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Old 07-13-2011, 12:44 AM   #1
kylerallen
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LA to Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles

Ah my first trip report on the famed Pashnit. I should make a disclaimer that this one doesn't have all of the good road details of other nice posts. The route was pretty simple and I have time for great side roads or discoveries. So I wanted to give some story and maybe you'll like it or not. Also I'm a pastor, and finally had a break from teaching and preaching -- so it does mention God!

I'll post more as I finish the other legs. Thanks in advance to other posters who inspired this trip -- your words and photos gave me the push and determination to hit the road, alone. The pictures take a while to come...but they might be worth it. So scroll or read


Last week I was convinced I was losing two of three jobs. My apartment building was up for sale and my teaching job looked grim at best. A co-worker was fired. Panic at the office was set in strong like a bear trap around a snapped ankle. People I knew were set to lose their livelihoods as well as their casas. Some had kids and others had spouses and though I have neither, I have a mission full of kids and that was looking compromised. It is high time to pull up the anchor on Southern CA, it seemed, and set sail, losing the motorcycle Mecca that sits under the tall palms and dry, bright sun.

Some time before this fierce, rabid attack on all I had, I had planned a several day run somewhere east, into Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. I had drawn up the routes, revised them, edited again, counted mileage, and later scrolled through late night runs on pashnit.com. New saddlebags and tires, leather pants, and first aid kits had been ordered. I even went to REI to buy some wickable clothes and a camelback. There was more to do but when the panic set in hard I rushed the gear back for cash.

I was teaching the last day, Thursday, and was set for being fired. Maybe a severance package was waiting, a few weeks or perhaps a month if I was lucky. The other girl got less but my boss eats women for breakfast. Closing meeting came and went and it turns out I had a job and some thanks and... Texts came blinking on the Blackberry, the apartment deal fell out of escrow. Getting into my car in the parking garage, I dropped the top, trunk full of teaching gear I didn’t think I’d need again and headed up past Griffith Park to the 5 North and home. Drinks were in order. I didn’t know if I wanted to scream or scream. Lord, is it right to rocket off at this crossroads? Maybe a slighter run up the PCH would do fine or some central CA camping? Get out there for a just a few days and blow up and come back and get cracking on resumes. This storm cloud would roll back around old boy. This is no time to get greedy.

“Don’t let it bring you down, it’s only castles burning,” sang Neil Young through my laptop speakers while I sipped a whiskey and looked over the Google map. A friend texted in, “Go, go, when else are you getting this time?” Another text lit up, “There is always work and this can itself be mission and enhance the current one, so go!” Friday I bought new grips at the local Honda dealer, along with two pairs of FOX long socks, and an emergency tire inflator. Saturday I dropped by my mechanic to put on the new grips—the Aprilia ones are a torture device. He wasn’t around. I waited around at Denny’s and called him repeatedly. Nothing. This was it so I ended up spending over $50 to have them put on at the Honda dealer. They had to set so I got a ride home and took the bus back to pick the Tuono up. Just made it in time to church. I preached and led at the Saturday service, came outside and had a flat tire. Switched them in sweat and drove home preciously. Once home, I was torn between sketching out more plans for the run and finishing the sermon and Power Point for Sunday. Ah temptation. I slept around 3am and woke up at 7.

The next day I couldn’t get out of town because of my apartment job. New tenants and tenants with exploding water heaters, searches for keys, maintenance, repairs, heated calls, texts, and then before I knew it, it was after 4pm. Stuffing what I could get into the saddlebags, I also counted out coin and loaded batteries into the camera, slamming both into the small back pack I’d been using since Thailand. Hand full of bungees, I headed outside, already sweating in the LA sun. Bags attached, helmet on, leather jacket zipped, it was 5pm. I gassed at the Shell, chugged down a Snapple peach tea and strapped a Gatorade on the back. I hit the 5 South and hoped for the best.

The 5 turned into the 134 and then the 210 East. The 210 was packed. I wondered how far I was going to get. The destination was Mesquite, some 80 odd miles past Vegas. An accident in the car pool lane choked up the 210. A commuter van had slammed into a car, both crashing into the dividing wall in a horrific, costly mess. We all swerved around while the rubberneckers and texters shuffled their feet in idiocy. It was a rough run out of LA. I kept looking down at the clock and up at the dipping sun.

