It's morning again in Marina. The evening was short and the patience with poor old Rudi this morning has run short. Marina is a small town - not much to see or do and not much in the way of motorcycle repair shops. We will be out of here shortly but Rudi still refuses to fire up. We need to act now. Bump starting everyday is not sustainable and we want to enjoy the ride and the trip without any hiccups from the bikes. Andrew removes the battery from Rudi as this is the obvious culprit in this scenario and we locate a near-ishby Napa Auto Parts store - we bought our chain lube and cleaner from one store in Panguitch so we have a pretty good idea of what they stock, plus they are always recommended to us from fellow biking travellers. The nearest store is in Castroville which is 6.5 miles away from Marina.
Now we are not early birds, we like to take our time in the morning and with the days being long and light, we feel there is absolutely no reason to rush. It's getting close to check out time at the Motel, so I buy us another free hour of time to enable Sir Galahad to take my steed - Marta off to Napa in Castroville to fetch a new battery.
Galahad returns about 40 minutes later with a new battery which he bought actually just down the block, in Marina! Napa Auto Parts in Castroville did not have the required model of battery so on his way back, the knight in not much riding armour passes an Auto Zone store just down the road from the motel, wanders in, shows the battery, does a battery check and miracles do happen, they have the correct battery in stock. Success! With only minutes to go, we bail ourselves and our stuff out of the room, install the fresh battery, push Rudi's button, and with baited breath, boom! he fires up instantly. Nice! It's great, such a small but totally smile and relief making moment. We hastily get packed up and leave Marina via the T-Mobile shop to sort out another pesky task of getting the service back onto my phone. This is also easily rectified albeit by spending a few more dollars and then as we do know the way to San Jose, we decide that's where we'll go.
Now we were going to visit a connection I have in Salinas, but due to my phone being out of service for the past days we have decided to just go straight to San Jose due to connectivity being halted. Just outside the T-Mobile shop, I receive a message from my connection, then a call. She can come over to Marina to visit us which is fine, but then we figure that it's better to go to San Jose via Salinas, that way, my connection doesn't need to move, we'll go to her and see another town and move on from there.
We pass lots of farms and fields on the way to Salinas which is very pretty and industrious in an old-fashioned kind of way. We meet my connection, Gail for lunch, which is an unusual 'treat' for us and she tells us all about her husband Juan who works at the Salinas speedway track and is a total motor-head (petrol-head). Juan is very much involved in the motor sports industry and is busy with the Monterey Car Week events but it would be great if we could meet. We are invited to Gail's lovely home and have the grand tour and we're taken to the garage where Juan's Confederate motorcycle lives. I have never seen such a machine before and it looks like something from a sci-fi movie which is actually what they have been used for in the movie industry. There is also a red electric Curtiss there being safely stored. Amazing machines. Though it doesn't appear that we will get to meet Juan and get a demo. He's too busy with Car week to get away before we roll on.
Then Paul turns up. Paul is the PR man for Curtiss motorcycles and is clearly loving the products, the clients and the merchandise and the life that goes with it. Celebrity clients and Juan alike and the joy he has in delivering these bikes to his clients seeing the happiness they bring into people's lives. Crazy! Paul very kindly donates us a his 'n' hers Curtiss t-shirt each and we all have sunny hugs and back peddle our modest little Enfields off the driveway and head off to San Jose. What a lovely day! Totally unexpected, but aren't these the best ones?
After a few days now on the road and one night stops, we head to sunny San Jose to Andrew's nephew's home. It's time for a little rest now - a welcome couple of nights bedding down with transatlantic family. Home sweet home :-)
Waking up in Bakersfield and the temperature is still hot but cooler than the desert. Baking in Bakersfield. We're moving on to cooler climate and to the coast today. Just want to add here that we are a few days behind in sending these blog entries out due to the time the travelling takes up and the fact that when we arrive at a destination, we need decompression time for eating, showering, sleeping and arranging onward accommodation. We are in the peak of holiday season and finding places to stay in the places we want to visit within budget is a major task in itself.
The Himalayans are loaded, we're ready to roll and AJ fires up Rudi (Andrew has given the black Himalayan a name) and.........no start! We took it for granted the bike would start this morning for some reason, but Rudi has to be bump started again, fully loaded and from a vertical take-off. He does it again (hero!) and gains admiring approval from one of Bill's (our Airbnb host in Bakersfield) employees. By the way, our accommodation was opposite Bill's fully functioning plastics factory.
