Motorcycle Trip – National Parks of Utah – Moab
I only got us lost once, yes I have GPS, yes I have maps, yes I don’t always pay attention. Coming out of The Grand Canyon there is an intersection, one of those regular kind where you can turn left or right. I’m telling you right now that one of the most important times to either look at your map or turn on your GPS is at intersections.
But oh no, not when you’re me and you’ve got it all figured out in your head……..so about 50 miles down the road I start looking at the Vermillion Cliffs again and thinking hey wait a minute…..there is no way up over those massive beautiful cliffs and our motel is, “over there.” So I had to break the news to Karla, and that was OK, except it meant we would now have to break another one of our touring rules, “No riding after dark.” Yes since I have now added 100 miles to getting to the motel it would be after dark, way after dark. We had been passing roadside deer by the dozens which doesn’t bother me as much in the daylight.
We have these super bright driving lights (PIAA 1100 LED) they are perhaps the brightest lights on the market today. It helps, but it was still a not real fun ride, deer everywhere you looked, some animal ran down the hill on our right side and barely got stopped, I think my foot brushed against him. Never figured out what it was but he and I shared a total, “oh shit” moment.
We made it back to Kanab…..now really we are not going to ride after dark……and I promise I will look at maps 🙂
The next day we headed North again on Hwy 89, first stop……
These parks are all different, even though they are all basically in the same geological area, they are totally unique. People have asked which was our favorite, and all I can do is start describing each one. Zion, Bryce & Arches are what I think are the best known, but the lesser parks were mind-blowing as well.
Here’s a bit of Bryce:
From Bryce we were headed North to Torrey UT for a night outside of our usual Holiday Inn Express. First the road up is Hwy 12, rated as the best motorcycle road in Utah and it was spectacular. Again, when I get to GoPro footage there will be a short one on Hwy 12. It’s around 120 miles of great scenery, outstanding road and great company.
In Torrey we had reservations at, “Austin’s Chuck Wagon Motel” and I think I heard skepticism in Karla’s voice when she heard the name. However, this was a true find. With a population of 180, Torrey was a gamble for finding food for the vegan types. Austin’s Chuck Wagon was more than a motel, it was a complex……with it’s own store…the only one in town and very nice amenities. We rated this place very high and recommend it to anyone, pool and hot tub too.
There were two or three restaurants, if you’re counting that’s one for every 60 residents, but this is next to the entrance of Capitol Reef National Park, so touristos must outnumber the locals.
We walked to an Italian place and had a great dinner….and surprise this was the first place that actually had a liquor license. Now, have I have told you about liquor laws in Utah?……pull up a chair this may take awhile.
Liquor must be poured with a state approved device that will only allow 1.5 oz in a drink, so forget a double and a Long Island Iced Tea or a Hurricane well that just isn’t possible. If the Mormons knew how much alcohol was in a Long Island……it might require the Quorum of 12 to have another meeting. And then you know about the, “Zion Curtain” don’t you? A wall or curtain or partition of some type that prevents anyone from actually witnessing the pouring of alcohol? Yes, makes prefect sense to me too. So those photos I love so much of me with two margaritas?? Yeah, that’s illegal there is no way you could order two drinks, what are you psychotic? Oh and you must order food before you’re allowed to have any alcohol. So much for, “Happy Hour” around here that’s Sunday morning.
Oh well, they have this 3.2% micro brew beer that was good….and they have a sense of humor…..Polygamy Porter, why have just one? I loved buying that and seeing the clerks grimace. I admire the LDS organization, I don’t want anything to do with it, but I do admire it. You see, Mormons are basically mafia, they’re real nice mafia, but they control everything…..
Capitol Reef National Park
This is another place where I called it wrong, this time because I had never heard of it and I didn’t really like the name…..I told you the trip planning has my biases, as ridiculous as they are. Not many people at this park so I guess I wasn’t alone in thinking it wasn’t all that.
I forgot to address the cost of these National Parks & Monuments which was $24 for a motorcycle and they are going up. My commentary on that is, “What the Hell?” Cars were higher and they want to raise them to like $50 a car. I grew up poor and the only thing we could do was go to parks, I am absolutely against making parks only for people who have extra money. But if you’re going to as many as we did; buy the annual pass, it was $80 and paid for itself after the first three parks, we saved well over $100.
