Saturday, November 30, 2013

120mi of sand, silt and rock later... the Grand Canyon from Toroweap with The Saints of Saint George

The Grand Canyon from Toroweap Overlook
Despite how much I love Roel or he loves me, life on the road can get a little lonely. And despite combined body heat, it can be cold. And smelly, given our preference for camping in the wild because the price is right. So from time to time, when these hazards of life on the road get to us, we consult one of our favorite motorcycle forums to see if there is anyone along our "intended route" who has offered tent space in their backyard. 

Though the idea of staying with strangers was a completely foreign, and to be honest, somewhat disconcerting, concept to me not long ago, I've found that this is actually a brilliant way to make new friends that you otherwise wouldn't have met, have experiences that are completely new and wonderful, AND, learn new recipes that make me salivate when I think back on them. Our experience with the family we stayed with in St. George, Utah far surpassed our expectations for throwing up a tent in someone's backyard, and though it wound up costing us an extra day, a slight bend in my left pannier and a sprained ankle, if we had it to do over again, we wouldn't have done anything differently. 

Roel and I enjoyed much needed hot showers, reveled in the luxury of soft sheets and a comfy bed and were thoroughly spoiled and fattened by the culinary creations of this wonderful family in Southwestern Utah.

Logan, Dave, Kim, Tyler, Kenadee, Chloe and Us
Dave, his wife, Kim and their lovely children Kenadee, Tyler and Logan, welcomed us so warmly into their beautiful home that we felt like we'd arrived in some version of Pleasantville, only real, not a Hollywood aberration. The kids are awesome - really good kids, super personable and extremely entertaining. Dave is a firefighter who commutes to LA for work so that his kids can grow up in this safe and trusting community and Kim runs their home and family with a level of calm and good humor that I would be thrilled to
attain as I am now (without a home or children). They are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and given that Roel and I have had limited exposure to this religion, we really appreciated how open Kim and Dave were about their beliefs and faith. We also visited the stunning white St. George Temple and information center to learn more, and came away with an appreciation for and a much better understanding of this often misunderstood church.

We had planned to head back East a bit to Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, making a stop at the Grand Canyon "on the way." Dave had recently been out to a portion of the Grand Canyon, called Toroweap, that is quite unique as you can actually dangle your toes over the edge of the Canyon, AND it can only be accessed by 60 miles of dirt road - it was such an awesome ride that he offered to bring us there and convinced Kim to ride along on the back of his V-Strom. 
We packed up the bikes, paired our intercoms with Dave and Kim's and set off along a scenic route in the direction of Colorado City, where we would find the turnoff that would bring us to the Toroweap. Aside from a patch of sand in the beginning, which we all rode through without incident and a section of the road that had pretty bad ruts, the road was actually in excellent condition and with Dave leading and communicating road hazards
through the headsets, it was a really fun and easy 55 miles at speeds around 45mph/70kph. The scenery leading to Toroweap was nice but nothing spectacular, which I was grateful for, as I really needed to keep my focus on the road. I've been on a few basic dirt road rides, but still wouldn't consider myself a confident dirt rider, especially not as packed up as I was riding that day. And it didn't help that we had forgotten to remove my windscreen extension, so in order to see well over my dusty extension I needed to remain standing during any remotely rough areas of the road.

If you can't see me, I can't see you
Eventually, we made it to the ranger station where we stopped to check in and took the opportunity to suck down water, shed some layers and rid our face shields of the dust they had accumulated while following Dave's lead. The rangers warned us that the next few miles of road leading to the overlook were not maintained and would require technical riding. They showed us some photos of slick rock, which didn't particularly concern me, but I wondered just what else would appear on the road before me once Dave's dust cloud cleared. 

