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C2C Day 20: Swinging Ribeye July 21, 2009

Posted by dakotabiker in Rides.
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Some time ago I watched a miniseries on the Food Network called Feasting on Asphalt, where the host, Alton Brown rode his motorcycle across America eating only “road food “- i.e. dining only on that which one finds in the little local roadside cafes, diners, and dives.  He had two rules: Avoid the interstates where possible, and absolutely no chain restaurants.  The show is really quite inspirational both from a biker and “foodie” point of view.  In the first series he went to three places that I vowed I would as well:  B&R Old Fashioned hamburgers in Hawthorne, CA; Dino’s Dogs also in Hawthorne, and the Mexican Hat Lodge in Mexican Hat, UT.  I had gone to the first two on business trips to Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, CA during the development of the LCROSS spacecraft.  …but that is another story.  This one deals with the Mexican Hat Lodge’s Swinging Ribeye.

I was quite lucky bedding down in Kanab the day before.  The weather in the entire area turned quite nasty for riding and I managed to get a lot of work done on the blog.  That evening, I enjoyed a nice cesar salad, ribeye, and a couple of glasses of wine at their at the Rocking V there in Kanab (I recommend it.)

Having started the trend of departing early to beat the heat, I stood to arrive at Mexican Hat quite early.  I packed the bike and left Kanab, UT via US-89 to Page, AZ.  It was a very pleasant morning ride with great scenary.  Lake Powell seemed starkly (but beautifully) desolate.  There were housing developments going up there, and while I found the scenery quite lovely to look at, the whole aura of the place has a harshness that would preclude me from building a house to live there.  Lake Powell is formed by the Glen Canyon Dam which is crossed by US-89.  Crossing over and seeing the resulting canyon was really amazing.  Sheer red walls to the Colorado River far far below.  I was very impressed (again). 

I got off US-89 to enter Page to find gas and coffee.  The town is not that old, established in 1957.  I rather liked it.  It is a well proportioned blend of city convenience, country friendliness, and rustic scenery.  I would like to go back and spend more time there. 

Standing out in front of the Circle K while drinking my morning coffee, my bike caught the attention of a gentleman who asked me about my trip.  We chatted for a while.  Orginally from Alabama, he and his wife rode around the countryside the on his Harley for eight years until she developed MS.  She started having trouble with the heat, and getting on and off the bike.  When he would start the engine, tears would come to her eyes at the thought of him being on the road without her.  So he sold the bike, and bought her a convertible: their “Harley with a windshield”.  He stood staring at my bike as he spoke.  We wished me well and advised that I keep riding for as long as I can.

I went back to US-89 south to pick up SR-98  crossing  into the Navajo Indian Reservation.  The road that early morning was very desolate, the kind of conditions I love to ride.  The scenery continued to wow me with so many beautiful erosion-induced rock formations, mesas, ravines, and washes. 

On SR-98, I happend upon another biker (Jim) coming the opposite direction who was just pulling over to the shoulder looking back at the road behind him as if something had fallen off…  something vital had.  I pulled over and asked if he needed assistance.  He had lost his cup… a special cup for his Capt’ Morgan and water that he carries with him.  Figuring there was little I could do about that, other than keep my eyes peeled, I wished him good luck and continued on scanning the road.  Until about a mile up, I saw a steel cylinder lying in the middle of the road.  I pulled over and picked up the cup just as Jim was coming up behind.  He stopped his bike and we got to talking about our trips.  Jim had been laid off a while back and decided now was the time for a big trip.  Dipping into his 401k, he was travelling a western states route meeting up with friends along the way.  Monterey, CA was on his agenda, so I told him about the CA-1 ride a few days earlier.  We talked for a while longer and went our separate ways. 

I picked up US-160 to US-163 which head back into Utah.  The scenary was nice: wide open spaces with large mesas and rock formations in the distance.  I approached Monument Valley; the road seemed to be guarded by two memorable formations.  On the right Agathia Peak rising powerfully and majestically up from the plain.  On the left, Owl Rock perched upon a ridge (though to me, at certain angles, it looked oddly like the bassett hound god).  Riding closer, more mesas and formations reached from the earth.  While very impressive, the distance lacked the intimacy I had experienced at Zion National Park.  I started up the road to the park entrance, but slowed and turned back feeling that given the distances, even the park view would not be much better than that from the road.

mon-valley-pan

I continued up US-163 to Mexican Hat, a tiny little town on the San Juan river named after a nearby rock formation.  As you may have seen from my earlier megatweet, I had arranged to stay in the Lodge TeePee thinking that was pretty much all that was available.  I was warned that the TeePee was not particularly comfortable in the heat, and the heat was coming on as I arrived in early afternoon.  It had no shower or bathroom, though there was a campground shower/bathroom available.  But one of the biggest drawbacks was no wifi, and I had an afternoon free to work on the blog.

I still regret the the decision to cancel the TeePee.  I ended up in the San Juan motel by the river.  Small but comfortable, and I managed to crank out three days worth of blog articles that afternoon… So I guess it was good in the practical sense, but I still kind of rue the decision.

