Picture Perfect Petrification


They give us those nice bright colors

Give us the greens of summers

Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day, oh yeah”

– Paul Simon from Kodachrome

For day three of my Utah adventure, my plan was to switch from the national park system to the state park system and hike in two of Utah’s finest; Kodachrome Basin State Park and Escalante Petrified Forest State Park. Upon waking up though, I was a bit sore from the previous day’s hiking and briefly considered not going to give my body a break. Additionally, the temperatures were forecasted to be in the high ‘90s as opposed to the mid-80s I had experienced the day before. And finally, I thought these parks might pale in comparison to the grandeur of what I had seen in Bryce Canyon.  But then an idea hit me…. Instead of hiking, what if I saw Kodachrome Basin on horseback? A quick call at about 8:00 AM to company running the trail ride program in the park and I was told they already had five people for the 9:00 AM ride but they could probably add me as long as I could get there in time.

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Despite the park being only 20 minutes away, I had to scramble to get everything pulled together to be prepared to go. Finding the motel’s ice machine to not be working, I had to make a quick run to the convenience store for ice for the Camelbak which cost me some time I didn’t have to spare. I got to the park about 10 minutes after nine, cursing my timing, formulating an apology for being late and hoping I could plead my case for being allowed to join the group. I needn’t have worried as when I got to the trail ride center, there was only one couple waiting and the trail guide was moving very deliberately as he readied the horses to be ridden. Upon asking him if I could still join the ride, he gave a slow nod and went about his preparations.

In 1948, the National Geographic Society explored and photographed the area for a story in their magazine and named it Kodachrome Flat after the film produced by Kodak known for its bright and vibrant colors. Later after making it a state park, the Utah state park commission changed the name in fear of repercussions from the Kodak company but subsequently got permission to use the name and it became Kodachrome Basin State Park. Similar to, but not the same as the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, Kodachrome is known for its sandstone spires and columns called sand pipes. There are multiple theories on how these were formed and there are sixty even of them throughout the park set against the signature red landscape this part of Utah is known for.

After chatting with the couple for a few minutes while we waited for the trail guide to finish prepping the horses, we got called into the small building next to the horse corral which serves as the starting point for the ride. It turned out there were three no-shows for the morning ride so it would just be the three of us. After signing a waiver, we were taken into the corral by our trail guide, Steve, as he sized each of us up and decided which horse we would ride. Steve gave us some basic instructions on what to do (and not do) and assured us these horses were used to being ridden by people with little or no experience and would be easy to manage. (Although he did say if the horse sensed we were unsure, it might be a little more difficult as horses will do more of what they please if they think their rider is not confident.) I was saddled up on a mare named Annie and was at the back of our small pack as I guess Steve wanted the couple who had no horse riding experience nearest to him as I said I had ridden a horse a few times

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Steve proved to be an excellent trail guide. Probably in his 50’s, he is a third generation rancher from Utah who has the look and mannerisms of someone who has been around horses his whole life and peppered his speech with the adages and expressions one would expect from what we used to call cowboys in this country.  One of my favorites was when he was about to mount his horse and he said, “The older I get, the more I appreciate a short horse.” Steve took us on a two hour trail ride through the park, taking us on the trails used by hikers and mountain bikers but also taking us on trails which are off limits to the general public. Along the way, he pointed out and told us the names of the more famous sand pipes, gave us some of the history of the park, and told us some personal stories of his life as a rancher, all the while giving us gentle corrections on how to get our horses to follow our lead if we were doing something incorrectly. He made the experience quite enjoyable by adding such a personal touch and if you ever visit Kodachrome, I highly recommend you get in touch with Red Canyon Trail Rides and schedule a ride.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get many pictures in Kodachrome as both my hands were occupied during the ride with one hand on the reins and the other in a white knuckle grip on the saddle horn. I didn’t want to suffer the embarrassment of trying to take a picture with my phone and either dropping it and having to ask the trail guide to retrieve it or worse, tumbling off my mount. A couple of the shots I did get are below.

On the trail with our guide and an example of a sand pipe.

