Updated Nov 5, 2019
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If you’re looking for that three hundred and fifty mile motorcycle route that covers a wide variety of different riding conditions, shift your attention to Utah. From start to finish, one day’s travel along their scenic roadways will both exhaust your senses and empower your spirit. Dry, deserted plains, steep, frigid mountains and gusty, humid valleys greatly challenge the sport touring motorbike enthusiast all while reinforcing their reason to grin.
Our experience in this state begins at Dinosaur National Monument where we camped last night. Utah’s sun rises early and having set up our tents for the cooler evening breeze, my hopes for a full rest are interrupted. The bright orange glow from my rain fly not only offends the eyes (even while they’re shut), it collects a formidable amount of heat.
When motorcycle camping in numbers, it’s good to have a sense of your fellow camper’s experience. Travis is versed in the outdoors and an intermediate woodsman. I’m seasoned as well but with limited wilderness knowledge. In telling Travis of my intention to camp when possible, I failed to mention my plan to find campsites with amenities. This catches him off guard and for a moment blurs his understanding as to whether or not I’ve ever camped before.
From start to finish, one day of sport touring motorcycle travel along Utah's scenic roadways will both exhaust your senses and empower your spirit.
Should you as a traveler decide that there are limits to your camping tolerance, be sure to research prospective campsites/parks along your route beforehand. Most locations make their information available online, providing a symbol key that describes what amenities (if any) are available. Lucky for Travitron, I’m more than familiar with the national park routine.
As a person who’s become too soft from eight hours of sleep, twenty minutes of meditation, two cups of coffee, a light breakfast, hot shower and morning exercise, there’s pride in realizing that I’ve got to let go. Pattern behavior in an active person’s lifestyle is precisely what fuels their ability to deviate from it and this is my opportunity to exact that truth. Knowing I’m in good health and that fatigue is inevitable, my subconscious serves up a helping of revery with a side order of crazy:
Screw it. Get up. Let’s roll.
Two of my six diva-complex, anti-complaint additive ingredients are met through meditation and a cup of instant. Freshly conscious, I’m now ready to embrace the incredible beauty around me with a full smile. Photos below show a full panorama of the Green River campground minus the peripheral experience of actually being there (click the arrows).
Pictures don’t do it justice.
Travis is up and meandering around, meeting a few fellow campers while sipping his coffee. Returning full circle, we both start getting our gear in order. It would seem the hectic effort of last night’s setup has our equipment a bit scattered but all of it’s accounted for. We position our bikes with the moving shadow of a nearby tree while rigging them for the day. It’s time to get started.
First … breakfast.
Just before go time, I put on my black riding pants, black riding jacket and black helmet before sitting on my. It’s a good thing that I’ve waited to do so. If we don’t get moving soon, what’s underneath my outfit is going to eliminate every incentive to remove it.
We warm up the bikes and proceed along the park drive, a beautiful, twisty little road that curves through a sea of grasslands and rock formations for twelve miles. The winds cool all contact with the hot morning sun. Today is beginning to gain ground.
Unaware that the heat has slowed our motion to a near pause, considerable time has passed. A breakfast order would make any waitress laugh. I confirm today to be one of total abandon as I calmly eat my brunch(?) of curly fries and a toasted BLT.
Yesterday’s riding really put it to the bikes in terms of the elements. Even though we’re facing another long day of spirited motorcycling, it’s due time they get a light wash. Bugs, dirt and debris fall with a lather until she looks sharp once more. Without my morning shower, I’m considering using their “pet wash”. Cue Porno for Pyros.
Clean and beyond ready, we take to the roads. Before we started this journey, I was prepared for the intense experience that would be Colorado. That’s behind us now and I’ve no idea what Utah has in store. The map says the terrain is similar but I’m not familiar with any tales being told by my own more experienced friends about Utah in specific. Perhaps we’re here to write one of our own.
This being the start, what’s immediately apparent is that it’s hot. Very hot. The landscape is flat for the most part but due to sparse, rocky divisions the road has a surplus of curves. I’m expecting long, yawning straights but they never arrive. Instead, I get soft corners and a lot of ’em!
Yes, even in this deep, dry heat we’re lucid and laughing, throttling out of enormous sweepers only to land opposite in another. Simply put, these roads are quite fast and incredibly fun. Local traffic is respectfully mindful and isolated. The surrounding environment provides a broad field of view for better judgement and predictability. Not only are we able to practice our own safety etiquette, we’re able to push (a little) as well.
The perspectives of a fellow rider who I both appreciate and respect come to mind.
My street pace is never at or near my limit and I’m extra vigilant of roads with hazards (close guard rails, trees, utility poles, ravines, etc). Rather than concentrating on outright speed, I concentrate on smoothness and form.
Two hours into our run, something in the air is changing. A light fog begins to settle. The heat is lifting as we’re starting to climb. I’ve no preconceived notions as to what I might see next. This is my favorite moment of the entire trip thus far.
Twists, turns, corners, sweepers, straights, ups, downs and only enough traffic to maintain a safe connection to society? This is most definitely, without a doubt, undeniably, for sure the flat-out most pleasurable riding experience I’ve had in my brief history as a sport touring motorcyclist. Utah, bland and boring Utah, excites every fiber of my being from one turn to the next.
