Category Archives: Utah Rides

A Quick November Weekend Ride to Elberta

West Side of Utah LakeIt’s snowing this afternoon as I look out my window. It’s actually been snowing since early this morning. It’s hard to believe we hopped on the bikes just two days ago for a short afternoon ride along the west side of Utah Lake.

Kelly and I had been busy all weekend and didn’t have the time for a real ride, so we decided to spend a quick couple of hours along the lake. The temperature was in the high 50s and couldn’t have been better for a lazy afternoon on the road. With the exception of a load of hay that had fallen off someone’s trailer, we made it to Elberta and back without incident.

In addition to my new saddle bags, I put a new license plate frame on the bike to improve my light profile from the rear. According to anyone riding behind me, it was almost impossible to see my turn signals in the daylight and my tail light was difficult to see if the sun was bright.

lightsDan suggested this light setup that’s integrated into the license plate frame with some pretty bright LEDs that seem to have made it a lot easier to see me from behind and definitely add to the brightness of my turn signals. I still have the original turn signals in addition to the new lights in the license plate frame, so it’s easier to see my signal any time of day.

The forecast is for better weather this weekend, so I’m hoping to get another ride in before it gets too cold—not that it will stop us from going out. It’s really hard to complain this year, it’s been very nice for several weeks (usually we only have an hour or two of fall weather).

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A Backyard Tour: The Long Way Home

A tour to TorreyWe were up bright and early for the trip home—the long way. We were having such a good time riding I didn’t take any photos of the first half of our trip, but I was determined to fix that on the way home.

We left Torrey and headed up Boulder Mountain Pass—another beautiful ride. Because we were so much farther south, there were more fall colors on this part of the ride than what we’d experienced the day before. Today’s ride is actually one of my top two or three Utah rides and it didn’t disappoint.

After dropping down into Boulder, we stopped just before crossing the Devil’s Backbone. This was the first time Steve had ever been on this road and it can be a little unnerving watching the canyon fall off on both sides of the road. It is certainly a The view from the roadbreathtaking view as you ride on top of the sandstone fin toward Escalante. It was definitely different scenery today than it was yesterday.

We shed a layer or two as the temperature climbed to just about the “perfect range. We stopped the bikes at the overlook on the other side of the backbone to look aback at some of the ground we’d covered and met a couple of Japanese tourists marveling at country unlike anything they have at home. We offered to take their photo before we mounted up and headed on down the road.

The view looking backThe ride from Escalante to Panguich is filled with the gentle sweeping turns that are my favorite kind of riding. We stopped in Panguich to top of the tanks and get a snack before heading north again on 89 and eventually home.

We stopped in Salina at Mom’s for lunch. Another one of my favorite places to eat on the road. Steve gave our somewhat surely waitress a hard time—she eventually lightened up a bit. After a tasty lunch we headed north to Gunnison and then then to Nephi.

We stayed on the old highway to Mona where we took a little detour on the Goshen Canyon Road. Kelly, Phil, and I stumbled upon this fun little diversion a couple of years ago. If you’re not in a hurry (and we usually aren’t) it’s a nice way to get to Goshen before heading north via the west side of Utah Lake.

A Buell and a Road KingOnce we’d gone as far as Bluffdale, we jumped on Bangerter and then I-15 for the last couple of miles home. It was the first Interstate we’d seen in about 700 miles and Steve seemed pretty happy that we’d made the trip. It was a fun weekend in the saddle and well worth doing again.

I hated to see the ride end, it was a great tour on roads just made for a motorcycle trip.

If you’d like to see some video of the first part of this ride I made a couple years ago, click HERE.

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A Backyard Tour: The Long Way to Torrey

A tour to TorreyIt’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog here. Early in the season I started contributing to a blog published by the local Harley-Davidson dealer—you can check it out HERE. A shorter version of this ride is already posted there.