"We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the…began to take hold." No lawyer though. Just me and this unlikely touring partner, a naked 2005 Aprilia Tuono, with some windscreen and loaded up. It was way after 7pm and the sun was dipping low. I drank up and gassed up. This would be a long, recurring theme of fluids. I always kept something strapped on the back, tucked inside the net, wrapped over the bags.

The I-15 is a sad revelation. It’s a hot, long run on superslab that is a circus of freaks. Boiled radiators explode, cars sit stunned on the sidelines. The shoulders are full of jalopies and sad, new cars, all broken in pieces. Cars are in ditches along Hell’s Highway. Sad folk sit stranded on the banks, heads held in hands. Up some ways on the opposite side an older Toyota minivan was engulfed in flames. The black carcass was soaked in red-orange hotness steaming up into the hot sky. CHP were on the scene and the family stood stupefied. I zoomed on into the falling night.

Somewhere deep into I-15 I stopped at a rest stop. I think it was Indian Wells. I had tried playing some sort of Neil Young meets Easy Rider soundtrack from my phone but my headphones were hot, wet, and slippery and didn’t work. I had been listening to Jimi Hendrix, Dylan, and Cash in a half of one tinny ear hole for the past 100 miles. I chugged down a Mountain Dew as the last bit of sun dipped down low. I rolled in the earplugs, pushed the hot helmet back down, and mounted up.

Outside of Las Vegas, construction slowed things down to nothingness. I thought lane splitting was illegal but did my best to skirt and slide up where I could. The lights were bright beyond and the trucks started to heave and the cars pushed and we moved, a hot mass of steel over concrete, the working trucks blowing steam into the sky. Vegas is a surreal oasis of could be dreams and lights. The air was an oven and we rolled through baking. Slipping into the express lane is the best you can do, while everyone shuffles off to their casino resort of choice.

Past Vegas, the traffic dies and the sky and stars come full up. There is the silence of the lone wind howling through your vents. No lamps overhead. There is just blackness through tiny hills rolling up and all night truckers blowing past you. I stuck close to a Jetta cutting across the desert, using him and his lights like a fullback. Animals and ghosts seem to linger behind bends and you can’t see a thing. I breathed and sighed and rolled the throttle back. A lot of thoughts rush up in the desert in the dark.

Three hundred miles I counted. Three twenty five. Three thirty, stop looking down son. Three forty. Somewhere around here I stopped for gas. I emptied and orange juice and a Gatorade and strapped another on back. I could see already why people recommended the camelback. You are constantly thirsty. I would end up spending crazy on liquids.
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Old 07-13-2011, 12:48 AM   #2
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Re: LA to Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles

I gassed up and bought two large Powerades for $2. I talked to an elderly Goldwing couple with a trailer while downing one drink. They had no jackets. They both were lathering on sun block. They had come this far from Michigan so who was I to judge? I envied their plush seats but not their weight or…but still, they had it right. They were heading to LA, and I was headed to Zion. We exchanged smiles and mounted up, pulling out and hitting opposite freeways.
I hit I-15 North in Nevada and passing through Arizona and up into Utah. The road is a good blast some 49 miles through good land. My brain is toasted from the heat as I type this out but I think I remember going down and up through some good canyons with tall rocks. It was good, strong country all the same.


It was already steamy but the heat died down inside Utah. From there you enter Hurricane and head into Zion. I stopped before the park for lunch. I was starved and hot. Some places were closed so I ended up at a sports bar with a ton of memorabilia on the walls, a nice clean place. I chugged several tall glasses of iced tea while cagers enjoyed beers and margaritas. The grilled chicken salad was nice, if not spicy. I was in no hurry to leave the air conditioning and when traveling why rush? Yet there is always some push on the motorcycle. I had to make it to Bryce yet. Accents abounded, two tables of French, one of German, another of Dutch. All of these people coming to see the beauty of our America and yet this was my first run. Sad and amazing.
Even outside Zion you should be jaw dropped.
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Old 07-13-2011, 12:52 AM   #3
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Re: LA to Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles

