After 20,000 miles

On Tuesday 8th October, I checked the Trooper into cargo at Toronto airport for the return flight to Glasgow. Since leaving this same airport back on the 5th July, I’d ridden 20,003 miles.

This is what my second ride around America looked like at the end: Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 10.55.22

The first trip back in 2011 had looked like this:Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 12.19.34

And the two trips combined achieved my goal of visiting all of the “Lower 48”: Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 11.35.26

Scottish weather on scenic Utah-12

Day 45 – Saturday 17th August 2013 – Torrey, UT to Mount Carmel Junction, UT

I was seriously beginning to think I really had brought the Scottish summer with me. The outlook from our hotel balcony that morning was dark with grey skies. We could see the rain and lightning not far to the west. Before we’d finished breakfast, the rain had reached us – and it was heavy. We didn’t need to check out until 11am, so we decided we’d try and wait it out, but the forecast wasn’t good. Two or three big bands of rain were forecast to be moving across southern Utah. In the north of the state, there had been wildfires, and they badly needed the rain, but instead, in places they were getting “dry” thunderstorms – lightning strikes without any rain, and these were a major cause of the wildfires.

From Utah, August 2013

Our plan for the day was to take Utah route 12 south to Bryce Canyon. I had ridden the 12 in the opposite direction last time, and I knew Doreen would love it, if only the rain didn’t persist. With half an hour before we had to check-out, the rain petered out, so we loaded our gear onto the Trooper and made a start down UT-12.

We’d only ridden a couple of miles before we were hit by another band of rain, and we had to stop and struggle into the waterproofs. This was going to be the story of our day, intermittent rain all day long. I guess we ought to be used to it coming from Scotland. But all in all, we were pretty lucky since we had dry spells at some of the most scenic points along UT-12. And even riding along in rain, with all the aspens and great views wasn’t such a hardship.

From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013

I was really glad that we had a dry spell when we reached the Million Dollar Road and the Hogsback. This was something I wanted Doreen to see properly. When I’d ridden it 2 years earlier, I’d confused this road with the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado, but they are not the same road, and I now knew better having ridden both.

The part of UT-12 east of Escalante used to be called the “Million Dollar Road to Boulder” when it was built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the late 1930s. When the road was opened in 1940, it gave the town of Boulder, Utah, its first year-round mail service to be delivered by motor vehicle. Until then, Boulder was the last community in the US to have its mail delivered by mule train. The last section of UT-12, north of Boulder was still gravel until 1985. That would have been a section of road I wouldn’t have wanted to ride the Trooper along.

From Utah, August 2013

One of the best sections of the Million Dollar Road is known as the Hogsback. Here the road runs along the top of a narrow spine of rock between two canyons. There is almost no shoulder and steep 2000-foot drops to either side. The photos below really don’t do it justice, maybe taking a look around with Google street view gives a better impression.

From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013

From the Hogsback, the UT-12 drops down with sharp curves and steep gradients for the next 4 miles. Great riding.

From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013

As we got closer to Bryce Canyon, we hit more of the Scottish weather. After 10 miles of riding, with the rain only getting heavier, we pulled into a gas station at Tropic to seek shelter and to try to wait it out. Its a pity that this was one of the few gas stations that didn’t serve fresh coffee, as we had to wait over an hour before it brightened enough for us to want to continue. We rode on in drizzle, and as we approached the turn off for the Bryce Canyon National Park, we could see the rain hanging heavy over the park. Just before you get to the main entrance of the park and have to pay for entry, is Bryce City, a tourist destination with “Ye Olde West” storefronts, over-priced hotels and a rodeo every night. We took shelter again, and this time managed to get a coffee. Over coffee, we pondered what to do. Our planned final destination for the day was meant to be Cedar City, which was still 80 miles away and it was beginning to get late with signs the weather was only going to get worse. The sensible thing to have done would have been to get back on the road and high-tail it to Cedar City, but Bryce Canyon is one of the most spectacular views in southern Utah and it would be a real shame for Doreen to miss it, so we waited. And then waited some more, until finally, after another hour, we got a brief gap in the rain and we went for it.