After two hours on a horse, I was a little sore albeit in a different way than I was from hiking. And I was hungry since in my rush to get to the park, I skipped breakfast. I was told there was a great pizza place in Escalante but I couldn’t remember the name. A quick Google search pointed me to Escalante Outfitters which is a combination of outdoor gear store, log cabin rentals and pizza(?). I rode past it two times not realizing it served food and to say the least I was a little skeptical. (As a native New Yorker, I have high standards for pizza but always approach things with an open mind.) Well, I was not disappointed. If you are ever in Escalante, this is the place to go.

Up next on the agenda was Escalante Petrified Forest State Park. Having missed my opportunity to get to Petrified Forest National Park on my trip to Arizona last year, I made sure to schedule this park. As a side note, petrified is not wood at all but rather it is minerals like silica which crystallize over the course of millions of years within the wood’s cell structure when fallen trees get buried in mud and don’t decompose since they are in an oxygen free environment.

It was pretty hot by this time of the day as the temperatures were north of 100 degrees so I was hoping to make quick work of the 1.75 mile trail. I found myself struggling a bit and ended up doing the loop which had the most examples of petrified wood, All ended well when I met another hiker on the trail who pointed me in the right direction.

My day ended with me checking into the Circle D Motel in Escalante. Fortunately for me, it was right next door to the only bar along Utah Hwy 12. What a pleasant surprise. It’s run by a couple of Southern California natives who converted a 1940s service station into a bar with a California influenced menu. The crowd was friendly with a number of folks from various places who came to town on their motorcycles. I will talk a little about them on another post. The 4th West Pub was definitely a great find and worth a visit the next time you are in Escalante.

Hoodoo You Love

“Come on take a walk with me baby and tell me who do you love?” – Bo Diddly from Who Do You Love

After the first day’s marathon ride, I thought I would be wiped out the next day but I was pleasantly surprised at how refreshed I felt. The miles on the bike were minimal on the second day of this trip as I made my way to another one of our spectacular national parks, Bryce Canyon. An early start had me at the park before 9:00 AM and after a quick visit to the visitor’s center to watch the film about the park and to pick up a souvenir, I was ready to spend a full day hiking and exploring. Bryce Canyon is one of the Big 5 National Parks in Utah, (the others being Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion), and despite its relatively small size as National Parks go (about 36K acres), it still attracts close to 2.6 million visitors a year.

Bryce’s claim to fame is a very high concentration of a geological formation known as hoodoos. Hoodoos form over millions of years as each winter, melting snow, in the form of water, seeps into the cracks and then freezes at night prying open the cracks bit by bit, making them even wider. The resulting formation as these cracks erode the structure is a unique looking spire. In Bryce Canyon, the landscape produced a huge amphitheater of hoodoos.

Amphitheater of Hoodoos

My main hike of the day took me down “below the rim” to get a first hand look at the hoodoos from the bottom up. The scenery was spectacular and at every turn I saw something even more fascinating.

View of Hoodoos from below

One of the coolest things in the park which gives you a real sense of the size and scale of the hoodoos is a section called Wall Street with its switchbacks to get back to the rim.

Views walking up and looking down Wall Street

After hiking into the early afternoon, I spent a good part of the rest of the day riding the roads of the park and stopping at the various view points. This was one of those parks when just when I thought I had seen all I wanted to see, yet another vantage point would pique my interest.

I had now successfully checked off on of the Big 5 from my bucket list and headed to the Red Ledges Inn in Tropic, Utah to get a good night’s rest. It was there that I met a lovely couple, Kai and Gia, who had also spent the day in Bryce Canyon. Kai is originally from New Jersey and Gia a Sacramento native. We had a couple of drinks and shared stories for a couple of hours. As it usually goes on these trips, it’s the people that make it just as special as the riding and the sights.

Testing 1,2,3…..

