I woke up feeling much more rested after a night in a real bed. While I was no longer ready to drop Gianna off at the airport, I was still pretty done with Colorado. Between the weather, the broken saddle bag, and the misadventures in landing in Durango, I was ready for a new state. I’d been to Moab before and loved it, plus it was less than 200 miles away. That would be a full travel day, but not a very strenuous one. We “quickly” packed up the bike, and headed to the organic grocery store to pick up food supplies for the next couple days, and breakfast for the day. We ended up with some sandwiches, and a half-gallon of orange juice that we drained in one sitting. Draining a half-gallon of OJ all at once would become a trip tradition as the adventure continued.
After breakfast, we stopped into an adventure gear store to grab a propane bottle, and to get Gianna a new adventure towel. She had left hers loose in her camelback, and during a ride back to the RV park in Pagosa Springs, it had fallen out and gotten sucked into the rear brakes. Fortunately, this didn’t occur until we were coming back into the RV park, and as a result, I only had to deal with about 100 feet of riding with no rear brakes, and avoided a tragic accident. Carelessness can be fatal on adventures of this magnitude, and I remember being pretty upset that she had let this happen. Once we’d purchased our new gear, it was time to get the fuck out of Colorado. I intend to return another time, and check out the Boulder area, since we only got to see a thin band of southern Colorado this time.
The ride out took us past Mesa Verde national park, but we made the decision not to stop. We heard so many good things about it later in the trip though, that that was probably a mistake. I’ll put it on the list for the next Colorado adventure. The drive was fairly straight and flat to the Colorado border. We stopped at a gas station near the edge of the state to fill up the bike, eat some sandwiches, and smoke a bowl. The sky was getting very dark with rain clouds, and as a light drizzle began, we got back on the bike, hoping to outrun the coming storm.
This time we were successful in outrunning the storm, and soon thereafter we crossed into Utah. Perhaps an hour over the border we stopped for caffeine. It was definitely a twice-daily habit, or naps were required. A family in a large conversion van was at the station with us. Seeing the Texas plates, I struck up a conversation. As predicted, they were on a family road trip. The kids really liked Utah, and they were thinking about moving there. Turns out the husband/dad does vehicle hydrogen kits for a living, and I took his business card somewhere. Like most men we encountered on the trip, he was jealous of our motorcycle adventure, and wished he was doing a bit more roughing it. his wife looked glad to have the comfort of the van. After a brief conversation, and drinking a 5-hour energy, we set back off down the road.
It wasn’t too long before the landscape began to change radically. The area around Moab has very unique geography, involving grand sandstone arches and columns jutting out of barren desert ground. Well, not actually barren, since the desert soil is full of micro-organisms, and some small shrubby plants dotted the landscape. We pulled over at a particularly spectacular sandstone outcropping to take a picture and pay smokey reverence to the beautiful scene before us. While pulled over, we saw a guy on a bicycle fully laden with touring bags. Guessing correctly that he would have an interesting story, I walked up and asked him where he was from. Tim had started in Wisconsin a year and a half earlier, on a 3 year tour encompassing every national park. He’d already made it around the east coast, through the south, and over to Utah where we met him. It’s guys like this that make our adventure seem tame. At least our bike peddles itself, and we were only going to be out for 2 months. Something to aspire to perhaps.
Saying our farewells to Tim, we ducked behind some rocks, violated the burn ban a little bit, and got back on the road. The road wound up and down hills, and through the center of the giant wind-sculpted statues of earth that define this amazing region. It all seemed so alien and enchanting. Finally we entered Moab city limits, and though we weren’t that low on gas, stopped to refuel anyways. I knew our campsite would be a good distance outside town, and you never want to have to worry about being stranded in the desert with no gas. We rode on through to the other side of town, following the signs for Dead Horse Point State Park, the location I had camped in last time I was there. I knew they had a beautiful overlook for viewing the sunset, and I hoped to take Gianna there.
We wound upward along the canyon rim for miles, eventually taking the turn for the state park to see that it was full. Canyonlands national park was just a few miles away, so we rode up to the entrance of that to find it was full as well. Right! It was the weekend. What day of the week it was had no bearing on our trip, so we had forgotten to account for the fact that other people only went camping on the weekends, and many of them were responsible enough to call ahead to reserve a spot. Oh well. There had been some Bureau of Land Management(BLM) camping on the way up the canyon, so we headed back, and found an area with some open camping spots. I’m hesitant to call it a road, but the designated path from the main road to the campsite consisted mostly of large rocks, and thick sand. Despite some wobbling, the bike remained upright while navigating this difficult terrain, and we found a spot with a beautiful view to set up. There was no running water or shade structure, but there was a picnic table and a fire-pit. Also, there was an open-air hole-in-the-ground toilet enclose by a simple wooden fence probably 100 yards away from our site. At least there was that, as it would be very difficult to dig a proper shithole out here in the rocks. The ground was too hard for our puny tent stakes, and we ended up stacking rocks on the corners of the tent to try and secure it. This mostly worked.
As I said, the campground had no water, we had to ride back to the state park to fill up our collapsible water bottle. This was the first time we’d camped somewhere without water, so it was kind of a novel experience to have to go on an actual water run. Fortunately, the tail bag on the bike fit the 5 gallon bottle we brought pretty perfectly. We filled our camelbacks while we were there, too. You can never have too much water on you while in the desert. It’s easy to sweat out over a gallon a day, and dehydration is a terrible way to die.
We spent the next couple hours setting up camp, and exploring our little nook of canyon, climbing around on the rocks, and admiring the spectacular view our high vantage point afforded us. As it was starting to get dark, we decided it was time for dinner. I had been hoping that the desert would not have mosquitoes because of the lack of water, but this area is full of rivers that carve it’s namesake canyons. The harsh conditions here actually have only led to super hardcore mosquitoes, and not the absence of them. I applied some DEET lotion I’d brought, and this helped a good amount. Whatever we ate was fairly unmemorable that night, but by the time we finished eating, we were both ready to crash.
Traveling days are always really exhausting, even if it’s not all that far. Our total drive had been about 200 miles that day, and none of the terrain had been that tricky. Still, riding the bike proved to be far more exhausting than driving a car, and even that modest distance really feels fairly trying by the end of the day. No matter, the day had been infinitely superior to the one preceding it, and I was really excited to be back in this magic place. I’d only gotten to spend a couple days here on my last visit, and I intended to dig a bit deeper this time around. We left the rain-fly off the tent for the night, enjoying the openness of the sky. We were tens of miles from civilization, with virtually no light pollution, so we went to sleep gazing at millions of stars. Holy shit, the sky is big out here.