Few things will attract the attention of a motorcycle enthusiast quicker than a statement of, “there is a new road” or some reference to a ride not taken in the past. I found myself in this exact circumstance recently.
Earlier in the summer my wife and I took a wonderful day ride on our motorcycle and we traveled around a loop that we had done previously but it was a special day because we stopped in a new to us small town and enjoyed a spectacular lunch in a local establishment. I like to think of the town as swanky with a recovered 1950 flare. As we rode the loop I noticed a two lane mountain road that cut off at about mid-range on our intended return path. I was kind of drawn to it in some way and I remember thinking clearly: I wonder where that road goes?
Upon our return I was describing our day ride to some friends and fellow bikers. They listened intently as I described the route we had taken and then in an act of ultimate enlightenment they asked; “Did you try the new road?” To this I responded with full attention; “A new road?”
The enlightenment continued and I was advised of a new path that was recently paved as a part of the State of Utah’s Scenic-by-Way effort. The road I had passed, at the time wondering where that goes. Well, that intersection is the southern exit point of the new route. I was informed that the Scenic-By-Way, if I had I taken it, would have taken me through amazing scenery, over a mountain pass abounding with curves, switch backs, ups and downs, all on new pavement with fresh striping and not a lot of traffic.
Needless to say my swanky town story ended at this point and a seed of desire was planted that continued to grow until last Sunday afternoon. I planned that this would be the day we would return and complete the ride as it should have been had I known about the new road.
We arrived at the northern intersection which would begin a 31.5 mile biker odyssey I can scarcely describe but I will try. The route starts as a well-established road that has been in use for many years. Sections of this road have been improved with new pavement which is smooth as a baby’s backside. These sections were to be only a teaser as it soon returned to older pavement. Still, we continued on until the actual new road began following an abrupt right hand turn through a seasonal closure gate.
The new pavement was a delight to ride on. We climbed up and up and the powerful Milwaukee Eight rose to the occasion. While climbing up we rounded curves to the right, curves to the left, switch backs, over gulch’s until at last we arrived at the summit. The curves we encountered are of such tightness that towed trailers frequently leave the roadway. This results in loose gravel from the shoulder being dragged out into the travel lane. Just another obstacle to be aware of and a challenge that demands rider attention.
The summit offers a view of what seems like 50 miles or more of canyon mixed vegetation, Oak, Aspen, and Pine trees a scene capped by a florescent blue sky and a spattering of distant white clouds. This scene seems to have been broken only once by man as a high voltage power line can be seen crossing the breadth. Still, I found myself lost in the expanse for a time.
It is said that what goes up must come down. I suppose that is truth so we must discuss the southern descent of the summit. I found myself traversing a ridge-line where the route seemed to sway from left to right following a path created by our good Lord and maintained by Mother Nature. As I made my way, I looked to the right down into a canyon wilderness only to see the route weaving and switch backing through the forest continuing on a magical descent. There is no exaggeration when I describe my turning to my wife seated behind me as the bike leaned to and fro and yelling with a huge smile on my face; “I LIKE IT!!!” While looking back in the mirror for her reaction I saw my dog seated behind her. Kevin was leaning out from his own custom seat into the wind; eyes in squint, ears flapping, and a huge smile of his own spread across his muzzle. Apparently he agreed with my assessment.
Soon the new pavement gave way to older well-traveled sections which continued to descend. Although the road in this section was well established it did not fail to present challenges and intrigue of its own. The 31.5 miles passed quickly and I soon found myself at the intersection I had seen before. Only this time there was no wonder where the route goes. Rather my thoughts were filled with; should I turn around and do it again?
Oh, but the joys of new routes and first times. Do you know what I mean?
Traveling by motorcycle places the rider directly into the elements. It is for this reason that motorcycles are so attractive to those who have inclination for sun on the back, wind in the face, smells in the air, and freedom. What also comes is risk and the needs for awareness and preparedness is a great idea. Much like life in many ways.
On a past weekend I found myself joyful in my travel south with the weekend promises of sun, motorcycle, a pretty woman, swimming pools, and the love of family. As I traveled toward my goals, dark clouds, thunder storms, and falling rain gathered and affected the area. The prevailing wind carried the storms on a north, north east direction crossing my path diagonally. I soon found myself shooting gaps in the storms. Speed increases to pass before some or slowing with pauses to pass behind others. I was actually having fun dancing with Mother Nature and maybe was getting a bit too cocky at my success.
About 100 miles out I saw it. Directly ahead a dark and dismal storm sat in the canyon that was to be my passage. I watched the dark falling moisture as I approached closer and closer. An indication of direction is what I sought. Seeing nothing I soon determined, the storm and I were on a direct collision course. It was refusing yield and kept coming on. Thoughts changed to shelter and a race soon began. Do I stop here in this town the safe bet, or do I chance making that rest area 20 miles out? Confident was I at my success of this day.
The rest area it would be, I would challenge the storm and get there first. It’s a hard task to judge the speed of a storm which is coming head on and I soon found myself riding into the first of its moisture. Light at first but building in strength the storm moved right up and over my path. It soon consumed me. 5, 4, 3, 2 miles more and the storm raged on.