The road was fine for about a mile and then we rounded a curve and the fun began with a loose scattering of gravel and sharp rocks. Dave continued calling out obstacles and advising sides of the road to stick to. His calm directives helped to calm me and I just kept my focus as far ahead as I could in order to find the path of least resistance... or in this case, the path with the least obstacles and the fewest tire threatening rocks. There was a particularly nasty section where there was no "path" so to speak... the road curved to the right, revealing an incline the went up about 4-5 meters, and was riddled with grapefruit, watermelon and pumpkin sized rocks, before the road curved to the left again at the top. Dave didn't really have much to offer in the way of recommendations for that patch of road, and though Roel had yet to see this portion of the road, he was coaching me from behind, saying, "take it easy, high throttle." And so with a deep breath (that I held) I began the ascent. I stayed to the left of the road, trying to hug the bank which was less rocky and which I hoped the side of my tires had enough profile to cling to. I was doing alright, but was definitely rather terrified... Roel eventually rounded the corner below me which finally gave him a view of this bit of the track, and he let out an involuntary "Oh shi+," a fraction of a second before I began to slide off of the bank towards a sharp pumpkin rock which would definitely damage me and my bike, should I not manage to keep the shiny side up... Hearing Roel's admission of "this is serious ish" sent adrenaline surging through my veins... I was determined... so I twisted the throttle, keeping the speed low by feathering the clutch and standing on the rear brake and I let my knees absorb the bumps the aforementioned watermelons and grapefruits caused... and I made it. I stopped just around the corner, and exhaled, a big smile spreading over my face as I hyperventilated a bit. I was just putting my foot down when I heard Roel's engine rev, followed by a crash and a muffled curse. I looked back to see Roel already struggling to pick up his fully packed bike. Once I knew Roel and the Africa Twin were OK, a little involuntary feeling of pride seeped in (which I knew would probably be short-lived), but with that pride came more confidence that helped me get through the next 4 miles of silt, gravel and small boulders. We had almost made it to the overlook... literally, only 30 meters more to go... but the road curved to the left and descended 2 meters over large, treacherous patches of slick rock. I looked down to try to determine the best path and that was it... I went where my eyes had... trying to put my foot down was hopeless... Given that in the best of circumstances, I only JUST touch the ground, there was no chance of catching myself. The bike and I were unharmed, although I was beyond annoyed with myself. Roel helped me pick up the TransAlp and I rode the next 30 meters mentally kicking myself before the view that opened up at Toroweap wiped my mind clean.  

Toroweap Overlook

Our pants used to be black like Dave and Kim's... Thanks Dave!
We gave Dave and Kim some flack for their perfectly black riding suits (ours were now shades of gray and brown, thanks to Dave's never-ending dust cloud). The four of us climbed up slick rock and around bushes to get to the very edge of the Grand Canyon. 

Aside from the fact that there are barely any other tourists willing to traverse the tricky road, what makes this portion of the Grand

Canyon so special, is that there are no barriers so you can get as close to the edge as your stomach will allow. It was a breath-taking view, especially when you looked down 1000s of feet to the river below. As it had taken much longer than expected to get to the overlook (probably thanks to my need to "take it easy"), Dave and Kim needed to get back on the road soon to get home to their kids. Roel and I were contemplating camping there, but
also wanted to get closer to Vermilion, as we were hoping to enter a permit lottery early the next morning to hike to Coyote Butte. So we decided to all ride out together, also figuring that there is always safety in numbers, and with the sun setting, safety had to be a priority. 

I had thoroughly enjoyed the day, despite having set my bike down one more time in the very same-frigging spot as before, and falling victim to my inexperience, fully inflated tires and speed in a pit of silt. It was an amazing way to gain experience with dirt and having a leader like Dave really helped me to focus and be confident. But on the way out, Roel was leading, and somehow, the Africa Twin seemed to be throwing up even more dust than Dave's V-Strom. We needed to maintain a speed of about 35mph/55kph in order to not feel the corrugations too much, but between Roel's dust cloud, my high windscreen and the dark that was closing in, I was really having difficulty seeing... and my legs were getting tired - I'd been standing up to get enough vision for 40mi/65kms by that point. As I took the lead, Roel said to be aware that there had been another rough spot in the road in the beginning, but after successfully avoiding the ruts that had been disconcerting before, I thought we were home-free, so I maintained the 35mph/55kph speed. Until I hit the patch of sand I had completely forgotten about because it had been so easy to navigate earlier in the day. My front wheel began a nice wobble and I was so shocked that I inadvertently let off of the throttle for a moment. Since 35mph is an awkward speed for my bike (too high for 3rd and on the brink of too low for 4th), my RPMs dropped so low that when I went to twist the throttle to pull myself out of the wobble, there was nothing there and all I had to do was hang on for life and limb as my beloved bike went down and spun around in the sand, seeming to pivot on my left pannier. Everyone always says these moments seem to go in slow motion, and this one really did - before my bike came to a rest, facing the direction from whence it had come, I thought to myself that this was a rather graceful fall as far as my falls thus far have gone. 

