Motorcycle Touring Arizona back into Utah – Day 12

Rain, rain and more rain greeted us at the Grand Canyon this morning.  Over breakfast at the Lodge there was talk amongst the rangers who had spotted a bear lurking very close to the hotels during the night – sooo glad we were not out there!  Wonder whether bears like motorbikes……..?? :-D

Due to the weather we set off earlier than usual and rode the first 25 miles out of the park in a mix of rain and drizzle.  The speed limit in the National Park is drastically reduced anyway because of the wildlife, but riding a motorcycle not only in the wet but that early in the morning put us on a higher alert than usual for any sudden movement in the woodlands either side of the road.  We did see some deer but they thankfully stayed off the road for us.

It was a shame that we did not get to see more of the Canyon this visit, thankfully we had been here some 5 years ago on another motorcycle tour and the weather had been kind to us that time around – I guess though it was good to see a different side to the Grand Canyon – it certainly took on a different dramatic feel in the stormy weather.

Our ride today took us out of Arizona and back into Utah to our destination for the next couple of nights which is the Zion National Park.  The initial part of our ride was through some fairly flat landscapes but we soon arrived at the Vermillion Cliffs – so named due to the most fantastic red colouring of the rocks, (although these were to prove to be just a warm up for the colouring of the rocks in Zion). Vermillion cliffs  We climbed up onto a fantastic motorcycling road – the 89A passed Jacobs Creek and the turning to the Grand Canyon North Rim.

After lunch we continued our ride onto Zion and the small town of Springdale where our hotel was.  It is hard to describe this National park and do it justice – to us it was better than the Grand Canyon as you are actually riding the roads inside the canyons and through the rocks here – it is so spectacular.

The road surface was paved in a terracota coloured tarmac to blend in with the rocks, it was so smooth and would have made for an excellent motorcycling road had it not been for the 30mph speed limit!!!  But any faster and you would simply miss the landscape.  We are so looking forward to having a couple of days here to fully explore.

Sunset that evening gave us a spectacular view as the sun literally lit up the surrounding mountains as you can see from this photo……Sunset in Zion

What a wonderful motorcycle tour this is proving to be…. bring on tomorrow!!

A Spring day motorcycle ride out – or was it??!

Our last official motorcycle ride out was 7th Nov 2012 and it has been a long winter waiting for our first one of 2013 which was yesterday 24th March 2013 to the RAF Museum at Cosford. 

When we were planning this day we had in mind that it would be the first flushes of the UK’s Spring season and we may encounter some rain showers, so going to a museum for lunch and a walk around had seemed like a good idea incase of poor weather…….. little did we imagine that we would actually need it to warm up because of the snow and freezing temperatures – it was more like a mid winter’s day!! 32.  Group Shot Cosford Still it did not dampen anyone’s spirits and a huge thanks goes to those motorcyclists who donned all sorts of warm gear and came along with us for the day :-)

One of the guys, (his name is Chris although he could be mistaken for Jacques Cousteau in his gear :-D !) even brought his own hot water bottle!!!!!!20.  Chris came prepared for the weather!  We weren’t sure if that was incase any of the heating system on his BMW gave up……….

When all said an done it is the people who make a motorcycle ride out.  Our intrepid group on this particular day thoroughly enjoyed the day aswell as some of the challenges we faced such as snow falling horizontally on our ride near Wrexham and drifting snow on the A41 towards Wolverhampton – luckily only on one side of the road and the car drivers coming towards us were very considerate and let us pass the more slushy sections.  The roads themselves had been well gritted and we had taken the decision to stick to the major roads rather than go “off-piste” (no pun intended….  :-D ), as we usually do.

During our ride we encountered some very artistic snow men and some of the snow drifts were formed into very eerie sculptures.  We did have to take a double take when we passed several people out walking with their Husky dogs!!  – did we maybe need a skidoo instead of a motorbike??? ;-) 

All in all, whilst the weather was not the best, it did not dampen the British spirit, there were plenty of people out walking and lots of families at the museum.  As any motorcyclist knows, its all about getting out there…. and our happy bunch of riders did and a huge thanks to them for joining us.  Looking forward to the next one now on the 14th April 2013.

Ride out blog

 

 

Motorcycle Touring Utah into Arizona – Day 11

What an amazing place Bluff is to wake up in – everywhere is still and clear, warm too which is always a bonus when anticipating a day motorcycling :-D

Our breakfast was at the Twin Rocks cafe (very aptly named as you can see from the photo….)Twin Rocks cafe     and a great way to set you up for the day ahead.  This photo was taken with Jan and Karen Thomson, (on the yellow GS) from Avid Moto Tours which is based in the US, Karen was assisting Frank with this motorcycle tour through Colorado, Utah and Arizona.

