Tuesday, June 28, 2011

100 Miles* is Still Not Enough (Logan Canyon, Tony Grove, Bear Lake and Strawberry Canyon)

As promised, I did ride the Logan Canyon Scenic Byway yesterday.  I snapped a few photos for you.  Each one met the four requirements set forth in my last post.  As I was riding, I realized I should have listed one more point.  So here it is:

5.  Stopping will not cause me undue concern about being late for work.  Or endanger my ability to arrive at my  final destination before dark. (You know how I feel about riding at night.)  Because playing beat the clock (lap times not withstanding) takes some of the fun out of it.  And why partake in what is widely recognized as a fairly dangerous activity if you’re not enjoying it?

Here’s a photo of the Rick Springs Area. 

Logan Canyon Ride Rick Springs-2

No, there is not usually water rushing over the pedestrian bridge.  It’s been an unusual year here, and Logan River has exceeded flood stage.  The daily flood warnings continue.  Areas of the road were reinforced  with temporary berms of sand and gravel to guard against the rising river.  That sand and gravel will no doubt find its way onto the roadway over the course of the summer (grumble).  But not today!   This little spot has always intrigued me, but it took a stinging insect in my sportsbra to actually get me to pull over.  What timing!

I can report that the pavement on the side road up to Tony Grove is in fine form.  Not a defect to be seen.  It's definitely not regulation width though, so I recommend a recon lap to map it out in your head before testing your limits.

Here’s a fun left hander.  Or right hander.  Depending on which way you’re going.

Logan Canyon Ride 021

I thought there might be snow on the Tony Grove road, but so far, so good!

Logan Canyon Ride 018

Aieeee!  The Duc stops here.

Logan Canyon Ride 006

I could have managed another 50 yards or so winding my way through a clear tire track a few inches wide, but I’m glad I didn’t.  With no way to turn around, I’d just have to push the bike backwards, expensive track boots in the snow, to get back out.  I did walk the final quarter mile or so to the lake.  Slogging a half mile in snow several feet deep, wearing inappropriate footwear and thirty pounds of safety gear at 8100 feet definitely qualifies as my exercise for the day.

There’s a lake around here somewhere…

Logan Canyon Ride 014

Ahh!  That’s better.  This is what I expect to see when I ride up to Tony Grove.  Like I said, it’s an unusual year here in Logan Canyon.

Tony Grove Lake Panorama-1

Archival photo graciously provided by C.S.  I do believe my only photos of this lake are from back in the days of actual film and are in a closet somewhere in Tucson.  Hard to believe.

If you can tear your eyes from the view (and even the most hopeless adrenalin junkie will have difficulty, the Bear Lake overlook is that much of a showstopper), and not let the scent of sage brush and wildflowers distract you, there are some fine fast sweeping turns to be enjoyed as you make your way down from visitor's center at the east end of the canyon into Garden City, UT.  RazzleBlueDazzle! were my words, I do believe, when I waxed poetic about Bear Lake back in 2008. It’s worth repeating.
Logan Canyon Ride Bear Lake crop

For nine summers now I’ve been telling myself I’m going to spend a day photographing this lake.  The myriad brilliant blues to the south, the lesser known marshy Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge in the north…  Still waiting on this one.

Garden City is as fine a place as any to grab an American diner style bacon cheeseburger with fries.  (If you’re looking for portabellas and Kobe beef, better to hit ZinBurger in Tucson.)  Toss in a raspberry shake, for which the area is famous, and you’ve got… a really, really full belly.  I find it worth the discomfort and usually opt for the "Home Town Drive-In", if for no other reason than their fine grassy picnic area.  I’ve also learned you can get a freshly made donut and espresso across the street at the Holey Cow.  Good to know for those morning rides.

Continue north, into Idaho, proceed through Strawberry Canyon (ID 36) and loop back down into Utah. Return home via the north end of town, where you can check a few errands off the list to tell yourself you’ve gotten something done instead of squandering your afternoon in sinful play.

Dinner that night?  A bowl of muesli.  Turns out I was late for work.

*This trip actually clocks in at 145 miles.  Add 14 miles for each additional run up and down the Tony Grove road.  (You’ll want several.)  Still, Not. E. Nough.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

100 Miles is Not Enough (Hyrum Canyon)

Sometimes your day insists your ride be confined to only one tank of gas.  Regrettable, but it beats not riding at all.  Today I took my first northern Utah ride of the season, but still had to fit in quite a bit a work.  My usual first ride is to Bear Lake via Logan Canyon, but as it is Sunday, I opted for the less traveled Hyrum Canyon.  At least I call it Hyrum Canyon. Maybe it’s called Blacksmith Fork Canyon.  I do know for sure it’s a nearby 15 mile stretch of UT 101 that leads to the Hardware Ranch Wildlife Management Area.

