May 2008, Lisa and I celebrate our 20th anniversary with a belated tour of the southwest USA. This is something we have both wanted to do for some time. Neither of us have been to this part of the country yet. And ever since our wonderful experience touring Europe by motorcycle in 2004 with the Venturers M/C, we decided a motorcycle trip was the way to go. Following are our plans and then some highlights and photos from this trip.

Day 1
Friday, May 9

Las Vegas

Our flight to Las Vegas went well. While at Dulles, I called my co-workers and asked that they try to give our flight a shortcut if possible. Apparantly they did because in flight the pilot came on and thanked me over the intercom. Much of the flight was in clouds, but we did a pretty good view of the Rockies. After we checked in at the Clarion Emerald Springs, we rested a bit. The Clarion is OK I guess, but not as nice as their website would have you believe. The free limo shuttle service to the airport and strip is convienent. We then walked to the strip where we got a bite to eat and played a little slots. We then went to the KA - Cirque du Soleil show at the MGM Grand. The show was very good. Our seats were about 12 rows from front and just about perfect. If you do see this show, avoid the first 6 rows or closer. Much of the action is up high and being too close will strain your neck. After the show we walked the strip some checking out the lights, then headed back to the room for the night. Photos
Day 2
Saturday, May 10

Las Vegas
Hoover Dam

Plan: Total we estimate 230 miles. Plan Map

The Eagle Rider place I needed to pick up the rental bike was about 4 miles from our motel. Since we haven't had a chance to really get any exercise the past couple days, we decided to start early and do a slow walk together. So around 7:30 we started walking and got there right about opening time. We retrieved our 2008 Harley Electra Glide Classic. Our friends Mike & Val from Lake Havasau called and we met them and Mike's brother Larry and sister in-law Lynn at an Omlette House for breakfast. Lisa and I went back to the room to load the bike and stow our other luggage for the week at the Clarion. We then rode towards Hoover Dam where we met with Mike, Val, and Larry. We visited the impressive Hoover Dam. We then began the ride back towards Vegas and up I-15N towards Zion NP. Larry broke off to do some local riding and Mike and Val continued to ride north with us.

The first hour or so of riding was somewhat boring. Basic southwest desert views. The weather was absolutely perfect for motorcycle riding. 80 degrees and low humidity. Eventually we started seeing much more interesting scenery. High, steep multi-color cliffs. We then entered a section called Virgin River Gorge. Wow! What a fantastic scenic section to ride that was. We then entered St George, UT where we all stopped to have dinner. We spent so much time getting caught up with Mike & Val that it was after 7:00pm before we continued the last hour ride to Zion National Park. Mike & Val decided to get a room in St George, then head back south to home in the morning. By the time we arrived in Zion NP, it was already late dusk, however, the impressive scenery was still evident. I have often heard how quick it cools down after sunset in the southwest. By the time we got to Zion, we were quite chilly. We got settled into our cabin around 9:00pm. What a nice relaxing atmosphere! Just what I needed after the long day yesterday with the time change and poor sleep. We fired up the fireplace and settled in for the night.
Day 3
Sunday, May 11

Zion NP
Bryce Canyon NP

Plan: We estimate today about 295 miles. Plan Map

We got an incredible nights sleep in the cabin at Zion. We started the day with a breakfast at Zion Lodge. We then took a two mile easy hike along the river into the canyon. That was very scenic. We did one more short hike then checked out of our cabin. For those who visit, I highly recommend the cabins. For the hikers, Zion is an awesome place to take some incredible sounding hikes. If we had more time and weren't in riding attire, I would have liked to try some of the longer trails.

After checking out of Zion, we headed towards Bryce National Park. It was a nice ride to Bryce. We rode into Bryce Canyon and spent a couple hours at the over looks. We took our friend Harveys advise and rode all the way in and then hit the overlooks on the way out. We then took Hwy 12 through Escalante and Boulder. This route had several nice sections of twisties and awesome views. There was one section that had both Lisa and I wide eyed and white knuckled. It was called Hogs Backbone. Basically the road ran along a ridge only several feet wider than the road on each side, no guard rails with steep drops on each side in a fairly stiff cross wind. I included an aerial view that I found on the internet to my photo gallery. Lisa's camera batteries had died prior to this section.

