A midnight Cherry Victory Cross Country is patiently poised in my garage, the nagging question is … where to go? Factoring in a few pit stops, breakfast, lunch, even an hour sight-seeing I draw a radius on the map of 12 hours to … Destination Unknown. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined a journey into the paranormal and surreal, to portals into a world of shapeshifters, goblins, and … brothels?
Taking this iron-butt approach, the initial route to destination unknown will be on super slab dodging cagers. Northern California? Been there done that. Interstate 10 east to Arizona? Also familiar terrain. But what’s this arc through Utah?, Probing the highlighted perimeter I scrutinize each and every town in its path. Salt Lake City, Provo, Soldier’s Summit, Helper and Price are all direct hits. These were never on my radar before. This is intriguing. It’s November and Utah gets weather, so I’ll be packing clothes, toiletries, a Nelson-Rigg rain-suit, even a 1st Heat electric vest. The new Victory Cross Country has the largest cargo capacity in its class (21 gallons) and I use every drop. Everything for a week’s trip including water, snacks, street shoes, laptop, camera, and even a tripod fits into the massive saddlebags.
Four States, 12 Hours, 737 Miles
Kickstand up at 7 a.m. with Missing Persons blasting the 40-watt stereo system, cruise control on, and I own the road. Interstate 15 to Las Vegas begets plenty of time to ponder this new Cross Country. In this author’s opinion Victory makes America’s best touring motorcycle, the Vision. Scrutinizing every detail of this new touring Victory, I will be a very tough critic but that’s why this journey is so apropos. Esthetically the Cross Country and Cross Roads visage is modern, stealth-fighter-like yet simultaneously more traditional. The new Victory cruisers now squarely target Harley’s Street Glide and Road King. Traveling hundreds of miles through arid desert requires a modicum of creature comforts: amenities like XM radio or iPod, the possible leg positions of cleverly designed floorboards and engine guards. With plush, comfortable seating and efficient fairing aerodynamics, the Victory Cross Country seems at home on such journeys, but more importantly, where is my home on this journey? Three-hundred-ninety-six miles into the unknown, I arrive in St. George, Utah. Time to take a serious break, eat lunch, and ruminate. What better place than the Seven Wives Inn to consider exactly where I’ll sleep tonight. Avoiding swirling sucking big city vortexes, Salt Lake and Provo are ruled out. Soldiers Summit, Helper, and Price squarely hit the perimeter. Soldiers Summit reveals a ghost town, population zero. Neighboring Helper has one hotel. I immediately book a room, it’s the perfect Destination Unknown. No one else is going there.
The terrain changes dramatically, Utah’s high desert is filled with mysterious Hoodoos and Buttes that loom like gothic spires harboring watchful gargoyles. Washington bureaucrats refused Utah’s admission into the union because having multiple wives was a federal offense. It wasn’t until 1897 that America’s 45th state finally renounced the practice and statehood was granted, 50 years after California! This terrain is downright spectacular and the comfortable ease with which the Victory Cross Country…crosses the country becomes apparent. Interstate 70 jags easterly to the 10 north towards Helper. The final stretch is arduous, but 110-watt high beams light the way. Seven-hundred-thirty-seven miles, 12 hours in the saddle, and destination is known: bed.
The Brothels of Utah
Enjoying a day of recuperation, I find Helper to be an amazing city. The most liberal, non-Mormon burgh in Utah, it seems Helper has always been a wild place with most of its five hotels operating as brothels until 1974. On April 21, 1897, Butch Cassidy robbed the Pleasant Valley Coal Company in nearby Castle Gate and stayed in Helper the day before. Nowadays Helper hosts a yearly arts festival, the Butch Cassidy Outlaw Car & Motorcycle Show, and in the future, a film festival. The owner of the Utah Hotel and the Balance Rock Café suggests I stay in its rooms where it houses visiting artists during the summer at the Helper Art Workshops. Recently renovated, the Utah Hotel is a historic building; in fact, the entire commercial district is on the National Historic Registry, even boasting a geological feature, Balance Rock. Downtown literally hasn’t changed for 100 years. Currently though, Helper is experiencing a renaissance and the former hotels of ill-repute are being renovated into art studios and living spaces. There are plans to renovate the historic Strand Theater to its original glory. The Rio Theatre, a fully equipped and professional stage, currently hosts performances. Home of the Western Mining & Railroad Museum, Main Street Helper is right out of a movie set. The days of the Private Club are gone and new bars serve up shots and serious mixed drinks. Utah’s Wasatch Brewery makes a dark beer called Devastator that’s 8 percent alcohol and its Polygamy Porter motto (“Why Have Just One?”) proves this ain’t your daddy’s Utah. Helper is a rider’s paradise centrally located for day trips. We discuss planning a Save the Strand Theatre motorcycle rally, featuring classic biker films such as Easy Rider and The World’s Fastest Indian. I even meet resident actor Morgan Lund who had a part in it, but that’s another story.