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Moab Utah: < We like Moab. It’s a fun tourist town geared toward adventure activities; rafting, hiking, mountain biking, dirt biking, four-wheeling. The hiking is great but the weather is in the high nineties. The pool at the Sleep-Inn feels good. We are surprised at all the foreign tourists. At the pool there are French, Germans, Italians and us. Everyone having a good time.
We plan to hit the road early because of the heat. This is the Friday before Labor Day weekend and Heidi is concerned the campsites and motels will be full, so the plan is to look for a place to hunker down for the entire weekend. At an adventure shop in Moab I study an excellent map of the state with contour gradients and listings for tons of camping spots. I’m glad I studied the map because the Utah state map that is free doesn't have any of the National Forest campsites listed, there are a ton of them.
Out in the parking lot early in the morning we are talking with three couples, all 2-up on motorcycles. One couple has their own Gold-Wing with a huge custom painted trailer. The other two couples rented bikes in Salt Lake City where they flew to from Iowa. The women askes Heidi how she packs for two years. They all had a good laugh while Heidi expounded about not having any shoes along. I think I overheard her bragging about having eight bikinis on-board. Hmmm… We could have talked all morning but like a sailor caption who needs to hit a weather window, we had to cut it short and get going. The plan is to do the Burr-trail road right through Capital Reef Park but with predicted highs of 105 degrees we change our plans again to head for the hills where the temps will be cooler.
The morning light shining on the hill formations around Moab is spectacular. It feels like we are seeing it again for the first time, beautiful. We didn't take much time for photos. The urge to just keep riding while in this type of landscape is overwhelming. We just concentrate on enjoying the ride. This is biking country, if you are a biker, road or dirt the Moab area is not to be missed. Heidi and I can’t say enough about the place. A ‘do-again’ for sure.
On the map I looked at in Moab I remembered seeing a lot of camping in the national forests around central Utah. On our map we see a few big lakes and peaks at 10,000 feet. That sounds good, Fish lake National Park, here we come. Heidi is a little nervous, the map we have shows no camping anywhere near where we are heading. I assure her that I remember seeing a lot of camping around this area on the map we saw at in Moab. We just go for it. Again, Utah is one fantastic place to ride…..
North on highway 24 off the main road. There are no markers saying it is highway 24 but I knew it had to be it. The road starts heading up in altitude. We could feel the temperatures start to cool. Utah has a lot of free camping all over. We start seeing campers congregating around some of the ideal areas in the Mountains. We also pass a few National Forest campsites but we want to try Fish Lake. If I can’t catch a fish there I have problems, Fish Lake.
We pull into Bowey camp ground. Millions of birch and pine trees surrounding a crystal clear blue lake. We tooled through the camp and almost every site had reservation stickers on them. The camp sites are on the side of a mountain and it's steep. We ride to the top and through a small loop. At the top a road sigh said “Tent camping only” I’m not making any of this up. We get what we think has to be the best camp spot in the area. We are near the top of a hill with a great view of the lake, a rushing mountain spring babbling right next to us, privacy, tons of hiking starting right here. We pay for three nights. We are set for the entire Labor Day weekend. YES….
Breakfast…..first time cooking something that isn’t entirely from a can.
My specialty, pork and beans omelet, hum....?
There is a lot of activity around the lake. This is a popular place. A lot of people haul boats here. The lake has a resort on both ends and in the middle. The lodge at the middle resort looks 200 years old. The dining area is huge and double as a Mormon church on Sundays. It’s all log construction built right on the lake. It feels like we stepped back in time. There are hiking trails circling the lake and leading up into the mountains and forest. The resorts have free hiking trail maps of the area. We could devote a week to hiking all the back country trails here.
Three days is nice here but again we are freezing our butts off at night. During the day the temperatures are perfect, upper seventies and mostly sunny but as soon as the sun set it starts to cool down seriously. We play gin on the picnic table until we can't see our cards. Then we got a campfire going but this site is kind of primitive. There isn't any good place to get comfortable close to the fire. We end up retreating to the tent. In the tent we have small LED lights good for reading.