Once the bike came to a stop, I extracted myself out from under it, and waited for Roel to come running over to help me lift it up. Poor guy... he certainly got a workout that day. Fortunately, Roel had a tie-down strap that we could use to temporarily secure my beat up box to my bike, but my left foot peg had bent 90 degrees. Though I was still able to ride, Roel didn't think it was safe to continue on to Vermilion. Additionally, while wandering around in the sand to ensure nothing had come off of my bike, I discovered that my ankle was slightly sprained. So, we decided it was best to return to St. George with Dave and Kim, as they had kindly offered that we could regroup and go from there. 

The rest of the ride home was cold. Bone chilling cold, as the sweat that had built up as we worked our way out of the dirt began to cling to our bodies and cool. We made it home and Dave and Kim's wonderful children welcomed us back (the eldest, Tyler, had hacked his Dad's SPOT account and had been tracking our journey as we were several hours later than expected), Kenadee had made us a Hootenanny for dinner (like a cross between a popover, a crepe and a pancake) (breakfast for dinner = my favorite!) (Hootenanny's are my new favorite breakfast!) and little Logan (who reminds me of Dennis-the-Menace to a T) was just curious about our adventure lingering in the garage as we dismounted from the bikes and looked for other damage that hadn't been visible in the dark on the road. 

I was a bit sore the next day and was grateful for a break from riding until I found out it would take between 3-14 days to get a new foot peg in. Dave and Roel set to work on the foot peg, and thank goodness for strong men and good tools...

Dave was able to bend my foot peg back into a workable/safe position and Roel was able to hammer out the graceful curves my pannier had developed during it's spin on the sand, to a point where it at least gave the appearance of sealing with the lid, once again. 

We had fun showing our appreciation to our St. George Saints later that evening by contributing a few of our favorite dishes to dinner and enjoyed one last evening with that amazing family before heading West to Vegas.

And for the recipe for Hootenanny's, click here or read below:

1/2 cup butter or 1/2 cup margarine
6 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 425 degree F.
Put entire stick butter into a 9 x 13 inch pan.
Put pan with butter into the oven until butter is melted.
Beat the eggs, milk, and salt until frothy.
Add flour.
Beat until mixed.
Pour over melted butter.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
Serve with syrup or jelly.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Racing Mother Nature to Zion

Bryce National Park
We had been spending time in the Moab area like the good weather was never going to run out... and then the weatherman delivered the bad news that a snowstorm from up North was bearing down on Southern Utah and Bryce National Park... one of the places we were most looking forward to visiting in Utah. So we packed up and headed out of town, trying to make as much distance as possible before it became too cold to ride that evening. The sun set as we were buying dinner supplies in Blanding, Utah, and it seemed that the temperature dropped 15 degrees with it. With deer jumping out all over the place as though they were hazards in a video game, we decided to call it a day and set up camp at a nice secluded site in a nearby state park. We heated up a quick Uncle Ben's Rice and Indian Curry Meal and dove into the sleeping bags. 

The next morning, we dragged ourselves out of the tent early, intent on making a big day of it; if we were to see any of Bryce National Park before the snowstorm hit the next morning, we had to get within reach of the park by the end of the day. With a few hundred miles to cover, we made our stops at the attractions along picturesque Routes 95 and 12, short and sweet, opting to shoot short movies with the GoPros several times where we normally would have stopped off to take photos. 

Butler-Wash Anasazi Ruins
One of the stops we did make was at the Butler-Wash Ruins where the Anasazi American Indians had made their homes in the cliff 
walls around 1200AD. 
Natural Bridges National Monument
We stopped again at Natural Bridges National Monument, where the arches (called "bridges" here because they arch over waterways), were massive, but you couldn't really fully appreciate them without hiking down into the canyons, which, sadly, we didn't have the time for. We also had to skip Monument Valley, Valley of the Gods and some excellent dirt roads that we would have loved to ride, but with snow coming, we didn't have the luxury to see everything we wanted to without seriously risking getting stuck in the mountains. Oh well, always good to have reasons to return to an area like this.

Petroglyphs (rock engravings) in Escalante
We continued on, eventually riding through the majestic canyons, buttes and monoliths of Capitol Reef National Park and Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument. The road through Escalante is just as impressive as the land it leads through... In several places, the so-called shoulder was the only thing between me, my bike and a thousand meter drop that would end on unforgiving stones below. Usually, in such instances, I will just focus on the side of the road that is "safe," i.e., does not mean certain death. But in the case of Escalante, both sides of the road drop off to certain death... hence the squealing and well-crafted string of profanities that can be heard throughout my GoPro footage. Roel's going to have to find a good loud song to cover that up when he puts together the next movie. Oops. 