The park was 14 different vista points along an 18 mile route. The recommended time to do this route is 3 to 4 hours. We didn’t have anywhere near that time. We could have probably managed an hour, without rain, before we had to get back on the road in order to reach Cedar City before dark, but as it was, there was an angry looking thunderhead fast approaching from the south. We decided to take a look from one viewpoint, and then make a dash for it to try to beat the rain. We figured all the views were of the same thing, only from different directions. One viewpoint should be enough to give the main impression – which was pretty much the story of the whole trip. A whistle stop tour, just skimming the surface and hopefully just enough to give an impression of the real America.

From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013

Doreen’s verdict was that it was well worth seeing Bryce Canyon, even if only for a short time. But I was beginning to feel a little ripped off by the National Park Service. We were charged $25 for our 20 minutes in Bryce Canyon. Now I suppose that’s our fault for not staying longer, since the ticket is good for 7 days, but I really don’t think a motorcycle, carrying 2 people at most,  should be charged the same as a RV or bus carrying, potentially, a horde of people. At some other National parks, I’d been charged $12 per person on the bike, whereas a car or RV would have been charged $25. I really should have bought an annual pass when I visited my first park. They cost $80 and they are good for a whole year across the whole country. I would have saved myself a fortune and probably popped into more parks, especially on the east coast where time would be shorter.

As we scuttled around taking photos of the canyon, we could hear the huge cracks of thunder and see the black sky to the south moving toward us. We needed to get back on the road, so $25 for 20 minutes it would be.

We hadn’t booked any accommodation ahead, but set off in the direction of Cedar City. As soon as we turned out of the park, it began to rain again and continued to rain as we passed through Red Canyon. With the rain there was little point stopping for photos, but I had taken some during my last visit.

From South Utah
From South Utah
From South Utah

With the rain beating down, we were eager to get off the road as soon as possible. We passed through several small towns, but they all seemed to be lacking one or more of my holy ride trinity – bed, beer and food. We saw a few motels, but not anywhere near the other two.

We pressed on still in the direction of Cedar City. The rain had somehow creep up my waterproofs and had soaked the back of my jeans. We needed gas, and when we pulled into fill up, I checked the weather radar – one of the more useful apps I’d downloaded for the phone. It was showing huge clouds and rain between us and Cedar City. We hadn’t really needed to look at the radar, we could hear the thunder and see the lightning.

The road over to Cedar City looked twisty from the map, and the road sign declaring sharp curves and steep grades confirmed it. I didn’t much fancy that in a thunder storm, so I decided to try to make a dash for it to the south, and see what we could find.

The first suitable place we came to was Mount Carmel Junction. We rode in around 8pm, and at first sight it didn’t look very appealing – just a run down motel and a family restaurant sans bierre. But then Doreen spied a Best Western a little further along the road – it had a restaurant attached, serving beer and wine. It didn’t really matter how much it cost, we’d have taken it that evening. With a guest laundry and a decent wifi, it was paradise by the roadside for us wet and weary travellers.


Red rocks n beer

Day 44 – Friday 16th August 2013 – Blanding, UT to Torrey, UT

The next morning we grabbed coffee and a donut from the gas station with the faux beer and sat on the floor outside to mull over the route for the day. Whoever said life on the road was glamorous?

It may not be so glamorous, but it is an adventure. Not being sure what sights, sounds and people you’ll encounter is all part of the anticipation of the day’s journey. Sometimes where you land for the night in a dry town, but I wasn’t going to be fooled again. The next place we stayed would definitely serve a cold beer – I’d already made sure of that. Utah has some strange alcohol laws, but its generally not completely dry. Utah is one of those states, like Oklahoma, that limits the alcohol in beer to 3.2% – unless it’s brewed in Utah in which case it can be a whole 4%, I couldn’t make sense of that either.

