Moab, Utah: "Pride Goeth Before the Fall"*
Apr-May 2005
by Brian A. Hopkins

"Against my will, in the course of my travels, the belief that everything
worth knowing was known at Cambridge gradually wore off. In this
respect my travels were very useful to me." --Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)


Cast of Characters, collectively known as "The Clan of the Turtle" (slow and steady wins the day!):

Chris "I forgot my toothbrush; can we stop at the store?" Marlow.

Rich "I brought lots of maps and know where all the nearest
Internet cafes are located" Desmond.

Brian "My job is to provide all the drama on this adventure"
Hopkins (your host and hereafter referred to in the first person).



Two-wheeled Stars of the Show, otherwise known as our "trusty steeds":

Left to right: Chris's Suzuki DR-Z400, Rich's Kawasaki
KLR-250, and my Triumph Tiger.

Another shot of the steeds: Tiger, KLR, and DRZ.



Photo Credits:  All photos by me, except where credited to Chris or Rich.

Text: Written by me, of course; Chris or Rich would have picked on me even more than I picked on myself here.  They did not endorse, review, or approve any of this -- though they may very well give me a swift kick in the ass after they read it.

Pre-Adventure Preparation:

I watched a bunch of motocross racing with my daughter.  Yes, we always wear
our helmets when watching motorcycle racing on television, don't you? And, yes,
I do most of my training from the couch. "Oh yeah," I'm thinking as I watch the
young studs (half my age) on their dirt bikes, "the Tiger and I can do all that."  Then
I packed for the trip -- which is more than I can say for Chris.  Rich ... well, Rich
prepared by buying maps ... lots and lots of maps.

Oh!  I also rebuilt the forks on the Tiger.  Here's a pic of the
bike sans its front end and forelegs.  Looks pretty insect-like,
doesn't it?  Rich came over and helped (pretty good help for the
price of a beer!). Chris was supposed to be home packing and
getting his video setup put together, but we all know that didn't
happen.  ::sigh::


Friday & Saturday, 29-30 Apr, OKC to Moab.
    Mileage: Who cares?  We're driving a friggin' Chevy van and hauling the bikes on a trailer.   Ick.
    Number of shopping stops made for Chris:  I lost count.

Rich actually brought the trailer over to my house Thursday night with his KLR already loaded.  We loaded the Tiger, strapping it down good -- nothing worse than a motorcycle spilling all over the interstate at 70 mph, pieces flying everywhere and vital fluids spraying in rainbow-hued agony -- and Rich left the trailer parked there in my driveway for the night.  (I live out in the sticks where we wouldn't have to worry about anyone hauling off the bikes, especially not with Lucky Dog standing guard duty.)  The plan was for Chris to be all ready to go when we swung by his house on the way out of town.  Five minutes to load his bike and we'd be off ... at least that was the plan.  Friday we went to work and tried our best to be productive.  Okay, okay, Rich might have actually done some work.  Chris and I are both management.  I don't think we did a damn thing but pace the floor waiting to hit the road.  We wound up cutting out at noon.

I ran home, grabbed a quick sandwich, and barely had time to take care of some last minute ... uh, paper work ... when Rich arrives about 30 minutes early.  I hadn't even had time to throw the cover over my ZZR, which I had ridden to work, or bag my street helmet, which I was planning to take with me for the return ride (dirt bike helmets and goggles are great on the trail, but suck in the cold, the rain, and at high speeds).  In short order, though, we got the last of my gear tossed in the back of Rich's van and hauled butt for Casa Marlow.  We arrived to find Chris not even at home, so we went and topped off the van's gas tank.  Then we returned to Chris's house.  Still no Chris.  We added a few more tie-downs to the Tiger while we waited. (I think Rich was just trying to pacify me, since I spent the whole 30 min ride from my house to Chris's staring out the back window of the van and asking, "Are you sure my bike's not going to go anywhere?")

