Wednesday, September 15, 2010


... time to catch-up on this blog again. So much territory and events going past.. if I get behind by one (or in this case, two) nights, it takes a lot of effort to get back on track. I'm taking something like 50 photos a day, and as such I have to load them onto the computer, go through them one at a time, write down a fewe that might be interesting,.. then WRITE something that actually might enlighten you guys to what riding a sportbike across these LARGE and varied states. All when I've finally found a hotel and am pretty much trashed from a full day of battling the Road.

Okay... no more excuses! Right now I am in a tiny mountain village on the razor southern edge of Utah, just outside Zion National Park. I have a decent motel, circa 1955, clean and well appointed. Outside the wispy desert sunset finally gave up and retired over these red cliff mesas... the word NAVAJO might give you an idea... more on that in a moment.. Lets RECAP:

Ah, yes.. leaving Tahoe, I think we did. Good.
I rode all the way down the west edge of piney Lake Tahoe in crisp 65-degree sunlight... took a few shots of Emerald Bay..

...then passed through the town of Tahoe without even seeing it. Must have grazed it, somehow. Anyway, leaving town I got ruffled by a police checkpoint of sorts and missed a turnoff to take me east towards the Nevada line...ended up back-tracking almost an hour before I got straightened out. Then headed west again across the Sierras on Rte 4, total wilderness, almost no one else on the road.. and remember that this is the Great West; you don't pull over for a raspberry Slurpy anytime you want.

Went over a tall pass in the Toiyabe National Forest, and you get a little hincty sometimes when you are so far into the wilderness areas by yourself, and well, The Mind plays imaginative tricks... worries about your stamina and the bike's running condition. I wound up and up and up to Ebberts Pass, 9000 feet, and everytime I get to these altitudes I forget that I have to BREATHE more heavily... pant a lot... the air is so thin. Near the crest were these gorgeous, gnarled pines... bristelcones, perhaps??... looked very ancient.

Wind down and down and down those endless, twisting those cliff edges for Christ-sakes because you often have many hundreds of feet worth of drop-off two feet off the edge of the crumbly tarmac.

All the roads in the Sierra Nevada run Southwest to Northeast... there wasn't any way to get to Yosemite without riding back West again... hours in the dwindling afternoon sunlight, and you reqally don't want to get caught out in those wilderness areas after dark. LIONS and TIGERS and BEARS, ha ha. Don't even mention deer.

Finally I rolled into Angel's Camp, California, an old mining town; still has the original architecture, but noiw glossed over with signs proclaiming a Wifi Hot Spot. This is Modern America: Even though a village might be utterly remote, the locals still have mobile phones... computer hook-ups... white Japanese SUV's and glossy pick-up trucks. It's sort of sad to find that there's so few places where Time hasn't ravaged... and when you DO find a spot that feels more... authentically antique... you stop and savor it for a long moment.  Red Lodge Montana, just north of Yellowstone, was one oif thoise places, a place where Progress hasn't eroded the traditional interaction between human settlement and The Forrest. There's a few places like it... but not many.

Continuing onward... Miles to cover..

Okay, so rolled into Yosemite National Park at dusk. Your riding down this windey windey route and all of a sudden theres a break in the trees and OMIGOD there are these HUMONGOUS sheer granite cliff faces sticking up thousands of feet from a valley floor. The air is incredibly crisp and clean, due to to thousands and thousands of acres of pine forests..

Found my way to some place called "Housekeeping Camp"... where I had a ... uhh... shack?.. reserved. A permanent tent of sorts, with a thin wall across the back with noisy London punk hiukers behind me. I paid $2.50 for bedding (many people use their own sleeping bags), and signs everywhere shrilly cautioned against leaving ANY food out in anyway whatsoever. A video was playing in the little registration shack showing bears digging into bags, tents, even breaking the half-open window of a car.
Dumped my stuff of and ran to some little lodge thing as I was told food would only be available for a very short time. Turns out it wasn't a big issue, and besides, they had a credible bar open. Tank Back. The lodge was packed with people speaking Germanic or Nordic languages... a bazillion Euro Toruists go to Yosemite it seems.

