A Brooding Ceiling of Clouds
TThe brooding ceiling of clouds clinging to the jagged mountains that frame the north eastern borders of the Salt Lake Valley were not enough of a warning to prepare us what we were going to have to ride through the first day of our annual three-day Memorial Day ride. Depending on who you'd listen to, the weather forecast for Saturday was sketchy at best. A snow advisory had been issued for the Wasatch mountains and temperatures were not expected to climb any higher than mid-fifties and then, only at lower elevations. Not any kind of weather forecast you would expect for the last weekend in May. The only ray of hope was that all the forecasts were promising better weather by Sunday and Monday.
Sounds so Ominous
After re-thinking our packing list for the ump-teenth time, Kris and I had to give up and leave in order to make it to Eric and Dawns house. Besides, Eric said he'd provide fresh donuts and coffee. Time was a wastin'. By the time we pulled out of the driveway the dappled clouds were letting in warm shafts of sunlight over our corner of the Salt Lake Valley. The south looked even more promising. Unfortunately, we had to head north to get to Eric and Dawns house.
As soon as started heading north, the clouds blocked the sun off like a scene from a werewolf movie; dramatically covered by swift clouds. As soon as the sun was gone, the rain started sprinkling, and then pounding. The dramatic degradation in riding weather made me think that we should skip all the twisty roads and simply head south towards clear weather. By the time we arrived at Eric and Dawns house, our knees were soaked and our jackets dripped like a wet dog; a great way to start a ride.
I've often felt that rain, for a motorcyclist in a desert state like Utah, is a good omen (if one were to believe in omens, which I don't). But every motorcycle that I've grown to love and proven to be delightfully reliable were brought home for the first time in the rain. It started with the TLS and the VTR. Kris and I rode them home from the dealership (both of our very first brand-new vehicles) in a July thunderstorm. I hated riding a new bike, on new tires on soaking wet streets. Almost as much as I hated brining them into the garage covered in road grime. Next the ST1100 came home in a September storm. The Hawk was brought home during a week of spring rain and both the S3 and the Monster got wet as we toted them home from Colorado. In a state were the average annual rainfall is only 16 inches a year, less than one month of precipitation in Seattle, I was becoming a bit superstitious.
As we walked into Eric and Dawns house, Eric emerged with two plastic bags. Would you like to cover your seats? All of us had upgraded to Corbin touring seats, which are great seats, except for the fact that they are leather and, unless regularly treated, will soak water and ensure that ones tooshey stays moist for hours after a storm. Kris walked directly into the house searching for a warm cup of coffee while I followed Eric out before I was able to enjoy my cup of Java.
A few minutes later Mike showed up dripping worse than we. He had to pass Westminster College on his way and was fortunate enough to discover that today was graduation day and was forced to endure flocks of former students and proud parents crossing the street towards campus like wandering ducks on their way to the water on the other side of the road - oblivious and clucking all the way. He was delayed and a bit frustrated.
While Mike ran into the house for his breakfast, Eric, Scott and myself took on the task of resetting his fork height and properly attaching his luggage. The fork height was something he had wanted to take care of for some time, his luggage – well, this was his first trip. Had Mike rode any distance with his original packing job, the pyramid of bags would have surely rolled off the side of the bike and into the rear wheel.
While futzing around, the weather was getting progressively better. More and more blue sky was visible and the clouds that were cloaking the mountain peaks were dissolving, hiding only the highest peaks and the bottoms of the mountain draws and valleys. Encouraged, the consensus was that we would attempt the planned route that would circumnavigate the straight roads between here and Torrey, Utah. Additionally, we all expected that the twisty route would probably take us away from the majority of weekend traffic. We also hoped that the bad weather would keep more people at home and therefore, flush out fewer cops looking for holiday speeders rushing to relax.
We were so optimistic that we left our wet weather gear stowed, got on the bikes, fired the engines and finally, at 10am, started rolling; two-hours later than we initially planned. The sun was quickly evaporating the last of the wet splotches and despite the chilled, humid air, it felt great to finally be on the road.
A few blocks from Eric's house and we hopped eastbound I-80 up Parleys Canyon towards Park City. Parleys Canyon, despite being interstate, is stacked with ultra-fast sweeping corners and for interstate, it is quite entertaining. It is, after all, still a canyon. Twenty-some miles later, as we left the Park City skyline and the Olympic skiing venues in our mirrors, we turned south onto State Road 40, then just two or three miles later, onto route 248 to Kamas where we would fill our tanks.
