Utah Report


Utah Report


As anyone who’s tried it knows, leading motorcycle tours is a grueling way to make a buck. And having made a buck earlier this summer, I found myself desperately needing and craving a bit of R&R. A respite, if you will, from the hammering demands of the daily grind.

So when I caught wind of Craig Terry and Steve Harris’ plans to point motorcycles west into the Land o’ Moroni for a bit of salt ‘n sun, I quickly insinuated myself into their scheme. Here’s what Steve and Craig had in mind: Head west to Tooele, Utah and set up camp adjacent to Miller Motorsports Park, then ride out in the morning to catch the tail end of the Bub Speed Trials at Bonneville. Then back to Tooele for the Bonneville Vintage GP.  Not a bad way to exorcise the demons of wage slavery, I thought, and with nary a backward glance I packed my bedroll on the Phoenix and headed out, connecting with Craig at his Grand Junction home.

The following morning, Craig and I mounted up and began the steady grind across the gawd-forsaken wastelands of eastern Utah. By noon we had met up with Steve in Green River, and after lunch at Ray’s Tavern (go for the burger, eschew the Mormon beer) we continued our westward trek. After what seemed like eons, we peeled off I-70 and headed north through coal country, traversing landscape and towns that would trigger a major depression in weaker men.

Finally we headed northwest into Huntington Canyon, where a significant wildfire earlier in the season had created conditions perfect for mudslides and flash flooding. A day or two prior to our passing, a pretty good thunderstorm had capitalized on said conditions, and we passed heavy equipment removing trees, rocks and mud from the pavement on our way up the twisted roadway.

Beyond this mess the road was perfect, a convoluted ribbon of smooth asphalt following the river in a series of sweepers, opening up into long views at the top with a cold wind that encouraged us to waste little time heading back down the other side. The rest of the ride was one of those interminable “are we there yet?” pulls that inspire daydreams of pizza and adult beverages waiting at the end of the day, if we ever arrive.

Arrive we did, and set up camp. Richard Florence joined us soon after we set up and we all went about meeting our basic needs. No pizza, but the other, and Thursday morning we rented a car and drove to the Bonneville Salt Flats. We’d hoped to catch some exciting action on the salt, but by the time we got there the event was winding down. Though we did get to see (from a distance) a few bikes running the course, we mostly roamed the pits and gawked at the machines and people there.

Friday it was off to Miller Motorsports Park to mingle and get in the way of racers and tuners in the pits and catch a bit of the practice action on the track. Lots of great vintage racers - and their great vintage machines. We were like kids in a candy store. Sated by the end of a long day, we returned to camp, where Doug McCadam had arrived to help us celebrate the occasion.

Saturday was the first of two race days, coinciding with the arrival of a weather system that brought volatile conditions the the area. Dramatic thunderstorms cleared the track just as the Honda CB160 racers were about to sprint to their steeds, LeMans style, and racing throughout the afternoon was conducted under nasty skies and tortured wind gusts, with lightning flashing in the nearby mountains.

We stumbled, fortuitously, upon Dave and Robin Webster shoveling down lunch at the trackside cafe. And we watched the most exciting event of the day: electric bikes qualifying for Sunday’s exhibition race.  Turns out Eric Bostrom was riding for Brammo, and watching him fling that bike around the track was a revelation. And the sound of those electric machines - I always thought I’d miss the blat, growl and howl of the internal combustion engines we all know and love, but here was something just as gratifying. A symphony of mechanical sounds: drive chains whirring over sprockets, tires working against asphalt, other sounds I could not pin down - and in the tight, 180-degree turn one, the sound of the racers’ knee pucks scraping the track surface. Great stuff!

Meanwhile the weather worked up into a lather, and despair over the likelihood of wet tents and possible electrocution had us weighing the option of sleeping in the covered pits, as Dave and Robin were doing. We bucked up , though, and returned to the campground, where we visited with a tribe of pit bull owners engaged in post-dog show revelry. But that’s a story for another time.

Sunday morning Steve explored the maddening nuances of electronic ignition failure (Trispark, no less). Fortunately, Craig was carrying a spare Boyer in his luggage, and after a bit of fussing and cussing, Bob was Steve’s uncle. Note to self: always make sure Craig is along when traveling out of town.

With Steve’s bike back on the boil, it was time to head toward home. We’d enjoyed Huntington Canyon so much on our way to Tooele that we decided to return that way. Richard had to peel off upstream of that juncture, but the rest of us: Craig, Steve, Doug and Yer Faithful Servant - headed south and into the canyon, dismissing the “Road Closed Ahead” sign as a mere suggestion. The traffic cones arrayed across the roadway 15 miles along only supported that assumption. Passing between the cones was a doddle, and anyway, storm clouds were thickening above, the afternoon was getting on and reversing course seemed the less attractive, if arguably more prudent, option. As we chewed on our conundrum, a rather crusty fellow on a KLR pulled up and assured us that though there was one slightly inconvenient stretch of compromised roadway a few miles downstream, there was nothing so challenging that we could not get through it on our Nortons and Craig’s Moto Guzzi.

That was all the encouragement we needed, and off we sped into the unknown. Some seven miles downstream, we encountered the slightly inconvenient stretch. Seems the storms that had sent us scattering for shelter in Tooele had been equally exciting in the already disturbed canyon. As a result, trees, rocks, mud and other flotsam and jetsam covered the roadway to a rather rude extent, requiring a bit of finesse to navigate through to the clear pavement beyond. Nothing we weren’t up to, though, and before long we were again on pace, dodging the odd rock, tree limb and bit of rubble as we worked our way south, pleased to have ignored the closure sign and feeling very clever indeed.

About seven miles further south, our smugness rang hollow as we rounded a bend to find a locked gate across the entire width of the road. Traffic cones and flotsam are one thing, a steel gate is something else altogether. And sadly, Craig did not have bolt cutters in his toolkit.

Well, this account has run on much longer than intended. No need to go into any more superfluous details. We did succeed in breaching the impediment, and if you’re curious as to how we did so, please refer to the accompanying photos.

Reaching the mouth of the canyon, we headed south, and after another one of those “are we there yet?” pulls, arrived at our destination, Torrey, just as dusk began to fall. And then... but that’s a story for another time.



Huntington Canyon, Utah
Craig in Mud



Huntington Canyon, Utah
Walking the Route



Huntington Canyon, Utah
Norton Past the Gate


RC Herman
Crestone, CO
Oct 2012