Cars and semi trucks on roadside shoulder, a couple down the embankment, they were hydroplane victims. The cost of not slowing despite Mother Nature’s power. Thought’s now pass in my mind; “this race I’ve lost, and I’m going to get wet, soaked to the bone.” My furry companion snuggled up close to my back whining at the sting of rain drops and hail. I should have stopped in the safety of town but that option has passed. There is no option now but to carry on in the rain; 1 more mile, then a ½, I was so close now but the storm in its laughter poured on the rain.
Off of the interstate the danger had passed. Into the lot and quickly I parked shutting the big motor down with a flick of the thumb. I dismounted my girl, untethered my buddy and into the shelter we walked together. A gutter chock full of water and BB sized hail stones on the walkway explained the sting my little buddy had felt. As I lifted my helmet and Kev shook off the water, three others I saw all smiling at me. With Harley hats, Sturgis shirts, leather and helmets of their own. I looked outside in the parking lot opposite of mine. There were three bikes parked in a row, it seems they were quicker than I this day. They had made it to shelter and waited all dry.
“Well Howdy”; my greeting was given with an acknowledgement of, “That’s one hell of a storm. I thought I could beat it but it came up on me quick”
By the grins on display I knew they understood clearly my own soggy wet smile. Surely they thought of rides in their past and of their own chances taken and races they lost. There is some strange satisfaction at pressing my luck, taking a chance, and even in loosing this race.
The weeks ending day has finally arrived. The fifth day was saved for a much needed ride. Of motor, of leather, of warm air and sun, all were part of the original plan. When a rider awakens and looks out to see dark clouds and moisture to threaten the plan. A check of the weather and what from the man but a forecast so low it includes certain snow with high wind to boot. Oh I don’t give a hoot, this simply won’t do, it’s just not a part of the adventurers plan.
What should be done when nature throws out a curve? Why lean inside and roll throttle regardless the steepness of turn. Add a new layer under the leather and zip it up tight cause adventure is awaiting for those who don’t weaken. So a man, a motor, and a furry side kick open the garage door and a kick stand comes up. Into the desert the swashbucklers ride.
Quail Creek it seems is a prevailing wind tunnel. Into its main jet stream the motor and her riders do roll. Like a Deep Purple lyric from days long ago, instead of the smoke, I see a red sandy cloud on the water below. Carried across on winds from the north, never once touching the surface below. Over the white caps it steadily moved looking like a daylight shadow certainly would.
A wind that moves snow storms away to the east releasing the sun to shine down on us all can cause storms of their very own making. Hidden inside the veil of a spinning red devil the Tumbleweeds roll pacing the motor on winds from behind. Yes, it’s a race for the centerline; who arrives first determines the pass, the quick to the left and slower the right. Sometimes the motor and others the Tumble but we didn’t cross paths which was really a wonder.
A motor runs well when temperatures are colder. A twist of the wrist when the next up kick is made, the goal is of merging at a high rate of speed. The pipes do scream as ponies release to thrust the bike forward and push rider back. The surge of adrenal and a smile that shines on the rider who chose to brave out the storm.
Located on the south eastern edge of the Hurricane Valley is a Butte which has a shape and size that stands out on that beautiful sky line. Mollies Nipple is one of those landscape features that the eye is simply going to notice. As such was my case some three years ago when I first started to frequent the south western corner of this amazing geographical area located in State of Utah, USA.
Of course my interest in the area was and continues to be toward a person more than the geography here but for me once I discovered that hiking Mollies Nipple is not only possible but is frequently done it has been on my, “to do list.”
So on Saturday last as the good Lord granted me yet another day to get it right and I woke with that special person who had brought me to this area in the first place along with my trusty furry side kick Kevin, the question was once again poised; “What should we do today?” At this question the answer popped into my head and I blurted out. “Let’s make a run on Mollies Nipple!” So with that the days adventure was set into motion.
Now any hike requires a degree of planning and preparation. Over the last couple years I had spent some time researching and scouting the area. Locals had told me previously of an access road that made the hike to the summit an easy one. I had spent time searching for this road but was unable to locate it and soon put the thoughts of the easy access out of my mind. I did find the hiking trail to the summit and had driven to the trail head a couple times where I looked up longingly at the summit to the Butte tracing the route visually.
Mollies Nipple trail begins on the valley floor at the edge of a new subdivision where an access gate is located. From there it quickly passes through a wash and then immediately begins a steep upward climb. Statistics indicate the trail is 1.7 miles out and back and has a “difficult” rating with an elevation gain of 1,353 feet above the valley floor. Doing some math I discovered that the hike was a bit of a scramble up covering on average 80 vertical feet every tenth of a mile. I could see that this average was mostly contained in the lower third that is steep and the terrain being that of loose gravel and rock. The trail spider webs into several routes all leading upward. They all converge on a spine that continues upward to the Butte’s summit.
As we planned our day my beautiful little companion had a number of other items on her list and was contemplating a timeline for this hike. I quickly recognized the seemingly short time allowed to complete this, “to do” listed item for me. I think I remember her saying something like; “Well we could knock that out in this many minutes and then we could…” Now my little companion is nearly always willing to try my adventures even when she doesn’t have a clear idea what I’m asking of her. On this occasion I simply stated; “Oh, let’s just play it by ear and see how long it takes us.”
