Tag Archives: Harley Davidson

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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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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The Long Way to Durango: Avon to Durango

Avon to DurangoIt was 40 degrees when I hit the road at 8:00 am headed for points west. Phil and Kathy had a hard time finding a room in either Price or Green River and wound up riding all the way to Grand Junction in the middle of the night. I happened to be awake at 2:30 when they pinged me to let me know where they were. We were going to meet up at some point during the day, we just needed to figure out where. Because I had further to go, we decided I would get an early start and they would sleep in an hour or so longer.

I’m not usually a big fan of pounding out miles on the Interstate, but I-70 through Colorado is one of the most scenic stretches of Interstate I’ve ever been on. Glenwood Canyon in particular was incredible looking at the Colorado River boil and churn over rapids that were unbelievable. When I stopped in Rifle at the Visitor’s Center, I mentioned how they picked a great place to put the Interstate and the hostess said, “That was the only place they could.” Driving down I-15 through Utah is like watching beige paint dry compared to I-70.

Looking at the map, it looked like the junction with Highway 65 through the Grand Mesa area was a great road (at least according to the map) and a better place to meet than Montrose. It was only about 30 or so minutes from Grand Junction, so we decided to see if my Butler Map was right. It was.

Without a doubt, it was one of the funnest sections of highway I’ve ever been on. It felt like a road custom-made for a motorcycle as we climbed. And to think it was a last-minute addition to the ride blows my mind. This section of highway is definitely worth doing again. My Butler map listed several sections of this ride as the best Colorado has to offer and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. It’s called the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway and I highly recommend the stretch from the junction with I-70 to Cederedge.

The road to SilvertonI was running low on gas so we stopped in Delta to gas up and went a little further to Montrose to stop for lunch. We decided to continue south on 550 instead of taking 62 and 145 toward Cortez like we did a couple of Memorial Day Weekends ago. The road over Red Mountain Pass is called the “Million Dollar Highway.” Expect a lot of slow-speed hairpin turns and some very exposed shoulders. It. Was. A. Blast.

I was very glad for the low-end torque on my Road King climbing through the hairpins. While there was a fair amount of traffic on the road, it wasn’t as bad as I had expected. We stopped a time or two to take in the views. We dropped into Silverton far too early The Brown Bear in Silvertonfor me. After the obligatory stop at the “Highest Harley Store in the World” we went next door and had a very tasty chocolate milkshake at the Brown Bear Restaurant.

I couldn’t help but think of Park City as we walked down Main Street in Silverton. However, unlike Park City, it looked like this town had almost been forgotten. The hostess in Rifle told me there was a day when the only way to get to Silverton was either by walking, riding a horse, or by train. I’m glad there’s a road.

Ouray, COI love mountain passes and this one certainly didn’t dissapoint. The little towns that dotted the highway definitely had their roots in mining and are now catering to folks like us who are passing though. Although we didn’t stop, Ouray looked like a very charming town. I took a photo looking back down the canyon at it when we stopped for Phil and Kathy to layer up—as we climbed the temperature started to drop.

Heading down into Durango the road was closed for an hour or so because of an accident on the highway, so we didn’t beat the rain that had been predicted for late afternoon. About 25 miles out of Durango it started to rain and followed us all the way into town. It’s been a couple hours since we settled in and it’s still coming down.

It’s hard not to appreciate what a beautiful part of the world we live in. Today’s ride was one of the most enjoyable days in the saddle I’ve ever spent. This is one of those trips worth doing again.

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The Long Way to Durango: Sandy to Avon via Steamboat

Sandy, UT to Avon, COWhat a great day to be in the saddle. Blue skies and fluffy white clouds followed me all the way to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I pretty much had the road to myself if it weren’t for the biplanes from World War I that followed me through Heber. There must have been an air show at the Heber Airport because a World War II bomber was flying low over the Jordanelle Reservoir too.

I made great time to my lunch spot in Vernal as I pulled in about noon. I remember making this drive on a regular basis to my grandparent’s farm in Ft. Duchesne. I enjoyed the farm as a kid, but didn’t really appreciate how beautiful the ride is climbing Daniels Canyon, past Strawberry Reservoir, and through the small towns that dot Highway 40. I gassed up in Roosevelt, named for our rough ride’n 26th President Theodore. He must have been pretty popular in 1906 when the town was established. Which should be no surprise, he was pretty popular all over the country in those days.

I was flying solo today. Kelly had some bike problems he couldn’t get fixed last night and a couple of other guys bailed earlier in the week. When Kelly called me early this morning I decided to push forward anyway. I’m going to meet up with Phil and Kathy in Montrose tomorrow morning. It’s about 190 miles or so from here, so I should be able to connect with them by sometime mid-morning. We’ll end the day in Durango.

I took 131 just out of Steamboat heading south. Without a doubt it was the highlight of today’s ride. A beautiful mountain pass that is well worth doing again. Amazingly, the predicted afternoon thundershowers were ahead of me and other than a few raindrops a time or two I was dry all the way to Avon. I could tell by the wet roads I had just missed it by a few minutes.

I was talking with another friend of mine who rides and both of us mentioned how the smell of wet asphalt, sage, and pine after a summer shower is one of the great pleasures of the road. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a big fan of riding in the rain—but if you spend any time on the road you’re gonna get wet once in a while. That said, I do like how everything smells after a rain.