It was relatively warm in Salt Lake, but as we climbed Parleys Canyon and the elevation, well - elevated to excess of 8,000 feet, temperatures became absolutely frigid. I was euphoric that we installed the heated grips on the Monster and the Triple, not to mention my continued and rising adoration of my Widder ‘Lectric Vest. However, my denim enveloped knees were freezing. By the time we stopped in Kamas I was ready to add more layers. The clouds that swathed the Salt Lake Mountains, now seemed to be to the east, the direction we were heading. As soon as the tanks were full, the bags were opened and the light rain gear removed. Mike, on the other hand, the only one of the group without a heated vest, had resulted to wearing long-johns, his racing leather pants, a pair of blue-jeans and now a pair of thick rain pants. He looked quite bulky, but, despite the cold, seemed to be having a lot of fun.
Because of the thick clouds, my GPS was having a hard time getting a signal. So, while we all increased our level of garb, I allowed the GPS to slowly track its global position. Mike did the same thing and it was a bit of a contest while his bare-bones eTrex competed with my eTrex Legend for the greatest level of accuracy. Shouts of 39 feet and 26 feet followed quickly by an I rule! or a you suck! Other gas station customers threw out perplexed glances.
We got ready to leave and climbed aboard the bikes. Mike was the last to get to his bike, then while the rest of us, sat on our idling bikes, warmed by our heated vests, we waited for mike to insert his ear-plugs, hold them in place until they expanded, put on his helmet, ensure his helmet speakers were positioned appropriately, plug in his headphones, turn on his CD player, select the desired song, adjust the volume, listen for a second to be sure, adjust the volume again, bob his head a few times, make one more volume adjustment, another head bob, turn on the key, let the FI prime and finally start the engine. Eric quipped later that day that Mike and Danny should get along just fine.
But now we rode. Straight south for about a mile to a four-way stop, we turned east again onto Wolf Creek Pass. The clouds were rising and occasionally a spot of blue would appear briefly on the horizon.
Utah mountain roads don't have the ominous reputation of Colorado roads. Colorado is known for mountain passes that exceed 10,000 feet, but few people realize how many of Utah roads fall just short of Colorado's paved altitude by only a few hundred feet. Wolf Creek crests at 9,500 feet of elevation. High enough to be comfortably cool on a hot August afternoon but I was worried of what we would find today.
Initially, the road was fine and I was glad for the added layer, but as we climbed the clouds drew in and it felt as though we were climbing into the sky. At 8,400 feet, according to the GPS, we entered into the thick cloud layer and the spring green vegetation disappeared beneath a cloak of snow. The road became completely saturated and steamed while the tree's looked like the sugar side of frosted mini-wheat. It was cold, it was miraculous and unearthly. I had never piloted a motorcycle through anything like this. The steam of the road was thick enough to obscure our path and the mountain looked like a milk-soaked bowl of frosted breakfast cereal. I rode slow, justifying the low speeds with the cold and wet roads, but in reality I was happy for the excuse to dawdle through the canyon, absorbing the icy view where the freshly painted yellow centerline vividly contrasted the otherwise, colorless scenery. As the group reached the summit, I had to stop. Before me, as the road began to descend, a series of three or four arcing corners reached across an empty, frozen valley.
I eased the bike into the pullout, slipped the bike into neutral, left the engine running to keep the vest warm; I pulled the camera out of my tank-bag and snapped the first images of the day. Mike looked miserable. As soon as he stopped he began rummaging for a different set of gloves to keep his hands warm. Even though I had heated grips, I had long lost sensation in my fingertips. It was cold. Scott later revealed that his bikes ambient thermometer read 33 degrees.
After I had replaced the camera I looked back to check on everyone. Scott had his face planted on top of his gas tank as he warmed his hands on the CapoNords engine. The steam rising from the road and from the bikes tailpipes was surreal. As we rode the views distracted me from how cold I felt. I couldn't imagine how cold Mike, without any heated gear, must be. Before we rolled away Kris yelled through her helmet I hope we haven't pushed Mike too far. She had a valid point. This was Mike's very first sport-touring adventure and he may not realize how unusual this ride had already been and that it was almost certain that it would get a lot warmer.
For now, all we could do is ride back down the valley floor. Magically, and Eric noticed this as well, when we dropped below 8,700 feet we crossed a line. The road dried instantly as the sunlight pushed its way passed the clouds and sparkled brilliantly off the thick layer of ice that was draped over everything.
As the canyon dumped us out on the other side, the farthest Mike had ever ridden from Salt Lake, we entered into a series of very small farming communities with the names of Hanna, Tabiona and Talmage. The sky ahead was a luminous azure, rich and pure, where it could be seen through the mammoth holes in the blanketing clouds. With all the particulates removed from the atmosphere, visibility was amazing. Scenery that is typically obscured by dust and haze was visible with detailed clarity. I had passed this road more times than I could count, but I was seeing things I had never seen before.
