Park City to Loa, Utah – Goin’ south

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The sky over Gunnison, Utah on Sunday, August 26, 2012.

“The landscape is sparse, but the land is good. There’s room to breathe and stretch the legs. There’s room to see the sky and watch the clouds. Room to run without having to stop.” ~ Mark Richardson

After staying up way too late with old friends Saturday night, I was just too tired and hungover Sunday morning to jump out of bed and hit the road at dawn. The most ambitious thing I could bring myself to do when my alarm went off at 5:30 was to flip my pillow over to the cool side and go back to sleep.

I finally got it together and was on the road shortly before 10 am. Leaving Park City, I’m rolling down the east side of the Wasatch Range. Summer still has a firm grip on northern Utah, but Autumn isn’t far off. I can see little clusters of bright red and gold leaves among the mountainside trees north of Heber.

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The east side of Mount Timpanogos.

Mount Timpanogos dominates this part of the landscape, and fills a little more of my visor with every passing mile. Provo, the home of BYU, is on the other side of Timpanogos. I’ll be there in an hour, but first I get to dance with Connie in Provo Canyon. I can’t help but to love her a little more as we slip past Bridal Veil Falls and descend into Utah Valley.

The heat is starting to climb as I roll past BYU. Traffic is heavy near campus, but downtown Provo is a ghost town. I roll past the building where I did an internship with the Deseret News Utah County Bureau back in the late-1980s. It looks like they’ve either moved or closed the bureau office.

The ghost town thing that started with Provo turned out to be an all day trend as I roll through one almost-silent town after another on my way south. Those of you not familiar with life in small-town Utah might be curious as to where the citizens of these towns were as a stranger on a motorcycle passed through. I’ll explain it by mentioning that the parking lot of every Mormon church was full beyond capacity in every town.

Going south is pretty straight-forward. Traffic along Hway-89 is light. Farmers going to their fields and families headed to church are my highway companions until I finally reach Salina, Utah. That’s where I have to make a choice about which route to take to Calf Creek Canyon. I have to stop and buy a map because my iPhone battery is dead. I’m kinda delighted to find that Mom’s Cafe in Salina is not only open on Sunday, but they also serve bottled beer at their lunch counter. That’s where I sit drinking Budweiser and pouring over my new map. I smile when I find that the “scenic highways” are printed with blue ink.

I chose the eastern route, and that puts me on I-70 for about 36 miles. Fighting wind and rain, Connie and I take advantage of the super-slab and make up for lost time at 85 mph.

Turning south onto Hway-72, I ride through the beautiful Fishlake National Forest. A rain storm is following me, but I’m hungry by the time I get to the tiny town of Loa, Utah. So I pull off for a plate of Jalapeño poppers and coffee at the Country Cafe.

The owner pours a cup of coffee, looks out at Connie and asked where I’m coming from. I look out past my motorcycle at the gathering storm that’s been dogging me since Salina and regretfully decide that I don’t have time to sit and talk with this friendly man who makes wonderful coffee. I tell him I’m from Seattle as I slide ten bucks across the counter.

He then does something surprisingly intimate. Reaching across the counter, he plucks a string of cooled popper cheese from my chin as he says, “You probably aren’t saving this for later.” A couple good-old boys, watching a football game at the other end of the lunch counter, start laughing. Hell, we all do.

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