Emily had graciously let us crash with them for a night but unfortunately Mother-in-law was coming that weekend and we got the boot.  Cant have those unsavory bikers hanging around.

Went to get a camp site and this is what they gave us. We couldnt figure out how exactly you’re supposed to lock this bear box, it was the only one like this that we saw, and ontop of that theres a big fresh bear print right on the side that hadnt been washed away by all the rain.  Uhh no thanks!   We went back and complained and they kindly gave us another spot.

Our new site next door was much nicer, with a bear box that actually works!  I was a bit concerned that we were supposed to leave all our stuff in here and it didnt actually lock to keep other people out.  More on this later.

Like most other campgrounds almost everyone was friendly. Our neighbor for two days was a retired technology consultant for the pharmaceutical industry now living just outside the park in Idaho and here for some photography for a book he was working on. We’d talk and laugh and chat for hours of each others travels around our lantern, in fact it was hard to politely tell him we needed to get some sleep. Thats the great thing about these national park campgrounds, you never know who you’ll meet.

We talked to everyone in our loop of the campground, everyone was curious about the motorcycle with the strange yellow plate and how we ever fit so much stuff on it when it takes an SUV to carry the same for them.  Everywhere we’ve been so far people have come right up to talk to us, I suppose with a little girl in pink we arent as threatening as a bunch of pirates on loud Harlies 😉 Everyone except the campers on the other side of us that is who didn’t talk to a soul and never looked at anyone and only rarely seen outside their tent.

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Grand Teton National Park

Finally made it to the Tetons!  The area is as beautiful as I had imagined it would be. My parents tell me I’ve been wanting to come here almost my whole life, any time we were given a family vote on where to go for vacation this is what I said.  It’s been an interesting life’s journey to get here but I’m finally here where I almost feel like I belong.

We did end up getting lost though.  We were supposed to meet Emily at her house in Moose but instead of following the directions in my head from the phone I thought I must have heard them wrong and turned around literally like 1/2 mile from our destination.  Instead we wound up 8 miles down a rough and muddy backcountry dirt road full of deep pot holes.  Pretty trail but after the very long haul all day the engine was nice and toasty and the exhaust much louder than normal.  All the hikers and wildlife photographers just glared as we rumbled past weaving through the potholes.  Sorry!  Its not normally this loud 😉

Emily and Matt who kindly loaned us their 5th wheel for a night and gave some welcome recommendations of what to see when and sent us to try the outstanding nachos from Signal Mountain Lodge.  The kids have gotten big since I last saw them.

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Fossile Butte National Monument

Not so much from our day across Wyoming, not a whole lot to see except rolling hills till we got into the mountains.  I will say that Wyoming has the nicest smoothest pavement I’ve ever been on.  They even had warning signs:  40MPH Caution Road Damage Ahead.  The first couple of them we’d slam on the brakes to see one or two grapefruit sized pot holes..  That’s it? That’s what I had to slow down for?

Fossil Butte was barely a speck on the map and we only found out about it a day or two earlier,  its tiny, hours from anything, and ended up being pretty darn cool.

I made the mistake AGAIN of believing that just because there’s dots on the map that one of these places must be big enough to have a gas station.  We almost didn’t go to Fossil Butte, by the time we got there we passed through several non existent towns, not even a scrap of wood or foundation to show there had even been something there and we were way low on fuel.  Fossil Butte was 4 miles off the road, or 8 total, it’d be close..  a coin toss decided that we’ll never be this way again we might as well go and deal with running out of gas later.  I’m glad we went, its an amazing place.

They had a timeline of earth’s history spread out along the four mile road and up the railing to the building.  Pretty cool to get a grasp of just how long a geologic age is and how short of an eye-blink of geologic time humans have been around.

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Flaming Gorge National Rec Area

Made it to Flaming Gorge just in time to check in and get a spot, another unbelievable killer road going into there around the lake and through the high mountains and aspen trees.  The sun sets early on that eastern side of the mountains though and there was deer and elk everywhere on the road that I was having to keep a paranoid eye out for and it was ungodly cold.  I’m talking hypothermia cold, by the time I got back into the sun I couldn’t stop shaking.  Cece had a sweatshirt, long-sleeve shirt, and her insulated liners in her gear before we got to the mountains, I had nothing and was trying desperately to get to the campground in time, no time to stop and put more clothes on.

The sun this far north sets close to 10pm, so this was probably taken around 9:30 when we got the tent set up.

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In Search of Dinosaurs

In order to get from Moab to Flaming Gorge we had to go into Colorado and catch highway 139 north past Dinosaur National Monument.  A quick stop on the way should get us another stamp or two for our National Parks Passport! or so we thought.

I only took Utah 128 out of Moab because I didn’t want to backtrack the way I had come to get back to the Interstate to CO. My GPS, Google, and MS Streets and Trips all routed around it cause it would add 1/2 hr despite being much shorter. Stupid GPS, I’m going this way anyway!

Unfreaking believable!  The first 15 miles of this are the most outstanding riding ever, 11 out of 10, too bad its not longer.  It twists through steep walled canyons along the side of a wide river with rafters, through the Canyonlands and Arches rock formations. Unreal!  They have markers in many places where the rocks overhang the road for cages and trailers, extremely narrow.  What a hidden gem.  Ignore whatever Garmin says and go the other way 😉

Others photos, it was just too much fun to stop, not to mention nowhere to pull over to dig out the camera.

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Arches National Park

We left just before dawn to make up lost time, talk about cold!  It’s not just the heat you have to worry about in the desert, the hr just before sunup is ungodly cold too.   We ended up having to miss both Canyonlands and Dead Horse St Park.  Oddly every time I’ve been this way I’ve ended up missing Canyonlands for one reason or another,  mostly because its 40 miles off the highway in the middle of nowhere just to get to the front gate or someone in the group having severe allergies and us having to flee the area asap.

