Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ted and Dan ride from San Diego to Utah/Arizona: 1,500+ miles in 2 1/2 days

So my friend Ted wanted to ride; he always does.

I had a 3-day weekend free so he suggested a little weekend tour.

Let's see...what can two Iron Butt guys do over 2 1/2 days? We considered riding through Baja; Cabo San Lucas and back (we couldn't catch the ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan, though).

Or a National Parks tour.

With the Nat'l Parks ride a definite-maybe, I began looking at options.

Hmmm, I'll bet we can do some fine Southern Utah, Northern Arizona touring.

And this is what I came up with: A 1,300 + mile ride departing Friday at noon from San Diego to St. George, Zion and Kanab, Utah. Maybe a little loop around Highways 89/89A passing through Page and Fredonia, Arizona, and returning to San Diego on Sunday afternoon.

That was the plan.

Here's the map the “proposed” route:

Whew! Just got home. A little under 1,500 miles. The big Triumph performed well. We experienced perfect weather and epic riding conditions. No one will disagree that Northern Arizona and Southern Utah offer some spectacular scenery and world-class riding.

A thorough ride report to are a couple photos and statistics.

• Coldest: 42 degrees (Brian Head, UT)
• Hottest: 90 degrees (en route to Yuma, AZ)
• Fastest: 90 MPH (lame, I know)
• Highest elevation: 10,400 (Brian Head, UT)
• Lowest elevation: -75 (New River, El Centro, CA)
• Average MPG: 42 (highest: 52)
• Times I dropped the bike and needed help lifting it: 1 (front brake, oily surface, no major damage —other than to my ego)

Here are a couple of memorable rides we enjoyed. We used a Butler motorcycle map that was only “slightly” out of date.

1. Kolob Terrace Road: This nice little up-and-back ride starts in Virgin, about 12 miles before reaching Zion Nat’l Park and winds in and out of the park as it leads about 20 miles from Highway 9 up to the reservoir. Look for a hidden sign announcing the reservoir off an unpaved road (to start). You know you’re in Zion when the pavement turns red. You’ll gain about 4,000 feet in elevation and the road can be a bit bumpy (watch out for the very rough cattle guard crossings!). Highly recommended.

2. Zion Nat’l Park: In April 2013, the cost of entry via motorcycle was $12, and it’s money well spent. This is a must-do ride if you’re in the area. We rode straight through the park on the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway in about an hour, exiting Zion at the far east side via Highway 9. The tunnels, especially the looooong unlit one (1.1 miles), was amazing and lots of fun (take off your sunglasses before entering). We came back later in the day to take the shuttle tour where we were able to snap photos of the scenery. NOTE: Motorcycles and autos are no longer allowed to drive past the visitor center (unless “guests of the lodge”) so the shuttle is the only means of seeing that part of the park now. Yes, I know what many guide books say, but unfortunately, those are the facts.

3. Highway 89: A large part of 89 was closed between Page and Bitter Springs, AZ due to a massive landslide, so upon leaving Zion’s east exit, we adjusted the route a bit and rode UT 89A and 389 back to St. George. A nice 100-mile ride through Indian country, if just a bit monotonous.

4. Parowan to Cedar City: This route was “supposed” to take us through the Brian Head ski area and Cedar Breaks via scenic highways 148 and 14. We sped up the I-15 from Hurricane to Parowan and rode UT 148 to the Brian Head ski resort. There was more snow the higher we climbed…and we climbed to 10,400 feet. There was 13% grade for 10 miles and that was kind of cool. At the beginning of the route there must’ve been a sign stating that there was a road closure, but I didn’t see it. After passing through Brian Head, we hustled along 148 South, until we met an abrupt snow bank…in the middle of the highway. No signs, no warning, just 12’ of snow blocking the route! So instead of continuing to Cedar Breaks via Utah 14, we turned around and headed back. That was OK, though, as there was plenty more to see.

5. Kolob Canyon Road: On our way back to St. George from Parowan, we stopped to enjoy a nice little 5-mile up-and-back ride, also part of Zion Nat’l Park. This was a quickie, but well worth it as the stunning canyons and panoramic views topped off a near perfect day of riding.

We started out at 7AM on Sunday, deciding to take the long way back to miss the I-15 Vegas traffic (95 via Yuma) and only added 150 miles. That was some really nice riding on the 95. Long sweepers and dips through the desert landscape made the ride interesting.

We arrived back to San Diego before 4PM, a little under 600 miles for the day and 1,450 total for the 3-day tour.

Here's the SPOT GPS track:

Fun factor: 8/10 (Highly recommended!)