Day 23: July 15, 2000
Today was the best day I have ever spent riding a motorcycle. I know Day 7 on the Blue Ridge Parkway was Motorcycle Nirvana, but for scenery and twisty roads, today was hands down the best day ever.
I started out with a 100 mile blast down I-15 to Payson, UT where I took the Mount Nebo Scenic Loop. They call it a loop, although it does not actually make a loop, rather it goes from Payson, UT to UT 132 near Fountain Green, UT where the town was preparing for a parade. I can't imagine for the life of me what they were celebrating today, but there were flags and floats and a marching band, and everybody on the main street in town was out on their lawn, having a big party.
Mount Nebo (not to be confused with Mount Nemo) is the highest mountain in the Wasatch Range at 11,877 feet, and while the Scenic Loop does not actually take you to the top of Mount Nebo, it takes you to a place where you have an excellent view of it. This route would really benefit from some new pavement, as the road itself is spectacular, but the potholes and gravel detract from the overall enjoyment of the trip.
Next I made my way to Fairview Pass, better known as UT 31. This is one of Utah's many Scenic Byways, and is a part of their Skyline Drive. This road is now one of my all time favorites, with spectacular views, excellent pavement, and all kinds of corners. This is a mountain road, and reminded me a little of southwestern Colorado.
I then went south to find UT72, which is a secondary road on the map, and not designated as a scenic route, but after riding it today, I think it should be. The weather was threatening rain, but I never had to put my rain gear on, and only caught a sprinkle here and there.
UT72 bought me down to Loa, and UT24, which is also one of Utah's Scenic Byways. On UT 24, I began to see a lot of beautiful old British bikes, and just outside of Torrey, I passed a campground where there obviously was a club meeting of some sort. In Torrey, I talked to a guy who was riding a 1974 Norton, and he told me that he was from Lake Tahoe, and that this was a club rally. They sure picked a great place for it, and there were a lot of them out enjoying the roads.
Out of Torrey, I took what has been my favorite road for several years now, UT 12. UT 12 is a relatively new road, and now the area through which it passes has a name. Bill Clinton designated this area as the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument a few years ago, and now there are signs proclaiming it as such. UT 12 goes over Boulder Mountain at 9200 feet, then cuts right through the heart of the Grand Staircase. At one point it runs along the top of a ridge with steep dropoffs on both sides of the road. Everywhere you look there is that wonderful deep red clay in the most amazing formations imaginable. Just north of Escalante on UT 12 is a spot I found 5 years ago on my first cross-country motorcycle trip which I call the Lookout. It is a scenic turnout on the side of a mountain from which you can see for 60 miles. It overlooks a lot of the Grand Staircase, and you can see Boulder Mountain in the distance. The informational sign at The Lookout says "On A Clear Day You Can See Forever".
There are Native Americans selling jewelry at The Lookout, and today I told one of them that this was my favorite spot in the whole world, and I only get to come here once a year, but she is there every day. I told her I am jealous.
It was sprinkling rain at The Lookout today, but that didn't matter, it just made for another interesting view, with the sky black with clouds. I spent 4 hours going 115 miles on UT 12 today, because I stopped so many times to enjoy the scenery. The hardest part of the whole 12,325 miles so far was pulling away from The Lookout today because when I left there, it felt like my trip was over.
But in fact it wasn't, as I had the rest of UT12 to enjoy, past the entrance to Bryce Canyon National Park (I didn't have time to go in). Then through Red Canyon, which is amazing, and into Panguitch, to ride UT143, which one of the motorcycle magazines dubbed the best motorcycle road in the country a few years ago. This road is great, but as I climbed toward Cedar Breaks National Monument, the temperature dropped to the high 50's, and I had to put my jacket back on. Cedar Breaks National Monument was a fitting end to a wonderful day of riding.
If you take I-15 from Ogden to St. George, it is only 344 miles. If you take the route I followed today, you will see the some of the most amazing scenery on the planet and you will experience motorcycling at its very best.
Tomorrow I will be home.
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© COPYRIGHT 2000, Richard R. Brookes, Peter H. Baumann