For the next several miles the road was mostly flat, but welcoming warmer. Before we reached the next large town of Duchesne I led the group off of highway 35, Wolf Creek Pass, onto a smaller road, SR 208, that crossed a small spur of mountains before it crossed over to connect with SR 40, a major route that connects the oil and mining towns of Heber, Roosevelt, Duchesne and Vernal with the Wasatch-front. SR 40 is always crowded and patrolled by marked and unmarked officials armed with radar-guns.
I have never seen any other vehicle on 208 so it offers immaculate pavement and a few sweeping corners in addition to one extremely tight S-curve that challenges the famous S-Curve in Salt Lake's Big Cottonwood Canyon for it's technical requirement of the rider. After that, it opens up and drives straight for 40. As it did, we could look miles to the east and west. To the west, enormous white columns dropped a slurry mixture of snow and rain like precipitous towers of Babel. It was humbling and frightening. I was glad we were turning east towards the sky that was empty of violent weather patterns.
When we arrived in Duchesne, we quickly filled the tanks again before we aimed south west through Indian School Canyon towards Price. Indian School exceeded Mikes expectations. It was empty save a few farming vehicles and the wide open sweeping corners begged for more speed. Indian School was built for liter-bikes where the larger engine is allowed to stretch their legs and run at a full gallop, something that larger bikes are not often allowed to do without retribution.
Mike was riding technical road mode and soon, much to my surprise disappeared from my mirrors. Mike told the story later that he would brake hard into every corner expecting a 30 mph curve only to realize how open the road was, Damn! he'd yell at his face-shield then hammer the throttle only to break hard into the next corner. It took him several miles before he realized the empty, openness of Indian Canyon and was able to crack the throttle on his Triple more than one quarter of the way.
Indian School dropped us out onto highway 6, the most deadly road in the state of Utah, claiming several lives a year. We were only a few miles west of Price, the biggest town in the area but we turned west, away from Price, and found our selves going against the flow of an endless line of campers, boat-totin' trucks and mountain bike adorned cars and jeeps, all on their way to either Moab or Lake Powell. We backtracked the 15 miles or so, back towards the turnoff towards Scoffield Reservoir without any distractions.
As we climbed highway 6 the clouds got dark again and when we turned south onto Scoffield Canyon, which connects with Huntington Canyon, known as the Energy Loop. As we continued to raise our elevation, one of the large columns of bad weather, falling from the clouds crossed the road ahead. I didn't want to end up crossing through the center of the column, so I added another digit to my current speed with the hopes of being able to miss the center mass.
As I drew nearer, it was like riding towards a wall. Visibility beyond was hidden by the amount of water. The road was suddenly drenched and the wind grew to a gall force. Once inside the weather, the bike was batted from side to side and I decreased speed. But once I crossed into the column and the wind stopped and the falling moisture began. I had timed it correctly and was only being forced to cross a small edge of the storm and was able to get out the other side before getting wet.
Beyond, however, snowflakes started to fall. I felt like we were trapped into a scene of The Perfect Storm, heading straight into an unknown force of weather. Scoffield was only a few miles away and with it, a gas station and a warm cup of Joe. I continued my pace, slowly leaving behind the rest of the group who had more sense than I. As I raced along Scoffield Reservoir towards a small cabin-like gas station, thousands of starlings were erratically strafing the road. At first, I paid them no mind, but then I starting thinking back to all the birds I have hit the last few years.
About once a year I manage to kill one bird while riding my motorcycle. Most people ride for years without ever hitting a bird, but I must be luckier than most. The first one was three years ago as we rode through California towards Laguna Seca raceway. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the poor little bird trying, for all he was worth, to back up mid-flight. He didn't make it and he smashed square into my left forearm. What a bloody mess. The next bird I hit, I was heading south towards Challis, Idaho where the road follows a river. Masses of sea-gulls were swarming for evening insects. One got so excited about eating mosquitoes that he didn't realize where I was and buzzsaw'd himself through my front wheel. What a feathered, uhm… poopy mess. The third one was near home as I rode, early in the morning towards an MSF class. It was so early that there were red-breasted Robins snoozing in the middle of the road. Most of them would fly away as I approached. One must have been sleeping more fitful and waited until I got there and flew up and threw himself directly into my face. Boy, I can't tell you how glad I was that I was wearing a helmet. I thought he broke my collarbone when he bounced off my chin-bar and into my shoulder.
