We leave the North Rim of Grand Canyon around five o'clock, hesitating for a moment about missing the sunset on the Painted Desert, but realizing that would put us on the road after dark. As we turn northeast at Jacob Lake, we're delighted by the twisty, curvy trail through the rocks. Christa picks up the pace, and I float down the mountain, the Ninja staying on the Concours' heels at every turn.
Suddenly, I come around a bend, and my heart almost stops. I slow down very quickly, lest I go right over the edge. Before me, there is a wide, wide valley stretching to the east and west as far as I can see, bordered unendingly by high cliffs. They are blood-red in what has turned out to be a magnificent sunset. The purples, crimsons, pinks and blues intertwine, and I don't know where the sky ends and the earth begins. We pull over, turn off our engines, and take off our helmets. It is utterly silent. Nothing moves, the light doesn't change, the air is still. Time is suspended. I'm reminded of the line that ee cummings wrote in one of my favorite poems: "and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart".
Day 1: Vegas to Mesquite
After two exciting days on the track, including a dirt-bike class (I think this will be my new calling), I'm ready to ride somewhere. We work our way from the Las Vegas Speedway, heading northeast towards Mesquite. It's not long before we are out of civilization and on a bumpy, winding road, taking sidelong glances at Lake Mead. I'm thrilled to apply my new-and-improved dirt-bike riding skills, standing on the pegs over the bumps, shifting gears when needed, and having an even better view of the surroundings.
It's mid-afternoon on a Saturday, and there is very little traffic - something which is to become a theme for our trip, and quite unfamiliar to this New Yorker. The road is mostly flat but it dips here and there, such that I sometimes don't see a bend until I'm upon it.
And then we reach the desert. The road extends ahead, and even though we are covering the miles, the mountain in the distance doesn't get any closer. At one point, I'm acutely aware that what is being impressed in my mind is an unchanging vision of a mountain far away, across a desert plain, with a spot of red in my line of sight - Christa's jacket. I feel the need to see what it's like to have nothing at all in front of me, and I take the lead of our little convoy. For miles, I am a reverse pioneer, going east instead, getting a glimpse of an understanding of what it must have felt like to be the first at the edge of the world.
Motorcycles & Gear
Day 2: Small Detail - the North Rim
We are staying at the Falcon Ridge Hotel in Mesquite, with lovely accommodations, and an automatic piano that I unplug so I can play a few tunes. I was a bit cold at the end of yesterday, so I get up bright and early in search of clothing. Very conveniently, there's a super-store just down the hill. At 6:30 a.m. and a fleece liner later, I'm back at the hotel for breakfast.
As we travel, the elevation gets higher. We are riding among flatlands with varied and huge rock formations. Some look like old castle cities, built atop hills and ringed with battlements. Others jut skyward in a way that reminds me of conning towers.
We come to Rte 89 around 1 p.m., our plan indicating a right turn. Yet, the Concours turns left, some unerring force leading us to lunch that way. We cruise up the street a few hundred yards and pull up to an unimposing establishment, the CR Diner. We shrug our shoulders and walk in, sitting down in a clean, simple restaurant, to what turns out to be an amazing bowl of chili. It's one of those cases of perfect timing: an excellent meal just when one is most hungry.