Capitol Reef was a self pay and on the honor system…..maybe that’s why they couldn’t afford to fix the sign. But it was a great park; named after two features, one that resembles the old US Capitol Dome, and the Reef refers to the Waterpocket Fold. A geologic formation that is about 100 miles long. We didn’t get to see much of it, as the pavement ended pretty much at the beginning of the fold.
Capitol Reef also contains the historic Mormon settlement of Fruita, where the trees still produce and you can pick what’s available.
A few more views of Capitol Reef National Park
These flowers were amazing in that they are growing in the bottom of a wash. Washes are areas that routinely flood, and flash floods are very common. Everything is rock so water has nowhere to go but flow, and flow it does. The parks prepare the wash areas in so the roads don’t wash out, but they get flooded, buried in mud and then cleaned up until the next one. These flowers will only last until the next rain, I’m sure they are gone now.
So now we’re headed East and then South. There is this ferry I wanted to catch across the Upper, East end of Lake Powell. For no particular reason; it was extra miles, it was out of the way, but hey I wanted to ride a ferry and we’re on vacation. Pure desert, nothing but sand and a lonely two lane road that made us think, this ferry thing….maybe not one of Don’s greatest plans. But then Karla starts seeing flowers and here we are the only vehicle in maybe 100 miles, so we park in the road, there were no shoulders and go picture taking.
That took her mind off my side trip for awhile, mission accomplished. Karla got some really special flower photos on this trip. We were so lucky in our timing, they had heavy rains throughout the area in the weeks before we arrived the flowers were in full bloom everywhere.
Two cars, two bicycles and our motorcycle, it was like a private ferry ride. Met some nice folks too.
Our reservation this evening is in Mexican Hat…..named after Hat Rock, more about that later. Along the way we’ll pop into……..
I hope you’re getting the feeling that this was not a, take it easy, get some rest kind of vacation. Last summer, I drove us through some National Parks and looking back we realized how much we missed by not getting off and hiking. Many people would just pull their car up, roll down the window and take a picture of the sign and drive on……we said, “There was us, last year.”
So Natural Bridges was a bit of an anomaly, because we did just sort of ride through, stop for a few photos and leave. This is one that you have to hike to the bridges, and it was getting late and we still had lots of miles to make (before dark).
Mexican Hat, Utah Population 31
Here is the one and only Hat Rock, the namesake of our motel for the night, the, “Hat Rock Inn.”
I am not sure why we thought this was funny, or why I thought I had to lean waaaay back to get out of the way. Here’s a few photos of the Hat Rock Inn. This place scored 5 stars in our book.
From the outside this might be a place you would pass up…..but these people have got it together…..check out their website www.hatrockinn.com Side story: I had one of the first email addresses in Bend, Oregon and my company had one of the first ever web pages……people looked at my business card and said (incredulously) “What are you going to use that for?” and I always had to defend myself. I just said, “Oh one of these days people are going to be using email.” They laughed at me…….thank you Spencer Dahl, founder of Bendnet.com ! I’ve always been a geek, but Spence let me in on the origins of net access in Bend.
These folks understand marketing, in a town of 31 people….they hit it out of the park ! In 2015 many businesses still don’t understand their website and hello, social media ??? Look at their website and then look at my photos…..same place ????? Hmmmm, but they also did such a remarkable job at updating this property, I would go out of my way to stay there. OK, we’re on a motorcycle and the parking lot is shit; gravel and not even the correct gravel (sorry I work in the making big rocks into little rocks industry) I told Karla, “What they need on this lot is 3/4” minus state spec or commercial at a minimum”…….she said, “sometimes you are just weird.”
So what’s better than a motel with a hot tub…….one that doesn’t say you have to be out by 10 PM……oh yeah the pool is set aside from the motel and no closing…….I’m sure it was clothing optional as well, but Karla says I think everything is clothing optional……if it’s not specifically prohibited it’s allowed…..
The pool area is all by itself facing toward the river.
Infinity pool no less…….this place is just way cool……see those Palm Trees……
I am such an amateur photographer, but I’m trying to learn
There’s my sweetie. Apparently not buying my clothing optional rule.
The San Juan river, they advertised a private beach for swimming, but all rivers in Utah are muddy, brown like chocolate !
