It was once said that “the journey IS the destination” .. and I guess I’ve spent a number of years now chasing an endless trail that probably leads to nowhere. It’s also been said that “if you don’t know where you’re going and you have no plan .. you’ll surely end up there”. Well .. many of my maps are tattered and taped and my trusty 1994 Rand McNally Road Atlas is filled with yellow pages where I’ve traced the highways I’ve traveled with yellow dry markers. They’ve faded a lot over time .. but then again, so has my memory.
Sure, I’ve often been surprised by new roads replacing old .. dead-ends and by-passes .. but that’s just part of the whole adventure we call “life”. The similarities I find in actually “living it” are quite uncanny. People .. in general .. are just like an old road map. Sometimes you think you know a road so well that you don’t even bother to glance at the signs .. and suddenly there’s a detour that changes the course of your life. For awhile, it may be rocky as hell and even cause severe damage .. but eventually you’ll work your way out of the loose gravel and back onto smooth blacktop. And if you’re lucky .. you might even stumble onto a solid concrete thoroughfare once again and feel safe enough to hit “cruise control”. Therein lies the danger.
As I rode out of Nevada on my trip across US 50 on “the loneliest road in America” and through Ely, the last little town of any size, you cross the Schell Creek Range, the Snake Range and through the Humboldt National Forest. Ely, Nevada to Delta, Utah was another 153 miles of scenic pleasure with one little watering hole along the way. After a day in the blistering sun across the Nevada desert, I took the 6 North out of Delta to Payson and decided to call it a day .. 550 miles from where I began it at Carson, NV. A few moments between the pages of Rand McNally and I’d set my course for the next day .. then off to Shadowland for some well-deserved rest.
I like to hit the road about daylight and ride ’till I find a “greasy spoon” for some home-cookin’ and local inquiry. The best place to ask “what’s worth seeing” along the tentative route I set is the breakfast diners .. where “locals” are more than willing to give you their “two cent’s worth”. Sometimes you get a dollar’s worth of advice and feel like you’ve hit the jackpot after you discover the treasure they’ve sent you after .. even if it’s only a scenic vista from which to gaze and ponder until the spirit moves you again and you decide it’s time to saddle up and move on. But I’ve never been disappointed yet.
After taking the scenic 6 southward, down through Soldier Summit and into the Price Canyon area, the trail turns abruptly northward on the 191 near Helper and up through the Ashley National Forest. Indian Head Peak, at 9837 ft. and Grey Head Peak, at 9250 ft. of elevation makes chaps and leathers a drastic contrast from the prior day’s blistering desert heat. But you just couldn’t ask for a better way to start out a day. The scenic 191 ends at Duchesne, where you find US 40 .. Heber City left or Roosevelt to my right .. I’m headed east through northern Colorado with no time clocks or reservations made anywhere .. just to explore and look for any and every hole-n-the-wall that looks interesting. That’s where I find the most interesting characters.
The first town that grabbed my attention with a huge pink dinosaur holding their claim-to-fame was Vernal .. Utah’s Dinosaur Land, on the doorstep of Dinosaur National Monument. The Gateway Saloon was my very next stop as it appealed to my dry thirst. Though the outside was remodeled and appeared new .. the inside was quite rustic with a colorful history as all the guns and collectibles were keepsakes of the original owner. I then met a true Native American Indian as I sat down at the bar and as he saw my vest he immediately offered to buy me a beer. He filled me in on the history of the area and that this was actually the northernmost border of the Ute Indian Reservation. He introduced me to several of his friends and for awhile, that afternoon, we had an enjoyable little Pow-Wow. I wrote his name down in my journal somewhere .. but your guess is as good as mine as to where that is right now. Did get a few good pictures of him and his friends though.
As I rolled on eastward through that area, I learned that the Dinosaur National Monument was created in 1915 to protect 80 acres of quarry area where paleontologist Earl Douglass discovered formations layered with prehistoric plant and animal fossils in 1909. Today the monument includes 210,844 acres, and the remodeling on the visitor’s center is now scheduled to reopen to the public. For the “inquiring mind” it’s well worth a look-see.
About 14 miles west of Elk Springs I spotted a rustic little watering hole sign, which simply read “Massadona Tavern”. Steaks, seafood & camp grounds out in the middle of nowhere .. my kind of place. It caught my attention because while attending Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, I lived on “Macedonia” street. Coincidence .. or what? After I grabbed a stool at the empty bar, a nice conversation with the owner gave me loads of new knowledge. I told him about the “coincidence” and he said that the sign was actually supposed to read “Macedonia” but the sign man couldn’t spell. Too funny. He stuck with what he got.