With Rudi running, we roll onwards towards our next destination in Morro Bay which is about 137miles. Getting out of Bakersfield is slightly tedious on Highway 58. We climb up through the Temblor Mountain range and do a spot of in-motion filming to amuse ourselves. Not really safe riding practice but there's practically no-one else on the road but us. There's a sweet little area of bends and sweeps before we arrive in Morro Bay and check in to our motel for the night.
We experience again a change in temperature. Much cooler along the Pacific Coast. Morro Bay is a pleasant surprise. It's a beautiful little bay - very nautical in nature and we're able to let the bikes rest for the evening while we use our feet to explore the bayside. It feels good to have everything within walking distance. We finally make a champagne (one glass each) toast to the fact we made it and have survived the journey so far still smiling.
In the morning it's the same old ritual. Brekkie, get geared and load up, start the bikes. Again, Rudi is not starting. He fires up and then blacks out. Andrew gets a push start from a kind fellow guest, idles the engine and then it cuts out again. Urrrrrr.........A stroke of fortune is that our Motel is at the top of a decently steep hill. Roll start instead of a bump start today. And on the relatively short 137 miles to Marina this keeps happening.
The route to Marina from Morro Bay follows Highway 1. Highway 1 had been previously closed (Bakersfield Bill informed us of the closure) due to a landslide. A bit of research informs us that it reopened a week ago, so we're good to go. Google Maps still haven't updated the reopening of the route yet. We have a short stop at William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach and a walk along the pier to breathe in a bit of Pacific Ocean Air. Rudi is still not starting up. Another roll start and back on the road up towards Big Sur. About 10 miles back into the journey, we hit a queue of traffic. There is nothing moving in front of us. As Rudi is clearly not starting without being rolled or bumped, waiting in traffic with a chugging engine is not an option. As we realise the traffic is not going anywhere and others vehicles that are turning around are telling us that it could be up to a 4 hour wait for the traffic to get moving again, we decide to take a chance and override the queue to the point at where the problem begins. The perks of having a two-wheeled vehicle :-)
As we climb, there are people freely walking up and down leisurely enjoying the sunny environment while waiting for the road to open up again. It's ironic, the road which just recently opened after a landslide has become, effectively, a closed road again.
As we continue upwards, we pass many 'exotic' cars such as Ferraris, Lamborghinis and more in their dozens, on their way to Monterey for car week. We had no idea it was car week before planning our route to Marina but discovered that hotels, motels and every other accommodation was practically fully booked.
We finally have to stop when we see the Highway Patrol car and officer. We encounter another jolly Highway cop who tells us a truck with a over-long trailer somehow didn't read the vehicle length limits on the Big Sur road and toppled over when it hit the first tight bend. The vehicle and drivers had apparently been there since 10:30am. We hit the black spot at about 2pm. Thankfully the rescue team had arrived and were in the final of stages of uprighting the vehicle again and the waiting time for the road block to clear is not so long. A few other motorcyclists join us. A Canadian couple on their Harley Davidson Road King and then two gentlemen, one from California and the other from the British Virgin Islands. It's turned into a bit of a biker hangout at this point.
The road block finally clears and we are able to enjoy the rest of the bendy, windy route between Big Sur and the Pacific Ocean (Rudi got a roll start again - good universal fortune this misbehaviour from Rudi has occurred while we are in mountainous zones). We make a small detour to enquire about some fabled hot spring resorts in the area and get caught up in traffic again. We're on a no-overtaking road and have joined the convoy of exotic cars on a road with road works all the way down to Marina. What should have been a short journey and a reasonably short day has turned into a day longer than anticipated. After dinner, Rudi has to be push started again to get him back to the motel in Marina.
And so the road trip continues.........It's 11am and we are ready to vacate the Europa Hotel (run by a very charming Indian couple) in Ridgecrest. Not much reason to stay in Ridgecrest except for a clean bed, food, shower for the night. It's in the midst of desert land in the Indian Wells Valley in northeastern Kern County and lies adjacent to Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. Yes, time to move on and catch the scent of the ocean.
Bags packed, luggage loaded, keys in ignition. Marta starts, but the black Himalayan decides to go on strike. Not a good start to the day and in fact no start at all. We may be spending another night in Ridgecrest after all. The bike has to be unloaded, and AJ makes a few simple checks. It seems we have a battery problem. The bike will bump start, but it only gives one chance to get get going. If that chance is squandered, it has to be bumped again. If the bump doesn't work, then it's going to have to be a jump start.
