When last we heard from our geriatric off-roaders, they were feeding themselves at the Broken Oar, to replace calories expended on the Chicken Corners Trail.)
By this time in the trip, we had learned that fatigue is cumulative and it had finally become clear to us that we no longer were young men with the recuperative powers that we took for granted back when we were such. For our last day on the bikes in this marvelous landscape, we chose what looked like an easier set of trails, The Pole Rim up on Rt. 128 northeast of Moab. The paved road through the canyon leading to the trail was worth the trip, with red cliffs and cowboy-movie desert and sage brush leading off into the distance. We passed by a ranch house that locals had told us was used in several John Wayne pictures, though the Duke or his ghost failed to make an appearance for us. The Pole Rim trail starts at the campground by the Dewey Bridges, a pair of bridges representing two widely spaced eras in the history of the west. The original bridge, now unused on a dirt road off to the side of the new highway, is made of wood and looks like a wagon and team of horses would be about all it could handle. The new one, actually not even noticeable except from the side, continues the concrete highway seamlessly across the arroyo without any fanfare. A campground is located at the old bridge site, where lots of folks were unloading 4-wheelers and buggies for a day in the dirt. We seemed to be the only two-wheelers in the place.
This trail starts innocently enough, up a series of dirt switchbacks ascending into the hills above the valley. Then it goes all rocky on us, leading off in several directions at once, with big rocks and ledges spaced just widely enough to require a lot of knee and upper body action to make any progress. After about an hour, we were spent. From one rise we could see that the trail continued like this over the next few hills, with no end in sight. If we’ve learned anything from our long time on this planet, it’s when to let it go. In the heat of a Utah summer, two old men should let “discretion be the better part of valor” and head back to the road while we still can. There are lots of other great places to see here.
There is a turnoff from 128 that leads north to the top of the LaSal mountains, a curvy road just perfect for our dual-sport bikes. Lots of bends, but the tight curves with pavement that would discourage speed on most street bikes, present no problem for the well-sprung 250’s. Today there was a charity bicycle ride on these roads, so lots of very fit people (and some who were in various stages of trying to become more so…Spandex is not always pretty) huffing and puffing up the steep mountains. More than once we heard the offer from participants to hang onto our luggage racks for a tow up the slope.
We stopped once to go off and inspect some trees and were met with a young man coming out of the woods, asking us if we had seen his parrot. Now there’s a conversation starter you don’t hear every day. Seems that the bird had flown the coop, literally, and had last been spotted heading up into this forest. He showed us the flyer (no pun intended) he had made, so we could identify this particular critter….as if other parrots were thick in the trees here in Utah….and we took his number assuring him that we would call if we found the missing bird. We did cast an eye up in the trees, best we could, as we rode along, but keeping the bikes on the pavement in these mountain roads took first priority, and unfortunately, we didn’t spot the feathered escapee.
At the top of the mountain, we located the terminus of the Sand Flats Road that we had taken in the opposite direction earlier in the week and started our descent back into the valley. As is often the case, taking the same road the other way opens up a new perspective. Now we could see the valleys spread out below us as we descended and the sand flats that we hit on acceleration coming up now were taken on trailing throttle going down, sucking the front wheels into the deep stuff. Even that couldn’t dampen the pleasure of being up here, on top of this world, seeing it all as if for the first time. From the heat of the desert below we had come up to where a cold wind was blowing through our ventilated jackets and we enjoyed the chill….knowing it wouldn’t last long.
All too soon we were back in the campground area outside of Moab, surrounded by the various iterations of tall 4-wheeled ATV’s that seem to be from a future-set science fiction movie, piloted by young people in cut-offs who had not yet heard of the new invention, “the helmet”.
With only a turn onto a street from the campground dirt road, suddenly we were back in the city of Moab, as if teleported there. We cruised the main drag again, looking for our late afternoon pie break and found it at the Moab Grill, an old-style ice cream shop converted from its former curb service past to a sit-down-and-overeat restaurant….just our type.
All good things must come to an end, or so I’m told, which had us packing up the next morning to head back east to the real world. I like living in the real world, for the most part, but it is very difficult to leave the adventure-riders fantasyland of Moab. Our last breakfast here in dirt-rider heaven was at Eklectika, a restaurant at the northern edge of town where all the former hippies of the 60’s had gone to roost. There was an old VW camper bus parked at the curb….and it wasn’t just there for decoration. Inside the tiny place women of various ages, but dressed in the style of Summer of Love’s free thinkers, served eclectic breakfast items including the best granola and yogurt bowl I’ve ever had in a restaurant. All of this with great good humor and style. I’d say it’s worth going to Moab just for breakfast there, but you might want to do some of the other stuff the area has to offer as well.
Having explored just about every road north of town, we headed south to go home, with a stop in Telluride,Colorado as a diversion. This small city has had a mythic reputation as a special place, the highest town in the US (in more than just the geographic sense…remember the old Eagle’s song Smuggler’s Blues “we’ll hide it up in Telluride, just the way we planned” ) On other trips I had missed going there so this time we would make it happen. After a great motorcycle road, unfortunately taken in a pickup truck, one comes to the dead end at the top of a mountain where Telluride sits in a cul-de-sac, looking like the perfect picture-postcard western town. It doesn’t take long to cruise the few streets and find an open restaurant on an early Sunday morning, located in an old wooden building on the main drag. Inside are wonderful smells, emanating from the well stocked pastry case and (of course) multiple kinds of coffee being dispensed by earnest looking young people in hiking garb, as if they had just come in off the trail long enough to serve breakfast to us slackers. We sat outside on a bench where we soon were joined by a local dog, interested in crumbs. Off to our right, in the little courtyard beside the restaurant, one of the locals had tethered his or her “dog” to another bench. This huge animal looked far more like a wolf than a dog, but seemed to want to be petted rather than to devour us for breakfast…or perhaps that was just a ploy to get us close enough for the kill. At the end of town, the mountain rises impossibly high above us, with a thin dirt road snaking up its side. We ran into a Canadian couple, newly retired, staring up at the vista. They told us they had started off on a round-the-US tour to make up for time spent working and didn’t plan to return home for months.
Reluctantly, we left Telluride, having decided that the housing and other living costs there would limit our stay to about three weeks before our retirement savings ran out and starvation set in, heading east, stopping for the night in Gunnison. After securing a motel room with a Russian landlady, we wandered around the town and selected the Twisted Fork restaurant for Asian Fusion food. We parked the truck in front and went in, to be greeted by the tall young woman at the door saying “Cool bikes !”. Turns out that she had just acquired a Suzuki DR 200 and was planning some dual sport traveling, but wondered if she had gone too small in her choice. We assured her that small bikes like these could go anywhere and mentioned that she should read Lois Pryce’s accounts. She had heard of Lois, but hadn’t yet read the books. It just so happened that one of our breakfast guys had returned “Lois on the Loose” to me at our departure on this trip, so I went out to the truck and brought it in to give it to her. Later we saw her thumbing through it while waiting for the next customers to arrive. I hope it inspired her to go traveling.
The rest of the trip home was just an interstate drone, except for the Blind Tiger brewery in Topeka, the lady who knocked on our motel room door at 2 AM and the old man’s museum in his restaurant, containing memorabilia from nearly 100 years on the prairie, but those are stories for another day. I’m tired and going to bed