One of my oldest friends, Steve and I had been talking about some of the rides down here in Utah for a couple of years. He’s from across the border in Canada and we’ve met a couple of times in recent years up in Jackson to ride together. He and I did Bear Tooth Pass  a couple of years ago—it was my first time on that incredible ride and have been back a couple of times since.

When he called to let me know he was ready for a Utah ride I took some time off work and got busy planning a route. Since the point of the ride was to spend some quality time in the saddle, I thought I’d put together some of my favorite day rides into a tour and came up with an epic 744 mile weekend. In Fact, it’s started me thinking about other rides we could do this way.

We left the Salt Lake Valley headed to Park City and the Kamas Valley early on Friday morning. The temperature was a brisk 40 degrees and since we were going to be climbing three mountain passes and in late October, I plugged in my heated jacket and gloves just in case I’d need them. I turned them on leaving Francis as we started climbing up Wolf Creek Pass.

Most of the leaves had dropped from the trees, but it was still a beautiful ride—one of my favorites—and a great way to start the day. Climbing into the clouds and seeing the hoar frost on top of the pines was breathtakingly beautiful. We stopped to catch our breath at the summit where Steve said, “There must have been a horrible accident down by Heber, because I think I’ve died and gone to heaven.”

I couldn’t disagree. I have to smile when I notice the places on the ride where the road just kind of wiggles back and forth up the canyon. I was glad he was having a good time. Introducing someone new to a favorite place is like discovering it all over again. This was going to be a great day.

After dropping down into Hanna and Tabiona we followed the river into Duchesne. This is a peaceful little addition to the ride and allows us to avoid the busy Highway 40. After topping off the tanks, we started climbing up Indian Canyon toward Highway 6 out of Helper. They were doing some road maintenance, so with the exception of a couple places where the traffic was backed up, it was smooth sailing over another beautiful mountain pass.

After dropping down into Helper, we climbed up Highway 6 toward Spanish Fork Canyon for just a few miles before we bailed at the turnoff to Scofield and headed for part of the Energy Loop and the pass over into Fairview for lunch. These roads are ideal for wasting a few hours (or a weekend) on a motorcycle and this is another one of my favorite rides.

We stopped at the Home Plate (my favorite place to stop in Fairview if it’s meal time) for lunch. Steve was all grins and seemed to be having a good time. “Three mountain passes, every pass has been different and some of the best motorcycle roads I’ve ever been on,” he said. He even ordered a piece of chocolate pecan pie for desert to celebrate.

After lunch we climbed on Highway 89, one of my favorite old roads and headed south to Torrey. We had a reservation for the night at the Chuckwagon Inn.

We detoured around Fish Lake—a great way to cap off a fun day in the saddle. Although we were too late for the leaves, this trip was really more about the roads than anything else. When we arrived in Torrey it was about 6:00 pm and we were ready for dinner. Our two bedroom cabin was a great place to spend the night and we were up until the wee hours of the morning telling stories and trying to on-up each other.

We only spend once or twice a year together, which is why Steve claims we’ve been able to remain friends for over 30 years. I’m not sure if that’s a dig at me or if he’s acknowledging one of his obvious personal flaws.

I was looking forward to introducing him to Boulder Mountain and the Devil’s Backbone in the morning.

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Beat’n the Heat: The Mirror Lake Highway

Mirror Lake HighwayBecause the temperatures have been near or surpassing 100 for the last couple of weeks, the thoughts of heading to the mountains to escape the heat make climbing on the bike for a ride very tempting. The other day Kelly called to see if I was up for a ride to Brighton up Big Cottonwood Canyon. “You were the only guy I knew more hardcore than me,” he said. “I knew you’d be up for a ride.”

While I’m up for a ride just about any time, it was the thoughts of escaping the heat with cooler temps that enticed me. The same was true of a ride over the Mirror Lake Highway.

When my sister Jan called and wanted to go for a ride, I couldn’t think of anyplace better to beat the heat that a ride past Mirror Lake. It wasn’t until we passed Soapstone Basin that it started to cool off, but as we crested Bald Mountain Pass and headed down the other side the temperature was probably 20 degrees cooler than it was just an hour before.