Now, riding towards Scoffield with these Starlings behaving very much like the seagulls in Idaho, I started ducking and flinching. Then I thought to myself, what are the odds that I hit another bird. Then, out of nowhere, I saw it coming; a lone Starling directly in my path. Time slowed down as the small bird filled my entire face shield. At the last second I ducked my head and took the force of the bird with the top of my skull. The impact was so great that it popped my face shield open and I felt the force all the way down my spine, all the way to the tip of my tail-bone. A quick ops check and I realized I was okay and still moving. I scanned my mirror and saw no sign of the unfortunate bird. Four birds in four years!
I arrived in Scoffield and saw Clay parked under the awning of the gas station waiting for us, just as he had been for the last two hours. The snow was falling heavily and it was never a more opportune time to stop. The rest of the gang slowly pulled in after me and every one made a comment about the cold. South of us, the direction we were to be going the sky was dark and threatening. The clouds were racing over the sky at such a rapid pace that it was hard to tell if the weather would improve or get worse.
We all filed into the gas station and started emptying the coffee urns. Kris also noticed that they sold burgers as well, so we all filed up and started ordering. There were enough of us that the lady running the shop, apparently became slightly overwhelmed and announced, Just take what you want, I'll put out the hamburger patties and cheese, you just tell me what you had when you check out. Wow! What an opportunity! Like kids in a candy store we worked our way across the food isles. Eric, having had a great deal of experience in cooking hamburgers because of a former career at Burger King took over cooking duties. He'd throw the patties into the oven and toast the buns. As fast as they'd come out he'd shout Burger up . Within a few moments, we were all eating greasy burgers, sipping beverages of choice and warming up.
Mike finally started to look like he was warming up although he claimed he was warmer than the rest of us. Kris was very worried about his mental well being and asked him regularly are you sure you're doing okay? Mike, apparently, has the heart of a CanyonChaser! He was having a ball. When he heard that this weather was unlike anything any of us had ever endured, I think he felt better about the whole deal and he kept talking about how much he had enjoyed Indian School. Mike I said, If you liked Indian School, you're gonna' love Huntington Canyon. Mike grinned.
We must have sat there laughing and scaring off other customers for longer than we'd realized. When we finally got up and made good on our tabs, the weather outside had improved. The next canyon pass would take us to 9,800 feet before dropping us off onto highway 10 and Huntington. We were only missing one bike now that Clay had joined us with his BMW F650. Only Danny and Loretta, who we would meet up with in Torrey, were absent.
After warming up in the gas station, we all appeared to be recharged and ready to handle the cold weather with more energy than when we arrived. Once riding again, we climbed out of the active coal mining town of Scoffield, past the coal chutes towards the summit. Although the weather had cleared, as we climbed temperatures started dropping again. It felt colder than it had all day, but I felt more prepared.
Huntington Canyon climbs up and follows the ridge line between Sanpete County and Emery County. The winds on that ridge-line were ferocious, unlike anything I had ridden in before. All the fresh snow was drifting across the road. It felt like we were riding on a blistery January day, not the late spring weekend.
Fortunately, as quickly as we climbed we began dropping again, and just like Wolf Creek, when we dropped below 8,500 feet it became suddenly warm again. The road had just been resurfaced last fall and the asphalt was still in perfect condition. After several hundred miles of frigid temperatures I was ready to have some fun and the pace increased distinctly. Kris, Scott and I made a timely pass around one of the rare vehicle's we'd seen before the dotted line turned solid again. Within a few moments we were able to get away from the rest of the group, Eric and Dawn, Mike and Clay, who were forced to stay behind the mud-caked Chevy Avalanche, until they came to another safe place to pass.
This was Scott, Clay and Mikes first time through this canyon and I couldn't help but remember what it felt like to ride this road for the very first time when Kris, Danny and I took this route to St. George several years ago. I could only imagine how much fun, particularly Mike from the flat-lands of Ohio, was having.
As we were leaving the majority of the Energy Loop behind me, I made an aggressive pass along a long down hill straight away that, despite clear visibility for several miles, was marked with a double yellow line. Not worried about oncoming traffic I did not rush past the coal truck that I was passing and as a result I got the biggest scare of the trip.
While I was only halfway passed the coal truck, a white Durango popped over the horizon. Normally, such a thing would be no cause for alarm. I had plenty of space to complete the pass long before the oncoming Durango became any sort of threat to my forward progress. Fear arose from the fact that my last speeding ticket took place in this area when an unmarked, white Durango, pulled us over and falsely accused us of going in excess of 90 miles per hour. We came back and fought the ticket only to learn that you can't beat the man in Emery County; particularly when the cop's daddy was the district attorney.
I was caught in a moment of hesitation as I tried to decide the best course of action. I decided that it would be best to complete the pass with a great deal of dispatch and see how things pan out. I was thrilled when, as I drew closer to the Durango, I noticed the bright yellow New Mexico license plates and exhaled a sigh of relief.
