Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Arches National Park, Utah

We wanted to check out Arches which was about an hour and a half away from Monticello. We wanted to leave earlier today so that we wouldn’t have to ride in the dark on the way back, so Mike decided to quit work a bit early. We left Monticello at 3:30PM and headed north on 191 to the park. While Monticello’s temperatures are always pleasant, the towns website states that in the summer time daytime temperature rarely exceeds 85 degrees. Monticello sits at 7,069 feet in elevation and is surrounded by mountains. Abajo Mountains in the west, the San Juan Mountains in the east and the La Sal Mountains in the north.

As we traveled North on 191, the closer we got to Moab the warmer it got. Upon entering Arches National Park it must have been 100 degrees or more. We stopped at the visitor center, three dual sport bikes pulled up next to us. We all chatted a bit, they were from the burbs of Chicago. Just before Mike and I took of for the tour of Arches National Park I looked down at my odometer, my Honda just rolled over 40,000 miles… yeay!

My 954RR turns 40,000 miles at Arches National Park

There were so many cars at Arches. This was definitely a popular place, even on this Tuesday in August. The traffic through the park was moving so slow, way under the posted speed limit. I was roasting on the bike with the engine running at 225+ degrees and the fan going constantly. This was not the best idea, to ride here on such a hot day so we decided to try and ride through the entire park in two hours without too many stops.

A big storm over the La Sal Mountains in the distance

Arches Entrance Road

Too many tar snakes for my taste

According to the nps.gov website, there are over 2,000 arches in the park, I only saw two from the road, this was one of them

Some of the unusual rock formations

This was the other arch that I saw from the road

The road leading back down to the visitor center and out of the park

That's 191 in the distance

Besides the extreme heat and the slow traffic, the road through the park was covered in gazillion tar snakes which were slick in this temperature. Leaving the visitor center at the entrance of the park, the road climbed quickly in elevation. After a few tight hairpin switch backs, we were above the main road and the parking lot. The rest of the park’s road wasn’t really that twisty.
On the way to the park we saw a big storm brewing over the La Sal mountains, it was heading our way but moving slowly. Once in the park Mike and I decided to split up and meet at the visitor center at 7PM, this way we could stop and see the stuff we wanted to see and not waste any time. I rode all the roads except for the road to the Wolfe Ranch. As I pulled over at the last scenic pullout before the visitor center to take some pictures, Mike pulled up at the same time and we headed out of the park together.

A large storm hanging over 191 south of Moab, the picture doesn't show it well, but Mike is riding in to a rainbow

The storm was upon us now. It was actually hanging right over 191 just south of Moab. We didn’t want to ride back in the dark so we were going to push on through the storm, we didn’t mind getting wet, except there was a lot of lightening so we pulled over at the gas station and wait for the storm to move out of the area.

After the storm passed we headed back out and saw this jack-knifed semi on 191, the trailer tires were on top of some rocks, how did he manage that?

Half an hour later we continued, the storm had moved away leaving wet a road behind. But the rain wasn’t over yet. There was more rain further south and we rode between rain clouds for many miles avoiding getting drenched, just getting some sprinkles here and there. We thought we might make it back without getting wet but then just 15 miles from Monticello the rain started to come down hard. We were lucky that it came down at the end of the ride. It was about 9PM when we got back to the motel, the skies had just turned dark.

Our 160 mile ride to Arches and back on 191

We wanted to check out Arches National Park, but now that we have, honestly the ride through the park was not all that fun. It was too hot, the traffic was too slow and there were too many cars to enjoy the ride. The pavement had way too many tar snakes. Much of the arches that the park is named after are further from the road, so you can’t see them from the bike, you have to hike to them. I’d definitely like to go back to Arches to do some hiking when it’s cooler, in the spring or fall.

I had way more fun riding through Canyonlands Needles district, the scenery was better, the pavement was better and there were hardly any cars there, probably because the Needles District is out of the way and not near Moab, a tourist town.

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