Monday, May 16, 2011

Motorcycling through southern Utah

Winnemucca, Nevada

I know I've said it before; that this or that particular highway is the most spectacular, the prettiest, (or the curviest, the most enjoyable on a bike), but Utah Route 12 takes the cake. Fantastic scenery everywhere you look, many nice curves, amazing vistas, stunning colors, massive geological displays -- it has it all. Someone was telling me it's one of the top 10 motorcycling roads in the country and now, after experiencing it for myself, I can totally agree with that assessment. I'm in Winnemucca, Nevada, and in position to run up into southeastern Oregon tomorrow, to stay at a hot springs a fellow Dull Men's Club member, name of Kevin, recommended but once again the Oregon weather has snubbed me. In the forecast: rain, rain, and then later, possibly some snow!

Snow! What a bummer. I'm reading, and hearing from random people I've run into over the past few days, about how awful this spring has been for so many people, for so many communities. All I can say is, I've been there and experienced the bad weather first hand. Motorcycling during a threat of snow is bad business, dangerous business.

I left Capitol Reef at about 9:15 on a nice, but cool, morning. I had camped in my tent that night and, although it wasn't a particularly cold night, I didn't sleep well. I can't figure out what's going on with me and tent camping but for now at least, it seems I simply cannot sleep in one. On this night, I had put the rain fly over the tent in a move to keep it warmer, put all my warmest clothing in it too, including the heavy fleece liner from my motorcycling jacket, in a bid to beat the chill.  You can see the tent site again (repost of that photo) in the photo above. Wunderground weather later informed me it never got down to lower than 50 degrees that night. Still, I didn't get much sleep.

Oh well, off I went, groggy and in need of a cuppa. Dressed for a cool ride I headed back into Torrey where I got that much needed chance to stop for coffee and get online with the free wi-fi in a little cafe at the junction of Utah Routes 12 and 24. The plan was to do a slow, casual tour along Utah Rte 12 visiting the Burr Trail and Bryce Canyon N.P. The trip along Rte 12 was possibly the best motorcycling I've ever experienced and the little side trip along the Burr Trail out of the little town of Boulder was special beyond that. Donna had told me not to miss it and I'm glad I took her advice.

View south from Utah Route 12 - chilly at 9000 ft above sea level
Along Utah Route 12

The Burr Trail is mostly within Capitol Reef National Park. It's a paved road that meanders through a fantastical, lovely red-rock canyon. It's early spring in these photos so the cottonwoods are just unfurling their leaves.

My VStrom on the Burr Trail

Burr Trail dry creek
Burr Trail cottonwoods

Burr Trail cottonwoods
After the Burr Trail and Capitol Reef N.P., Bryce Canyon was something of an anticlimax. Sure, it was pretty and offered some great long distance views but it's a popular park and the overlooks were crowded with tourists. Give me the peace and quiet of off-the-beaten-path places like the Burr Trail any day.

Bryce Canyon National Park
I arrived in Panguich (Paiute for "big fish") shortly after leaving Bryce and turned in to a little motel on Route 89 on the east side of town. By this time I was in need of a shower and a real bed. I opted to stay at the locally owned Purple Sage motel. It was a nice place, furnished more like a home than a standard motel and at $49/night, affordable too. Stats for the day: 230 miles -- 72.6 mph max speed -- 5:19 total time moving. I encountered blustery winds a couple of times but overall the biking was pretty nice, a welcome change from the norm for this trip. And the scenery? Fantastic!

It was gonna be another chill night so I made no effort to get up early. Had a cup or two of terrible dishwater-blend coffee and plain toast that cost me more that $4 in a local greasy spoon before heading west to Ely, Nevada, my next stop.