Tag Archives: Great Roads West

Arizona Route 66 Motorcycle Ride

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride Oatman
Riders enjoy the winding asphalt on this Route 66 motorcycle ride outside of Oatman.

Route 66, or the Mother Road, is indelibly stitched into the fabric of the American psyche. The iconic road once traced its way for 2,448 miles from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California. But it was more than just a long stretch of tarmac. Route 66 became a cultural phenomenon that inspired and piqued the American obsession with travel and adventure. Songs were written about it, quirky and kitschy roadside attractions sprouted beside it, and Americans longed to traverse it. The Mother Road was a main artery crossing the torso of the U.S. through which dreams and possibilities pulsed warm and red.

Related: Get Your Kickstart on Route 66 –
Riding a kickstart-only 1978 Yamaha SR500 from Chicago to Amarillo on the Mother Road

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

Yearning to rediscover the road, the towns, and the magic of Route 66’s path through Arizona, I packed up my BMW R 1200 GS and set out. Fittingly, my trek began Nov. 11, the date on which the Mother Road was designated a federal highway in 1926. Arizona claims the longest rideable portion of the original Route 66, and it has a significant number of attractions and bustling historic towns.

Riding from west to east, I began my Mother Road adventure on the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation where the Colorado River separates Arizona from Nevada. After a short climb toward the mountains on Boundary Cone Road, I came to an intersection indicating that I was transitioning onto the historic U.S. Route 66. The road became curvier and more interesting, and the jagged rock formations of Arizona’s Black Mountains became more immediate as the road coiled through the rugged terrain.  

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride Oatman burros
Friendly burros in Oatman weren’t impressed with my BMW beast of burden.

Within minutes, I entered the historic mining town of Oatman. In 1915, two miners struck a $10 million gold find. Within a year, the small mining camp grew to a population of 3,500. Recent census figures indicate there are now just over 100 human residents. If you include the dozens of semi-wild burros in the area, that population is much larger.

Oatman is a hotbed of activity during any motorcycle rally on the Colorado River or in Kingman.  However, my BMW was one of only two motorcycles in town on this crisp November morning. I walked the street beneath the weathered wood facades of the various shops and watering holes.

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride Kingman
This ride-through photo stop in Kingman is located next to the Arizona Route 66 Museum.

Route 66 north and west of Oatman is a pure delight. The pavement is mostly smooth and intact, and it’s filled with sweeping turns and hairpins, many of which are nicely banked. There are several signs warning motorcyclists to stay aware, and these are best heeded. With the road gradually uncoiling, I made my way toward Kingman, passing several abandoned open-pit mines that dotted the rocky slopes and at least one small operating mine. 

I was ready for a cup of coffee and some gas when I rolled into Kingman, where my father was an art teacher in the local school district before I was born. It is a clean and bustling small city fully embracing its Route 66 roots. I stopped at the colorfully adorned Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner and parked amidst historic cars, trucks, and motorcycles. As I chatted with my server over a hot cup of joe, she talked about the dual nature of the city. We were in the historic downtown district, but just a little ride up Interstate 40 is the modern district with chain hotels, restaurants, and thriving industry. 

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride Mr. D'z Route 66 Diner
Across the street from the Route 66 Kingman sign is Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner, one of the many kitschy restaurants along the Mother Road that draw in curious, hungry travelers.

After rolling through the industrial zone in the Kingman outskirts, I headed northeast on the longest existing stretch of the Mother Road. Small roadside businesses dotted the path toward Peach Springs, each clearly embracing its Route 66 heritage with appropriate signage and vintage memorabilia. Historic gas stations were particularly interesting. While they no longer pumped fuel, they still oozed with the nostalgia of the road’s heyday. 

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride Burma-Shave
Between Peach Springs and Seligman: You can drive / A mile a minute / But there is no / Future in it / Burma-Shave.

After Peach Springs, I rode past three sets of Burma Shave signs with rhyming slogans, reminding me of childhood. As I rolled and swayed through the high grasslands, it was easy to imagine classic cars and motorcycles plying this portion of the route.

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride Copper Cart
Formerly a restaurant that opened in 1952, the Copper Cart in Seligman is now a gift shop.

Entering Seligman was the most visually nostalgic part of my ride. This small town is a well-preserved tribute to its Route 66 heritage, with every shop, garage, and diner adorned with colorful signage and logos. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small sign for the Route 66 Motoporium. Not expecting much, I threw down my kickstand and walked into the Copper Cart to see what was inside. A bearded man said, “You look like a rider,” and pointed to a room in the back. It was filled with the motorcycles of my youth – both those that I rode and those that I ogled in the pages of motorcycle magazines of the 1960s and ’70s. Vintage Indians, Hondas, Hodakas, and Kawasakis, especially the 2-strokes, brought me back to the enchanting smell of premix laced with single-track dust that was a big part of my teenage life. 

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride Route 66 Motoporium
The Copper Cart in Seligman is home to the Route 66 Motoporium, a small museum full of vintage motorcycles and memorabilia.

After a lengthy trip down moto-memory lane, it was time for lunch, and the legendary Delgadillo’s Snow Cap diner was just a block away. Juan Delgadillo and his wife, Mary, opened the Snow Cap in 1953, and Juan and his brother Angel formed the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona. The Delgadillo family still owns and runs the historic diner, and I had a fantastic green chili burger and onion rings. 

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride Delgadillo's Snow Cap diner Seligman
This 1936 Chevy is an eye-catching fixture in front of Delgadillo’s Snow Cap diner, a Route 66 institution in Seligman opened by Juan and Mary Delgadillo in 1953.

East of Seligman is a short stretch of the original Route 66 that runs into I-40 just before Ash Fork, and I noticed a few remnants of the Mother Road that are now spurs off the roadway. Beyond Ash Fork, much of Route 66 has been fully replaced with I-40, but there are still several towns that have embraced and preserved their historic Mother Road character.

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride Flagstaff
Route 66 runs through the heart of Flagstaff, a bustling city with great restaurants, bars, hotels, and nearby attractions like the Grand Canyon.

Williams, just off I-40, was the last town to be bypassed by the interstate, and it still teems with Route 66 charm. The main street is lined with historic stone buildings filled with antique stores, diners, and bars. I motored by one of the more famous watering holes, the Sultana Bar, which was opened in 1912, predating Route 66 by more than a decade.

See all of Rider‘s Arizona motorcycle rides here.

After Williams, I-40 is as attractive as an interstate can be. Views of the San Francisco Peaks tower impressively to the north, and vibrant evergreens line the road. Flagstaff is the largest city on the Arizona portion of Route 66 and is home to my alma mater, Northern Arizona University. The original Route 66 skirted the beautiful campus just to the west and north. 

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride Wigwam Motel Holbrook
Built in 1950, the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook is a Route 66 icon.

Flagstaff boasts several original Mother Road attractions, including the historic downtown train station that houses the Flagstaff Visitor Center. On the way out of the city, I rolled past several diners that boast the Route 66 name, but my favorite is Miz Zip’s Route 66 Cafe. Then I felt the magnetic pull toward the Museum Club, an iconic Route 66 watering hole and one of my favorite college hangouts.

See all of Rider‘s Western U.S. motorcycle rides here.

The majority of Route 66 east of Flagstaff has been replaced by I-40. While that is a shame, there is solace in the fact that many of the original attractions of the Mother Road era are still partially or fully intact on the way to the Arizona/New Mexico border. I took the short access road to the ruins of the Twin Arrows Trading Post. Up until very recently, both twin arrows still stood, but the ravages of weather and time toppled one. The trading post was a fixture on Route 66 since its opening in the late 1940s. Just across the freeway looms the new Twin Arrows Navajo Casino Resort. 

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride Twin Arrows Trading Post
Alas, only one arrow is still standing at the ruins of the Twin Arrows Trading Post between Flagstaff and Winslow.

Riding another 30 minutes east on the interstate, I exited at Winslow, which sits on another existing stretch of Route 66. The loop into Winslow is festooned with various Route 66 advertisements. My first stop in town was to look at the impressive red sandstone St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. After snapping a photo at Standin’ on the Corner Park, I saddled up and headed to my lodging for the night, the beautifully restored La Pasada Hotel (see sidebar below). 

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride Winslow Standin' on the Corner Park
At Standin’ on the Corner Park in Winslow, Arizona, the author stands with a bronze statue of a balladeer resembling Jackson Browne, who co-wrote the famous Eagles’ song “Take It Easy” with Glenn Frey.

After settling into my room, I walked the grounds of the beautiful rail-side resort before sitting with a post-ride cocktail and watching the trains roll by. Later that night, I strolled back into downtown Winslow for some shopping and a chili relleno dinner at the tiny Brown Mug Cafe. An unassuming photo on the wall beside my booth showed a youthful Harrison Ford sitting in the same spot many decades back (he’s an avid motorcyclist, by the way, and also owns a GS!).  

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride
Some motorcycles you’ll find on Route 66 have seen better days.

After a great night’s sleep, I had one last stretch to complete my Arizona Route 66 tour. I rode the few miles to Holbrook, which is the last of the original historic towns on my eastward stretch of Route 66 and home to the Wigwam Motel. From Holbrook, it’s another 74 miles on I-40 to the New Mexico border.

I highly recommend riding what you can of any portion of the Mother Road. This Arizona stretch of Route 66 is best ridden from late spring to early fall, as the winters in northern Arizona are cold and snowy. Pack for variable conditions, and enjoy your ride down memory lane.