Route JacketI mentioned before that I’ve been looking for a new mid-weight/light-weight textile jacket for riding this time of year. I think I’ve found the one I like. It’s one of the less expensive jackets Harley makes and it performed well on the ride today. It was warm enough in the morning when the temperature was cooler; and with the vents open was great as the mercury started to rise through mid-day.

The jacket looks sharp and fits well, but sometimes it’s the little things that really make a difference. In this case, it’s the zippers. I have three or four jackets, but this is the only one I don’t have to coax the zippers while on the bike. Any time I needed to get into a pocket or unzip (or zip) the vents to regulate my temperature, the zippers flawlessly either zipped or unzipped. Usually, I have to sit up, pull the bottom of my pocket as I zip it back up, but these zippers just zipped. One of the simple pleasures of something doing what it was designed to do. So, in addition to looking sharp, the zippers work.

It doesn’t come with any armor, but there are armor pockets on the elbows and shoulders which I filled with the appropriate protection. Since Kelly’s accident, I somehow feel more comfortable knowing I have some extra protection. I don’t think I’ve seen this particular jacket on the road, which is appealing and I personally like the orange accent.

It feels good to be on the road again. I really enjoy these tours and the ride from here to Durango should be beautiful tomorrow.

I’ve got some great video of the section of 131 that I’ll publish later (once I’ve had time to edit it).

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Early Evening in Kamas Valley

Kamas ValleyI was feeling a little cooped up and claustrophobic, but only had a couple of hours to blow out the cobwebs with some wind in my face, so I decided to point the bike towards the Kamas Valley. The area is the gateway to another couple of great rides—the Mirror Lake Highway and the road over Wolf Creek Pass—but it’s also a beautiful ride through pastoral landscape and a decent destination when you don’t have a lot of time. It’s a great ride for after work.

Like many rides in the area, it starts by climbing up out of the Salt Lake Valley through Parley’s Canyon. I opted for the Brown’s Canyon Road rather than the Interstate to Wanship due to the construction, so jumped on Highway 40 for a few until the Park City exit on Hwy 248. Another five or so minutes and I was on the Brown’s Canyon Road. At 4:00 in the afternoon, I pretty much had the road to myself.

Dropping down into the sleepy little town of Peoa, I took a right and headed through town toward Oakley and Kamas. The temperature was ideal and my mesh riding jacket was all I needed. Everything was green and lush as I passed the ranch houses and cabins approaching Kamas. If I’d had another half hour, I would have continued on to Francis and around the south side of Jordanelle, but I was running out of time and jumped back on 248 toward Park City and home.

Mesh JacketThis time of year, on days when the weather is warm, a mesh riding jacket is just the ticket. Several years ago I bought this jacket and have come to really like it. It’s a great alternative to a vest, let’s the breeze blow through, and still offers some protection. What’s more, when the weather gets really hot later in the summer, adding a hydration vest underneath turns it into a great air conditioner.

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Wolf Creek Pass and Provo Canyon

Wolf Creek Pass and Provo CanyonAfter a couple of weeks without a ride, 214 miles and four hours really hit the spot. I wanted to see how the road over Wolf Creek has fared since our trip a few weeks ago with snow still on the road, so I headed over the pass to see if spring has made it to the summit yet. The road was bone dry, but there was still snow on the north-facing slopes and in the shade.

I could feel the temperature drop as I approached the summit and was glad I had my jacket on—even though it was pushing 70 degrees in the valley. It’s easy to forget what the difference in altitude can do to the temperature, so it’s a good practice to be prepared for big swings in temperature this time of year. In fact, I was sprinkled with a little bit of rain as I neared the top.

050215 WC#3The town of Tabiona was named for the Ute Chief Tabiuna-To-Kwanah, Child of the Sun, and Ute warrior. Following the Black Hawk War, the Utes signed a treaty and were settled in the Uintah Basin in eastern Utah, but as what appears to be common practice at the time, the government didn’t honor the treaty and the indian agent responsible for supplying the Utes seems to have kept the supplies for himself. Starving, Tabiuna-To-Kwanah was the Chief that Dan Jones convinced to settle in Thistle Valley. You can read about the Thistle Valley and the Dan Jones story here. Eventually, the Utes wound up back on the reservation in the “Basin” as the locals call it.

050215 WC#2I’ve said before, the ride over Wolf Creek Pass is one of my favorites and one of the first rides my brother-in-law, Paul, introduced me to a week or so after I started riding several years ago.

One of the first passes to open up in the spring, it’s also a beautiful ride in the fall when the leaves are changing. I usually see several bikes on this ride, but today it felt like I had the road to myself.

I had originally planned on taking Indian Canyon from Duchesne to Helper and then home via Spanish Fork Canyon, but the weather started to look sketchy to the southeast so I opted to take 050215 WC#1Highway 208 to the junction with U.S. 40 and scoot home before weather in the high country turned wet. I’d like to put a Wolf Creek-Indian Canyon-Fairview Canyon ride together this year, but it might have to wait until the weather is a little more predictable. That said, it will be an epic ride.

By the time I hit Heber I wasn’t quite ready to jump on the Interstate, so I hung a left and headed for Provo Canyon. The ride through Provo Canyon was a great way to cap of a fun day in the saddle.

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