Rolling into Zion I paid the $12 motorcycle fee. I thought a National Parks pass would be the best deal. It turns out I hit three parks and paid $24, but the $50 pass might still be worth it for you. Immediately you are hit by the grandeur and the majesty of rocks cut and designed by the hand of God. I used to get paid for writing words and well, heck, I still do actually, and many people have said I should get paid for photographs (www.fotographiakra.blogspot.com) though I don’t think so. Either way, you know and I know that words and snaps cannot capture the awe that is this place or the others coming up. You do your best to breathe it down and hopefully you can stop and breathe, look, feel, pray, remember, listen, and simply be.
From the get-go I had planned to see as much as possible. I saw the others writing about Monument Valley, the South Rim, Mexican Hat, Sedona, Flagstaff and the like. I sketched it out going to the South Rim and then back around. There was just no way. I had five days and a sport bike. I cut and re-cut the plans down to going north instead of south and up and around. So it would be Mesquite to Zion, Bryce, and then the North Rim, back to Vegas and then LA. There would be some 300 plus days, some 200. It would be bookended by the worst; the hot, long commuting days. I didn’t see how else to get it done and still see things. There is the point. I wanted to actually be in Bryce, Zion, and The Canyon. Less is more, though we all know that the riding is actually the seeing and doing and you’d be just as happy with as long a day in the saddle as you could manage that ended crashing into bed after a good meal.
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Old 07-13-2011, 12:55 AM   #4
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Re: LA to Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles

There are too many paragraphs and guides and illustrations explaining away the water and nature and effects of the beauty created inside Zion, then Bryce and the Grand Canyon. You can scan the columns and be wowed into a dizzy loopiness by all of the explanations, garnering a new understanding of how this all happened. I read plenty online and over breakfasts. Then you get there and the pictures spill into your head. You wonder, standing there, riding through on your horse, and looking up and down and feeling small, and thinking what in the world must have our Native brothers and sisters felt and thought coming up across this for the first, second and hundredth time?
Zion is a tour. You pass through. The traffic was light. The road crosses and rises and rises, tight and smooth and higher and higher. At the tunnels you wait while they motion people past on a one way pass. The tunnels are a sweet relief in the dark, with light penetrating though openings. Looking out you see the next hills across, jagged and sweet and colorful.
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Old 07-13-2011, 12:58 AM   #5
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Re: LA to Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles

Pulling the throttle back my mind reels back again to all of these expressions of explanations. Zion is a wonderful place where the sun and sky meet in swirled rocks. The papers from the government explain the causes but never the first cause. This pilgrimage is a soft revelation of beauty---why should we care about freaking rocks?
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Old 07-13-2011, 01:01 AM   #6
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Re: LA to Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles

The brochures and guides explain to us how it happened. Yet there is no explanation as to the why or the Who behind the rivers, ice, snow, and wind. Why should we be standing here gawking into stone? Zion started this bizarre survey into beauty as I rode up and up and then stood there overhearing gasps, exhales, whispers and outright explosions. “My God, so beautiful.” “How, why?” “This is a religious experience.” “Goodess.” “Amazing.” “Have you ever seen anything like this before?” “The majesty, the scale.” “Goodness gracious, can you believe this? “It’s simply stunning.” “Damn!”
Where do these exhales come from? Why should we find rocks so damn beautiful? Who says stones should cry out to us? Yet here we were. The park was worshipped. It sent me reeling. Why shouldn’t we see our maker in this creation? I pushed on. The Tuono was doing well. Past the tunnels the wonderfulness just widens out and I parked on the side. I lit a small cigar and exhaled myself. Lizards played on the rocks. I looked up and down. Trucks and campers hauled past. Hikers hiked up higher. The sun was full on and it was somewhere around 2pm. This is it, I thought. This was worth the desert push and the cars on fire.
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Old 07-13-2011, 01:05 AM   #7
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Re: LA to Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles

Taking the small bag, camera, money and lighter, I left the bike and journeyed out onto the rocks. I climbed up with the boots and over the rocks. The views got deeper and better, the solitude and wildness coming up. I exhaled and relit the cigar. Up over the next ledge was a good sitting place. I dropped the jacket. T-shirt and wind, jeans and boots, the cigar smell coming up and I leaned back and faced the sky, eyes closed. There was only the wind and the hawks and the sound of nothing happening. Breathe in, breath out. The motorcycle made this possible. God made this. He wiped over these rocks, His rivers cut them, His spirit colored it wildly. Here we are then…I leaned back and prayed. Look up into the sky. There is none of the LA bizarreness. It all makes sense out here. The quiet comes up softly and flows over the rocks and into you and you into it, and God speaks and you shut your pie hole and listen.

