April 30th, 2013
I wake up, pack my stuff, grab my clean clothes from the dryer, eat a home cooked hearty breakfast, express my appreciation and take off. The cold of the first morning ride really contrasts the warm bed I just rolled out of a couple hours ago. I stop in the first big town and do the necessaries; gas up, eat, groceries, etc.. I visit the local Kawasaki dealership and find they don’t have a certain part I’m looking for (my odometer broke on the second day).
As I’m riding away from the shop I notice a lady on the side of the road having bicycle trouble and pull over to help her. I get out my tools and tighten her loose wheel in 30 seconds. Her name is Trisha from Ohio and she is very grateful. That stop took less than five minutes and saved Trisha a lot of hassle and seemed to make her very happy. It made me very happy too and almost gave me an empowered feeling. If I was at home, I may not have stopped since I am always rushing around. The abundance of time is a beautiful aspect of this journey.
I continue on and head up and down mountainous backroads as high as 8,000 feet. I have more confidence in the bike today after cleaning out the air filter but another backfire of the engine breaks that confidence and I’m back to babying it. I spend the day on long, cold and lonely highways cutting my way across Utah heading east. Every small town I pass through has a gas station, general store and an impressive and beautiful Church of Latter Day Saints that looks exactly like every other one in the state. I don’t notice any pairs of cyclists wearing white button-ups, ties and bell helmets. Perhaps there is no need for that here as there is nobody left to convert. I kind of doubt that. I’m an outsider in this little world.
The scenery changes significantly from semi-barren flat plateau to high cut-out cliffs and rock formations as I enter Capitol Reef National Park. I pull over, put some music on my ipod and spend a couple of albums leisurely riding across the park. I have hitherto not listened to any music while riding because I was concerned with engine sounds and traffic. It changes the whole feeling of riding a motorcycle. The landscape feels like an alien planet to me and flying through it in the open air with a soundtrack makes me feel like I’m in a movie. It is surreal and I’m glad I’m not at home just watching a movie but living my own instead.
I can’t tell where the park has ended and the regular world began but I find myself in desert again. Windy desert. The no fun, sideways, stressful, leaning 15 degrees to one side for hours on end, arm and neck workout kind of wind. The highway seems to go on forever and there is no interesting view to occupy my mind so I allow it to complain about the uncomforts, just making them worse. Nothing that eating and a two hour rest behind a gas station can’t fix.
After my little recharge I grit my teeth and head back on to the howlin’ highway. Right before the onramp I stop to talk to a couple hippie looking hitchhikers. One tells me that it is his dream to travel around with a motorcycle the way I am and I realize that only a couple of years ago I was in the same position as him. Before this trip, most of the traveling I did had been by means of hitchhiking; sleeping wherever, eating out of trash cans, meeting all kinds of people. We wish each other luck and they warn me about the strong winds as I depart.
My mind is kept off the winds while I think about those hitchhikers, hitchhiking in general and how it compares to motorcycle travel. Hitchhiking is definitely cheaper, you meet more people, less necessary luggage to bring, less responsibility. Motorcycling gives you much more independence, it’s much more dangerous in my opinion, you can bring a lot more luggage along, you feel like less of a social outcast, there is much knowledge and skill required, a lot more planning. They are simply different. I love both and I just wanted to try something new.
I pull in for the evening about a mile off of the highway down some more dirt roads and am able to have enough time to enjoy my dinner while watching the sunset and a train passing by. I am happy that the wind finally died down only to be rudely awoken by a violent wind that seemed like it would rip my tent apart in the middle of the night. The tent fly is great for keeping out water but does nothing to stop dust from being kicked under it. I sleep on my stomach to prevent the dust from getting in my mouth and accept that by morning everything inside and out will be covered in it.