I awoke the next morning on the lovely shore of Lake Powell, the world's most controversial body of water. Critics of the lake deride the flooding of what some had considered to be the most beautiful of Utah's canyon country for the eventual benefit of the Phoenix-area car wash industry. However, one does have to admit that the lake is beautiful in its own right, and its also the only place in the world where one can explore a slot canyon in a houseboat and scuba dive to Anasazi cliff dwellings. In a strange twist, the lake also serves as the Daytona Beach of the southwest and so is patrolled by fleets of slowly drifting, amphibious frat parties.Today I had a ferry ride to look forward to (Wait. I think I just sounded like a five-year old there.), as it is the only practical way (besides a two-hundred mile drive) to get to the opposite side of the drink. I was feeling like a real outlaw after riding the Burr trail the day before; that is, until I met a family with a toddler at the ferry dock who had just driven the trail in a Saab sedan with a huge trailer in tow. To save my ego I convinced myself that they were lying through their teeth. Regardless, the ferryman happily took fifteen bucks from honest man and liar alike; and soon we were all cast together aboard the proud and foam-streaked USS John Atlantic Burr for passage across the pond to a land where a man's potential is only constrained by the size of his water bag.
Once on board, a ranger in the truck behind me got out, stopped in his tracks, looked at my mud-spattered VA plates, than up at my disheveled self, paused for a moment, and then said,
"Well, it looks like you're having fun!"
He then agreed to snap a pic while I waited for my daiquiri poolside:
The Goodwill Fall Collection. Now available
The view from my hammock
On the far shore I realized that I had been duped, as the only street in sight was paved with thirty miles of neglected asphalt through a sagebrush plain instead of with the gold that I had been promised back on the Dublin docks.
But I pressed on nonetheless, and at an isolated crossroads further on I ran into Patrick; at his essence just a sun-glasses wearing dude from Grand Junction out for a few days on his red motorcycle. He didn't know where he was going and neither did I, but unfortunately we were aimlessly wandering in opposite directions and soon parted ways after a roadside smoke.
But, as legions of bumper stickers on 1987 Civic hatchbacks will attest to, Not All Who Wander are Lost, and my now sweat-soaked itinerary sheet had one more volley of giggles in store for me: Muley Point, the Moki Dugway and the Valley of the Gods-the three attractions that put the greater Mexican Hat, Utah area on the map!
Muley Point is an out of the way precipice on the edge of Cedar Mesa, looking out over the serpentine canyon of the San Juan River thousands of feet below and beyond that, Monument Valley in Arizona. At this point in the trip I had gotten over riding for the sake of riding, so I bounced down the dirt track to Muley Point in the early afternoon, and after inattentively riding through the middle of a romantic picnic (sorry!), I threw a pair of frozen burritos on my exhaust pipe to defrost for dinner, laid down my sleeping pad at the edge of the abyss and slept away the afternoon.
I awoke in the late afternoon and was greeted by unbelievable views, and as often happened on this trip, I had the place almost to myself.
That night was my final time sleeping on the ground in the desert. The milky way was out in full-force, the occasional ESPN satellite coasted across the sky, and in the distance, across miles of darkness, the towers of Monument Valley were glowing in the moonlight.
The next morning, I hopped over to the mesa rim in my sleeping bag and watched the sun illuminate the plain below:
Sunrise on the US-Navajo Nation border
First on the docket this morning was the Moki Dugway-a prime example of the power of branding. In reality the Dugway is nothing more than a steep set of switchbacks down the side of Cedar Mesa; built again by the Uranium men, without the efforts of whom, I was convinced of by this point in the trip, Utah would have been left completely roadless.
But with a name like the Moki Dugway, I didn't really care if it was a drive-thru pharmacy-I wanted to experience it. Luckily, it was right down the road from Muley Point so I was able to ride down in the early-morning cool.
My astrological sign is Vertigo
They dug it. I dig it.
At the bottom of the Dugway is the turn-off to the Valley of the Gods scenic road, a fifteen mile gravel road through a plain populated by giant sandstone mesas that are actually, according to the Navajos, supernatural beings frozen permanently in rock. Of course, all the really important deities are frozen down the street at Monument Valley, and we on US soil are left with the second stringers.
Now, bench-warming Gods or not, I was at the point in this trip where I was certain that if I never saw another sandstone monolith again it would be too soon. But, the road had the added benefit of taking me fifteen miles closer to the east coast, so I happily bounced down it. And, I must admit, it was quite pleasant.
The Patron Saint of Classroom Participation
Put us in coach, we're ready to play!
Well, there you have it folks, Mormon Trail Redux. It was now time to go home. I had been riding around, chain-drinking coffee, looking around at things and sleeping in odd places for 21 days now. "But Tom," you say, "That's almost identical to your routine at home." Well, I cant argue with you there, peanut gallery; but nevertheless, I still yearned for the comforts of home that can't be quantified, like the option of sitting down on something besides a sticky, four-inch wide vinyl seat, for instance. Or the freedom to pass two hours without a gas station being involved. Additionally, my brain had taken advantage of my copious sleep the day before to inform me in a vivid dream that it was no longer going to be able to accept any new scenery until the existing stockpile had either been organized or thrown away. I had been to the mountaintop as they say, had seen everything I had wanted to see and more, and all of it was more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. All I could do now was take to heart the immortal words of Horace Greeley; who, with a simple declaration spurred an entire generation to relative inactivity:
Go rest, young man.