The Mexican Hat Lodge was open for steaks at 6:oopm, so I worked on the blogs, got a shower and rode over.  It was better than I remembered in the show.  It was outdoor dining with the tables set up in a small patio where the infamous grill was set: a long metal box housing the wood fire, and over it, a large rectanguler grill swinging lazily back and forth over the flames.  The setup is great and allowing great conversation with the owner as he is cooking.  I talked with him for quite a while, a really amicable gentleman.  I identified myself as the guy that backed out of the TeePee – he had no problem at all, and rented it soon after I cancelled.  (Mexican Hat was packed)  I told him my story of seeing him on the Food Network and planning my return ride around this steak.  We talked for a while about flame cooking and steaks (how each individual steak has its own personality) and a little about country music. 

As the story goes, years ago he ran out of coals to cook the steaks and was forced to cook with wood.  But cooking over an open flame was so time intensive to avoid overooking, that he didn’t have time to tend the wood and fire.  So, he rigged up the swing to keep the steaks in a constant flame-kissed state without burning up.  Personally I love the taste of meat kissed by wood or charcoal flame much better than the radiant heat of coals or especially gas.  So this was a dream come true for me.

swinging-ribeye

The menu was focused on the meat.  An 18 ounce Ribeye, a 12 ounce New York Strip, an 8 ounce burger (I think there was chicken in there as well)…  For sides: beans and salad with the house dressing.  That’s it… no other veggies or substitutions.  Clear, simple, and carnivorous.  The meal is served on one of those hot metal plates.  The metal plates are kept in the top on an antique wood burning stove.  When the steak is ready, a plate is pulled from the stove and a ladle of beans is added with a hiss.  The salad is place in the middle right on top of the bean spillover, and the steak added at the end. 

mexhat-ribeye

The steak was excellent.  My preferred preperation is charred medium rare, which is quite difficult to do with a cut as thick as 18 ounce.  Mine still had a bit of “moo” in the middle, but he had no problems at all with throwing the middle back on for a little while essentially creating two great meals for me with a little break in between. 

Though the band wasn’t playing that night, I spoke with the band leader (who I think is the owner’s father).  Ialso had a great conversation and chance to practice speaking German with a charming mother/daughter travelling team from northern Germany who were touring the western US before heading on a New York shopping spree. 

With my stomach full, I made a fairly early evening of it, again figuring to rise early to beat the heat, but stayed up quite a bit later than I planned adding photos to the blog… at least I got caught up a bit, justifying the TeePee for wifi trade… Maybe??

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C2C Day 19: Zion July 20, 2009

Posted by dakotabiker in Rides.
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Another spectacular ride today from Las Vegas to Kanab, Utah.  I am holed up in the biker-friendly Treasure Trail Motel with a great wifi connection (relative to most of my experience this trip), newly washed clothes, and time to relax, blog, and plan.

True to my late decision last night, my body woke me up 5 minutes before the 3am alarm.  Of course my Vegas hotel did not have coffee in the room, presumably so I’d be forced down to the casino faster.  It took time, a lot of water, and a shower to finally get me going.  I packed up my gear and headed down to check out, glad (but not surprised) to have my room comp’d after yesterday’s marathon o’gambling. 

Walking out to the bike at 4:20 am, the heat was already oppressive.  It had apparently rained not long before, so the humidity was up as well.  I had parked the bike in the employee’s level of the valet garage (a special priviledge offered to their motorcycling patrons given the rash of Harley thefts of late).  I was relieved to see mine still there. 

The bellman was volunteering motorcycle movie recommendations as I packed the bike, and went so far as to xerox the cover of the movie he was watching that morning (a Tarantino film called Hell Ride).  After getting directions to the nearest gas station, I headed out onto the streets of Vegas.  I had been to Vegas many times before, but almost always travelled by cab or limo, and mostly just up and down the strip, so I had never really seen the side streets of Sin City until now.  Interestingly diverse olio of businesses…

It was still a bit before sunrise when I got myself back on I-15 heading north.  As dawn broke, I could see the sunlight just illuminating the tops of distant storm clouds.  To my right, an active storm system (probably the one that left Vegas in a muggy morning state) was giving a lightning show in the pre-dawn glow.  The alien landscape, flat desert with not too distant mountians, lay on either side of me as I sped along.  It was getting to be full light as I approached the tiny town of Glendale on the far side of the Moapa River Indian Reservation.  I stopped for a coffee and to ditch my reflective vest.  The gas station convenience store looked like a converted double-wide, but had the basics.  Coffee was free if you brought your own cup.  I paid $1.14 for the cup.  

Moving on, I started passing the border casinos/resorts assuming their main customers to be folks from Arizona or Utah who wanted to drive as little as possible to gamble, or those who decide they want just one more night after leaving Vegas.