From Bluff we had a 30 mile ride to the Gooseneck State park.  It is where the San Juan river runs deep through a canyon and in this section snakes for over 6 miles but actually only spans 1.5 miles due to the large curves it takes – hence the name “Gooseneck” – it is well worth taking a visit there – and if you can do it by motorbike, all the better as the roads are fantastic.

So we’d already started the day with fab roads and great views but more was to come – Monument Valley which is more jaw dropping than we can properly describe here!  The whole landscape is a deep red colour with these fascinating columns of rock emerging from open plains and carved over millions of years by the elements.  This photoApproaching Monument Valley was taken on the approach to the valley and does not really do justice to the scale of the place – our advice here would be “if you get the chance, get on your motorbike and ride out there…you will not be disappointed” :-)

We went over to the visitors centre and you can see some of the more well known “monuments” close at hand – there is a 17 mile dirt loop which you can take to get even closer, however, it is not recommended for most road motorbikes.  Although we were on BMW GS’ on this tour, our insurance was such that we could not take this dirt road – maybe next time…!!

We had a long ride ahead of us though, Kayenta to Cameron was a 96 mile stretch of tarmac with some very long sections of straight road, but it was a means to an end as our destination that day was the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  After fuel and a slice of pizza we turned off the main highway and headed towards the Canyon’s South Rim but also into heavy storm clouds.

We got lucky though as we only had light rain for the last 40 miles or so, but you could see that there had been a considerable downpour by the pools of water settled on the road side and some of our fellow motorcyclists on this tour had been caught in the full force of the storm (not good!!).  Luckily we had seen the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle tour some 5 years earlier, on this day though we got to see a more dramatic side to it with the storm going on in the canyon and we were above the storm clouds which was kind of eerie.

Did we get to see it in better weather next day????? Read our next blog to find out :-)

Helping out at a Motorcycle test ride day

We had an invite by Wirral Advanced Motorcyclists to go and help out at a Kawasaki motorcycle test ride day at Marriott Motorcycles, Birkenhead yesterday and readily accepted to get over there and help out for the day.

Despite the very damp start to the day riding towards Chester, it brightened up as we approached Birkenhead and lets face it we were out on our motorbikes – so that in itself brought a smile to our faces!

Marriott Motorcycles were having not only test rides for 3 Kawasaki’s but Suzuki were also there test riding some of their fleet.  Test rides were organised on the hour with participants being out on the road for nearly 40 minutes – most of the testing was done in dry conditions (although cold…..), with the occasional smattering of rain but then it is only March :-)

There were 3 Kawasaki’s on test, the Ninja 300, the 636 and the Z800 – all 3 motorbikes had a lot of interest.  Geraint’s role for the day was to either be lead bike or tail end together with one of the WAM observers and so it was at some points during the day there was a Kawasaki GTR1400 as lead, our Versys 1000 as tail end and the 3 test motorcycles in the middle!

Geraint got to take the Ninja 300 out on the first test ride – 1st test ride Paul & Geraint

and despite it being the lowest cc bike he has been on for a long time, he loved it!

It was good to chat with fellow motorcyclists throughout the day, you can certainly tell that everyone has had enough of the winter months and are looking forward to “coming out of hibernation” :-) 

Testing was done between the hours of 10am and 5pm and we headed for home towards some of the blackest looking skies imaginable – and yes as we joined the M53 towards Chester it bucketed down…… the joys of being a motorcyclist!  Still a nice cold beer was in the fridge for us on our return – so all in all a great day.

Motorbike Touring Colorado into Utah – Day 10

So today we move into a new American state – Utah and by the end of today we will have experienced yet more change in landscape, hotter temperatures but the one constant is the superb nature of the roads in America and in particular how suited they are to motorcycle touring.

After a hearty breakfast in the Outlaw restaurant we headed north through the San Miguel Canyon – motorcycling heaven :-)  Smooth tarmac running alongside a fast flowing river, red rock canyons, tightening bends and blue skies all the way.  We turned off heading towards Dove Creek and rode for over 60 miles seeing 1 house and 5 cars over the entire distance…….

What an awesome place to ride your motorbikes, vast expanses of canyons, plains and noticeably the landscape was becoming more arid.  It kind of focused the mind really as to what you would do if you had a breakdown of some sort!!! (best not to think about that though….)The road to Dove Creek

Our fuel stop at Dove Creek was a welcome respite from the ever increasing heat – its difficult with motorcycle gear to know what is best to wear, we had every vent available open on our jackets and trousers that’s for sure….

