Moab, Paonia, Day 1


Day 1, Moab

My trip began with the usual feeling of freedom, the wonder of being on the road. As I went through the day, I found myself in Monument Valley, in suffocating heat, then appreciating the intriguing geology of Utah, and then ending with a cool motel room in Moab. But, I’ll let the story unfold with “the excruciating minutiae of every day life” on the road!

As I left the house, the feeling of absolute joy washed over me; I was leaving for what will probably be my only week-long trip of the year! As I got to the on-ramp of US 60 at Gilbert Rd. in Mesa, AZ, I hit the worst part of the trip. Crawling slowly toward the metered traffic light, I wished again for lane splitting to be legal in this messed up state. Lane splitting was vetoed by our illustrious governor after having already been approved by the legislature. Maybe she’d like to sit in stopped traffic in 110° heat for 10 or 15 minutes on a motorcycle and see how it feels.

Whew! With that over, I crossed heavy rush hour traffic into the diamond lane, somewhat insulated from all the commuters engaged in their morning grind. I hoped they all were jealous of me, NOT going to work, riding out of town, fully loaded with camping gear and more on the back of my motorcycle. I took Loop 101 north into Scottsdale and found the traffic flowing well and reasonably light. It wasn’t even that hot, surprisingly enough. I felt fashionably special because I was wearing my brand new mesh jacket, which is the same exact color blue as my bike.

When I got to the 101/I-17 transition ramp, I noticed a motorcycle coming from the south. We joined together at the end of the ramp and I saw that it was my riding partner, Hal. It was another demonstration of how we think alike, to arrive at the same place at the same exact time from starting out 40 miles apart.

Our meeting place was Carefree Hwy. and I-17, and we rode “in formation” toward it. We pulled off the interstate, and then into the gas station for our first fuel stop of the day. I went into the food mart to get something to snack on before I got back on the road to Flagstaff. “I’m on the road!” I remarked excitedly to the young clerk. Like he’d care. But he smiled back at me and said, “ride safe!” He must have noticed my gear.

At last we got on the road. Ah! Pure riding. Working on that first 100 miles of the day. Next stop north of  Flagstaff. Again, as we had a week or so earlier, we noticed the formerly beautiful area left burned and barren by wildfire, the fault of an unthinking human. After another quick snack and some fuel for the bikes, we got back on the road.

The next leg of this journey is not my favorite. Soon after descending on 89 toward Cameron, it heated up and stayed hot as we turned off on 163 east toward Tuba City, then Kayenta. That is usually the next stop, and today instead of going northeast toward Four Corners, we turned northwest toward Monument Valley. I hadn’t been through it from this way since that day long ago (okay, only three years) on the “scared shitless tour” on my Ducati ST2, my first multi-day ride. But that is another story, another time, another bike, all in the past now, replaced by what has become my dream bike, my BMW F800ST. As I rode, I felt content, then awestruck by the unique rock formations and vistas, wishing only that we had stopped to take photographs.

As we rode, I began to feel real discomfort as the heat became more oppressive. It got worse as we crossed into Utah and then traveled north. Then, I started to feel like I just couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t know why I felt the heat so much, I usually don’t. In Bluff, UT, I had to pull us over into a small store to get something cold to drink. It didn’t help much, I was so hot. Another F800ST rider pulled in for gas, and his bike was almost identical to mine. We chatted for a little while, and I learned that his bike had only 14,000 miles on it. Mine was nearing 30,000 at the time. After an ice cream bar, we got back on the road.

Thankfully, it cooled down a little as we went through Blanding and Monticello, but heated up again by the time we stopped at Wilson Arch, about 24 miles outside of Moab. It was the beginning of days and days of spectacular, interesting scenery of which we would never grow tired. We took a few pictures, and watched a family end their hike, then return to their RV and drive away. As the vehicle lumbered out of the parking lot we noticed a pair of sandals on the pavement under where the door to their RV used to be. “They are probably going to Moab,” Hal said as he walked over, picked up the sandals, then strapped them firmly to the outside of his travel bag.

We left the rest stop, and continued our journey toward Moab. The day was getting late and I was ready to be off the road and into a cool hotel room, out of the incessant heat! We got into Moab, but went past the motel where I thought we were staying. Down the road, we pulled into a different motel. In the driveway was a familiar-looking RV. Hal spotted it, and we rode in behind it. Hal spoke to the boy, getting an uncomprehending look in return. Turns out the family was a German family, the kids spoke little English. When the mom figured out what Hal was saying as he showed her the missing sandals, she thanked him. Soon we were at last on the way to our own motel.

It was rather unimpressive, but it was clean, and cheap. It was also cold, and I definitely appreciated that. After a while, we went to City Market for some cheap dinner, and then sat outside at a picnic table in front of the motel, in the gentle evening air, watching the twilight fade from the west face of the mountains in front of us.

Wilson Arch
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