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pinchrunner
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Discussion Starter #1
I have an idea of a trip floating around that I want to put onto paper and draw up some serious plans for.

Destination: Las Vegas.

My primary objective is to host a fun, safe bachelor party for my best buddy.

My secondary objectives are many. Stay alive through said bachelor party. Keep Keith the bachelor and other friends alive through said bachelor party. Have a dollar left for the way home.

And ride. Ride away from a friend's house in the middle of the Midwest. Ride across the Big River. Ride long, straight miles through plains that start out flat and then turn hilly. Ride my favorite mountains in my favorite riding state. Ride a new state that contains five spots on the National Park bucket list. Ride through another one or two bucket list parks in California. Ride down the Vegas Strip. Ride through the state with the big canyon and maybe check out Santa Fe, where I am at right now in my head, sitting down in the restaurant with a bottle of Mexican Coke and waiting on tacos de carne asada while looking at an atlas and trying to decide if it is east toward Amarillo or north toward Denver...

So, anyway, to be clear, I'm planning to take a motorcycle trip from central Illinois to Las Vegas and back. Call it 13 days.

Interested in your thoughts on the early framework:

Departure: Friday, 4:00 pm central, Champaign, IL
Destinations:
Kansas City, MO - Friend's place for the night.
Denver, CO - Saturday. Stop the clock. It better be before 3:00 pm mountain time. Because, if so I just completed the Iron Butt's Saddlesore 1000. More on that.
Vail, CO - Sunday. Carve the Rocky's by day; drink in the ski bars by night
Somewhere, UT - Monday. This is where the plan gets hazy. Blame Colorado. I need to make some miles to the Southwest but also still have time to branch off and find somewhere nice to camp (One of the Big 5's would be nice, but difficult to camp with the walk-up system I imagine. And, besides, I'm already planning another Utah trip dedicated to the NP's).
Somewhere, NV or CA - Tuesday. Thinking Death Valley NP. Would love to get to Sequoia but it looks tough to swing. Where would I stay?
Las Vegas, NV - Wednesday night. Beamer is parked for four days. Maybe goes in for a front tire and oil change. Maybe that waits for Santa Fe.

Ok, now I'm back in Santa Fe I guess still waiting on those tacos and possibly waiting on an oil change to be done and I don't know if I should route to I-40 and start laboring through overland re-entry to the Midwest or if I should jump on US-84 for a little last minute fun before heading back to the Land of Lincoln and less riding.
 

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Try I-25 to Las Vegas NM. There is small two lane road that heads SE to Lake Conchas, taking you to I-40 at Tucumcari NM. It is pretty scenic. Make sure you have plenty of fuel leaving Las Vegas NM, as there is not reliable fueling before Tucumcari. It is about 100 or so miles across that stretch. Lots of desert color. Keep it safe as it is remote and not many folks on that road.
 

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Depending on what you want to do, here's how I'd suggest to do Utah.

  • Stay in Moab the first night as that gets you access to Canyonlands and Arches. Arches is right there in Moab and Canyonlands is only about an hour south.
  • The pop over to Capitol Reef. There's a cool resort/hotel thing there that'll let you stay in a Conestoga Wagon cabin. Great views from that place, nice people.
  • Then do the ride down to Bryce. Take 212 (or whatever the curvy one is, so worth it).
  • Stay in Bryce, drop down to Zion. From there, pop over to Vegas
And yes, I do travel to Utah yearly. Haven't done Zion yet, but we've hit the others.
 

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I have an idea of a trip floating around that I want to put onto paper and draw up some serious plans for. . .

Somewhere, UT - Monday. This is where the plan gets hazy. Blame Colorado. I need to make some miles to the Southwest but also still have time to branch off and find somewhere nice to camp (One of the Big 5's would be nice, but difficult to camp with the walk-up system I imagine. And, besides, I'm already planning another Utah trip dedicated to the NP's).
As ronaprhys said, Moab has some great stuff (in addition to the parks, it has what's said to be a pretty good micro-brewery)... but if you're already planning a trip to the national parks, you may want to save it. Moab can be good for several days all by itself, especially if you take the GS out into its natural habitat of "pavement-free" thoroughfares.