Chris finally arrives and says, "Oh, you guys here already?  I haven't even packed yet."  While Rich and I load Chris's DRZ, Chris rounds up his gear.  Finally (seemingly a day or two later), he's ready, and we aim the van for Utah.  Five miles down the road, I ask about the FRS radios we'd planned to try out on the trail.  "Oh crap, I forgot mine," says Chris.  "You guys were rushing me."  Was it even an hour later when  he said, "Oops, I forgot my towel.  We need to stop at a department store, 'cause I don't think I have any shampoo either.  You guys shouldn't have been rushing me."  Rich tells him that we'll find him a Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  Later yet: "Dammit, I forgot the cables I need for my video camera.  This wouldn't have happened if you guys hadn't been rushing me.  We need to stop at a Radio Shack."  (You see a lot of Radio Shacks along I-40, of course.)  I lost count of how many other things Chris forgot or how many times we stopped so he could shop.  He did make some excellent summer sausage for us to eat on the trail, though, so it's all good (even if the sausage did reek to high Heaven every time the ice chest was opened).

Chris crossing the parking lot after one of his MANY shopping
excursions.  (Photo by Rich.)

The ride to Moab was rather long and tedious.  Uneventful.  Dull-n-fucking-boring.  Chris slept some in the back seat of the van.  This was Rich's and my first introduction to Chris's snoring.  Rich kept hearing it and seeing the eyes on the front of Chris's DRZ in his rear view mirror, which made him think he was being pursued by an amorous moose.  We stopped for the night at a hotel in Santa Rosa, NM ... too late to take a look at the Blue Hole.  (I've never seen it.)  Rich slept on the floor of the room in his sleeping bag 'cause he's homophobic -- neither Chris nor myself displayed any homosexual tendencies, mind you (unless you count the sly wink or two and maybe a pinch on the ass accompanied by a knowing pat on the mattress and a "come hither" grin) -- while Chris and I took the beds.  Snoring ensued.  My earplugs were out in the van, of course.  I think Chris was wearing his earplugs.  Something about not wanting his own snoring to wake him up.  I envy the way he's gone just seconds after his head hits the pillow.  It always takes me hours to fall asleep.

Morning, and we were back on the road.  I decided we need to move Canyonlands and Arches National Parks to Oklahoma, 'cause they're just too friggin' far away.  I'm sure the Mormons won't even miss them.  Maybe we can give them Lake Draper in trade?  Eventually, after many, many hours and even more stops so Chris could shop for shit that he forgot, we arrived.  There was a classic car show going on in Moab and the streets were packed bumper-to-bumper with vehicles and lined with spectators sitting in lawn chairs.  Ten bazillion people.  I took an immediate disliking to Moab for this reason.  I imagined all of them would mount motorcycles the next day and be out on the trails getting in my way.  Truth is, we never saw another single motorcycle on the trails.  And the next day, all the classic car aficionados blew out of town and Moab returned to a sleepy little -- albeit touristy -- desert community.

We found our campground and proceeded to set up tents. We had a cabin reserved for the next two nights, but because of the car show in town, all the cabins were taken that first night.  The aforementioned homophobia (and the fact that each of us had two-person tents, which everyone knows are really only big enough for one person) meant that we all set up separate tents.  Real estate was at a premium, and my tent was nylon-to-nylon with Chris's ... so you know how I was serenaded all night long.  Noisy neighbor or not, this is not my idea of camping.  Too freakin' many people all crammed into too small of a space!  For that reason I can't really recommend Slickrock Campground.

Slickrock Campground in Moab.  The green tent in the foreground is mine.
Beyond it are Chris's and Rich's tents.

It was also time for the cottonwood trees to drop their fluff, and I have never in my life seen such a deluge of cottonwood cotton.  Most of the time it looked like a damn snowstorm was in full rout because the air was so heavy with cottonwood dander.  It got into everything.  I had to cap my beer with my thumb to keep it out.  Good thing none of us was allergic. We were finally there, though, and tomorrow we would get to RIDE!

We had dinner at some place called Eddie McStiff's, which Rich picked because it had a wireless internet connection (hell of a place for a homophobe to want to eat, though, don't you agree?) and he could do his computer geek thing.  (Look who's talking, eh?)  We stopped at a grocery store to buy goodies and bottled water for our hydration packs.  My first indication that everything on this trip would not go as planned was when I filled my hydration pack with water and it leaked like a sieve.  That's what I get for buying an $18 dollar knock-off on ebay instead of forking over the $60+ for a genuine Camelbak.  "Hydration is overrated," I told the guys.  "I don't want to have to stop and pee all the time anyway."