We regrouped at the Huntington gas station and discussed the amazing weather we had to deal with over the course of the day while we filled our tanks, drank red-bull and munched on chips. Mike was looking absolutely delighted with the quality of roads we had encountered, despite the kooky weather. Mike, I said if you liked Huntington Canyon, you're gonna' love Highway 72. Unfortunately, before we could savor 72, we first had to undergo 10.
We looked south over the dreaded highway 10 to see nothing but clear weather, however I felt leery of the path that lay ahead. More cops patrol this road, per capita, than any other road in the state. When traveling through Emery County, drive slow, don't stop and don't spend any money. I get extremely frustrated when a community uses an observe and collect police force to generate revenue.
Fortunately, 10 went by without any incident and we were able to dive right into 72, a super fast, well loved race-track like road that never has any traffic. Apparently 72 has only been paved for a little over 10 years, so few people even know if its existence yet, which is just fine by us. We have, even on the most crowded weekends, seen no more than two or three cars across its entire expanse.
This time was no exception. The sky was finally clear and the weather was finally warm enough that we had removed the wet-weather gear and Kris and I had taken off the heated grips. The vests, however, were still plugged in and still running on high. But the refreshingly warm after so many miles of chill made highway 72 special as we sped south, getting closer to our destination.
Danny was going to try to meet up with us at Randy's gas station in the town of Emery, but when we rode through and saw no sign of Danny, we had decided to continue south and, hopefully, see Danny coming the other way. By the time we turned off onto the Fishlake loop, we still had not seen Danny. Fishlake was still grimy and the surface felt like it was covered with marbles, so I kept the speeds quite low and took in the scenery. I was shocked to learn that Fishlake is hovering at 9,000 feet in elevation.
As we passed by the Lake and the few Fishlake National Forest buildings and campgrounds that cling to the shoreline, we slowed down substantially. I have watched the recreating public in this area walk into the street to cross, without so much as a glance to traffic. We passed the collection of building and I was slowly starting to increase the pace when I got a strong radar signal, the first one of the day. I immediately chopped the throttle and flashed my brake light to warn the rest of the group behind me. There was another car coming towards me that was between me and the cop, so he was probably picking up the speed of the car rather than mine, which gave me plenty of time to ensure my speed was well within the posted limit. The cop gave a friendly wave as we passed. Naked bikes are cool!
We got off Fishlake and had nowhere left to ride for the day other than straight through a smattering of small towns before arriving at the campground in Torrey. As we passed through Loa I saw a very strange sight. A small red Hawk Gt was parked in front of a small eating establishment with a faded for sale sign taped to the frame. I gave a huge pointing gesture to the bike as I rolled past and watched to see if anyone stopped for a closer look. Eric and Dawn had been looking for a bike for Dawn ever since she passed her MSF course a few weeks ago. Nobody stopped so I kept going.
We all rolled into Torrey and parked in a sloppy formation in front of the campground. Hell's Angels would be ashamed. Kris was off her bike in a flash and went in to see about our reservations, most of which had been put in her name. Forgetting that I was supposed to try to keep in touch with Danny over the course of the day I left Kris to take care of the details while I went to fetch my mobile phone.
Three messages revealed that Danny was having bike problems. Some sort of engine leak had left him stranded near or in Zion National Park, he was able to solve it, but then was dealing with a set of severely fouled plugs that had required him to stop at every garage along the way looking for a suitable replacement set.
So, I figured, that just like the last time we were down here, it could be a while before Danny arrived. We all went back, unpacked the bikes and set up camp before wandering back to the front of the store to purchase some ice-cold beverages to sip on the front porch while we waited. It was a moment of Déjà Vu for Eric, Dawn, Kris and I as we had done this very thing the last time we took this road. Even the photo looks the same.
Hunger pangs started to set in so Kris and I walked over to Café Diablo, the finest eating establishment in all of the state of Utah, to put our names in for our unusually large group. We anticipated an hour or more wait, at which time we hoped that Danny and Loretta would have arrived as the day was running low on sunlight.
While hanging out at on the porch, waiting to head over for Dinner a Land Rover Freelander pulls into the driveway, no sooner had I thought Amy (the girlfriend of fellow MSF instructor who rides and SV650s) has a Freelander just like that did Amy and Dwight (the aforementioned MSF instructor) hopped out of the car looking for a campsite. We shook hands and told brief stories of the day, but then we realized that we had an extra campsite from one of Scott's friends who wanted to come along but was scared away by the bad weather. So we offered it up to Dwight and Amy, we also invited them to come on over with us for dinner. Danny and Loretta had yet to arrive, so we had two seats available for them to occupy.
