Day 17
June 27th, 2002
Las Vegas, Nevada

I watched the weather on TV as I loaded my bags.  There was no rain between here and Alabama, and no fronts were approaching from behind me.  I will only have to contend with the late afternoon thunderstorms, when I enter the Plains, and near home.  Comforting.

I brought my gear down to the front, and secured it with a guard while I brought the ST around.  Vegas has a distinct early morning smell.  Not a pleasant one either.

As I was strapping my stuff down a young bellhop stopped for a chat.

"where ya headin?"

"Alabama, by way of Utah, Colorado, Texas and Louisiana"

"sounds like fun"

"nothing like it, Vegas was fun too, but time to move on"

I give him a friendly nod as I drop into gear and ride off.  It was 6:30am.

I get back on I-15 north and crank it up.  Nevada is a barren, and brown place.  I am beginning to miss green.  So many days of sand and rocks, and looking at those scraggly bush things.

The interstate north of Vegas is just like the south end.  Debris, heat and loneliness.  I purr along at 90 mph. 

Then I catch a distinct smell-fire.  The scent of burned plastic and oil hits me, I have smelled it hundred times, and there it is.  A burned out hulk of what of what use to be some kind of station wagon.  A fire truck is still on the scene hosing down the remains.  They probably had a long response, and there was nothing left to save when they got here.  The owners were standing in the rear, surely pondering on what to do next.

My objectives for today are Zion, and Bryce National Parks, then a quick run north to Green River.  It will be a long day, but I am well rested and feel ready to go.

Thankfully the ride to Utah SR 9 goes quickly and I leave I-15.  I went by a ball field and see a youth team at practice.  The sight instantly brings back days when I coached.  I spent a lot of time coaching little boys.  My summers were filled with games, practice, and tournaments.  I recall the pressure of playing our big rival the first 2 years in the championship series.  They probably had the better team top to bottom, the first 2 years, but they always tanked when they played us.  They beat us twice in 6 regular season games in that 3 year span, and in playoff games were were 4-0 against the them.

Our third, and final season in that particular league, we were decidedly better, and won it without a championship series.

I rode a number of miles thinking about those days.  Chris still tells me the pressure games in high school or college ball is/was no greater then that of playing the Indians.  I never sheltered Chris from high expectations and pressure, because those things are in life.  Deal with it.

I take a butt break in Hurricane.  I have already put down 135 miles and Zion is not far off.  I went inside and asked the clerk-

"y'all got Moon Pies?"

"what are they?"

I settled for a candy bar and lemonade. I went outside and commandeered a chair by the phone, and enjoyed my break.  I watched a man pump gas in funny shorts.  They were purple and looked like crepe paper.  He wore them high around his waist.

The sky is blue and its getting warm.  The sun is very bright here.

A short ride later I pull to the entrance of Zion.  I was only planning to visit Bryce on this day, but Dennis Ryan suggested I come here.  I am glad he talked me into it.

I follow the road through the canyons of this natural wonder.  High bluffs with colorful rocks and layers.  The road takes me into tunnels and along the edges.  Just when I think I have seen all there is to see, I find a place like this.  Zion is a beautiful place.
​Colorful Zion National Park
I stopped for pictures, and enjoy just being here.  The road is fun, but I am in no mood test it.
​  The ST poses in Zion
I come down out of Zion on SR 9 to Carmel Junction where I stop at the Thunderbird, a restaurant attached to a motel.  I had a better then average burger, but the fries were a disappointment.

US 89 takes me north to Bryce.  Thirty miles from lunch I get sleepy.  Real sleepy.  I can't keep my eyes open, and I KNOW I have to remove, myself from the road.  A lone rider has to look out for himself, so I start looking for a place to take a nap.  I don't want to stop, but I am not safe right now.  Luckily, I spot just the place for a nap.  A table under tree, behind a motel.  I come off the highway, pull under the tree, lay down in the soft grass, and with the leaves of the tree rustling in the wind, take a 20 minute nap.  Slept good too.
​  Siesta time on 89
Feeling better, I jump back on 89 and go to Bryce.  

A female student is taking money at the gate.

"10 dollars"

"dang baby I just paid Zion 5, and Glacier was only 5"

"well we're prettier then Glacier"

'is that rat?"


"so are the attendants"

"Ohhhhhh you're soooooooo bad"

Despite the sweet talk, I was unable to get in free.

