Surrounded by darkness, I stared at the alarm clock next to the bed. Only 4:30; still a few hours to go. For the first time in years I was so excited for our annual Memorial Day ride that I was having a hard time sleeping. I rolled over and closed my eyes, forcing myself to doze just a bit longer. Kris stirred, climbed out of bed and went downstairs for a glass of water. Apparently she was awake and pretty excited too. This continued until it was late enough for us to rise, get dressed then double check the luggage one last time before heading out to meet the group at Einstein Bagels at 8am. This had turned out to be a Canyon Chasers Memorial Day Ride like no other. First, over 20 people had promised to come along, the largest group ever to ride with us. The last rider to commit, Carla, had only done so only three days previous. To add to that, the Speed Triple's paint was not yet done, so rather than ride the fuel-range limited Hawk, Dale had loaned me his Yamaha FZ-1.
- Day 1. The Start of Another Summer of Riding
- Day 2. CanyonChasers are not Good at Chess
- Day 3. Riding in the Clouds
- Dave - Dale's Yamaha FZ-1
- Kris - Ducati Monster M900
- Scott - Aprilia Caponord
- Clay - BMW F650
- Eric/Dawn - Honda 919
- Mike/Crystal - Triumph FrankenTriple (Daytona)
- Mike - Honda VFR 800
- Neighbor-Dave/Mindy - Suzuki Bandit 1200
- Alex - Suzuki SV 1000S
- Shannon - Suzuki SV 1000S
- Carla - Kawasaki ZZR 600
- Steve - Suzuki GSX-R 1000
- Brandi - Honda VTR250
- Danny - Suzuki VStrom 1000
- Lorretta and Bug - Nissan Pathfinder (Support Vehicle!)
- Gary - Honda Shadow 1100
- Fred - Suzuki Intruder 1400
Kris and I filled the tanks at a nearby Chevron, then parked the bikes in front of the bagelry, got coffee and sat down to wait for the rest of the group to arrive. Carla, coming from Ogden, arrived first on her ZZR-600. She'd been looking for us for several months when she happened to ask a local shop “does anybody know the CanyonChasers?” The parts guy said that if she'd come to the local Bike-night with him, he'd introduce her to “the CanyonChasers”. He made good on his promise and Carla was now attending.
A few minutes later, relative new-comer Mike showed up. Mike showed up on his 98, gear-driven-cam, VFR800. Just the night before, V4-Mike called upset that his new Ohlins shock that he'd just ordered was not fitting. He came over and after a few minutes with an angle grinder the shock fit in perfectly.
With my new shock in hand, it's out to the garage to reassemble the mighty Viffer. Bad news...the shock supposedly made for the 98 VFR didn't quite fit...the VFR's mounting bracket that ties the shock to the frame was a hair small, not allowing it to rotate over the top of the shock. Dave to the rescue! (Common saying, I'm sure!). I put the bike back together and headed over to Dave and Kris' house where we were promptly able to polish off a bit of material from the head of the shock, and it fit beautifully. Some creative routing of hoses, a 2.5mm washer on the mounting bracket to raise the rear a bit, and the bike was ready to go...Back home by 8 for a quick run to the store for some last minute things and then to get the bags on the bike and some much needed sleep.
Neighbor-Dave and his wife Mindy soon arrived on the silver Bandit 1200. Scott, a regular on CanyonChasers rides showed up a moment later on his Caponord. Scott rode with the CanyonChasers for the first time during our famous Fourth-of-July ride to Yellowstone three years ago. Then he had shown up riding a custom painted Shadow with a red bandana wrapped around his noggin. Now, a few years later Scott rode up fully attired in all the appropriate cool motorcycle gear and his tires are scuffed to the edge.
Alex and Shannon were the next to arrive. Fellow MSF instructors and newlywed's, they ride matching SV1000S's with the widest set of Givi Hard-bags known to man. According to Alex the bags have to be removed before they can pull the bikes into the garage.
Eric and Dawn, two of the core, arrived on their impressively loaded 919. Eric's bright orange helmet is hard to miss, but his ability to maneuver that 919, two-up and loaded-for-bear is enough to impress anybody. Of course Dawn, sedately reading her book through 90-mph sweepers is a site to behold.
