Moab, Utah, to Monument, Valley, Utah
3724 total miles
We mentioned a couple of days ago that we were leaving Colorado because we had run out of superlatives with which to describe the scenery. Yesterday an email arrived from Bill's 18 year old son Andrew. He was concerned that we took to the road for extended travels without carrying a thesaurus along. To help us out of this jam, he listed several superlatives we have not used in our previous reports. We dedicate today's descriptive passages to Andrew.
Day 16 was our most ambitious to date. Under sunny skies with mild winds, your intrepid travelers covered two national parks, 320 miles of road, successfully completed our most demanding mountain descent yet and cruised through the center of Monument Valley, Utah.
Our day began with short drive to Arches National Park, which is located only three miles from Moab. We decided not to rent a jeep. The park ranger told us yesterday that the strong winds don't pick up until the afternoon and that a morning motorcycle tour could be done without anyone being blown off the road. Although potential high winds might preclude an afternoon visit to Canyonlands National Park, we decided one park on a motorcycle beats two parks in a car!
THe "3 Gossips" formation at Arches
Arches is one of America's smaller and least publicized national parks. It is accommodating for motorcyclists, however, as it is bisected by a 20 mile road. The views are exquisite (thanks again, Andrew). The park was full of impressive rock formations that were the result of millions of years of wind and sand erosion.
At Arches we met John and Margaret Templeton of Santa Barbara, CA who were touring by car but just completed a 1200 mile motorcycle trip on John's BMW K1200RS. They wished us well and commisserated with us about the difficulty of motorcycling through such substantial winds.
John and Margaret Templeton
After Arches, we drove back to Moab and checked out of our room. We drove south on Highway 191 for about 30 miles and then turned off onto the road to the south side of Canyonlands. This 34 mile road was a real keeper. Newly paved in portions, it combined twisties with a tree-lined valley. The ten miles before the park may well be the most inspiring, picturesque, magnificent and unforgettable drive we have taken (Andrew strikes again). The three-mile wide canyon was filled with the most Impressive bluffs we have seen. We hope our photos do it justice.
Impressive cliffs at Canyonlands
Bo at Canyonlands
Afternoon high winds did not develop so we were able to tour Canyonlands. The park was impressive but it actually paled in comparison to the entrance road. The park has few roads and the most striking parts are primarily reached by hiking. Two wheels for these boys; not two legs!
We left the park and and drove back through the awesome entrance road. Bo crested a hill onto a fabulous view just as the Byrds song "I can see for miles" started up on his bike-mounted satellite radio. What a 60's moment!
We continued south and took a chance on Highway 261, which was marked "scenic" on our map but would entail a much longer day's journey. It was well worth it. It was also newly paved, twisty and replete with miles of rugged, southern Utah scenery. We crossed the San Juan River and drove through the Grand Gulch Primitive Area.
We begin climbing Cedar Mesa. It was a relatively steep grade and we soon reached the top. At that point, we turned a corner and, stretched below us for as far as the eye could see, was Monument Valley. Shots of Monument Valley are in almost every western film.
Monument Valley from the top of Cedar Mesa
Ah, it gets better. In order to reach the valley, we must descend a 10 degree grade for three miles on a serpentine road that hugged the mountainside with no guardrails and a 1200 foot drop to the bottom. And, oh yes, it is unpaved! Our bikes are not made for offroad. They love pavement, preferable new pavement. We stopped for a few minutes prior to our descent, updated our wills, confessed our sins and wrote letters home.
The sign that strikes fear in the heart of asphalt warriors
Before any of our loved ones get too worried, our saving grace was that you cannot get it too much trouble descending at 3 miles per hour. After what seemed like an eternity, we reached pavement and all was well. We each immediately recanted our confessions of sin.
Check out this road - unbelieveable!
The 20 mile drive through the center of Monument Valley was stunning. Again, we hope our photos do it justice.
We arrived at Goulding's Trading Post and Lodge just before sunset. The lodge, located in the Navajo tribal lands, is owned and operated by the Navajo Nation.
So ends day 16. It was a full day that left us exhausted. Tomorrow we anticipate a shorter, less ambitious outing. We plan to visit four corners (where Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado share a common border; or maybe it's a common point), complete part of the Million Dollar Highway and finish in Ouray, Colorado.Posted by Bill Thompson at September 19, 2003 05:05 PM GMT
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