Capitol Reef National Park
We camped that night just outside of Kodachrome Basin State Park, atop a hill which was surprisingly warmer than the valley below.
Sand, everywhere
We fell asleep to coyotes howling nearby and I later awoke to soft footsteps around the tent. The next morning, Wile E.'s paw prints obscured the ones we had left the night before, but everything on and off of the bikes was intact. I don't mind polite little coyotes. 

Despite the brisk temperature, we were up and on our way to Bryce as soon as it was light enough to see. And though the sky was a brilliant blue, we were very aware that we only had 4 hours to enjoy the park before the snow was to begin falling. At the visitors center, we loaded up on information and water and had a quick breakfast.

Bryce National Park
We rode through the entire park, and stopped at the end for our first panoramic view of the other worldly hoodoos (columns of weathered rock) that Bryce is famous for.

We worked our way back to the beginning, stopping off at every pull-out to make pictures and gaze at the beauty that grew more and more bizarre as we neared the beginning of the park.
Throughout the South West, you will see a hoodoo here or there. What makes Bryce such an anomaly of nature is the sheer number of hoodoos. There appear to be thousands of these strange pillars of stone, weathered somewhat uniformly, standing together as an army... somewhat reminiscent of Terracotta Warriors, concealed in their canyon, laying in wait.

A handful of snowflakes fell as we got off of the bikes at the final look-out to enjoy the view of nature's army, lit up by the the few rays of sun that had
The hiking trail into the hoodoos
fought hard 
enough to get through the slate grey clouds that were closing in on the region. We took our cue, made our exit and descended a few thousand feet through the Red Canyon, leaving the ominous clouds in our rear-view mirrors. At the lower elevation, it finally got warmer and for the first time in 24 hours, I shut off my beloved grip heating. We rode into Zion National Park just as the sun was setting, and again, it was like we had landed on another planet...

Zion National Park
Instead of tall, well-formed hoodoos, the road through Zion wound around melted Hershey's Kiss-like mounds, then
through pitch black tunnels that every-so-often offered amazing views of the canyon through massive windows. We stopped at the visitors center to gather information for the next day, and fortunately met a Canadian couple who was also camping and kindly told us about the spot outside of the park where they were staying... for free : ) We followed them shortly thereafter, and pitched our tent in a "warm" valley. And by warm,
Weeping Rock
I mean for the first time in two months, I took my bike pants off to sit and eat dinner. It was delightful. Grateful to have made it through/to the pinnacles of our Utah park destinations, we enjoyed a "healthy" dinner of sausages, instant Idaho mashed potatoes and canned peas, enjoying the moonrise over the surrounding mountains before settling in for the night. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Roel's Play-Day at Canyonlands

We met up with Annemieke at the Moab Brewery. She introduced us to Dave, Andy (who happens to also have a Honda Transalp), Tom and Duval. Before long we were talking to Dave about all the dirt roads around Moab and we were invited to tag along the next day on a ride through Canyon Lands National Park; The White Rim Road. My eyes grew bigger hearing about the landscape we would find ourselves riding through. The road conditions worried me a bit though. Everyone said Azure should definitely come along for the ride but I was not sure she had enough experience to pull it off. We talked about it and decided that I would go but Azure would stay in Moab to catch up on some blogging. Which is why I am writing this blog post now…

The next morning we stripped the Africa Twin. All the luggage except tools and water came off. After a big hug from Azure, Dave, Annemieke and I hit the road.
Eating dust
Half an hour later, after riding over winding blacktop roads that took us through some colorful canyon valleys, we kicked up the first dust clouds. The Africa Twin was clearly enjoying a day of doing what it was built for instead of hauling around all of the world tour gear. Effortlessly the Honda ran up the dusty rock scattered roads. We made a quick stop to deflate the tires for more traction in the loose sand. The road ascended and bent off to the right. Dave however, kept going straight. We followed him over some slick rock and couldn’t believe our eyes when the canyon opened up in front of us.      

After taking in the view we quickly got on our way again since we had over 90 miles of dirt to cover.
Musselman Natural Bridge
It was getting warm so I decided to try the vents on my new KliM riding gear. I never owned any gear with vents before so I was thrilled to feel the air flow around my body that took the heat away. This was going to be a great day of riding!

