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Red desert rocks of UTAH to rolling hills of SAN FRAN

Written on: Friday July 31st, 2009

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After visiting the Grand Canyon, I left Flagstaff and headed north into Monument Valley National Park, I was planning on heading north north north, but there was chance of work in San Fran and I had to ring Derry back later that day, so I might be heading right back to Flagstaff and on to San Fran. I called him from Monument Valley and was told there was work for me, but in a weeks time, at first I thought this didn't really suit me, I thought what am I going to do for a week.  The answer which came to me quickly was to take a reasonably leisurely drive around Southern Utah. Where Canyons and National Parks are a plenty. I had a great week, but as usual it wasn't trouble free. The rest of the day I drove around MVNP's dirt road and got closer to the giant stone pillars. Incredible. I drove north on route 163 which gives one great views down the long straight desert road back towards MVNP. At the next petrol station I picked up a little ice for my beers and just before sunset found a place to freecamp. ( http://www.youtube.com/user/Stebrayirl#play/all/uploads-all/2/QfJzVXok-v8 ) I listened to some Beethoven, and drank my IPA's, a very relaxing evening. Dinner, a tomato and salad cream sambo, the staple food of that week. At the time delicious, in retrospect a little too much for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
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The next day I awoke early in a great mood and got going. I stocked up at the supermarket and drove north towards Arches National Park, I should easily make it there that day. I pulled in to take a picture of yet another strange rock formation. The sun was shining and 'The National' playing full blast in my ears I sped off from the side of the road and horrid sounds came from below me. It seemed like gears grinding or slipping and I knew I was in trouble. Slowing down I pulled in and stopped. The chain had come off and jammed up over the front sprocket. ....more here - if u haven't seen this video ( http://www.youtube.com/user/Stebrayirl#play/all/uploads-all/1/DH97a1ortqw )
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In MOAB, UTAH, I found Arrowhead Motorsports and about 300 dollars later I had a new chain and front tyre. I fitted the chain outside with the use of Freds chain masterlink tool. He told me without this tool there is no way you could fasten the masterlink.. I begged to differ and told him all you need is a few decent rocks and a bit more time ( http://www.footstops.com/argentina2alaska/album/636/7597/99985/ ) Once sorted with a new chain I headed off to Arches National Park, but with all the time lost that day I arrived at the main arch just after the suns light sank out of view.. I managed to get a few snaps though, and the rest of the landscape around the park was bizarre. There is a huge layer of salt below the red sandstone deposited many many millions of moons ago when the shallow sea's evaporated. This salt has moved underground under pressure from of the overlying rocks creating, to use the geological terminology "crazy shit". That night I went back to Moab and changed the front tyre, I stayed in Fred's back garden which is where his motorbike business is. The next day I went to Canyonlands National Park and went in the back road as recommended by Fred. It was great advice.

FULL SCREEN:

http://www.youtube.com/user/Stebrayirl#play/all/uploads-all/0/DaYxLfcEERg
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All in all, the week on the roads from Arizona, through Utah and Nevada and on to San Fran have been some of the greatest roads I have been on in some time. I guess the fact that I had a week to take it easy and just drive from park to park helped me enjoy them and is the reason I allowed myself more time to stop and take photos of the great roads. Dirt roads generally beat tarmac for fun and the backroad into Canyonlands was no exception. I entered the park without all the families of visitors clogging my road. I felt as if I had the whole place to myself. I crossed the side canyon floor and took the dirt hairpins to the top where I rejoined the main road. Throwing the bikes weight from left to right I weaved across the meandering tarmac to the main viewpoint and admired the velvety flow of cars over the silky curving overpasses.. oh no that was the week before, I just looked down at the canyon floor and went WOW..  ...

....No seriously, it was really impressive.