Before starting this trip Heidi and I saw a show on PBS about meditation and how it can activate large sections of a human brain that are normally dormant with most people. Sounds good, I ordered a couple of used books off amazon.com, Insight Meditation. Reading is a big thing on long rides and finding reading material is sometimes difficult. Anyway I’m talking more insightful now trying to be real deep. Heidi thinks I’m full of S. I think I’m well on my way already to becoming a ‘Motorcycle Zen Master’ Haaaa...... Heidi and I always have fun trying to tease each other. ‘When I ride I ride’ I do everything to keep my attention on the road. Meditation trains your mind to focus and to control the mind. On marathon rides everyone has moments when their mind wanders. You think of this and that and go over scenarios with people in your mind. Number one: recognize your mind is wandering. Number two: bring it back to riding or back to whatever. This Is a good thing.
To survive the cold nights we get serious, thicker socks, more layers, more padding underneath. It got better every night but I have never had such a hard time staying comfortable camping. I know this can’t be good for Heidi.
Heidi and I are constantly talking about what is working and what is not working and what we should do different. We thought we would share a short list of ‘What’s working” and ‘What’s not working’
What’s not working:
> My sponge rubber sleeping pad is not working at all.
> The light weight sleeping bags we bought at the last minute stink. They zip together but the bags have one heavy half and one thin half. When zipped together one person has the heavy cover on top, the other person has the light cover on top. Not good.
> We’re not following the rule: Provision for food before we get the camp site. In Colorado we needed to drive over 60 miles round trip down a steep canyon road just for some food and drink. Da.
>Our right pannier is leaking bad when the bike is parked in the rain.
>I didn’t have my first-aid kit handy enough. It was buried on the bottom of the backpack. I cut both hands on separate occasions and didn’t want to bother digging for the kit, where of course I have everything. The cuts were small and I thought it was no biggie. Well the my right thumb got real sore and I had difficulty with the throttle. Soap and water, antibiotic salve and band aids for a couple of days. Now, every cut, every time.
> Not following advice: If we need it and see it, buy it. Don’t think you will find it later at another place.
> Pillow case. Heidi says this is the best idea.
> Thermorest sleeping pads. We have the short one inch version. These pads are working well but in pay campsites we could use a thicker version. I hate gravel tent sites. In the mountains they retains the cold and are uncomfortable. A good quality bed roll is important.
> We are happy with our fresh water carrying capability. Plastic 750 ml vodka bottles fit perfect into the tank panniers. We carry 6 liters no problem. Plus we can strap on a gallon jug to the backpack anytime.
> All the biner’s we have attached to the backpack and the tank panniers are working great. We strap our helmets to them when parked, water jugs, garbage bags, shoes.
> World camp stove. We have a Wisper-lite world camp stove. This thing runs on white gas, unleaded gas, kerosene or jet fuel. Once I learned how to work the thing I love it.
> 3 person tent. The REI TAJ-3 tent has been nothing but good for us. It has lots of room for two people with enough space for a lot of gear. It goes up in a flash and the rain tarp is even easier to deploy. It has 5 pockets altogether including one huge packet on the ceiling.
> The backpacking clothes we picked out have been working great. The main thing is they fold up and pack small and appear to be made with a lot of quality. Columbia is one of the higher grade clothing brands we have.
I’ll add to this list or modify it from time to time as a kind of a check list for us. I hope it may be of some use to others also.
The temperature predictions for Saint George are 105 degrees for tomorrow, Ouch. We plan to take off early and make it to just north of Saint George and stay at around 7,000 feet, where it should be a lot cooler. The next morning we’ll make a run to Las Vegas, our last big splurge. I have a niece and nephew that live there. It will be nice to see them and hang out at the Hard Rock Casino pool for a couple days.
Before leaving the national forests we stop at a small wayside. Nice stream and a few flowers.
This is some more great cruising grounds. Heidi is having fun taking photos as we cruise.