Arizona Route 66 Motorcycle Ride Resources

SIDEBAR: La Posada Hotel

Arizona Route 66 motorcycle ride

La Posada in Winslow is a crown jewel of the historic Fred Harvey railroad hotel empire. Designed in the 1920s by renowned architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, it’s currently a first-class hotel, art gallery, and museum in an expansive garden setting. There is a gourmet restaurant on-site, and downtown Winslow is a short stroll away. The rooms are comfortable and well-appointed in a warm Southwestern motif, and photos of the hundreds of legendary actors and public figures who stayed at La Posada line the hallways. There is even safe designated motorcycle parking in front of the property. For more info, visit the La Posada website.

See all of Rider‘s motorcycle tours here.

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Source: RiderMagazine.com

A Scenic (and History-Laden) Southern Utah and Arizona Loop | Favorite Ride

Southern Utah Arizona motorcycle loop Zion National Park BMW R 1600 GTL Grand America
There are several hairpins just west of the 1.1‑­mile Zion‑­Mt. Carmel Tunnel, which separates distinctly different parts of Zion National Park in southern Utah.

Living at 6,000 feet in Cedar City, Utah, most of my winter riding involves heading south, which offers a quick drop in elevation and less chance of the falling white stuff. So that’s what I did a week before Christmas, giving myself a gift of a one‑­day ride through some southern Utah and Arizona history.

See all of Rider‘s West U.S. Motorcycle Rides here.

The day promised unseasonably warm temperatures…eventually. Just after the sun peeked over the mountains, the ambient temperature was in the upper 20s, but doing 80 mph on the interstate meant I was closer to single digits. Thankfully, the BMW R 1600 GTL Grand America I was riding offers great wind protection, and with my California Heat heated apparel (see California Heat gear review here), I didn’t need to use the bike’s seat or grip warmers.

Utah is one of the few states where even interstate riding offers great views. Descending the Black Ridge south of Cedar City, the mountain terrain changes from gray and sage green and reveals distant red rock mesas. Exiting Interstate 15, I took State Route 17 to Hurricane and connected with State Route 59.

After a quick climb out of Hurricane, SR‑­59 flattens out and heads south. Just a few miles outside of town, jagged peaks painted in rust, deeper reds, and oranges rise in the distance. Much of this area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and numerous dirt roads meander from the highway.

Southern Utah Arizona motorcycle loop Zion National Park BMW R 1600 GTL Grand America
If you keep your eyes open on the east side of Zion National Park, you’re likely to see a mountain goat…and much less tourist traffic. Plus, the curvy road is open to motorcycles all year.

Within an hour, the temperature had risen nearly 20 degrees as I rolled into the small twin cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, an area locally known as Short Creek. Much has already been written about this area that is both the last U.S. stronghold of the FLDS church (read: polygamists) and the non‑­FLDS members struggling against that stigma, so I’ll just say they have a beautiful place to live.

Southern Utah Arizona motorcycle loop REVER map

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

Continuing on, the road isn’t especially exciting, but the scenery remains impressive. Crossing into the Kaibab Indian Reservation, the road heads east, paralleling red cliffs to the north. To the south, on a clear day, you can see as far as 60 miles into the Arizona Strip – a wedge of that state between the north side of the Grand Canyon and the Utah border – without any signs of humanity. The desolation makes it easy to imagine life a couple centuries ago. However, not far onto the reservation is a sign for Pipe Spring National Monument, an oasis in the desert where Mormon pioneers erected a fort in 1872 for protection against some of the very people whose land they had settled on. Located a half mile off the highway, the museum and fort are worth a visit.

Southern Utah Arizona motorcycle loop Pipe Spring National Monument
The fort at Pipe Spring National Monument was built as both a ranch house and protection for settlers during the Black Hawk War. It later served as a refuge for polygamist wives.

Farther east, I picked up U.S. Route 89 in Fredonia, and 7 miles later, I rode into Kanab, Utah, known as “Little Hollywood” for its filmmaking history, particularly old Westerns. My family likes to come here in February for the annual Balloons & Tunes Roundup hot air balloon festival. The historic Parry Lodge is a fun place to stay, and there’s a good mix of dining options.

Outside of town, the road cuts into the red rock, climbing and then dropping again into Mt. Carmel Junction, with the landscape colors changing from red to white to yellow. 

Southern Utah Arizona motorcycle loop Kanab Utah BMW R 1600 GTL Grand America
The only thing missing from this photo taken in Kanab, Utah, (aka “Little Hollywood”) is a locomotive.

Taking State Route 9, this diversity of landscape continues with almost every twist and turn, both in tones and textures, leading to the east entrance of Zion National Park. For most of the year, you can only get up the road into Zion’s main canyon via shuttle, but as spectacular as the towering cliffs in the main canyon are, I much prefer riding on the east side, which is always open. It’s like an alien landscape, and with the slower speeds, you get to enjoy both the views and the numerous curves.

Southern Utah Arizona motorcycle loop Zion National Park BMW R 1600 GTL Grand America
The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is closed to personal vehicles most of the year.

On the west side of Zion is Springdale, a typical national park gateway community with lots of lodging and dining options (depending on the season), as well as art galleries and novelty shops. Just a few miles past Springdale is Rockville, where you can detour on Bridge Road to cross over the Virgin River on the last surviving Parker‑­through‑­truss bridge in Utah. Continuing 3.5 miles on this road, which turns to dirt about halfway, takes you to Grafton Ghost Town, where parts of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were filmed.

Southern Utah Arizona motorcycle loop Rockville Bridge
The Rockville Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1924, it enabled the first direct link from the Grand Canyon North Rim to Zion National Park.

Staying on SR‑­9, it’s about 16 miles from Rockville to close the loop at SR‑­17 in La Verkin, where I made my way north and back home. Like the places I’ve ridden through, this Favorite Ride is now in the history books.

Southern Utah and Arizona Loop Resources

See all of Rider‘s Touring stories here.

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Source: RiderMagazine.com

Sonoma Motorcycle Rides, On My Own and With Family | Favorite Ride

Sonoma Motorcycle Rides Lake Berryessa
Lake Hennessy and Lake Berryessa highlight the northern arc of this spectacular loop ride through Sonoma’s hill and wine country.

This is a tale of two amazing rides. One threads its way through some of Northern California’s beautiful wine, lake, and hill country. The other winds its way through my very being to the center of my heart. 

Recently, my wife and I traveled to California’s Sonoma wine country to attend a ceremony in which our son‑­in‑­law, Lt. Col. Joffre Lander, assumed command of a squadron at Travis Air Force Base. Since I don’t like to be far from a motorcycle when traveling, I took my BMW G 650 X‑­Country along for the trip. 

Sonoma Motorcycle Rides backroads
Sonoma’s backroads trace beautiful paths through rolling hills.

A Wine Country Loop

During a lull in the military and familial activities, I snuck the BMW out for a loop ride through the golden hills and grapevine‑­lined terrain in the Sonoma region. I rolled out of Vacaville on Interstate 80 to reach the sweeping corners of narrow, scenic Wooden Valley Road, which is lined by trees and passes through rolling grasslands and vineyards. 

The turn onto State Route 121 provided even more varied terrain as rock outcroppings added texture to the ride. Various wineries staked their claims with stone archways and beckoning signage. As SR-121 morphed into State Route 12 on my approach to the town of Sonoma, the density of wineries increased.

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

When I threw down my kickstand at Sonoma Plaza, I had no idea of the historical significance of the town of just over 10,000 souls. Across the street from the beautiful centerpiece park rests the Sonoma State Historic Park, which is a cluster of historic sites. It’s an open and easy stroll through locations like the Mission San Francisco Solano, Sonoma Barracks, Toscano Hotel & Kitchen, and other fascinating buildings. 

After walking back to the vibrant green shade of the 8‑­acre Sonoma Plaza, I stood in the shadow of the impressive Bear Flag Monument, which commemorates the spot where the Bear Flag Party raised the Bear Flag and declared California free from Mexican rule in 1846. After a walk around Sonoma City Hall in the center of the plaza, I continued my clockwise loop ride. 

Sonoma Motorcycle Rides Bear Flag Monument
The Bear Flag Monument honors a significant moment in California history.

See all of Rider‘s California U.S. tour stories here.

SR‑­12 led me to Trinity Road and other narrow, winding byways that are thoroughly entertaining, curvaceous rolls beneath trees, beside cliffs, and over hills, often with panoramic views. 

After passing through Oakville and Rutherford, I headed farther east on State Route 128. This stretch was arguably the most beautiful part of an already spectacular ride. I rolled past Lake Hennessy, Lake Berryessa, and several family wineries. Finally, I headed south back to Vacaville and to my daughter’s home. Would this be the end of my tale? Hardly.

Sonoma Motorcycle Rides Sonoma City Hall
Sonoma City Hall is the centerpiece of Sonoma Plaza.

A First Long Ride

In 2011, I welcomed my first granddaughter into this world. I vividly remember the overwhelming love I felt when I held little Skya for the first time. The tiny black‑­haired treasure in my arms was so perfect and so lovely that I was instantly and indelibly smitten. 

Over the dozen years since she was born, I have taken Skya on many short motorcycle rides around the yard or the block with her planted securely in front of me on the saddle. She has grown from a fragile cherub to a vibrant, smart, lovely pre‑­teen, and motorcycle rides have been a vital part of our deep and loving connection. 

Sonoma Motorcycle Rides
The author’s granddaughter captured his heart from the first moment he held her.

On this occasion, Skya was waiting when I rolled into my daughter’s garage. As we sat and talked, it became clear she was ready for her first longer motorcycle ride. Parental permission was secured, and I fitted Skya in my wife’s riding gear. We discussed what it takes to be a safe and secure passenger on the back of a motorcycle.

With a wave to her mother and grandmother, Skya and I headed north for a loop ride. Almost instantly, she found the groove and became a settled “sack of potatoes” on the back of the BMW. The repeated portion of my earlier route took on a new significance as I could feel the wonder Skya was experiencing. She would occasionally tap me to point things out, and as we flipped up our faceshields to talk, I could see the joy in her green eyes. 