Here’s the “bat cave:”

The bat cave!

Can you hear songbirds chirping?  Listen a little closer.  You can also hear the low rumble of a Monster 696 from within.  I’ve never had a garage before, and while I usually stay in a free student apartment each summer, this year is different. I’m renting (you’ll figure out why another time) a 1925 bungalow from a friend, complete with grass, shade trees, flowers and the Logan River in my backyard.  I gotta say, it feels pretty cool to be hiding what you like to think of as your ferocious machine in this little country shed!

Hyrum Canyon is not national park material, but it is just full of perfect little vignettes.  Like “Snowy Mountains Emerging from Canyon’s Mouth.”  Or “Magestic Tree with Rushing River and Wildflowers.”  Or “Magpie on Fence Post”.  (I didn’t bother with this one.  While I can coax a decent landscape or food shot out of my Canon G11, I find it quite worthless for anything that moves.  You know, things like people.  Or animals.  Or motorcycles.  *sigh*)

Any road has it oddities, too.  Like “Water Bubbling from Beneath the Asphalt.”  (Does this have something to do with the current flooding?) Or “Enormous Testicles of Upward Climbing Deer.”  (Seriously, they were impressive.)  And I can’t forget “Startled Sheep.”  Which perhaps could just as well be named “Startled Motorcyclist.”  (Just who startled whom?)  That one was fairly exciting, at least from my point of view.

I do have a few actual photographs to share with you.  They are not the most beautiful scenes I saw today, but each one did fit four strict requirements.

  1. I thought it was pretty.
  2. The lighting was decent.
  3. I was not too chicken to pull off the asphalt to take the photograph (this road doesn't really have a shoulder to speak of).  I have short legs.  Anything more than .0398%* grade and at least one of my feet is not going to be able to touch the ground.  If it’s my left foot, I have to let the bike free fall to land on its side stand.  Call me crazy, but I like to know that bike it sitting safely on the stand before I let go.  If it’s my right foot, then I can’t even lift my left foot to engage the side stand.  Yes, I could free fall that perilous three inches to the right to stand on that leg, but you assume there is firm footing on which to catch 350-400 pounds of motorcycle.  You also assume I am not unreasonably concerned about this incredibly awkward scenario.  So much for feeling cool.  Now the Ducati is lower than my Kawasaki, so that’s an improvement.  Except that any courage I may have gained from this edge is overshadowed by that fact that I really, really do not want to drop my shiny, not held together with packing tape,  never been horizontal (imagined extreme lean angles not withstanding), still new to me as far as I’m concerned, motorcycle.  I freely admit I’m a fair weather photographer.  I’m not gonna risk, or even enter into a paranoid perceived risk of, to be more accurate, dropping my bike for a photograph. I’m just not.
  4. There is probably an RV, farm machinery and a slow moving SUV that I can’t get around right away, so I might as well pull over anyway.    Let me tell you, if the road is free and clear (which today, it was almost the entire time) I ain’t stoppin’!
You might imagine that’s an awful lot of information to process whilst flying ‘round the bend in full sport mode.  You are correct.  It is.

Today's vignettes:

Hyrum Canyon Ride 031
Scrumptious Looking Grass in Springtime Meadow


Hyrum Canyon Ride 039
Wooden Cart-Thingy (There was a row of 16 of these carts, actually.  Weird.  Where did they come from and why?)

Hyrum Canyon Ride 017
Pond: Cattails Not Shown

Hyrum Canyon Ride 044
Ducati with Field of Wildflowers in the Distance

Funny.  Not one of those photos looks like a canyon.  Well it is.  You'll just have to trust me on that one. Probably not a coincidence that this flatter area affords me a better shot at finding a place to pull over.

Dinner tonight?  Kielbasa (which didn't seem very kielbasa-like, but still was very tasty), a salad of baby greens and crusty bread, all scored at the local farmers’ market yesterday morning.

100 miles.**  Not. E. Nough.  I think I’m getting up early tomorrow to hit Logan Canyon.