I take the map from her and proceed on.  I'm getting quite a collection of National Park guides.
Bryce is another beautiful place.  I follow the road for 20 or so miles to the summit.  I stop for the customary pictures along the vistas.  The formations around me are unique.  Its funny what a little wind and water can do, if given enough time.
​Summit view at Bryce Canyon
At the summit I get off the ST, and find a coed bathroom.  The lock is not working, but it looks safe.  I am standing there when the door flings open and  a 20ish female is staring, and groans "OH MY GOD??!!" She slams the door and I hear he tell her boyfriend, "I'm so embarrassed". You would have thought I had 6 arms, and all I was doing was taking a leak.

I look out over the rock spires at the summit, then walk back down to my bike.

As I was walking back, 2 van loads of Asian tourists begin unloading.  A middle aged man is bringing up the rear and the group stops to wait for him.  Suddenly, the man stops, pulls a few drags off his cigarette, and thumps it to the ground.  A large crowd shouts-


People run down to him shouting Japanese and English at him.  The man has a bewildered look on his face, and can't tell what's coming off.  He braces up for impact.

From there I don't know what happened, it was as if he was about to drop some nitro on the ground.
The road to the summit is scenic and I had a good time.  I leaned the ST as much as I could, but there were a lot of RVs out.

I rode back down the way I came.  Stopping to take pictures at Natural Bridge.  Another inspiring place.

It is mid afternoon, and I still have a long ride to Green River.  I knew visiting the Parks would slow me down, but putting down miles is not today's purpose.  Seeing these beautiful and unique places are.  

I take SR 12 North.  This highway will go on the favorite list.  What a ride.  Challenging and scenic it's a great ride.  A few too many tar snakes, but otherwise excellent surface. 

SR 12 brings me over the hills, and around the canyons.  Stunning rock formations numb my senses.  It is not right for just one guy to see so much beauty on a single trip.

On the summits I am treated to the vast openness of the American West, and in the low spots I see colorful rocks and formations.   

I top a rise and see a overlook with several bikes pulled in.  I stop and chat with 2 RT riders and Harley.  They are out of state, but I forget where.  One of the RTs is pulling a trailer.  Blasphemy.  I look out over the valleys below.  A sign says at night, you would be hard pressed to find a single man made light shining in the valley.  I thought that was amazing.  The mountains in the picture below are 40 mile away.

  Somewhere on SR 12 near Escalante.

 The RTs are also heading north so we ride out together.  We put the trailer guy and the HD in the rear.  It was a fun and somewhat spirited ride the rest of the way.  If you ever get the chance to ride SR 12 do it.
​Long Riders on SR 12.  I was afraid to ask why he had toilet paper stuffed under the Givi box.
At the intersection of SR 12 and 24 I pulled off for gas.  The other riders waved as they continued on to Torrey.  I also had a Mountain Dew and crackers.

After my break I took SR 24 east, to begin one off the great rides of the trip.

It was late afternoon, and I am about 400 miles for the day, with over 100 left to go to Green River and the KOA.
I have the road to myself as 24 takes me into Capital Reef National Park.  A small but gorgeous place.  The afternoon sun on the rocks bringing out the hues and contrasts.  I ride between these rock pillars in amazement.  The road follows a small river among the canyons.  

I see the old Fruita School House nestled under a few trees by the river.  I have no idea what that means, the name reminded me of cereal.

The ride through the park was special.  Sometimes I feared a rock or rocks would tear loose, roll down, and take me out like a bowling ball to a pin.  

​​Unique rock formations can be found everywhere
in this part of the country.  SR 24, Capital Reef.

Leaving the twists and curves of the canyons in the park, I re enter the desert and dial it up.

The highway is lonely.  Not much out here.  No cars, people or houses.  Just my bike, myself, my songs and my thoughts.  The wind is strong out of south, and it blows me around.   The sun is behind me, casting my shadow directly in front of me.  I can't explain my fascination with my shadow, I just know I have one.  I am in the zone now, my butt is not stiff, and riding seems effortless.  The miles melt before me with ease.  I don't want this ride to end.

Somewhere near Caineville (not sure east or west) I jet past an old, stone building.  I check my mirrors and bring the ST down from 85 and turn around.  I go back and find a small, forgotten building.  The roof is gone, and it has no doors.  The floor is dirt.  What was this place?  I see no evidence of it ever having gas pumps, so this place could be very old.  It is only a few feet from the highway.   I walk around and look to the rear. 

