I woke up early and in the continual effort to slow down I decided I would stop by Arches National Park in Moab, UT. I poured myself a coffee from the Motel 6 office and went out to the Brick. I checked all of the fluids and I was stunned to realize that after all of these miles the bike lost absolutely zero coolant and almost no oil. While I was checking the lifeblood of the bike, my helmet slipped off of the seat. The drop only put a small dent in one of the intake vents on the top, but I hoped this was not a foreshadowing of a more horrific incident yet to come.
I headed out on 70 and picked up 191. The ride was under an hour so I made it to the park quickly. I pulled into the office parking lot and figured I would get a feel for the lay of the land before just tearing into the park. The office reminded me of something out of Jurassic Park – a commercialized treatment of things that were created hundreds of thousand of years ago. The arches were named and the trails on the map were highlighted for best viewing. I wondered who came up with the Disneyfied names.
Looking at the map it was clear there was no way I could tour the whole park. The road in covered a distance of 33 miles and I had to get to Boulder before too long. I took the guidance of the map and chose the two-hour tour. I drove the Brick into the park. The roads were amazing but the 25mph speed limit kept me from getting carried away on the curvy steep inclines. I stopped at the La Sal Mountains viewpoint, The Organ, the Courthouse Towers Viewpoint, and the Tower of Babel. Each of these sites stunned me with their epic size and beauty. I had never looked upon anything even remotely close to these large formations before me.
I drove further to The Windows Section and hiked around the trials. I took the path titled “Primitive Trail” as opposed to the “Main Trail”. I was on an adventure so I figured I’d do it right. I was amazed to not run into anybody on the Primitive Trail. There were tour buses parked and people wandering around, but nobody shared the path less travelled. Walking towards the back of the arched formation, I looked out on the horizon and saw a wide uninhabited expanse. The sheer size of this vista was mind-boggling. There was not a single person in my view as far as I could see. I never thought of my size as a person in relation to the world, but standing in this barren land made me feel small. I thought about the gods looking down on me on my motorcycle buzzing across the desert plains. I must appear as a speck to them – the smallest and most insignificant object not even worthy of distraction.
I hiked around up to the back of arched features. I was amazed by how the structure looked like a pair of large glasses. I took a few pictures with my iPhone and while I did this I saw I had a few emails. One of the emails was from my bass player Brian who announced that his new son was born. There was a picture attached and looking at it caused me to be overcome with emotion. I am out here among these unreal creations of nature and my friend sends me a picture of his beautiful new creation. I stared out at the expanse again and I don’t think I’ve ever felt more insignificant. What was I doing out here? I walked back towards my bike and crossed the path of a gaggle of fanny packed tourists with their son and daughter in tow goofing around and laughing. I walked by sadly, realizing that I would never have that moment. I’m 47 and the years are clicking by like miles on an odometer. I have talked with Brian about this before. He reminds me of the cliché about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence. Sure I don’t have kids but he can’t take off and go cross-country either. Standing by the Arches my grass didn’t look so green, in fact I picked up a handful of sand and let it run through my fingers. It wasn’t green and it’s not even grass. I’m a wanderer leaving nothing behind, blowing from town to town, my whereabouts unknown to anybody but myself. No roots, no grass, just sand blowing over rock, always in motion and never settling down.
I swallowed the lump in my throat and boarded the brick. I drove further into the park and although I was still amazed, the views were a lot of the same terrain. My mind was overloaded by too much ingestion of grandeur. A couple of adventure bikers passed me with their bikes loaded down like pack mules. As they dropped into one of the canyons, the rider directly in front of my stood up on his foot pegs and held his arms out wide in a Christ like pose. He was so happy to be driving and seeing this terrain. His enthusiasm made me laugh. This rider never knew how much joy he gave me with this action. His pose was a lesson about how we can affect the world in a positive way without even knowing.
I made an attempt to see the Delicate Arch but the walking path was 1.5 miles so I decided against seeing it. I turned around and left the park and got back to the highway. I drove for a distance and I was getting hungry. I pulled off at an exit that seemed like a place that might be interesting. The town was Thompson Springs, UT and it was desolate. There were hotels and cafes that were gutted and dilapidated. I wondered how a town gets this way. What caused this place to fall into to disrepair and become vacant of all human life? The buildings looked as thought they could be completely serviceable with a little effort. But the success of a town hinges on commerce. Perhaps there was a resource that the town once had that had dried up. Whatever the reason was didn’t matter. This was a ghost town now. A place emptied of all life. The hope that once lived here was gone. I turned back onto the highway and left in search of food.
I ended up at a place called Otto’s but I just missed lunch and they would not serve me. I was starving so I turned to my fast food arsenal. A Taco Bell appeared in the distance and I deliriously drove towards it. I ordered the Doritos Locos Combo meal. This sounded delicious on paper: a taco with a Dorito for the shell? No brainer! But the take away from this meal was to never and combine too many spectacular things. I love Taco Bell tacos and I love Doritos, but the two together made me sort of sick and if you have been following these pages, that takes a lot of doing.
With my hunger sated, I headed back to Boulder, Colorado to stay with my friend Pete again. I stayed with him on the way out and he was kind enough to put me up again. We had a great conversation over a delicious rib dinner at the West End Tavern. I had not seen him in several thousand miles and I had many stories to tell. I told him about how I would roll into a town and talk to the locals, and how they all seemed so open and unguarded when talking to me. Pete posed that this was because they knew they would never see me again and were more apt to open up because of this anonymity. I was the travelling therapist serendipitously healing others as I healed myself. Hearing the stories of others reminded me of how genuinely lucky I am to have the great things in my life that I have.
I rambled on about my travels to Pete and he never seemed to tire of my stories. The check came and he insisted on paying up the bill. He had picked up damn near every check on my first time through. I asked him why. Pete said, “Somebody helped me when I took and amazing journey. Now I am doing this for you. You will meet somebody on an adventure one day, a person trying to reach further. You can help them.” This idea of “paying it forward” resonated with me. If the attitude of the world were more like Pete’s, what a better place this planet would be.
I wasn’t long for the evening. I was only spending the night and I had a long haul the next day, so I turned in relatively early. I climbed into the airbed on the bottom floor of the condo and I thought about the words and actions of Pete. He changed me tonight, and if there is anything I have learned from this trip it is that I will try to be more giving and more generous. I will try and contribute to the world more than ever. Maybe I’ll manufacture a plastic bracelet inscribed with the letters WWPD to remind me, “What would Pete do?” I smiled and let out an audible laugh that mixed perfectly with the song of the crickets as I fell into a relaxing sleep. I had no need for dreams – I was out here on the road living them.
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Green River to Boulder – 404 Miles