Our first destination of the day was Natural Bridges National Monument. Those American signs were knocking me out again, as we rode straight past the turn off, only beginning to wonder where it was when we were 15 miles further down the road. I’m actually becoming thankful for GPS on this trip. Whilst not using GPS Sat Nav on the dash to actively navigate, the GPS on the iPhone when I stop is a blessing. It showed us immediately that we’d gone too far, so we turned the Trooper around and hoofed it back.

Lost again! Check the GPS.                                              From Utah, August 2013

We caught the sign this time. Not far on the approach road to the park was an information board, so we pulled over since I like reading those things. My son, Brandon, and even Doreen to some extent, gets terribly frustrated with me whenever we visit anywhere that has information boards. If someone was written something about a place we’re visiting, I’ll usually stop and read every word. All Brandon wants to do is get on and see stuff, and not to have to wait for me to read shit. I think it’s an age thing – I grew up with books, he grew up with the internet and a Playstation.

At this particular information board, there was another Harley parked up, so we said hello. Peter was from Cologne, Germany and he was on an rental Road King from Las Vegas. He’s a lively 67 year old, who seems to come over to different parts of the US every year and rents a bike. He said he was even an honorary of a HOG chapter in Washington state. It sounded as if Peter had travelled more of the US than I had. He’d also been to Scotland, and when he heard that that was where we were from, he broke out in to a rendition of Flower of Scotland, and he did know all the words. A German singing Scotland’s national “anthem” to us in a national park in Utah. How bizarre is that?

From Utah, August 2013

We met Peter again at the visitor centre, where we paid our $3 each to ride the loop around the park which takes you past the 3 natural bridges. There was a warning sign at the visitor centre warning people to keep away from chipmunks and other rodents in the area, as they had been found to carry bubonic plague.

There are 3 natural bridges in the park – Kachina, Owachomo and Sipapu, all Hopi names. They were formed by water erosion in the river canyon. Most of that erosion occurs during flash flooding, but the canyon looked pretty dry when we were there, except for one small pool.

From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013

We bumped into Peter again at every stop in the park, but at the last one, we bid each farewell. He was heading for Moab, while we were going to Torrey.

The ride to Torrey is shrewn with amazing scenery. We had paid for entry to Monument Valley and to Natural Bridges, but riding along the open road in this part of Utah, you can’t help but encounter breath taking vistas around almost every bend. Southern Utah is full of the most wonderful stone formations, where with a little imagination you can see chairs, arches, columns, spirals, gargoyles, faces, and organ pipes. At least that is what Doreen said. I was watching the road, and only had half an eye on the scenery.

Jacob’s Chair                                                     From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013

The ride took us over the Colorado River again, and we discovered one of the rivers that joins the Colorado is the Dirty Devil – great name. This area is at the lower end of the Canyonlands National Park, and the scenery is most impressive. The roads are fun too, with gentle curves taking you through the brilliant red rocks. The bridge shown in the photos below is the Hite Crossing Bridge, below it is the ghost town of Hite, submerged when the Glen Canyon Dam was constructed to create Lake Powell.

From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013

After the National Bridges and the southern end of Canyonlands, you’d think we’d feasted our eyes enough for one day, but there was more. The road up to Torrey also passes through part of the Capitol Reef National Park. Capitol Reef is so named because of the domes of Najavo sandstone were thought to resemble the roof of the Whitehouse. Doreen thought it looked like a walnut whip. Me? well I thought it looked more like a teton than the Grand Teton itself. You can decide for yourself which it really looks like.

From Utah, August 2013
Navajo Dome – More of a teton than the Grand Teton?                      From Utah, August 2013
 The Tetons in Wyoming (Grand Teton is on the right)            From Wyoming, July 2013

Now, as I said, I wasn’t going to be fooled again. Before leaving dry, bland, Blanding, I had already booked our accommodation for the right, and as we pulled into the Rock Rim Inn, I saw a sign that had my mouth watering.

 Gimme some of that Ice Cold Beer                                      From Utah, August 2013

The Rock Rim turned out to be a fantastic place to stay, great views from our room over the valley, views of the “rock rim” at the front, and only a short walk to the bar.