Several people warned me about how long between gas stations. Well, I gave myself a little scare. I passed up several gas stations with over a half tank prior to Escalante. I figured I would get gas in Boulder. Well, if there was a gas station in Boulder, UT... I missed it. With about 30 miles from Torrey yet to go, I had already traveled over 200 miles on this tank. I started riding in higher gear than I normally would to keep the RPM's down and the MPG up. We made it to Torrey with no problems, but to avoid that stress any more, on this trip, I'll be filling up a half full when in these big stretches. Other wise the ride today was outstanding. It did get a bit chilly after we went over 8,000 feet, but wasn't too bad. Still snow on the road sides in many places. Seems odd to me to see snow in May, but I guess that is normal here.

We checked into the Torrey Best Western then had dinner at the motel resturaunt. The food was so so, but the room is very nice with awesome views. Would definately recommend this place to stay.
Day 4
Monday, May 12

Capital Reef NP
Hwy 128

Plan: Plan Map

When we checked the weather radar in the morning we noticed a pretty good sized storm over Salt Lake City heading south and east. So we decided to get an early start and keep an eye on the skies. We had breakfast at the motel restaraunt. We got rolling around 8:00am and rode to Capitol Reef National Park. We rode the scenic 10 mile loop. It was somewhat interesting, but really not much different than we had been seeing from the road on our trip so far. I've heard there are some very neat areas within the park, but almost all require drives on unpaved roads. If I were to take another motorcycle trip, I would stop if riding by, but wouldn't go out of my way for it.

After Capital Reef we headed east and north on Hwy 24. Soon I began to notice the skies to the north darkening and the winds picking up. I bumped up the pace in a race with mother nature to get to I-70 where we would turn east. But about 30 miles before reaching I-70 I had to reduce the speed way back due to severe cross winds. We finally got to I-70 where the winds got even worse. At this point I would have to say these were the strongest winds I have ever ridden a motorcycle in. I do not know what the gusts where, but it was all I could do to maintain control. It was to the point that I put the flashers on and could only keep the bike in my lane at 50mph or lower. But we finally got far enough away from the storm to out ran those winds as well. By the time we got gas at Green River, the winds subsided enough I could run 80mph+ again. We decided to make a bee-line for Moab skipping Hwy128 and the run into Colorado.

After Green River we made great time to Moab. It was still too early to check in to our motel and the skies looked pretty good, so we went ahead and did the ride up Hwy 128 and back. This was a road my friend Dave told me about and he was right. Awesome ride along the Colorado River! We then grabbed lunch at Denny's and checked into the motel to rest a bit as the skies began to darken in Moab. We awoke from short nap around 5:30pm to find a steady rain outside. We are both glad we pushed hard and stayed dry. In talking to some locals, this seemingly normal light rain was to them a lot of rain at one time. We took advantage of the rain to put our feet up and relax some.
Day 5
Tuesday, May 13

Arches NP
Canyonlands NP
Hwy 279

Plan: Plan Map

We started the day with a complimentary breakfast. It was much cooler than normal for this area. When we started riding, it was only in the upper 40's. We layered up with all the gear we brought and it kept us warm enough. We started by riding Hwy 279 which follows the Colorado River to the southwest of Moab. Although several travel guides listed this route as a don't miss, I personally feel the Hwy128 we rode yesterday was much better. The only real attraction was the indian carvings. It is one of the few places where these can be found right along the roadway. Most places these exist are remote locations. Picaso's they weren't. haha

After Hwy279 we rode to Canyonlands National Park, Island in the Sky district. We rode the entire scenic loop and stopped at nearly every overlook. This is a very impressive park.