We stopped 15 miles from Cedar City at a nice campground on a river in the woods. Campgrounds are usually a good place to pull over and chill even if you have no intention of camping. They are normally located in a nice setting with a picnic table to hang out at. I pull into an empty group site, Heidi seemed uneasy. I assure her that places like these are use to weary travelers and are accommodating to them. She thinks I’m ‘a little goofy but soon starts to relax and express what’s on her mind.
It feels cold here even with our leathers on. It’s looking like rain ahead.
We make a run for it. Heidi is sick and tired of being cold and my attempt to suggest camping at 7,000 feet just before Cedar City was futile. I say it’s going to be in the hundreds down there on the way to Vegas. I wanted to shoot for it early tomorrow morning when it will be cooler. Heidi said “Bring on the heat. I want it Now”
It was serious hot. We pull over at River Canyon Park in Arizona to wait until the sun goes down. We hydrate, rest and wait in the shade.
About a half hour after the sun sinks behind the tall rock cliffs we take off. It was hotter then before. We blast down to Vegas. 75 MPH is the speed limit but I try to keep it at 65. The tires have to be running super hot. I don't want tire problems with Heidi on board.
Warning on the Road:
Riding toward Vegas on I-15 there are long stretches of nothing. Well we were on a big long stretch and it was dark. My butt was falling off and I have to stop. We take the first exit and pull off the shoulder at the end of the ramp. I just have to dismount for a while. We take off our helmets when another older car pulls over just where we did. It just parks there with it’s headlights pointing at us. Twenty yards from us I can see figures in the headlights. At first I was kind of pissed about the headlights pointing at us, than I get a feeling that this could be a bad situation. I tell Heidi to get on the bike ASAP and let’s get out of here. Before we're gone another car pulls up next to the other car. We get the heck out of there.
This may have been nothing but either way we put ourselves in a bad situation just 30 miles outside of Vegas, where a lot of desperate people are. If your gut says there is something Not Right, take action, your gut has thousands of years of survival geology built in. And it’s better to be safe then sorry.
We like Las Vegas. The Hard Rock casino is a tropical resort to us with nothing but great rock and roll music played everywhere and one of the world’s best pools. Palm trees, tall drinks, beautiful people, good food, no kids. What is not to like about this?
I got this Vegas thing down. I-15 South, exit on Tropicana Blvd, cruise down the strip for a few blocks and pull right into the Harley Davidson Café. There is enough space if you park right at the curb and I never have a problem with this. Heidi thinks our parking spot is a little over the edge. Ya know, parking right on the strip in the heart of Las Vegas, for free. I tell her “Just act like you own the place” I get a look.
Heidi goes inside to freshen up while I go to try and grab a table outside on the strip. The waiter tells me that the outside seating is for people eating dinner only. At first I accepted it but then I go back to the guy. I tell him “Hey, your killing a tradition here” I told him that we drove all the way from Wisconsin and this has been a tradition to stop here first and have a drink here, at the Harley Davidson Café, outside. That worked.
We are not going to spend a hundred and some bucks just to sleep, so we head straight to the Motel-6, on Tropicana Blvd, just a few blocks off Las Vegas Blvd. Under fifty bucks. We are out of the Motel-6 at eleven, It is like a hundred degrees outside. We shoot straight to the Hard Rock casino, just up the street.
Obligatory shot: Heidi was claiming ‘Helmet hair’
The same bell guy that’s helped us the last few years is here again. He pretends like he remembers us. How nice.
We unload our tent, sleeping bags, tarp, leather jackets and a backpack with clothes. We can't get into our room yet but our buddy will store our stuff and have someone bring it to our room later. All Right.
We have a few hours to kill and we know what to do, there is a great place outside on the strip for breakfast and cocktails, just up the road.
We park at the Harley Davidson Café, again. A half a block walk and we are hungry.
I’m having this feeling of euphoria set in. Heidi says she’s feeling something also. We are set. All is going according to plan. The Hard Rock awaits. We are on schedule to be South of the border by the 15 th, just when our world health insurance kicks in and our USA health insurance ends. Now lets just enjoy Las Vegas..........
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