Two-Weeks, Mostly in Utah, Nevada
2989 miles / 4810.329 kilometres
Finally, we got back out on the road for a long motorcycle and camping trip!
In December 2012, we bought a house - a first for both of us - and all of
the improvements we needed to make to it, plus Stefan starting as a
volunteer firefighter here in the USA at long last and going through all of
the required trainings, meant no camping at all in 2013. None. We
took only little day trips on our motorcycles, only for a few hours
each time, squeezed in as we could (and practicing on gravel roads, for me,
Not doing what we love to do more than anything in the world has put a
strain on us. I don't recommend it. Getting back out on the road was
something we both DESPERATELY needed.
Utah by motorcycle has been top of my list for travel in the USA, so my
expectations for this trip were high - stupid high. I usually keep travel
expectations in check, but not this time - they were through the roof and
into the stratosphere. And that's a cardinal sin of travel. Don't do it. Not
that I didn't have a great time on this trip - I did. But it was a very
different trip that I had pictured, and it took a lot of time to get my mind
At left is the route we took. No, we didn't make it to Monument Valley. We
had a very good reason - which you will have to read the entire blog to know
about. I've been to some of these places before, back
in 1996. But after 18 years, I knew it would look and feel brand new
to me (and it did), especially since this time I was on my motorcycle and
with my husband, whom I love more
than chocolate, fried chicken and Coca Cola. Stefan has been to most of
these places as well - on his
first motorcycle trip in the USA, an epic 6-week solo back in 2005.
But he was really wanting to re-do it on his Honda Africa Twin (and with ME,
The one thing that I did remember very much from my first trip to this area
and Wiley, who'd been with me back then on my trip to this area. They
were frequently on my mind on this trip, as was our
dear Albi who, for the first time, wouldn't be there at home waiting
for us after our trip.
In case you don't want to read the entire travelogue, but want some quick
advice for your own motorcycle trip to the area, then here is a list of the
very best of times, the absolute
highest of highlights:
Live wildlife seen:
Dead wildlife and domestic animals seen: Oh Mighty Isis, it's THE WEST. We
saw every kind of animal dead on the side of the road or mounted on a wall
that you can see. Heart-breaking.
- white tail mule deer
- pronghorn antelope
- pelicans, hawks, and lots of birds
- feral horses
- either a coyote puppy or a gray fox
- Oregon frog (it was tiny and brown in Willamette
I tweeted from our trip at @jayne_a_broad.
But as usual, I didn't blog from the trip, or post pictures during the trip,
because I like to be fully present on our trips. We took a cheap tablet for
the first time - we have always done everything via old-school maps and
hoped to find a camp site on the day we need it, but we thought the tablet
might help with reservations just before weekends, weather reports, and for
maps we didn't already have in paper form. In the end, it pretty much helped
only re: maps.
had been saying for a while that I needed a mesh motorcycle jacket, for the
incredibly hot weather we would encounter, and I had been resistant: it was
an expense I didn't want, and because I gained all the weight back I lost in
2011, I didn't feel like I deserved it. But then someone on a Facebook group
I'm on, for women that consider themselves ADV riders, said I would
absolutely need a mesh jacket and it was the final push I needed. I got an unbelievably
great deal on a Xelement 'CF-508' women's mesh armored jacket from Leather
Up - $50 for the jacket, and around $20 for rush shipping. The jacket
arrived the Thursday before our trip. I wanted neon green - I really, really
like to be SEEN on my bike. I would have chosen light gray. But they had
only one color: pink. I know, I'm just NOT pink. But there it is, at left,
at Arches National Park. Hate the color, but the purchase it was worth it -
I would have melted without it.