Sonoma Motorcycle Rides
Full-face helmets can’t hide the joy on those two faces. A “favorite ride” indeed!

We stopped often to decide on routes, take in views, and just chat. At one stop, I pointed out the smooth, pale hills on the horizon. I mentioned that they reminded me of Hills Like White Elephants, a short story by Ernest Hemingway, and I recommended that she read it someday. Back on the motorcycle, Skya chose the routes, including a long road to a dead end that gave us both a laugh. 

I have ridden thousands of miles in my lifetime, and the miles that Skya and I shared that day are some of the most significant. We agreed that when she gets a few more years under her belt, we will reconvene for an extended ride. We can’t wait.

Sonoma Motorcycle Rides
The nimble BMW G 650 X-Country was the perfect mount for the curvy sections of the route.

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

Sonoma Motorcycle Rides Resources

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Source: RiderMagazine.com

Riding From Gunnison, Colorado, to Hovenweep National Monument

C. Jane Taylor’s moto memoir Spirit Traffic was published in 2022. That summer, she and her husband embarked on a 97‑­day cross‑­country book tour on their BMW F 650s. She said her book tour was characterized by deeply rewarding and completely exhausting work. It also featured great roads. During her vacation from what some might already consider a vacation, she enjoyed many memorable rides. The leg from Gunnison, Colorado, to Hovenweep National Monument in Utah was a favorite. –Ed.

C. Jane Taylor Gunnison Colorado to Hovenweep National Monument Wolf Creek Pass
My husband, John, and I rode for 97 days – from Maine to California and back to Vermont – on a national book tour in the summer of 2022. We snapped this selfie at 10,856-foot Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado.

West of Gunnison, Colorodo, U.S. Route 50 was closed. We’d seen signs about the closure for at least 100 miles. Those signs were for other people, right? We’d planned to stay on the famous Colorado byway through the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests as long as we could. But as we approached Gunnison, our shoulders slumped with the reality that the signs were for us. We’d have to rethink our whole route. And the weather was starting to look iffy.

C. Jane Taylor Gunnison Colorado to Hovenweep National Monument

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

At the Gunnison County Chamber of Commerce, a note taped to the door underscored the closure. We went inside, paper roadmap in hand. At the desk, the clerk proffered her own map, opening it in front of us. She and John pored over it like kids seeking clues to lost treasure.

She confirmed that U.S. 50 was closed and suggested State Route 149 instead. It had less traffic and was more beautiful, she assured us. We compared her map to the Butler map for the region. (Butler Motorcycle Maps highlight the best roads, rating them on twisties, traffic, road surface, etc.) SR‑­149 was G1 (gold), Butler’s highest rating – perfect!

After filling our water bottles, we headed to the gas station. SR‑­149 is quite rural, so we wanted to be prepared. As John filled our tanks and I surveyed the darkening skies, a bolt of lightning ripped through the clouds. Thunder crackled. A guy next to us gassing up his pickup was watching too.

“Hope you’re not going that way,” he said, nodding toward the storm.

“Not anymore,” I said.

We paid for our gas as the storm clouds gathered closer and closer. Thunder rumbled, and lightning struck from cloud to ground in the near distance. We sped back to the park next to the Chamber and ran for the cover of a gazebo. Just as we stepped under, buckets of rain dumped from the sky, and lightning dashed all around us. The thunder was so loud that we ducked our heads each time it clapped.

C. Jane Taylor Gunnison Colorado to Hovenweep National Monument
John snaps another selfie on SR-149 along the Lake Fork River. As two cross-country-and-back trips have taught us, body temperature management in variable conditions demands a good rainsuit – and a good attitude.

Celebrating our excellent timing, we stretched out to nap on top of the picnic tables just as two vans arrived and disgorged two dozen kids. It was the local mountain‑­biking camp escaping the weather. We were instantly surrounded by kids eating popsicles and playing a raucous game of tag. Now each thunderclap was accompanied by the ear‑­piercing screams of prepubescent mountain bikers. One of the camp counselors checked in on our welfare, asked about the bikes, and offered popsicles, which we accepted.

The lightning eventually abated, though the rain drizzled on. The camp counselors packed their charges and drove away. We wrestled into rainsuits and got back on the road.

Related: C. Jane Taylor | Ep. 45 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

SR‑­149 was as wonderful as described: a narrow, almost abandoned two‑­lane road snaking seductively through the San Juan Mountains and the Rio Grande National Forest. The weather was cold and drizzling, but the road was curvy, and the air smelled like earth and springtime in New England. We were in motorcycle heaven.

Ten miles down the road, oncoming cars flashed their headlights, gesturing to slow down. Thinking they were trying to warn us about a cop, I laughed. It had taken me five years to get up to the speed limit. We continued with caution until a mudslide stopped us in our tracks. If we hadn’t been wearing helmets, we would have scratched our heads in a “Now what?” gesture. Like U.S. 50, it seemed SR‑­149 would soon be closed too, but we gingerly traversed the shallow edge of the slide at the far‑­left side of the road. Alert to the changes in road surface and rambunctious streams in the gullies flanking the road, we pushed forward like children anticipating candy at Halloween.

C. Jane Taylor Gunnison Colorado to Hovenweep National Monument Powderhorn
SR-149 near Powderhorn, Colorado.

Instead of candy, we sought groceries as we rolled into Lake City and its tiny country store whose proprietors seemed to be a badly mismatched couple. The woman in long braids glared at us as if we’d tracked mud onto her freshly mopped floor, while the man – handsome in a Willie Nelson kind of way, if Willie Nelson could be considered handsome – happily greeted us, teasing about our florescent green rainsuits. “We are not men, we are Devo,” he joked in a robotic voice referencing the ’70s New Wave band famous for their quirky spaceman costumes. We bought vegetables, tortillas, and cheese for quesadillas we would cook once we found a campsite for the night.

Lake City is an eye‑­blink of an old mining town with the down‑­at‑­heel aspect of a climate-change ski resort in shoulder season. The cold, damp weather did not bring any charm to the Grizzly Adams cabins lining the road.

I attributed the town’s creepiness to its horror‑­movie sepia tones and bad weather, but I later learned that Lake City gained notoriety in 1875 when Alferd Packer, the “Colorado Cannibal,” was charged with killing and eating the prospectors he’d been hired to guide through the San Juan Mountains after the group had become snowbound. In the spring, five bodies with human teeth marks were found at the foot of Slumgullion Pass. Lake City’s Hinsdale County Museum has an extensive collection of Packer memorabilia, including a skull fragment from one of his victims and several buttons from the clothes of the five men he ate. The area where the bodies were discovered is now known as Cannibal Plateau. Odder still, the area hosts an annual Alferd Packer Jeep Tour and Barbecue.

C. Jane Taylor Gunnison Colorado to Hovenweep National Monument Slumgullion Pass
As we approached the peak of Slumgullion Pass near Lake City, Colorado, the rain abated, and the skies cleared.

My unease was supplanted by the fear and exhilaration of climbing out of town along steep, wet switchbacks to Windy Point Observation Site and Slumgullion Pass. As we climbed, I chimed into the headset, “Don’t look right, Johnny.” The narrow two‑­lane highway had no guardrail, and the drop-off induced a vertigo that made me tighten my grip on my handlebar and tank. At Windy Point, we stopped to look back at the long narrow valley thousands of feet below us.

Evening was approaching, and we were still in the middle of a sheer climb on our way to North Clear Creek Campground, a destination we were not sure even existed, but the sky finally opened, and the tight switchbacks loosened as we topped 11,530‑­foot Slumgullion Pass.

The map we consulted – and re‑­consulted – showed the campground within 50 miles. Trying to keep from being swept up in the National Geographic beauty of the broadening landscape, I kept my eyes peeled for a Forest Service campground sign. We were hungry and cold, and it was getting late. We’d passed so little traffic, I was game to pitch the tent at the side of the road, but John persisted.

C. Jane Taylor Gunnison Colorado to Hovenweep National Monument Rio Grande National Forest
North Clear Creek Campground in Colorado’s Rio Grande National Forest was our home for the night after an eventful ride.

We finally turned off SR‑­149 and crossed a cattle guard onto Forest Road 510, which fell away to vertiginous Class‑­IV switchbacks. I groaned but also laughed. It was the “dropping hour.” We have a joke that on extended motorcycle trips, we often face the most challenging miles of the day right before arriving at our destination exhausted and hungry. The road toyed with us. I inched down its sharp gravel turns, determined but cautious given the hour. As I eased down one hill, a young woman on a dirtbike blasted up it. Encouraged that there might be an actual campground ahead and inspired by another woman on a bike, I sped all the way up to 2nd gear!

C. Jane Taylor Gunnison Colorado to Hovenweep National Monument
Pink sunglasses reflect the expansive valley near Creede.

After almost missing the 70‑­degree turn into the campground at the bottom of the hill and duck‑­walking the bikes back over sandy gravel ruts, we casually rolled into the nearly vacant campground and found a suitable spot with a picnic table, breathtaking panoramic views, and a glorious sunset reflected off the peaks of the Rio Grande National Forest.

The next morning was cold and clear. With visions of coffee and pastries dancing in our helmets, we headed toward Creede, home to an underground mining museum, the Mineral County Landfill, a cemetery, a chapel, and an excellent little food truck/coffee shop that appeared to be set up during the pandemic like a one‑­way street, with one entrance and one exit. The pastry case was filled with buttery French confections, the air with the scent of espresso. Bon appétit! We took our pastries to a table outside where we lounged, sipping cappuccinos in the sun.

C. Jane Taylor Gunnison Colorado to Hovenweep National Monument Creede
The population of Creede, Colorado, swells from 300 to 10,000 on July 4th. After a cold, wet, challenging ride the day before, it was an oasis. We found a mobile coffee shop where we enjoyed the company of locals, pain au chocolat, and cappuccinos in the sun.