Our charming Indian host has only been running the hotel for 2 months and has no tools, no jump leads but suggests the neighbours across the road may be able to help. Andrew wanders over. Apparently there are lots of discouraging notices to keep unwanted visitors at bay at this house but the key to our problem is they have a Honda CB750-4 parked outside. Can they help, will they help? Next thing is the Honda is fired up and the whole neighbourhood is vibrating from the noise from the pipes. Over they come and link the leads to both bikes. the noise really is deafening.
Anyway, the Enfield fires into action once again, and I am left with the neighbour while Andrew spins the Enfield round the block to get the engine chugging again. On his return we thank the nice man from across the way and he donates his jump leads to us. Again, amazingly helpful people here. Astounding. Once again re-loaded with luggage, we begin our departure from Ridgecrest to Bakersfield.
It's a relatively short day's riding and Andrew has chosen a nice route which willl take us around Lake Isabella and through the Kern Valley. We ride around 12 miles of Interstate 395 up to Inyokern and then take Route 178 to Bakersfield which will total around 112 miles. We ride through Chevron's oil mines, of which there are miles and miles and miles of. There are nodding donkeys everywhere. Needless to say Chevron is the most popular brand of gas in the state of California and we are riding through the source of it.
It's a pretty uneventful days riding, it's hot still, which we like, and we're quite possibly still decompressing from the previous day's ride through Death Valley.
We approach Lake Isabella which is a pretty uninspiring Lake. The water levels are low and the surface looks a bit scrubby. We were hoping it may be a place we could have stopped and taken a dip into, but it looks not very enticing, so we continue through to Kernville, stop, have a breather and a drink of water, eat some fruit and back in the saddle again to Bakersfield.
We almost circumnavigate the whole of the Lake and leaving it behind we ride beside the Kern River which feeds the lake. The river is popular for rafting but we find a road which leads to a quiet river bank and decide to plunge our hot and sticky buns into the cool water. How refreshing. A group of two raft loads of people on a rafting tour pass by and stop to deliberately splash us, which was absolutely fine. After the desert, the water was totally welcome - splash as much as you like.
That was a highlight to what could have been an underwhelming journey. Then we straddle the bikes once more to complete the journey and another surprise is just around the corner, and another corner, and another and another and another...........We ride through the Walker Pass in the Kern Valley which is one dreamy bend after another and the bends are flowing sweetly and smoothly. Such a pleasurable route along highway 178. Scenic, hilly and bendy.
We reach Bakersfield and check into Bill's Airbnb which is in a rather run down area of the city but apparently no crime or violence. Just a few derelicts with shopping carts and good manners. Bill is a very hospitable host with a very chatty manner and he leaves us for the night with his adopted pit bull cross (who has a nasty open cyst on his front left wrist) who is the sweetest and softest dog you could care to meet. We find a place to eat, bed down for the night and have a peaceful night's rest in our vintage studio for one night in Bakersfield before we move towards the Pacific coast.
We found what was going to be a familiar friend in St George - the Howard Johnson (HoJo to those who are familiar with him) Wyndham motel. It's a chain of reasonably priced motels which are perfect for a comfortable overnight stop. People have been asking if we are camping as well as riding. The temptation to spend a night or two under the stars is somewhat overshadowed by the fact that we are travelling 'rough'. Sleeping 'rough' would require carrying tent and camping equipment and frankly, we are carrying enough as it is and let's face it, the idea of a hot shower, meal and a bed with clean sheets after a day in the saddle is somewhat an easier and more tempting option. We have another 4 weeks of riding to do so we are looking after ourselves.
The town of St George is clean and friendly but it wasn't a place we needed to spend more than a night in. We stocked up with a good supply of water - the temperatures are rising - and loaded up ready to hit Vegas.
The plan was to get to Vegas riding on as little interstate highway as possible and without going the entirely no interstate route of 5 hours of desert roads.
We do about 30 miles of interstate 15 from St George to Littlefield and then a little introduction to desert terrain on highway 170 through to Mesquite and Bunkerville. As we pass through Littlefield and stop in Mesquite for a short break the milage passes the 1000 mile barrier and Andrew asks me if there is something else I have noticed on the way. We have left the state of Utah and are now in the state of Arizona. In crossing the state boundary, we have also crossed a time zone and have gone back in time by one hour!