When we got to Café Diablo, they were not quite ready for us. We simply stood around and chatted while we waited. I then realized that I had left the keys in our bike with all our gear, including GPS and Radar, sitting out. I wasn't too worried but I thought that I would run back across the street to the campsite, grab the keys and leave a note for Danny and Loretta. I was delighted to find Danny and Loretta had just pulled in and were famished. We immediately headed off over to the restaurant chatting all the way. They were unsure if they had found the right campsite as all of the bikes had changed, with the exception of Eric's 919, since the last time we had gone on a ride together.
Danny and Loretta were greeted warmly by the entire group standing around in the front foyer of Café Diablo and the loud conversations filled the space. No sooner had I gotten back but a dear old friend and co-worker, Dave and his wife Betsy, walked through the front door. Dave and I worked together on the Forest Service 2002 Olympic Planning Team and almost took jobs together in Dutch John, Utah; a place so remote that we both turned down the isolated job. It was like a huge family reunion, Kris and I hugged Dave and Betsy, hugged Danny and Loretta, I can't imagine what the customers of the restaurant must have thought of us dressed motorcycle gear, blubbering and hugging like a bunch of high school girl friends.
Then it was time to eat. We were seated in the far back corner of the restaurant; the only space large enough to accommodate such a large (and loud) group. Danny told his adventures of the day. An oil check bolt that was stripped then fixed by a local-boy motorcycle mechanic who spent two ours on the job and then only charged Danny $10 for his time and trouble. And how Danny found a set of plugs that got the bike to run right, nearly 100 miles farther down the road at Ruby's Inn, a small town that is mostly gas stations and hotels that mark the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park.
When our bellies were full, all the days' stories re-told and the check paid, we filed out into the night air and then back across the street to our tent sights. It had been a very long day and one that will not soon be forgotten by any of us. The frigid temperatures and extreme weather had made for dramatic beauty that few motorcyclists get to experience. An automobile driver, if they had chosen the long route instead of the interstate, would have been separated by it all by tempered glass and kept warm with climate controlling knobs and buttons. A radio would have provided even more separation from the world they were traveling through. But on the motorcycle we not only watched it go by, but felt the sting of cold and the relaxation of warmth, smelled the cold air and felt it fill our lungs and tasted the cleanliness of an environment scrubbed clean by wind and water. It had been an amazing day.
TDM Sounds Like Tedium
The next day, however, we were still exhausted by the day before. The extremes had taken their toll and while most of us were up and moving by 7am, we were still tired. The original plan called for over 400 more miles of riding that would take is near the southern border of the state and back to Torrey again. We would leave our tents in place and ride the bikes comfortably unencumbered. The more we talked, however, the shorter the days ride became.
We walked a block to the next restaurant and had a fitful breakfast while we discussed the daily agenda. We would still ride the famous Highway 12 to the Devils backbone, but we could not decide if we would go all the way to Cedar City and back again. After Danny's telling of the copious amounts of traffic and the long delays at the Zion National Park tunnel (not to mention scrutinizing park rangers after a three-motorcycle fatality a few weeks ago) we had ruled out that option.
As we walked back towards the campground, we began discussing Danny's bike problems. He had checked a spark plug and found that it was still running extremely rich. I suggested we take the time to remove the tank, check the air filter and maybe shim the air-box lid open to allow more air through the system. It started innocently enough. Danny removed the body work, and then the tank. The underside of the tank was covered with a thick film of dirt. The air-box looked to be in good shape and the air filter was clean. I was concerned by how much the air-box moved.
So I looked underneath and the intake manifolds and discovered that they were no longer attached to carburetors! We loosened the clasps and tried to pop the air-box back down onto the carbs, but it wouldn't go. So we pulled the whole air-box off and noticed several hoses had come detached over time and looked like they had been detached for a long time. Danny shocked all of us when he commented Wow! I've never been into my bike this far before.
The fact that Danny did not wrench as much as we assumed explained why his bike had been running so poorly for so long. The intake manifolds had shrunk from heat and would no longer stay in place over the carbs, so Danny and I used an empty cardboard Cutthroat Beer packet to build some light and thin shim material that we would use to help hold everything together. A little black tape, a old metal fencepost as a straight edge, a pocket knife and we had some great shims made up and installed. As much dirt as we cold remove, was cleared away and the air-box reinstalled and firmly attached to the frame of the bike to hold everything together.
Danny thumbed the starter button and the bike started with more ease than Danny could remember in a long time. The funniest part was that Eric was the only one to help Danny put his bike back together. We were all willing help disassemble and fix, but only Eric had the endurance to stick around for the work.
