"Nobody goes up the mountain anymore," laments Bob, my newfound, 76-year-old friend. "Everybody takes the highway. You got to go up the mountain!" Since this local character clearly has had much time to collect wisdom, I decide I best take him up on his advice.
Encounter in a Small Town
A short time earlier, I stopped at the information center of Monticello, a pleasant, little town in eastern Utah. Bob was riding past on his Honda 750, and in his sidecar was his longtime, canine companion, Ginger. Ginger, of course, is the reason I got to know the unusual couple, as when you're out on a tour, taking photos, a man with a dog in his sidecar is not the kind of thing you let pass by. The rather dignified yellow Lab was peeping out of the sidecar as if it were the most natural thing in the world - I just had to take a photo of her.
By way of explanation, Bob recalls, "I got her as a puppy in California. When a deer ran across the road, she jumped out in front of me, rolled a couple of times on the road, but was fine. Since then, she rides with me wherever I go." Bob offers to accompany me up the mountain and I take him up on it. When we stop to get his helmet, I glimpse both a motocross race-bike and a small dirt bike for single trails, sitting in Bob's garage. Seeing him jump around, I have no doubts that he still puts miles on both of them. I'm guessing that living here in Utah's mountains must keep residents extraordinarily fit.
Together we ride up the Abajo Mountain on a beautifully winding road: Bob and Ginger in the 3-wheeler sidecar and me on my 2009 KTM 990 Adventure. My guide was absolutely right about the need to go up the mountain. Along the next 20 miles, we encounter not a soul. About halfway up, we stop for a fantastic view overlooking the mesas and valleys of the Canyonlands National Park, our next destination. At this time of year in late September, the view is all the more spectacular. At the bottom, Bob shows me Newspaper Rock, a large petroglyph panel on the red rock created approximately 1,500 years ago by numerous, ancient cultures. Here we part ways, as Bob and Ginger head back to their beloved mountains, and I continue on towards the nearby Arches National Park. As luck would have it, my timing is just right. In the low evening light, the Arches are a stunning display of beauty. Riding through the towering, freestanding rocks and sandstone formations, for which the park is named, is like moving through nature's wonderland.
Taking some more of Bob's advice, I travel south along the Abajo Mountain Loop Road, which leads over a pass of 10,300 feet, towards Blanding. But before reaching town, the Recapture Reservoir lures me for a break and some swimming.