The Mirror Lake Highway is a great ride, but particularly in the middle of the summer when it’s really hot in Salt Lake. If you’re up for braving the heat to get out of town. We stopped at the Bear River Station and got something to drink and decide what we were going to do next. I often ride this as an out-and-back, because it includes less Interstate highway, but Jan wanted to go through Evanston, so we continued north into Wyoming.

Once you leave the forest on 150 and drop into Wyoming it’s some beautiful farmland for the rest of the ride into Evanston before you hop back on the freeway. It remained pretty cool until we hit the highway, but seemed to hit a wall-o-heat about the time we passed the Utah point of entry station in Echo Canyon. After that it was pounding out miles in the heat the rest of the way home.

If we’d of had more time, we could have dropped into Weber Canyon and gone over East Canyon (which might have been a little cooler), but we didn’t. Despite the heat, it was a fun ride and any time in the saddle is better than no time, so I had a good time.

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Dinner in Park City and a Visit with Amanda

Dinner in SnydervilleIf you like the Red Rock Brewery downtown, you know that it’s pretty busy on a Friday night after work. Sue and I discovered a year or so ago that their restaurant in Snyderville at Kimball Junction is a lot less busy. In fact, we have never had to wait and have always been able to walk right in—which has made this a popular ride for Sue and I on Friday evening. I had the fish and chips tonight which were very tasty, while Sue had the lasagna (which she said was delicious).

Hydration VestAfter dinner, we headed back into town but left I-80 at Mountain Del and dropped down to visit Amanda via Emigration Canyon. While the temperature was pretty warm, Sue tried my hydration vest under her mesh jacket for the first time. She gave the vest two thumbs up—so it looks like I’ll need to get her a vest of her own.

I know last week when I was riding through the southwestern desert of Utah, I was glad to have the extra relief from the 90+ degree temperature.

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A Quick Sunday Afternoon Down Emigration Canyon

Emigration CanyonWhen the Mormon Pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley, they followed a route down Emigration Canyon. A short hope up Parley’s Canyon and you can come down into the valley the same way the pioneers did. A great 40 or 50 mile ride with the option of stopping for dinner at Ruth’s Diner.

This is one of Sue’s favorite little rides. It’s only about an hour in the saddle, and includes a little bit of canyon riding along with it.

It’s hard to believe that 20 minutes or so out of the valley and you can be in the middle of beautiful mountain valley scenery. This view looking back down is of Mountain Del Reservoir, part of the Salt Lake City water supply.

Parley’s Canyon, named after Parley P. Pratt, is the road of choice into the Salt Lake Valley these days. But if you’re interested in getting a taste of what Mountain Del ReservoirBrigham Young and the rest of the pioneer wagon train might have experienced coming into the valley, give Emigration Canyon a try. Of course you’ll have to imagine what the valley would have looked like in 1847 with nothing but tall grass and a tree or two.

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The Long Way to Durango: Sleeping on the Side of the Road

Durango to HanksvilleAfter the rain the night before, when we left the hotel rooms at 7:00 am it was blue skies. We wanted to make a couple of stops along the way—one at Mesa Verde and Kathy wanted to tick Four Corners off her bucket list (it’s the only place in the country where the four corners of any state meet). In this case Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. So after a sweet roll at the hotel, we hit the road. The ride between Durango and Cortez is a beautiful ride.

We had been talking about stopping at Mesa Verde National Park for a couple of days, so decided we could afford the short detour despite  the 350 or so miles we’d be in the saddle (our original destination was Torrey—more on that later). After a few minutes in the visitor’s center, we entered the park. One thing I love about the National Parks is how they seem compelled to follow the contours of the landscape when they build their roads. Riding inside this particular park was very fun.