Danny was up and running and we definitely ready to ride, although it was already 11am, Danny's bike had ensured that today would not hold a whole lot of riding, simply because we no longer had the required amount of time. Nobody complained. On top of 12, it was a clear day; the clearest day I had ever seen on highway 12. The air was so clear that we could see all the way to Moab to the east and what seemed like, all the way to the Grand Canyon to the South. Without a cloud in the sky it was a spectacular day. We rode a few miles father, just south of the small town of Boulder to reach the most famous part of the road. We had been building Mike up to this for some time If you liked 72 and Fishlake Mike, you'll love 12 . I don't think that all of us talking about 12 prepared Mike for the Devils Backbone.
A small ribbon of road that is bordered by 100+ foot drop-offs on both sides identify the backbone . Danny was behind Mike as they approached the famous corner Danny described Mikes riding. He slowed waaaay down as he approached the first backbone corner said Danny he looked to the left, looked to the right then simply shook his head in disbelief. Mike nodded in agreement as Danny retold the story.
After our gawking we got back onto the bikes and rode only a few miles down the road to the Kiva Koffeehouse. I had watched as this building was slowly built over the past several years, but it wasn't until earlier this year when Kris and I rode this road that I noticed it was finally open. Always ready for a foofy coffee and a sweet snack, we rushed on over. The place offered stunning views and despite the ooky chanting sounds emanating from the speaker system was quite charming. I suppose the ooky chanting was good for tourists who probably assume that its traditional native American something-or-other.
After the drinks we continued down highway 12, but only as far as the pavement wiggled. As soon as the road became straight, we u-turned and began the journey back towards Torrey. As we passed through Boulder, we pulled off to the right, to re-ride the Burr Trail, the equivalent of a paved goat trail that wanders through some pretty remote scenery before ending in dirt at the edge of the controversial Grand Staircase National Monument.
We didn't quite make it to the end of the pavement, but at one striking view-point we pulled off and took way to many photographs while we joked and teased a bit of the afternoon away.
Once back on the bikes, we returned to Boulder and without stopping raced our way over the alpine set sections of 12. It was now later in the afternoon and the majority of traffic had dissipated allowing us to ride at whatever speed we felt to be safe. It was great riding. Cool temperatures at the higher elevations, then plenty warm again as we dropped altitude again.
When we finally arrived back in Torrey we got gas at the Texaco that offers a small go-cart track in addition to fuel, soda-pop and potato chips. At only five dollars a car with a free slice of pizza, we plopped down the cash, donned our helmets and raced to choose our cars. It was time for some good old fashioned racing!
After donning all our gear, a crowd of spectators drew around, drawn by our loud behavior. One spectator even asked if track provided the helmets and gloves. I thought that was an interesting question, he was probably thinking that's nice stuff. Once we got our safety lecture and the engines were running, the race was on. I was second to the last, and by the first corner I was already disappointed by the go-carts lack of power. There would be no need to run at anything other than full-throttle and anyone tempted to use the breaks would be forced to endure last place.
Kris and Loretta were sharing the car in first place, Danny held second, Mike Third, Eric and Dawn shared fourth, I was in fifth and Clay held sixth. I had my work cut out for me. Hard-charging into the corners, the cart had no where near enough power to even pass the dually-loaded cart toting Eric and Dawn. It wasn't until they allowed me to pass that I was able to challenge Mike. Following him through every corner, until I was able to wear him down and stuff him through turn 4. He later said that he let me pass too. Yeah right…
Next I had was coming up on Kris and Loretta who were battling with Danny for the lead. Danny made it into the lead, leaving me to battle Kris and Loretta. They were giggling so much that I was easily able to pass them going into corner 1, which left me and Danny to battle for the lead with only two laps to go. Side by side we raced down the back straight-away, Danny was hanging onto the side of my go-cart to keep me from passing, but down the straight-away I was finally able to nudge passed him to take the lead. Then everyone teased me for taking things so seriously.
After the racing, we headed back to the campground and headed over to Café Diablo for another evening meal before heading back to the campground where we lit a huge fire and sat around sipping brew-ski's and telling stupid stories until the wee hours before turning in.
In a Manner of Speaking
The next morning before heading out, we all gathered on a giant rock for a quick group shot before we all headed our separate ways.
Danny and Loretta had to head home and Scott and Clay had another week in Colorado planned so we split up. Mike, Eric, Dawn, Kris and myself headed north, but not before we planned a quick stop in Loa to check on the little red Hawk that we noticed for sale on our way in.
The five of us stopped in front of the bike and started pawing over it to see if it was worth finding and talking to the owner. Cosmetically, it was a little rough, but overall in great shape. Miles were a smidgen high, but Hawks are known to last well into the 200k miles range without problems. Eric asked at a local restaurant where the owner was and rode over to find him while we all sat around checking out the bike. Dawn seemed a bit unsure. Eric returned a few minutes later saying that the owner was a bit of hick , which was not near enough of a warning for who would arrive a few moments later.