Finally, Mike and Crystal showed up on the newly christened Franken-Triple. The Daytona bits and bobs long removed and a set of tube-bars, wider than a Costco check-out lane replaced the narrow clipon's and a “pixie-hat” flyscreen replaced the rest of the body work. In an attempt to allow for luggage and camping gear for two people, Mike bought a welder and built a rack that attached to the rear of his bike. We were all really worried about the weight that would be placed so high and so far to the rear of the bike and the effect it could have on handling. In response, Mike, in typical fashion, tested his ingenuity by carting a cinder-block around on his new rack. He claimed the bike still handled well enough, but it was hard to look at the rack and not imagine Mike riding around with a cinder-block bungeed on the back. Mike's handy work would be referenced as the cinder-block-rack for the rest of the trip.
Steven and his wife Brandi were coming in from far-north Ogden. Steven is also an MSF instructor and the man responsible for the stunning new paint on the Speed Triple. His wife had just barely finished her MSF training when they'd found a retired trainer bike two days previous and spent the last two days fitting new tires and getting it licensed for the trip. Needless to say, we were most worried about Brandi before we set out. A VTR250 Interceptor is not much bike when one is trying to keep up with a group of liter-bikes over mountain passes.
The scheduled time for departure was 9am. Steven and Brandi had yet to arrive, but rather than have the whole group hanging around and waiting we broke in half. Only Kris, myself, and Mikey and Crystal remained. As the time drew near 9:30 Steven and Brandi pulled in; brand new luggage, brand new tires and a brand new helmets. Brandi's father is the parts manager at Newgate Honda in Ogden. They had purchased a magnetic bag only to discover that the lil' Interceptor tank is wrapped in plastic. Not to be thwarted, Steven used a red tie-down strap to attach the bag to the bikes frame.
With clear eyes sparkling out of her silver Shoei, Brandi's first statement was "I want a bigger bike". She also mentioned that the speedometer had quit working and that the temperature gauge was pegged at the “H” position. Steven ran in and got some water and topped off the radiator.
We discussed the route to Duchesne then headed off. We rallied up Parleys Canyon, veered off onto Highway 40 then waited for Steven and Brandi to catch up at the exit to Kamas. As we reached the Forest boundary, traveling over Wolf Creek Pass on Highway 35, the road gets really interesting. Crystal clear skies and light traffic ensured expedient progress. Although I was distracted by the size of the group, the safety of each rider as well as their location and if we would ever be able to rally up with the rest of the gang, it was a spectacular day, although my riding suffered.
A year ago, we were riding in some of the coldest weather I'd ever experienced. A low-pressure cold front had moved in and blanketed the world with snow the night before we left, but one year later, it was the polar opposite. Cloudless skies and temperatures warm enough allowed me to ride with just my leather jacket.
As we crossed into the Uinta National Forest, the road spiraled up in elevation arching along the contours of the mountain. As we climbed the temperatures dropped. The road had only been opened to the public four-days ago because of heavy winter snow and as we crested the summit an excess of five feet of the white-stuff still bordered the asphalt. My desire to catch up with the rest of the group overwhelmed my desire to stop and get a photograph of the bike parked next to the mountainous snow drift.
Down the backside and into the town of Hannah, we rode straight passed their annual town-day celebration, that takes place every Memorial Day, avoiding the multiple distracted auto drivers pulling out in front of us. From there, it was an empty, wandering section of road that deposited us in Duchesne.
Already, the group is starting to organically break up into smaller "squadrons" of riders who are naturally sharing a pace that works for them. Alex, Scott and I lead out again as we turn south on 191 into the long fast sweepers of Indian Canyon. Seeing only a few other cars, we kick up the speed a little bit, all getting used to how our bikes are performing with the extra weight of luggage. As we come out the other side of the Canyon we slow and stop to let Carla, Shannon and Dave and Mindy catch up...after they pull up and as we're ready to get on our way, a Utah Highway Patrol cruiser turns on to the road downhill from us and heads our way...he slows to ask if we're alright, we chat for a bit and then go our separate ways...fortunately, the groups behind us didn't see him as they came through the canyon and over the summit...