From Utah, August 2013
View from our room                                                   From Utah, August 2013
View to the front                                                  From Utah, August 2013
…and a short walk to the bar                                         From Utah, August 2013

After Blanding, this place was paradise. It had been a hot ride all day, so we made a bee-line for the bar as soon as we had checked in and dumped the bags. It was still a little early for food, I just had the notion of a cold beer on my mind. I was really glad to find out that the bar had local brews from the Utah Brewers Cooperative, which we’d drank first in Vernal, UT in 2011 – with beers named Polygamy Porter, they tend to stick in the mind. Dark beers are more Doreen’s thing than mine, and she did re-try the Polygamy Porter later in the evening, but her first choice was the Hefeweizen. Mine was the Chasing Tail Golden Ale.

When we ordered our beers, we mentioned to our server that we’d be eating later, but first we just wanted a couple of beers, and to chill and enjoy the view. Our server then ever so subtly suggested that some chips’n’dips would go extremely well with the beer. We agreed. It took me a couple of minutes to realise what she had done (and it wasn’t just up-selling). I remembered reading about some of Utah’s alcohol licensing laws, and that some bars/restaurants are only licensed to sell alcohol with food, and that needs to be food purchased, not bar snacks given out free by the bar. Our server had guided us to make it legal for her to serve us a beer, without us even realising it at the time. Whatever Utah’s silly liquor laws, I had a cold beer and my mood here was such a pleasant contrast to my mood in Blanding, as I’m sure Doreen would agree.

Happy Trevor and Relieved Doreen                      From Utah, August 2013

We sat outside on the patio and enjoyed several of the fine beers. There were dark clouds gathering to the west, and after a time, we did have to take shelter under the canopy for a while. The rain reminded me that the last time I had been been Torrey had been after a couple of days of persistent rain in Utah, which culminated with the drenching and coating in red mud I received in Monument Valley. It seems it rains a lot in southern Utah in the summer, or perhaps I just always bring the Scottish weather with me.

The craft beer continued to flow, and we ordered the house speciality – pizza. The bar soon began filling up with folks from France, Germany, Texas and a couple from Salt Lake City.

The Americans in the bar were friendly as ever, and we chatted to the Texans for a while. They were touring Utah like us, but they were travelling by RV, although they said they had motorcycles at home in Texas, so the common biker bond was there, and they recommended a few rides around the Austin area, but I doubted we’d have time to try them, as by then we’d be trying to eat the miles quickly between visiting friends and family.

The couple from Salt Lake were regulars at the Rock Rim. They came and stayed here every 3 or 4 weeks, and it wasn’t just for the views, it was to hunt for petrified wood. Mike would take it back home and polish it up. He said it was for his retirement fund. He figured he had tens of thousands of dollars worth in his yard. He went on to tell us that he was a coal miner, but that was no longer the well paid job it had been when he had started 30 years ago. His father and grandfather had both been miners, and when he had started, he had been earning $15 an hour – which has about the same buying power today as $42. Instead, Mike was earning $25 an hour today. The fortunes of miners in the US, as in the UK, had been heavy hit by the global economy. It used to be that miners both here and at home, were fairly well paid for doing a dirty and dangerous job. My uncle had been a coal in Scotland, but the bloody-mindedness of two people, Margaret Thatcher and union leader, Arthur Scargill, irreparably damaged Britain’s mining industry in the 1980s. It sounded as if the fortunes of America’s miners weren’t a whole better. Mike had had to move around various states chasing jobs as the different pits he had worked at closed. That’s how he had ended up in Utah. And it was still dirty and dangerous work. Mike had seen many a colleague killed on the job – a handful of miners had died recently, not at Mike’s pit, but one near his.