Testing oneself is best when done alone. – Jimmy Carter

514 miles

A couple of years ago I read about a motorcycle run hosted by the Southern California Motorcycling Association around Labor Day Weekend called the Three Flags Classic. It’s a four day run, (with a fifth day added on every fifth anniversary run), starting in Mexico and ending in Canada. It’s a pre-planned route with checkpoints each rider must get to by the end of each day and at the end they throw a big party and award each finisher with a Three Flag Classic belt buckle. I signed up to do it in 2020, which was scheduled to be a five day run, but it was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. So it is tentatively scheduled to happen this year assuming Canada opens its borders to foreign travelers and I am planning to do it. (That assumes my new passport arrives in time since I did not realize my old passport had expired)

It’s not a race but it is an endurance test since each day is roughly 500 miles of riding. So to get ready for this event I decided to take a week off and attempt to do at least a couple of days with similar miles in the saddle to make sure I am prepared to do this for a week. So today, I rode 514 miles from my home in Southern California to Utah in anticipation of riding Utah’s famous Highway 12 Scenic Byway and see two of Utah’s Big 5 National Parks, Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef. At the end of the week, I will be attending the Old Skool Panguitch Motorcycle Rally before heading home on another 500 miler in a day.

Today’s ride ended in Hatch, Utah where I am staying at the Bryce Zion Inn, a quaint and clean motel straight out of the 1960’s. Although it is Independence Day, because it fell on a Sunday, many people have the day off on Monday so the roads were not congested at all so the Indian (still no name yet but I am getting closer) just gobbled up the miles and I felt better after 500+ miles than a 300 mile day on Penny. Of course, it being July, the temperatures from about 30 miles outside of Las Vegas until about 20 miles outside of St. George, Utah were in the triple digits. Other than that, the ride was uneventful as I traveled nearly the whole ride on Interstate 15. I prefer not to deal with the traffic, trucks and excessive speed limits but today was a pleasure.

Love the retro sign!
So retro they still take mastercharge? Is that still a thing?
Always try to get a room where you can see the bike from the room.

Thanks for Visiting, Parker

The first day of these trips is usually a bit of a slog since I usually find myself trying to make up for lost time because of a later than expected start. Throw in having to get used to spending long hours in the saddle again and covering roads I have done multiple times before and it’s easy to see why the excitement and anticipation of starting these road trips gets tempered quickly. This time was no different as I made my way across California over the San Jacinto mountains and down into Palm Desert before getting on Interstate 10 and then traversing the Colorado and Sonoran deserts on my way to Buckskin Mountain State Park in Parker, Arizona, just south of Lake Havasu.

I chose Parker, AZ as my destination as it was a natural halfway point to my next destination near Sonoma and it also happens to be my last name and I thought it would be fun to stay in a place which shares my surname. What I learned later was the town was named after Ely Parker, a Seneca Indian who served as a lieutenant colonel under General Ulysses S. Grant as his military secretary during the Civil War and later as President Grant’s head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Since U.S. Grant was a hero of mine as a kid, it made the decision to stay there all the more meaningful.

Temperatures on the ride were well over 90 degrees most of the way and for the last hundred miles or so, they were in the 105 to 109 degree range making for some uncomfortable riding. I got to the campground which was right on the Colorado River, hoping there would be some cool breezes off the river but all I found was the sound of speed boats and personal watercraft as day trippers made the best of the end of the weekend as it was late Sunday afternoon when I arrived. I set up camp and relaxed a bit but didn’t get too settled in as I was planning on getting up and out early in the morning to try to beat the heat.

For dinner, I was able to walk to the Sundance Saloon which was about a mile and a half away. It’s a local bar right on the river which has operated off and on since the early 1970’s. Based on the photos on the walls, it looks like it can get pretty raucous. On this night it was rather quiet considering the high temperatures, the fact that it was a Sunday night and many people were probably staying in due to COVID-19. The food was good and the drinks flowed. I chatted up a couple of the locals who assured me the place was normally a lot busier.

On my way back to camp, I walked along an abandoned road, (Riverside Drive), which had been closed due to numerous rockslides which littered the roadway. It was quicker and safer than walking on the highway in the dark. A quick internet search revealed the road has been intermittently closed and reopened since 2005. As I walked back, I came across a small memorial on the road for someone named Dave, who appears to have perished at this spot. Whoever built it did a nice job and even installed a solar powered lamp which lights it up in the night. A small motorcycle replica and the Yamaha logo painted on one of the rocks led me to believe it was a motorcycle fatality. These types of things are always quite sobering as I know I take a risk every time I get on the bike.