SWINGING STEAK & BURNING FINGER
I seriously have to give this up to what we call, “Non-Vegans,” I think you would not want to miss this restaurant. We loved the atmosphere and the staff was outstanding. When you’re a vegan and in a town of 31 people, you are not expecting something on the menu, it just doesn’t make sense. But oh no, not at Swinging Steak, they had us covered !
First the photos you see here is the entire restaurant. It felt like a cafe in Mexico, open air casual dining with tu amigos. But it had that Texas flavor too, the chef could have just tied up his horse and walked in to pitch a log on the fire. In one of the photos you can see a Gardenburger amongst the steaks……it looks a little pathetic doesn’t it?
The grill was as authentic as it was practical, just a nice wood fire and keep that thing a swingin’. The also wood fired stove beyond the grill has two big pots of beans cooking and he could even toast the bread on the grill. I will say when the waiter gave him our order, he looked over at us and didn’t really smile, but it was a noticeable glance. I’m sure he was thinking, Couple of hippy, yuppie, tree huggin, Californians……
I’m just not well versed in, “Steakhouse Etiquette” so the next event was my fault. See those metal dishes are heated up real hot so the steak sizzles when they bring it to your table. Well darn it, if a dry ole Gardenburger just had a touch of sizzle, I may have thought to not touch that thing. The only sizzle I heard was my finger…
I went to the waiter and asked if they had any ice, I may have added, “I just burned the shit out of my finger.” He was super nice and got me a glass of ice, into which my finger stayed for the rest of the meal.
Now cowboy chef, while I thought he might have gotten a chuckle…..I often judge too quickly….he was headed for our table. He reached out to me and said, ” this will help” It was out of context in my mind, so I must have looked confused…..he said, “it’s Aloe, it helps burns.” He had a plant there and had cut me off a branch…..how nice.
The first glimpse of Monument Valley from the parking lot…….Monument Valley where all great western TV shows and movies took at least one background or B roll shot.
Director John Ford used the location for a number of his best-known films, and thus, in the words of critic Keith Phipps, “its five square miles have defined what decades of moviegoers think of when they imagine the American West.”.
So were we here to relive all those westerns my dad watched in the 60’s and early 70’s????? Was it John Wayne; was it Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey, or Grand Theft Auto’s depiction of Monument Valley that required this to be on the itinerary of our 2015 Epic trip ????? Why Don, Why are we here ?
Mile post 13, yes just 13 miles into Utah from Arizona……. one of the most filmed, desolate areas of the United States is exactly where……..Forrest Gump stopped running………
And as always, we can’t just have one event in our day, so now it’s across the state to catch, ” Four Corners Monument.” This one is a Navajo National Park. Ride Don & Carla Ride !
Crap, they know about Motorcycles…I would have ridden down to where I had each tire in a different state and each foot in two other states…..damn. So our second plan was to do a plank in four states at once. We do this ab workout that has become a trademark ……..one hour of planks and 2400 crunches per month…….but then the line for pictures was a little daunting……and even though I am the master of not caring what people think, and doing really silly stuff, I choked……we stood there like a couple of tourists from Iowa and took our picture…….lame……We like to say, “No Regrats” but holy cow what was I thinking……..REGRATS ! Copyright, “Meet the Millers” ……
Karla, please don’t ever let me act so average…….
It’s a must do place, but it was really trashy. Only $5 to get in……if I were a Navajo, I would charge White Man $250 ……..I feel bad to be there and embarrassed to be an average white American……..we could be so much better, but we’re not. 🙁
Motorcycle Trip – National Parks of Utah – Moab
ON TO MOAB !!!!!
Here is a brief look at Moab Utah through the lens of an outsider. GoPro video to follow. We did find the liquor store here, as it seems the tourist trade/traffic will dictate the size and availability of the stores.
Coffee, it’s still legal in Utah…….well at least in Moab! This town, we thought had a similar feel to our hometown, sidewalk cafes that were, “vegan friendly” ( I love that saying) coffee roaster, and places where it looked like people were having fun, not in a church.
Non-vegans (the friendly ones ) have lots of great choices in Moab, so no worries there, and this town even had more than one choice for us.