Steve and Brandi were not very far behind when we stopped for gas despite Brandi's limited riding experience. After asking Brandi how she was doing, she'd responded that she was getting tired. Because they had arrived late they had not gotten breakfast and had been riding solid since 8am (now, near 11am ). I suggested to Steven that they continue over Indian Canyon, skip Huntington Canyon, and ride south on Highway 10 to rally up with the rest of the group in Ferron. That would knock off about 100 miles of riding and give them a chance to sit down, rest and get a bite to eat for lunch. Steven seemed disappointed to miss some of the great canyoning, although when we did meet back up together Steven informed us that they enjoyed a long lunch and a short nap in the restaurant booth.
So now Kris, Mike, Crystal and I launched off to catch up, leaving Steven and Brandi behind. We raced south on Indian Canyon, a road brimming with massive sweeping corners best suited to liter-bikes capable of extended triple-digit travel (not that we would ever do such a thing). Rather than continue south and connect directly with Highway 6 (one of the deadliest roads in America ), I had spied a connector road that would shortcut about 35 miles off of the regular route. The risk lied with the fact that I had no idea if it was paved all the way through.
It was; and as a result we were able to shave almost 40 minutes off in our attempt to catch the rest of the group and we were only on Highway 6 for less than five miles, which decreased our exposure to the deadly road and our exposure to radar-gun totin', cowboy hat wearin', speed enforcement officers.
As we turned south, off Highway 6, spotty, dark clouds trundled overhead, but they could not cast a shadow on the days riding so far. Racing towards Scoffied I was riding distracted. Thinking of everything else I found myself making too many mid-corner corrections and braking deeper into corners than I normally like to do. I had to force myself to back off the pace and re-focus my thinking to the task at hand. I was delighted when most of my distractions evaporated when we rounded the corner to see 13 bikes parked at the Scoffield General Store. We'd caught up!
Mike and Crystal ran in to cook up some hamburgers while Kris and I were satisfied with snacky foods and drinks. We all hung out on the wooden bench just outside the front door and watched the hummingbirds swarm the three feeders hung over the sittin' bench. It felt delightful to set and stretch out my legs while I sipped my Gatorade and listened to the conversations. Topics ranged from the science of hummingbirds to the benefits of naked bikes versus adventure bikes.
The rest of the group had lingered long enough, so before I was fully rested and happy we jumped back on the bikes to traverse the Energy Loop; a series of three canyons that ends up with Huntington Canyon. Huntington Canyon is an amazingly smooth, sweeping canyon that deposits its travelers in the small town of Huntington. Map
As the Energy Loop drops into Huntington Canyon, a beautiful set of open sweeping turns, Dave leads us around a corner and quickly hops on the brakes...we all slow as we pass an Emery County Sherriff parked in a pull out. We think that we were able to slow down enough, but as Clay came around the corner catching up with us, the Deputy pulled out and lit him up. Proceeding on down the canyon we would find out later that Clay was let off with a warning and after a wrong turn towards Price, he met up with us again later in the day.
Rather than make our regular gas stop at the Texaco at the mouth of Huntington Canyon, we turned right and proceeded south along the long, straight and heavily patrolled Highway 10. Ferron is about halfway between Huntington Canyon and the headwaters of Highway 72 and makes for a great gas stop breaking the monotony of Highway 10 into to two smaller bites. By stopping in Ferron, we also caught back up to Steven and Brandi.
With over 20 motorcycle crowded onto the north side of the gas station we were hard to miss, unless your name is Shannon or Alex, who rode straight passed the group despite waving hands and a parking lot jammed with motorcycles. After a few adjustments to luggage and some bench racing the group continued south to catch up with Alex and Shannon.
The "squadron" group riding technique was working out brilliantly as the smaller groups were starting to establish themselves. Instead of a cluster of 20-riders we became three or four small groups of bikes with as much as 10-15 minutes in between; nothing worthy of additional attention.
Once Highway 10 was behind us, the joy of Highway 72 began. A super-fast sweeping canyon that is devoid of traffic and features sparse vegetation allowing for views, sometimes as much as two miles ahead through a series of upcoming corners. This allows for very safe conditions to support spirited riding. The only real hazard is occasional heavy tar-sealant on the northern portions and frequent dustings of gravel on the edges of the road. Map
V4-Mike and I quickly caught up with the Alex and Shannon trundling their way along and proceeded to dispatch the delights of Highway 72 with great haste. We stopped briefly near the top to allow others to race by or pull in to grab photos of their own. Before the rest of the gang to catch up, Kris, V4-Mike and myself moved out, leaving the group behind.