DAY ONE (Sunday)
We left early Sunday morning, a day later than we'd wanted, so that Stefan
could participate in Oregon's first ever state cornhole tournament. He
got knocked out in the first round, but gosh it was fun! We headed out
before 10 a.m. and I had mentally prepared myself for a horrible time riding
through the Columbia Gorge. I hate the Gorge. Oh, sure, it's pretty for
about 30 minutes, but the rest of the time, it's usually a windy mess with
crazed, speeding drivers and few places to easily pull over. Imagine our
shock at the calm weather and light traffic we encountered almost the entire
time! And my mesh jacket was already proving to be awesome - it's not cool
to wear just standing around, not at all, but once you are out riding - wow,
it's AMAZING in how it creates air flow!
We stopped for lunch at Charburger
in Cascade Locks, which is quite the local institution. As we were leaving,
I met an elderly lady who found my "I
am not a backrest" t-shirt quite amusing (she rode a motorcycle in her
younger days) and a guy came up to us to say he and his wife would be riding
to Banff soon, each on their own motorcycle. I LOVE meeting people
because of our motorcycles - they are almost always so dang nice!
road more than 350 miles that first day, trying to make it across the Idaho
border for our first night out camping. Hated it - it's all work and no fun.
We weren't quite at the border, but we were hot, tired, and ready to stop.
But we'd seen no camping signs, and our maps didn't give us any indication
that such was nearby. During our last riding break, we'd agreed that we'd
camp at the first place that allowed such - otherwise, we'd have to stay at
a hotel (sad face - never like doing that the first four days of a trip).
Just as we crossed into the Mountain Time Zone (per the sign on I-84), we
saw the sign for camping at Farewell
Bend Oregon State Park. HURRAH! And affter we exited the highway and
took the road for the park, we crossed BACK into the Pacific Time Zone.
As we waited to talk to the campground host (he was in his RV, talking on
the phone), we met a delightful fellow from Canada, originally from India,
who was on a sport bike and was on his way to the Salt Flats in Utah to see
how fast he could go. Bless his heart, he was totally unprepared for the
trip - no sleeping bag, no tent, no food, and about to run out of fuel. He'd
imagined doing the entire trip by hotel and credit card. The camp host let
him sleep in his car.
Oh, the camp host. Earl. LOVED Earl. He came out of his RV, looked at me and
said, "I've been waiting for you! Where have you been?!" Loved Earl. We were
also quite lucky: the campground had been completely full the day before.
We set up camp, for the first time in two years, and it was surprisingly
easy; I figured I would have forgotten everything, but we fell right into
our routine: we put the tent up together, I unroll the Therma-rests and let
them self-inflate over the next couple of hours inside, we unpack the bikes
and I organize the inside of the tent and get things ready outside to start
cooking supper while Stefan goes off for beer and ice. The nearest town to
the campground is no more: the gas station, hotel and other businesses have
long closed up. The small town of Huntington is less than 3 miles away, but
the only gas station/convenience store in town has very limited opening
hours - Stefan was able to get beer (really BAD beer), but no gas.
As we unpacked, I realized what I had forgotten: my Teva sandals. ARGH!
Sandals to wear around the camp site are a must.
I had studied my
packing list carefully before the trip, but I was probably actually
wearing the Tevas as I was packing. We decided I'd buy some cheap sandals in
Moab, since we expected to be there for 3 nights or so. The other things I
forgot: finger nail clippers and my beloved Swiss Army knife, which I used
to carry absolutely EVERYWHERE, all the time, before September 2011.
The mosquitoes were out in force, eating up Stefan. He has to coat himself
in repellant every evening, and even then, he gets bitten. He should be
studied by scientists, truly. And as a result of his attraction to bugs, I
rarely get bitten.
Our Canadian friend joined us after dinner - I didn't realize then that he
didn't have any food, or I would have insisted he join us. During our
conversation, he talked about this really cool thing he'd been doing online:
through the United Nations
Online Volunteering service. I nearly fell off the picnic table bench!
I don't think he believed me when I told him I used to run it! (side note: PLEASE
buy my book!).
We didn't stay up much past 10 p.m. The wind picked up a few times in the
night, waking us up and making us wonder if it would rain and if we needed
to put on the rain fly. The large pickups on US Highway 30 (Bus) to
Huntington also kept us up a few times. But it mostly felt so wonderful to
finally be sleeping in a tent again!
