Hanksville to Bryce
Song of the Day: Hole in the Middle – Emily Jane White
There isn’t much in Hanksville except a few not-so-great hotels, a couple gas stations and a really good restaurant. I left my motel at daybreak and headed to the gas station to fill up with fuel and water and coffee. There was one other solitary motorcycle rider there as well and we had a longer than expected conversation over coffee, bananas, jerky and nuts. He was riding an older classy Yamaha FJ 1200 (similar in looks to a Honda Interceptor) that was loaded for travel. He was headed back the way I came from and had spent a fair amount of time in Utah and Colorado in the past. We compared notes on various roads and routes; he had never done the Moki Dugway to Hite so I recommended that on his way out as opposed to Ticaboo and the ferry. The subject of State Parks also came up. He had been through a lot of the national parks and we both agreed that while they are a must see at some point in ones life, there are a lot of lesser known state parks out there that are pretty great and often times cheaper or free. Case in point was Palo Duro near Amarillo, TX – what a gem.
I headed out for Capitol Reef and just outside of Hanksville I had to keep stopping because the scenery was so amazing and I wanted to take pictures. It got better and better as I went along and it seemed like it took quite a while to get to the designated park. I just barely made it through there before a storm passed through. There were a couple of groups of riders that stayed in Hanksville the night before and here commenced my leap-frog with them (and a few other groups) for the remainder of the day. I would pass one group (most of them were going pretty slow) and then I would stop to take pictures or something and they would get ahead of me. There was the couple who spoke German to each other on a pair of Dyna’s (I’m assuming they were German). They seemed nice. Then there was the two HD trikes. One of the guys chatted with me a little at the hogs back near Escalante…he seemed pretty nice. There was also a group with a couple Street Glides and Ultra’s where the two leading the group were always wearing cowboy hats. I don’t know how they managed to keep those hats from blowing off. I had also passed them once the day before on the way into Hanksville. The two at the rear of the group were paying attention and would always notice me and move over as I approached, but the guys at the front with the cowboy hats either didn’t check their mirrors often or were too busy keeping those hats on…I believe the former cause I think I spooked one of them a bit when I flew by him once. It’s happened to me enough – getting lost in the what’s ahead and BAM some bike comes whizzing past you and it kinda makes you jump. And then there were the Indians with a Heritage and a Fat Boy at the rear. They were cool and always noticed me and moved over to the right to let me filter through. I think I passed them like five times. Never talked to them but they were nice enough on the road. I think the Indians might have been rentals.
Back to Capitol Reef….after that I went through Torrey and checked the weather radar. There was another storm cell moving right along the path I was to take so I stopped and waited about 20 minutes for it to pass by the area I was going to. Then I headed on up a pass on the other side of the valley I was in. The road was wet for a ways but it was clearly made for motorcycling. At the first viewpoint I stiffened the pre-load on my shocks a bit as it looked like dry pavement was ahead. It paid off and I had some fantastic riding going up to about 9,000 feet and then back down the other side. The view all along the top was pretty epic and the road was great.
Then came Grand Staircase. You climb up a ways and it is really picturesque and then you come out on top of this ridge…..the Hogs Back….with no guard rails. It makes the ridge just NW of South Lake Tahoe look like a piece of cake with pink frosting. It was freaky, especially when the wind gusts came up on the way down. The unpredictable gusts continued all the way to Cannonville which was where I was camping for the night. I went ahead and stopped to check in and decided to pitch camp and do laundry even though it was early. Bryce was getting hammered by thunderstorms and they had a lot of lightning up there. I figured I’d take care of business for a while and hopefully it would either calm down or I would head up there in the morning.
Things did, calm down so I rode up there around 4 PM. I’m glad I did it then because seeing the canyon was a bit more involved than I anticipated. You have to pay your entry fee to the park and then you drive along a road that takes you out to the end at Rainbow Point – about 20 miles or so I think. Most of it is at 35 or 45 MPH so it is pretty slow going and there are many turnouts and view points to stop and see the canyon from. As I entered, the first few viewing areas (the most popular ones) were all full and they had the parking lots closed off. It was hella busy up there; vehicles from all over as well as lots of busloads of folks. Definitely a happening place. So I went all the way to the end and then started working my way back. By the time I go back to the first few viewing areas they were open again so that worked out. It is a pretty amazing place.