Sunday, 1 May,  Potash Rd, Shafer Trail, Canyonlands N.P, Arches N.P., Cache Valley Wash.
    Mileage: 157 miles
    Unplanned Dismounts: 0
    Aborted Trails: 1

The plan was to get up at the "ass-crack of dawn" (ain't it always?), but after listening to it rain in the middle of the night (I was awake for it, of course, because of Chris's snoring) and knowing we'd be packing up wet gear (since we had to break camp in order to move into a cabin), I wasn't in any real big hurry when the sun started its ascent.  Chris was still snoring away, after all.  Eventually, however, I heard Rich moving around.  I asked him when he'd have coffee ready.  Memory fails me, but I'm sure I got a smartass reply.  Eventually we were all up.  We broke camp.  Figured out where to park the van and the trailer for the day.  Then we geared up, saddled up, and rode into Moab for gasoline and a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast.  Chris had some nasty looking shit called "humus" (I think that's right) on his bagel.  Looked like some grease you'd scoop out of a monkey's ass if you ask me. He offered me a bite.  No thanks.  Rich might have checked his email again (I forget), but FINALLY we were riding out of town intent on our reason for being in the great state of Utah (which will soon be annexed into Oklahoma if I have my way).

Highway 191 took us north across the Colorado River, where we hooked a hard left just short of Arches National Park.  This is Scenic Byway 279, which becomes Potash Road and runs by all those pretty blue potash ponds you always see photos of (never fear, I'll eventually take one, too, but I didn't get to it that first morning).  You want to know about potash ponds, you need to stop, drop, and google.  It ain't a natural blue; I can tell you that much.  Has something to do with the chemical they put in the pond.  Purty, though.  Potash Road eventually turns into dirt and kinda sneaks into Canyonlands National Park.  Past the ponds, it degrades to more of a trail where you'll need a 4WD ... or a dualsport motorcycle.

It was pretty nippy that morning.  Low to mid forties.  I had my heated vest and grips going, so I was quite comfy.  Chris and Rich didn't have such comforts, but they're tough guys.  The ride down 279 is a nice one.  Pretty canyon walls on one side and the river on the other.  Petroglyphs on the walls.  Lots of nice sweepers and good pavement.  There was little or no traffic that morning.

Chris pausing to adjust his tailbag along Utah Hwy 279 enroute to Potash
Road, a back way into Canyonlands (accessible only by offroad vehicle).

Yours truly on 279.  (Photo by Chris.)

The Tiger on Potash Road.

Think this is the first time someone's done this pose?  I couldn't resist.  You'll find
this delicately balanced rock along Potash Road.  (Photo by Chris.)

Potash Road was an easy ride, even for the big Tiger.  I was getting into my offroad riding groove, having a great time, feeling halfway confident about my abilities.  There were storm clouds moving all around us, but so far we hadn't been rained on.  Eventually in the pics you'll see Chris don his yellow rain jacket (all that yellow on a blue bike -- what a fashion fuckup he is!).  That's your cue that we're getting rained on.  Rich and I were both wearing waterproof gear, same gear we had in Arkansas.

A view of the Colorado River from the Gooseneck Overlook on Potash Road.
Photos do not do this place justice.  Film just fails to capture the grandeur
or scale associated with this type of landscape.

Another view from the Gooseneck Overlook.

Chris can't believe where he's standing: the edge of the world it seems.
"Take a few steps back, Chris, so I can get you framed in the shot a
little better."  Heh heh.

Rich at the Gooseneck.  That's Dead Horse Point on the left bank of the river,
where they used to trap wild mustangs and once a herd was left to die of thirst, hence
the name.  Want to know the history: stop, drop, and google (as my friend Judi
says).  (Photo by Chris.)

Rich on his KLR and me on my Tiger.  (Photo by Chris.)

From Potash Road, we took the Shafer Trail.  This is a fun little ride.  Not too technical until you hit the switchbacks climbing up to the paved road most mortals use to drive from one overlook to another in the park.  It's pretty steep and the switchbacks seemed pretty tight to me that first morning -- tight for the big Tiger, that is; I don't think Rich or Chris had any problem navigating up them.  I made good time, though, keeping up with the smaller bikes in front of me.  First or second gear all the way, stay on the gas, squaring off the rear end of the bike to maintain speed going through the corners.  Didn't want to stop, 'cause it was steep enough that I might drop the bike.  A fall here is serious, of course.  At the very least, you break a bone on the rocks.  Worse case, you tumble a thousand feet to your death.  The joke was that Rich and Chris would probably not be able to reach me if I plunged off a canyon wall, but they'd be sure not to let me suffer down there.  The plan was to drop rocks from above until they managed to hit me in the head and put me out of my misery.  Naturally, it might take quite a few tries before they were successful, but they would apologize each time a rock hit me in a nonlethal location.