Now, in all fairness, Beufurd (as we'll call him) seemed to be a great guy. The kind of guy who would spend two hours helping you out of a bind then refuse to take a dime for the trouble, but the way he presented himself was too good to not put down on paper.
By about the time Eric had gotten off the bike, a multi-colored, early 60's Chevy pickup pulled up. He wore no shirt, stained yellow shorts, three pairs of underwear, gray wool knee socks pushed down and bunched up around his ankles and suede slip-on shoes. His black tussled hair looked as though it hadn't seen a brush or a comb since his last haircut and his cheap sunglasses were perched on his face at a silly angle making him look like he was continually cocking his head. His chest, free from the confines of muscle tone, proudly displayed about 18 individual strands of black hair and a strange goiter bulged out from above his navel.
As we discussed the Hawk, its condition and its history, Mike aptly described; couldn't say three words without the need to pick at some part of his body unsubtly. His continual groin adjustments were enough to ensure that we all avoided looking directly at him; I was plenty embarrassed for him as well as myself.
We asked a few questions, started the bike and Eric took it for a brief ride to discover that it was running fantastic! We did not disclose this information to Beufurd . The more questions we asked, the more information he disclosed that aided us in getting a better price on the bike. Mike described it as Like sharks drawn to blood Eric and I tag teamed him berating the abused Hawk publicly to devalue it in the eyes of the owner. After a long discussion how several locals were willing to pay his asking price we were able to convince him that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush and that Eric would give him the money for the bike right now.
Now the Hawk, despite a few cosmetic flaws that could probably be cleaned back to perfection, was in quite good shape. Beufurd was attentive enough to have regularly changed engine and fork oil and despite the protective layers of grease an dirt, a few bumps and bruises the bike had survived the past 14 years quite well. A good bath would make all the difference.
Dawn didn't feel up to riding the bike the 300 miles home not to mention the Cheng-chin front tire mismatched to the Bridgestone rear that had seen much happier days we opted to leave the bike behind and Eric and I would return the next day with a pickup to fetch the forlorn cult-bike.
We followed Beufurd to his humble abode to deposit the bike, collect both sets of keys and the paperwork and finalize any loose ends. Throughout the length of his driveway that ended at the gaping mouths of two weathered barns lay an eclectic collection of 70's motorcycles, abandoned farm equipment, expired pickup trucks and three small goats competing for green grass. Are those pygmy goats? asked Eric. Nope, just babies. Their ma's tied up in the back. replied Beufurd. They probably do a good job at keeping the grass down said Eric. True to form, Beufurd proudly replied with; Yep, and they're good eatin' too! . Dawn responded as best she could with an empathetic Aawww . But the deal was made, hands were shook and we were on our way. Beufurds antics gave us plenty of ammunition for awesome jokes all the way back to Salt Lake.
We left Loa in our mirrors and raced back up 72, back onto the heavily patrolled 10, where we stopped half-way for gas and Ice-Cream. More Beufurd jokes were told before we continued our journey by traveling to Huntington, Huntington Canyon and Scoffed.
It was in this canyon that I was feeling playful and raced ahead of the group so I could get a few action shots and one flyby video of Mike and Kris. Boy that Triumph sounds good!
We attacked Indian School canyon again on our way to Duchesne, before returning back towards the Wasatch Front via Wolfcreek Pass. After gassing in Duchesne we saw quite a few very disturbing sights! Three times my radar detector went crazy and three times we passed unethically unmarked plain-clothes patrol cars. Three black Detroit SUV's with no markings on them at all save a modestly sized gold decal in the windows above the rear-wheels were each in the process of ticketing drivers. Impossible to identify, each one we saw was happily taxiing without representation unsuspecting motorists traveling entirely empty country roads. When we had dealt with drivers crossing into oncoming lanes of traffic, alcohol smells so strong that they could be detected as the car passed and kids climbing over the seats while dad chatted obliviously on his cell phone, it was upsetting that the only law enforcement we saw was for speeding... Forget To Serve and Protect it was more like To Observe and Collect; it was sickening.
Anyway, we made it back to Kamas and Park City without incident and only sore tooshies and empty stomach to greet us back to the Wasatch Front, so the five of us stopped for one more meal before ending the weekend. Eric, Dawn, Mike, Kris and myself stopped for a nice dinner to discuss Dawns new acquisition, unmarked speed enforcement and great roads before heading down into the heat of the Salt Lake Valley to prepare for work the next day.