Looking down on the highway to CortezWinding turns had the bikes leaning into the curves as we climbed to the top of the mesa. We didn’t realize how far we’d climbed until we stopped at a lookout and looked down at the highway to Cortez below us. There wasn’t much traffic to get in the way and all of us commented that the ride in was one of the things we liked the best about Mesa Verde.

It’s pretty hard to believe that the structures we were looking at were around 800 years old. These people were masons—they knew what they were doing. I took several photos of the sites we stopped at and hiked around. The guide told us that there were about 10,000 people living in the Mesa Verde area of Colorado at the height of the community. And, the population of southwest Colorado was probably greater then than it is today.

Mesa Verde 3The mesa above this area would have been covered in cornfields rather than the pine and juniper that thrives there today. This was an agricultural community with a thriving population. I wonder if there will be remnants of our homes 800 years from now?

After descending to the valley, we had lunch in Cortez and prepared for the increase in temperatures as we headed south to Four Corners and then northwest on highway 95 to Torrey, UT.

I filled my hydration vest just outside of Blanding and was glad I did as the temperature climbed over 90 and hit 100 (according to the folks in Hanksville). 95 is a beautiful highway we practically had to ourselves. After crossing the bridge over the Colorado River, we stopped to stretch our legs. I took a photo of Phil’s and my bike, before we mounted up for the next couple hours of riding. Unfortunately, my battery had given up the ghost.

Highway 95We tried a portable charger we had with us, but it didn’t have enough juice to get us started. After an hour or so of trying everything we could think of, we decided to split up and try to find a tow. I would remain along the side of the road with my bike while Phil and Kathy rode into Hanksville to find someone who could tow me into town where we could try to locate a battery and continue on our way.

Stocked up with some water I settled in for what I thought would be a couple hours wait. When rescue hadn’t come at 10:30, I figured I would be stuck here until morning and fell asleep looking at the beautiful stars. Sometime between Midnight and 1:00 am, I was startled awake by the bank of spotlights on the tow truck Phil had sent to rescue me. If you’re ever in a bind and in the area, Jeff and Carolyn Kiteley of Kitely’s Place Towing are awesome.

“You don’t look very stressed out,” said Carolyn as she climbed out of the truck. “Most people out here in the middle of the night are pretty stressed by the time we get here.”

I figured there was nothing I could do about the situation and was pretty tired, so I just did what came naturally.

Let me just say, standing on the angled flatbed of a tow truck holding onto the front brake as the driver lifts you up in the air in the dark is a little unsettling—maybe even trippy. Fortunately Jeff knew what he was doing and my bike was strapped down and headed for Hanksville.

I found out what the delay had been on the ride back. Kathy had somehow fried her transmission and couldn’t get over 40 mph on the way into town. The arrow on the map above is about where we stopped. And, once they got to Hanksville the phones were down, so Phil had to go in search of Jeff’s home at 11:00 pm and rouse him from bed to go out into the desert night to find me.

Needless to say, we didn’t make our hotel reservation in Torrey and there wasn’t a room available in Hanksville. In the wee hours of the morning when I arrived, we were bivouacked on some picnic tables next to the gas station/convenience store and because of the state of Kathy’s trike, there was no way we would be able to continue on. Phil had called Kelly and he would meet us in the morning to tow our bikes home.

If there’s anything I’ve learned about motorcycle touring, it’s to expect the unexpected. (And, you should never ignore that little voice in the back of your head that suggests it’s time to gas up, check the oil, or put a new battery in your bike.)  Most of the time everything is fine. The equipment performs as it’s supposed to and things go off without a hiccup. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case and a good attitude and keeping calm is the only way to deal with things like rain, mechanical failure, sleeping on the side of the road, or maybe even on an old picnic table.

We made it home safe and sound; and Kathy’s bike is in the shop as we speak. My bike is in the garage waiting for her new battery. Kelly came through for us like the great friend he is. And, since I was the only one who was able to get a few “Zs” on the picnic tables, I got to ride Phil’s Ultra Classic home.

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