The only other folks we passed that morning were mountain bikers and their support vehicles (generally a 4WD SUV).  I guess the support vehicles collect the bicyclists when they finally tucker out and fall over.  We gave the bicyclists plenty of room, always passed them slow so as not to startle them, and most gave us a friendly wave.  One trail for all, and we're all doing what we enjoy.  The support vehicles would generally pull over and give us motorcyclists a lot of room to pass.  We had a couple buttheads that seemed to think we could go offroad and around them or something, though.  We stick to the roads, too, guys.  Not only is the sand and stuff out there sure to cause a problem for our bikes, but it just ain't good for the flora and fauna.  Gotta watch out for Mother Nature, doncha know.

Chris and Rich pause to confer on our destination for the morning.  This is where
Potash Road ends just inside the Canyonlands National Park boundaries.  To the
right/west (the way they're facing) is the Shafer Trail, which climbs up out of the
Colorado River basin (if you can use the term "basin" when there's still another
thousand foot drop to the actual river) to the Shafer Canyon Overlook, pavement,
and Canyonlands' Island in the Sky Visitor Center.  Left is the start of the famous
White Rim Trail.

I told Chris that hydration was overrated and all he'd be doing is whizzing all
day long.  He just wouldn't listen.  Note the storm clouds.  I think he pissed off
the Native American (can't say "injun" anymore) rain gods.

Serious switchbacks where Shafer Trail climbs up out of the canyons.  Pucker
factor medium (though that morning I would have rated it high, not knowing
that the worst was yet to come).  Again, film just doesn't do this justice.  It's a
lot steeper than it looks and a wrong move might send you and your scooter
plunging thousands of feet.

At the top of the switchbacks, we found the main road that runs through Canyonlands -- Highway 313, I guess it is.  We stopped at the Rangers' kiosk and the other two guys each paid a park entry fee.  I flashed my National Parks Pass that I had bought last June.  Then we motored to the Visitor's Center, where the sky proceeded to open up and pour on us.  We rode around on pavement in the park a bit, trying to check out the overlooks, but the rain was making for pretty poor visibility.  Those raindrops sting like a mother when they come in your dirt bike helmet and hit your face, too.  We decided to boogey on back to the campground and get settled into our cabin, maybe grab some lunch (Rich was probably wanting to check his email again, too).

Crazy mountain bikers were everywhere. I snuck this picture of one as
I was returning to the campground. All that peddling, huffing and puffing,
sweating, chaffing, and raising of blisters, when they could be home on
the couch eating Cheetos and drinking beer.  I don't get it.  Some of the
female riders had cute derrières, though.  Come to think of it, so did some
of the guys. I can't believe I just typed that.  No wonder Rich didn't want
to share a bed with me!  LOL.

After getting set up in the cabin and munching on some of Chris's homemade summer sausage for lunch, we decided to do a pavement run up to Arches National Park and check out the sights.

Park Avenue formation in Arches National Park.

The famous Balanced Rock formation in Arches.  How long do you think it'll
stay there?

Chris poses before the Turret Arch in Arches.  (Remember, yellow
rain jacket = rain.  There will be a test at the end.)

Rich and his KLR at The Windows in Arches.

The Windows.

Chris and his DRZ in Arches.

Chris near Sand Dune Arch in Arches.

Sand Dune Arch.  You have to hike in among the rock formations to see this
one. Pretty cool.  That's me and Rich, of course.  (Photo by Chris.)

Rich and me near Sand Dune Arch.  (Photo by Chris.)

Rich near Sand Dune Arch.

Just outside the formations near Sand Dune Arch.  One of those rare moments
when my point-n-click abilities (or lack thereof) actually manage to pull off an
artsy and well framed photo.

Near Delicate Arch, we found something that appeared to be new, a marked OHV trail that left the park and crossed private land.  This might have been called Wolfe Ranch Road (memory is the second thing to go, doncha know), but my GPS and the official park map just labels it as the Cache Valley Wash.  And, to tell the truth, it was much more wash than it was road or trail.  It started out from the parking area there at Delicate Arch as a nice dirt road, but quickly deteriorated after passing a closed gate (no lock -- we opened the gate and closed it behind us).

Yours truly in the Cache Valley Wash.  (Photo by Rich.)