* Okay, I made that number up, but you get my point.
**Yes, I said the canyon is a nearby 15 mile stretch, but I did indeed manage to squeak in 100 miles today.   I bet you can figure it out.  ;-)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ducati's First Camping Trip! (Dining on the Coronado Scenic Byway)

Time to think about heading home.  I had hoped to start the chilly morning off with a nice coffee a short walk from my campsite, but Changing Lady Espresso never seemed to be open.  Did you know that, although AZ does not observe daylight savings time, the Navajo Nation that occupies the entire northeast corner of the state does?  Neither did I.  It didn’t matter, this espresso bar wasn’t open no matter what time zone you were operating in, despite the large sign (not shown) denoting otherwise.  Strike three as far as dining in Chinle goes.

Changing Lady Espresso.  A nice idea, if only it was open.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument near Cottonwood Campground (5)

It was a whopping 37 degrees when I left Canyon de Chelly.  After a few hours of riding in that sort of weather, even with my beloved electric vest, I was more than happy to stop and finally check out the “unique western dining” of the Apple Dumplin Restaurant I foolishly passed by on my way out of Petrified National Forest a few days earlier.  You can find it in Chambers, AZ, a bit north of what is considered the actual Coronado Scenic Byway section of AZ 191.

Proprietor Beckie Mills, in her western wear.  The owners themselves are riders and knew only too well how cold I was.

Apple Dumplin Restaurant Chambers AZ (2)

Some unique western decor.

Apple Dumplin Restaurant Chambers AZ (4)

Apple Dumplin Restaurant Chambers AZ (9) 

Hearty, tasty, simple food fits the bill.  I ate every bite and found myself wishing I could fit in a slice of pie.  Finally, a decent meal!

Apple Dumplin Restaurant Chambers AZ (7)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ducati's First Camping Trip! (Monument Valley, UT - Four Corners Day Ride)

I’m up early to begin my day ride.  Since I don’t have to break camp I’m looking forward to a quick get away.  Except… not.  The wind in Arizona really is worthy of a title, like the Santa Anas or Le Mistral, but as far as I know, it’s just referred to as “that damn wind.”  In any case, it seems to roar along at 40mph for days on end each spring.  It took me longer to secure my tent for the day than it would have to just pack everything up.  For what it’s worth, I’ve been getting pretty good at setting up a tent in the wind single handedly.  First stakes, THEN poles!

I struggle with days like these.  Am I a motorcyclist or photographer?  Getting good photos really breaks the flow of a ride, but it’s also difficult to pass by the spectacular scenery of this part of the country, each view seemingly better than the last, without stopping for a shot.  Since these spectacular views occur at least every quarter mile, and stopping on a motorcycle to retrieve your camera is a bit more complicated then if you were in a car, (even more so with the maddening wind that blows everything out of your tank bag or top case each time you open it, and whisks away your riding gloves no matter how attentive you might be) you can’t really expect to get anywhere if you’re going to get serious about your photos.   So today was the sort of day I was going to have to choose to be one or the other, and, given the weather and the fact I wanted to ride several hundred miles, it made the most sense to play the role of touring motorcyclist.  I missed some great shots – the light glinting out of the storm clouds onto the enormous rocky shark fin outside of Kayenta, AZ,  the freshly fallen snow peeking out from behind the red rocks of Bluff, UT…  it all only gives me an excuse to go back.

I dodged spring squalls, tumbleweed the size of Sub-Zero refrigerators (I am not exaggerating!), and dirt road construction zones turned to mud soup by the rain on my loop through Monument Valley and the Four Corners area.  Note to self and anyone else considering the trip:  the views are much better if the loop is made counterclockwise.   Another excuse to return.

Time for a rest and lunch at the aptly named Twin Rocks Cafe, in Bluff, UT.  Funny, on my return from this trip, the passenger sitting next to me used to live in Bluff and work at this very cafe.


Four states in one ride:  Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo!

Monument Valley Four Corners Day Trip Four Corners Monument (1)

I stood in a long line at the grocery for the privilege of this fine meal.  More excellent dining in Chinle.  Eeek.  Given the wind I've been telling you about, consider the miracle of this photo, taken whilst seated upon my motorcycle in the grocery store parking lot, holding the camera in one hand, fending off more aggressive pan handlers and securing my meal from the wind with the other.

Monument Valley Four Corners Day Trip Dinner from Basha's (6)

Not exactly the “Oh Glorious Light!” moment of yesterday, but the day was beautiful in a different sort of way.  The gloomy weather had me thinking in black and white, so I leave you with this one photo -  ghosts in the mist of Monument Valley, UT.  An unusual sight for sure!

I am pleased to report that my Ducati met the mud for the first time on this ride, and my tent spent the day unattended in 40mph winds.  Both remained upright!