By the time we finished Canyonlands, the chill had pretty much made it to the bone for both of us. So we decided to head back to Moab and sit down for a lunch. We had planned on just grabbing a few subs and picnicing at Arches somewhere, but we needed to get inside for awhile.

After lunch we went to Arches NP. We stopped at most of the overlooks. We did a short hike 1 mile hike to the windows arch. We then started to do the short delicate arch hike. In talking with a returning hiker, he said the view was not what he expected. He said even though shorter, it was still a steep hike and it only puts you at a point to view the arch from across a narrow canyon. So instead we decided to go ahead and do the 3 mile moderate hike right to the delicate arch. This trail ran over the slickrock and had a 480 foot elevation change. In riding boots, that was quite a challenge, but it was well worth it. One section of the trail follows a narrow ledge along a Mesa. It was plenty wide and angled to the wall so it wasn't as bad as it sounds. Nonetheless, it was fun watching the terror on those with real height phobias. One lady looked as if we said BOO as she walked past us she would be airborne. After we got back to Moab, we rewarded our hard work with some ice cream and coffee before heading back to the motel to collapse. :)

Day 6
Wednesday, May 14

Natural Bridges
Mougi Dugway
Monument Valley

Plan: Plan Map

We woke to another very cool morning. Temps in Moab at our departure of 9:00am were still in the low 40's. Very unusual for this time of year. We bundled up and headed south on Hwy191. Lots of long straight stretches with not much unique scenery on this route. We first took a side trip to Natural Bridges National Monument. Three fairly impressive naturally carved bridges in the rocks. Although very neat, I still think the one in Natural Bridge, VA is more impressive than either of these. After this we head down hwy 261 towards Mexican Hat.

After about 15 miles of fairly straight well maintained road, we came upon signs warning of 3 miles of narrow, steep, gravel road ahead. We had stumbled upon a section over Cedar Mesa called Mougi Dugway. This road would have me white knuckled in a car. But on a bike, one inadvertant twist of the throttle or over use of the front brake and you go sky diving with no chute. The road was gravel and in the switchbacks it was paved but almost to no use as it was gravel covered also. No guard rails except a mound of gravel. I guess this is your one second warning you are dead. Anyway, after we got through this 3 mile stretch, I had to pull over to releive the stress in my shoulders. Glad we did it, but anyone remotely afraid of heights like me will have to face the phobia to ride this road.

After this we continued south into the Navajo Nation through Monument Valley to our destination. By this time the temps had moved into the low 70's and we shed some layers. Normally we would have been hot by this time, so we were lucky to have the cold spell. After Monument Valley the roads are mostly straight with little unique scenery. But one can make good time for sure.. ;) We checked into the Quality Inn at Tuba City, AZ. Seems like a good quality motel. Decent resturaunt but nothing to write home about. Based on our observations of some of the towns we rode through prior to here, I was starting to get concerned about the quality of this lodging, but was pleasantly surprised.
Day 7
Thursday, May 15

Grand Canyon NP
Jerome, AZ

Plan: Plan Map

Today was yet another cooler than normal day. We got rolling around 9:00am and headed for the Grand Canyon east entrance. We stopped at most of the overlooks along the entrance road. We also stopped at a 900 year old indian village ruins and musuem. Once at the visitor center, we parked and walked the rim trail for a bit. The wind was howling and quite cold but the view was incredible. We then went to the village and had a late lunch before heading south to our destination.

By the time we reached Flagstaff, the cold had us pretty beat down. We stopped for gas and a hot cup of coffee. As we sat warming with the coffee, the sun began to shine brighter and the temps came up. As we decended toward Sedona it quickly became very comfortable again. We both enjoyed the ride from Sedona to Cottonwood where we checked in to the Quality Inn. After we unloaded the luggage and shedded a few layers, we hopped back on the bike and rode up Rt89A to the re-populated ghost town Jerome. The rode into Jerome is something else. An entire mining town built on switchbacks. Very interesting. Somewhat reminded me of some of the small German towns we rode through during our Europe tour in 2004.
Day 8
Friday, May 16