Route 12 (not 212) is indeed a must-ride.

As for national park camping... you can make reservations for campsites at Arches (Devils Garden) and Capitol Reef (Fruita) online, through the recreation.gov website. Both of these campgrounds have running water and (I think) flush toilets, but no showers (something to consider after a day of desert riding). Be warned that not only are all tent sites at Bryce first-come-first-serve (the NPS dryly suggests you "plan to arrive early," which I guess translates to "stay the night before in a motel just outside the park"), but the campgrounds are going to be closed for repaving in varying degrees through mid summer. Also be warned that the campground at Arches is all the way in the back of the park, at the end of a 23-mile road, and the park can be very congested in summer.

Another option if you'd like to be sure of a place to stay is Kodachrome Basin State Park, down by Tropic, UT (near Bryce). Said to be beautiful, has running water and (highly praised) showers, and is reservable through the reserveamerica.com site. Could be a good thing to do if you're going to arrive in the wee hours!

You've got me thinking about Utah again... after way, way too many years I am headed back there this summer. Moab, Capitol Reef, Bryce... gonna ride up the Shafer Trail, the Burr Trail, Moki Dugway, maybe a bit of Lockhart Basin (the easy southern part), plus Land's End Road in Colorado... aaaaahhhhhh...
 

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In Moab, there are several KOA-style campgrounds. My favorite is Canyonlands, which is right in downtown and across the street from the Moab Brewery. I'm not a beer drinker (margaritas, Alabama Slammers, and red wines are my poisons of choice), but the food there is good and my buddies do recommend the beers. Full selection from colored water up to oatmeal as far as the styles go. There's also Pasta Jay's (get the Baked Lorenzo) and Zak's Pizza.

Those are my favorites.
 

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pinchrunner
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Discussion Starter #7
Great advice so far, thanks.

The GS has a new rear tire and fresh oil. A pleasantly warm Friday service day trip was followed by a wet visit to family Saturday and a downright cold 50-mile ride home this morning. I am reminded of the diversity of weather which lies ahead of me for the Vegas trip. At elevation of almost 10,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies to being a couple hundred feet below sea level in Death Valley, I'll be making miles across a wide sampling of the country's climatic regions.

Yes, I'll see some of the West's Best, but I'll also spend a heck of a lot of time rolling over pavement in the familiar Midwest and Plains states, with at least a night or two spent camping outside. I flash back to a stormy spring night in the middle of Kansas, my buddy and I clutching onto our tent and praying to stay earthbound a little longer. Me and my friend and my r nine t made it Denver then and my GS and I will this time around too on God's good grace and a plan.

The chilly trip this morning had me thinking again about Hippo Hands. And an electric vest again. My cheap Frogg Toggs work fine through the wet stuff. And for my Southwest excursions and general use otherwise, I need to finally break down and get a CamelBak.

Almost all pre-Vegas destinations are squared away. I'm thinking I will make a budget hotel reservation for Flagstaff on the Sunday post-Vegas.

Best to pre-pay those post-Vegas accommodations lest our stay on the Strip leaves me strapped for cash...
 

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just some suggestions

But, maybe I missed it...when are you going? It is still very much winter--and all that means--over your route.

1)some suggestions---are you definitely camping? Moab can be a real pain if you are hitting it when the tourists are...just sayin'. Been there only twice, but have stayed at the Rustic Inn and it was fine. A bit off the main drag, but that means lower price, not lower quality

The Islands in the Sky part of MOAB is pretty much across the street from Arches. The other part (needles? iirc) is about 45 m south.

Look at Potash road from 191 up to Islands in the Sky.

the La Sal Mountain loop is worthwhile, and 128 is gorgeous.