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I jumped back on the interstate for a bit and then took a less direct "left" to head for highway 12. I was told it was the most scenic highway in all of Utah. I wondered, how bloody scenic it could it be? Every single road in southern Utah was scenic. It must have Unicorns and rainbows... and rainbows coming out of Unicorns that are on top of mountains with cliffs of crystals covered in waterfalls ending in babbling brooks. But it didn't. but it was beautiful and did go through some really nice scenery, but expectations were too high. The road twisted up from the red desert landscape filled with strange rock formations into pine forests mountains with no better views than I' d seen elsewhere. The mountains were cold, rainy and I preferred the desert stuff. That night I stayed with student couchsurfers, lots of drinks were had and a party happened, I think it happened there every night. All beers in Utah are only 3.5%, its a Mormon thing. I didn't learn too much about Mormons while I was in 'their' state. At the house I started to ask my host, Matt questions about Mormons and he subtly suggested that I read about those things. I'm guessing a discussion about Mormon practices at a Utah party is a bit of a buzz kill. I was supposedly in some sort of a party bubble. There were only two places in this whole city they knew of that had party's and I ended up in one.
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The next day I felt hungover, but with 3.5% beer I cant fathom why. I headed off early to Zion National Park, another canyon. I was too tired to appreciate it although it was beautiful and I think I might have overdosed on canyons. Later that day I entered Nevada and headed straight for sin city. I had a funky couchsurfer lined up for Vegas but when I arrived I could not contact her. I toyed with the Idea of a hotel but eventually I got a hold of her. We met up, I showered and we headed out to an English bar for beers and food. The next day I went to the cinema to 'Bruno' (t'was no borat) and 'The hangover' - when in Rome (great flick) ... Afterwards I went up to a roulette table and put $20 on red... it came up black. I'm not a good gambler. I spun round town in the BLAZING JULY NEVADA HEAT and tried to take some quick snapshots . I was amazed to see petrol actually seeping out of the top of my petrol tank!! Every time I put on my helmet it was like putting my head into a wet sponge! Disgusting, but refreshingly cooling. I got out of the heat and returned later for night shots and gave the casinos a further 20$, in under 90 seconds. I shouldn't gamble and I don't, but its VEGAS.. u gotta.
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That night Jen and I went out for a few drinks with her friends and the next day I left Vegas to head north west through the Nevada desert. I got a little lost on the ring road and ended up touring round huge new suburbs that seemed mostly uninhabited. A little strange, but then it is Las Vegas. On the road north for the first time I welcomed the rain I saw ahead. The longest stretch between garages couldn't be certain and I decided to take an extra 2 litres of fuel, lucky, cos I needed it. I crossed from the dry barren desert of Nevada over the mountains and into California. The mountain roads were enjoyable and at times rollercoaster-ish, with the, 'Im going over a bridge' feeling over and over again. Fun. Looming rain clouds on the horizon stayed mostly out of my way. I entered Yosemite National Park and the scenery changed, becoming alpine with gushing rivers. It is a hugely popular park and in mid July all the campsites are fully booked, not that Id be staying there anyway. I found a sidetrack and it eventually led me to an open patch where I set up my tent. That night I watched "Frost/Nixon" on my massive Plasma screen in my tent. No, really I did! I think its probably a 3inch plasma.. Well its really just my Ipod & speakers
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Early the next morning I awoke alive (shocking, to wake up alive isn't it!)  to find I hadn't been mauled to death by a bear. I packed up and went to the end of Yosemite Valley to start the trek to up Half Dome. It was there that I met a bear that had not killed me the night before. He was just a cub looking for some food but when he was standing he was about my height, and boy could he run. Delighted to have seen a bear I headed off towards Half Dome. Three and a half hours later I was at the top. Three hours later I was at the bottom again and in between I mostly walked, ran and sweated but at one point I swam. The end.
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Well, not exactly. I left Yosemite and headed on to San Francisco. Over two weeks ago the feeling of coming across the US border was a feeling of achievement, not for having gotten in but for having come this far.
Even better though was the feeling of coming across the Bay bridge into San Fran. It was like coming home on my bike. Sad but true, I know now that I will never ship my bike home, so it is the closest I will come to driving home.
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Since being back I worked a full week and have the aches, cuts and dollars to prove it. but they will all fade away quickly. Its good to see the bank balance go up for a change. Peadar just got his bike back from the mechanics, they sorted his bike out and lightened his wallet considerably. Could I be in for a bit of the same? I have a problem with the bike (again), after a few battery and starter motor tests it looks like the piston rings are shot. It wont start cold (but will when its warm.) and there is oil coming through to the air filter...

What to do?
Run-bump-start each morning it all the way to Alaska..Or pay multi hundred dollars to have it fixed or try replace the piston rings myself. None of these scenarios is ideal, but somethings gotta happen. It is in the mecanhics and tomor it will have a leak down test to see if the rings are shot. Fingers crossed. I'm not sure what I'm crossing them for, cos if the piston rings are not shot then what could it be.. the valves?, Well that'd be easier to fix, but would it account for the cold start problems and oil in the air filter.. maybe..
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Motorbikes. Life. ...whats it all about ?
; )




 

From Mam and Dad on Aug 8th, 2009

Great to see the update of the blog. Some great pics this time around. Opps sorry about that I mean all the pics are great. Well your nearly there. Hope the bike makes it to Alaska before their winter sets in. Johnny is thrilled you are out of S.A. and in safe territory, we hope. Travel safe and talk soon Mam and Dad

From des on Aug 14th, 2009

Pic 32 very Broke back Mountain. And unless you got a picture of the bear I dont believe you saw one.