This made me wonder if Dave’s demise is one of the reasons this road is closed

Despite the heat, I got a decent night’s sleep and was able to hit the road early enough to get some miles in before the sun beat down on me again. As I was leaving town, I couldn’t help but notice the sign which welcomes you on one side is the same one which on the other side thanks you for visiting as you are departing. That should give you an idea of how small a town it is with just over 3,000 residents.

Southbound it looks like this and the view from the northbound side is just below.
As I took this picture, the old joke about the importance of good grammar came to mind. Just as there is a big difference between “Let’s eat, Grandma” and “Let’s eat Grandma”, I was tempted to get a red Sharpie and put a comma after the word “visiting” to add a bit of personalization that anyone with the name Parker would appreciate.

Managing Great Expectations

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” – Charles Dickens from A Tale of Two Cities

We all know how 2020 has turned out so far. COVID-19, despicable acts of police brutality, protests leading to violence and who knows what else will be forthcoming considering it’s only the beginning of October. I can relate to the Dickens quote under the title of this post in that it has been a rough year for many, but not so much for me. I have not gotten ill nor lost my job nor personally witnessed any of the violence that has been both the cause of and the outcome of widespread social unrest. Even full time working from home has provided me with the benefit of spending more time with my wife than I ever had before and we both have enjoyed each other’s company tremendously.

The year started off with high hopes of doing a lot of traveling. A two week cycling tour of cities along the Danube River and the second of two sabbaticals I earned at my job were scheduled. The trip to Europe was cancelled and what was supposed to be a five week sabbatical on my motorcycle had to be scaled back to two weeks due to cancellations and closures of places I had planned to visit. The highlights of this trip were a couple of days in Sedona, AZ, tracing some of the Mother Road, Route 66, in Arizona and California and four days at Grand Canyon National Park. You’ll also notice Penny is not on this trip as I recently bought another motorcycle better suited for long distance touring. You can learn more about it at the post titled An (Iron) Horse With No Name. As I was at the mercy of weak or non-existent internet connections while camping for most of the trip, all of the posts for Roadtrip 2020 are being done after the fact but while they are still fresh in my mind. Despite the challenges this year has presented, I remind myself to be thankful, (and to score a Dickens trifecta of references), I close with this quote from A Christmas Carol, “Reflect upon your present blessings — of which every man has many — not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

An (Iron) Horse With No Name

The latest addition to the garage, (or maybe it’s a stable?), is a 2016 Indian Roadmaster. This bike is Indian Motorcycle’s touring model and it is a beautiful machine. I have toured a lot on my Harley Davidson Softail Custom, aka Penny, but have never been able to do any long distance riding with my wife Anita as it just isn’t designed for a passenger to be on it for extended periods of time. It also isn’t practical since the passenger seat on Penny is where I load my camping gear for these trips. I was contemplating sinking a few thousand dollars into Penny to give her some more power and grunt when Anita suggested I consider getting larger bike so she could ride more with me. She even went as far as to say I didn’t have to sell Penny since she knows how much I love that bike. There was only one catch. It had to be an Indian since she fell in love with the way they look when we test rode one a few years ago. Well, I didn’t need to be told twice to consider that option and I wanted to get it before she changed her mind.

I quickly went into search overdrive and found a beautifully maintained model located in Wyoming. I thought what better way to get accustomed to a big touring bike than to buy it and ride it home 1300 miles or so. The seller, a guy named Rick, was very accommodating and I immediately developed a rapport with him. He agreed to trailer it to the nearest Indian dealership to him, (which was about 100 miles away), located in Idaho Falls, ID. As luck would have it, there was a direct flight from San Diego to Idaho Fall so I flew there, got the bike checked out by the dealer and handed Rick the check. I took a couple of days to ride it to Lake Tahoe where I met Anita who flew into Reno, NV. We stayed with friends in Lake Tahoe for a few days and then rode it the rest of the way home.

