Pulled by a thousand strings and a phantom paycheck.

Finally severing ties with the sin city, consulting a road touring
map, bike fully loaded, I pushed air either side of my helmet and rode north to Utah. Just outside the Vegas city limits, I found myself brushing by the Valley of Fire National Park. Spectacular desert landscapes encroached on the roadway as Mavis and I roared forwards in the blistering 40deg+ heat. Wearing my recently purchased “all weather” riding pants, leather jacket up top,
boots down below and a full face black helmet fencing in the top
paddock, my body quickly started to become a steamed dim sim.Nevada desert 15_18A 12_21A Nevada desert 20_13A

Thinking I was witnessing a mirage, a stand of palms amongst the sand and rock appeared a little ways ahead just off the roadside. I pulled in to investigate and was surprised to find a fresh water spring bubbling up from the ground. A clear crystal pond with coloured tropical fish, swimming in schools. Quickly jumping in after scolding my bare feet on the hot gravel by the ponds edge, my body slowly regained some normality as I dunked my head beneath the clear waters.

I continued riding onwards to the sounds of Moby and Polo Club licking at my ears. My way point for the day was to reach Zion National Park (NP) in Utah by nightfall. Having left Vegas with a near empty bank account, anticipating my final paycheck from the driving job clearing in a day or two, I was limited to how far I could travel in the way of petrol expenses. Cutting across the boarders between Nevada, Arizona and Utah, the sand and rock started to shoot up from the ground creating rocky canyons and hills, the valleys of which filled with greenery. The road before me seemed to disappear into the hillside, as it snaked its way above the Virgin river below in the narrow gorge.

Arriving to the park entrance, I quickly realised I would be restricted to fee paying campsites if camped within the park. Hastily I looked for an alternative while inverting my wallet to find it barren and empty in the fading light of day. I jumped back on the bike to pull a ‘Uey’, but was blocked by blue Toyota ute with a cream camper top with “70’s” brown horizontal stripes. An old guy got out and wandered over. “What’s the deal with camping here? Have you to pay?” escaped his weathered face. I explained what had been told to me at the park entrance, as he too consulted
his wallet, coming to the same conclusion as I. Sharing my earlier
observation of what looked like a free camping area beside the river bank a few kilometers back, we both started off down the road leaving Zion NP in the rear view.

Sure enough off the roadside was a fantastic camping area, free of
charge with sandy soil and clearings amongst the Cotton wood trees. The bike quickly got the wobbles as I drove her off onto the soft sand. I pulled into the first site I could find and proceeded to ‘beach’ Mavis. To my delight, the previous campers whom looked to have just moved on, had left a new piece of carpet. The perfect addition to my floor-less tent.Utah camping Utah camping

As I started to make camp, Bob (the guy in the camper) walked over with an ice cold beer in his hand. “Here you go” he said whilst offering me the brew. “Cheers mate. Just what I needed”(I really did!). Bob turned out to be quite the character. He was on his way back to San Francisco after driving “from Coast to Coast to Coast” as he liked to put it. He was now retired after working the past 16yrs as a printing press operator at a major newspaper on the West Coast. The paper he’d worked for, (sadly as must be the case for most), was downsizing and had offered Bob a severance package. It wasn’t much but enough to pay the bills and allow him to go on a “Coast to Coast to Coast” road trip. That evening Bob insisted I come round for a feed, as a thank you for finding such a decent campsite. The offer was quickly accepted considering my alternative of provisions stuffed in Mavis pillion sacks were a couple cans of tuna and an orange. Bob put on a full spread with steamed broccoli, sausages and a few more brews. He was now retired and lived just north of San Francisco on a friends property. He had his own house up there, and through conversation it was revealed they had a little “farm” business. In the State of California, it is possible to obtain a special permit that allows the holder to cultivate up to 16 “medicinal” marijuana plants for personal use. Collectively, Bob and his mate along with a few others had a considerable little operation going. Bob no longer smoked, but went into detail about the setup they had going, including the soil tests they had sent off for their “tomato farm”. As I am told, weed plants grow in the same pH soil levels as their fruiting cousins, the tomato. Bob had a wealth of stories he shared with me including one that ended in him climbing down off the Great pyramids of Egypt to a rising sun after a hash fueled binge of the greatest kind a while back. Ask me later for the full story…