There's some good riding up toward Vernal, look for the squiggly lines.

2) Coming out of Co into Utah, great road is CO90 to UT46 Paradox Valley and Bedrock

3) I would head over to Cali across NV via the Extraterrestrial Hwy, skirting the northern edge of Area 51, look for the "Mailbox" and the Little Ale'Inn, just for "Americana" sake, then head down. If you have time Ca 120 is a lot of fun toward Lee Vining and Mono Lake.

4) Don't miss the winding road out of Artist's Palatte in Death Valley...it's like your riding a winding hallway.

5) Red Rock Canyon, just outside of LV, is worth a couple of hours to do the loop

6) If I had to rank the Parks along your way I would place Canyonlands/Arches, then Bryce, then Zion

7)Another good motel in Utah, is in the Zion area in Mt Carmel Junction, the Best Western w restaurant on site. and UT 14 from Cedar City to 89 is a fun road, but usually has a bunch of slippery tar snakes.

7) on your way back, if you can swing a route along N AZ, riding along the Vermilion Cliffs is sublime, US 89a. 89 on the north side of the cliffs isn't bad either, but everyone needs to see the Vermilion Cliffs at least once. Page is a cool town for an overnight and it is close to the Horsehoe of the Colorado River--it's in LOTS of photos, and you can get quite a view. It is also near some famous "slot" canyons, like Antelope and Secret (I can rec Secret with the Hummer Adventures?? tour people. Do the "photo" tour to have it to yourself.

Hope this helps
and if you can come back up through NW Arkansas...:wink2:
 

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pinchrunner
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Discussion Starter #9
The trip is the middle of May. Too early for a another trip through my favorite Rocky Mountain NP or for a chance to try Mt. Evans or Pikes Peak. That being the case, I'm going to stick close to I-70 at the higher elevations. CO90 to UT46 sounds like the way to cross states. Moab is looking like a possible stop, but probably not for the night. Yes, the Utah Big 5 will call with their siren songs, but I've got to rebuff those National Parks for now. I'm working on a "10-in-10 trip" - that's 10 National Parks in 10 days. Including Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Zion. So in and out of Utah relatively quickly in exchange for time spent seeing the suggested Artist's Palette and Red Rock Canyon and allowing myself a Vegas easing-in period ahead of my party's arrival.
 

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One thing to keep in mind (as one who's been caught in snowstorms in May out there, several times. End of May, even. Keep a very close eye on the weather. If 70 is blocked or getting snow, you can drop down to 50 and go over Monarch Pass. Many times it'll be clear when Eisenhower is getting snow.
 

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One thing to keep in mind (as one who's been caught in snowstorms in May out there, several times. End of May, even. Keep a very close eye on the weather. If 70 is blocked or getting snow, you can drop down to 50 and go over Monarch Pass. Many times it'll be clear when Eisenhower is getting snow.
Not discounting what you say at all, but Monarch can be no lark in the park. Your comment made me remember a trip across Monarch, or maybe it was Wolf Creek Pass on 160??? in May a few years back in the snow/sleet...ugh. I was going east to west. Going up wasn't so bad, but there are some significant descends on the way west after the peak. Not something I would choose to do twice.

Point is that snow on those passes is something to be avoided, but you know that. From my armchair this morning, I would rather lose a day, regardless of the significance, than deal with snowing and icy roads.
 

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Not discounting what you say at all, but Monarch can be no lark in the park. Your comment made me remember a trip across Monarch, or maybe it was Wolf Creek Pass on 160??? in May a few years back in the snow/sleet...ugh. I was going east to west. Going up wasn't so bad, but there are some significant descends on the way west after the peak. Not something I would choose to do twice.