I sat there forever. There was nothing else. Snap photos, pray, smoke, think, let go. Who knew if jobs waited when I got back. Who cares? That’s not rebellion but reality. It matters little what schemes we now play when these ancient rocks speak out loud and whisper in windy gusts that spell out His plans. Be wise, my son, I heard, and you shall know the way through the desert of your life. Remember Jeremiah, Daniel, and even my favored Moses. These were broken, yet young souls who changed the world, their worlds, My world. Look at these swirled rocks. Look. You think I can’t change you, wiping out the moss and dross, and filling you with living water? Look. These dry bones yet will live. Look. Look. Look. I heard the sky calling. I inhaled and exhaled and the sky went cold for a second as I breathed it in. I sucked down the whole sky and exhaled a long puff of smoke and buried life. I saw it swirl above my face and then change into wisps above my head and then disappear.

It was time to mount up and go. I put the hot jacket back. I turned on and into the checkerboard of the next large rock. I snapped photos. I watched elderly people snap and then Germans and then a cute gay couple. It was time to push on. I checked the map on my phone. Straight. So let’s go…

Outside Zion there is this:
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Old 07-13-2011, 01:08 AM   #8
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Re: LA to Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles

I loaded up on gas and liquids. It was almost 100 miles onto Bryce. No chance to see Bryce today. Down a long ways I called. Was this right? Yes, only four miles off. I was advised to eat here. So I did. A good Angus burger with a salad and a local Utah heifeveizen. I must have looked freakish – sweaty, burnt and charred, face reddened, tired, and alone. Germans spoke English better than any of my students and I sat in a corner sucking it all down slowly. Few things are better than a decent meal after a meal and I still had a small adventure left for the night. I paid and skipped into the country store. I thought about picking up supplies and whiskey. No such luck. Trail mix, beef jerky, and some iced coffee would do though. This was Cannonville.

The last miles were twisted road though good country. I looked for that KOA sign. The sun dipped down behind the rocky backdrop. I checked in and paid another $5 for sheets and pillow. The guy was cool and loaded them on his four-wheeler and headed me back to the site. Back and back, and there was no one there when we arrived. My goodness it was gorgeous. Cliffs and a single teepee. I struggled to park the bike on the shifting sandiness. I threw the sheets and the important bag inside and left the bags on the bike. I headed down to check out the showers. A Korean family was cooking something lovely in the outdoor community kitchen. Goodness the bathrooms were clean and nice. It was past 9 and all the campers and cabin folk and tenters had long settled in. There was a single bathroom with toilet and shower. Hot water with the leftover hotel soap after a long day. Then a bath and a soak and reading for the next day. Camping with perks is good.

Back outside the sun was gone and it was pitch. There were no fires because of the strong wind. I had only a small headlamp. Back where I was it was empty. I put on jeans and rolled out the Bryce map on the picnic table, cracked the iced coffee and lit a good cigar. Bugs swarmed around the light and the bushes moved with wind or creatures. I read it all and enjoyed the smoke then turned off the light and enjoyed it even more with the stars full up and full on. Goodness.

All day I had gotten looks and some questions for being alone. I’ve seen other riders in packs, usually Goldwing caravans, some Harley trains, and others at least two-up. I guess it’s crazy in some books and not the best for safety. The thought of going down hard in the middle of the desert with no traffic passing and no cell phone signal is bad. Plus I like the Easy Rider two guy layout. I’d done it before and it is a long time to spend with a guy if all you got in common is riding. You got to share the same style, endurance, food choices, and attitudes about going/staying, camping, lingering, and lodging. You also got to talk over meals and at night.

Things like this night are just better alone. I had a lot more time to think. You had to wonder out here what it had been like for Natives and then cowboys, using the stars or just only having them at night for company. Being alone gave more time for praying too, journaling, starting Mere Christianity and listening. There was no one there to talk over the stars or my head softly exploding. When I couldn’t take anymore of the stars, I put out the cigar and crawled into my teepee. I read about Moses with the headlamp and listened to Neil Young as the temperature dropped. I slept in a jacket and jeans, sheet and blanket and my leather jacket over my feet. The wind howled and I hoped the bottom wasn’t as porous as it looked.

I woke up at 5am. The sun was coming over and the place was sleepy below. I walked around and snapped photos and then tried to sleep more. I woke up before 8 and got ready. I drank down a V-8 and orange juice from the little store and loaded a water on the back.
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Old 07-13-2011, 01:13 AM   #9
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Re: LA to Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles

I forgot this whole area BEFORE Bryce, Red Rocks or something. It's a state park I believe and on the way. Free and amazing in itself. You have to love the arches...Some old ladies wanted to take pictures with me. Then I pushed on to the teepee.
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Old 07-13-2011, 05:43 AM   #10
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Re: LA to Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles

Wow,
Very nice! Thanks for sharing.
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