Nothing but desert in all directions.  The stiff wind out of the south, blowing tumbleweeds around me, and making the wires over me sing.  Maybe this place was a old way station for the Pony Express?  Maybe a rest stop for stage coaches?  I linger about a few more minutes, then continue my ride.
​A lonely place in the desert. What stories could this place tell if it could talk?
SR 24 takes a hard left in Hanksville, a small crossroads in the middle of NOWHERESVILLE.  I am going north now, not really the direction I need, but one I must take to enter Colorado in the right place tomorrow. 
I leave Hanksville at 85 mph and soon find the ST at 95.  The road is as flat as Calista Flockhart, and smoooooooth.  The San Rafael Desert is scenic.  The bluffs to left and right, guarding me.  The annoying cross wind when I was east bound, now a awesome tailwind.

Soon 95mph gives way to 100, and then 105.  There, I found the sweet spot the ST wants to run at.  I tuck down slightly and find the quiet.   I ride 105 mph hour for the next 40 miles.  I only notice the speed when I look down at the lines flashing under me like this-------------and not the normal -   -    -    - "  The utility poles flick by me in a constant swoosh.  I am literally flying on the ground brothers.  This is why we ride motorcycles, to experience what I am feeling now.  My outline is to my right in the late afternoon sun.  The brothers and sisters reading this know what I am feeling, it is the non riders I wish I could dial in and let sample.  If I could you would never ask why we do it again,  and then you would be like me, riding thousands of miles to experience this 40 miles of bliss.

In the east, riding like this is unheard off.  Traffic, villages, urban sprawl, and frequent LEOs make such a ride impossible.  Riding 105 mph for almost 50 miles, is one of life's pure joys, but there are so few places to do it.
It was warm that afternoon but not hot.  I covered the 44 miles from Hanksville to I-70 in about 20 minutes.
I-70 appears in the distance and I bring the ST down to make the ramp.  Its a helluva note when a guy has to slow down, after he gets on a interstate, but that's what I had to do.  Interstates are too heavily patrolled. 
Riding east to Green River I can see the smoky haze rising from Colorado, 100 miles away.

I take the first Green River exit, and the first thing I see is a white Prelude getting a receipt from the local cop.
The KOA is located a few miles from the center of town, and I have little trouble finding it.  My back and leg felt stiff when I unsaddled at the office.

I pick a quiet, and dark spot in the rear.  There are a number of RVs, but only a few tents.

I set my tent up and stowed away my gear, then took a shower.

I rode 516 miles today.

So far I've only cooked one time this trip.  Mostly because it is too hot to walk around in my Roadcrafter in a store, and peeling it off and leaving it on bike is out of the question.

I rode back into town and had a excellent NY strip at a place brother Don Cortez recommended.  Ray's.  The cafe was nothing fancy, but the steak was seared to perfection.  It was close to closing time, and I was the only guy in the place, so I called home when I finished eating, and spent sometime with my wife, then called my son.
It was dark when I got back to the KOA.  I sipped lemonade and made journal notes, and wrote down the routes for the ride tomorrow.  I set my TV on the table and watched the news from a forgotten local station.  The picture was a little fuzzy, but the sound excellent.  If I do this good in the middle of nowhere, I will have good reception at most other places. 

I will try to make Amarillo the next day, bringing me within 1000 miles of home.  If I do, it will place me in position for 2 days of easy riding home.  But Amarillo will be hard.  I scanned the map of the planned route.  Almost all of the 600+ miles will be on 2 lane roads, and much of that in the mountains. I am a seasoned long rider, and even by myself 600 miles of 2 lane, mostly mountain, and then throw in a few cites (Grand Junction, Pueblo etc) to get through, will make it a long day.  Long riders can look at 500 map miles and quickly convert it to real miles, and figure pretty closely to time on the road.  I can jump on I-70, and devour Colorado the painless way, but what fun would that be?  No, I want to ride the heart of the Rockies, and if it adds another day to home, who cares?? Certainly NOT me, and I am the only one that counts in this equation.

Do not for a instant confuse 600 back road miles, with open interstate riding.

Finished with that, I went in my tent and watched Leno till I got sleepy.  A perfect ending to a awesome day.