Archives: 30th June 2001

Saturday 30th June 2001, Denver CO

We had thought we might try to escape the Interstate on our way up to Denver. The map indicated that there was a smaller road running alongside for much of the route. We duly left I-70 at Gypsum, and made our way into Eagle for lunch.

At Eagle’s pizza restaurant (the only eaterie that seemed to be open), we ordered a BLT wrap and a malt each, and settled down to read the local giveaway newspaper. For reasons that were never explained, lunch took an age to arrive, and it was about an hour before we were on the road again.

The way out of Eagle seemed to be barred due to roadworks, and having followed various detour signs to no avail, we gave up and headed back onto the Interstate.

As Interstates go, I-70 is an attractive road, winding its way up through the Rockie Mountains, following the path of the Colorado River, and passing several of the State’s best known ski resorts on the way. As we climbed, the air was, as we had hoped, cooler, and patches of snow were still visible on some of the peaks.

We arrived in Denver at around 6pm, opting to stay on the south-eastern edge of town. The Fairfield Inn on Colorado Blvd was comfortable and inexpensive, and conveniently close to I-25 to make ‘Downtown’ easily accessible. Better still, the Irish bar across the road served a nice drop of (albeit expensive) Guinness!

Friday 29th June 2001, Grand Junction

Now it was time to head North, in the hopes of escaping the extreme heat. Also, we had both become concerned at the lack of progress with the website, so we had agreed that we would find a convenient motel, and stay there until the site was done! After our experience at Kanab, Denver seemed to be the obvious choice from the Internet access point-of-view.

Denver was about 450 miles away, so we stayed overnight in Grand Junction, CO.

Thursday 28th June 2001, Mexican Hat UT

Knowing that we were venturing into the desert once again, we left Kanab reasonably early for the 220-odd mile ride to Monument Valley.

The day did not start well. It was time to learn a new truth about American telephones.
Throughout our stay in Kanab, we had been in constant touch with home via e-mail, using our ‘local’ AOL access number – in St. George. Although St. George uses the same area code as Kanab, it is not a local number. At the end of our stay, we were presented with a $200 phone bill!!

I should explain, for the benefit of those readers unfamiliar with the movies of John Ford, that Monument Valley was where many of his greatest Westerns were filmed. For that reason, John was determined that he should have his photo taken against this famous backdrop.

The region of Utah that we were entering is Indian country. As we crossed the ‘border’, a road sign reminded us to “Buckle Up, it’s Navajo Nation Law”! We caught glimpses of Lake Powell (America’s biggest man-made lake), as we crossed Glen Canyon Dam into Page for lunch. The lake has the most extraordinary bright blue water, and is a huge centre for water sports.

After Page, there is very little to see. As we crossed mile after mile of apparently uninhabited scrubland, we were occasionally surprised to see a sign warning us of a school bus stop ahead. (In the US it is absolutely illegal to pass a school bus stopped for children.) We wondered how far the children had to walk to the bus stop! There were certainly no houses visible from the road.

There is no ‘visitor information’ or formal ‘State park’ at Monument Valley. Though the plethora of motels in the vicinity bear testament to its popularity as a tourist attraction. We drove through to Mexican Hat, taking our photographs from the side of the road, as we went.
Mexican Hat is a little oasis in the wilderness, perched on the north bank of the San Juan River. Our Indian-owned motel was one of the nicest we have yet encountered. It had no pool, but boasted a gym, gift shop, and a proper bar – festooned with interesting memorabilia from the REAL Wild West. (Mexican Hat derives its name from an oddly shaped pile of rocks, which look like a seated Mexican wearing a sombrero!)

Friday 27th July 2001, Plano TX

At the appointed hour we turned up at North Dallas BMW to see the bike. Corbin was already there with his gleaming 1200cc Trophy in “British Racing Green”. He proudly showed us over the machine, pointing out the modifications he had made: D&D (extra loud) exhausts, anti-dive forks, sports brakes (argh … that’s why he had those anti-dive forks!), and a fancy cream leather (butt buster) seat, to name but a few.

With a certain amount of trepidation, John started the bike up and set off for a test drive (presumably leaving Brigid behind as collateral). Vroom! Off he went down Avenue K. He had only gone about 500 yards before he had to test the efficiency of the sports brakes (eek!) … at the level crossing. For the next 10 minutes John waited as one of those mile-long trains trundled past. At last the barriers were raised, and he continued his test drive. John went once more round the block … only to hit the level crossing just as the barriers were coming down again!

Despite the interrupted test-ride, the bike was an instant winner with us both. We agreed that Corbin should replace his brakes with the original Triumph ones. All that remained now was to withdraw enough cash to finance the purchase, organise some insurance, and we would be on the road tomorrow.

Wednesday 27th June 2001, Kanab UT

oday was to be our last day in Kanab, and we planned to see Bryce Canyon.

