Chopper Charlie: Choppering

What Started As A Ride To A Rally Turned Into Something We Never Expected

Article By: Chopper Charlie

Originally Published In The September 2016 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

Hot. Really damn hot. This was all I could think about when we were crossing State Highway 24 across Utah a few days back. The lunar landscape offering no reprieve from the sun, the air temp of 115 feeling cool in comparison to the unimaginable heat blasting back at us off the black top road and our air cooled Harley-Davidson motors. So hot I swear I could feel my hair melting to my scalp. It is times like these that you seriously start to question a motorcycle as a form of transportation. I believe it’s been over a hundred years since Henry Ford started building something called a car. Since then, they have become quite luxurious with accoutrements such as cooled seats and air conditioning. Hell, most of these four wheeled contraptions even have a radio. Along with the introduction of the car came a whole slew of intelligent people choosing an effective and comfortable mode of transportation over the less comfortable and slower horseback method. But alas, there are still a few holdouts waiting to see if this whole “car craze” sticks around, and until then, we will ride motorcycles. While unnecessarily subjecting ourselves to extreme heat, cold, rain and wind we stare at the poor saps in their climate controlled, leather seat clad enclosed vehicles and think to ourselves, “Suckers!” Who do they think they are? Being all comfortable and what not. I suppose there are a slew of reasons to choose a motorcycle but comfort certainly isn’t one of them. This all being said, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Over the course of this past extended weekend we experienced both unworldly heat and frigid cold. Not bone chilling cold, but just enough to piss you off when you know full well that resting nicely in your closet, 700 miles away, sits all the gear to be completely comfortable. Our ride took us from our garage in Boulder, Colorado to Yellowstone National Park, a destination we never had in mind. You see, we left Colorado with two friends and the intention of riding with them to the Elko Jamboree. The problem though is that Kayla and I are easily distracted by pretty things. When we awoke from our slumber the second morning of our trip in Jackson Hole, Wyoming (still on course with our planned ride to Elko) we soon found ourselves riding the wrong direction, not entirely on accident, but certainly with no intentions of bailing on our friends. It didn’t take long for us realize that we had ventured nearly 150 miles in the wrong direction, through Grand Teton National Park and deep into Yellowstone.

Apparently our plans had changed, and at this point, Elko wasn’t really on our minds. The craggy peaks of the Tetons, the blue green Sulphur pools of Yellowstone and the fresh mountain air drew us in like kids in a candy store and we couldn’t say no. Natural beauty of this magnitude conjures a sense of wonder making it nearly impossible to think about being anywhere else. Geysers such as Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic pools and cool mountain streams provide a dramatic contrast to the rugged mountains looming just to the south and a gentle reminder that we were literally standing on top of a very active volcano. I had to chuckle a little as we sat with nearly a thousand other tourists waiting patiently for Old Faithful to go off, which, by the way, was 9 minutes late from the estimated eruption time, thinking to myself that people came from all over the world to stand on top of a volcano with no estimated time of violently exploding leaving us all cast in place by molten lava with looks of surprise on our faces. It’s a bit like charging to people to stare down the barrel of a shotgun with a finicky trigger. It’s going to go off at some point. Regardless, Yellowstone National Park is arguably one of the most beautiful places on earth and well worth the risk involved.

Not wanting to chance fate any longer we decided it was time to leave the bubbling caldron below us and head for more stable parts of the country. But to where? Someplace a bit warmer is all we really knew and with a quick glance at the map Zion National Park grabbed our attention. Neither one of us had been there, it was warm and there were a couple of roads across Utah I’ve been wanting to ride. That’s pretty much all we needed to make our decision. So, with the wind howling from the south we pointed our bikes straight into it and barreled across Wyoming towards Utah in search of warmer air. It wasn’t long before the mercury in the thermometer crept its way closer to the top and Hwy 189 proved to be everything one would expect from Wyoming. Vistas with views for miles, rolling hills and gale force winds is as quintessential Wyoming as it gets. 100 mile stretches of solitude provide ample time to ponder the meaning of life, do some soul searching and figure out why I keep losing my oil tank mounting bolts. I still don’t know the meaning of life, I did do some soul searching and well, I’m still missing a mounting bolt. Better luck next time I suppose. Despite my inability to spiritually maximize this ride across Wyoming and instead opting for a more juvenile approach of just loving to ride motorcycles on wide open roads, I crossed every mile marker with a smile on my face knowing there was no other place I would rather be. 8ish hours and 400ish miles later we opted to call it quits in Provo, Utah. Doing what hardcore bikers do we headed straight to the nearest Days Inn, grabbed a burger and milkshake at Burger Supreme, took much needed showers and went to bed.

Utah is one of those states that I feel is a bit under appreciated. Sure, it might be a nightmare to find a cold beer, Mormon underwear seams excessively large and multiple wives sounds like torcher for everyone involved but there are some redeeming qualities. For example, Utah has five national parks, 43 state parks and plenty of wide open spaces. With landscapes ranging from cool, high elevation lush mountains to the filming location for The Martian there is no shortage of diversity. Zion National Park, arguably being the crown jewel of Utah, did nothing short of leaving us breathless. Following Hwy 89 virtually the entire way there made our arrival into the park beyond pleasant. As the road turned from grey to red we passed through the gates of the park and entered another world. Rock walls soaring high into the blue bird skies lined the road, gently yet sternly channeling us to natural wonders at every bend, and there were a lot of bends. Suddenly though the skies went dark, the road narrowed and the pavement degraded as we entered a long tunnel neither one of us expected. 1.1 mile later we were ejected onto the top of a red serpentine road that twisted and turned its way to the base of Zion Canyon.

Typically, Zion Canyon road is a shuttle bus only road, transporting tourists to the numerous drop off points where you then hike to destinations, but having the not so “roughing it” trip that we were having we opted to ride up the canyon, grab a room at the Zion Lodge and get the red pass allowing us to ride the canyon road. This didn’t really gain us much though since Zion is definitely a hikers’ park. So, after learning that our motorcycles were pretty useless at this point, we strapped on our hiking shoes and walked nearly 6 miles of trails. I’ll say this, Zion is amazing, it truly is, but we needed more time. I absolutely foresee a second trip back to hike further in. What started as a ride to a rally turned into something we never expected. We found ourselves rejuvenated by these National Parks, an aura of excitement surrounded us as we seemingly stumbled our way into a new personal challenge, to visit all the National Parks. Despite the fact that we have already been to other parks we opted to start over with a new set of rules. We must truly explore what each park has to offer and spend a night within it’s boundaries, therefore preventing us from being able to do a marathon run and hit them all in a year. There are 58 National parks, each unique and beautiful in its own natural way. 3 down, 56 to go and countless memories lie ahead.

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