With the plan set we packed hydration and snacks into my pack, donned our hiking shoes, climbed into the power Dodge and off we went onto an adventure filled day. As I drove to the trail head located at the foothill, the summit of Mollies Nipple loomed over us and Kathy asked a couple of questions as she began to grasp my adventure plan. The two I remember were; “We are going up there?” And, “How do you know where to start?” I replied; “Well I have driven out here before, I thought that you were with me?” With a pause I continued to state facts about the trail I had discovered. After talking briefly about the lower thirds challenge and its eventual transition to a easier slope I ended with; “maybe we should get you a better pair of hiking boots so you have better traction and ankle support?” To this there was a distant but thoughtful reply while she continued to look up and up. “No, I’ll be fine.”
With that we hopped out of the power Dodge and seeing two other cars parked near the trailhead I mentioned; “Well, it looks like we are going to have company up there.” I figured a misery loves company statement might be the encouragement she needed. Little did I know how accurate this statement would later prove to be.
So with a spring in our step, fresh legs under us, the thrill of engaging a challenge clearly felt and with Kevin running back and forth excited to be out with us and not on leash, we began our ascent. As we continued up and up, I began to think of some great mountaineers in human history. The likes of George Mallory, Andrew ”Sandy” Irvine, Sir Edmund Hillary, and Tenzing Norgay were on my oxygen deprived mind. Of course this was no Mount Everest but to a middle age, out of shape couple, gaining feet in elevation with every step, oxygen deprivation is the same.
Years ago, when responding to questions about why someone would want to climb Everest? Mallory and then later Hillary replied; “because it’s there!” This statement continued to ring in my mind and I began to look forward to my own statement about Mollie. You have to celebrate your little victories; they are the marrow of life.
Up, up, and up we went; resting every few paces. Over, through and around scrambling opportunities until at last we reached the spine above the lower third. I smiled when by little companion began to send text messages on our rest breaks canceling her additional plans made for that day putting them off until another time. Yes, playing it by ear for this outing was becoming a necessity.
However, once on the spine the steepness of grade reduced and scrambling gave way to upright walking on a gentle slope with a well-defined trail. Our eyes fixed on the crown jewel itself the summit of the Butte which jutted perkily into the blue sky above. Yes, yes, this Butte had been appropriately named. As legend tells the Butte was named by a Mormon Pioneer named John Kitchen in commemoration of his lovely wife Mollie. Since there are reportedly at least 6 different geological features in the State with reference to Mollie, I think she must have been some little gal who never strayed far from her husband’s thoughts.
Continuing on with heaving breath at every step I was reminded of my healing airway. Having recently recovered from a severe nasal and chest infection. Oh I tell you now, there is nothing like exertion and clean air to clear air passages and remove congestion from the alveoli of the lungs. Yes, it was a blow and go experience for me and I was so thankful that I had remembered to bring along my handkerchief.
As we pressed on and I continued to think of Hillary and Norgay and the elation they must have felt as they accomplished the enviable success in being the first to summit Everest and survived to tell the tale. I was feeling my own sort of elation and excitement at summiting Mollie when I saw movement there on the summit. I stopped mid-stride and looked closely at that amazing shape ahead. Yes, there was movement for certain. I saw standing on the summit, a person with another scrambling up behind. I said out loud; “Well look there, we are to have company today after all.” Kathy also stopped and looked at our destination. We watched for a time as the figures began their descent and were closing the distance clearly on the same trail; we would soon meet.
As the couple approached I saw they too had a furry companion and its looks was very similar to Kevin. Soon we were talking together and comparing notes on our experience of the lower third as our furry friends played together no less energetic from the start. At this time we felt we had less than ten minutes to our eventual summit success. While conversing with this wonderful couple, I continued to keep my eye on the goal by occasionally glancing up to the summit. To my amazement I saw additional movement there. I said; “look there is someone else up there too.” Thinking immediately about the third car at the trail head I determined they must be from that last car.
It was at this time that reality came crushing down upon me. The couple said, yeah there are a lot of people up there. Confused I must have looked because they continued; “Yeah, there is a road on the other side and a parking lot there. You can just drive up from the other side.” I must have let out a gasp of air like that of a fully inflated balloon being pricked with a sharp pin. With a sympathetic tone of voice the couple said; “yeah, it was a bit disappointing to us too.” Disappointing? I thought to myself. No, “crushing” was a better description of what I felt. Imagine the blow to Hillary and Norgay had someone landed in a helicopter at their Everest summit camp and hopped out eating a McDonalds Big Mac. “Road” I thought, where in the hell is the road? I had driven all over out there while scouting and couldn’t find it at all.
I soon recovered and after a few more words and joking with this fine couple we pressed on to the summit. Upon our arrival I saw out in the distance just what had been described. A dirt road with multiple vehicles parked in a turn around and a number of people walking to and from the vehicles. After visiting with some of the folks at the top I determined where I might have missed the road on previous scouting trips. The folks there were young people from a local community out on what seemed to be an awesome group date. I enjoyed helping them with several group photographs to document their day group date and then we went our separate ways.