DAY TWO (Monday)
The next morning, we treated ourselves to scrambled eggs - for some reason,
I cook them better over our MSR
camp stove than at home. Our Canadian friend joined us later, and when
I realized at last that he didn't have any food, I insisted he eat an orange
we'd brought. Stefan also gave him some gas - he wasn't sure he could make
it to Ontario, Idaho otherwise. Sadly, I couldn't share our coffee with him
- he didn't have a cup.
What would make this and other state park camp sites oh-so-much better?
I write that on EVERY camping comment card, FYI.
- Hooks next to the sink. So people can hang towels or their toiletry
- A dishwashing station. Just a sink, outdoors, where tent campers could
wash their dishes.
- A covered area for tent campers to cook when it rains.
We talked to some of the fishermen at the camp site who had won the recent
carp fishing festival on the nearby Snake River, and then we headed out back
onto I-84. We hate interstates, but if we wanted to spend a majority of our
time on US Highways, state roads and county roads in Utah and Nevada on this
trip, we had to be on such for the first two days, at least. Geesh but I
hated it. We did stop again soon after starting that morning, at the
official Idaho visitor's center in Ontario, because I really like to stop at
those - they usually are well-stocked with brochures, and while we did bring
the cheap tablet on this trip, there's just nothing better than a
traditional, paper brochure. Added bonus: this rest stop was staffed by an
oh-so-helpful volunteer! Tourism volunteers are THE BEST.
What can I tell you about that day's ride? Traffic, speed, heat. Ugh. And
after lunch, some guy pretending he was really interested in our bikes but
turned out to want to sell us something. I HATE THAT. I do not want to hear
about your religion nor your nutritional supplements! I was pleased that
Burger King has free wireless - made it easy to check the whether and what
not. But not our email - both because of security and because we were on
We eventually crossed into Utah, and then turned onto I-15. Going through
Salt Lake City was WRETCHED - so much traffic, so much speed, five lanes of
chaos, nothing to see from the highway and too much craziness to look at
anything anyway. Hated hated hated it. Another day of well over 350 miles -
I hate that kind of riding, but it's what you have to do sometimes early in
a trip to get where you need to go so you can actually start ENJOYING the
I'm not sure if I saw the billboards only in Idaho or also in Utah... but I
saw these billboards that had wind mills on them. The first one I saw, I
thought, of course, that it was a pro-wind energy billboard. But then I saw
the words on another: "Wind Development, not the oldest profession, but the
result is the same." Huh?!? Yes, that's right: there's some "nonprofit" out
there, probably made up of two people (the Koch brothers), arguing AGAINST
wind energy. Sigh... only saw one anti-UN sign, which was MASSIVE - the sign
used to say something else (bowling alley? casino?). So sorry I didn't get a
We camped that night at Little
Cottonwood Campground inside Willard
Bay State Park in the Fishlake
National Forest. We picked a camp site, then moved to another when we
realized just how close I-15 was. The camp site was quite empty except for a
few other campers and one large group of folks near the water. I walked to
the camp hosts site, and there sat the husband on top of a huge boat outside
his camper. I said, "So, you're a Captain in search of water?" He said,
"Hey, the tide IS coming in soon! Watch out!" I love camp hosts. The camp
ground was blanketed in "cotton" from the cottonwood trees, and it was
"snowing" every time the wind blew, but the camp host told me that it would
get much thicker in a few weeks. Stefan went out for beer - and found that
the nearby town of Bringham City does not sell beer. But another town did.
And this time, it was decent beer - Shock Top Belgian White.