Dave let me ride in front and the Twin sped off on a road that appeared to be going straight for a while. After a crest I found out that that was not exactly the case. Another canyon revealed itself right in front of me and the gravelly road bent sharply to the right. I stood on my rear brake but the tire did not find any grip and slid along. The canyon was getting very close now and I was not going to make the corner. It was the dirt or the canyon so the bike went down only two meters from the drop off. However well my vents were working I got quite hot there in that moment. I picked up the bike and checked for damage. All was well and after catching my breath we were on our way again, taking it a bit slower being aware that Mother Nature had some beautiful but dangerous stuff in store for us today.

The road kept following the red rocked canyon. The landscape was very dramatic and changed continuously. Steep red rock formations, flat savannah-like land filled with sagebrush and deep canyons with tall rock pillars that reminded me of ancient Roman ruins. Nature’s show was stunning and the road took us right up to the highlights. These are the days on which I particularly enjoy riding a bike. It is just not the same in the safety of a car. You feel vulnerable, you feel the heat, you smell the air and taste the dust but it all contributes to an amazing experience being engraved in your mind, never to be forgotten.

The sun was getting low on the horizon, blinding us for a while as we were still going west. Our progress was slower than expected because of all the breathtaking scenery and the technical riding. The best was kept for last however.
The loose sand road started climbing steeply and it took a lot for the bikes to make it up. The view on top was priceless but the sun setting behind the deep red colored mountains in the distance was making me nervous. We still had a long way to go. And riding through the dust in the dark is not without risk. The road leading away from the top opened up like a hole in the earth.    
It was even steeper than the way up. After choosing the safest path along the drop-off we descended. The wheels started sliding again and I decided to just let the bike roll. I came to a stop on a straight stretch and, in my mirror, saw Annemieke come down almost sideways.
She managed to keep it under control and rolled it to a stop next to me. Dave who had ridden the road many times enjoyed it so much that he took his KLR and went up and down again. The last bit of light disappeared in an orange glow covering the mountains.

The road kept going. Canyon after canyon and there was no end in sight. Another steep climb made me think we were finally getting out, but soon we were riding down again, riding along a deep canyon when something jumped out on the road. I rode closer and saw a mule deer buck trying to get off the road. He couldn’t make it up the steep side of the road and started running along the road. I followed him slowly. The rock face on the right and the drop off on the left kept him on the road and after sharing the road for a minute he was getting annoyed with me. He stopped and turned around. In the light of the bike I could see the 4-year-old buck. He came right at me and bent his head to charge the bike. A loud rev of the engine made him reconsider. He turned again and ran off, finally finding a spot where he could get off the road.

The canyons finally became lower. After navigating some riverbeds and very fine loose sand roads, a sign told us that it was only 26 miles to the highway.
Safe & Sound @ Moab Brewery
We blasted along the well-maintained dirt road and rode into the cold night ending up where it all started the day before; at the bar of the Moab Brewery with a nice cold beer and my girlfriend, very relieved to be next to me, given that we returned over 4 hours later than expected.

With our new friends @ Moab Brewery

Monday, November 18, 2013

On the road, again... Utah & Arches National Park

We had intended to stay in Idaho Falls for only one week, figuring that would be plenty of time to do some work on the bikes, catch-up on correspondence and enjoy life with Anita and Rajiv... Well, we were wrong. Not only did we wind up needing to wait an additional 4 days for a part to arrive, we had thousands of photographs to go through to create space on our hard drives and our bodies needed more rest, as well. So, after a week and a half in the lap of luxury, complete with delicious Indian meals, we hit the road in the direction of Moab, Utah. 

The first day back on the road, we had planned to get a decent amount of highway out of the way by dark, but after spending such a long time indoors, our blood had thinned again, and we were freezing. But, as luck would have it, we found an incredible rest stop just along the highway... Well-lit with picnic tables, heated restrooms and warm water... and a 16 hour maximum stay - yippee! We warmed up our yummy leftover Indian rice, courtesy of Anita, and pitched the tent just behind the parking lot. Although it was cold, we slept pretty well until the sun rose up high the next morning. High enough that when we heard footsteps coming up the path next to our tent, we could see the obvious silhouette of a police officer as he approached. 

Of course, there was no problem with us being there, but the caretaker of the rest stop had apparently never seen anyone set up like us. Sure, if we were to sleep uncomfortably in the front seat of a car, bed of a truck or cab of a tractor trailer, that would be normal... But travel by motorcycle and set up a tent!?!?! Serious cause for alarm there. The cop was more interested in hearing about our trip than anything (he rides his V-Strom into the mountains on his days off), and the caretaker of the facility later told us he called the cops so they could come out and make sure we hadn't frozen to death overnight. (Because he surely couldn't have just given us a shout on his own. Right.)