The mountains have us now. We’re gaining elevation by the second and snow begins to appear in patches. A particular species of tree that I’m not familiar with grows in dense grouping like some kind of high school clique. They’re pale white, with dry leaves if any. They look dead but I suspect that’s a defense mechanism of some sort.
One might think my description of our campsite above to be from a completely different territory. See for yourself. The effects of elevation are impressive.
Onward and upward, we reach the summit. Not three hours ago we were just above sea level, surrounded by rock and arid land, being beaten down by 80+ degrees (F) of direct sun and sweating through our fully armored riding attire. Now, we’re in excess of nine thousand feet, snow caps all around as we shiver, laughing at the comparison.
What’s more, the day’s still young!
From here, it’s all down hill (pun intended). Our route continues with it’s excellent overall feel and as is unavoidable, we stop for gas. Apparently, we’re on the corner of weird and bizarre.
As we coast into the Rafter-B Gas ‘n’ Grub, I see an early 80s, full-sized SUV next to one of the inside pumps. We go about our business but notice that their hood’s up and a rural personality is rummaging around it’s engine. I assume he’s got whatever the problem is covered, neutral my Bandit over to a parking space and walk in to grab a coffee before taking a break.
The owner’s a pleasant older gentlemen, very straight to the point about what is and isn’t.
Me: “Is the coffee recent enough?”
Him: “I think that was brewed an hour ago.”
Me: grabbing a cold frappuccino from the fridge instead, “where are the restrooms?”
Him: “They’re out of order. We’ve provided those portables out there in front.”
Toilets by the road/entrance. We’re talkin’ class here, folks. In hindsight, at least they’re maintained.
Standing by our bikes mid-break, one of the local wrenchers working on the SUV hurries towards the entrance to use the store phone. Slowly behind him, his enormous co-traveler is walking towards us. I initially think he wants our assistance with the truck but no.
He dives right into a long story of how he’s traveling to his sister in another state and that she’s in a violent relationship and if we could just lend him some change he just needs our address so he can pay us back and …
Please don’t think me rude but, the longer the beggar’s tale, the more likely it’s a lie. These two see us as one of three out-of-state targets: city slickers who don’t know anything about the rural world, suburban/rural types who have money but aren’t familiar with the area meth market or lastly, lacking empathy because what if their story is legitimate? I don’t like the thought of that last part but I no longer give change to anyone unless I sense humility.
This sounds more as if it’s rehearsed, something new riders need to be ready for. A polite “I’m sorry but I’m not going to do that” is perfectly fair, honest and understandable so long as you’re not in harms way. That isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with buyin’ the guy a sandwich, mind you.
Breaks over! We’re movin’ again, albeit via the expressway (there are no better options for the moment). With our descent returns the sun and all of it’s direct heat. Travis makes mention of a tourist attraction and we opt to pull over for a photo. They call it Devil’s Slide …
It’s hot out! Let’s keep moving! We check in with our wives and roll on.
The landscape begins to change, converting over to a conclusive, flat slab of straight ahead. Our adrenaline rush is at it’s end and that translates to our physical energy. We’re running out of steam for today. Travis wants to camp but I remind him of “the code” (setup before dark or find a motel). Memory serves and he’s good for a room.
We exit the now gusty expressway in search of a reasonable rate. Even the exit ramp has a nice atmosphere. I hear sirens off in the distance and am reminded about the difference between city as opposed to rural ambulances. City ambulances roll slow, biding their time so as not to cause an accident. Rural ambulances exceed the posted speed limit by as many as thirty miles per hour.
The one I heard (not pictured) had to be breakin’ ninety.
Travis finds a good motel and we’re off. As the sun sets, the winds pick up. It becomes almost impossible to hear one another over the intercom and I see that my friend is riding straight at what appears to be a steady and solid forty-five degree angle, his windshield bowing diagonally. By my count, this marks the fourth version of Utah along today’s route and we’re either payin’ a toll for all the good times before it or we ate our ice cream before the Brussels sprouts. Truck trailers are dodgy at best and one is so difficult to get around rhythmically that Travis has to try twice.
These crosswinds continue for an hour … AN HOUR. Who needs switchbacks, curves or sweepers when you can simply hurl your motorcycle into a wind tunnel and hope for the best? Fortunately, my Bandit has an adjustable x-creen that my friends refer to as the “top hat”. While I feel my bike drifting, the buffeting of my helmet is completely subdued.
Even with his extended-height windshield, Travis doesn’t have this luxury and because his bike is the riskier of the two, he leads. Twice I led only to discover after five minutes that I had no idea where he was. As it turns out, he’s pretty far back (like in a previous state).
With that in mind, this large displacement rider solutes Travitron on his BMW 650 single by ordering him his martini of choice, officially dubbed the “WHAT?! I CAN’T HEAR YOU! WAIT UNTIL WE GET TO THE MOTEL!”
Ready for more? Day Six: Burley to John Day
What’s Your Favorite Sport Touring Motorcycle Route From Dino To Burley?
There are many twisty, scenic travel options connecting the two. Which roads do you prefer and why? Where do you like to stop along the way? Your input is invited. Post an article!