With the efficiency of interstates this trip probably could have been done in a day or two. Seemed to me there was some cool country off the beaten track though so I stretched it into four fantastic days of exploring; riding from sunshine to blizzard as I worked north. Seemingly away from South America, yes, but with a globe in hand one could almost convince with a chuckle that north points directly there.
The first day found me at Petrified Forest National Park after a scenic drive through copper mining country in mid-eastern Arizona. Some abandoned and some active, none left any doubt in my mind why copper is priced as high as it is.
Petrified Forest National Park is yet another one of those places where it’s easy to envision that you’re on another planet. My only question is, who’s the poor bastard who had to chainsaw up all these rock solid tree trunks into nice manageable logs?
After such a long day it was nice to meet up with Patrick and Eddie, charismatic brothers out on the open road to celebrate Eddie’s 40th, who welcomed me into their impromptu motorcycle camp behind an abandoned roadside structure. Finally sheltered from howling desert winds, I eagerly accepted their kind offer of soup warmed in the campfire coals and cold beers. Soon we were discussing the finer points of two-wheeled travel, from riding sideways through dust-storms to hairpin mountain switchbacks and roadside mechanical repairs. Life is good, and all the better for the people you meet along the way.
The next day, though short when judged by miles, was made long by temperatures barely above freezing and 80 miles of schizophrenic precipitation, going from rain to blizzard to sleet and back again. With frequent stops for hot chocolate and soup I finally arrived at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in time to make camp and spend the afternoon on the rim. What a view!!!! Though lacking a true sunset, the light cooperated enough for some decent HDR photography.
A clearing sky that night meant for chilly sleeping but also the hope for sunshine the next day for morning canyon views. Thanks to friends Adel, Victor, and Adriena who are all master Malaysian coffee exporters on the side, I’m well stocked with Old Town White Coffee to warm the belly and put a little crazy back in my morning grin.
The hoped for sunshine arrived and soon I was back on the precipice of the canyon. This vantage was quite a contrast to that from 65,000 ft altitude, as can be seen from the photo below which was taken by the pilot and this same camera from the cockpit of NASA’s ER-2 during our instrument flight campaign earlier this year. Oh the joys of being employed!
The afternoon’s drive from the Grand Canyon was one of the best yet with wild southwest skies, badland-like rock formations, and some fantastic mountain roads twisting their way into Utah.
Arriving in Utah I camped in the Dixie National Forest where there was still 2-3 ft of snow in places. Good thing as I had run out of water and needed to melt snow for drinking and cooking. After doing so I enjoyed a gourmet dinner of ramen noodles, pine needles, and dirt, noticing that the reflection of the waxing moon was visible while slurping up the noodles. There isn’t a five star restaurant in the world that can offer the moon in your soup.
The next day would be the last on the road for a while, home wasn’t far away. But between Utah and Idaho they had quite a day of scenery planned for me.
Home now for some R&R, and finally able to spend some relaxed time with family. Might drop off the radar for a little while…..