Shamrock Tour® - Moab, Utah

Text: Robert Smith • Photography: Robert Smith

"Ya gotta see the petroglyphs on the road to Potash," says my new best friend, as he hands me a bottle of Black Butte Porter. The affable Floridian, also staying at the Adventure Inn, is making his annual trek to the Canyonlands. Next morning, I'm standing by the rock face trying to decode the primitive etchings when a car pulls up. One of its occupants surveys the chicken scratch and says, "Neat!" Not the word I'd have used. If I'd turned in anything as untidy in Mrs. White's art class at my English primary school, she'd have given my knuckles a good rap with her ruler.

I'm arriving in Moab a day late and a metaphorical dollar short, my two-day travel plan kiboshed by an early winter storm in Utah's central valley. The weather had been deteriorating all day. I passed through layers of fog around Boise, and lost the sun completely to low clouds near Twin Falls. During the climb across bleak grassland to 5,500-ft Sweetzer Summit near the Utah border, light flurries swirled round the FZ1, and though I-15 through Trementon was dry, I could see the cascading haze of rainfall ahead. By Ogden, the skies had opened up, and in Salt Lake I was riding through a wall of water.

Cold I can handle. Wet is no problem. Modern motorcycle lighting deals with the dark. But put all three together and riding can be miserable. So as I climb through a frigid downpour toward Soldier Summit on US 6 with the light failing and enveloped by cloud, I'm doubting the wisdom of touring Utah's high country in October. And when the precipitation turns solid, I decide discretion beats valor anytime and retreat to Provo to hunker down in a Best Western.

At daybreak, it's like waking from a nightmare. No evidence of the deluge remains when I hit 89 south from Nephi under a crisp, clear sky.

Interstate 70 east warns of no services for the 110 miles to Green River, and I start a long, steady climb into the Fish Lake Mountains. I'm grateful for the FZ1's power reserve as we crest the 8,000-ft summit and roll across high, wind-blasted plains to the San Rafael Reef. Here, I-70 swoops down onto the Colorado Plateau in a series of diving hairpins, narrow dynamite-made canyons and emergency truck turnouts.

Moab
Bringing to mind a Wild West Palm Springs, Moab is a city focused on fun in the outdoors. Every other storefront on Main Street either sells, rents or services outdoor recreation equipment, from hiking boots to Hummers, and there are lots of bars and restaurants too. There's a western town feel, but without the tacky mock-facades. It's rambling, colorful and untidy.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the January/February 2006 back issue.