The road along the Rio Grande – which far downstream serves as the border between Texas and Mexico – was as good as the croissants. At South Fork, we headed south on U.S. Route 160 and climbed to 10,856‑­foot Wolf Creek Pass. It was cold at elevation, and we encountered traffic and threatening weather, but the road was smooth, wide, and curvy through Pagosa Springs and Chimney Rock. We lunched in Durango after a torrential downpour trapped us under a busy highway underpass.

U.S. 160 through the mountains near Hesperus Ski Area was fabulous despite the cold and wet. Things got warmer as we descended out of the mountains, and by the time we got to Mancos, we were sweltering in the heat of the desert. We took off as much as we could and poured cold water down the backs of our armored jackets. Body temperature management was a challenge we had improved at over time.

C. Jane Taylor Gunnison Colorado to Hovenweep National Monument Rio Grande
South of Creede, the Rio Grande snakes along SR-149 on the way to South Fork.

In the blazing heat, we headed west on State Route 184 toward Dolores, then north on U.S. Route 491 past Yellow Jacket and into Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, administered by the Bureau of Land Management and inhabited almost solely by spirits. The road narrowed and then narrowed again. There is something gritty and fundamental about these small roads, something secret and unspoken like the second indents of an outline of one’s life or the dark side of the moon.

The heat kept building. As we crossed into Utah, the landscape gave way to a barren, flat emptiness without trees or buildings. We traveled in silent awe, feeling exposed in the heat but excited about the ruins of Hovenweep National Monument.

C. Jane Taylor Gunnison Colorado to Hovenweep National Monument
Our day took us from cold rain and high passes to sweltering heat and desert valleys. The sunset at Hovenweep was a just reward.

Known for six groups of Ancestral Puebloan villages, Hovenweep contains evidence of occupation by hunter‑­gatherers from 8,000 B.C. until AD 200. We were finally going to visit the spirits we’d been sensing on this hot road.

We turned into what seemed the middle of nowhere, but John assured me this was the way. I saw only shrubs, grasses, and sage until I glimpsed a sign the size of a sheet of paper with an arrow proving him right: Hovenweep National Monument. We traversed a lunar landscape of sand, craters, dead volcanoes, and lava flows until we happened upon a herd of wild horses in the middle of the road. We stopped to gape. Shy and beautiful, they paused in their grazing to examine us. Though I wanted to join these beasts on a romanticized journey out of a dream, we had to keep moving. Standing still in the late afternoon heat was a torture neither of us wanted to endure – magical, wild horses notwithstanding.

C. Jane Taylor Gunnison Colorado to Hovenweep National Monument
Sunset on the ruins at Hovenweep National Monument in Utah.

Reminiscent of Death Valley with its lethal sun, long straightaways, and distant bluffs, Hovenweep Road also reminded me of the song by America “A Horse with No Name.” I started to understand the line “In the desert, you can’t remember your name.” In the heat and arid sameness of the landscape, time seemed to stop. I could tell we were moving, if only for the visual cue of the scenery receding in my mirror. I became flooded with the eerie sensation of being watched. It felt as if the ghosts of millennia were hovering just above the heat waves upwelling from the macadam.

“Hovenweep” is a Paiute/Ute word meaning “deserted valley.” As we rode into the scorched campground, I sensed that the ancestors were still there. A clan of attentive ravens seemed to be protectors – or just eager to see what food they could liberate from us.

C. Jane Taylor Gunnison Colorado to Hovenweep National Monument
Hovenweep is a special place, and we had the distinct feeling that the ancestors were still there.

After pouring rationed water onto our heads and down our backs, we hiked off to see the ruins, following a faint path between rock walls leading to a dry creek bed. Walking fast to beat the setting sun, we climbed down into the creek bed then up the other side until we saw what looked like a crumbling brick silo. Hovenweep at last! As we gazed in silence at the majestic ruins of a once‑­lively community, a rainbow broke through distant storm clouds. Back at our campsite, we cooked dinner in the waning light as a million stars began to wink.

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

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Motoring from Denver to Moab | Favorite Ride

Denver to Moab motorcycle ride
Utah State Route 128 is a scenic byway on the way to Moab, Utah, that winds through a canyon carved by the Colorado River.

Moab, Utah, is an ideal destination for a motorcycle trip. Where else can you find sandstone arches, red‑­walled canyons, snow‑­capped mountains, scenic byways, two national parks, and a fun, adventure‑­ready town? The best time to visit is in the spring or fall because it’s often too hot in the summer and roads can get icy in the winter.

Denver to Moab motorcycle ride

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

Since I live in Denver, on the other side of the Rockies, part of the fun of visiting Moab is simply getting there. Heading west out of the city, U.S. Route 285 climbs the Front Range before passing through mountain towns like Conifer (8,277 feet), Bailey (7,740 feet), and Fairplay (9,954 feet).

Riding through the Rockies means going over mountain passes, and on the way to Fairplay, you’ll cruise over Kenosha Pass (9,997 feet) and Red Hill Pass (9,993 feet) before descending into a broad valley. Such grand vistas across open range show the true beauty of Colorado. Fairplay is an old mining town named after the notion that all miners should have an equal chance to stake a claim. It’s home to South Park City, an open‑­air museum preserving a 19th century mining town, including over 40 original buildings and thousands of artifacts from the boomtown days.

Denver to Moab motorcycle ride South Park City Fairplay Colorado
South Park City in Fairplay, Colorado, is an open‑­air museum that preserves a 19th century mining town.

Continuing south on U.S. 285, the road becomes U.S. Route 24 at Antero Junction and goes south and then north through Buena Vista (7,925 feet) and Granite (9,012 feet). At Twin Lakes, turning west on State Route 82 takes you across the Continental Divide at Independence Pass (12,095 feet), where the air is thin and always chilly.

Denver to Moab motorcycle ride Independence Pass Continental Divide
The author and his Yamaha V Star 1300 Tourer at the high point of his ride from Denver to Moab.

The long, winding descent to the ski town of Aspen is pure pleasure. SR‑­82 ends at Glenwood Springs, and the next 134 westward miles follow a curving section of Interstate 70. If you have the time, I recommend the scenic Rim Rock Drive through the Colorado National Monument among the high cliffs above Grand Junction.

See all of Rider‘s Colorado touring stories here.

After crossing into Utah, take the first Moab exit for State Route 128, which is a scenic byway that winds through a majestic red rock canyon carved by the Colorado River. Highlights include the stunning Fisher Tower and Castle Rock, a finger‑­like spiral to the southwest that’s been seen in many films and commercials. 

At milepost 14 on SR‑­128 is the Red Cliffs Lodge, built on the old George White Ranch, another location used in many Western films. If you’re a cowboy fan like me, visit the lodge’s Moab Museum of Film and Western Heritage to see production stills, movie posters, autographed scripts, props from movies filmed nearby, and displays about Western heritage. Lunch or dinner at The Cowboy Grill is highly recommended.

Denver to Moab motorcycle ride Colorado River Red Cliffs Lodge
View of the Colorado River from the deck at Red Cliffs Lodge, which has dining, lodging, and a museum dedicated to Western films and heritage.

The key attractions in Moab are Arches and Canyonlands national parks. Arches, located just a few miles north of town, is the more popular of the two, and the nearly 20‑­mile paved road through the park takes you past a stunning array of sandstone arches, petrified dunes, and red rock formations.

Canyonlands is the largest national park in Utah, and its diversity staggers the imagination. The park is 32 miles from Moab and has 20 miles of paved roads with many pullouts offering spectacular views. The Island in the Sky sits atop a massive 1,500‑­foot‑­high mesa, and on a clear day you can see over 100 miles in any direction. Sunrise and sunset are particularly beautiful times of day to enjoy these panoramic views of canyon country.  

Denver to Moab motorcycle ride Arches National Park
Arches National Park is a wonderland of sandstone arches, pinnacles, and other rock formations. The park gets busy, so it pays to go early.

Scenic State Route 313 leads to both Canyonlands and Dead Horse Point State Park, which offers unforgettable views of deep canyons and cliffs overlooking the Colorado River. I recommend taking time to explore side trails to see different viewpoints in this one‑­of‑­a‑­kind area.

See all of Rider‘s Utah touring stories here.

The La Sal Mountain Loop, a 36‑­mile scenic road that starts at SR‑­128 near Red Cliffs Lodge and goes through Castle Valley, up into the La Sal Mountains, and then back down to Moab near Spanish Valley, is another great local ride.

Denver to Moab motorcycle ride Dead Horse Point State Park
One of the many awe-inspiring vistas at Dead Horse Point State Park.

Moab is an ideal base camp for lodging, dining, and other adventures such as whitewater rafting, hiking, mountain biking, and off‑­road riding and driving (you can rent Jeeps, ATVs, and side‑­by‑­sides). One of my favorite places to stay is the Red Stone Inn, a rustic but clean and affordable motel with a communal hot tub and picnic area and rooms with a TV, free wi‑­fi, and a mini kitchen.

Whether you travel across the Colorado Rockies, through the red‑­rock canyons of southern Utah, or take some other route to get there, put Moab on your “must visit” list. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

Denver to Moab motorcycle ride

Denver to Moab Motorcycle Trip Resources:

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A Flagstaff to Albuquerque Motorcycle Ride on a Less Obvious Route

Flagstaff to Albuquerque motorcycle ride
Fellow riders take in the otherworldly landscape of Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park along the author’s Flagstaff to Albuquerque motorcycle ride.

If you blindly follow your GPS, a Flagstaff to Albuquerque motorcycle ride is a 320‑­mile drone on Interstate 40. That’s fine if Point A to Point B is your only plan. However, most motorcyclists are suckers for interesting byways and intriguing places, and I am no exception. 