Dark clouds were starting to fill the southern horizon, blocking the sun and darkening the afternoon light. A snap decision needed to be made, skip the Fishlake loop to avoid possibly getting wet, thereby getting us into Torrey earlier, or chance the weather and take the longer route. I choose the longer route with Kris and V4-Mike chasing. We didn't get wet but we were the only ones to make the same decision. Every other smaller squadron of riders chose to skip the loop and head straight towards Sand Creek Campground in Torrey Campground. When we rallied up with them, all the tents were already pitched.
We've always stayed at Sand Creek because they are motorcycle friendly and have always provided exceptional customer service, even bringing down blankets to us one cold night a few years ago [2001 Memorial Day Ride]. For camping in Torrey, just outside of Escalante National Park we cannot give enough praise or recommendation to Sand Creek Campground.
I was a little bothered by how the FZ-1 had handled the fast riding of the day and started muddling with Dales suspension. Taking careful note of his settings I increased preload a couple clicks and significantly increased rebound damping. This made a dramatic improvement to the bikes manners for the rest of the trip, although I felt pretty rotten about playing with the suspension on a borrowed motorcycle.
Many discussions ensued regarding if I should tell Dale of the changes or simply put the bike back to his setting. I ended up telling Dale when we returned. His response was “What? The setting the bike had when it rolled off the showroom floor three years ago weren't good enough for you?” Apparently Dale had never altered the bikes suspension.
We all started to head over the Café Diablo for our dinner reservation, where as tradition, Kris and I bumped into some very dear friends of ours who also vacation every Memorial Day in Torrey. Seems that this is about the only time we see Dave and Betsy anymore. It was great to chat with them again and joke about always meeting in Torrey.
Danny showed up on his brand new V-Strom 1000 and we all had to run to the parking lot to admire his new blue bike in the waning evening light. After dinner we all mulled back to the campground where we sat around the fire telling riding stories. Kris invented a new game where ever member told a best and worst moment of motorcycling in order to receive a decorative feather to affix to the bike. The stories told by the group ranged from the hilarious to the touching and endearing. The highlight was the story told by Clay where he earned the nickname "bait" for his telling of his worst motorcycle moment. The less camping inspried wandered off for logding at Austin's Chuckwagon Motel. We've stayed there in the past and I'd rate them as one the best hotels in Torrey.
The next morning we all awoke with the sun and wandered down to the nearest café, a block east of the campground. Because we were such a large group (Danny's dad and a friend of his dad showed up on a Honda Shadow and a 1400 Intruder, respectively) breakfast was a test in patience, more for the overstressed waitress than for us. Gary, Danny's dad, ended up not getting his breakfast at all and the waitress apologetically explained that one of their cooks quit that morning. Not to be thwarted by a slow breakfast, we wandered back to camp, made final adjustments to luggage and packing and headed for gas before tackling Highway 12. Danny handed out Petroglyph inspired decals to adorn the bikes of attendants.
With tanks brimming with petrol we raced south in our smaller squadrons. Traffic was delightfully light and we'd yet to see one officer of the law this trip. News reports the week earlier detailed that cops would be putting much more attention on major routes: Read Interstates, which meant we were left alone to ride within our own personal limits and the limits of the road all by ourselves.
Racing up over the top of Bolder mountain is an epic way to start the day.
Near the top of 12, we dove into a pullout to show those who had never experienced 12 before the view from the top. Standing in a wooded parking lot we looked to the east to see red buttes, crevasses and canyons stretching towards Moab. Loretta who was driving tail in the Pathfinder, 6-months pregnant and toting the precocious 3-year-old Bug (nickname for their daughter).
Loretta also toted additional luggage for the group. No sooner had she pulled up and opened the back of the truck when six bottles of Cutthroat crashed onto the asphalt. Groans across the group were broken by one “Never trust a Mormon to carry your beer” comment that turned the groans into laughter. Then we all pitched in to clean up the mess.