Jerome, AZ
Route 66
Cool Springs, AZ
Oatman, AZ

Plan: Plan Map

Today we started with another short drive back to Jerome. This time we went to the state operated museum that was closed last night. Probably the best 6 bucks we spent all vacation. Lisa and I both found this very interesting. After spending over an hour here, we decided it was time move on. We continued on Rt 89a which for the next 12 miles was an experience in itself. Very twistie road. Next we rode route 89 to 1-40 where we picked up a short section of historic route 66 to Seligman. This section really had nothing of interest. We jumped back on I-40 and blasted to Kingman, AZ. Did I mention how nice that 6th gear is on highways.. :) By this time, the desert heat was beginning to show up. We certainly were not complaining after the past few days of bone chilling cold. But in reality, the cool temps probably allowed us to ride as much as we have without being beat down.

At Kingman, we jumped onto the historic route 66 towards Oatman. We stopped at what used to be the town of Cool Springs at a restored gas station. Shortly after we arrived, Bob from The Venturers showed up. We talked a bit and checked out the cool restored station then proceeded west on route 66. The next several miles were very twisty, but also, in pretty bad shape. Certainly drivable with care.

We arrived in the re-populated ghost town of Oatman, AZ. Although more touristy than Jerome, it was still very interesting. It had a much more old west feel to it. In the Oatman hotel, there is a room where Clark Gabel spent his honeymoon. Also the town is over run with wild burros. Seems when the miners abandoned the town many years ago, they left behind the burros who became wild and multiplied. Today they are carrot munching tourist attractions. Pretty neat.

We then headed to Bullhead City at the community college to say goodbye to Mike & Val who were teaching a MSF class there and could not get away. We still hope to see them tomorrow, but wanted to say goodbye just in case. We then rode with Bob to Chili's where we had dinner with Bob and his wife Bea. After dinner, we said our goodbyes and began our ride back to Las Vegas.
Day 9
Saturday, May 17

Death Valley, CA

Plan: Plan Map

Today the forecast was 110+ degrees for Death Valley. Since this was something we did really want to see, we decided to get a very early start. We skipped breakfast and were on the road at 6:00am. We grabbed a coffee and danish at the first gas stop. This worked out well. The entire ride to Death Valley plus the ride up to Dante's View was fairly cool. By the time we came down off the hill and started toward Badwater, things were cooking pretty good. We rode to Badwater, then to Furnace Creek were we cooled down with some cold drinks and ice cream. We had plenty of water on the bike and had been forcing ourselves to drink often as well as nibble on snacks. But the water on the bike was probably 90 degrees.

We then headed back to Las Vegas. It was scourching!! I put the hammer down and at sometimes was over 100mph. You would think at 100 mph the wind would help keep ya cool. Uh... no. Even with several drink stops, we still made it back to our room in Vegas by 2:00pm. We then got a shower and rested a bit before meeting Mike & Val Johnson and their in laws Larry & Lynn at Sunset Station for an awesome buffet dinner. This was one of Larry & Lynn's favorite buffets and we see why. It was excellent.

The rest of the evening was spent resting and packing some for our departure back home and back to reality. Bummer.. :(
Day 10
Sunday, May 18

Las Vegas

We got up and rode to IHOP for some breakfast. Then we rode to Eagle Rider to return the Harley. Although I enjoyed riding the past 8 days... I will not miss that motorcycle. Not to offend my friends who ride Harley's.. but I now have an even greater appreciation of my Yamaha Venture. This week pretty much solidifies the fact I will not be buying a Harley anytime in the foreseeable future. :)

We then walked back to our motel via the strip since we had some time to kill before our flight. We did a little souvenir shopping and donated a little more to the local economy via the slots. After getting back to our motel, we finished packing and then took the shuttle to the airport. Our flight arrived on time and we are now back home.

We really enjoyed the southwest and will surely be back. Much we want to see again, and some areas we would like to explore in more depth. But I think we were both glad to back to cool spring temps and the color green.. ;)