Somehow the conversation turned away from mining, and onto music. Mike’s wife and our server where both big concert goers. Their favourite band was Aerosmith, a band I have never seen live, but would really like to. It’s one of the bands, along with Kiss (another band I have never seen, but grew up listening to), that I had checked for tour dates in the US before leaving. If I could have, I would have tried to work the route of the trip to coincide with a concert, as I had done with Iron Maiden. But the only date Aerosmith were playing in US that summer was at the 110th Harley-Davidson celebrations at the end of August. That date would have coincided with Doreen’s trip, and I thought it far better to give Doreen the best trip possible, rather than hacking back up north to another biker event.

After Mike and his wife left, another guy who had been listening to the story of our trip pulled up a chair at our table. Jeff was now retired, but at one time he had been a teacher, and had lived and worked in various places across the US, Australia, and even Corsica, of all places. But in another indictment of our modern world, he’d realised that in order to retire comfortably, he’d need a lot more money than he was ever going to get from teaching. He put his Chemistry background to use, and took a job with a nuclear power laboratory in Idaho. And that job must have paid well enough, because he was now retired, and was touring the country in an RV with his wife.

With all the good craft beer and the friendly folk in the bar, we had a much better evening at the Rock Rim Inn than we had in Blanding.


Day 43 – Thursday 15th August 2013 – Cortez, CO to Blanding, UT

The ride out of Cortez was much like the ride in. Scrubby desert and lots of low rise buildings, We passed a place selling small wooden cabins as affordable homes. Later in the south, I’d see even smaller, tiny sheds on sale as homes.

We carried on, out of Cortez and into the arid desert, and on to the Navajo Nation indian reservation. The flat desert, with its scattered sagebrush, stretching for mile after mile. Handfuls of trailers and cabins appearing like lonely shanty towns in the bleakness of the desert.

We turned off onto US Route 160, searching for the spot that 4 states come together. The barren desert still seeming to run for miles and miles in all directions without interruption. And then all of a sudden, in the midst of this wilderness, there was the turn off into the National Monument.

Unlike many other National Parks and Monuments, the Four Corners National Monument is run by the Navajo Nation. The admission fees are less than many of the National Parks, but you have to do without the glossy handouts. Four Corners marks the point where the states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah meet. It’s the only place in the US where 4 state lines come together like this .

The car park for the monument is gravel, which is never my favourite place to leave the Trooper. I parked well back on a piece that looked like it had concrete underneath. Others got right up close to the monument enclosure.

From Arizona, August 2013

The monument itself is a granite disk marking the spot where the 4 corners of the 4 states join, and of course we had to pose for photos, with Doreen straddling the 4 states at once.

From Arizona, August 2013
From Arizona, August 2013

The monument is surrounded by an enclosure of stalls purveying Native American arts and crafts. This was going to be a common sight in the Navajo Nation, if my memory served correctly, with clusters of stalls every few miles near the major tourist attractions like Grand Canyon. Most of the stalls are wooden, jerry-rigged affairs, whereas these were purpose built from brick.

The American Indian art work is beautiful, but we were 2 people travelling on 1 bike for 4 weeks, so space was at a premium and we didn’t spend long perusing things we could not carry. What we needed was a cold drink, the temperature was reaching the high 90s F (mid 30s C). It had been a 40 mile ride in the Colorado corner from Cortez to the monument, and it would be another 80 miles in the Arizona corner until we reached the next “big” town of Kayenta, and it was only going to get hotter. We found a stall selling indian fry bread, which also had bottled water. We drank one each, and took another for the road.

Riding on through the desert of the reservation, I couldn’t help but think again what a bum deal the indigenous population got all those years ago. Whilst some of the indian reservations may contain sacred sites, so many of them are on poorest of land – the white invaders having taken all the best bits for themselves.

From Arizona, August 2013

We rode for perhaps 50 miles without seeing much in the way of settlement, just a few homesteads here and there, and then out of almost nowhere, we rode past what seemed a fairly large, new build settlement called Red Mesa. It’s location in the desert seeming almost random. There were perhaps 50 or so homes, a health centre and a school, but as far as we could see no businesses and no shops. We wondered what the people here did for a living, where they shopped or ate. We guessed it must be Kayenta, another 25 miles further along the road.