We continued forward, racing down through the town of Boulder and into the most famous section of Highway 12, the Devils Backbone, or “the backbone” for short. The Backbone is a section of road that follows the top of a very narrow ridge-line. The road follows the center of the ridge with 100+ foot drop-offs on both sides. Several riders had never seen the backbone before so we stopped in a huge pullout. Map
More photos were snapped as the group decided to break into two. Half would backtrack to Boulder to partake in the Burr Trail while the other half would continue on, stopping at the Kiva Koffehouse a few miles south of the backbone, near mile marker 73 of Highway 12.
While half the group enjoyed the Burr Trail and some of the more spectacular scenery Utah has to offer, the rest of the gang found that the Kiva Koffehouse was hosting a wedding and not open to the public. However, the owners, not wanting to turn us away gave us some patio space in the back and served us drinks and snacks. We've always had a positive experience here and would have recommended them to anybody riding through to stop and enjoy a coffee (or soda) at the Kiva Koffehouse, but the fact that they opened their doors to us while they were scrambling to get ready for a wedding is more than enough for us to give them glowing reviews for their exceptional service.
After finishing our beverages we returned to the bikes and continued our trek. We stopped briefly in the town of Escalante to rally up with the rest of the group and top off the tanks before continuing to Ruby's Inn for a late lunch. Ruby's Inn is the name on the map based around a Hotel, Gift Shop and restaurant. We have never stayed at the Inn, but the restaurant folks were more than happy to accommodate our very large group. The burger that I ordered was exceptional and the waiting staff was very friendly despite our arrival when they are normally closed between lunch and dinner. Again, we received very good customer service, making the trip even more enjoyable.
After eating we rode the remainder of Highway 12, until it met up with Highway 89. We originally planned on heading south to enjoy the wonders of Highway 14, Highway 148 and Highway 149. The three roads connect two canyons with Cedar Breaks in the center. Cedar Breaks is a smaller, more masculine Bryce Canyon, but was still covered in snow this year, so we simply turned north and rode into Panguitch. V4-Mike and Clay (a.k.a. Bait) decided not to stop at the KOA just yet and rode up Highway 149 to Panguitch Lake while the rest of us mulled around camp. Map
Unfortunately, our day's mileage had been shortened a bit as our route through Cedar Breaks Nat'l Monument was still snowed in and closed...so with a boring straight shot in front of me as the last riding of the day, I wasn't happy...I headed off by my lonesome towards Panguitch ahead of the group with the intent of dropping my luggage off at the campground and taking a short side trip up to Panguitch Lake unencumbered by the weight of my saddlebags. My goal was not speed, but to end the day with some well formed turns without the inclination to chase a taillight or the impulse to check my mirrors for the rest of the group behind. It was quite nice to get up to the lake, look around a bit and make my way back down...on my way back, I passed Clay coming up hill on his F650 with apparently the same idea!
We've stayed at the Panguitch KOA several times in the past and have not been disappointed. They've always found room for us, even the one time where we wandered into town just before he closed up shop for the night. The Panguitch KOA also received KOA's Presidential Award for the highest customer satisfaction and top-qulity campground for 2004 (whatever that means). But it is a great campground.
While setting up camp, Bug decided to become a motorcyclists and started hi-jacking motorcycle gear. Once the group noticed it was a pathetic “aww” fest while we improved her level of protection and allowed her to take the controls of Kris' Monster. It was sickeningly cute.
Danny, with his new V-Strom convinced Scott on his Caponord to scout out a few dirt roads before it got dark, so the next time they were in Panguitch they would have a better idea on where to ride. I think it was just an excuse for Danny to get his new bike dirty. So before they left, we told them to meet us at the eatery/pub across the street upon their return. And the rest of the gang, including the recently returned Clay and V4-Mike headed across the street for grub and frothy/bubbly beverages.
After ordering drinks and appetizers, Mikey and I fell into an intense game of chess. With V4-Mike, Steven, Scott and Clay (all chess experts) carefully watching our every move. Mike and I are self-professed, miserable chess players. We each have a vague concept of the basic rules and barely understand each piece's moves, which made us equally matched for our intense two-hour chess game where dumb luck and poor skill kept our spectators thoroughly entertained.
Most of the group had long since given up on watching two chess morons clumsily stagger through the game and had reconvened at the campground. We joined them and listened to the groups conversations before turning in for the night.