Okay... so despite the loud London jerkoffs, I got a decent sleep, albeit a short one. The morning sun drilled through the huge pine trunks and was pleasant. I packed up and rolled out, expecting initially to be spending a fair amount of time in the park... but actually there isn't too far to go if you are staying on the roads,.. so you zip around a little and snap shots of El Capitan and Brilevail Falls and shit. Sort of like the Grand Canyon. Looks great for a few minutes until the tourists start to annoy you and you take a few shots and move along. Here ya go...


I rode Rte 120 east, through the park for about thirty miles, and the views were wild and grand... it's still Yosemite, but not the "famous" sites. But as most of the Western leg of this trip has been, the landscapes are evolving rapidly and dramatically. Winding Winding Winding down and down through increasingly dry "western" looking mountains.... suddenly the world opens up in front of you and here's weird Mono Lake splayed out across the desert horizon.. looked to be a salt flat lake or soemthing. I dunno... go Wickepedia it or somnething. What do I look like.. a geologist or sumpin? I'm just a motorcycle rider, for crying out loud.

I continued out Rte 120, heading for Nevada, and as you can see, it became increasingly "desert". Also, desert-ED... as I was often on the road by myself. I crested the Sylvannia Mountains near Benton, CA, at 9000 feet... then dropped down again to the Nevada side at an area bordering Death Valley near the Funeral Mountains. The road I was on was long and deserted... no signs of human habitation for fifty miles at a clip.
Suddenly the pavement changed abruptly to oiled gravel, and I saw the sign for Nevada flash past. After that it was a loooong run on that cheap "pavement", worrying about traction on a 500-pound motorcycle and also the odds of picking up some sharp tire-challenging object in that sticky tar. Meahwhile the landscape around me turned hostile and hot... and it really was just an ajunct to Deat Valley there. Tumbleweeds, gila monsters and shit...

And another ENDLESS highway run down Nevada Rte 95... on and on and on.... I was TIRED and everything hurt... my left clutch hand...right wrist... ear-holes from the Mp3... and oh yes, especially my tortured NECK which now, if I have the earbuds in but no sound on, I can hear what sounds like sand in my neck vertebrae when I turn my head. All just part of the Fun.

Another crusher of an evening run, down into las Vegas. I can't convey the mile after mile after fucking MILE....just droning down a staright line in the darkening empty desert... try hard for a moment though... HEY! a little SYMPATHY over here!

ah. So,,, BANG suddenly I'm in downtown urban Vegas.... covered with dust and eyeballs still vibrating from staring into the blackened desert night... and whammo, The Strip. I had no idea of what to do or where to go. Jena had mentioned some place "one street off the Strip"... but I couldn't remember the name and I was bonkers exhausted. The bike grumbled under the sudden change to city-hot stop-and-go traffic...and I had not the slightest clue about how to find a ..motel..? hotel..? I stopped into a gas station and aske the fat kid but he got weird and sadi he really didn't know of any hotels in the area. what?? We're one BLOCK fromn the Strip... where do peoiple STAY... Casar's Palace has that many rooms?? I even stopped a beat cop on patrol... he scratched his head and even he had no suggestions. What the hell is going ON in this town..
Finally I trundled down the Strip and low and behold, right between all the big casinos were a batch of cheapo, drive-in normal MOTELS. What kind of people the got working out there.... I picked a crumbly joint with good old fashioned, park-outside-your-room style... paid a little more than I probably needed to ($45)... but was happy to be finally settled in somewhere. Showered and changed into the only collared shirt I have and headed out... for Sinatra's stomping grounds. Next stop: Caesar's Palace.
Which turned out to be a lavish rip-off. They all are... and I don;t need to go into the pros and cons of casinos here, but it's all just one big tourist shuck, on steroids. I crusied through a few pl;aces.. the Flamingo... Bally's... had one drink and didnt gamble... until finally I took a taxi back to the Sahara, which was walking distance to my hotel.... started boozing there (hey! I thought drinking was supposed to be cheap in Vegas!).. and sat down at a $5 Blackjack table with some noisy midwestern dudes...
I'm not much of a gambler and last night proved it... lost $100 sitting there. Fun,, yeah, I suppose... but I'm already over budegt on this trip and I didn't need to blow $200 last night..(remember those drinks? I also had to do IHop at 4AM)