We hop back on the interstate 15 for another 30 miles (not too bad as the road is pretty clear in this part of the state) and then we join up with highway 169 which will take us through the desert, Logandale, past Lake Mead and up to the 'back door' of Vegas. This will take us into the state of Nevada.
Riding the desert roads is what we considered 'living the dream'. Roads which are pretty much spare of traffic; fresh, warm air; being able to see far into the distance; not having to wear bulky protective clothing and the vaguest chance of encountering Wile 'E' Coyote and Roadrunner - meep meep! No complaints from us about the heat. In fact, bring it on!
Essentials for riding in the desert are: plentiful amounts of water, sunscreen, fruit and a couple of pickled cucumbers. We made sure we had lots of stops, albeit without anywhere to shelter from the heat, but being British, we are sadly lacking in vitamin D so this was a good chance to indulge and absorb.
Seeing Vegas appear across the horizon was something. Vegas is a major landmark for us. The ride through the desert was an unexpected pleasure, and although we were glad to see Vegas looming closer, we would be even more glad to see the back of it after two nights there.
We booked the tackiest looking hotel on the block. The selling point of the hotel for me was the ice rink in the hotel building and the tackiness of it all didn't disappoint. The rest of Vegas is basically underwhelming, more vast than can ever be imagined, and a sad and desperate hole of solitude, iniquity and squandering. Great if you are into gambling, otherwise, forget it.
We visited Boulder City and the Hoover Dam in searing temperatures of 43 degrees Celcius/110 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot hot and hot! An amazing feat of human construction - many construction workers lost their lives - no doubt to the ill effects of the heat. It was originally opened in 1936 as the Boulder Dam, and then changed to the Hoover Dam (after president Herbert Clark Hoover) in 1947. The art deco design touches still look almost as fresh as they did back in the 1930's.
We head back to the Fiesta Casino Hotel after an Ethiopian meal and make use of the ice rink to cool down. The skating was fun. Mostly people falling over - us included, but a refreshing and happier way to say farewell to Vegas.
We could have gone to the strip to sit in front of the Bellagio Fountains or to marvel at the spectacle of lights and swanky hotels and casinos, but neither of our hearts were in it. Riding through the streets of Vegas isn't fun and definitely not worth the time and effort to see a load of neon. We called it a night and a weekend and vowed to get up early in the morning to get the hell outa there. Viva Las Vegas! Hasta la vista Vegas!
Waking up feeling refreshed and eager to leave the smog and seediness of Las Vegas to embark on what will be the hottest ride of our lives. We've been monitoring the weather forecasts and temperature recordings for Death Valley - most folk think we are bonkers for even thinking about riding through the desert - most reports are giving us cooler temperature readings than Las Vegas, so we decide to jump on it and make the 245 mile journey from Vegas to Ridgecrest where we have another motel booked for the night. Besides, it can't be any worse than Vegas can it?
We make a stop before we even get out of the Las Vegas boundary (it's HUGE folks) at a gas station and receive more admiration and attention from some fellow two wheeler steelers. If you want to make friends, get yourself a Himalayan! People will stop you and ask questions. These babies are attractive to bike-friendly folk and you'll never be short of curious admirers wherever you go.
We stop again at Parump which is on route 160 and we have now entered the state of California. There are billboards advertising where to buy Cannabis on the way to Parump, so it's worth a stop to venture into a Cannabis 'dispensary' and buy a couple of edibles. Why not? It's legal!
We continue to Death Valley Junction where we join route 190. This is place looks deserted but the Amaragosa Opera House is the main and perhaps only feature of this place which is worth a stop in its own right. We stop in the only place offering a slither of shelter which is the Marta Becket Museum. Marta was an artiste and found her calling at Death Valley Junction, made it her home and thrived and found her expression by founding the Amaragosa Opera. I liked the sound of Marta and so christened the white Enfield 'Marta' in honour of this lady. It fits.
Once we are in Death Valley we notice the temperature gauges going up and up and up. The bike gauges record 133 Fahrenheit. That's not accurate as the gauges on the Enfields are above the engine so this adds to the true heat reading. But it wasn't that far off. If we'd had raw eggs with us we could have fried them and possibly burned them! We stop and get off the bikes to walk up to Zabriskie Point where the film of the same name was shot. It's hot. Very hot. Andrew tells me there's the Devil's Golf Course en route to Stovepipe Wells, but there's no time for golf today. We ride through points where we are 280ft below sea level and there are warm gusts blowing through the whole journey. It's like opening an oven door and receiving a hot blast of air and this is perhaps the cause of the gusts. Heat gusts? We don't see any other evidence of wind blowing, but then again there's not much to signify the movement of wind. We just put it down to the heat.
