• Joe Cooke


Updated: Oct 8

Rolled into the garage on Thursday afternoon with exactly 1,141 miles on the trip odometer. I know a lot of people do that much in a couple of days, but that was a major accomplishment for me. (See 44 months and Lessons from 4-corners)

After my adventure in Kayenta and the beautiful and lonely drive up to Moab, I decided to rest and recover for one full day. I took all the gear off the bike that evening and drove out through Arches National Monument for a peek at Delicate Arch, which is the one on all the postcards. Much like Four Corners, I found the journey to the goal to be the best part of the adventure. Also, a trip like that can’t be caught on camera. Moving through the vastness of space is something that has to be experienced by the human senses, not just eyes, but skin that feels heat and wind, and ears that hear the roar of the engine and the quiet of the canyons, and tongue that tastes dust and the refreshing splash of water, and nose that smells the spicy purple sage and sweet juniper. I had everything stripped off the Harley, even the windshield, so I could feel it all.

I timed my trip to see the setting sun. The rocky ridges glowed orange and yellow, towering over me. Words can’t do that winding road justice. Pictures can’t. It’s all experiential and fabulous. Some people in cars just dashed from lookout to lookout, pulling over, snapping photos, jumping back in. How much of our lives do we spend like that, I wonder?

On my final day alone, the weather looked iffy over the Rockies so I chose to backtrack a bit to Monticello, Utah, and then over to Durango on my way to Pagosa Springs, where something too terrible to even mention here happened. (Hyperbole: spoiler alert – it’s wasn’t that bad.)

I saw a giant tormenta that shrouded Ouray and the Million Dollar Highway that I had originally planned to hit. It was black and ominous and threatened to move my way, and for about an hour I was headed straight for it, but the road turned south and I skirted the edge of it, only getting about five drops of water on my head, but talk in Durango was of drenching sheets of rain, so after a short stop at the Harley dealer to stretch my legs and pet the resident brindle-colored great Dane, I drove the last hour to Pagosa Springs. The rain finally caught up with me right at check-in, but I got lost, made a bad decision on a back road, and dropped my bike, very gently, on a sloped gravel intersection with a forest road. No damage (thanks to crash bars, also called engine guards or highway bars), and a kindly fellow biker in a pickup helped me get it upright again. It’s 800 pounds, my legs were tired, and it had tipped toward the downhill side, so I couldn’t even budge it.

I found the cabin. Unloaded. Zero damage to the bike and only a slight nick in my ego. Kicked back and at about 7 that night, Katie showed up with a light dinner and we spent the next few days soaking in the mineral springs, floating in the San Juan River, and exploring the forest roads in the Jeep.

I almost didn’t take this trip. COVID, the Delta Variant, my own suppressed immune system and the fatigue that comes with it. All of that said, shucks, better not. In retrospect, it was exactly what I needed. I was mostly unplugged and alone, no TV, no movies, and I didn’t even listen to music as I rode along. I just was. For a few days, I just existed in each moment and basked in the gratitude that I felt for having the means and opportunity to ride that circle.

As Katie and I always say, I worked hard I arranged my life to be able to do that. Still, a trip like that is a gift, and I will never forget that.

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