The tremendous trio of Kathy, Kevin and I made our way to the highest point of the summit where we sat, snuggled, and drank hardy amounts of fluids while snacking on granola bars, cheese and crackers. While overlooking a spectacular view of the Hurricane Valley, we cracked off-color jokes and made creative statements about dining at our current location. We laughed at ourselves and at my scouting error. We looked back toward our own approach and eventual descent and felt a tremendous sense of victory. We had in fact summited Mollies Nipple and we had done so the right way; the hard way.
In fact I’m intending to produce tee shirts for the three of us to boast of the accomplishment. I envision a silk screen image of the Butte and conversation starting statements for the tee shirts. Maybe something like; “We did Mollies Nipple the hard way” for example. That should do it, oh the conversations and bragging opportunities we’ll have.
At having seen the area from an elevated spot, we returned to the area the next day and located the elusive road I had missed previously while scouting. I had in fact been right on the very road I was looking for but because of vegetation and angle I had missed the road continuing on past the place I had turned around.
Upon locating it we drove out to the turn around on our OHV and gazed up at the summit which was only a couple hundred yards away. I’ll tell you the experience was just not the same as the day previous, there could be no comparison made.
Although the hike is a butt kicker in every sense, I’m thankful that I had missed the road while scouting and we had experienced Mollies Nipple as we did; the hard way. It seems that the more the struggle the greater the reward. I am proud to have been a member of the tremendous trio expedition that scrambled up Mollies Nipple and we did it the hard way. What is more? We’ll have the tee shirts to prove it.
This is an epic tale of man vs. skunk. One pistol toting, the other with a bladder full of stink, it was the making of the ultimate faceoff.
We were visiting relatives recently and enjoying each other’s company when one of the dogs began to bark at the back door which is a full plate glass door. Ole’ Sharp Shooter spoke to his dog and said; “What’s the matter; is the Robin stealing your food again?” He then turned back to our conversation and explained that there was a Robin who would drive his dog nuts by swooping in and stealing his dog’s food then it would fly away before the dog could catch it. The dog continue to bark despite Ole’ Sharp’s telling him to hush several times. He was walking back and forth barking at the door and returning to stare at Ole’ Sharp with increasing concern building which was clearly visible in his eyes. Finally, Ole’ Sharp got up out of his easy chair and walked over to the glass door while saying; “Ok, you want to go get him, here you go.” However, as he reached for the door he stopped short and took a step back away from the door with a slight panic visible on his face.
I had recently read a news report which had informed of a couple young Mountain Lions that were seen wondering through town in broad daylight not a block from our relative’s home. I thought for just a moment that the Lions might be in the back yard. However, I soon discovered a far worse scenario would be the truth. Ole’ Sharp turned to me and said in a low voice almost a whisper. “There is a Skunk out there!!!” The dog barked one final time as if to say: “See, I told you it wasn’t the Robin!”
I got up and walked over by Ole’ Sharp and looked out. Sure enough there he was the most frightening wild animal on the face of Mother Earth. He was a beautiful skunk, pitch black hair with two wide white stripes running down his back to a bushy tail which held the power of his presence or should I say essence. He was standing there eating his lunch from the dog’s bowl of food. The little bugger was well aware of his prowess among men. It was mid-afternoon and he was blatantly eating his lunch. He defiantly looked up at us several times as if to say; “Yeah, I’m eating your dog’s food and what you gonna do about it?” I think I even saw a sinister little grin come upon his face. As I watched him I imagined he continued to say; “You know I’m a little skunk but I will spray the hell out of you if you even think about opening that door” He seemed to be taunting us like a little Skunk Dirty Harry; “Go ahead Punk, Make My Day!!!”
We clearly needed a plan to deal with this over confident little menace who had confidently strolled up onto the back porch only a foot or two from the door and began to help himself to a lunch which was not intended for him. Ole’ Sharp said out loud but mostly to himself; “What do we do?” For a short time I wished it were the Lion as I had first thought. In such case we could have just employed and old rancher technique to deal with protected predators. Commonly referred to as a; “shoot, shovel, and shut up.”
However, with this arrogant little problem standing not a foot away from the door that plan simply wouldn’t work because if not done exactly right the technique could go horribly wrong and become a shoot, oh damn, cover your eyes and plug your nose for the next two weeks. In addition Ole’ Sharp pointed out another obvious flaw with shooting our little menace where he stood. The bullet would hit the concrete porch and ricochet in any direction. This was not a good idea given the closeness of neighbors and the fact we were right in the middle of town. We determined a Plan B was needed.
I said; ”Ok, if we shoot him you have got to hit him in the head so as to kill him before he can spray!”
Now as a point of clairification here. You notice how I defaulted to, “if we shoot him, you have got to…” as the language of the plan? Oh yes, this is not my first rodeo on making impromptu plans such as this one. When making plans of this nature, one must always leave a route for escape if the plan fails. This way if the unthinkable were to happen, for years to come I could tell tales about the time Ole’ Sharp shot the skunk in his back yard and it ran around the house spraying everything in sight without having to admit my involvement in the planning process. But as the planning would go I continued with Ole’ Sharp listening intently.