DAY THREE (Tuesday)
The next morning, it was back to the Interstate, where we parked almost
immediately. Luckily, the traffic jam didn't last long (a truck ran off the
road). And then, after more than 700 miles, at long last, we left the
Interstate (and a very profound stink - I think there's a pig farm nearby),
around Spanish Fork. We stopped at a stop light after leaving the highway,
and Stefan looked over and said "The vacation begins NOW." We were onto the
winding state road 6 and then 191, through Price, Utah, stopping for a very
mediocre lunch at a Mexican restaurant. Price depressed me. I always wonder
what kind of hopes and dreams the kids have in such isolated cities.
it was on to Cleveland-Lloyd
Dinosaur Quarry. It's less than five miles of EASY dirt and gravel to
the site. And the site? I thought there would just be an information board
and some brochures at the end of the road, with a map pointing at empty
plains. WRONG! There was a very nice visitor's center and two BLM guys
staffing the site who were beyond awesome: friendly, SO knowledgeable, and
really happy to talk to us. It's so nice to encounter people that WANT to do
their jobs! We had a nice conversation about Cosmos, John
Day Fossil Beds, the horrific Creation Museum in my home-state of
Kentucky (shameful!), and so much more. Sadly, we were just the seventh and
eighth visitors of the entire day and just one hour until closing! The
quarry is fascinating: it contains
the largest, most dense concentration of Jurassic-aged dinosaur bones ever
found. More than 12,000 bones, belonging to at least 74 individual
dinosaurs, have been excavated at the quarry. How did the carcasses of so
many animals end up in one place, and why are most of them meat-eaters? If
you have ever seen Jurassic fossils in any museum in the world, it is very
likely they came from here. In addition to the exhibits, there's terrific
hiking all around. The only thing it needs is some handson activities for
kids and a little film to watch. But otherwise, WELL DONE, BLM!! You make me
proud of my country, again and again.
We left and headed back for Price for gas, and encountered horrific wind -
the worst I'd ever had on the KLR. It was horrible. Little did I know that
it was just a taste of things to come... At the gas station, I saw a guy
pull into the parking lot on a totally tricked out motorcycle and that I
thought had just had a horrific motorcycle accident - in fact, he has brain
cancer. He's from Knoxville, had done an Iron Butt ride to meet up with a
friend, and said he was "taking this trip to clear my head." Delightful guy
- may he have a wonderful trip. I had been super whiny about pushing on to
Moab, but after meeting him, I cowgirled up majorly and we headed out.
were in Moab by 8 p.m., and it meant we had all of the next day to do
nothing but explore! We ended up staying at the Moab
Valley RV Resort and Campground. I had kinda wanted a cabin there, but
that late and with no reservation, we took what they had - which was an
uncovered camp site (others have large canvas awnings over them). And who
did we see at the office also checking in late? Our Canadian friend from
earlier in the trip! He had headed to Moab after going to the Salt Flats
because we had said it was such a great place to visit!
The camp site was full, but ultra quiet that night, except for the traffic
on US Highway 191 - there's no getting away from that. And what a view! No
mosquitoes, but the midges filled in well to harass Stefan.
DAY FOUR (Wednesday)
Rain was threatening. We should have ignored it, trusted the weather
forecast and scrambled to get out to Arches National Park as early as
possible, but we dawdled over the weather uncertainty. By the time we
realized there would be no rain and we got into Arches National Park, it was
already 9 a.m., and very hot - and getting hotter. I also realized the park
has no amenities - you have to bring in all of your own food and water. We
hadn't brought any food. So we stopped at just a couple of sites, then drove
all the way to the end of the park, to the Devil's Garden Trailhead, and hiked
out to look at an arch. It was a nice hike - of course I gabbed with
all sorts of folks, and we couldn't believe how much it all looked like
came back to our bikes, drove out of the park and back to our camp site,
where we loaded up on some food and more water, then went back into the park
and to the 7.7 mile/12.4 km Salt Vally trail, which the park ranger at the
visitor's center said we should have no trouble doing on our dual sport
motorcycles. For more than two miles, she was right, and I was chuffed to be
doing my very first real
off-the-main-road motorcycling. But then we got to the Salt Vally Wash, and
it wasn't just a short sand crossing - the
sand went on and on. Stefan gave it a try, and I watched him slip a
few times as he went off down the road/wash. I can't just put my foot down
to keep my motorcycle upright on sand - if it slips, it's going over. So,
begrudgingly, we turned around and headed back to the main road. It was
threatening rain... but it never did.
