Utah’s Canyons 

By Franco Bertollini

Whatsa behind me does not matter.”

Edward Abbey described them as "the least inhabited, least developed, least improved, least civilized, most arid, most hostile, most lonesome, most grim bleak barren desolate and savage quarter of the state of Utah--the best part by far."  Perfect motorcycling, then.

The trip begins through the Salt River Canyon, a road known in Tucson as THE riding way out.  Weather is perfect, the R12GS is perfect, the traffic light, a great start to my first riding trip to southern Utah.  The miles and towns roll by...

The ride through the reservation is toooo straight…and depressing.  You can see the poverty, and what is it with the brand new neon marquis signs in front of the schools?  It’s not like you need the sign to find the school; it’s the only building for miles…seems there are better things to spend on.  That said, straight, desolate roads lead to, ahem, rapidly disappearing dinosaur juice.

When you look up “Kayenta” in the dictionary it says “wide part in the road.”  The Hampton Inn is nice, and the heated pool is spectacular!!!  The non-alcohol beer and wine is not…but you make do.  A 450 mile day, the route:  77; 77/IR 6; 264; 160.  Tomorrow is Monument Valley.

Route 163 takes you directly into Monument Valley…open land with giant rock outcroppings that spring up from nothing.  Sheared walls of stone; where the rest went is anyone’s guess.  You’re far from the scenery here, the rocks appear like apparitions in the distance.  It seems like a good place to be quiet, respectful.

95 takes you through Fry Canyon, with the snow-capped Henry Mountains on your left.  You cross over the Colorado River, here looking like a modest stream that would run through someone’s backyard.  Hard to believe it carved the Grand Canyon.  Stop at Blondies in Hanksville for a burger and a view.  The scenery through Capitol Reef is “closer;” you’re “in” it now…feels good, and the road starts to rock.  Only caveat:  Utah uses the slickest damn tar snakes I’ve ever encountered; caution is the word.

Route 12 winds and climbs, eventually peaking at 9,600 feet…today there’s snow on the side of the road, but nothing on it.  Pine trees and aspen now, and views to die for…enjoy!!

The day ends in Kanab, Utah, which the dictionary describes as “wider part in the road.”  BUT, all importantly, the Italian restaurant across from the hotel serves wine!!  Here’s the conversation:  “Can I see the wine list?”  “Sir, I can’t show you that because I’m not 21, but I’ll get someone who can.”  “Please, forthwith!!”  New waitress says she’ll bring the wine list right over…she shows up with a 5 x 7 inch laminated card.  I say, “this isn’t a wine list, it’s a wine card!”  Her response:  “huh?”  Ok, never mind…I’ll have a bottle of the chianti…with some fava beans…still no response.  Oh, well…perhaps not such a wide part in the road after all.

Day 3 has me fight the “push for home” urge.  Take 89A past the north rim of the Grand Canyon and the Vermillion Cliffs…spectacular road, spectacular views.  The road to the rim itself is closed…for the winter!!  More boring straights through the reservation…jump off 89 and head to Sedona.  The traffic, oh, the traffic!  But the views, oh, the views!!!  And the best meal of the trip, hands down…something to be said for civilization!

Out of the crowds and a climb up to Payson encounters rain, then hail, but only briefly.  Roosevelt Lake goes by in a blur, then the homing instinct kicks in and the rest is unremarkable.

All in all, 1,450 miles of memories.  Looking forward to Colorado in August.

Yours in gasoline,

Franco Bertollini

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