We arrive at Stovepipe Wells - a welcome break with overly priced refreshments and they even charged us for ice. The heat is extreme. I never normally have ice in my drinks, but today is an extraordinary exception. I catch a guy taking a picture of something above the door of the gift shop at Stovepipe Wells - there's a dial thermometer there and the reading is 120 degrees Fahrenheit/50 degrees Celcius and this is in the shade. Pretty hot!
At Stovepipe Wells we see a few cars wearing very fancy covers and some techie guys carrying silver cases which look like they contain heavy technlogical elements. Andrew tells me these are test vehicles and they are covered and concealed to protect their identity before being tested and revealed to the public. They are certainly getting tested in these conditions. So are the Enfields. The air cooled engines are being put to the extremest of tests. There is no air to cool them and they literally are panting in these conditions, but on they roll and so far they have not disappointed us at all.
We get back in the hot saddles and plod back on the road and it's still 97 miles to our destination. We leave route 190 and take route 178 after travelling 30 miles from Stovepipe Wells and it's still another 67 miles of nothingness. No trees, no towns, no shelter, only sun and dust and a few other sporadic cars. I'm keeping a close watch for any impending dust devils that might appear on the horizon, this is the kind of terrain that forms these nasty critters. The constant strong gusts are causing me to hang on and the road is seemingly endless.
We stop and have water and a pickled cucumber. After the mini pit stop, a few miles up the road, there is a Highway Patrol car parked in the road. We have to stop again. The reason for the road block is there is some filming going on round the mountain. Vehicle commercial. Perhaps one of the test vehicles we had seen at Stovepipe Wells? Anyway, we hang out with the Highway Patrol cop and he's a friendly and very human chap - applying his sunscreen from a family sized bottle for the 3rd time in the day and having general chattiness about the bikes and other random subjects. There are 4 other vehicles lined up behind us as we are given the go-ahead after about 20 minutes to move on.
We still have a way to go. We stop once again at a 'forgotten' town called Trona to give the Enfields a good gulp of gas and then another 25 miles to Ridgecrest. When we hit Ridgecrest we are lost, it's not a large town, but clearly big enough to get lost in. The sat nav is taking us down a dust road to our motel which is not where we need to be, so we have to employ the humans at Denny's family restaurant to help us out. Which they do and again, we are so bowled over by the way the people in this country will go out of their way to help and be hospitable. Thank you Denny's staff :-)
We check in, and find a place to eat on a Sunday, just in the nick of time. 8pm is closing time for restaurants in Ridgecrest on Sundays and we manage to get fed and watered. All good :-)
A final trip to a grocery store in Ridgecrest before we hang up our boots for the night leads us to another fellow motorcyclist in the parking lot who gives us fair warning that we need to wear our helmets. We are now in the state of California. Some laws they are relaxed about and others not, apparently. So, it's helmets on from now on and a sheepish helmet-less ride back to our motel.
After a good three day stop-over in Brian Head cooling down in the mountain air we're heading to St George via Zion National park to stay for the evening before we head off into the desert. We pass through Dixie National forest, which is populated with Pines and deer. We take some lower altitude breath at Duck Creek, stop the bikes and park up for a short while. A white-haired man approaches us and has a delighted look on his face. He's come to ask us about the bikes. We've been on the road now for a few days and whenever we make a stop, we are approached by someone or other who either knows the Royal Enfield brand, or is just curious as to what we are riding - probably because the Himalayans remind them of their first dirt bike, or just because they are groovy looking machines. Whenever we are approached, the camaraderie between us as humans is cordial and friendly. I can't say enough positive things about the people in this country. We are developing a huge respect for the amount of adventurous souls that are out here on the roads with us, enjoying the nature and the landscape. It's very refreshing to see that adventure still lives on out here.
After exiting Dixie National Park and well on the way to the 'gates' of Zion, we leave Mount Carmel behind us and watch the temperature gauges rise. It's not until we actually reach the entrance to the Zion National Park that the sun makes an appearance and we start to feel warm again.