Woke up late and hungover... managed to pull my gear together and rolled my bike out the door before the chambermaid came and noticed the chain-lube stain on the carpet. Rode across the street to Ihop once again and  had a blahh breaksfast but the waitress really cxaught my eye withe a lower-lip stud and a gorgeous blonde braid that went down past her butt.. ahh... What Happens in Vegas... I wanted to get out. Vegas isn;t for me... just a big Tourist Trap, complete with pulp ads for hookers everywhere ("$69!! College girls! No obligation! Photo is actual! Gauranteed to be in your room and naked within half an hour!!")

Alrighty then... I finally detached and somehow wound my way out to I-15, heading for Utah. It was HOT... and here we go again with that South Dakota shit again.... giant hair-dryers blowing 110-degree 80-mph wind on you all day. But this time I was hungover... dizzy and tingly.... slightly panicked to realize the immense desert I was heading into... found a Heaven-sent hot dog truck 30 miles outside of Vegas, and the nice Mexican lady sold me cold bottles of water and cheered me up. Back to the Intense Hydration thing again.... pour that shit into yourself until you want to puke.... at each and every stop. Even still you get dizzy and edgy.\

Ride Ride Ride..... into the bleached-out boneyard mountains of Nevada... catch a slice of Arizona then your into Utah. Reading this here... especially for you non-riders... can't give yo a sense of being vulnerable "out there". Everyone flips past you in their fully air-conditioned BMW cars, flipping through magazines and peering at you apothetically, while you're trying to hold onto a big heavy bike and your Sanity in that never-ending, hellish blast-furnace. Surreal.

Into the mountains and the desert lanscape changed and changed again... various styles of stratified rock cliffs and mesas... changing shape and hue. Past some clever little towns that have managed to carve out a toe-hold in a seemingly very inhospitable place... faux-adobe Spanish/Indian-Misson style of architecture... but places like Mesquite and St George and Hurricane... tidy little modern oasis.

Headed for Zion and the temperatures became cooler heading into the mountains. I never actually thought about it before, but all these places, Zion, Yosemite, Yellowstone... they're all high in the mountains. That's what the glaciers and whatever eroding funk carved them out from.
$12 gets a bike past the gates of the National Park... then up tiny gravel roads...Okay. look at photos. I'm running out of steam... the bed is calling.

Right. So after I get to the top of the gravel road it suddenly turns to good pavement and the park disappears. Gone. No sign of Leaving or any tolgate or anything.... I'm OUT.

So I peer at the map and see this tiny speck called Kanab ...near the,well, Kanab Indian Reservation...and it's another tidy little town in the midst of this John-Wayne red-rock-mesa gorgeous secenry. Kind of surreal, but the rib-eye buffet was great.

Oh, one quick horror-story as a bonus for those of you who actually made it this far:
Riding along at 60 mph in a long construction zone today... those big, heavy plastic orange marker barrels every 25 feet, and the truck ahead of me clips one. Zing... immediately the thing does a little pirouette and for a split second I flash that it's bounced away from my path but nuh-UHHH it does a little flip and angles straight into my driving line and I have no time to think or react.... b-b-BLUNNNGGG...I clip it as it rolls in front of me, THANK GOD ALMIGHTY it was a few degrees off of center and it sort of skidded away after bashing the front of my bike. Scared the crap out of me, doing 60.


1 comment:

  1. Kanab is a good place to sleep and eat between National Park adventures and has plenty of accommodations and casual restaurants.

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