The trip to Bryce took a couple of hours, and we arrived at the Visitor Centre just in time for lunch. (We are getting better at this ‘sightseeing’ thing. After our experience at Zion National Park, we made sure we did not have to rely on the cafeteria for water, and we had equipped ourselves with two very smart – allegedly crushable – hats.)

From the Visitor Centre, you cannot see the Canyon, and the National Park is some 15 miles in length. It was difficult to know where we should go to get the best view. We decided on the Navajo and Queens Garden Loop Trail combination, which is about 3 miles in length with an elevation of 521 feet.

It was a good choice. Even from the rim, we had a great view of the characteristic ‘hoodoos’ (odd-shaped pinnacles left standing by erosion). The trail down to the Canyon floor, is quite steep in places, but well worth the climb.

Paiute Indian legend has it that the early settlers of the region where evil people, and as a punishment were turned to stone by Coyote. This seems as good an explanation as any for the ‘families’ of hoodoos, grouped around the rim of the Canyon.

We finished the day with a ride up to Rainbow Point (the highest point in the Park). Here we bumped into two fellow motorcyclists on BMW bikes, and got chatting (like you do …). Before long we realised the light was fading, and we had been hoping to catch a rodeo show on the way home.

We grabbed a quick bite to eat opposite the rodeo ground, gathering from the placemat that we needed to buy tickets in the General Store across the road. Having finished our meal, we duly queued behind some old Doris who had asked for several sets of wind-chimes to be gift-wrapped. By the time the unfortunate assistant had finished, the rodeo was half over, and we discovered that we could have bought the tickets on the gate after all.

Muttering oaths, we passed on the rodeo, and headed home in the setting sun.

Tuesday 26th June 2001, Kanab UT

We had a very comfortable night’s sleep in our log cabin, though we were both aware of having been woken once or twice by heavy rain. We were slightly disappointed, when we eventually awoke, to have missed the dawn. However, since the morning was grey and overcast, we probably didn’t miss much.

We treated ourselves to a slap-up breakfast in the dining room overlooking the canyon, where several attempts at getting a photo of the diners silhouetted against the view through the window failed miserably.

After breakfast, we took the ‘Bright Angel Trail’ to Bright Angel Point, along a perilously narrow path along a ridge of the canyon (about 3’ wide in places … but don’t panic mother, as you see we lived to tell the tale!). At about 10,000 feet, we really felt the altitude. We had considered ourselves fairly fit, but still found the need to stop every few hundred metres to ‘admire the view’.

Soon it was time to head back to Kanab, before the next batch of dark clouds caught up with us. It was quite cool, so we stopped once at Jacob Lake for a warming coffee, and then made the final dash. The wind over the scrubland between Jacob Lake and Kanab was strong and gusty, but the rain held off until we were three miles from home.

Monday 25th June 2001, Grand Canyon North Rim AZ

We had already visited Denny’s Wigwam several times on the pretext of identifying souvenirs for the folk back home. However, so large a store presented us with a bewildering choice of potential gifts – so a restorative ice cream (from the attached parlour) was usually required before we could make any decision.

Today we made our final selections: a native American flute for Ree, a toy (self-assembly) fort for David, John Wayne loo paper (“rough, tough, and doesn’t take crap off anyone”) for Mike, Guatemalan ‘worry people’ for John’s mum, a miniature six-shooter keyring for Dee, and a sheriff’s badge (“Make My Day”) for Sarah. (The significance of these gifts will be lost on most readers, but are recorded here for our own interest.)

Having individually wrapped the presents, and packaged them up in a box with instructions to John’s mum concerning their distribution, we posted them home, before setting off (for the third time) to the Grand Canyon.

True to form, the weather closed in, but this time we carried on regardless. By the time we arrived, thunder was forecast, and we were convinced that we would get very wet if we should be foolish enough to try to make the 80-mile trip back to Kanab that night.

Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge has a number of very cosy-looking log cabins. But needless to say, there were none available. We appealed to the sympathetic receptionist, who said that, if the worst came to the worst, we could sleep in the sun room (over looking the Canyon).

The view from the platform beneath the Lodge defies description. Nothing could have prepared us for the sheer scale of the Grand Canyon. No photograph can ever do it justice. Even the very best aerial views fail to capture its true magnificence. At its North Rim, the South Rim is eleven miles distant, and the Canyon is over one mile deep. Our amateur shots (in less than perfect weather) are included only for record.

Having dined handsomely on pizza and root beer in the café, and a beer in the Saloon, John vanished to ‘pay a visit’. After a considerable interval, he reappeared triumphantly waving a room key. They had had a cancellation!

Sunday 24th June 2001, Kanab UT

Forewarned by the friendly staff of the Vermillion Café that nothing would be open in Kanab on Sunday, we decided today would be ideal to visit the Zion National Park. Neither of us had yet had the chance to spend any significant amount of time in America’s National Parks, so we did not know what to expect.