You Meet the nicest people in hot tubs…….I can even say you meet the nicest families. The Holiday Inn Express in Moab was one of the nicest ones we’ve come across. I think this late afternoon on the day we visited Arches National Park, and I had found a real liquor store…..
Well balanced meals while traveling are highly recommended.
I think there is nothing better when you’re having a great day on a wonderful vacation, than to meet others who are as happy as you are. So after I taste tested the Patron….we went to the hot tub and met Casey & Katie, two ladies who were lovely in every respect.
Sometimes hotel hot tubs can have kind of a weird vibe, people are uncomfortable, avoid making eye contact and try to stay in their own little territory. These two were instantly friendly, gregarious and full of happiness. Turns out one of the things we had in common was Tequila ! Now I know we’re friends.
Later, during a notorious desert thunderstorm we found out there was more to the family and we met Tom & Betsy, “the parents.” I blame everything on parenting, and it was easy to see where Casey & Katie came up with their awesome personalities.
Thank you, our new extended family; we hope the rest of your trip was as much fun as ours. Serendipitous circumstance; they, traveling to visit a daughter who had moved across the country from the East, us who were exploring from the West, met in the middle. We made friends, laughed and shared stories that ran in 15 minute cycles of the hot tub timer. Our paths crossed but once in this life………but you never know; it is, “A Small World After all.” Best of life to you all, we hope to see you again on another adventure!
This is Nate, our hot tub photographer…. Nate is a, “Tour Guide” and has been living in this exquisite Holiday Inn Express for like a couple of months. He and his crew take tourists out on, “Jeep” adventures……. OK so maybe Nate has life dialed in at his age and I didn’t, ……..you’re rocking it Nate !!!!! Jeep tour guide ??? Really, that is a job ?
Moab was just a super comfortable town to hang out in, but we still had parks to see, and nearby was Arches & Canyonlands.
Once again there are more trails to more breathtaking scenes than a person could hike in a week. We had one day to take in, so we prioritized almost everything out. But if you’re going to Arches, we think there is one, “must see” rock and that is, “Delicate Arch.”
The trail to Delicate Arch is around 5 miles each way, crossing the slickrock, which isn’t slick (maybe when it’s wet? ) and climbing pretty much all the distance.
Above the slick rock trail, it narrows to a cliffside trail, but not so narrow that it becomes uncomfortable..
There it is, the Icon of Utah as seen on the state’s license plates.
Here it is as seen over our shoulders. The line at the base was a little long to get a shot of us under the arch. We were not the only ones making the trek.
The park is huge and this is perhaps the best known attraction, but anywhere you look in this vast landscape , you will be in awe of the beauty.
Miles upon miles of road through these magnificent red rocks.
Petroglyphs here are at least 700 years old.
This fellow was so cute with his natural camouflage, he didn’t think we could see him, so he posed for us nicely.
There was still one more major National Park to visit from our base in Moab,
I apologize if I have overused the word awesome in this blog post, in every instance you could substitute; Stunning, Grand, Awe-inspiring or breathtaking. They are all of that and more, Canyonlands did not disappoint.
The Green River joins the Colorado within Canyonlands, although the gorges were so deep we couldn’t see water from our vantage. There are distinct sections of the park, accessible from different entrances, what we show here is the, “Islands in the Sky” section. The rivers are more than 2000′ feet below, the first 1200′ to a bench and then another 1000′ drop to the water.
The saddest day of any trip is the day you realize it’s time to go home. We needed to cover 1000 miles, leaving the beauty behind, but taking the memories and 1200 photos to remind us that, “Life is Short, Start Living Now.” Don’t wait for adventure to find you, it’s right there waiting for you to shape it your way.
We hope our pictures and words have exposed Utah in a way that leaves you wanting more; we say again, this is a trip you really need to make. We didn’t see it all; and we will be back.
Iif you see us on the road, please wave or say Hi. If you don’t recognize us, look for this sign on the back of our bike. The best part of adventure is meeting new friends !
If we can provide specific details about any part of the trip, feel free to write, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check back, we’ve been on a few trips around Oregon and will be posting those soon.
Don & Karla
Random……this has nothing to do with anything, but I love Heelers and this guy was posing in some town we stopped for gas……Australian Cattle Dogs Rule, !!! I have blue and red heelers.