July 25, 2005 – Monday – Day 30

48 States or Bust – The USA on Two Wheels
Miles Today: 370 – Total Miles: 7189 – Average: 239.6 (travel days)
11:30AM-9PM (9.5hrs)
(-staying at Travelodge) AZ,UT,CO,NM (27/48)

Didn’t have a great night’s sleep here in the log cabin on the rim of the Grand Canyon. Just as I would begin to fall to sleep I’d have an itch somewhere that had to be scratched, or an important or silly thought enter into my head that wouldn’t leave. Karen, on the other hand, fell instantly into a deep sleep, not having slept too well the past two nights.

We had a good run/walk to the bike to get the cover over it and then around and about part of the rim admiring the morning views. Then to the wonderful dining room where we enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast and our last views of the Canyon through the wall-sized picture windows. Our waitress was a young woman from State College in Pennsylvania and she told us that our timing was good there – that a couple weeks ago there were fires so bad that it was uncomfortable being outside and the views of the canyon were obscured. The couple at the next table were from Pittsburg and the man said that with eastern, mid-PA, and western-PA, we “had the whole state covered.”

It’s nice being away from the steady beat of bad news from around the world. Occasionally that seeps toward us from an CNN report blaring from a lobby tv, or a stray newspaper on a restaurant table. But otherwise, it’s nice not having all that negativity of bombings and hurricanes and the like in one’s daily life.

On the parking lot, we talked with a likeable motorcycling couple, Paul and Paula out of Ontario, Canada. They were also a month on the road but had to miss Bryce because of time problems. Their Harley broke down on them and they lost a day with that fiasco. With regard to Bryce, I was in the odd turn-around position of telling someone else (as folks often tell us), “You should have seen!”

Seems they had made their reservations here at the Grand Canyon two YEARS ago. So we felt especially lucky to get the room we got as a walk-in yesterday.

It took us 50 minutes back to Jacob Lake instead of the hour and a half it took us to get to the rim in the rain last night. As we went around some of those curves on the way back, Karen observed it seemed like the three of us were one machine.

One view from Route 89 was almost overly dramatic. A mountain ridge at the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument was along the whole broad expanse of view and otherwise there was an empty plain with nothing but scrub as far as could be seen in all directions way out to where the ground met the sky at the four horizons. A number of weather systems could be observed out in the distance. Rain tendrils fell down out of darker clouds, then a little further over, bright sunny areas were sparkling.

One thing for sure, it will sure be hard to get used to the puny sizes of clouds, sky, and landforms when we get home.

The clouds decorated the ridges we rode through today with designs large and small. Often the shadows would appear as images zany to clear according to how much imagination we’d be using.

The wide open riding went on for mile after endless mile with nary a car and not much aside from the tall electric power line towers marching like huge behemoths in the near distance. It was the best riding in the world. Certainly the best of the trip. The day was relatively cool. The road level, clean and straight… And endless seeming. And as we’d scamper at 80-90mph from one long horizon to another – and skitter between or through storm systems it dawned on me that THIS was the best place on Earth to motorcycle. There were endless changing views of cliff and color and small gulch and enormous canyon. One’s attention didn’t need to be on the road incessantly, so one could actually observe the fine sights. And fine sights they were – and as each ridge at the horizon would be scaled, the new views were wide-eyed amazing.

At some of those new views, one would have to be made of solid rock not to be impressed, and mightily impressed with the sights. Occasionally, but actually more often than not, as we crested a hill or turned a corner, I would instinctually utter an exclamation of astonishment! Or my eyes would widen in certain disbelief at the scene before me. Or my breath would actually be taken away for a bit! Or my mouth would drop open. Or I’d release the throttle just a bit to get a few extra moments to take in the vista magnificent. Well, you get the idea. In reds of Earth and blue/white of sky, the endless scenes were ever-changing and a delight. Even during the times we rode through rain today it was delightfully cooling with splashes of raindrops.

Not to say there wasn’t nervousness about some of the day’s ride. Despite our urgings for it to go in a different direction, often the road would turn right into a massive black area where lightning could be seen splitting the dark clouds above. First came a spattering of drops and then the downfall. But we never did get a good drenching this day. But there was always the worry of another hailstorm-like torrent or strong winds to contend with.

We got into Page near Lake Powell right before 2pm. What the time is has been a problem today. Some parts of Arizona and the Indian reservations have Daylight Savings and some don’t. So we basically had to keep asking.

Traveled the entire day’s ride with nary a traffic light. It’ll sure be hard to get used to them when we get back east.

At 4pm we stopped to take a picture of the odometer as the Shadow rolled over it’s 10,000th mile. It was in the middle of Indian country surrounded by buttes and mountains and with the Navaho Indian Monument land in view.

It was an incomparable sled ride today. (Many motorcyclists refer to their mc’s as ‘sleds’.) Riding today was so effortless at times it seemed like the surrounding landscape was moving at high speed alongside us and WE were actually the ones standing still.

What with the G.C. this morning, the Vermillion Cliffs this afternoon, and the Four Corners this evening we hit yet another record for images taken today – 675! Karen has not been just sitting idly on the back of the motorcyle, folks!

While buzzing down the highway we came across a bunch of goats with dogs trying unsuccessfully to herd them as they meandered on and off the road. Good thing I was paying attention.

Four Corners was established in 1868 by US Government surveyors and astronomers. Since childhood Karen has had a long and abiding interest in the culture and area of the Four Corners. And in recent years she’s read all the books by Tony Hillerman, an author whose novels are set in the Four Corners locale. Karen said, “Fifteen years and twenty books later, I’ve finally made it here!”

Four Corners is surrounded by Navaho and Ute Indian nations. It’s the only place in the country where four states come together at right angles. Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah are the states one can put each limb into at one time. There’s a monument there in the desert that shows the demarcation. We, along with the others there took turns at having our pictures taken making all kinds of funny contortions at the magic spot. Around the monument are sales stalls where various Indian groups sell native jewelry and the such. We sampled the Indian fry bread (much like funnel cake) and bought a little Navaho pottery jar. We left the Four Corners at what we guessed for that area was 7:30pm.

We got caught in the dark at the end. In what seemed long ago in the Grand Canyon Cabin of this morning, Steve Diano, my Las Vegas friend, had IM’d us in the late morning and scolded us with how we should have been out on the road already! And we knew he was right. (Well, sort of knew. After all, the Grand Canyon IS the Grand Canyon – and who in his or her right mind would hurry away from that?) Then he bet we’d get 422 miles or below. And I took that wager. All day long we worked at winning that bet and would say how we’d go on for as long as it took to best 422! But as we rolled into Shiprock (an enormous ship-shaped rock nearby), we realized we would be losing that bet. Here, in the deep dusk of desert we either had to go 93 miles (and a 10:30pm end-time) to Gallup or 30 to Farmington. No place else in between to stay. So we opted for Farmington.

While tooling through the nightfall of the city looking for a motel, it was hard not to be thinking of the grandeur that was the day’s ride.

Author: Joel Perlish

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