WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: WanderRockies 13 - Panguitch, Utah
Date: Wed, 02 Aug 2000 22:58:03 -0700

    Today's route is the second major purpose of this trip. After the rally in Paonia, I wanted to share the crossing of Utah I enjoyed so much during my April trip. I can't better describe it now than I did in that segment (Wanderlust 2000.19), so I'll make this short with other observations.
    Some correspondents on the motorcycle mailing lists say you can never repeat a route and expect anyone else to get the same thing out of it that you did the first time. Of course even you can't get the exact same experience yourself because time of day, weather, traffic, and the position of the Milky Way in cosmic time are different. But sometimes the scenery is consistent enough to impress anew. And impress it did.

    The UT261 climb up the Mokee Dugway is less challenging that it looks. Take your time and swing wide in the switchbacks, and the three miles of good gravel don't seem enough to cover the distance from the valley floor to the top of the rim. However, if you rush and spend too much time looking at the eye catching view ... well, eleven hundred feet straight down does bad things to a motorcycle. Still, the most impressive aspect of this road is to stop at the bottom before (or after) the climb and look where you can't see it is possible for a road to be.
    What a wonderful canyon Glen Canyon must have been before the dam. A snippet of how it might have looked is still presented in the Narrow Canyon crossing, but the rest has been lost to the entertaining waters of Lake Powell. Beyond the lake it seems so very strange to be riding through such an arid desert and have every other approaching vehicle be towing a boat or watercraft. Boats in the desert are one of those anomalies we have come to accept without thought.
    The southwest is 'bearable' in its current heatwave. We are mentally and protectively set for the 100+ temperatures, so it doesn't really affect our travel. These days there are many more motorcycles on the road than when I came through here in April. Most of them are Harleys headed east and likely on their way to Sturgis for "the event". Without being judgmental, we can't understand how someone can spend all day, several days in a row, in this sun with only a tank top and sunglasses for protection. Can you say roasted?
    Rebecca's comment in passing the crimson rocks of the North Wash of the canyon was that it reminded her of a red rock bakery, with dough holes in the swirling walls. I'll bet some of the riders will look just as red at the end of their day.

    A few miles before Fry Canyon there is a round rock protrusion several hundred feet wide and about the same height rising from the flat plain. It has a layered cropping with a button ball on top. Its name is Cheesebox Butte. For its appearance, it is fitting - that is if you know what a cheese box looks like. Which shows me again how technology is changing or has changed our perception. Who has a cheesebox these days? This is an 'old' name for an even older rock. I like rides that make me think.
    Then there are some things that are unthinkable. In previous travel stories I commented about how local road signs represented the 'open range', i.e. cattle on road. California signs show a cow. Nevada signs have a steer. Texas signs clearly present a longhorn. So why does Utah silhouette a bullcow? It took a few passes before I recognized what didn't seem right. This animal has an udder and horns. Udder nonsense if you ask me. Utah does not seem a frivolous state, so is this a government sign designed by committee?

    Once again, I want to say that the central part of Utah - the part between the parks, is scenic in a way that begs involvement, that requires observation. Now there is a theater in Springville, Utah, where you can 'experience' the grandeur of Bryce Canyon without having to do all that nasty stuff ... like going there to see it. Standing at the top of the Escalante Staircase and seemingly looking down on the world is something that can't be duplicated in a theater seat the way it can be felt in a motorcycle seat. See it for real, it is worth the heat.
    We end the day with an unexpected treat. In the Cowboy Smoke House barbecue restaurant in Panguitch (pan-gootch), a guitarist and a pedal steel player pump out traditional cowboy trail songs. Ah, the nostalgia of every western TV show and movie we grew up with ... but then it occurs to me, we are perhaps two of the only people in the place other than the staff who understand the words in these songs. It is summer in the west - if you want to converse with the average tourist, you must speak German.

Gute Fahrt!

312 miles
Mexican Hat US163 UT261 UT95 UT24 UT12 US89 Panguitch
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

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