Open Road: Part 2
A Tale of Monumental Misadventure in the Heart of Southern Utah
By Kevin Rouse
Photography by Ross Downard
Ed. Note: If you missed Part One, be sure to catch up here
Wind Tunnel Time Machine
We started the morning with a bit of breeze, but by the time we put wheels to pavement, we had a veritable tropical storm on our hands. To call it a slog would definitely have been an understatement. Not too far down the road, I found myself spouting off with just about every choice phrasing I’d picked up through a combination of a few summers of construction work and a deeply ingrained appreciation for the more colorful words in the English language. Add in the expletives coming from Siggins and Rob Harries—this morning’s addition to the crew and another amiable Coloradan—and we were performing a masterful cursing concerto.
Suffice it to say, the first day was not painting a bright future for the rest of the trip. With Siggins quite literally throwing his cares to the wind and hopping into the van and Harries and I doing our best just to stay upright, you might call the pace standstill at best. And the wind only seemed to be getting stronger. Not that it was any consolation, the route out of Moab should have afforded us with views fit for the pages of National Geographic, but despite the rugged beauty of our surroundings, we found ourselves blaspheming it based merely on its elevation profile—false-flat inclines and headwinds make for a thoroughly sadistic combination. Limping along, we lost track of space and time, lost instead in our own individual mantras of masochism.
Pulling into the aptly named Devil’s Canyon campground hours later under the thankful tow of the seemingly indomitable Mr. Harries—never mind the fact that snow was just disappearing in Durango and that it was one of his first rides of the year—we were greeted with a friendly howl from Delilah and the plinking of BBs off of an empty can of 3.2-percent Pabst Blue Ribbon. This definitely wasn’t McFee’s first rodeo. A quick trip into the nearby town of Blanding for dinner and supplies—really just a few plastic army men to shoot back at the campsite—found us marveling at the salad-bar selection at Fatboyz Grill, one of the town’s finer establishments. It’s doubtful any of us will ever see such an impressive stockpile of pepperoni, bacon bits and iceberg lettuce ever again.
Highway to Hanksville
With 120 miles on the docket, and Siggins and I being the only riders who felt like risking another tango with fate at Fatboyz, we elected to let Harries take off ahead with the rest of the riders on the trip, a group of coaches from Carmichael Training Systems. So, venturing back to Fatboyz for a proper Utahn breakfast—which we discovered consists invariably of unbelievably bad coffee and enough grease to fry a large animal—we disparaged our digestive tracts for the second time in 12 hours.
After a soul-searching trip to the shitter, Siggins and I set out with more than a bit of intestinal uncertainty. Settling in, we were met with calm winds, crisp temps and clear views. It’s remarkable what the mind blocks out with its senses deadened by gale-force winds. What a day earlier seemed merely fodder with which to torment our souls, today was transformed into endless panoramas, punctuated by stark sandstone mesas rising, nearly vertically, up through crystal-clear skies. A harsh, unforgiving topography to be sure, it only commanded that much more respect and was clearly host to a beauty all its own. Deeply immersed in the very landscape that had fueled so many of the writings of Edward Abbey, it made quick work capturing our imaginations as well.
In Desert Solitaire, one of Abbey’s most famous works, he writes, “A man on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.”
We couldn’t help but find ourselves in complete agreement, lulled into a removed sense of amazement that bordered on an opioid-induced stupor as we took in a rich palette of crimsons, pinks, purples and golds—all painted brilliantly upon mile after mile of pristine canvas laid out ahead of us. Passing magnificent formations with every curve of the road, we were thoroughly humbled by their unnervingly perfect lines. Silent survivors, these formations are remnants of the Triassic era, and their current forms the product of eons of erosion.
Forging ahead, we were blessed with a tailwind that found itself raging harder than a wounded bull, allowing us to regularly hit 40 miles-per-hour for miles at a time. With our efforts the day before kindly being repaid in full and ear-to-ear grins quickly taking up an extended residence on our faces, the bitter memories were melting away as quickly as the day’s mileage.