Riding through Zion National Park is an amazing experience. Andrew and my jaws were dropping at every bend and twist on the way to the canyon. It's like another planet. The colours, the textures, the sheer heights and dips and peaks and surfaces are all mesmerising and the road bends and twists and it's not really possible to stop and take pictures. Vehicle speeds are restricted to 30mph maximum which is good as this is not a place to rush through.
We reach what is for us unauthorised vehicles, the end of the road. The road up to the canyon can only be accessed by special permit holders or shuttle buses. A fellow motorcyclist is alighting one of the shuttle buses and gives us some info as to what's up in the canyon. So we hop on a bus and take it all the way to the top.
By now the desert heat is apparent. We are still in riding gear - boots, jeans and t-shirts. It's no time to be hiking, but if ever we return to the USA, Zion is a place that should be explored more extensively. There are so many hikes - Angels Landing and The Narrows are just a couple to note and there are horse-riding trails up to the Emerald Lake. It will take more than a day or two to even touch the sides.
We get just a sip of this magnificent marvel of nature before we head off in the direction of St George where we have a motel booked for the night - our first stop-over in a US motel and a step closer to Las Vegas.
After a lazy start we head back to Panguitch and plan to make the journey to Bryce Canyon. Originally and from the cosiness of our home in the small city of Cambridge we were making grand plans to visit not only Bryce Canyon, but the north rim of the Grand Canyon and Zion national park. Realistically and beginning to understand the scale and distance between places we are slimming down our itinerary. Getting from one place to the next is a days work on the Himalayans. Doing all the stops we were hoping to is not going to be physically possible.
One thing we need is some chain oil. In a short space of time on a short journey made long, the oiled chains after the first service are looking dusty and dry. The seemingly benign process of buying chain lube takes some time but thankfully, Panguitch town has an auto supplies shop from which we can get what we need.
Chains lubed and we are ready to go and explore Bryce Canyon. We buy a National Park visitors card which will get two motorcycles through many USA national parks for the price of one! The perks of being a motorcyclist pay off sometimes - many times actually. We ride through the wonderful prelude to Bryce - the Red Canyon, which is impressive enough on the way to Bryce. The total journey length to Bryce from Brian Head is only 59 miles but again, it takes a whole day to get there and back. We stopped for the ubiquitous picture opportunities on our way down from the top of Bryce Canyon and saw a lot of live deer on the roadside. They are resident to the Bryce Canyon and Dixie National parks and appear to be mainly unphased by the humans. Not surprising really as about 2 million people pass through there each year.
The following day we keep things within the region of Brian Head. We stock up our supplies at Parowan the next town down from Brian Head and return to do the ride up to the peak of Brian Head - which sits 11,307 feet above sea level. The weather conditions are moody today after a sunny start and the road to the peak is 3 miles of washboard again. No luggage this time. The Himalayans really come into their own on terrain such as this and it's great to unleash them on familiar territory.
Tomorrow we leave Brian Head. We are heading toward St George, for one night, and getting closer to Las Vegas.
After a spot of breakfast in the local grocery store down the road from the hot springs, we venture back for our late check-out of the cabin and slip into the hot tubs once again.
The temperatures are already hot and rising - probably somewhere in the region of 37 - 38 degrees celsius. The bikes are loaded up again and we are setting off today to a ski resort called Brian Head. The milage from Monroe to Brian Head - avoiding the interstate, is normally around 105 - 131 miles depending on the route taken which should have taken just over 2 hours. Andrew has sourced an alternative route, through the mountains for us which is marked out as a dotted line on the big Michelin paper map of California and Nevada. Dotted lines on maps usually signify unmarked roads, therefore I have no idea of what to expect, so I expect nothing. Andrew on the other hand is confident that the road will take us up and over Monroe peak down to the town of Koosharem. An alternative for the day's ride could have been to stick to the highways and visit Fremont Indian State Park and Museum. But we rode off and up into the mountains.
It was indeed an unmarked road. Washboard on steroids. The kind of road which is generally more suitable for donkeys, horses and UTVs and Himalayan motorcycles. Himalayan motorcycles with no luggage on them. We were not yet even halfway up to the peak when we felt the luggage slipping. Even the bungees and friction straps were not enough to keep everything sufficiently secure once the bikes had begun piling their way up the rocks and steep and winding stony road. It was bumpy to say the least. However the Himalayan bikes really do come into their own territory on this kind of road and you just have to let the bike do the work and keep the concentration levels up and the bike going.