Large parts of the desert are just flat with the scattered sagebrush, and interspersed with ravines, but there’s also parts where red rock seems to erupt from the ground as mesas. The Red Mesa settlement is near one such large mesa. We’d sped past before thinking that a photo might have been in order, but a little further along we came to a smaller mesa, which should give the idea.

From Arizona, August 2013
From Arizona, August 2013

Across the road from this were a line of low pale rocks, formed I guess, from ancient sand dunes. Looking across at these, I was sure I could see a face carved into the rock – was it natural or man-made?

From Arizona, August 2013

Kayenta was smaller than I remembered. The last time had been after a torrential downpour near Monument Valley. The rain had been so bad I hadn’t even attempted to turn off to see the valley. Riding the US-163 past it had been like riding through a river. Both the Trooper and I had been covered in red mud. In Kayenta, I’d tried every motel, but no rooms were free, either taken by people similarly fleeing the monsoon, or else the hotels were put off by the red mud-covered biker seeking shelter, and just said they were full. The story was the same when I reached Tuba City. I had to ride over a hundred miles before finding a free room, after dark, at the Anazasi Inn.

This time, we had a chance to take a better look at Kayenta. Since it was the main town for many miles, it was surprising that it seemed to consist of just a couple of small general stores, and a few motels and fast food joints. But the place did seem to have plenty of churches from numerous denominations. Missionaries, from presumably a begone age, had done their job well and must have converted a lot of the native population to be able to fill these churches, since over 90% of the population of Kayenta is Native American.

From Arizona, August 2013

I guess we are so used to living in heavily populated Britain, where apparently the average distance to the nearest supermarket is under 5 miles and 67% of Britons could walk to it, that we struggle to understand what it must be like to live in some areas of the vast USA. There really aren’t many areas of Britain anywhere near as remote, except perhaps up in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and even there the distances are not on the same scale as remote parts of the US.

After the hot, 80 mile ride from Four Corners to Kayenta, we were both in need of a long, cold drink, and once again McFranchise got my dollars due to the guaranteed wifi. It was surprisingly busy – obviously the place to be in Kayenta at 2pm on a hot Thursday afternoon, as there didn’t seem to be much else to do, except perhaps attend church.

I wanted to take a look at hotel options further ahead, the recollection of struggling to find a room in these parts, made me remember that our intended destination for the day, Mexican Hat, was also scarce on hotel options. I’m glad I did look, as I discovered that not only are there less than a handful of hotels in Mexican Hat, but they are also very expensive for what seemed to be very basic places. Bluff further up the road didn’t look much better, so we decided we would try to head for Blanding, and even booked ourselves a room on-line, after checking that there was a bar within walking distance of the hotel.

It’s only about 30 miles from Kayenta to the turn off for Monument Valley. As we approached, we could see the buttes in the distance. Doreen was apparently getting excited at the prospective of seeing this iconic piece of the American west. As a kid, she had watched a lot of old westerns with her father. John Ford’s movies defined what a lot of Europeans see as the Wild West. Soon she would be standing looking at the backdrop to the movie Stagecoach.

From Arizona, August 2013

As we pulled over to take the picture above, we noticed a crude wooden shelter, with half a dozen or so dogs and sheep tried up beneath it. These were the first sheep I had seen in America – lamb and mutton is all but non-existent on menus, except, oddly, in some of the upmarket big city restaurants. I don’t know why this is. I would have thought that sheep would have thrived in some of America’s rugged terrain, but Americans just don’t seem to have a taste for it.

From Arizona, August 2013

Some French tourists in a rental car had also pulled over at this stop. The kids seemed to think it would be a good idea to climb the fence to go pet the dogs. Until, that is, every single dog there, yapped and growled as the  kids got near the fence. Just doing their job, I guesss, guarding the sheep.