Now that the backstory has been told, let’s get to the point of this post. As you may know, all of my modes of transport have a name. There is Penny and the Harley VROD which I named Marilyn. You can read about them here at the posts telling their story, aptly titled Penny and Marilyn. Usually the name for a bike comes to me pretty quickly but the name for this one has been pretty elusive. I’ve owned it since June and although I’ve had several ideas using Native American names, both real and fictional, none of them have stuck yet. I am hoping this road trip I am on will reveal the bike’s true character and I come away with an appropriate name for the newest member of my motorcycle family. In the meantime, to paraphrase the iconic ’70s soft rock band, America, “I will have been through the desert on an (iron) horse with no name.”

P.S. If you’re reading this and you think you have good idea for a name, let me know. You certainly wouldn’t be the first to name one of my vehicles.

Raison d’etre

This blog is mainly for me to go back and reflect upon the wonderful opportunities I have had to do some long distance motorcycle touring. The origin of its name is based on the name of my first motorcycle, a 2008 Harley Davidson Softail Custom nicknamed Penny for the copper color of the bike. I have since added a couple more motorcycles to the garage; a 2003 Harley Davidson VROD and most recently, a 2016 Indian Roadmaster. Although Penny doesn’t get ridden as much anymore and most of my touring going forward will be on the Roadmaster, I’ve decided to keep the name of the blog since Penny was my first bike and you never forget your first love.  You can follow me here or if you want to see the abridged version, you can check out my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pennyandmythoughts

Penny & Roadmaster 2

Pennythought of the Day – 13-Aug-2016

How do you know when you have met a genuine, card carrying “cat lady”?  I stayed at a campground that had an office/gift shop where you register for the night. The moment I walked in the distinct smell of cat urine assaulted my nasal passages. I had seen a black cat outside the building just prior to entering and another cat inside the shop. Trying to be friendly, I asked the name of the black cat I saw outside of the office and she asked which one and the woman who runs the place then proceeded to reel off the names and descriptions of five different “black” cats under her care. THAT is when you know you are dealing with the real deal as far as cat ladies go.

What’s in a name?

Ever since I got my first 10 speed as a kid, every vehicle I have owned has been commissioned with a name. Whether it was a bicycle, a car and now motorcycles, they all get referred to by their given name. Sometimes I came up with the name but other times they were coined by others who saw something about the wheeled mode of transport that reflected its personality in some way. The names have ranged the gamut and include Smokey, Old Yeller, Rosie, Blaze and Sally. Each has their own backstory and this section will give you some insight into how and why each of my motorcycles got its moniker.


Most people have a definite image in their mind when they think of a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Big and beefy. Loud. Lots of chrome. Unless, of course, you are talking about the VROD which was manufactured from 2001 to 2017 and developed in partnership with Porsche. In many ways it is everything the typical Harley cruiser or touring bike is not. It’s fast. And sleek. It has a water cooled engine which is considered heresy among Harley purists. The Motor Company even listed the size of its engine in cubic centimeters, 1131 cc to be exact, rather than the traditional cubic inches like every other bike in their lineup. (Because as any red-blooded American knows, we don’t need no stinkin’ metric system.) I happen to own a 2003 100th Anniversary Edition VROD. You won’t read much about it here on this blog as it mainly serves as a commuter bike to get back and forth to the office but I thought it was important to tell her story as well.

I had always admired the VROD but when I spoke with Harley riders about it, most of them dismissed it as an anomaly. Something Harley had done to try to compete with the Japanese and European bikes while still retaining some of the Harley cache. In many ways, it was the proverbial red headed step child. Non-Harley riders, on the other hand, loved the VROD. I’ve heard many of them say, “if I was going to own a Harley, it would be a VROD”.

After I bought my VROD, I was explaining this phenomenon to a co-worker who owned a couple of bikes himself when it dawned on me that VRODs were just like the character Marilyn on the 1960’s television show The Munsters. For those of you old enough to remember, the Munsters was about a family with a father who looked like Frankenstein, a mother and grandpa who were vampires and a son who was a werewolf. And then there was their niece Marilyn. Blonde and attractive by normal standards but to the ghoulish looking family her appearance is an affliction. She even considered herself to be homely and attributed that to her inability to attract a boyfriend . (And not the fact that the rest of her family was so scary.) It was then that I realized Marilyn was the perfect name for my VROD. She is ugly to the immediate family, (Harley riders), yet attractive to those outside the family, (non-Harley riders), but still a bit scary because of who she is related to.