Embracing that character trait, I planned a convoluted ride that would add about 180 miles and several hours to this trip. I was not just adding saddle time; I was also adding several historically and culturally significant landmarks. Instead of simply slaloming through long‑­haul trucks on the freeway, I would make a loop through three national monuments near Flagstaff: Wupatki, Sunset Crater Volcano, and Walnut Canyon. Continuing east, I’d visit Meteor Crater, Standin’ on the Corner Park, Petrified Forest National Park, and in New Mexico, El Malpais National Monument.  

Flagstaff to Albuquerque motorcycle ride

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

Before that roundabout route, I needed to spend some time in my all‑­time favorite small city, Flagstaff. I lived some of my most memorable years in these mountains. I am a graduate of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, and any time I’m in the sky‑­high city is a personal joy. 

As I rolled through the campus for some serious reminiscing, many of the buildings brought back indelible memories. There is one location that is uniquely special. I spent my sophomore year in the school’s stately Old Main building when it was still a dormitory. Decades before I was a gleam in anyone’s eye, my parents took a photo on its iconic steps. The historic red Moenkopi sandstone building was constructed in the late 1800s and is the centerpiece of both the beautiful campus and my love for Flagstaff.  

Flagstaff to Albuquerque motorcycle ride Northern Arizona University
The author stops to reminisce at Northern Arizona University’s Old Main building in Flagstaff.

After leaving the campus, I rode through Flagstaff’s charming downtown area. Iconic hotels in the area like the Hotel Monte Vista and the Weatherford cast a historic shade over the lively, rejuvenated entertainment and shopping district.

Flagstaff to Albuquerque motorcycle ride
Downtown Flagstaff, Arizona.

There is no shortage of things to do downtown, including the Orpheum Theater, many dining options, and unique specialty shops. The area is much more polished and refined than when I was in college. 

Flagstaff to Albuquerque motorcycle ride
Flagstaff’s revitalized downtown area, which sits at nearly 7,000 feet on the Colorado Plateau, is a hotbed of activity in both the cool summer months and when blanketed in snow.

As an undergraduate, I spent a fair amount of time “studying” in various Flagstaff watering holes, like the venerable Museum Club. This time around, as I dropped the kickstand in front of the log‑­built establishment dating back to 1931, visions of live bands and lukewarm beer flooded my memories. Some of Flagstaff’s history was lost on me while matriculating, but the slightly more mature “me” appreciates the vintage, mountain‑­chic nature of the city that lies on historic Route 66. 

Flagstaff to Albuquerque motorcycle ride Museum Club
The historic Museum Club has been a fixture in the mountain city since the Great Depression era, and it was one of the author’s favorite haunts during his college days.

After leaving Flagstaff, I headed north on U.S. Route 89 toward the scenic loop through the first two national monuments slated for my ride. This first little spur of my wandering route to Albuquerque was more of a flyby, as I have visited both Wupatki and Sunset Crater Volcano in the past. 

See all of Rider‘s West U.S. touring stories here.

Near the northernmost point of what is fittingly called the Sunset Crater‑­Wupatki Loop Road is a significant archeological site. In the early 1100s, Pueblo communities built Wupatki, a bustling center of trade and culture. The site is well worth a walkabout. After looping farther through the otherworldly landscape of this part of northern Arizona, I came to Sunset Crater Volcano. You can see virtually the entirety of the park from the saddle along the loop road. Peering directly into the mouth of the cinder cone is no longer permitted due to foot traffic erosion; however, a long view of the nationally protected volcanic field is still a wonder to experience.

Flagstaff to Albuquerque motorcycle ride Sunset Crater Volcano
Sunset Crater Volcano, formed during an eruption in 1085, rises more than 1,000 feet above the surrounding landscape and is visible from most of the scenic loop road.

After completing the loop road, I headed east on I‑­40 for a skinny minute to the access road for a national monument I had not visited previously. Walnut Canyon is just a short jog off the interstate through pines, oaks, and junipers. The endgame is a visually stunning canyon environment rich in rugged natural beauty and early human history. I did not walk the park’s Island Trail, a strenuous one‑­hour hike past the early cliff dwellings; however, I took in the big‑­picture experience of the park’s rim trail, which offers great views of the dwellings and the rugged topography. 

Flagstaff to Albuquerque motorcycle ride Wupatki National Monument
Wupatki National Monument sits as a visually stunning reminder of past civilizations.

At this point in my Flagstaff to Albuquerque motorcycle ride, I had been in the saddle or exploring for well over an hour, and I was only 8 miles outside of my original launching point. I did say I was not taking the most direct route to Albuquerque! My eastward trek resumed on I‑­40 and was exactly what freeway travel is designed to be: fast, efficient, and boring. My speedometer needle was pinned resolutely at 75 mph as I rolled through the tall pines of northern Arizona, which melted into junipers and then grasslands as I made my way toward the next attraction. 

Flagstaff to Albuquerque motorcycle ride Walnut Canyon
Walnut Canyon, a short hop off Interstate 40, is easily accessible even in motorcycle boots.

About 40 miles out of Flagstaff, I came to the exit ramp for Meteor Crater. There are numerous “teaser” signs along the access route that are intended to build anticipation for the natural wonder at the road’s terminus. As I approached, I saw the ultimate teaser: an enormous raised, round “lip” that is evidence of the cosmic collision that occurred thousands of years ago. 

I rolled into the parking lot and secured my pass to see the crater. On my way to the viewing areas, I enjoyed a series of museums and displays that cover the history of space travel, hypothetical (corny?) representations of aliens, and the scientific nature of the meteor that found its way to earth some 50,000 years prior to my visit. 

Flagstaff to Albuquerque motorcycle ride Meteor Crater
The author’s wife takes in the view at Meteor Crater, which is located between Flagstaff and Winslow, Arizona. The site offers several fascinating observational perspectives.

As I finally made my way outside the facility to the viewpoints along the rim of the crater, the massive bowl did not disappoint. One cannot help but stand in awe of the impact that created the earthen wound. There are several vantage points from which to view the crater, as well as preset telescopes for a closer look at its interesting features. Well worth the visit.

With the cosmic pockmark fading in the rear views, I was back on the interstate for a quick jaunt. Most of this ride was a survey in ancient places, but there was a little musical interlude singing its siren song in downtown Winslow. I pulled up to the intersection of Route 66 and North Kinsley Avenue, now designated as Standin’ on the Corner Park, where a flatbed Ford was conspicuously parked. 

Sure, it’s kitschy, but for anyone who has crooned along with the 1972 Eagles song “Take It Easy,” it’s a must stop. I took the requisite photo with a bronze Glenn Frey and searched in vain for the girl in that flatbed Ford. Winslow is also home to the historic La Posada Hotel, the Old Trails Museum, and Homolovi State Park.

Flagstaff to Albuquerque motorcycle ride Route 66 Winslow Arizona
No Route 66 ride would be complete without stopping at the “corner” in Winslow, Arizona.

Again heading east, the next town of note into which I rolled was another Route 66 remnant. Just off Holbrook’s main drag rests an iconic mid‑­century attraction. Over a dozen large, conical teepees make up the historic Wigwam Motel. Those structures and the classic cars staged around the property beg for a visit and photos. 

Flagstaff to Albuquerque motorcycle ride Wigwam Hotel Holbrook Arizona
The Wigwam Motel, a Route 66 fixture in Holbrook, Arizona, is worth a stop for a dose of 1950s Americana.

Just 30 miles east of Holbrook is the exit for Petrified Forest National Park. I rode due south on what would be an extended departure from any interstate highway. After paying my entry fee, I rolled into a lunar‑­esque landscape rich in pastel hues and forever views. The road through the heart of the park is 26 miles of intrigue.

I stopped at Newspaper Rock, which features hundreds of ancient petroglyphs of animals, weapons, and humans. The etched figurines tell a fascinating story, including how the exaggerated endowment on the male stick figures speaks to the fact that men never change. 

Flagstaff to Albuquerque motorcycle ride Petrified Forest National Park
The author pulled off his riding gear for a walk through the Petrified Forest, which preserves fossilized logs from trees that lived 225 million years ago.

At my next stop, the park’s Crystal Forest, I pulled off my gear for a walk among the massive petrified logs that lay strewn throughout the undulations of the walking path. The path is a sojourn into a prehistoric wonderland. Logs lay as massive, independent rounds as well as segmented pieces where they fell millions of years ago. 

Flagstaff to Albuquerque motorcycle ride
Entry into New Mexico brings with it a unique Southwestern feel.

Geared up again, I exited the park to the south and continued on the longest side leg of this elongated ride to Albuquerque. I rode through the remote eastern Arizona towns of St. Johns and Springerville before heading due east on U.S. Route 60 into New Mexico. The grasslands and high chaparral landscape are wide‑­open and beautiful, making for a fun Southwestern riding experience. 

At the small New Mexican town of Quemado, I stopped for a quick look at the tiny Catholic mission on the outskirts of the hamlet, one of many such historic missions in New Mexico, before heading north on State Route 36. The high‑­desert riding continued on State Route 117 until I came to the last of my planned stops. 

Flagstaff to Albuquerque motorcycle ride
Historic missions and other religious landmarks dot New Mexico’s beautiful landscape.

The Narrows is a striking rock rim feature within the El Malpais National Monument. The road follows that sheer rim for a nice stretch before the ledge eases and separates from the tarmac. The next notable feature is a picturesque natural rock bridge to the north of The Narrows. A short walk reveals the grandeur of the La Ventana Natural Arch. After a visit, my route rejoined the freeway for the final stretch to Albuquerque. 

Flagstaff to Albuquerque motorcycle ride Narrows El Malpais National Monument
The Narrows in El Malpais National Monument is a hidden treasure in western New Mexico.

Nope, this was certainly not the quickest Flagstaff to Albuquerque motorcycle ride, but it was infinitely more memorable. 