“We have to get him away from the house but we don’t want him to run toward the neighbors or to get too spooked so that he would spray.” I said, “Here’s what we will do, you get your gun and watch him from here. I’ll go out side and around back of the house from the direction of the neighbors. I’ll make noise so that he will leave the porch in the direction we want which is away from the house and more importantly away from me. Once he is away from the porch and you have a clear shot, go ahead and take him down. But remember, you have to hit him in the head so he doesn’t spray.”
To my astonishment, Ole’ Sharp liked the plan and went to get his gun. While he was away I had time to look out the glass door at the little devil and think to myself; Oh dear, this had better go well. Ole’ Sharp retuned soon after with his gun in hand. I was surprised to hear the confidence in his voice. He could make the shot, he said. He knew this because he had recently shot a playing card in a motorcycle poker run, he had hit it dead center with his first shot. Not wanting to destroy needed confidence, I walked away without responding but I was there on that poker run and didn’t remember the card shot in exactly the same detail but I didn’t want to destroy the mojo he had going.
I walked around the house as planned and entered the back yard. I was talking out loud to myself which isn’t uncommon. But this time I was saying things like; “What in the heck are you doing out here when the skunk might be smarter than you thought and he’ll be waiting for you.” I wondered if Kathy would be opposed to sleeping with a skunk sprayed new husband? Still, I pressed forward.
I approached the back porch while banging on a can for noise and I saw our little nemesis with his tail raised and in fire position. He exited the porch and ran into a small shed just as we had planned for him to do. At this Ole’ Sharp opened the door we had been looking out of. The dog ran out of the house making a direct path for the shed. Both Ole’ Sharp and I yelled at the dog with a small degree of urgency. The dog sensed the tone of voice and stopped short of the shed. He actually came to me which has never happened before and I grabbed his collar holding tight. I think the dog knew what was about to happen and thought being with me at a distance was a great idea. I told Ole’ Sharp that I had the dog held tight and he was good to go.
Ole’ Sharp with his six shooter in hand, crept up on the shed door. From my position he looked a little like a man tiptoeing across an unmapped land mine field. At last he stopped, slowly raised the weapon, and took careful aim, “Crack” the weapon recoiled. Ole’ Sharp turned and took a couple quick steps back toward the house. The dog I was holding completely freaked out and began to spin and pull away. It was as if the dog was trying to say; “Oh my hell he has just shot that skunk in the guts, let me get the heck out of here.” For a few seconds I nearly panicked myself at the sight of the quick stepping sharp shooter retreating away from the shed at a far faster pace than he had used to approach and the dog spinning pulling and barking at me to run for our lives or at least for our sense of smell anyway. Through the confusion of the moment I watched as Ole’ Sharp stopped and turned back, he raised the weapon a second time, took careful aim and “Crack”.
Again the dog began to spin and pull obviously aware that a second shot was not a good sign given the necessity for a clean headshot the first time. But as it were Ole’ Sharp was good to his word, “He could make the shot” and the dogs panic was unwarranted. A clean headshot not once but twice just for good measure. I approached him as he confidently blew the gunpowder smoke out of the barrel and looked confidently into the shed at the not so confident menace. Mingling with the gun smoke there was the slight odor of skunk spray but nearly nothing. I concluded that the plan had worked perfectly and that the fine shooting of Ole’ Sharp had dusted the overconfident little luncheon guest before he could get off a single shot of his own. Perfect execution of the plan and complete success. Victory was found!!!
Since then it has occurred to me that there is only one problem with the plan and the degree success we found that day. I have found that now in addition to the perfect poker run card shoot we’ve heard so much about, we are also enduring tall tales of the great skunk head shot also. How far can these tales go? I can only imagine. Some might include tales of running headshots of the rabid skunk attacking children at play and at having done so while blind folded just to make it more sporting. Oh dear, the sky is the limit to the stories we’ll hear.
Oh well, great stories come from great risk. He took the shot and hit it dead center twice, bragging rights secure in the win. I guess that is why they call him Ole’ Sharp Shooter Smith.
Few things go together better than motorcycles and old roads. It’s like sugar and spice or cake and ice cream or Harley and Davidson, they just go together. So when I found myself with a free afternoon I thought to myself, “I should go and take a ride on the Old Lincoln Highway.”
The Lincoln Hwy is identified as the first transcontinental hard surface road in America. It’s route traveled from New York City, NY to San Francisco, CA crossing the entirety of this great land at an initial length of 3389 miles completed and recorded in 1913. To put things into focus that is merely 10 years after Harley Davidson was founded as a motor company. It also just happens that about 25 miles of that 3389 are still in existence right here in Eastern Summit County, Utah.
Kevin and I jumped on the motor and headed into town to pick up our wing man for this ride. It wasn’t long until two bikes were headed down the Weber on a ride into history. We joined up with the Old Lincoln in the town of Wanship Utah and then we headed North East on that trusty old route. We traveled the towns of Hoytsville and Coalville finally arriving near the small town of Echo.
Although we had been riding the Old Lincoln for some miles this was the starting point of this day’s adventure. I had envisioned the ride up Echo Canyon from the small town of Echo to the Ghost Town of Emory. I stopped in the now nearly deserted roadway and the wingman pulled up alongside me.
