After leaving Bryce Canyon, and the Escalante River Basin, I headed northwest along the UT highway 12 to the 24. Crazy terrain, and storms still chasing me. I was heading for Moab, where I planned to spend a day hiking and exploring before heading for Colorado. I am kicking myself for not taking more pictures along this ride. My favorite place along the way was the Cathedral of the Damned (my name, no idea what it is actually called). It’s a huge butte on the desert somewhere out there that as I approached it, looked more and more like the Duomo di Milano if it had been carved by the tortured souls straight out of one of Dantes dreams, and then heated until it melted like a giant candle. Huge, imposing, red cliffs with crazy thunderheads towering up above it was the backdrop for my lunch. Both cameras were dead at the time, but I doubt I could have gotten a photo that did this place justice anyway. The lightning was my cue to get moving, up the 24 through Hanksville, and north up to I-70. East for a few miles, and then south on the 191 into Moab UT.
I splurged and had a good meal and a beer at Moab Brewery. Great beers, great food. A proper burger was definitely needed after nights of baked beans in a can. I met a great old guy who had been a guide around this very touristy town for years, who told me about some free camping up the Colorado River just north of town. He told me a back way to go, avoiding the crowded main street with its police and adventure tourists, so I headed out.
A mile down the road though, the bike decided that it didn’t want to shift anymore. Perhaps it was the long day, perhaps she just wanted a beer of her own, but the old girl put up a fight. A bit of looking, and the problem was obvious: the little linkage that connects the shift lever to the transmission had given up its cheap aluminum ghost. I had been fiddling with it for no more than 5 minutes, when a guy pulled up and offered to help. He ended up taking me back to his place, let me use his tools to weld up a part, and got me back on the road pretty quick. I headed up the Colorado River to find a campground. Of course, they were all packed. I managed to meet a few college kids from Montana though, who let me pitch my tent on half of their site, and we spent the evening drinking more and solving the worlds problems around the campfire. They were some seriously cool folks.
I should break here to comment on the people I met on the way: Everyone out west was very helpful, from the gas station attendants who tried to help with directions, to the campers, to random guides and guys who help out bearded, leather clad strangers on the side of the road. This changed through Texas and farther east (aside from the lady at the South Carolina Tourism rest stop), and I am not sure why. I felt a lot of fear from almost everyone along the way though, fear of crime (a lot of people asked if I was carrying a gun, or scared of being robbed), fear of economic collapse, immigrants, snakes, whatever. That’s the biggest impression (aside from the rampant, morbid obesity) I have had on the trip, that fear had pervaded almost every aspect of peoples world. Part of this is media based, lets face it, news these days isn’t very good, and the hype is nuts. And don’t get me started on the reality shows. But part of it is that people choose this fear, and I can’t figure out why. Maybe it has to do with social cohesion (something I have none of here), or maybe it is just the going group mentality. Who knows.
The next morning I woke up late and slightly hungover from the night before, and headed into Arches National Park. Cheap (5 bucks), and a great drive. The arches were cool, and so was the, well, rather phallic rock formations.
At a parking area for one of the arch hikes, I pulled up next to two older bikes, a couple of Honda cruisers. Old bike guys tend to have a lot to chat about, and these two guys were no exception. Everyone along the way loved the old BMW (I never saw anything even remotely as old, or unique). They were young, riding from Texas to Washington, and they had a small film crew traveling with them documenting their trip. We chatted about bikes, the trip, work, etc, and hiked up to one of the viewpoints and back. Two very nice fellas, and I wish them well.
Another aside: probably 9 out of 10 bikes out there were new, sparkling, loud Harleys. I have no idea why anyone would want to ride one of those things. Not for me. Saw a few new BMWs, and a couple of Moto Guzzi touring bikes, but almost everything else was a Harley, with the occasional sport bike close to the cities. I have yet to understand why anyone would buy a motorcycle that is so obviously for it’s image, rather than its reliability, comfort, performance, etc. To each his own I guess.
After driving and hiking around Moab, the weather again started acting up. It was cold, windy, and looked like rain, so I abandoned my plan to camp in Canyonlands National Park, and decided to head for Colorado, aiming to hit Telluride and come down to Durango. No luck, as it was snowing on the Continental Divide, and I had to backtrack 40 or so miles to get back on the road to Durango. I got into Durango in near freezing temps, in the dark, and happy to spend 60 bucks on a hotel. The next morning, the Harley shop was very helpful in getting me an overpriced but much needed mirror, which I had broken off the day before. I might slag their bikes a bit, but hey, they have shops everywhere (probably needed to service their bikes). I had parked on a deserted dirt road, watered a few bushes and had a cigarette, and while I am standing there with my pants and chaps all undone, I heard a crunch behind me. The wind had blown the bike over, with the gas tank and handle bars pointing down the slope. Not easy to get the thing upright, and there was definitely no help in sight. Muscling that bike up was no easy task, and with the gas leaking out of the top of the tank, time was not on my side. That ought to teach me to use the center stand….
It rained going over the high plain towards Farmington, NM, and hailed a bit later. Yuck. The weather got better after Albuquerque, and it was beautiful for the last 150 miles to Roswell NM.
Roswell, was kind of disappointing. I hadn’t planned on going through there, but the weather east of the Rockies was pretty bad, so I decided on the spur of the moment to go south through Roswell, stay the night, and head the next day for San Antonio TX, where an old friend lives. Didn’t find much of real interest in Roswell, just a lot of touristy type traps. I am sure there is something good there, I just didn’t find it…
The next day, after a night of Alien Amber and cheap pizza, I got on the road. Roswell to 100 miles outside San Antonio was nothing but oil fields. The smell of oil was so strong, I kept thinking the bike must surely be hemorrhaging oil all over the place, but no, it was just our rampant destruction and plunder of the land. Ugly places, oily faces, and definitely not a place I care to revisit.
I got lost in Odessa TX, managed to find my way out, and did the last few miles into San Antonio, all in all, a 580 mile day. I was just happy to put the oil field devastation of west Texas behind me. No worries though, I spend the next few days relaxing, sleeping an proper bed, and spending some time catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen since high school. Not too bad. Thanks for the place to stay K!