Riding on Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante

During my recent “Crazy-Awesome Motorcycle Adventure II,” our ride route included an iconic scenic road, Utah-12. It is 123 miles from its origin at Torrey, Utah, to Panguich.

When we rode Harleys on this road four years ago during “CAMA-I,” it was raining. I had a death-grip on the bars of my bike.

My riding partner “S” had to…

…stop very very often to wait for me to catch up. I would reach where he was, get off my bike to stretch out cramps, and reluctantly remount and ride on. There was no shelter or anywhere to get out of the rain. I probably did not ride more than 20 – 25mph.

All I could do was hang on and endure a ride that was miserable. Not because I was wet — actually, my rain gear and boots kept me dry — but because I was so frightened. I did not see much of the scenery this road is known for. It took us 6 hours to ride the 123 mile length of this road — do the math, that’s an average of 20 miles per hour.

I was determined this year to ride this road again and enjoy it. I am pleased my goal was reached and exceeded!

This year, we refueled our bikes and had lunch in Torrey, Utah, early — ready to enter Utah-12 just about noon.

The first half of the journey is deceptively calm and serene. The road flows gently downhill through moderate curves. It then enters a forest of deep canopy of tall trees. Cool, dark, and quite beautiful to be within a forest while you are actually within the desert that composes the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This area is some 1.8 million acres (though a size reduction is in dispute due to political interference in 2017 with reversal pending in 2021.)

Soon you “pop above” the tree line and reach the summit at 9,600ft (2925m). The view was breathtaking!

Then the next part of the journey continues through the Kaiparowits Plateau where you see layers upon layers of sedimentary rock made of sandstone. This view is dramatically different: stark, brilliant (glaringly so in full sun), and vast formations of rock… rock… rock… with little vegetation (small scrubs/no trees.)

The road also twist and turns as it goes downhill as much as 14% downgrade. Further, just inches from the side of the road, the cliffs drop as much as 1,000 feet (333m). With no guard rails, it is intimidating yet challenging to ride on.

But I did it! See two videos of this ride.

Video #1 is from the Summit along a ridge on the narrowest part of the road:

Video #2 is from mid-way down to the valley with lots of twist and turns:

Life is short: ride to overcome fears and fulfill goals.

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