I asked one question; “Are you ready?” The Wingman replied yes; let’s do it. Then added a cautionary; “just watch for deep pot holes”. I replied; “Ok, will do,” and we were off. A Harley Davidson Road Glide and a Honda Goldwing traveling East on a roadway first recorded 108 years ago in the year 1913 and has been in use ever since. I think a very good match for this day’s adventure.
The 11 miles of pot hole free patchwork asphalt and crack seal went by quickly even though our traveling speed was slow. Some areas smooth and others rougher but through history we rode and saw places and things of times gone past. An old sedan which once traveled this way but now lays in a ditch bank covered with earth and is far into decay. An ancient bridge railing of concrete and pipe can clearly be seen still on the job protecting travelers from a nasty fall.
There are places where Militia and Army once met in an ill-conceived conflict that didn’t exist. Long before that, Ancient Native American people, Fremont’s and others, used this very same path years before Europe even knew of this land. Once it was discovered; Mountain Men, Explorers, Pioneers and Settlers all passed on the very same route. Following dreams of freedom they sought, or riches in gold and land for the taking. All this before The Old Lincoln even existed.
Today the route winds along and follows the tracks of a railway main line. The modern interstate is off in the distance with vehicles traveling at high rates of speed, drivers giving hardly a glance at the history we ride.
Telegraph lines no longer in use now drooping and fallen in great twisted loop’s. Copper they are made of and a recyclers dream but to take it a crime just might be claimed.
Now there are only trees and bushes that appear out of place along with foundations of homes and buildings long since past. The water stop ghost town of Emory, it’s heyday long past, now a place that nature has reclaimed and nothing remains except the sound of the trains.
Rocky bluffs so close to the roadway that in places the cliffs angle out over most of this road and we ride under.
Rock climbers galore can be found on the cliffs and more than a few challenge themselves here. The traffic we did see when riding the route was mostly from those climbers scrambling for more.
Features with names such as Hanging rock which is really an arch. The Breastworks, Castle, Monument, Death’s, Rolling Rock’s can all be seen here and that names just a few. The pitted and towering red rock routes are more than a climber will power to resist.
Soon our path was complete and we found ourselves sitting on the overpass structure where the historic old road and the modern highway meet. After talking a while of the things we had seen, we decided our path taking us home would be back through the history of The Lincoln Hwy.
Yes, old roads and motorcycles, a definite match!!! Summers going fast, best mount up and ride, the warmth and the sunshine is here at last.
Adventure often calls for us to exercise a bit of courage and to step into the unknown. Actually, that kind of adventure is my absolute favorite because it removes the comfort zone and often pushes boundaries and challenges skill. This was not the extreme adventures that I value so much, but it was a challenge and sometimes that’s enough.
The day began with the question which went something like: “Hum, what should we do today?” The answer soon came and it was let’s explore the desert on our ATV but then the ultimate detail was, “Where?” That’s where a dear relative comes into this tale. We were advised of a beautiful area with red rock, stream crossings, quiet meadows, and wildlife. I had heard of this area previously and it was on my bucket list to see and determine if I could get from here to there yet once again. The clincher this day was that we were told; “You can go all the way through!”
So, off we went with this description in mind. The trail along La Verkin Creek starts off of SR 9 East of the small town of La Verkin near a gun range. It travels through an area of desert where dirt bike riders love to play on the desert terrain making loops up and over mounds and hillsides. The main trail weaves it’s way through and we passed numerous dirt bikes and riders.
At the far end of this area there is a steep down slope which covers a couple hundred yards and is covered in rock, sand and loose material of every kind. Well, if you have ever felt the times on an OHV when weight, gravitational pull and steepness of grade combine then add in the disengagement of tires with terra-firm and you will know why the thought, “Oh, sh17” ran through my mind.
It was at about this time the rear wheels began to slide which for some reason always allows them to travel faster than the front. If left unchecked the back of the OHV will pass the front on one side or the other and the rider can feel this occurring as the vehicle begins to tilt and rotate. If left unchecked the riders will soon find themselves sliding down hill sideways or backward. This usually precedes the worst case scenario where spectators might report seeing an anomaly well described and follows of the theme of; “Well we saw, the shiny side and then the wheels and then the shiny side again in an alternating fashion until it came to a bloody rest down there!”
Fortunately, there is a technique to employ which will correct this motion if applied soon enough. Against every human instinct the required action is to release brake and accelerate while turning ever slightly into the direction that the rear tires are traveling. This acceleration is often called “goosing it” so to speak. I employed this technique which worked perfectly.
So picture in your mind if you can Kevin (My Dog) in front ears flapping in the wind and a big panting grin on his face, me in the middle, and Kathy behind hanging on with surprising strength and eyes closed. The ATV itself rocketing down a loose material covered steep roadway at break neck speed seemingly like a blue meteor and me with a hand full of throttle accelerating.
Ok, I must admit at being a bit of an adrenaline junkie and as we exited the slope near the bottom and began to slow, the force of gravity no longer being applied. I thought; “Well then, that was exciting” and with that my junkie fix for the day has been achieved. As I looked back up the slope which seemed to be the only way back to the truck, I had the clear thought; “We are committed now!!!”