Monument Valley is another national monument that is run by the Navajo Nation. We turned off the US-163, and rode the mile or so to the tribal park entrance. Only after paying our $10 entry, did we notice the small sign telling us that the loop road around Monument Valley is unpaved (i.e. dirt or gravel), and not only that, but heavily pot-holed and rutted, and not suitable for RVs or motorcycles. That was disappointing. They could have informed of this sooner, as I’m pretty sure that the distant views of the valley as just as impressive, but then they wouldn’t have had our money. They really ought to charge a little more and invest that money in upgrading the facilities and paving the road.

We went up to the visitor’s centre and took some photos from there. Doreen wasn’t that disappointed, and felt that seeing the valley in person was everything she had anticipated.

From Arizona, August 2013
From Arizona, August 2013
From Arizona, August 2013
From Arizona, August 2013
From Arizona, August 2013
From Arizona, August 2013

I don’t know if the views are any better driving through the valley. I suspect not as impressive as the vista at a distance.

We also called into the visitor centre to find a drink and had to walk through the gift shop before reaching our goal. I was surprised to see pictures of John Wayne for sale there, even though he had been in Stagecoach, given his white supremacist views and the views he expressed on Native American land rights in an interview:

I believe in white supremacy, until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people … I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from [the Native Americans] … Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves. – John Wayne

As we rode north toward Mexican Hat, Doreen looked back and noticed that the view of the valley when you approach from the north is nearly as impressive as it is from the tribal park, but the shoulder on this road is gravel, so not great to stop on with a bike. And I guess, the $10 you pay to get into the tribal park gets you the visitor’s centre, clean restrooms, refreshments, and of course, a huge gift shop.

Having decided not attempt to stay in Mexican Hat, we only stopped there briefly for more cold refreshment, but we saw a couple of the places where we could have stayed if they hadn’t been so expensive.

From Utah, August 2013
From Utah, August 2013

We also had only a fleeting glimpse of the rock that Mexican Hat is named after.

And since we were travelling further today than originally intended, we were trying to make up time and passed through Bluff pretty quickly, but I had taken photos there last time when I came down this road in the opposite direction.

It took us longer to reach Blanding than we had expected. Both Doreen and I were hot, tired and hungry, and very much in need of a cold beer and some food. We’d booked a room at the Stone Ridge Lizard motel online when we had been in Kayenta. The Stone Ridge Lizard turned out to be a great motel – one of the better ones we stayed at, but unfortunately, it was also in Blanding.

It didn’t take us too long to discover that Blanding was DRY!! I thought I had done my research on this, as when we had been looking at hotels, I had also searched Google maps for bars in Blanding and Google had come back showing the Homestead Steak House as a bar, and it was only a short walk from the motel. The closest thing the Homestead Steak House had to an alcohol beverage was an “apple beer” which contained neither any alcohol nor any apple. Needless to say I was a grumpy boy.

We even tried the gas station on the way back to the motel, and I am sure they were just trying to taunt me, for tucked away on the top shelf of the fridge, like some embarrassing porno mag, was some 6-packs of some kind of Utah non-alcoholic beer. I mean what’s the point!

We went make to the motel and made our own entertainment, but it would have been really good to have had some beer or a bottle of whisky in the saddle bag that day.

And I noticed when I was checking a few facts to write this, that the Homestead Steak House is no longer listed as a bar by Google. I wonder if it had anything to do with the review I left.

After 15,000 miles

Google maps is struggling with the full route, so I’m having to split it. Between 10,000 and 15,000 miles, the route looked something like this:

The first 10,000 miles looked roughly like this:

In both the maps above, the roads shown are the ones chosen by Google rather than the actual ones ridden. I’ve posted the maps just to give an idea of the distances and places covered.


I’ve discovered that I can embed Google street views for all those missed photos, and there were plenty of those.

Here’s one of home in Edinburgh, before I start using it in anger.

And here’s the famous castle. A bit more up-market than our place.

