I think there is something in our biking DNA, something that makes us wander and drives us to spirited adventure. We may be our nation's last living symbol of the American free spirit, exploring the frontier and what the heck ever comes our way. Fortunately, there are still parts of this country that seem untouched by civilization, wild and ancient, and otherworldly lands.
We are always looking for the next particular place to go, the next ride of a lifetime, something beyond imagining. About once in every 10,000 biker man-hours of riding, a destination appears, a confluence of bizarre rock formations, endless horizons brushed in every tone and tint of red and orange, and a naked landscape that holds the souls and bones of creatures from another space in time.
When you ride the red stone canyonlands of the Southwest, it feels like you've crossed over to another world. I know such places are not supposed to exist, but they do. The desert wonderlands draw you in, sinking mile after mile deeper into a land where little is what it seems.
It can be difficult to pack for a ride through some 300 million or more years of geologic time, or choose the right bike for the task. This is why baggers come in so handy; you can squeeze in cold, hot and wet weather gear, and believe me, you'll need all three.
It can rain like crazy in the desert during monsoon season (usually mid-July to mid-September). A motorcycle with a range of at least 131 miles on a tank is paramount. This is because the longest stretch of gas-barren road I've ridden was in Utah from Hanksville, just outside Capitol Reef National Park, to Mexican Hat, a distance of 131 miles as my Victory Vampire flew. I rolled into this town on the San Juan River thirsty and thankful to find the fluid so essential to life in the badlands-gasoline.
This reinforces part of an old biker creed-get gas every chance you get. If you don't, you might find yourself dazed, squeezing the bones of the last creature to die out there in some heat-stroked attempt at wringing out some crude oil.
When crossing hundreds of miles of a burning desert that once lay at the bottom of the sea, things can appear through the wavy haze of heat, amazing, soul shaking things, great visions and small monsters that exist only to bite, sting, and drain the life from your body.
Mirages will rise up in the horizon, seeming as real as the steel and iron huffing beneath you, then vanish in the next blink of a tired, dusty eye.
This is the Great Basin of the ageless Southwest, where nothing is as it seems.
Infinite expanses of petrified sand and rusted rock, cacti, and eternal sky spread out before you, seducing the unwary traveler with the matchless excitement and wonder of an undiscovered frontier. Beware its sweet, deceitful kiss.
The high plains desert is as engaging and beautiful as it is cruel and deadly. It will beguile you, bend your mind with unearthly colors and contorted shapes of tortured stone. These are the remains of another world and eons of hidden time. They can betray reason and good sense. Anything can happen here, and it usually does.
This is a haunting wasteland, little-known territory that invokes the explorer in anyone who has thrown a leg over a saddle. I gathered an expeditionary team. This was an undiscovered world to my compatriots. We would glide across its dried seas on swift desert ships: the monster-motor Suzuki M109R, the smooth and cushy Yamaha Royal Star Venture, a couple of Harleys and my ride, the rabid Victory Vampire-land-worthy vessels all.
We rolled north out of the red rock wonderlands of Sedona, Arizona, up Oak Creek Canyon, one of the prettiest stretches of road in the country, then a jog east along Route 66 through Flagstaff, continuing north to the old trading post at Cameron.