May 16, 2013

I’m riding strong today after yesterday’s heat stroke setback. I rode from Nephi, UT and stopped in Salinas for breakfast at the Cowboy Diner. The waitress and I talked a bit about national parks and I asked her which she would visit of all of those available in the area. Salinas is the gate to either take two lane or freeway to Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, Capitol Reef and Glens Canyon. I’ve been to the first two, had my sights on Antelope for it’s hikes inside twisting rock formations, but after learning that roads were out in Page, I elected to shoot for Capitol Reef and Glens. I had covered the other parks in my 2009 trip and was trying to blaze a different trail for this trip.

The approach in Torrey, UT is a beautiful little artsy town set in a stunning red terrain. I stopped for a coffee at the Robber’s Roost, and met Annie who worked behind the counter. It’s a beautiful high-ceiling cabin with no less than 10 vintage guitars, and old wood stove and a latte that would put Starbuck’s to shame. I asked about a music festival poster they had from 2008, “Yes, it’s still going–early August, but I don’t remember the dates.” I sat at a table with a map under glass and started to fiddle with my electronics. She asked to see some photos, and I was pretty giddy since I was able to connect the Canon SX 280 to an iPhone app and share without extra cords and smart card juggling. She gave me a free slice of delicate strudel and I filled her in on my trip in Salt Lake City–still uncertain if I’d return that way during this trip or not. I was going to wait it out and see what plans my friends Tad and Gaila had once we met at the Overland Expo. With a free sticker, too, I left for the canyon ride.

The visitors’ center was packed, and I found a shady spot in the unauthorized residential area and walked up dressed in my chaps. A couple ladies were reading the history displays and I said excuse me–full arms with my red jacket and a couple stickers–they wouldn’t move until a gent asked them to make way. This isn’t uncommon, but I’m uncertain why. The gent was a rider and we chatted for a minute. Once he learned I was solo, he showed a face of concern and asked if I had a firearm and where I planned to camp. I used the line, “The KOA has my back.”, the same one I told my dad, and the man seemed relieved.

I got my sticker and headed back out into the heat. I shed a few layers and off I went. Incredible park. I imagine Capitol Reef is like riding through the basin of the Grand Canyon itself, the first panoramic view was stunning. High red hues to pale sandstone white painted the jagged walls of rock and piles of fallen stones. Small yellow desert daisies and sage dotted the lowlands. I took some one-handed pictures with my camera, had Bob Dillon’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” playing in my helmet, and had involuntary tears of joy fall from my eyes. Yes, it’s that beautiful.

Without any services, I rode slow but sure to a gas station at the end of the park, ate a few power bars and talked with Frank and Tom about the route to Flagstaff, AZ. With the main route through Page out due to an earthquake and road slide, I continued towards their recommendation, National Bridges Park, where Frank said, “The stars are so bright you can read a newspaper by them at night.” Good enough for me. I hadn’t seen the Milky Way in years.

The added bonus was riding through Glens Canyon on the way there. The sun was starting to set and the red rocks came to life. The park was nearly empty and I stopped where I liked to take a series of pictures and took videos as I rode. Time was starting to get the better of me and I calculated my distance to the park and the coming of critters by the roadside. I gunned it to the park, the visitor’s center was shut at 7:30, but the UPS gent told me the best place to camp was around the corner. My other option was to ride another hour to a hotel in Blandings or stay put.

The camp site was full, but I found a couple, with some hesitation, who would let me use their tent area since they had a camper. I had interrupted Bob and Laura’s card game of 69, and Bob asked, “Will the park let you do this?” I said I reckoned it was fine as long as they agreed. “You don’t have a dog, do you?” Now come on, I thought. “Nope, no room in my passenger seat for a pup. So, is this alright with you two? I’m happy to pay my way.” Bob didn’t mind, and his wife just stared at me. Now I’m starting to wonder whether I’m just confusing people or they’re just shit scared of me. LOL. Who cares.

I rode my bike to the back of their campsite, and Bob came around to check out what I was doing. “You’re not going to start that thing up early, are you?” All I could do was smile. “You heard it when I pulled up, right? It sounds like a sewing machine.” He laughed and agreed, but Laura stayed standing close to her camper. Bob checked out my stickers and asked, “Alaska? Well, this isn’t your first trip, I see.” I explained that me and my former boyfriend went there two years ago. Guess I felt it necessary to explain my sexual persuasion which actually drew Laura a bit closer to look at my bike, too. I don’t get it, but I felt like a unicorn in textile biker gear and chaps. Guess the lipstick I wore didn’t give them a good enough hint.

I set up my tent, made a hot cup of tea, eyed the packet of oatmeal I took from a prior hotel’s continental breakfast, but I wasn’t hungry for anything but another power bar. I was tired but not exhausted like the night before.

My one gal tent is pretty small and I threw in my gear along with me. Big mistake, but I didn’t have a clue if coyotes or other critters would be out at night. I thought about hanging my tea and such in the tree, and figured I’d put it in my panniers instead. The scent of my lavender essential oil that I use as perfume would draw them in more so than dehydrated oats and apples.

I had a rough night of sleep. There was literally no sound except my swishing in my sleeping bag. I didn’t set up my air mattress or pegged out my tent so I could get packed quickly in the morning. I woke startled to learn that it was my tent fly and the other neighbors setting up their tent. Scared the shit out of me, so I couldn’t sleep. Up to use the bathroom–clean and smelled of the familiar Axe men’s cologne. The stars. Wow, the stars. Frank was right. I crawled back into my tent, hung my head out to gaze at the Milky Way until I felt drowsy enough to sleep. Within four hours I was up, packed and motoring at 7am. Flagstaff and Overland Expo bound at last.