"Let's go through Sedona!" Glenn Bartels
It was the last thing I wanted to hear after an epic 600-plus-mile day through Wyoming and western Colorado to get us to Monticello, Utah. Why? To get to a good starting point the next day for one of my favorite rides in the world: SR-95 through Utah, followed by Capitol Reef National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument, and sliding past the edge of Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. Sedona, Arizona, didn't fit into that plan.
For those just joining us, I was on a trip from Sturgis, South Dakota, to Los Angeles with two of my older brothers (Glenn and Scott Bartels) and one newly adopted brother for this trip (Leo Hartog). Before the ride ever started, I sent a number of possible option routes (via Google Maps) through everywhere from Idaho to New Mexico, and I probably sent one or two too many. Just two days before Glenn's decision to reroute us through Arizona, I'd painstakingly picked Monticello as a perfect spot to begin a near-flawless 450-mile ride across southern Utah. I'd never pulled it off in a single day before, always either taking too long to get started in the morning, or simply timing it wrong and doing part of it at night, which misses the awesome scenery and occasionally almost impales you on the local wildlife.
So perfectly positioned, up early in the morning, at one end of the road, 800 miles from home doesn't happen very often, but I folded anyhow. I shouldn't even be complaining, since the ride we did do that day through Valley of the Gods, Monument Valley, Flagstaff, Sedona, and finally Jerome was spectacular, and a good, restfully short 350-mile day after a couple of hard-charging days. But I'll get to that in the next episode. For now I'm going to focus on the ride I didn't do with my brothers.
As it happens, just two weeks prior I'd done the eastern section of the ride (Utah SR-95). As on so many of my trips through this area, I didn't get started in time. I had done a photoshoot in western Colorado, which was followed by a late lunch in Monticello. It was probably 4:30 by the time we headed south on US-191 to catch SR-95 just south of Blanding, Utah. On this trip, I was with another virtual brother, Brad, who you've doubtless seen on these pages either on Mike Calabro's Hell Ride or on his custom Street Glide which graced the cover awhile back (June '09), and Brad's riding buddy, Michael.
Brad and I had been down this stretch of road in reverse on the Hell Ride, so it was old hat...albeit a very, very nice old hat. Utah's SR-95 is one of the unheralded great roads in the country. Its whole length is very sparsely populated, with no power lines or other hallmarks of civilization. From the east it starts off in rolling hills covered with little piney sagebrush, which in itself is pretty, but the whole scene changes once you drop into Fry Canyon. Fry is a wide canyon carved by one of the Colorado River's many small tributaries, surmounted on both sides by soaring red cliffs, and bisected by a fairly deep gorge. The road stays between the southwestern bank of the stream and the rock wall. It's not particularly twisty, but very scenic. The town of Fry Canyon is the only habitation, a former uranium boomtown turned ghost town when the ground water was discovered to have unacceptable radiation levels. The Fry Canyon Lodge is again in business (trust us, it's safe!), but we stayed elsewhere.
As Fry Canyon yields to the spectacular White Canyon of the Colorado proper, the road gets more entertaining...or scary if you're not into twists and turns. The colorful walls grow nearer as the road approaches the northern end of Lake Powell. The Hite Crossing Bridge that SR-95 crosses marks the northern end of the huge man-made lake, and the continuation of the Colorado River to the east. Dropping down between the red walls that had so far just been flanking us from afar was impressive, but so was the view from the bridge a mere 200 feet above the massive lake.