Our next destination was the Hovenweep National Monument where an Indian tribe lived over 800 years ago – the place is so arid you have to wonder how they survived, there are amazing ruins of their homes which were built into the rocks – well worth a visit if you happen to be in the area.

From here we had a stonking ride to “The Four Corners” where the states of Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico meet – the temperatures rose to 103 degrees and you felt like you were riding into a hot hairdryer!  The Four Corners

 

 

Apparently the site of “The Four Corners” is not quite where it seems…???  However, this is the closest it has been possible to build the monument as the actual meeting point is too inaccessible – whichever way you look at it we were glad to have visited.

We rode from here and crossed the border into Utah and onto our hotel for the night in a small town called Bluff – nestled in the middle of desert land it is a perfect place for weary motorcyclists to rest their heads – looking forward now to getting to see more of Utah over the coming days…..

Touring Colorado on Motorbikes – Day 9

Our hotel in Ouray did not have facilities for breakfast so we started the day with a brisk walk into the town to eat at “The Outlaws” restaurant.  What a fab place to eat in, John Wayne’s hat from the film “True Grit” hangs over the bar John Wayne's Hattogether with hundreds of wooden slats on which visitors have left messages – our tour group was no exception and our names proudly hang on the wall for all to see!

Suitably refreshed we headed out to find yet more spectacular motorcycling roads.  Today we got to ride the San Juan Skyway with a loop back through Durango and……yes you’ve guessed it….. The Million Dollar highway again!!

The San Juan skyway was very pretty and so quiet, San Juan Skywaywe stopped for a bite to eat at Rico and continued onto route 160 towards Durango before heading onto what was rapidly becoming one of our favourite motorcycling roads – it has even been graded by the American Motorcycle Association as the 5th best ride in America!

Sometimes a road is just made for motorcyclists!   When you have switchbacks like these to ride your motorbike on what more can you want……..Switchback  The views along the route are spectacular with a great view point over what is known as “The Red Mountain”, it is a fantastically deep red colour from the sandstone and has been weathered over time.  We encountered a deer on one of the bends but with the open views as they are we were able to give it plenty of space and time to run off into the bushes – afterall the wildlife were there long before motorcycles :-D

We got back to the hotel early evening and washed the bikes over a very refreshing beer – ready for our next day which will see our motorcycle tour heading into Utah….

Motorcycle Touring Colorado – Day 8

Just over a week into touring Colorado on 2 motorbikes and every day presents us with something new – more awesome motorcycling roads and fantastic scenery – as they say riding a motorbike you are “in the picture” …..

Breakfast for today was a short walk from our hotel in The Rose cafe in Pagosa Springs – great food to start the day so for any motorcyclists out that way during 2013 – its a recommend!

Our destination for the day was Ouray and our route was to take in the Million Dollar Highway – many of our tour group had different theories as to why it should have this name, a couple of suggestions being:-

  1. It cost a million dollars to build
  2. you feel like a million dollars when you ride your motorcycle on it

By the end of that day we know which one we were going for….!! :-)  Awesome as you will see from this photo2012-07-10 15.23.58

Before reaching this road though we had a great ride through the Southern Ute Indian reservation and passed Chimney Mountain which was exactly as it said on the tin!   The roads from here were made for motorcycle touring, smooth tarmac and open sweeping bends……. topped off with coffee and cake at Durango.  Next up was the Million Dollar Highway with a great lunch stop in Silverton which gave us probably the highest stacked sandwich “in the world“…..

The highway was amazing with steep drops and no barriers which kept you on your toes!  Sweeping bends with huge switchbacks and all this before you arrive at Ouray which is known as “The Switzerland of America”.  A small town nestled between huge alp like mountains.

And it was in these mountains we had dinner that night – two 4×4 trucks pulled up at our hotel to take the group up into the hills for a cook out  – tables laid with flowers, big steaks cooked on an open barbeque, salad, fresh corn on the cob topped off with a desert called “smorse”.  This is an American treat, and the recipe is : toast marshmallows over the flame then place between two biscuits together with a chunk of chocolate and enjoy!  We did so much we had 2…..

The cook out was sadly cut short as a thunderstorm rolled in and we all got drenched on the way back to the hotel, but it just added to a fantastic day and gave us lots to laugh over a beer.

Day 8 can be summed up as having experienced awesome roads, enjoying them with like minded motorcyclists, blue skies and eating and drinking with friends – what more would you want from a motorcycle tour?