Planned Route – Week 13

Day 86 – Fri 27 Sep – Petersburg, VA to Lewes, DE (via Virginia Beach and Ocean City)
Day 87 – Sat 28 Sep – Lewes, DE to Sharpsburg, MD (via Gettysburg)
Day 88 – Sun 29 Sep – Sharpsburg, MD to Parkersburg, WV (via Harpers Ferry)
Day 89 – Mon 30 Sep – Parkersburg, WV to Louisville, KY
Day 90 – Tue 01 Oct – Louisville, KY to Bloomington, IL
Day 91 – Wed 02 Oct – Bloomington, IL to Chicago, IL
Day 92 – Thu 03 Oct – Chicago, IL to Chelsea, MI
Day 93 – Fri 04 Oct – Chelsea, IL to Norwich, ON
Day 94 – Sat 05 Oct – Norwich, ON to Toronto, ON


Planned Route – Week 12

Day 79 – Fri 19 Sep – Athens, GA to Chattanooga, TN (possibly via Lynchburg, TN)
Day 80 – Sat 20 Sep – Chattanooga, TN to Robbinsville, NC (via Tellico Plains, TN)
Day 81 – Sun 21 Sep – Robbinsville, NC to Asheville, NC (via Blue Ridge Parkway)
Day 82 – Mon 22 Sep – Asheville, NC to Fancy Gap, VA (via Blue Ridge Parkway)
Day 83 – Tue 23 Sep – Fancy Gap, VA to Waynesboro, VA (via Blue Ridge Parkway)
Day 84 – Wed 24 Sep – Waynesboro, VA to Fredericksburg, VA (via Front Royal and Washington DC
Day 85 – Thu 25 Sep – Fredericksburg, VA to Petersburg, VA (via Richmond and Appomattox)


Planned Route – Week 11

Day 72 – Fri 12 Sep – Venice, FL to Fort Lauderdale, FL
Day 73 – Sat 13 Sep – Fort Lauderdale, FL to Key West, FL
Day 74 – Sun 14 Sep – Key West, FL to Fort Lauderdale, FL
Day 75 – Mon 15 Sep – Fort Lauderdale, FL to Daytona Beach, FL
Day 76 – Tue 16 Sep – Daytona Beach, FL to Savannah, GA
Day 77 – Wed 17 Sep – Savannah,GA to Charleston, SC
Day 78 – Thu 18 Sep – Charleston, SC to Athens, GA

Planned Route – Week 10

I guess it’s about time I plan the remainder of the trip. The last route plan for Week 9 ended in Nashville. Before setting off I’d only planned out the route up until the point Doreen flew back to Edinburgh. This was important because we needed to tell friends and family when we would be visiting, and to be sure that we could make Nashville in time for her flight back.

Having a planned route has proved to be really useful, so I’m going to do the same for the rest of the journey. There are still plenty of places I want to see and people I want to visit, so I ought to let them know when I will be arriving.

Day 64 – Thu 05 Sep – Nashville, TN to Mount Vernon, IL
Day 65 – Fri 06 Sep – Mount Vernon, IL to Mayetta, KS
Day 66 – Sat 07 Sep – Mayetta, KS to Kansas City, MO
Day 67 – Sun 08 Sep – Kansas City, MO to Branson, MO
Day 68 – Mon 09 Sep – Branson, MO to Clarksdale, MS
Day 69 – Tue 09 Sep – Clarksdale, MS to Montgomery, AL
Day 70 – Wed 10 Sep – Montgomery, AL to Tallahassee, FL
Day 71 – Thu 11 Sep – Tallahassee, FL to Venice, FL

After Doreen goes, I need to get up to Mayetta, KS to see Kyle and collect my excess luggage that I posted to him from Denver to make room for Doreen and her gear. From there it is on to Kansas City for Iron Maiden.

I’m then going to start making my way down to Florida to see Bill and Francis again, and to ride across the Keys. I debated the route, but settled for giving Arkansas more of a go – just as long as I don’t spend the night in this notoriously dry state. Then on through Mississippi and Alabama to Florida. Florida is such a long state, I’m going to spend nearly a week getting down and back up the state.