With the back door seemingly closed the ATV odyssey of La Verkin Creek to Toquerville Falls began. For the next few hours we encountered obstacle, challenges, and difficulties that required strategy and pathfinding which made for an adventure in every possible way. Countless stream crossings, opportunities to skin up creek in water over the footboards with steep rock walls on both sides, over and around downed timbers, slight delays where other 4×4 units had chickened out but were now stuck blocking path and needing 9000 pound winches on a buddies jeep for extraction, bumps, boulders, sand washes, stair step flat rock, deep cut solid rock ravines.
Eventually, the canyon walls widened and the spaces between water and rock expanded. The trail that was almost unidentifiable in places became once again a road. We did in fact see red rock, beautiful meadows, multiple stream crossing and wildlife. As we went the 4 wheel drive was changed to 2 wheel and our speed increased.
We encountered others on side by side OHV’s along the way who stopped to chat. I began to hear a now common theme. I asked if others had gone or were going, “All the way through?” I have been told time and again now; “No way, we always turn around.”
With a smile of accomplishment on display we pressed on. The cool wind blew on our faces as we rounded a curve in road holding tight to the mountainside when suddenly it appeared before us; Toquerville Falls. I exclaimed to my beautiful, although now completely stressed out little bride, “Well look there, you can go all the way through!!!” I continued; “Should we stop for a picture?”
Ignoring my question, Kathy asked with a little shake of concern in her voice: “Do we have to go back through that to get to the truck?” I replied; “Naw, there is another way.”
But that my friends is another tale involving two Sheriffs, an OHV on a State Road, and a stolen car.
What is the common feature that all home towns share? Why, it’s a favorite greasy spoon and I use that term as one of endearment. Each of these wonderful places boast of; “The best burger in town” and by golly its definitely true. The farming community of Enterprise Utah located in the southwestern corner of the state is no different.
This is a tale of sunny winter day in the desert, a meal, a man, a motorcycle, and of a side kick named Kevin Furbear. It was midweek and most were at work or scurrying about on their task list for the day. With several hours uncommitted we soon found ourselves on the bike and steering the open road to a point unknown. This is my space and I do all that’s possible to create days just like today.
As we made our way the road and the bike combine to dictate the path we’d follow. I allowed myself to recess to that place where bikers go when thought and the purr of a strong motor create a special place that riders all know.
As I roll to a stop at the intersection of SR 18 and 219 a thought invaded my world and it was this. “I’m in Enterprise and there is a Spoon here.” It’s name is Marv’s and it has a reputation that may be it’s namesake if Marvelous be the founder name.
With a slight pang in my stomach we wheeled into the lot and shut the big motor down. A promise of a treat was made to my friend if he’d wait outside and be a very good boy.
Inside when I walked to the counter, I found the special to be a cheese burger, fries, and drink for a reasonable price. Have I ever mentioned my first words as a child? Well, it was my favorite then and not much has changed. The “Hamburger and Coke” order was placed and a feast soon arrived.
Now, I will try as best that I can to describe the sight I beheld as the staff said cheerfully, “Here you go”.
The fries were the ones you get by slicing fresh taters early that morning and deep frying right in clean oil changed just that day. Not over done but definitely crispy with soft middle inside that burst through the salty crisp to combine with fry sauce dipped from the small cup like container.
If this beginning has your attention, just wait till we get to the burger I saw. The bun is important it has to be soft in the center with a toasted crust outside making it that golden brown arch on the top. Next are the veggies; tomato, lettuce and pickle. All are so fresh that crisp just doesn’t describe and flavor packed through when combining with ketchup, mustard and the fresh tomato juices leaving a trickle running down the chin. Last there is the burger itself. When I picked out Kevin’s promised last bite. I found the secret that made it taste; oh, so right. A fresh hand formed patty made from local beef that was ground just the evening before. Cooked on the spot for the order I’d placed. Brown all the way through but not to the point where juices are not able to contribute to the mess on my chin only to be eventually wiped away by that napkin I grabbed. Oh, and by the way, I haven’t even mentioned the shakes.
So, if your ever in the hood and cruising on down in the southwest corner of our wonderful state. Do yourself a favor; I trust you can take it from here. But watch for that biker rolling throttle with glared over eyes, rippin’ down the two lane with his pup on behind.
I was invited to ride in a watermelon run. What’s a watermelon run you ask? Well, it’s a two day motorcycle ride with friends to a small off the path town that holds an annual festival to celebrate the year’s successful harvest. What do you do there might be your next. Well, I could tell you adventure but that wouldn’t be enough. It isn’t always what you do on adventure but more what you see. So throw your leg over, climb on with me and we’ll ride the adventure where you will see.
Old friends and new meet and greet with friendly handshakes or pats on the shoulder. There is a common interest of two wheels and adventure we seek. The route is revealed and a ride order established. Now hold to me tightly because kick stands are up and off we do throttle to adventures new calling.
I feel a chill in the air as we climb ever so higher. A struggle is evident; Autumn is coming as Summer holds on. But at higher elevation like that of a mountain pass give clue to the wise that seasons are changing.
The road it does wind, it curves, and it bends. The motor shows power when the throttle is twisted. Momentum it’s said is a definite friend when the bike lays to inside, eyes look through the curve, and the bike follows the appropriate path. Now accelerate the exit and anticipate the next.