On to Arches..  Again..  I’ve been here many times before, Cece hadn’t.  Its nice because you can see most of it without leaving the road if you want to and then theres lots of trails if you do want to get out and get up close.

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Hot and Cold

$#%&!!  Roadside teardown..     The whole trip till now the bike had been running a touch hot, playing with jettings didnt seem to help any.  Hours of Super Slabbing it with huge winds got the temp gauge up to 120C and it was starting to have that crunchy shifting and other overheating symptoms.   Complete teardown on the side of the road to figure out WTF is going on..

I’d already redone the carb, replaced the air filters and everything I could think of prior to leaving.  Might as well replace that grungy crankcase filter too and see if that does anything..   350+ miles to go and no time to wait for a cool down, we hopped back on and an hr down the road at 80mph it had cooled down to 90C, MUCH better!   REPLACE YOUR GRUNGY CLOGGED CRANKCASE FILTERS!!

The wind was just horrible.  At one of the rest areas we stopped at to redo our Visine and take a breather the plate glass door shattered and cracked the surrounding glass in the wall when the wind slammed it shut. Later at dinner (Subway) the radio playing kept having warnings for all of the roads we had just been on, stating 75mph and up wind gusts.

We had reservations for a camping spot at Dead Horse Point State Park and we never made it there.  300 miles of fighting the worst winds we’d been through this trips and constantly having to expect and be ready for a a 75 mph gust from the side at any second that’ll knock you off the road is tiring.  Luckily the sections of Interstate we were on were closed to truck traffic from the wind and there was virtually no other traffic, or towns, or gas for 150 miles and we could ride right straight down the center of both lanes.  3 or 4 times we were blown all the way past the rumble strip onto the shoulder by a big gust out of nowhere. It felt like an unexpected tackle from the side.  One of those times we very nearly crashed, we were scraping floorboards trying to swerve back onto the road.

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Zion Wildlife

The other post was getting a bit long so I’m breaking it up.  Zion National Park is an oasis of life in an otherwise semi-arid region.  One feature that makes this park so remarkable and helped create it is the amount of water here.  Everywhere clean spring water drips from walls and flake off bits of stone piece by piece and streams rush through and carve out the canyons.  Water is so central to Zion that nowhere in the park to they sell bottled water, if you want water they have fresh spring water on tap at all the drinking fountains to refill your bottles.

With all the water around there’s an explosion wildlife of all shapes and sizes from mountain lions to eagles to deer and mice.  Here’s just a few pictures of what we managed to see in our short time hiking in the park.

There is no private cars allowed on the roads up the main canyons the traffic was getting way too bad and with only a few hundred parking spaces for a few thousand cars per day the situation just wasn’t working out.  To solve the problems they implemented a pretty good bus system through the park to take you through all of the sites and trail heads.  It works very well and we never had to wait, the bus drivers are all very informative and sometimes funny,  one of them pointed out the doe and her two fawns to us and slowed down enough for me to snap a picture through the window.  He says he loves his job because he gets to watch the babies grow up throughout the year.

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Zion National Park

My favorite National Park so far this trip would have to be Zion.   The steep vermillion cliffs are an outdoor photographers dream and just awe inspiring.  Early explorers felt the towering structures and great beauty clearly showed the hand of God at work in these canyons and cliffs.  No wonder they came up with names such as  Angels Landing, Cathedral Mountain, East and West Temples, and the Three Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

This was a great place for hiking, most of the hikes close to the bus stops are very easy with little elevation change or much climbing, a welcome change from what we had been doing.  The paths are nicely paved and many are wheelchair accessible.  They do also have more strenuous trails for the advanced people who don’t have a fear of heights.  The trails are rated well in some of the literature we received from easy beginner trails to moderate and very hard.  Its more like a ski area except for hiking with the different skill levels clearly marked and signage explaining what to expect.  Not at all like some of the trails we went on at Mesa Verde where we were 2 miles into it only to find, we have to climb up THAT? is it quicker to turn back or keep going? 😉

We both loved Zion and hope to be back soon, if only to check out Kolob Reservoir that a local V Star rider mentioned to us and we didn’t have time to see.

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Zion Ponderosa Ranch

We stayed at Zion Ponderosa Ranch, highly recommended if you go this way.  This place was a big unexpected surprise.   When I was making reservations before we left a week and a half prior everything was sold out in the Federal campgrounds in the park, there was one or two patches of dirt left and they wanted upwards of $40 for them, Ouch!  With a bit of searching I found Zion Ponderosa on the North Eastern corner of the park just outside the lesser used entrance and the prices for a spot here were cheap.

We were really blown away by the place. Compared to what we were used to at all our other campgrounds we were only expecting a small dirt plot to throw the tent and a bathroom somewhere close by and maybe if we were lucky a shower. The next day we saw the sold out campgrounds by the visitors center and thats exactly what they were for twice as much.  We were a bit shocked to find Zion Ponderosa was more like a resort than a campground, they have lots of cabins from basic to deluxe and have all sorts of activities available from adventure Unimog, Jeep or 4 wheeler tours to horseback riding to rock climbing and miniature golf, etc. etc.   The nice girls at the front desk seemed sad that we weren’t going to participate in any of their activities and were leaving first thing in the morning.

We’d only found out the day before that the road through the east entrance to Zion National Park was closed during the day. WTF?  Only through sheer luck did our campground happen to be on the same side of the road closure that we were coming from, otherwise I’m not sure what we would have done.  I wonder if the construction had anything to do with the prices being so much cheaper than everywhere else.

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