune. Hopefully they will be happy for you. At least that’s how I look at it.

We wandered around the area until the sun set and then headed back to the cabin for a good night’s sleep.

Day 4— Tuesday, July 11th, Point Imperial, Bryce Canyon National Park and Scenic RT12

Before leaving the North Rim on Tuesday morning I took a short ride to Point Imperial overlook. There are several other overlooks at the North Rim that Kyle and Bill visited, but it was time to head to Utah and our next adventure.

The 160 mile ride north on RT89 to Bryce Canyon national Park was a blast. We arrived at the park early afternoon and took in the sites. Bill and I went to visit the Bryce Amphitheater at Bryce Point. Kyle went further into the park and we all met back at the main visitor center about 4:00PM, ready to take RT12 to Torrey about 120 miles away.

As we exited the park we felt a few raindrops. A large storm was brewing to our west and would follow us all the way to Torrey. The plan was to arrive in Torrey before the storm. RT12 is perhaps the best all-around scenic roadway in Utah. It goes up, down, and around some amazing tight canyon roads with a new rock formation around every turn. In some spots the road is cut into the rock itself so there are rock overhangs to ride under. The road is also very narrow at points as it twists and turns south then east and then west. Did I mention that the entire road was recently paved so we rode on fresh blacktop all the way.

We beat the storm to Torrey by about 20 minutes and had our bikes parked under the Day’s Inn entrance canopy before the torrential rains and lightening hit the area. We were in the lobby as several cars pulled under the canopy during the downpour. Last but not least was a couple on a K1600 who were just a few minutes late. They rode out of the storm which was so intense that all you could see was their headlight as they made the turn into the motel parking lot.

Addendum

As the three of us discussed our options for dinner (in the main motel lobby) a gentleman and his wife approached us and struck up a conversation. Where were we from? What was it like being out in weather like this on a motorcycle? They were from Iowa and loved to come out west to hike the trails in the National Parks. The man, whose name was Ken, had overheard our dinner discussion and asked us where we were going for supper. The closest open place was a pizza place a few miles up the road, but we weren’t going to take the ride in the current conditions. “I’ll take you guys to get the pizza in my car, ” he said. “Here’s my room number. Just give me a call when you figure out what you want to do.”

We ordered the pizzas. The lady who worked at and owned the shop said that her son didn’t come in that night so she had no delivery driver. We would have to come and pick them up. We asked her how far she was from the Day’s Inn. She said a couple of miles up the road.

With no delivery available we decided to take Ken up on his generous offer. Kyle and I took the ten mile (one way so a twenty-mile round trip) ride to the pizza place. Ken even stopped on the way back so we could get a couple of photos of some grazing bison on the side of the road. It’s amazing what friendly people you meet along the way. He wouldn’t take a sawbuck for gas. He said the reward was just being able to help us get our supper in the middle of nowhere. Kyle stuck the twenty in the door handle pocket. We both hoped that it wasn’t a rental car. We ate the pizzas and went to sleep after another long but awesome day on the road.

Tomorrow (Wednesday July 12th) we would travel to Capital Reef, Canyon Lands, and Arches National Parks, and rumor had it that our other buddies from the Ocean State might be arriving in the area too.

1 https://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/the-zion-mount-carmel-tunnel.htm

On the Road Again (Part 4)

Day 5— Wednesday, July 12th, Torrey, Utah to Capital Reef, Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, destination Moab, UT

We started on our way early and made the short five mile ride to Capital Reef NP. Each park has its own special features but the roads through the parks provided the most enjoyment as they twisted and turned up hills and down again in a never ending succession of great touring blacktop. We eventually found our way to Blondie’s in Hanksville, UT for a great breakfast. Blondie’s also treated us with a deluxe server that we all fell in love with. Daisy Mae took care of her boys but had a special gleam in her eye for Bill.

The longest ride of the day took us north east and then east to Canyonlands NP, about 170 miles. We stopped at each park visitors center so Kyle could get his passport stamped and Bill and I would get a sticker. There were also a lot of exhibits with examples of the local flora and fauna and geological models that showed how the canyons were formed. It was here at the Canyonlands visitors center that we met up with Carl (Saccoccio) and Craig (Cleasby). It’s always fun to see a familiar face in unfamiliar surroundings and much hugging and smiling ensued. We all geared up after a half hour tour of the canyons on foot and headed to Arches a mere 30 miles away.

Arches was amazing (as is all of Utah), and we all had a different experience with each of us carving our own path around the expansive park. The plan was to spend the night in Moab, at the Riverside Inn, where we would meet up with Roy (Jackson) and Steve (Forand) for dinner. Reservations were made at The Sunset Grille, a fine restaurant that sits atop a hill overlooking Moab.

http://moabsunsetgrill.com/

The seven of us took the shuttle to the top of the hill and the Sunset Grille, the former home of Uranium King Charlie Steen. Here’s a little history about the Steens from the restaurant website:

“In the early 1950s Moab was a small farming community. Arches and Canyonlands were places only a lucky few experienced. In 1952 Charles A. Steen, geologist and prospector, put Moab on the world map.

The Atomic Energy Commission was offering a $10,000 reward for finding domestic uranium. Charlie had the knowledge and skills it would take to locate the uranium. While other miners were content gathering small amounts of surface deposits around Moab, Charlie wanted more. After three long years of searching with his family nearly destitute, and his resources expended, he made his final attempt to extract ore samples 240 feet beneath the earth’s surface.