On we went, making a short stop in Salt Lake City to pick up more minor parts for my bike. We rode through the afternoon,
witnessing an incredible sunset that colored all of the little puffs of clouds in the sky cotton-candy pink. Once it got too cold to continue riding, we found a small National Forrest Campground and set up camp, again, making sure to take everything that would invite bears, off of the bikes. 

We slept in the next morning, giving the sun plenty of time to rise up onto the mountain top we were camped on, before taking off in the direction of Arches National Park. As we rode South, it got warmer and warmer, and by the time we got to Arches, we were ready to strip off some layers, for the first time in a few weeks! 

We only had a couple of hours before sunset, so we found place to camp within the park. At first, we were dubious of the park campsite and it's $20 fee that didn't even offer showers. But after seeing what an amazing setting the campground was in, there was no doubt we had found an excellent home for the evening. We reserved our site and rode off in search of a wonderful place to watch the sun set, but in a park like Arches, I don't think we could have found a bad spot.
The way the setting sun transformed the colors of the rock was amazing and reminded us of some of our most favorite spots in Australia. However, even our most favorite park in Australia couldn't rival the magnitude of the Arches, canyons and spires in Arches National Park. 

Our dinner that evening took place under a brilliant array of stars and a slow-rising crescent moon that lit up the entire campsite like day-light. 
Camping in Arches National Park
We were up before sunrise the next morning to see how the colors of the arches would transform at daybreak, and it did not disappoint. We met one photographer that morning who was in the midst of a long-exposure project... he'd crawled out of his tent at 3am to capture the starry sky behind one of the arches... I aspire to have his will power, one day. 
Skyline Arch at Sunrise
Our plan for that day was to do two of the parks most strenuous walks, and stop off to do a few of the shorter, less strenuous ones along the way. During the first walk, however, Roel and I got separated, as I stopped to take pictures and he carried on walking, figuring I would eventually catch up. Well, I never did, and the farther I got the more frustrated and annoyed I got that Roel hadn't stopped and waited for me to catch up.

But when I made it to the Double O Arch at the end of the trail, the reason I had been hiking for an hour, and there was no Roel, I began to worry. It was not a loop, and so at some point, I should have caught up to him, at least by the very end. I raced back to the beginning of the trail at the car park, and sure enough, there he was!
Relieved, I wondered how I had missed him... apparently, he managed to take a side trail off of the not-well-marked main trail, wound up in the middle of nowhere, and simply returned to the car park to be safe. He too, had experienced the same annoyance with me (but at my slowness) and then conversely, concern, until he realized that he'd taken the wrong trail. Oh well - we learned our lesson but at least one of us has pictures of the Double O Arch to share ;)

Having not had much exercise in the past couple of months, we were already sore and tired after the first of our planned walks of the day. Briefly, we contemplated missing out on the second, but after going to to overlook of Delicate Arch, we knew that whatever hike we had to do to get closer would be well worth the effort to get a closer look as such a magnificent miracle of nature. 
Delicate Arch
The Delicate Arch is not the tallest arch. It's not the highest arch. But I think after making our way up a 1.5mi strenuous trail to get to Delicate Arch, we agree with the thousands of professional photographers and the State of Utah, for making this Arch the most photographed and most widely seen Arch in the world (as it graces the Utah license plate). True, our out-of-shape bodies needed a bit of rest after the hike, but I think we easily could have sat and gazed at the arch for the remainder of the afternoon and on into the evening. The way this arch of sandstone sits perched on the cliffs edge, perfectly framing the snowcapped mountains in the distance was mesmerizing. As we hadn't quite figured out where we were going to camp that evening, we tore ourselves away from the Delicate Arch so that we could make it back to the bikes and out of the park by sunset. 

On the way down the trail, we met several hikers racing up the trail to catch the sunset. One of whom, I noticed was wearing bike pants. I greeted her and mentioned her pants, implying a question that she was on a bike... She faltered for a moment but then responded in Dutch, (thoroughly confusing me) but Roel of course understood that she had seen his bike in the lot, and was curious about him... She is from The Netherlands and is taking several months to ride from Alaska to Florida. Not wanting her to miss the sunset, we sent her up the hill and agreed to break our "no beer" rule (based on $$ conservation, alone), and planned to meet her at the local brewery later. 

Riding out of the park with the sun making everything in our rear-view mirrors a beautiful distraction from the road was difficult, but we were excited for cold beers and to see how this chance meeting with another over-landing Dutchie would unfold.