The following day I stripped off my riding gear and donned some shorts. Still wearing my leather jacket, I rode to the Zion NP entrance. Copping a bee sting to the shin, I quickly learned why long pants are favored riding apparel. The day before I’d noted a few motorcyclists riding without helmets as I crossed into Utah. I asked the ranger at the front gate if one had to wear a helmet in Utah (in the States, each state has differing laws regarding mandatory helmets for motorcyclists). I was informed that I was in a state where it wasn’t mandatory. Subsequently I ripped off my skull cap for the 25mph winding roads within the park. Zion is one of the most spectacular places I have visited in this lifetime (I am young, but it was amazing!). As the guy sitting behind me in the park shuttle bus said “I can’t even find words to describe how spectacular this place is”. Entering the park, one is greeted by gigantic sandstone cliffs (the tallest in the world I believe). I experienced a new freedom riding the bike with no helmet, a fantastic feeling. Wind blowing through my hair and the whole world passing by, with no more than a pair of sunglass’ between us (sorry Mum, but I’ve only ridden without a helmet inside NP’s where the speed limit is 25mph or less thus far).Zion NP, Utah

After two nights camped out near Zion, I decided to take my chances with my anticipated paycheck and continue onwards to the Northern rim of the Grand Canyon. Another hot and sweaty day riding and I entered a small town in northern Arizona. Scouting for a library with internet, I made a turn at the only traffic light in town at “The Junction”. Finding out that it was some public holiday and the library was closed, I looked for somewhere that might have WiFi. Finding it, I sat in the shade of a tree letting Mavis take a rest as I sent some emails off. After 30mins or so, I turned back onto the road I’d turned down.

100miles east of the town, I started to wonder if this was the right road at all. Looking off in the direction of what looked like the Grand Canyon, I became aware of a huge storm brewing over the majority of the sky. I figured to myself that perhaps I was on the wrong road, heading the wrong way, but today that wasn’t such a bad thing. My suspicions where later confirmed when I stopped to have lunch at Lake Powell. I assessed the situation and came to the conclusion that I would not have enough money to back track and see the GC. It can wait for another day.

I looked over the map for my next destination point, and noticed Mesa Verda NP in Colorado. My couch surfing host in Midland, TX had suggested I visit the park, but I was on a tight schedule back then on my way to Vegas to take the detour. Now I had no specific place to be, I set my route.

Riding through the desert once again, I kept getting the feeling I was being pulled by a thousand strings attached to me, flying out in all directions. Every turn I took, felt like a handful of said strings was let go, as the slack of others was taken up. As if I was being guided or led through this unfamiliar country. All around storms were brewing and dumping their watery content. The sky became dark and I decided to find camp for the night as Mesa Verda was to distant. With the strings “pulling” me, I turned off into the Navajo National Monument Indian reservation. There I made camp on a beautiful ridge overlooking the majestic landscape of rock cliffs and low lying green plains. Tapping away on the typewriter, in the fading light, I tucked into a can of tuna and called it a night.Arizona

The following days ride was similar to others as I crossed the border into Colorado. Arriving early at Mesa Verda NP, I transformed into my “NP” riding attire and road the 20 odd miles into the park. Mesa Verda is unique for it’s cliff ruins left by ancient inhabitants. As my paycheck still hadn’t come through, I regrettably held back from the fee paying guided tours and went and explored the areas I could guide-less. After a few hours and a quick lunch, I was riding back out to the parks entrance. I inquired as to the rates of the camping inside the park, with a fee of $21 a night, it was outside my budget. I decided to travel to the town of Durango and stop off at the supermarket for some supplies before finding a camp within a state park. A quick whip around the supermarket, I stocked up with some canned tomato soup, some fresh corn and a small block of chocolate. Eventually I found a camp, practically just outside Mesa Verda and pitched the tent. A Colorado storm brushed by as I heated the soup in the can over my campfire.

The morning following, I decided I needed to upgraded my floor-less tent to something a little more “critter proof” after being told by everyone the further North I travel, the bigger the mosquitoes get. I recalled someone telling me REI outdoors (a large outdoors store) had a giant store in the city of Denver, and as this looked somewhat close on the map, I decided I’d try my luck. Planning the route, I choose to pass through Aspen as it looked the most scenic route. Still without pay, I did some math and it looked as though I would only be able to go half the way…