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

Flagstaff to Albuquerque Motorcycle Ride Resources

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Source: RiderMagazine.com

Riding in Beautiful Circles: A Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride

Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride
A sunny June day is the perfect time to explore backroads through Oregon’s Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

There is just something about southern Oregon. It can be difficult to choose between the area’s rolling grasslands, towering evergreens, high mountain lakes, quaint villages, and vibrant entertainment opportunities. In fact, it’s so hard to decide that I didn’t. To sample the cornucopia of Pacific Northwest treats, I spent a few early June days on an Oregon motorcycle ride aboard a BMW G 650 X Country, a scrambler-styled variant of the single-cylinder G 650 platform sold in the late 2000s.

The largest city in southwestern Oregon, Medford, is geographically central to each of the riding loops and entertainment opportunities I had planned, and my lodging for the two-day exploration was the Compass Hotel by Margaritaville. While a tropically themed hotel by Jimmy Buffet may seem incongruous in the Pacific Northwest, it was an ideal home base – clean, colorful, comfortable, and fun.

(See RESOURCES at the end of the story for links to information about areas covered in this ride.)

Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride
The Compass Hotel by Margaritaville in Medford was an ideal place to stay during my multi-day visit in southern Oregon.

Oregon Motorcycle Ride Day 1: Ashland, a Ghost Town, and Shakey Graves

I packed the small tailbag on the BMW with water, my hat, and some snacks and headed southeast for the short jaunt to Ashland. Upon entering the lively, park-like city, I took a side ride past the theater compound of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. While the festival was dark during this trip, I have been to several great Shakespearean performances at the OSF. One of these I highlighted for Rider back in 2016 in “Chasing Shakespeare: An Elizabethan Tour of the West.” If you can coordinate your visit to Ashland with an OSF performance, I highly recommend it.

Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is located in Ashland.

After my roll through the spotless little city, the real ride began. I headed out on Dead Indian Memorial Road, which began as one of the first trans-Cascade travel routes in southern Oregon. It connects Ashland and the Rogue River Valley with the Upper Klamath Basin. The somberly named road begins as a gentle sway through grasslands before morphing into an evergreen-lined serpentine climb into the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. The temperature dropped and the road coiled on the steady climb. Sweeping corners in wide-open grasslands became tighter in the high chaparral and hairpins in the tall forest. The light and nimble BMW proved perfect for the tightest of the corners on the route.

Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride

When I topped out into the dense forest, I took several jaunts onto the single-tracks and tight dirt roads that finger into the evergreen thickets. Again, the agile BMW was the perfect tool for the task. I came upon a sign indicating the crossing of the famed Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650-mile hiking and horse trail that traverses the highest portions of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada ranges. The PCT was brought fully into the public lexicon through Cheryl Strayed’s self-discovery narrative Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, which was later made into a Reese Witherspoon movie. Just a few miles later, the picturesque Howard Prairie Lake began to reveal itself intermittently as strips of deep blue through the stately emerald pines. I stopped at one of the lake’s boat ramps to take in the pristine waters fronting the snow-capped peaks in the distance.

Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride

More great riding led me aside Hyatt Reservoir. While the southwestern forests near my home in Arizona are somewhat monochromatic, consisting of mostly one type of evergreen, the forests in this region offer up multiple hues of green from a wide array of tree varieties. I turned west onto the Green Springs Highway, also known as State Route 66, which proved to be a fantastic motorcycle road that winds back into Ashland. The first of my three Oregon loops was exactly as I had hoped it would be. After a bite of lunch in Ashland’s downtown, it was time for my afternoon loop.

See all of Rider‘s ‘Great Roads West’ touring stories here.

Just south of Medford, I turned on South Stage Road, which quickly brought me to the intersection of Griffin Creek Road, which becomes Poormans Creek Road, and then I turned onto Sterling Creek Road. Sense a theme here? These creek roads offered up wonderful stretches of entertaining tree-lined sweeping turns, often flanking – you guessed it – mountain streams.

Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride
Buncom is a gold-rush ghost town.

At the intersection of Sterling Creek Road and Little Applegate Road, I rolled into the major reason I plotted this portion of the ride. The tiny ghost town of Buncom sits directly at the intersection, and only three of the original structures remain of the once-thriving town that was established when gold was discovered on Sterling Creek in the mid-1800s. The weathered wooden buildings, which consist of the town post office, a wooden bunkhouse, and an old cookhouse, hearken back to a time of starry-eyed dreams of riches – and likely also of dashed hopes. After some moments imbibing the history, it was time for the last leg of the day.

Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride

From Little Applegate Road, I turned onto Medford-Provolt Highway and rolled through farmland and thriving vineyards on the way to Jacksonville, which is a bit like a mini-Ashland with its historic brick buildings and homey atmosphere. It is also at the heart of Oregon’s prolific wine industry, so great local and regional examples are available everywhere. It was here that another highlight of the trip was planned.

Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride
Jacksonville, Oregon

Jacksonville is home to the Britt Festival Pavilion, a beautiful, intimate outdoor music venue. The nonprofit amphitheater, which hosts several big-name acts throughout the year, is named for Peter Britt, who opened Oregon’s first official winery in the late 1800s. The attraction for me was a show by Shakey Graves, an inventive artist in the loosely defined Americana genre from Austin, Texas. As the sun set over the Jacksonville horizon, I sat in the grass, sipped a little red wine, and enjoyed the amazing show. It was the perfect culmination of a fantastic day of riding. After the show, it was a short ride back to Medford for some rest.

Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride
Watching Shakey Graves at the Britt Festival Pavilion in Jacksonville.

Oregon Motorcycle Ride Day 2: A Longer Loop and Crater Lake

Having gotten my feet wet with some great riding on the first day, the next day was for adding miles. In southern Oregon, that means more miles of spectacular scenery. A short jaunt out of Medford on State Route 62 got me to a portion of the road fittingly named the Rogue-Umpqua Scenic Byway. The road sweeps through a wide variety of terrains, lakes, and rivers. Most notably, the tarmac clings to the bank of the Rogue River for long stretches.

Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride
Crater Lake

Just after the northernmost crest of this loop, I got in line to pay the fee for my first visit to the world-famous Crater Lake. While the early June snowpack still rendered much of the national park’s roadway closed, I got to sample the spectacular ride up to the lake and several different perspectives. I have seen some of the most iconic natural landforms this country has to offer, and Crater Lake is a singularly jaw-dropping place. It is the deepest lake in the United States, and the water beneath those sheer volcanic cliffs is as strikingly blue as I have ever seen. The clouds reflected on the surface of that glasslike, frigid water makes for a surreal beauty, while the mysteries of its 2,000-foot depth add a dash of intrigue.

Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride
Even in June, snow was piled high around the visitor center at Crater Lake National Park.

Massive melting snowdrifts still lined the roadway and made icy inclines to many roofs in the park at the time of my tour. Runoff made riding vigilance of utmost importance as mini rivers crossed the park’s roads and water and debris were intermittently part of my rolling adventure. These road conditions and the abundance of wildlife make the “head on a swivel” idiom important for more than just taking in the scenery.

After riding out of the national park, I continued my loop ride on Crater Lake Highway to the southeast. Just after Fort Klamath, I made a westward turn and continued on the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Highway. As the highway took a southern turn, the extreme variety of the natural palate continued in spades. Expansive grasslands, towering trees, and rugged mountains took turns delighting my senses as I rolled toward Medford.

Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride

I motored past Upper Klamath Lake, which has the largest surface area of any freshwater lake in Oregon. In contrast to Crater Lake, Upper Klamath is shallow. On the final stretch of this loop, I rode through more majestic pines on the return to Medford. On State Route 140, I again crossed the path of the Pacific Crest Trail where it winds toward the base of the impressive Mount McLoughlin.

Just a month earlier, much of this ride would have been prohibitively cold and snowy. Even in June there were places, like portions of Crater Lake National Park, which were impassible. However, the mix of weather and topography was amazing on my three loops. I recommend this tour, or some variation of it, to any nature-loving moto-tourist. Extreme temperature variations are to be expected and should be reflected in what is packed in your panniers.

Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride

I rolled back to the Compass Hotel in Medford with a sore tail and a mind brimming with memories. My days in southern Oregon were amazing. Hundreds of miles on that BMW 650 proved to be a much more raw and visceral experience than it would have been on my bigger touring bike. More vibration? Yes. More wind? Yes. And more memories? For sure.


Southern Oregon Motorcycle Ride Tim Kessel

With 50 years of motorcycling and 30 years of teaching English under his belt, Tim Kessel has melded those two passions into a gig as a motojournalist. Maybe that’s why there is always a permanent, satisfied smile under his full-face helmet.

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Source: RiderMagazine.com

National Parks, Alpine Passes, and The Bard: A Southern Utah Motorcycle Ride

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Zion National Park
The subtle, pastel hues of southern Utah’s sedimentary rock formations meld seamlessly with the complementary shades of the asphalt in Zion National Park.

While I waited for my steaming calzone to cool in the pizza restaurant in the tiny town of Orderville, Utah, and contemplated my impending southern Utah motorcycle ride, I studied the giant world map on the wall. A sign encouraged visitors to place a stickpin in the map to indicate their home. The colorful plastic balls that served as pinheads reflected an impressive worldwide span, with a truly remarkable density in most of the United States.

Southern Utah’s Dixie National Forest and the area’s national parks have a magnetic appeal for hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. For me, the promise of incredible scenery and winding roads drew me to the region on my trusty BMW. 

Southern Utah motorcycle ride

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Day 1: Zion, a Massacre, and Shakespeare

After a good night’s sleep in a comfortable and unique forest-themed room at the historic Parkway Motel in Orderville, I geared up and headed toward Zion National Park. I had no plans for dirt forays on this tour, but my big R 1200 GS was the perfect mount for the area just in case. I rolled south through lush farmland until I made the westward turn at Mt. Carmel Junction onto State Route 9.