Having broken his drill bit at 180 feet, he went into town.  He stopped for gas, not realizing what lay in the back of his jeep, ore samples he found at 70 feet.  The attendant approached the jeep with a Geiger counter. They were both surprised by the activity it created.  It was July 3rd, 1952 and Charlie had finally hit his ‘paydirt.‘“

We ate like kings and enjoyed the ride down the hill in the shuttle to our hotel just a stones throw from the grille. It was a joy for me (and I would assume for all) to be in this historic place, so far away from home, with six friends totally enjoying every minute of the experience. I am not that sentimental, but the riding of motorcycles with friends and just enjoying almost any adventure together is closely akin to the bonds experienced in a family. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Day 6— Thursday, July 13th Moab, UT to Salt Lake City via The Alpine Loop Scenic Byway and the Mt. Nebo Loop Road.

We weren’t due in Salt Lake City Until Friday where we had accommodations at the Ritz, er… I mean the Raddison. Either way we were in Utah, a state with arguably the best roads on the planet, so it was time to ride. We headed NW towards Provo on RT191 about 200 miles away.

I have to admit my memory gets a little fuzzy here. What I do remember is riding up and down mountain roads with amazing views every mile. We always stopped at the summits to take a few pictures. There were always bands of snow at the top on the north facing sides on the mountains.

Our group did get split up a bit and Craig and I were together for much of this portion of the ride. The Alpine loop road was very different since it traversed a switchback mountain road through a dense forest. The road was very narrow and the trees were so thick you couldn’t see around the next bend.

We tried to find a hotel in Park City for all seven of us but they were booked solid. Something about a softball or baseball tournament. We ended up in Ogden, UT about 40 miles north of Salt Lake City. That night we went with Patricia’s Home Made Mexican across the street from the hotel.

Days 7 & 8, Friday July 14th and Saturday July 15th, Salt Lake City, MOA Rally

It didn’t take long to get back to the rally site in SLC just fifty miles south of Ogden. The next two days included a luxury room (thanks Billy) in town and tons of shopping (mostly just looking) at the rally vendors. I also got a new rear tire at the NoMar installation site on the rally grounds. One highlight of the rally for me was the special meeting of the Secret K-Bike Club. I was just a bit embarrassed when fellow club member Roy “RRRRR” Jackson tried to disrupt the meeting with cat calls, lies and innuendo. To my surprise Jack Riepe, the club’s founder and chief cook and bottle washer, loved the controversy so much that he made RRRRRoy a Colonel in the club. Oh well. :0)

Saturday Bill and I took a nice ride out to the Great Salt Lake. It was about 100° so we decided against trying to make the 100 mile ride to the salt flats. By this time we had seen so many amazing sites on the road we decided to cool it and visit the Mormon Temple back in the city.

The Temple Square area is pretty amazing and we ran into the rest of the gang, including Mike (Howard) and Vasilios (Kourakis). Religious discussions aside; it is pretty amazing to think of this band of zealots packing up their belongings and heading west and settling in Salt Lake City. WE all enjoyed the experience and we have the pictures to prove it. One very cool things was finding out that Carl’s ancestor, Guido Saccoccio, had been a part of the building committee in the 1850s, and became the first building inspector for the Temple and the City of Salt Lake too. Amazing!

Closing ceremonies on Saturday afternoon were attended by all and we made plans for our return trip home the following morning. Bill had made plans on Friday and Saturday with the Iron Butt Association to attempt the Iron Butt Gold 1500, a ride that includes riding 1500 miles in 24 hours or less. My longest day was a ride from Rhode Island to my son John’s place in Bedford, VA, a total of 750± miles. I did that in under 12 hours. I couldn’t get my head around going more than twice that far in one day. The good news is Bill did it. I think it was 1530 miles in 22 hours. Bill? I think I’m pretty close.

Day 9, Sunday, July 14, 2017 SLC to Fort Collins, CO via RT40, and home Thursday, July 18, 2017

We all met at the Econo-Lodge near the rally for the start of the long ride home. Carl would lead the way on day 1 taking us along the scenic RT40 all the way to Fort Collins, CO about 500 miles away. No sweat. I will mention in passing that Carl took us just a little out of our way at the start, heading west on RT80. When we finally stopped a hundred or so miles out of town he shared the main focus of his plan. “I went that way on purpose” he said. That way we could see the panorama of Salt Lake City right in front of us one more time before we left.” Everyone smiled and said, “Thanks Carl!” :0)

The ride to Fort Collins was just another example of the tremendous variety and number of great roads out west. We veered off RT40 and took RT14 East near Baker Mountain, and went right through Walden, CO, the Moose Capital of the World. We did see a moose or two grazing along the way.

We arrived in Fort Collins with plenty of daylight and all found places to stay. Carl and Craig would be riding to Rocky Mountain National Park on Monday and then returning to Denver to fly home Monday night. Roy and Steve would be blasting home together, and me, Vasilios and Mike would be cruising home on RT80 and taking a side trip on RT50 just south of Kansas City, moving east at a steady but slower pace.

The weather had been great for the whole trip. We did hit a little bad weather near Great Island Nebraska when a serious thunder storm crossed our path, but that was the only time I remember getting wet. Vasilios did claim that I dumped he and Mike when I rode through the storm and they stopped at an underpass. We caught up with each other later in the day. I had stopped at a gas station well beyond the storm clouds and a guy on an RT also pulled in and showed me how his left side rear view mirror had been torn off by a passing pick-up truck during the storm. He had fortunately survived the encounter.

Our last night we had dinner at the Pine Grill walking distance from our hotel in Somerset, PA right near the Flight 93 Memorial. I left early Thursday morning for the ride home some 530 miles away.

There are so many miles on a trip like this that burn into your memory but so many others just blend into the fabric of experience. You can only recapture these moments in feeble memories that become less and less focused as time passes. That’s the bad news. The good news is as long as we have breath and a heartbeat, and our bodies can manage the stresses and strains of riding a motorcycle we can do it all over again next year. I’m in!

On the road,
JT