I-15 just nips the northwest corner of Arizona running northeast, so I was able to get my ABC pics for Arizona and Utah in short fashion (though under the worst illumination, shooting straight into the rising sun).  The little jaunt through Arizona was really beautiful.  I-15 winds through the narrows of the Virgin River and though Sullivan Canyon in the Paiute Primative Area.  The stark canyon rock under the low angle illumination of the morning sun was breathtaking.  The sheer faces and dropping ravines run so close to the interstate that you really feel the sense of being cacooned within the canyon, like walking through a maze.

After a quick stop in Saint George, I got off I-15 onto SR-9 which took me through several resort towns en route to Zion National Park.  The landscape kept getting better and better.  I really wanted to pull over and spend some time in these little towns, but didn’t know what to expect for heat in my upcoming ride, and wanted to make Kanab early.  I did pull over in Springdale for gas.  I didn’t really need to, but really wanted to get a picture of the peaks lining the west side of the town, and ditch my jacket.  It was really tempting to spend more time there with all the lapidary shops and tourist traps.

At the park entrance, I again uttered my regret at not buying an annual pass for the national parks, paid my $12 and rolled in.  The Vistors Center is right near the west entrance and was my first stop to collect my National Parks Passport stamp.  Parking was quite full; the park is a mecca for hikers, photographers, and nature enthusiasts.  I was amazed by the diversity and proximity of the wild life just walking from my bike to the visitors center building.  In the parking lot, I passed a young deer nibbling on a sapling; I walked past him (her?) as close as your eyes are to this screen right now.  He just looked at me with the sapling branch sticking out of the side of his mouth chewing away as if he were hoping I had food, but assuming that I didn’t.  Riding out after getting my passport stamp, I was stopped by a ground squirrel who really seemed intent to go the way I was blocking.  He fidgeted a couple of feet in front of my bike, then finally gave up and headed for the long grass beside the lot.

Getting back out onto the road, I remembered my Yellowstone experience with slow-moving RVs and tourists, and set my “mood switch” to “patient” in advance.  However, the scenery was so beautiful, so magnificently stark and diverse, so close to the winding road, that I found myself going 5 mph under the 35 mph speed limit just to take it all in.  One of the things that really sets Zion apart from my other park rides is the intimacy.  The road runs through the canyon and very close to the steep faces.  From that vantage point even the same face of rock or towering cliff becomes a different entity with new character and composition every few seconds.  That is one thing I love about mountains:  how they change with every different view; and here at Zion that is a continuous flow.   After seeing the enhancement of so many places, I continue to be so struck how the landscape can be so beautiful in ways that I hadn’t seen or imagined. 

zion2

In the middle of the park is a narrow tunnel cut into the rock.  Completed in 1930, that tunnel is 1.1 miles long and unlit.  That was cool stretch of road (literally and figuratively), with the low rumble of the Harley resonating off the surrounding rock as I idled along.  Periodically, the tunnel was cut out to the side of the mountain, providing blinding flashes of scenic views as I rode throught the darkness.

zion-pan

Leaving the stunning vistas of the park, the highway continued through wonderfully rugged mountian countryside on to Kanab.  I had made really good time with my early start, arriving near noon despite my casual pace, and half thought to just press on to Mexican Hat, Utah.  But as I rode up and down the streets of Kanab, I felt the temperatures were getting much warmer and I don’t really know what the afternoon climate will be like dripping south into Arizona en route to Mexican Hat (and I do NOT want a third bout of heat exhaustion).   Besides, I had laundry, sleeping, and blogging to get caught up on.

Outside the wind has been picking up and thunder has been clapping for the last couple of hours.  It is now raining pretty steadily (I covered the bike at the first sprinkles).  I was hoping to hop on the bike to check out the only bar near town a little ways down US-89A, but this weather has me reticent to even venture a block down the main street to see what that offers.  I wonder if they have pizza delivery here in Kanab… 

(UPDATE: They don’t.)

I gotta TeePee!! July 20, 2009

Posted by dakotabiker in MegaTweet, Rides.
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UPDATE:

I really really hate to admit this, but I have to stay true to the story…

The teepee has no wifi, no bathroom, no shower (which is kind of why it doesn’t rent well).  Pulling into Mexican Hat, I saw motels with AC, bathrooms, showers, wifi, and vacancy…  so I wimped out and cancelled the Teepee and checked into the San Juan Inn on the San Juan river for about the same price.  For the record, I did call the Mex Hat Lodge and asked if they would have any problem with my cancelling in the interest of bath and wifi – and they were cool with it. 

_______________________

This is too wild.  As some of you may know, the focus of my southern route home (besides collecting states) was to have a Swinging Ribeye at the Mexican Hat Lodge. Figuring hotel vacancy may be at a premium, I just called to book a room… and of course they were “booked solid”.  I told the guy about the trip and how I arranged my southern route for the express purpose of having a Swinging Ribeye — so he is renting me the TeePee!  Apparently even when full-up they don’t rent the TeePee as it is a little “uncomfortable”, but it has a bed and it is all mine. You have to see this…  I can’t wait.  The adventure continues.