The midweek traffic was moderately light on what is also known as the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway. The muted hues and sweeping corners on the first stretch were a nice warm-up and ultimately led to the east entrance of Zion. After stopping to pay the park’s $30 entrance fee (good for one week), I soon rolled into the shadows of striking crimson cliffs and stratified sedimentary rock formations. 

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Zion National Park
Tunnels carved through the sandstone are a unique and entertaining element of a ride through Zion National Park.

The scenery morphed into the striking beauty for which Zion is famous, and the road coiled to follow the natural contours of the park’s stone majesty. After a stop to admire the massive geometrical etchings on Checkerboard Mesa, the curves became increasingly tight and entertaining.

To my delight, I spotted two mountain goats posing atop two rock outcroppings. Thankfully, they held their pose long enough for me to dismount and snap some photos. Just a few miles later, I rolled through a short but impressive tunnel carved into the red sedimentary mountain. This ride was off to a scintillating start. 

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Zion National Park
A mountain goat stands sentinel over stratified rock formations high above State Route 9 in the eastern part of Zion.

See all of Rider‘s ‘Great Roads West’ touring stories here.

Deeper into the national park, the traffic and tourist presence became denser but not so heavy as to spoil the stunning ambiance. I motored beneath sculpturesque rock formations dotted with vibrant evergreen trees. The colors were eye-popping. In stretches, the winding asphalt was crimson-hued like the cliffs, and at other times, it was the more traditional gray. After miles of riding, stopping, and photographing, I came to the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. After waiting for an oversized RV to be escorted through the tight passageway, it was my turn. 

The tunnel, which was carved during the Jazz Age of the 1920s, is over a mile long. However, it’s not the length that was so striking to me. There were intermittent arched “windows” along the span that framed glimpses of the majesty of the mountains though which I was passing. While stopping in the tunnel is prohibited, I moved at a snail’s pace to take in the living art. It was truly impressive. 

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Zion National Park
White Navajo sandstone looks like snow atop the red rocks.

I emerged from the tunnel, flipped down my faceshield, and rolled farther into Zion. In the distance, white-capped mountains rose on the horizon. What I assumed was snow was actually the top layer of white Navajo sandstone on towers like the Great White Throne. I resisted the temptation of wide-eyed sightseeing while navigating the narrow, winding road. Frequent stops gave my kickstand a workout.

The western stretch of the park is much more developed and thus more visited. I motored over the cool waters of the Virgin River and into the community of Springdale, which rests just outside the western entrance of the park. This bustling community sits in stark contrast to the more natural and undeveloped eastern entrance. I have to say, I preferred the latter. 

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Zion National Park
Checkerboard Mesa in Zion National Park.

With Zion National Park in the rearview mirror, I set my sights on a remote stretch of my tour. After a northern turn at St. George, I rolled onto State Route 18. This is a road that often parallels the route of the Old Spanish National Historic Trail through Dixie National Forest. The ride started with more of the red and white Navajo sandstone that graced Zion as I passed by Snow Canyon.

After several miles of the nicely sweeping road, I came upon a somber historical site. The Mountain Meadows Memorial commemorates a massacre that took place in 1857. The four-day series of attacks were carried out by members of the Utah Territorial Militia and targeted the Baker-Fancher emigrant wagon train. About 120 men, women, and children were killed in the tragic territorial dispute. 

I rode farther north through the high chaparral terrain until making a westward turn onto State Route 56. This stretch afforded me the space to use the higher gears on the GS and take in the expansive southern Utah views. Finally, signage welcomed me to
Cedar City. The “Festival City” would be my highly anticipated stop for the night. After unloading my bags in the El Rey Inn, I had a few slices of margherita pizza and a microbrew at the bustling Centro Woodfired Pizzeria near the campus of Southern Utah University. 

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Cedar City
Cedar City is a compact and charming Utah town.

The university is home to a world-class theatrical experience, the annual Utah Shakespeare Festival, which runs from June to October. Anytime I can infuse a bit of the Bard into my tours, I do so with enthusiasm. In this case, I had secured a ticket to a preview performance of Macbeth. I settled into my seat at the beautiful outdoor theater and thoroughly enjoyed the spirited performance of “The Scottish Play” in the warm Utah evening air. 

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Cedar City Utah Shakespeare Festival
From June through October, Cedar City hosts the Utah Shakespeare Festival, which has established itself as one of the premiere Elizabethan experiences in the nation.

See all of Rider‘s Utah motorcycle rides here.

Day 2: Cedar Breaks and Ski Slopes

The second day of my southern Utah tour would include a serious gain in elevation, so I layered riding shirts under my mesh jacket in preparation for the crisp morning ride. The climb out of Cedar City into the mountains of the Dixie National Forest was rapid and enjoyable. The vibrant mix of conifers beside the winding path of State Route 14 was more reminiscent of a forest in the Pacific Northwest than what one would normally find in the Southwest. 

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Cedar City State Route 14
Diversity is the rule of the day in southern Utah. State Route 14 carves a sinuous line through Cedar Canyon east of Cedar City.

I was glad I had put on extra layers. Even in late June, this mountainous area often reveals some lingering snow. I clicked on the heated grips for a spell in the early morning shade of the mountains as the temperatures dropped into the low 40s. Deep in the mountains, I made the northern turn onto State Route 148 and continued my curvaceous climb. (Due to winter closures on this part of the route, this ride is best done in late spring to early fall.)

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Brian Head
Located just north of Cedar Breaks National Monument and surrounded by national forest land, the ski area of Brian Head is an alpine region with incredible riding through evergreens and alongside high-country creeks and wetlands.

Just a handful of miles into this stretch, I arrived at the impressive Cedar Breaks National Monument ($10 entrance fee). The Paiutes called the area “Circle of Painted Cliffs,” and the Native name is a perfect description. It is known as a smaller, less touristy version of Bryce Canyon, which is exactly why I opted for it on this tour.

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Cedar Breaks National Monument
Cedar Breaks National Monument is a geologic amphitheater filled with multicolored hoodoos, spires, and steep cliffs that spans 3 miles across and a half-mile deep.

It is a natural shale, limestone, and sandstone amphitheater with a rim elevation of 10,000 feet. The road follows that rim closely, offering several breathtaking views. After taking in those vistas, my ride out of the monument was flanked by mountains still laced with snow and flowing runoff streams. 

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Cedar Breaks National Monument
Taking in the view at Cedar Breaks National Monument. The vast expanses of southern Utah are best imbibed slowly and completely. This is not an area to rush through.

Just out of the boundary of the national monument, I continued north on State Route 143 and rolled into the ski resort town of Brian Head, which sits at an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet. Some of the forests near the town were ravaged by wildfires in 2017, but the unaffected ski slopes are lush and dense. The entire ride along Route 143 was amazing. 

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Brian Head

I dropped out of the mountains, and after a short leg on the interstate, I headed southeast on State Route 20. I was fully engulfed in the sweeping corners when I noticed a series of metal sculptures that looked like a mule train in the tall Utah grass. The adjacent historical marker indicated that I was at an intersection of the Old Spanish National Historic Trail. At the end of this stretch, I headed south on U.S. Route 89. I rode through the small town of Panguitch, and then I turned west on Route 143 and rode through the Dixie National Forest for the last leg of my trip. 

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Old Spanish Trail
Human history, as evidenced in a portion of the Old Spanish Trail used by traders in the early 1800s, adds texture to an exploration of the area.

I was back in the serious twisties as I passed Panguitch Lake. The expansive reservoir sits at more than 8,000 feet. Tall trees, meandering creeks, and crisp mountain air were the earmarks of the rest of the ride through the national forest. I detoured south on Mammoth Creek Road, and at Duck Creek Village, I headed east on SR 14, descending out of the mountains to U.S. 89 and back to Orderville.

My southern Utah motorcycle ride did not disappoint. My exploration proved to be an area rich in both natural and human history. The diversity of the ride kept it fresh and entertaining, and the roads were a motorcyclist’s dream.

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

Southern Utah motorcycle ride Brian Head
From sandstone canyons to alpine mountains like Brian Head Peak, this is a ride of stunning views. Slow down, stop, and enjoy it.

Southern Utah Motorcycle Ride Resources:

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Seeing Three Utah National Parks on a Motorcycle | Favorite Ride

Utah National Parks on a Motorcycle BMW R 1200 GS Capitol Reef National Park Mighty 5
Photos by Andrew Fodor and Nicole Fodor

Utah’s national parks – Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, and Zion – are known as the Mighty 5. All feature impressive red rock formations, landscapes, and vistas, yet each is unique. In late September, after the worst of the summer heat and crowds, my wife and I toured three Utah National Parks on a motorcycle.

We were coming from California. Younger riders or those with iron butts may choose to endure the entire journey on two wheels, but we prefer burning the hundreds of interstate miles to get there and back in comfort, and we like to bring more for a two-week trip than can fit on a bike. We rented an RV and a trailer, loaded up my BMW R 1200 GS, stocked up on gear, food, beer, and wine, and hit the road from our home in Oxnard.

Utah National Parks on a Motorcycle

Scan QR code above or click here to view the route on REVER

We “glamped” in RV parks, all of which had wide pull-through spots with plenty of trailer and bike parking. Once parked, we saddled up for scenic day rides. Being on a motorcycle made it easier to cruise through the national parks and slip into smaller parking spaces. At the end of each day, we returned to our campsite for a sundowner by the fire. For this trip, we purchased a National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass for $80, which paid for itself upon entrance to our third park and gave us access to other parks for a full year.

See all of Rider‘s ‘Great Roads West’ touring stories here.

