The 276 then ripped me 30km further away from that horizon, east to the 95, where I diverted into the Natural Bridges national park to check it out. It consists of viewpoints over three natural bridge rock formations, interconnected by a one-lane, one-way, 15-km long paved track. Butler scored the effective go-cart track as G1, and it was. On my way out, there were three other BMW riders in the visitor centre pleading to make a donation in order to score some gas. (They succeeded.) From there, I shot south on 261, through the switchbacks of Moki Dugway, below which I followed a sign to turn left for Valley of the Gods.
Valley of the Gods has a 17-mile dirt track winding through it, which was a ride I will not soon forget. The scenery through this area is unlike anything I've seen anywhere else. I'll let the pictures illustrate, but I guess I'd summarize the feeling while riding through the fantastical alien land as one of smallness and of geological youthfulness-bordering-on-insignificance. Maybe my helmet was too tight. Regardless, serenity rating A- (deduction only for the presence of the few others).
The VotG trail dumped me directly on the 163, which I followed south into Mexican Hat (a town named after an elevated rock formation that looks like an upside-down sombrero). I punched "Moab" into my GPS, determined a calculated ETA of 3:50pm, so calculated that I could afford one more hour exploring south into Monument Valley, which with the backtrack would get me into Moab for 6:00. Before I knew it, I found myself on the long straight road descending to the classic horizon outline, the exact scene which I'd vowed to my sweetheart that I would find after seeing a photo of it on Flickr before I left home. Woohoo! I carried on to the Navajo Monument Valley Park entrance, where I paid a $10 entrance fee just to be told that the dirt track through the three big monoliths is forbidden to motorcycles. I got over it, and drank a liter of water sitting at the overlook at the visitor centre, then applied my admission privileges to give the park more dollars, buying a pannier sticker in the gift shop. Serenity rating, C.
When I charted my route across Utah, I was quite conflicted to try to fit Monument Valley alongside the other can't-miss parks of southern Utah, as they are literally alongside each other and I'm meant to be moving north. In the end, I reversed my initial vision, exiting Arizona to the northwest rather than into Monument Valley in the northeast. As I backtracked to Mexican Hat, and as the landscape of red rock formations disappeared seemingly instantly, exchanging for plain old grassland hills, I reflected on a feeling of genuine satisfaction that I'd been able to get to Utah's southwest corner after all. My mood soured as I continued north, mainly due to physical discomfort, and by Blanding, with a headache, a gusty crosswind off of my left shoulder, another sore ear, a full bladder, and seemingly every side road off the highway gated closed, I was at my "ready" point, so pulled into a roadside rest area, took off my helmet and jacket, and sat on a bench for 10 minutes and ate a Snickers. Upon stopping, I did indeed find an extra fold in my Buff which was making my helmet squeeze, and I also discovered removable foam pieces in my helmet to make more space for earpieces, but in hindsight I equally just needed a mental timeout.
The last hour north into Moab turned scenic again, and got me decidedly looking forward to a slight break from routine with a planned maintenance morning ahead. I found fantastic Thai food at Arches Thai, then holed up early to prepare for more arches at dawn.
Day total: 524 km, 9h35m
Trip total: 6,362 km
Start: Bullfrog, UT. End: Moab, UT.
Soundtrack: AWOLNATION, Xavier Rudd, foam plugs due to Tender Ears