You may notice in the photos from Arches and, later, from Canyonlands, that
I wasn't wearing my biker pants. Normally, I am ATGATT - all the gear, all
the time. But it was so incredibly, oppressively hot, that we decided to
wear all of our motorcycle gear except for the pants - I wore my hiking
pants instead. It's a tough call, but I didn't want to collapse from the
heat or be so uncomfortable I couldn't move as necessary. Also, we would be
going usually around 25 miles per hour only on these two days. If you want
to judge me, fine - but don't bother with the email of judgement. I'll feel
your disapproval through the Interwebs.
At one point during the day, I met people from Kentucky. I cannot tell you
how freakin' rare this is. I meet people from all over the world when I
travel to US National Parks and National Monuments, and I meet people from a
lot of different states, but few from the South - particularly, Kentucky.
And it depresses me - people from Kentucky just don't travel. So many think
it's a waste of time and money - and have told me so, point blank. This
couple from Kentucky was LOVING their cross-country trip. I was so happy for
Before supper, we managed to pop by the Dollar General Store south of town
and I bought $6 flip flops, and met some terrific guys down from Canada on
their motorcycles, staying at the economy motel across the street. We
lamented later: why aren't those kind of people ever staying where we are?
We'd so love to socialize with other motorcyclists, but it just never seems
to happen much.
I also lamented having so little time to write in my journal. I don't write
big long narratives when we're on a trip, but I like to write an entire page
of bullet points, to help me write my travelogue later. There was rarely any
time to do it - we were busy from sun up to sun down. I was hoping that,
later in the trip, we'd have time to just sit out, relax, watch a sunset,
and read or let me write.
That night, probably around midnight, we were awakened by six or seven fully
tricked out jeeps that came in very late. It wasn't enough that they came in
so late - they had to start various jeeps over and over to move them a few
times, and in the morning, we saw why - they had set up hammocks between the
jeeps, and they had to be parked "just so." They also talked and talked and
talked - never mind everyone around them trying to sleep. Little did I know
it wouldn't be the first time on this trip I hated jeep drivers... I just
hate camping people that don't realize that we are all pretty much in one
big bedroom. If someone listens to the radio, talks, cooks, even whispers,
in your bedroom, you hear it. Plus, it's Moab: everyone is turning in early
because they are going to get up super early to beat the heat for whatever
it is they have planned for that day. ARGH.
DAY FIVE (Thursday)
It was a cooler day than Wednesday. Hurrah! After breakfast, we headed North
on 191, and well before Arches, turned left on state road 279, towards
Potash. The road runs along the Colorado River and the canyon, and has
stopping points to view some really
outstanding petroglyphs, some
of the best I've ever seen, as well as dinosaur tracks - something I've
NEVER seen before. Our goal: take Potash Road the back way into Canyonlands
National Park, and then up Shafer
I was nervous. This would be my most ambitious, longest, most-challenging
off road ride ever. Stefan said many times, "If you feel it's too hard,
stop, and we'll either turn around or I'll ride your bike over the hard part
and you can hike it." And I took him at his word - but feared getting to a
point where I couldn't simply stop, because the road was too steep and
because I couldn't get proper foot placement to hold the bike up or there
was no where to park and let traffic go by. But I also REALLY wanted to
finally do a road that cars can't do - it's what my bike is built to do.