The next morning, the group woke up hungry but had a hard time finding a place to eat after breaking camp. Clay was breaking off early to start a two-week vacation in Colorado. We all stopped at a coffee shop that could, in no way, serve everybody crowding their tiny lobby. So the group crossed the street to a gas-station/subway for food. It was over a breakfast of microwaved breakfast burritos, frappachino's and gas station coffee (because the Subway was not open for breakfast) that we decided to break the group into three parts.
Danny and Loretta with Gary (Gary's friend on the Intruder escaped for home the night before not wanting to pay for camping so close to home) would return south towards Cedar City and St. George while Neighbor-Dave, his wife Mindy, Alex and his wife Shannon, Steven and wife Brandi would take the more direct route home via Highway 89 and some freeway droning to get them home sooner to be with kids or prepare for work the next day.
The rest of the group, which included V4-Mike, Mikey and Crystal , Carla, Eric and Dawn, Scott,Kris and myself would retrace out steps back to Salt Lake, taking in the past two days worth of riding all in one day. No sight seeing for us. Today would be all about riding.
So after stashing a can of EZ-Cheeze on the back of Mike and Crystals Triumph, we said our goodbyes and headed out. Dark clouds loomed on the northern horizon, so I was glad that highway 12 would take us east before north again, giving us a chance to get around the bad weather. No sooner had we exited Panguitch, but we turned east off Highway 89 to get onto Highway 12, Mikey and Crystal missed the turn and I watched in my mirror as they merrily rode past the group on their way south. Obviously completely oblivious of where he was. (Mikey promptly bought a GPS after returning from the trip).
As our group raced through brilliant spring weather tackling the best that Highway 12 has to offer, Neighbor-Dave and Mindy, and Steven and Brandi were dealing with torrential rain. By the time they reached Circleville, it started to sprinkle, by the time they reached Marysville, they were soaking wet. To make things more interesting, the group had gotten separated, with Alex and Shannon nowhere to be found. As the remaining four reached I-70, Brandi's rescued VTR250 suddenly lost power. Steven and Brandi coasted down a long hill and were able to stop at a gas-station. At the gas station they started the bike up again to hear loud banging – so the engine was immediately killed in a futile attempt to prevent more damage. Probably a spun bearing. The little VTR had given its best to the trip, but now would have to remain behind while the gas station owner allowed them to stow their luggage and leave the bike while they doubled up on the GSXR-1000 for the four-hour drone up the freeway. Neighbor-Dave and Mindy, during all this, were completely unaware of any bike problems and had simply continued riding north towards home.
Steven and Brandi, however, still had a long day ahead of them as they raced, two-up, towards home. No sooner had they gotten to their front door, 250 miles away from where they'd left the bike, they climbed into their pickup and drove all the way back down to retrieve the VTR. Somewhere north of Scipio, still more than 3 hours south of Salt Lake, they noticed Alex and Shannon slowly making their way north on their matching SV's. Steven and Brandi retrieved the VTR from the gas station and were back home by 9pm that night. Map
Meanwhile, Mike and Crystal continued racing south unaware they were traveling away from where they should have been going. It wasn't until they saw a sign that read; “Welcome to Zion National Park ” did they realize their error. (Actually, Crystal says she knew right away, but didn't want to say anything.) Promptly, they reversed their direction and began heading for home.
After riding Highway 12 for its duration we stopped at the Texaco to top off with gas. We tried the cell-phones to find out if Mikey was okay, if he had any bike problems and to tell him that unless we heard anything we were just going to continue on. We heard nothing, so we got going.
Highway 72 was brilliant, V4-Mike took the lead and kept Scott and I on our toes as we tried, futilely, to keep him in sight on his VFR800. We stopped briefly at the northern most point of 72 to rally up with the rest of the group before riding north on the ruler-straight Highway 10 before stopping, once again, in Ferron for gas. Already getting tired from the days riding we sat on plastic lawn furniture and enjoyed the best gas station food Ferron has to offer. The weather was getting colder and the air had a strong bite, which made all of us with Widder ‘lectric vests happy for the synthesized heat.
