We've lived in Arizona for 9 months and today was the first time we've seen the Grand Canyon, even though it's only a 2 hour ride away. "Grand" doesn't do it justice: the depth, length, width and sheer volume of sensory information that hit us when we stepped to the edge and looked out took our breath away.
We've been planning a trip to Boise, ID for the past 2 months, but until breakfast this morning we didn't plan on stopping at the Grand Canyon. Mike looked at the map and decided to change our plans for our initial route, which led us straight to the Grand Canyon.
This was our first trip with the Viking Cruise Roll Bag sent to us for testing and review by Motorcycle House. It fit snugly on top of our tail bag, held in place by the 4 bungee tie downs. I liked having outside zippered pockets for our maps and a bottle of water, and getting in and out of the large top opening was a breeze.
On the trip north to the Grand Canyon we rode in and out of the Kaibab National Forest, a 1.6 million acre forest that borders both the North and South rims of the Grand Canyon. We spotted 3 elk in the trees off to the side of the road and saw several large raptor nests at the very top of pine trees.
Because the Grand Canyon stretches almost 300 miles across Arizona, we followed Route 64 east even though our eventual destination lies west. We rode through the Painted Desert in the Navajo Nation, past mounds of stone that look like sand dunes, rock formations with striped colors, pink rocks with wavy patterns, and craggy cliffs with stripes of white, pink and brown.
My stomach growled for over an hour until we came to the Cameron Trading Post where we talked with a German leading a motorcycle tour group through the Southwest. We saw several groups of 10-15 motorcycles today, and discovered that many are Europeans traveling through the US.
I tried Navajo beef stew and fry bread the size of a dinner plate, and Mike ordered the prickly pear milkshake to go with a cheeseburger. Fry bread originated out of necessity when the US government forced the Navajo to leave their homeland in Arizona and resettle to New Mexico, a walk of several hundred miles known as the Long Walk. To prevent starvation, the government provided flour, lard and sugar and fry bread was born. I pulled off three small pieces to eat with the stew, then discovered the pool of oil on the plate and decided to skip the rest of the bread in favor of trying Mike's shake.
After lunch we continued north on 89 into Page, Arizona and caught glimpses of Lake Powell, created in 1963 when the Glen Canyon Dam was built across the Colorado River.
We crossed into Utah and rode along the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, another amazing area filled with sand dunes and rock cliffs in a variety of colors due to different minerals.
As we turned west onto Utah Route 14, we had no idea that we would climb to over 9,000' and the temperature would drop below 50 degrees. The road twisted and turned as it climbed out of the desert into the Dixie National Forest. We rode past steep green meadows dotted with Swiss-style chalets and rushing creeks filled with melting snow - although there is still snow blanketing the higher elevations.
We stopped at Navajo Lake, formed by lava flow millions of years ago. It's only 25' deep, and surrounded by fields of black basalt rocks.
We ended our 429 mile trip zooming down route 14 into Cedar City, UT, our stop for the night. At some points the sheer rock walls towered above us blocking out the late afternoon sun.
The day was filled with unexpected scenery, unplanned stops for photos and lunch, and chance conversations with motorcycle riders looking for adventure. Tomorrow we cross into Nevada, continuing our trip north.