Gather around POGs, and I'll tell ya a story about a black and gold bike. In the spring of 1980 my dad bought his first brand-new motorcycle, an '80 Yamaha XS11 Midnight Special. It was Yamaha's fastest bike at the time; when the XS11 was introduced in '78 it was billed as the most powerful production motorcycle in the world. I don't think it was still at the top of the heap in '80, however. At any rate, it was a real torque monster, which it needed to be--because it was quite a brute, weighing around 630# wet! I think the bike was constructed primarily of lead and cast iron.
So anyway, my dad kept that bike for 16 years, only putting 26K on the odo in that time. Dad was what ya might call a "fair-weather rider," meaning no rain and temps in the 60's or higher, so out of the whole year there was only a 6-month riding window for him...this is in Virginia, remember. Here's me & my little sister in the summer of '80, just before the holding the rope
incident and way before my Boy Scout troop made the Scoutmaster quit. A different time in America
, if you will.
So anyway--fast-forward to 1996. There. It went by really quick, didn't it. Yeah, time really does fly by like that. So there I was, a young ineptizoid, just finished college (only 4 yrs behind schedule but who's counting), no job, no girlfriend, no rope-holding ability, not much money, but a burning desire to see the American West and escape this sick society cough cough
. I was gonna do the trip on my raggedy old KLR600, but my dad thought that was a Bad Idea and donated his raggedy old XS11 to the cause. And down the road I went. Out West, where I'd never been before. And I've never been the same since.
ATGATT?? What's that? Yeah I really did ride all over the place wearing shorts, hiking boots, and a T-shirt (and sometimes not even the shirt); ya tend to think yer invincible when yer young, dumb, and full of piss n vinegar. I was doing this trip on the cheap, so that meant lotsa roadside camping, like here in Dillon CO off Loveland Pass Rd. (Note: this is not
what you call stealth camping, not by a long shot.) See the snow on the mountain in the background? This pic was taken in July; seeing snow in July was a real novelty for me, believe it.
Camped out in the woods a good bit, too--it's real easy to find a secluded, quiet campsite in places like Kaibab Natl. Forest; ya just follow a dirt road off into the woods and look for a good place to pitch a tent. And the price is most definitely right.
Remember, I had never been out West before. So when I saw stuff like this, which is pretty standard scenery in a place like Colorado Natl. Monument, I was awestruck. The vastness of the landscape blew my Eastern-U.S.-oriented sense of scale right outta the water, yea verily.
I'd never seen mountains this color, more vivid than I could imagine. Of course this 17-yr-old 35mm pic doesn't do it justice. It was positively surreal, I felt like I was in a different world. And of course I was. Utah's Hwy 95, not far from Lake Powell:
Near Hite Marina on Lake Powell. (Also priced right.)
Canyonlands NP, which provided the most spectacular scenery I had ever seen in my life up until that time. Edward Abbey--park ranger/author/philosopher/wilderness advocate--loved this place and wrote extensively about it, calling it "the land of stone and silence."
See what I mean about the scenery? This is Grandview Point on the White Rim Mesa. Abbey referred to it as "the edge of the abyss, where this world falls off into the depths of another."
Couldn't have said it better if ya paid me to do it.
Oh yeah, there's more!