The sand in this wash soon became extremely deep and soft.  The sand was difficult enough for the Tiger, but it was also layered with large rocks -- I'm talking bowling ball size rocks and up.  With the front end washing out and the tail end fishtailing, it was only a matter of time before I lost control, hit one of those rocks (very hard to weave back and forth among them, confined between the banks of a very narrow creek bed, when your bike won't go where you point it), and the Tiger went down.  I decided discretion was the better part of valor (to resort to a cliché) and told the guys I was bailing out because the trail was too tough for the heavy Tiger.  Neither of them argued with me, so I think they thought it was a pretty gnarly trail, too -- though certainly easier to navigate on their bikes.

Another shot of the Tiger in the Cache Valley Wash.  (Photo by Rich.)

We all turned around (a chore for the Tiger) and got the hell outta there.  I have no idea where that trail comes out -- if it comes out at all.  It doesn't appear on any of our maps or on my GPS.  There's a sign indicating where it starts right there in the parking lot, however, so it's easy to find.  Perhaps a more intrepid adventure rider will check it out and let us know.  Wish we'd gotten more pictures, but you'll generally find that where the going was toughest, we never had time for taking pictures.

When we were done sightseeing in Arches, we zipped on back down 191 to the campground and got cleaned up.  Then we went into town for dinner.  Moab was a much different place with all the classic car riffraff gone.  Where'd we eat?  I forget.  Some artsy little cafe where Rich could do the wireless thing again.

Afterward, we crowded into our teensy, tiny cabin.  Rich took the floor again, while Chris and I got the beds.  Chris and Rich broke out their little strap-on forehead flashlights (Chris had forgotten his flashlight -- naturally -- and bought a new one on one of his many shopping excursions, and Rich thought it was cool and had to have one too) and start rummaging around in the dark like some maniacal spelunkers.  I was starting to feel left out, 'cause I didn't have one of my own.  They're both crawling into bed wearing these things like they're going to sleep with them on, just in case they have to get up in the middle of the night to go pee (all that hydration, mind you).  What a couple of goofs.  Then I start ripping farts.  Nothing goes together quite so well as boys and camping and farting, doncha know.  Chris keeps telling me that Rich has the most powerful farts on the planet, but Rich has got nothing to challenge me with and I'm doubting that there's anything to the legend at all.  "Your Kung Fu is weak," I tell him, rattling the walls of the cabin with my own thunderclaps.  Rich finally gets off a little squeaker in retaliation and, Good God, does it ever stink!  Chris, utilizing his little goldmining flashlight gets the door open and lets some fresh air in.  It doesn't help.  "Open up the sausage!" I plead, thinking its reek will counter Rich's Black Cloud of Doom.  I crawl under the covers, but there's no escaping it.  "You are the master," I tell him.  "Please, no more."

Eventually, we settle down.  I'm no sooner lying there, enjoying the phantom motion of the bike still moving under me the way it does after a long day of riding, when the snoring starts again.  This time it's Rich!  Then Chris joins in!  They're fucking harmonizing!  I was still farting something crazy (I blame Chris's sausage), so I joined in on the symphony.  Zzzzzzzzzzzzz .... Zzzzzzzzzzzzz ... Pllllbbbbbbtttttttt!  Zzzzzzzzzzzzz .... Zzzzzzzzzzzzz ... Pllllbbbbbbtttttttt!  Let me tell you, the whole campground was a'rocking and a'rolling.

Eventually, I guess I fell asleep.  I know it took a long freakin' time.

I was feeling good.  The day had instilled some confidence in my ability to maneuver the big bike over the trails.  Surely it wouldn't get any worse than that deep sand and those switchbacks?  I wasn't worried about the White Rim Trail tomorrow.  It would be long and probably pretty tiring, but it would just be more of the same, right?  My biggest concern was whether my tires would last for the ride home, since I didn't plan to trailer back with the guys.  I'd already promised the Tiger that I wouldn't subject it to being strapped down again.  The bike had absolutely hated it, sitting there in restraints while cars passed it on the highway.

So ... a great day with very little drama.  "What will I write about when I get home?" I wondered.  One thing I knew for sure, though: I really needed to get me one of those flashlights.

Click the dancing tiger to continue...

* I realize that the correct quote (Proverbs 16:18) is "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall," but I've chosen to abbreviate for my purposes.  The big guy won't mind.

Copyright © 2011 Brian A. Hopkins, 2011-08-01 16:54,