We stopped at Potash Boat Ramp/parking lot/picnic area, and while Stefan was
in the pit toilet, I had a look at the info board. And there was a photo
from the top of Shafer
Switchbacks, which would be at the end of our route on dirt - we would
be going up it rather than down it. The series of steep, dirt switchbacks
climb around 1000 feet. Severe drop offs. And right then and there, I should
have said "no." Stefan came over and I pointed to the photo. I guess because
it's famous in the area, and an obviously well-packed road, that Stefan was
so enthusiastic that I could do it. And as for why I pressed on - I can't
really say. I knew I could say no, part of me wanted to say no, and I
the picnic area, the road immediately
became very difficult. First, a climb on rocks known as "baby heads," then
red, smooth rocks that look oh-so-slick, and some turns that felt difficult
to me. And then a mix - sometimes gravel, sometimes big, packed rocks,
sometimes a little shale, sometimes rocks that were a bit like steps, and in
between it all, smooth, red rocks. But somehow, I did it all just fine, and
just when I needed a rest, a nice flat space would appear where we could
stop and I could celebrate, as well as take in the gorgeous scenery of
valleys and huge walls of red sandstone. Every time I road a difficult bit,
I felt exhilarated. It was fun! Scary, but fun! But there was one question
dogging me: was I successfully navigating this road through luck or through
skill? That's been my question a lot lately, as we've tried various, more
complicated roads. I've done them successfully, but I always wonder - did I
do that right because I got lucky, or was it because of my abilities?
We passed the huge TexasGulf Potash ponds, which sometimes had spilled over
and created a bit of mud on the otherwise dry road, but nothing I couldn't
handle. In case you were wondering: potash
means salts that contain potassium in water-soluble form. The word potassium
is derived from potash. Potash,
especially potassium carbonate, has been used since the dawn of history in
bleaching textiles, making glass, in making soap, and in making soil
was shocked to see something called Thelma and Louise Point on one of the
information boards, and then realized that the final scene of that beloved
movie wasn't filmed at the Grand Canyon - it was filmed below Dead Horse
Point in Utah. It was a thrill to see it in person myself, via my own
motorcycle. Two four-wheel drive pick ups had caught up with us at the
information board, both with women in the passenger seats, both of whom
urged me on. We met up with them again at Thelma and Louise Point, and they
were just as encouraging. I was NOT feeling unstoppable or invincible, not
at all, but I was feeling confident. This is what I had been training for
for more than a year.
saw an ATV in the distance, and it's the only way we knew where to go next,
as there was another road right along the rim (NO!). We headed over to where
the ATV had been and kept going, then the
road took a scary curve at a sheer drop off that Harlan back at the
campground had warned me about - Stefan
took a photo of it after we were well passed it. Oh, how I hated it.
And how thankful I was that no cars were coming from the other way.
The road enters Canyonlands National Park not far from the White Rim Road.
You are out in the middle of nowhere - NO WHERE - and there's a sign telling
you the entry prices for the park. It feels surreal. There's also a sign
telling you that only those under 18 have to wear a helmet, which, when I
saw it, I thought, "Only a fool would not wear a helmet on this road."
We stopped at a
gorgeous little overhang that allowed us to pull off the road to give
others plenty of room to pass and to give us some shade. It was a perfect
spot to hydrate and get mentally prepared for what was soon to come: the Shafer
Switchbacks. We talked about what we would do after the switchbacks:
go to the park visitor's center and then just do easy, paved roads for the
rest of the day.
We started back up the road.... continued in
few photos (Stefan will have far more later this week); sadly, I've
had to switch back to Flickr. Still looking for a good replacement for photo
hosting (I hate how Flickr looks like someone dumped a bunch of photos on a
Tips for Women: Getting Started as a
Motorcycle Rider (just to ride, not necessarily to travel as well)
Return to the broads abroad home page
For Women Who Travel By Motorcycle
(or want to)
Advice for Women
Motorcycle Travelers: Packing
Advice for Women Motorcycle
Travelers: Transportation and Accommodations Choices
From Oregon to the "Lost Coast" of
Northern California (Horizons Unlimited 2010 California meeting) -
Oh, Canada...Two-Week Canada/USA Tour by
Motorcycles (Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Alberta,
Montana, Idaho) - September 2010
Oregon, Idaho, Yellowstone, &
More - June 2011
Lake, Oregon 2011 (photos only)
camping trip in Eastern Oregon, May 2012 (weekend before Memorial
Pinchot National Forest / Southern Washington State, July 2012,
two 1/2 days, 322 miles.
California, Nevada, Southwestern Oregon, September 2012
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