This year my ride to STAR (June 21 - July 1, 2012) was a staged affair. Participants, all desiring to ride together, were coming from widely dispersed starting points. So rather than collect everyone at one starting point, we developed a plan for each rider to "join in" along the way.
My trip began from home in Paso Robles where my son Bryan and his friend Jessica Zi Denes had arrived the night before. With great excitement we were up early and off on our two bikes to Tina's Place, a favorite local eatery located on motorcycle friendly Hwy 58, where we join with member Les Katz from Arroyo Grande.
Now a team of three, we enjoyed a morning of fun Hwy 58 riding then left the Carrizo Plain hills behind to venture into the central valley. Droning along through the warm (hot?) valley flats we eventually arrived at Hwy 178 where we could look forward to cooler temps and the many turns that make up a Sierra mountain pass.
Isabella Walker Pass did not disappoint--other than being too short. By afternoon we were once again heating up as we left the mountains behind and traveled north on Hwy 395 in the Owens Valley.
A quick stop near Lone Pine cooled us with some drinks and refilled the human tanks with a late lunch. Soon we turned east again on Hwy 168 at Big Pine. Warm temperatures and boredom were quickly left behind as we ascended past the turn for White Mountain. This is a road built for motorcycles! Hwy 168 heads towards the Nevada border by winding through mountain passes at up to 7,100 feet. At points the rock cuts on each side of the road narrow to just one lane wide. At points you feel as if by extending your arms you can simultaneously touch both rock walls. No trucks on this route!
Nevada was not to be out done by California roads as near the state border we switch to highway 266, which takes us back up to over 7,200 feet. This is the fun we are looking for!
All good things do end (so they can start again!) and ours did on Nevada Hwy 95, which lead us to our endpoint for the day at Tonopah. There, at the prearranged Clown Motel, member Jeff Smith from the San Francisco bay area joins us. Jeff had enjoyed the more northerly Sierra Passes and arrived minutes before us at the motel.
Next morning, now as a group of four bikes, we head east again on Nevada Hwy 6, which we quickly leave behind for the Extraterrestrial Hwy NV 375. This is a long flat boring ride broken up by a visit to Rachel, NV, which is the home of alien memorabilia.
A switch to Hwy 93, the Great Basin Hwy, brings us to Hwy 319 between Caliente and Pioche, Nevada. Now headed east again, we're bound for Utah.
At the state border, Hwy 319 becomes Utah Hwy 56. We continue on through Modena, UT anxious to get the flat desert behind us. By early afternoon we see the mountains of the Dixie National Forest at Cedar Breaks rising like a wall across the desert floor. It's non-stop fun from here on!
At Cedar City UT we take a break to refill all tanks, the bike's and ours. With plans to overnight in Panguitch, UT, now seems like a good time to call ahead and reserve a room. Jeff does the duty only to find there is no room at the inn--any inn. Seems the town is hosting a hot air balloon festival. From the next rider that was about to join our caravan we learn via SMS text message that Hwy 14 over the mountains was closed for repairs (how did we function before cell phones and messaging?).
Decisions are quickly made over lunch and assignments doled out. Jeff will get on the phone to arrange a room in Escalante, UT while I consult the Utah Department of Transportation automated road status phone line to select a route through the mountains.
Missions accomplished, we head north on I15 for 16 miles to exit at Parowan, which is the back entrance to Cedar Breaks and the high country. Hwy 143 entertains us as we pass through the mountains and into the high valley at Panguitch. Connecting briefly to Hwy 89 leads us to one of the best motorcycle roads in the USA, Hwy 12.
After a pleasant ride along the north edge of Bryce Canyon we enjoy the beauty and motorcycle fun of Kodachrome Basin State Park, which surrounds Hwy 12. We've had just a brief introduction to what this road has to offer when we arrive in Escalante, UT at our home for the night the Prospector Inn (recommended--get a cold beer and enjoy the swings in the shade). Within minutes, our next rider arrives to join us. New MSTA member Russell Lewis with passenger Bonny Schwartz pulls into the hotel to make our group now five bikes strong.
After settling into rooms, showering and changing for dinner, we gathered around the bikes for cold beers and conversations. As we compare bikes, we notice Bryan's rear tire seemed a bit soft. A quick check with a gauge confirmed no air. His first road trip flat tire! The team pulled together with me (aka Dad) contributing a 12V-pump and tools and Les providing a yet-to-be-opened Stop & Go tire plugger kit. With embarrassment, confusion set in on how to use the unique plugger tool, but after the "manly team" consulted the instructions, all became clear and the tire was fixed.
Our third day on the road begins with near perfection--in both weather and road. Hwy 12 continues over Devil's Backbone, Boulder and Lion Mountains to arrive in Torrey, UT. I won't attempt to describe it but if you've never ridden Hwy 12 from end-to-end in Utah, put it on your bucket list. This is most definitely one of the ten best motorcycle roads in America.
Hwy 24, 95 and 191 finish off our day with mostly high speed wide sweeping turns through the Colorado River Canyon bringing us to Monticello, UT. We overnight at the Inn at the Canyons, Days Inn (recommended).
In the morning, we use UT Hwy 491 to lead us into Colorado and Hwy 141. This road is another favorite as it provides a full morning ride of curves. Naturita, CO splits the road and provides a refuel rest stop.
The north end of Hwy 141 is a decision point. We can either head north on 50 to connect with I70, which is a quick zoom east to Avon, or we can choose more mountain roads into our destination. In less than a second the decision is made and we turn south on Hwy 50.
In Delta, CO, we take a break from the growing heat for some lunch. Time to head up to higher and cooler ground. Hwy 92 gets us to what we want, Hwy 133.
CO Hwy 133 through Paonia climbs continuously near Ragged and Chair Peaks past the Paonia Reservoir. This is another motorcycle road. All too quickly the fun ends at Carbondale where the four-lane highway brings us up to Glenwood Springs on I70.
A very short ride along the Interstate and we are in Avon, CO. Let the STAR fun begin! We did our best to string together four days of the best motorcycle roads available between the west coast and Avon. We did well but this is an assignment I'd be happy to take again. There are always more roads to be found.
STAR was well attended with about 400 people. The Christie Lodge did not disappoint although they had a challenge dealing with the heat. Colorado was experiencing unusually high temperatures during the week we were there and the Christie is not setup with air-conditioning (at 7,400 foot elevation it is rarely needed) which made the rooms a bit warm during the day. But who was sitting around inside when you could go out and ride the spectacular roads around the Rockies?!
Everyone in our group did their own thing each day with rides to various spots and other town activities. My wife Debbie flew into Denver and drove up to meet us. During the week, I was able to (finally) ride Mt. Evans, the highest paved road in the 48 states, which is ~80 miles east of Avon. At the banquet, new California member Russell Lewis won the Aerostitch suit!
Everyone had different plans for the return home and so followed differing routes. Bryan, Jessica and I went to Park City for two days then returned to Paso after an enjoyable ride down Utah Hwy 89, which largely follows the Sevier River. We then reversed our eastbound course.
Overall, it was another epic ride and successful STAR event. I wish everyone could have joined us.
This article was first published by me in the July issue of the MSTA California Newsletter.