Zion is beautifully organised. Private vehicles are not allowed in the park. Instead, eco-friendly, propane-powered, shuttle buses run every 6 minutes or so from the Visitor Centre to the (mysteriously-named) Temple of Sinawara at the top of the canyon.

Finding no designated motorcycle parking, and a full car park, we parked alongside the RV’s – just outside the car park boundary.

he shuttle makes a number of scheduled stops at various places of interest along the canyon. We got off at Zion Lodge, a motel providing the only guest accommodation in the Park. More importantly (to us anyway), the Lodge also provides the only café and gift shop in Zion.
Unfortunately, being a sunny Sunday, half of Nevada (and his wife and kids) had joined their Utah cousins for an afternoon stroll … and they all wanted lunch! We queued for an hour for our sandwich and root beer. (Next time, we vowed, we will bring a picnic!)

Lunch finished, we thought we should try one of the ‘less strenuous’ trails. The Emerald Pools seemed to fit the bill, “… easy to moderate drop-offs, round trip 2 miles, average time 2 hours”. Perfect.

The walk to the lower pool was, indeed, easy – we could tell by the number of rather overweight senior citizens who were returning from the climb. The lower pool was somewhat disappointing, being rather drier than we had expected, so we headed on up the trail to the middle and upper pools.

The number of old folk diminished significantly by the middle pool, and we saw only one couple of ‘wrinklies’ returning from the upper pool, as we started our climb. They looked quite fit, but clearly found the steepness of the path quite intimidating on the way down.

The temperature was again around 100 degrees. But the 350 ft climb to the upper pool was rewarded by some stunning views across the canyon on the way, and we were grateful for the chance to rest our weary legs in the shade provided by the towering cliffs.

Back at the Lodge, we took the next shuttle all the way to the top of the Scenic Drive, and took the Riverside Walk to where the Canyon narrows. Here we paddled in the Virgin River, before it started to rain, and we thought it time to head back to Kanab.

Saturday 23rd June 2001, Kanab UT

We badly needed to send a fax to the Post Office, but discovered that long distance calls from our room at the National 9 were not possible without a phone card. (A problem we had already encountered in the Motel 6 in Las Vegas.) This presents all sorts of problems for our modem, so we decided the only thing to do was to decamp to slightly more sophisticated lodgings.

We moved to the Parry Lodge motel, a few yards up the street. We had called in to Parry Lodge yesterday, as it holds a list of about 200 films and TV series which have been filmed in the area. Between 1930 and 1980 many stars stayed at the motel, and their pictures are proudly displayed around the lobby and restaurant. The big names include John Wayne, James Garner, John Ford, Henry Fonda, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jnr, Telly Savalas, Gregory Peck, and Maureen O’Hara, to name but a few. The plaque above our door bears the name Barbara Stanwyck.

Kanab became known as ‘Little Hollywood’, as at one time practically all the townsfolk were supplementing their income, appearing as extras in films such as The Big Trail, Stagecoach, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Fort Apache, Sergeants Three, McKenna’s Gold, and The Desperados. We felt it was particularly apt that we should end up staying here, having decided against battling the heat and traffic to visit the real thing in LA!

Looking at the landscape surrounding Kanab, you can easily imagine yourself caught up in a Western movie. Millions of years of erosion have created steep cliffs of red-coloured rock around the town. Although the soil is sandy, there is plenty of natural vegetation. We are no longer in the desert here, though when it rains, the pink earth smells strangely burnt.

Yet again, we planned to visit the Grand Canyon at dusk. Yet again, just as we set out, the weather closed in.

Friday 22nd June 2001, Kanab UT

On arrival in Kanab, we installed ourselves in the local National 9 motel, and, after a shower, went in search of a beer.

Kanab, we discovered, was founded by the Mormons, and in common with much of the rest of the State, does not have a single bar or tavern to its name. There are a few restaurants which will serve ‘liquor’ with a meal, but these form a tiny minority. To find a bar, we were advised to cross the border into Arizona, about 3 miles down the road – or buy some ‘take-outs’ from the local gas station. Instead, we dined in Escobars Mexican restaurant: one of the minority which advertise ‘Cold Beer’.

After a late start, we bought breakfast in the Vermilion Café, one of several Internet cafés in town. We browsed the gift shops, and ate ice cream for lunch – intending to set out for the Grand Canyon at about 5pm. The idea was to see the North Rim at sunset (around 9pm).

As luck would have it, as we were about to set off, very dark clouds appeared from the South. Unperturbed, we donned our biking gear. Then we saw the lightening. One thing we have learned from our friends last week, is that you don’t want to get caught out in a thunderstorm in this area!

We spent the evening writing our diary, and giving our bikes a much needed clean.