The pictures and the map give a general idea of what we encountered however, it wasn't as straightforward as it looks. We stopped on three separate occasions to ask random mountain adventurers which was the best, and if we were on the right road to Koosharem. Unmarked roads indeed. It is now becoming apparent to us (Andrew) that this route is not a short-cut and it goes on and on and on. The terrain becomes rockier and I lost concentration at one point and dropped the bike just as a south American looking couple appeared from a little further up the mountain on horse-back followed by their 3 dogs making me think that that is the best way to get around this mountain.
What began as a fun ride turns into a 4 hour endurance challenge. Andrew definitely didn't anticipate this and in retrospect, admits that this perhaps was not one of his better ideas.
We finally make it back onto the tarmac and enter the town of Koosharem which is 105 miles from our destination of Brian Head and another 2 hours in the saddle. The first leg of this journey takes us along highway 62 which is a long road which looks like it's been newly laid. The weather begins to look a bit moody up above and we have no idea as to whether we'll hit what looks like rain up ahead.
One thing we do encounter is what is known as a 'Dust Devil' out here - definition: "a small whirlwind or air vortex over land, visible as a column of dust and debris". We saw the dust cloud ahead of us and were heading straight through the middle of it not knowing how powerful these forces of nature are. Both of us were swept to the other side of the road and thankfully we were the only two travellers on that route at the time. Scary stuff.
The rest of the journey took us along the Sevier river and through Circleville Canyon which was very pleasant riding - nice bends and wonderful scenery straight through the middle of the Canyon and down towards the town of Panguitch from which Bryce Canyon, Zion national Park and Grand Staircase Escalante are accessible.
The final leg of this journey takes us through the Dixie National Forest. We stop at Panguitch Lake to put on extra layers as the elevation levels increase and the temperature drops from 95 degrees fahrenheit (35 degrees celsius) to 79 degrees fahrenheit (24 degrees celsius) and the sun was also setting at this time of the day. The sun setting over the lake was a beautiful sight for sore arses and we finally made it to our cosy ski condo in the out of season ski resort of Brian Head around 8pm. We are in Brian Head for 3 nights which will hopefully give us time to recover.
Sunday August 12 2018 - up at 7am. The day the adventure is born and begins for real. We are leaving the mountain cabin at Tollgate Canyon to meet our man Spero and his good lady wife Shelley a few miles down the interstate so that they can ride us out of town. Getting down the 2 miles of washboard took us longer than the hop along to the meeting point, but we made it and it feels good to be finally leaving Salt Lake City.
Spero is a born biker and hates the interstate, so we're in great company.
We are being escorted to just outside of Richfield. Our destination is to Monroe, home of the Mystic Hot Springs, where we will spend the night. The ride through to Monroe is approximately 183 miles. Spero and Shelley depart company from us around Salina, which is about 30 miles from our destination. We were grateful to have the company up until this point.
The roads are endless - long, wide and interspersed with space, land and more space. The vastness of this country and the enormity of the journey we are planning to make is becoming real. We both are feeling totally blessed that we are able to do this and to take our little Himalayans out and about in the American wilderness. Already we are feeling small in this huge land.
We find Monroe and the hot springs without an trouble. The towns are few and far between. Monroe is a quiet and modest religious town at the foot of Monroe Peak. We have to travel back 8 miles to Richfield to get something to eat, so at the end of our first real day of riding in the USA the hot springs are a very welcoming treat to two saddle weary bodies. The temperatures we rode in today got up to about 37 degrees celsius (100 degree fahrenheit) and getting into a hot bath at the end of the day may seem like lunacy to the cold-loving British race, but it was actually very refreshing, especially bathing under the stars watching the meteors whizz past and having philosophical conversation with a man named Tyler in the next tub to us who was just passing through on his way home from Salt Lake City. Home for him was two hours away - bordering the states of Utah, Nevada and Arizona. Intrepid America and the pioneering spirit alive and kicking.
Andrew "AJ" Jackson of Eurorider Training and Mell Rose.
AJ's Check List
*Motorcycles x 2
*All weather clothing/boots - windproof, rainproof as well as cool and warm layers.
*Panniers for carrying extra loads.
* Friction straps and bungees - multiple & spares.
* Chain oil and lube
* Acquired jump leads
* Puncture repair - fix a flat in a can
* Lots of monies
* A ball of string
* Rucksack for daytime carrying capacity
* Flexible attitude to life and journey
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