A Great 3-Day Ride From Tucson
by Craig Littlefield

     Have you ever said “We just have to get out of here for a few days!” Well when I recently bought a new bike to replace my K1200RS my wife, Jan, brought it up. Here is a new bike, 3 weeks old that I had already put 4000 miles on, and she hadn’t even been on it. How about taking a short trip to check it out? After transferring the Autocom communication system from the K12 and installing plugs for the electric vests we were ready.

     I had in mind a 3 day, 2 night journey into southern Utah. It is easily accessible from Tucson with some nice country in between. Early one morning we loaded up the bike with not more than a rough route in mind and took off.

     Our route took us up Highway 77 and on to Show Low on routes 60/77. There was little traffic as it was a weekday and we got all the way down and back up out of the Salt River Canyon at a brisk pace making quick passes of the few cars we caught up with. We continued north to Holbrook on 77. The FJR goes on reserve at 250 miles so Holbrook was the place for gas and a bit to eat.

     North out of Holbrook, after a 5-mile jog on the freeway, Highway 77 changes to Indian Route 6 meeting 264 just south of Kearns Canyon. We went west on 264 toward Tuba City. This is great country traveling through Navaho and then Hopi country. A ride up the hill to the ancient town of 2nd Mesa, located on the top of a Mesa (of course) is a detour worth taking. US 264 takes many jogs up, down and around the mesas with some nice straight-aways and good sweepers.

     At Tuba City we turned east again toward Kayenta. There was a fair amount of traffic now but the setting sun behind us illuminated the colors in the odd shaped hills. In Kayenta there are only 3 motels. The best is the Hampton but it was full so we stayed at the Best Western. A little pricy but they have a captive market.

     In the morning we went north on US 163 toward Monument Valley and Utah. This is the first of many roads that are just magical. You cannot believe what nature has done with the mountains. Huge lone mountains and spires all in wondrous shapes shades of pink and red. At Mexican Hat we crossed the San Juan River. There is an old restaurant that looks out over the river gorge transverses by an ancient steel bridge. It is a good place to stop for a cup of coffee.

     Up the road a couple of miles we turned left on 261 heading north. About 5 miles up the road there is a cutoff to Gooseneck State Park. From a high overlook you can look down on several serpentine curves in the San Juan River. This is a must see. Continuing up 261 there was a sign. It said “Dirt Road ahead 8 miles. Not recommended for trucks and Recreation Vehicles.” We continued along on a straight road heading for a high blunt mesa. How was the road going to get up this? Arriving at the bottom the road turned to a narrow dirt road winding up the vertical face of the mesa with switchbacks looking off a shear drop-offs with no guardrails. At the top the view was magnificent and the road again was paved.

     We stopped at the Arches National Monument. We had gone past this several times and I wanted to check it out. There is a 9-mile loop with lookouts a short walk from the road where you can get great views of 3 large natural arches. It was well worth the detour.

     Continuing West on Utah Highway 95 through the White Canyon we drove through some of the most beautiful country in the west. Around every corner there is another visa of unbelievable rock formations and colors. The road goes into the Canyon Lands National Park and crosses the Colorado River just as it empties into Lake Powel as we entered the Glen Canyon Recreational Area. We stopped for a hamburger at Blondie’s in Hanksville and then continued west on Utah 24 through Capital Reef National Park to Loa.

     Jan is a genealogical buff and we had just learned that my great grandfather was buried there. It is a great old Mormon town. We explored the old cemetery. We found his grave marker as well as those of 3 of his 5 wives.

     Going back to Torrey we turned south on Highway 12. This road is one of my favorites and one of the greatest roads in the west. It winds up through the trees to the very top of the mountains with panoramic views of the Canyon Lands. Then it follows a sharp ridge with marvelous views off each side of the road as the road follows the crest of the mountains. Arriving in Escalante it is 50 miles more past Bryce Canyon to route 89. We stayed the night in Panguitch. It is loaded with fine old restored motels. We stayed in the Best Western, which is locally owned and kept meticulously clean.

     We had a 600-mile ride home the last day and I wanted to be home at 6 pm. We left before dawn in below freezing weather. As we watched the sun come up we drove down an empty Highway 89 heading for Kanab and breakfast. There were green fields on both sides and the farmers had their mechanized sprinklers running. As the water fell it froze and created sparkling strips of ice the width of watered sections and were bordered by the bright green grass.

     We followed the old Highway 89A past the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, past the Vermillion Cliffs and over the wonderful Marble Canyon Bridge returning to the south side of the Colorado. Then we drove south to Flagstaff. We followed the back roads past Mormon and Rose lakes to Payson and home past Roosevelt Dam.

     It was 1500 miles in 3 days. Jan really liked the new bike. The seat is better than the K12 and while it is not as smooth the suspension is better. I sit up a little straighter too. Protection from the electric windshield was perfect. What we really appreciated were the two full sized saddlebags.

 

Gooseneck State Park

Monument Valley

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