North we continued to Huntington narrowly missing two cops trolling for speeders. We turned left and began our ascent over the Energy Loop towards Scoffield. The heavy, dark clouds that we'd been avoiding all day were now nestled along the ridgeline directly in our path. As we rode up Huntington Canyon the clouds got darker and the temperature got colder. I pulled into a gravel lot on the side of the road to add layers of warmth and waterproof-ness. The sky looked grave but we had no idea how bad it was going to be up top.
By the time we crossed 8,000 feet of elevation, we were riding through the mist of the dark clouds. As though surrounded by a heavy fog, visibility dropped to near nothing and ice began to collect on our leathers. Soon it was nearly impossible to even see through the faceshields. Not because of moisture, that we would have been able to wipe off, but because of ice. With the heated grips running on full-high, my hands were still cold enough to hurt. I was grateful for the knee-armor in my new Olympia riding pants, mostly because it kept my knees protected from the icy air. Speed was reduced to less than 15 miles per hour as we crawled our way up to near 10,000 feet, the roads highest point, before the descent started to promise relief from the frigid riding.
The roads were soaked, but visibility began to improve. The Michelin Pilot Roads were skating around drenched corners further keeping forward progress at a near crawl. But we were nearing the end. In Scoffield, the only gas station/general store was closed, but we stopped anyway to warm up a bit. Next we raced north through Indian School Canyon towards Duchesne. The worst of the weather was now behind us and the sun shone down on us covering us with radiant warmpth.
We head north from Scoffield towards 191 and Indian Canyon. Another set of great sweeping turns and we take them at a quick but comfortable pace with Dave in the lead, me third and Eric and Dawn riding double on the 919 between us. It is thoroughly impressive to watch Eric handle that bike loaded down with passenger and luggage, while Dawn sits on the back, hair flapping out from under her helmet, and either reading a book or taking pictures, seemingly oblivious that the bike is leaning 25 degrees at 70 mph...too fun to watch!
Entering Duchesne, Kris and I, who were in the lead, turned right to get to the gas station and watched in fear as a Utah Highway Patrol car started heading back up Indian School towards the rest of the group. We hoped they would see him in time to scrub off enough speed to avoid a needless speeding ticket. We were greatly relieved when they all came around the corner, obviously unticketed.
While the gang gassed up and munched on gas station delicacies such as Kit-Kat bars and RedBull, a familiar sound drifted in from the west. Is that Triple? I asked. Somehow, Mike and Crystal had caught up with us. The reunion was as joyful as it was unexpected as Mikey gloated at having caught up with us, even after making a side trip to Zion National Park, however, Mikey made up his time by skipping Huntington Canyon and having to ride through the clouds.
Our numbers restored, the group of us headed out to ride Wolf Creek Pass, the last of the canyon roads before we planned to have dinner in Park City. But riding west the setting sun in our eyes was blocked, once again by more dark heavy clouds. Passed the town of Hanna as the road began its gyrating ascent, the road became wet as we were to ride, once again, through a heavy, dark cloudbank. In all my years riding, I had never ridden through clouds (other than the Pacific Coast – but that's different). But now, were were going to ride through clouds twice in one day. The excitement generated by the unique occasion was quickly dampened by the bitter, sharp cold. Much colder than the clouds we rode through over Huntington Canyon. The only other significant difference was that it was not as wet, nor was the duration as extensive.
As soon as we crested the heights of Wolf Creek, the misery had slackened. Warm rays of golden sun, spattered with brilliant azure blue patches of sky were facing us to the west as we rode down in elevation. Coasting down one long stretch of road, I was so transfixed by the view to the west that I did not even notice the Sheriff coming the other direction, and what timing… On any other occasion I would have likely been well in excess of the posted limit and have been almost guaranteed a citation for my criminal behavior, but today, stareing awestruck at the miraculous afternoon light, I was actually proceeding at a speed below the posted limit.
Now only a few dreary miles remained between us and dinner. Shivering off the bitter cold of Wolf Creek Pass, we began to warm up as we arched around the onramp to highway 40 and turned west again onto highway 80. After less than five miles of interstate droning we took the exit to Park City and promptly rode directly to the restaurant where we shed only a modicum of clothing in order to retain what little body warmth we had retained from the last hour of riding. We quickly ordered up hot coffee and clam chowder to start off the last meal of a very successful Memorial Day Ride.
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Page Updated November 19, 2012 10:43