Utah National Parks on a Motorcycle: Capitol Reef

On a perfect 70-degree clear day, we mounted the GS, departed Thousand Lakes RV Park in Torrey, Utah, and rode into Capitol Reef National Park, known for its 100-mile wrinkle in the earth’s crust called the Waterpocket Fold. It was formed as rocks were pushed upward and erosion sliced and diced through the layers, creating deep, narrow canyons and towering monoliths.

Utah National Parks on a Motorcycle BMW R 1200 GS Capitol Reef National Park Mighty 5
Capitol Reef got its name because early settlers thought the Navajo sandstone resembled the U.S. Capitol.

We rode past Panoramic Point down a short washboard dirt road to Goosenecks Overlook. I changed the GS’s suspension setting to Comfort mode and promptly received a “Thanks, Babe” from Nicole via our helmet comms. The view from Goosenecks Overlook of the river below and the slender S-curve it cut into the canyon was splendid.

Continuing into the park, we turned right at the visitor center onto Capitol Reef Scenic Drive, a paved road that turns to dirt after 8 miles at the Capitol Gorge Road picnic area. There is so much to see in all directions that we poked along at about 20 mph. Coming back, we turned onto a bumpy 2-mile dirt road and rode through a couple dry washes to the Cassidy Arch trailhead and Grand Wash. I checked the horizon for storms, as even distant rain could quickly make those washes impassable. The scenery as we approached the trailhead changed dramatically, making the detour a must-do.

Utah National Parks on a Motorcycle: Canyonlands

Utah National Parks on a Motorcycle Canyonlands National Park
From Grand View Point in Canyonlands, the Colorado River and Green River canyons look like a giant chicken footprint in the plateau.

Due to a late start from our campsite at the Sun Outdoors Arches Gateway in Moab, we were turned away from Arches because it was at capacity. Even in the “shoulder” season, high-traffic parks like Arches fill up early, so depending on when you go, plan ahead and reserve a timed entry ticket. Even though Canyonlands is only a few miles from Arches, it gets much less traffic, so we headed there instead.

Utah National Parks on a Motorcycle BMW R 1200 GS Canyonlands National Park Mighty 5
Canyonlands is made up of three districts: Island in the Sky (which we visited), The Needles, and The Maze.

We had to wait to get into Canyonlands too, but Nicole and I passed the time by chatting and digging into our bag of snacks. Following the requisite snapshot at the park entrance sign, we proceeded along the huge flat-topped Island in the Sky Mesa and the 34-mile roundtrip paved road that connects the panoramic viewpoints. These overlooks are 1,000 feet above the surrounding terrain, so the views are spectacular.

Utah National Parks on a Motorcycle: Arches

Utah National Parks on a Motorcycle Arches National Park
Double Arch in Arches National Park is a pothole arch formed by erosion from above.

A much earlier start the next day paid off. We began the tour of Arches at The Windows Section, home of Double Arch, the Parade of Elephants formation, North Window, and Turret Arch. We brought shorts and tennis shoes to comfortably walk amongst the sites, as well as a picnic lunch. My favorite was Double Arch, a pothole arch with a span that’s 144 feet wide and 112 feet high formed by water erosion from above rather than more typical erosion from the side.

A brisk 10-minute walk took us to North Window, standing 93 feet wide and 51 feet high, where we stumbled upon a group of local grade-schoolers with canvas and paintbrushes in hand, tapping into their inner artist. “Don’t get too focused on the sky, or you’ll end up with too much blue in your painting,” advised their teacher. We continued on and then enjoyed the solitude and scenery of the Windows Primitive Loop trail.

Utah National Parks on a Motorcycle BMW R 1200 GS Arches National Park
Arches fills up fast, so get there early.

Back on the bike, other highlights included the Garden of Eden, Balanced Rock, and Wolfe Ranch, which is located at the trailhead that leads to the famous Delicate Arch featured on Utah license plates.

See all of Rider‘s Utah motorcycle rides here.

A Bonus Ride: La Sal Loop Road

On a cloudy 62-degree morning, we followed U.S. Route 191 south out of Moab and made our way to La Sal Loop Road, a winding paved route that climbs up into the La Sal Mountains. The temperature dropped and it began to rain, but luckily the road turned away from the storm. 

Utah National Parks on a Motorcycle BMW R 1200 GS La Sal Mountains
Moab serves as a great base for scenic day rides. After visiting Canyonlands and Arches, we climbed out of the valley on La Sal Loop Road, where we enjoyed the fall colors of the aspens.

“Are you warm enough?” I asked Nicole, and when she answered in the affirmative, we pressed on. Just beyond the parking area for Mill Creek, we turned right onto Forest Road 076 toward Oowah Lake. This bumpy, rutted dirt road challenged me with sharp corners, steep climbs, and wandering bovines, but we were rewarded with the fall colors of the aspens.

Utah National Parks on a Motorcycle BMW R 1200 GS La Sal Mountains
We took this dirt road of the main La Sal Loop Road in order to get to Oowah Lake.

We continued our counterclockwise ride on La Sal Loop Road. We stopped at La Sal Lookout Point, which provides sweeping views of Castle Valley and red rock formations that look like the inspiration for the old cartoons with the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote. A steep descent with multiple switchbacks took us down to the warmer air of the valley floor. At State Route 128, we turned left (west) and followed the Colorado River on our way back to Moab.

Utah National Parks on a Motorcycle BMW R 1200 GS
RV camping allowed us to travel in comfort.

With so much great riding and scenery, we were reluctant to leave, but our allocated vacation time was coming to an end, so we packed up and headed home. Southern Utah is a stunning part of the country that should be on everyone’s must-see, must-ride list.

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

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Backcountry Discovery Routes: BMW and BDR Collaborate on New Oregon Route

Following the success of the first partnership between BMW Motorrad USA and Backcountry Discovery Routes in 2022 with the Wyoming BDR, the two groups have announced a second partnership for a route in Oregon. The new route will be officially launched Saturday, Feb. 4, at the premiere screening of the ORBDR Expedition documentary in Portland and other select locations around the nation. For more information, read the press release below from BMW Motorrad USA.

Backcountry Discovery Routes Oregon BDR

BMW Motorrad USA is excited to announce its second partnership with adventure motorcycling nonprofit, Backcountry Discovery Routes (BDR) on their newest route – Oregon. This is the second BDR route on which BMW Motorrad has collaborated, the first being the Wyoming BDR, released in 2022.

Related: New Route: Wyoming Backcountry Discovery Route

The ORBDR represents the organization’s 12th route for adventure and dual-sport motorcycle travel, with free GPS tracks, travel resources, and a Butler Motorcycle Map scheduled to accompany the film’s debut.

Backcountry Discovery Routes Oregon BDR

Luciana Francisco, BMW Motorrad USA head of brand and marketing, said BMW Motorrad is proud to partner with Backcountry Discovery Routes for the second time in two years.

“In 2023, BMW Motorrad celebrates its 100th year anniversary and also marks 43 years of BMW GS motorcycles,” Francisco said. “This is the perfect time to share our passion for the adventure and dual-sport riding communities and show our continued support for the BDR organization and what they stand for. We look forward to both new and experienced off-road enthusiasts being inspired by the scenic routes of the ORBDR.”

Related: Backcountry Discovery Routes: Two Buddies on Yamaha Ténéré 700s in Utah and Arizona

To launch of the new Oregon route, Backcountry Discovery Routes and BMW Motorrad will kick-off with a film premiere event in Portland, Oregon, and selected BMW Motorrad dealer events on Saturday, Feb. 4. Additionally, over 70 film screenings are planned through spring 2023, hosted by dealers and clubs around the country. More information on the film screening locations is available at the Backcountry Discovery Routes events webpage.

Backcountry Discovery Routes Oregon BDR

The ORBDR expedition film features members of the BDR team and special guests from BMW Motorrad USA, Mosko Moto, and Edelweiss Bike Travel as they take a first run on the all-new ORBDR. Starting in the high desert landscapes of Southeastern Oregon and exploring North into the Cascade Range, the crew tests their endurance, riding cross-state through 750 miles of lava rock, silt, sand, and steep mountain roads. Highlighting the state’s many natural wonders including hot springs, pyroducts, caverns, buttes, and glaciated volcanoes, the route and film showcases why traveling by motorcycle is one of the best ways to discover the backcountry of Oregon.

Story continues below trailer for ORBDR Expedition

Bryce Stevens, Oregon Route architect & BDR co-founder grew up in the Pacific Northwest and said he has “always been fascinated by volcanoes.”

“The ORBDR is a route filled with natural wonders of the volcanic kind. We designed the ORBDR to show off different regions of the state and keep the route ever-changing,” Stevens said. “Oregon has vast high desert in the southeast, sparse pine forests in the central part of the state, and densely forested mountains in the Cascade Range. It almost feels like three BDRs packed into one.”

Related: Backcountry Discovery Routes: Ep. 33 Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

Joining the expedition team in Oregon was Ricardo Rodriguez, lead motorcycle instructor at BMW’s U.S. Rider Academy in Greer, South Carolina. Ricardo is a graduate of BMW’s rigorous International Instructor’s Academy and has been teaching on-road street survival, adventure off-road, and authority riding skills since 2010.

“The BDR Team has set out on a fantastic mission, helping keep public lands accessible to the adventure community,” he said. “I am very proud and excited about the relationship between BDR, BMW Motorrad, and the BMW U.S. Rider Academy. Having the opportunity to be a part of the Oregon BDR has helped build my experience as a rider and a coach. Overcoming the challenges along the ORBDR reinforced to me the value of the skills we teach daily at the US Rider Academy.”

Rodriguez continued to say that Backcountry Discovery Routes offers properly trained riders an opportunity to put their skills to the test.

“The Oregon BDR is a challenge and reward riding adventure.”

For more information, visit the Backcountry Discovery Routes website.

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Source: RiderMagazine.com