Point is that snow on those passes is something to be avoided, but you know that. From my armchair this morning, I would rather lose a day, regardless of the significance, than deal with snowing and icy roads.
From my experience (somewhat limited), I've not seen both of them getting snow during the same day. However, you're correct - I would NOT try to do either if it's snowing. I'll lose the day and stay in Gunnison, Pueblo, or wherever if I'm on 50, or somewhere near Denver if it's I70.

When I got to ride Monarch, it was in the 50s in Gunnison, but windy and in the 30s up at the pass. Great ride - plenty of scenery and twisties. The only downside is that I got stuck behind a car hauler for about 15 minutes of the downhill portion. Once I got past him, however, it was all zoom zoom time.
 

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pinchrunner
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Discussion Starter #15
From my experience (somewhat limited), I've not seen both of them getting snow during the same day. However, you're correct - I would NOT try to do either if it's snowing. I'll lose the day and stay in Gunnison, Pueblo, or wherever if I'm on 50, or somewhere near Denver if it's I70.

When I got to ride Monarch, it was in the 50s in Gunnison, but windy and in the 30s up at the pass. Great ride - plenty of scenery and twisties. The only downside is that I got stuck behind a car hauler for about 15 minutes of the downhill portion. Once I got past him, however, it was all zoom zoom time.
Good points abound. Would hate to have to detour the good stuff, but that's how it goes sometimes.

I know there are better ways of doing it, but curiosity had me looking at various ski reports for an indication on snow cover today. Vail total snow is about 150" versus 215" last year and 250" near the five-year average. Similar numbers for Keystone. All about the weather on the day your riding through, though, I know.

Need to get some miles under my belt before road trip time. The current trend is cool and wet where I'm from. That's different from this time last year when I purchased the GS and rode it home in the sunny 60's.
 

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and just for more info...
If you have the time, and if you are on us 50, look at CO92, which meanders along the north side of 50, intersecting with it. It runs along the Black Canyon of The Gunnison, and is a remarkably fun road.
Also, and maybe you know this, but all of the N/S Colo state roads are very nice.
 

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and just for more info...
If you have the time, and if you are on us 50, look at CO92, which meanders along the north side of 50, intersecting with it. It runs along the Black Canyon of The Gunnison, and is a remarkably fun road.
Also, and maybe you know this, but all of the N/S Colo state roads are very nice.
Yeah, 92 is a gorgeous road, though the experience was just a bit diminished by the downpour and lightning hitting close enough that I could feel discharges off my fingertips :surprise:

BTW--just in case anybody's thinking about riding over Cottonwood Pass on the dirt road, bad news: it's closed all summer for construction, and when it re-opens next year it will be all paved. We will miss it!
 

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In May, I'd expect many of the higher elevation passes that are dirt roads (and maybe even paved ones) to be closed anyway. I believe it depends on total snowfall and when they've gotten a chance to clear the roads, no?
 

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In May, I'd expect many of the higher elevation passes that are dirt roads (and maybe even paved ones) to be closed anyway. I believe it depends on total snowfall and when they've gotten a chance to clear the roads, no?
Indeed--my 2015 vintage state map has the note "SEASONAL CLOSURE" next to Cottonwood Pass, Independence Pass, Trail Ridge Road and the Mt. Evans road. I also know that Old Fall River Road (the gravel road that parallels Trail Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park) does not open until early July most years.

Something else to think about: the area around Bryce is at a pretty good elevation. I seem to recall going there many years ago (fortunately in a car, killing a weekend before a conference in Vegas) in either late April or early May and encountering a fair amount of snow on the roads and the trails. Made the park pretty, but I wouldn't have wanted to be riding in it.
 

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We were in Glenwood Springs last year and about a week and a half before Labor Day they got a hell of a blizzard up there. We were only slightly hit with the snow, which was good as we were out on the bikes riding around. Nothing was sticking at our elevation, but 150' up, things were covered. We had friends driving through the Eisenhower and they were stuck for hours while they cleared the roads and got traffic moving.

That's happened to me twice in the last 8 years - most of the time it's fine, though.
 
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