The pace is a good one that isn’t too fast. Allows time to look at the things that we pass. Utah is amazing the diversity seen. From mountain passes of 9000 feet or higher, to the low desert valley with red rock, dry washes, and more.
Dark clouds that are traveling by with gaps in between allows radiant sunshine remain. The light show it gives is an amazing sight. Like a giant flood or spot light, it’s highlighting of huge mountains in distance, a wanderlust dream. Light travels quickly the fastest we know, but the eye is amazing and can certainly see the life giving energy streaming down from above.
Rainbows are made from refracted sunlight. It’s colorful arch points toward a distant mountain range, the peaks creating in minds eye a picture frame sight. Gold there may be at the end of that bow but our path on this day is to a watermelon show.
The desert is vast in between these small towns and the road can be a long one, even today. But back in the day when car stops were needed, a station was built where the Price crosses under. Woodside it’s called and its heyday well past. The skeleton building all boarded up tight is all that remains of a once bustling highway oasis. Now day’s off-griders inhabit this place in trailer and camper selling jerky at roadside stands. Stop we should and sample their fare, but watermelon is calling from further ahead.
A parade route is ready when we arrive; the streets are all lined with spectators waiting to see. We ride straight through town along the parades eventual route, waiving and smiling at the anticipating crowd. Thinking to self; “good thing we practiced our parade winning waive.” This proved to be true later that day at a station some 100 miles away. A man walked to me and said sure as a fact; “You were in the parade; I remember your dog.” Ok, so maybe it wasn’t my waive but rather my furry side kick that memories made. Choose your friends wisely and remember they will.
I see kids are prepared to gather up candy as fire trucks, Politicians, Princesses, business floats pass. Kids all take a lesson from one little feller who mastered a duck waddle to move him along. Gathering piece after piece he was able to do tucking into his shirt like a kangaroo’s pouch. Then scurry to his parent where his main horde was growing with each dumping of his ad hoc kangaroo pouch. If you’re caught in a pinch for Halloween night this young man could hook you up right.
Now to the park we walked straight after, with thoughts of an old song that went something like this:
I wasn’t in a hurry, so I slowed down, took a two lane road to a one horse town. There was a party goin’ on when I got there, I heard a welcome speech from a home town mayor. He said we’ve got a hundred gallons of sweet red wine, made from the biggest watermelon on the vine. Help yourself to some but obey the law if you drink don’t drive, do the watermelon crawl…Tracy Bird
As I made my way, looking for the watermelon queen to show us how, I saw vendors a plenty and friends to be made including a mother and daughters in proper dress for this watermelon fest. The vendor neck massage received was amazing to be had. But of all that I saw, the best was of three booths by grower families that had truckloads of melon. Samples were cut fresh by Machetes and waiting for the taking. I soon discovered there is no polite way to eat a juicy watermelon. Although not by the queen, I soon learned how. You just let it run down your chin and lean forward a bit like your gonna spit and try not let it drip on your shoes.
After hours of eattin’ it was time to go so we fired up the bikes and rode outta town. With a full melon just for home in my pack, I took a moment a quick look back; it was apparent to me, the watermelon crowd partied on. The lyric’s return as I rolled throttle and rode away.
The value of a word; well, it’s astounding and few are better than the word “Look”. I have had moments when I am completely alone and amazing things are discovered.
Like the amazing sunrise of yesterday with its lightening blue sky over a black desert landscape and the redness of clouds set all blaze with the days first rays of brilliant light. As I drove through the desert, the voice of Louis Armstrong singing in my mind; “What a Wonderful World!”
“I see skies of blue and clouds of white. The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night. And I think to myself what a wonderful world.”
And yes, I may well have sang along with Louis for a time, Kevin being my only witness, to a rare but magnificent sight.
Moments such as these are amazing to be sure, but the power of “look” is on my mind and I have discovered. For to experience the power of “look” one must share with another.
Like a day prior from this wonderful sunrise morning, when in the amazing place we call Zion with a special friend. We walked and we talked and sat and we held hands and each other so close. Oh, what an amazing day to have been together and the power of look was there to be sure.
Oh “look” there is an amphitheater but it’s all wrong for the seats are facing the wrong way; let’s sit on the stage and ”look” at the beauty of the real act going on in the mountains behind.
Oh, “Look” there are people up there on that rock you can see them shining in the brightness of sun.
“Look” at that cliff. If someone fell from way up there how in the world would you get them down?
Oh my, “Look” at that buck in the field. He hasn’t a worry in the world and oh hey, “look” there is another and another. And “look” at that big one; he is standing right in town.
Just “Look” at those yellow leaves, I just love the color of fall leaves here against the red rock.
Oh that stream is dry, that isn’t a good sign. But “look” this one is running with cool water from above. We should give Kevin a drink.
Hey, do you hear the rumble? “Look” there they are over there. On a motor; that is the best way to see the park.
Oh “look” at that, what a pretty picture.
What makes look such a powerful word is that it also means share. Memory fades and time takes a toll but of shared moments one can always say to the other: “Hey, do you remember when…?”
And for me” look” makes adventure better in a magical way. Those who can say “look” are blessed beyond measure for it means you’re together.