As I sipped a cold one I commented on the sign leading into the café, which read “best steaks anywhere”. It was lunchtime and I was hungry. Come to find out the man and his wife had just retired and had lived in Newport Beach, CA .. an area I’d just left before heading up to Hollister. They bought the place and moved away from the rat-race to spend some quiet years talking to strangers along their way. He ran the bar and she ran the kitchen .. and they couldn’t be happier. I envied that.
He saw my vest and heard my story then gave me a dollar bill to sign so he could staple it up on his wall between some hunter’s traps and a skull fragment. Actually, it’s a ritual I’ve completed countless times all over the country. If the “head” walls or bar is already “tagged” .. I’ll sign “Indiana Joe” somewhere or leave a bill for them to post. I always carry my Sharpies. I get a good laugh when I’ve returned to a place and see “Indiana Joe” on a wall somewhere .. wondering how many minds have pondered the tag. And bye the way .. the steak was incredible .. and being starved had nothing to do with my “critic’s choice”.
I rode a few more hours and meandered through scenic Rocky Mountains and into Steamboat Springs .. contemplating the obviously affluent lifestyle. I can’t help but wonder to myself “just what do these people do to afford this?” .. but then again, it seems that’s the same question I ask wherever I wonder. Guess I just zigged when I shoulda zagged. Oh, I forgot .. I’m the “Murphy’s Law” guy .. that’s it .. problem solved.
Not sure of what I’d find down the road .. I rode for awhile and started looking for a place to bed down for the night as it gets dark fast in the mountains. I’d passed through Hot Sulphur Springs before I found a fuel stop, and I asked the local attendant where I could find a cheap little “mom & pop”. He sent me back up the road where I’d passed the Canyon Motel. Definitely small .. but when I found my room to be a miniature log cabin done in knotty pine with it’s own kitchenette .. and a tv with HBO .. I was pleasantly surprised. I unloaded Bosco then walked back up to the front desk to ask the young lady if she knew of any place close by that I could go grab some dinner. She actually offered to fix me a homemade pizza with whatever I wanted on it for only $10! And who said “hospitality” was dead? It’s these little places that make roaming the country just that much more memorable. I tucked Bosco in under his cover and settled in for a hot shower and a great pizza .. another 400 mile leisure day. Then I slept like a baby.
I left before the other guests had risen .. trying to be considerate and keep Bosco as quiet as possible .. so I doubt if he got his full two-minute warm-up. It was a downhill putt to begin with .. so I just let him idle for awhile. The Arapaho National Forest was incredible, as was the Routt National Forest the day before. Chilly, but invigorating .. each new day’s beginning gives me reason to give thanks for just being alive .. and as I said, to “contemplate”. My “God” prefers I’m out on Bosco seriously contemplating the mysteries of life rather than sitting in a church thinking about riding my Harley .. that way, every day I’m out here, primarily between my own ears, it’s a “spiritual” experience .. and I’m totally good with that, too. Galileo was quoted as saying “all truths are easy to understand once they are discovered .. the point is to discover them .. ” My mode of transportation in that quest just happens to be on two wheels .. where the best place to find those answers are “within”.
It wasn’t long before I discovered that anything else I needed was right there at the side of the road .. the big sign for The Last General Store read “Nothing fancy .. just what you need”. I couldn’t help but crack up .. and I pulled in. Maybe they’d have some granola bars for the road. Yep, they had it all .. even a “mechanic on duty” for that emergency engine overhaul or transmission repair. Even had halogen lights for the night shift in case you threw a rod after dark. It’s like that every day .. when you think you’ve see it all. Always something else to amaze you and make you smile .. or another person to share a laugh.
Helen Keller said “the best and most beautiful things in life cannot be seen or even touched .. they must be felt with the heart”. And now you’ve just spent one full day with me on the road .. with no radio or cd blasting .. with no particular place to go. Where I believe your heart and mind are one .. where you laugh .. you cry .. you “live”.
“Being happy doesn’t mean everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections … ”
Hear .. and you forget –
See .. and you remember –
Do .. and you understand –
Try it sometime .. quit thinking about it and “just do it”.. before it’s too late. You’ll be happy you did.
Until next time .. ride smart .. ride safe
and the Adventure continues …