To me, the Wild Wild West is typified by rusty-red canyons and monumental mesas. Today’s ride has had plenty of both and I’ve been recalling cowboy movies with John Wayne, Glenn Ford and Kirk Douglas as we experience two of America’s greatest natural icons.
The sixth morning of our 3200km ride from LA to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally on a Victory Cross Country Tour (photos embargoed until Sunday) started out cool in Zion National Park. A spectacular overnight storm had brought the temperature down to a mild 74F (23C) as indicated on the Victory dashboard. Our refreshingly fresh ride after some scorching desert days begins in the shadowed canyons of the park.
This is an iconic canyon with towering walls of red rock on either side as you putter along at 25mph (40km/h) on the tight spaghetti roads that weave through the narrow valley. There is also an interesting 1.1-mile (1770m) tunnel with sporadic “windows” that bring in light, ventilation and spectacular views. We take over an hour to ride the 25 miles (40km) through the park because it is so beautiful we stop several times for photos and to let the goats pass.
Out the other side of the park, the views are not as spectacular, but are certainly grand with wide vistas of winding valleys, mesas and canyons, as well as rolling grass high plains dotted with grazing buffalo and cattle. Jackrabbits and squirrels dare to dart out in front of us as we ride on, continually astounded by postcard views around almost every corner.
We fuel up in the Wild West town of Kanab, a great place to base yourself for Zion, Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon tours. However, we press on across the gradually warming plains with their compelling backdrop of red and white swirling ridges into Glen Canyon, another jaw-dropping vista with its lime-green lake.
There are occasions on this ride where the road straightens into the horizon and the relentless spiralling thermometer numbs our minds, but it only lasts a few minutes before another achingly beautiful or iconic cowboy movie backdrop comes into view and snaps us back to super-reality.
But the best is saved for last today as we turn north at Kayenta and head into the Navajo reserve and Monument Valley. We expect to see Forrest Gump running up towards us as we replay movie after movie in our head that has featured this stunning view. You know the one I mean – the towering red monolithic mesas and fingers that point into a pale blue sky off the dusty spinifex-speckled red desert floor.
For me, this will be the pinnacle of our five-week stay in the US of A. Nothing surely can surpass the sobering panorama that dwarfs us the closer we get.
It certainly will be a sobering experience as we sit in our Gouldings Lodge room tonight with a million-dollar view towards the monoliths as this is a dry settlement. No alcohol is allowed on the Navajo reserve. It’s a small price to pay. Besides, we have been giving the Corona, salsa and chips a good run over the past few days.
Which reminds me of a great travel trip for the thrifty rider. Order your beers at a Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurant and they usually bring complimentary or, at least, very cheap salsa and chips which they keep topping up. That will save you an entree. Also, since we left LA and Las Vegas, the meal portions have grown larger, so we share the one meal and still feel satisfied.
Looking forward to an early start tomorrow to ride around the other side of the monoliths, past Mexican Hat, out of the hot desert and into the cool Rocky Mountains on our ever-so-comfortable Victory tourer.