Riding Utah’s Backcountry Discovery Route, Part II

Riding Utah’s Backcountry Discovery Route, Part II

Lance Sallis, of Central Texas Restorations, and I rode the top half of Utah’s Backcountry Discovery Route (and then some) last year and before we were done, committed to riding the bottom half as soon as the snow melted in 2021. Our enthusiasm got the better of us and we jumped the gun. The snow falling on our base camp in Park City, Utah, the day before our departure should have been taken as a warning, but we departed Deer Valley ready for a challenge.

It turns out the Utah Backcountry Discovery Route is a tough one to plan. Leave too early and you’ll encounter snow-blocked mountain passes. Leave too late and you will bake in the desert leading into and out of Moab, Utah. To say that Utah offers a little of everything is an understatement.

My ride ended early when 10 days into the trip my bike was stolen from the Navajoland Hotel in Tuba City, Arizona. This left me puddle-hopping my way back to Park City and Lance riding back solo. While he didn’t have the pleasure and amusement of my company, he did enjoy a ride on totally new routes including the Skyline Road where he experienced more great riding while almost suffered frostbite. Utah has a lot of high country.

So, we completed the Utah Backcountry Discovery Route (if it counts to ride around snow covered passes) but I don’t think it will be our last ride of the route. We’ll hit the bottom half again when the snow is off the mountains even if the bikes will run a little hot through the desert. One thing we won’t do is ride anywhere near Tuba City.

What, me worry?: The day before our adventure began, Park City got snowed on. It was gone by the next day so we headed South.
Used Bike Lot: We hadn’t hit the first dirt section before we had to stop at The Notch Pub in Kamas, a restaurant that uses motorcycles to fence their patio area.
Snow go: We rode through some spots of snow before the road climbed in elevation and the snow got deeper. You want to believe that just over the next crest the snow will disappear. It did in this section but we weren’t as lucky the rest of the day.
Locked and loaded: We encountered a heavily-armed driver who was stuck way worse than it appears. This car would not budge. He’ll get the car out when the snow melts. Luckily, a driver with better deep-snow-driving skill drove him out. He turned down riding with us.
Throw in the towel: The road would tease with clear sections and close to dry conditions. Two miles later we’d be axle deep in snow and Jimmy would be blowing a gasket. Time to take an alternative route.
Adventure pass: It didn’t matter if we had to deviate from our intended route. Dual-sport riding is about rolling with the punches.
Health food: Our re-route detour was a loop that dumped us out a mile south of Kamas (where we had been three hours earlier). Lucky for us, Hi-Mountain Burgers still had one chili dog special that we shared.
Dual-surface ride: Our bikes like the dirt better than the pavement. Still, our work-arounds were on roads with almost no traffic and amazing views. Utah is awesome.
Exciting town: When we asked the manager of the Duchesne’s Red Rock Extended Stay what there was to see around town, she replied, “nothing.” Glad the place had HBO.
Out of the snow: The riding from Duchesne was spectacular. A rough section along a deep canyon was obviously devastated by fire and then floods. It was surreal riding.
Swap meet: Wait, what’s Lance doing on a Yamaha? The KTM blew a seal and started puking oil. Chris Conabee, hearing of Lance’s predicament, trucked his Yamaha from Park City to Price so the adventure could continue. It’s what friends do.
Doing their homework: The BDR organization digs deep to plot their routes. It would take years of trial and error to link up a route this fun and entertaining. Just load the route into your GPS and ride. First, join BDR. It is well worth it.
Bowling in a gas station: Blanding, Utah, has the coolest Canyon Country gas station that includes an A&W restaurant and a bowling ally! Lance killed me rolling strike after strike.
Lush accommodation: We try to stay in independently-owned hotels along the ride. Getting into towns too late is risky. Places book up quickly. This place in Green River was our stop before hitting Arches National Park.
From the saddle: There is no better way to visit a National Park, like Arches, than on a motorcycle. You can park easily, you see everything and you can explore dirt roads that most folks can’t navigate.
To each his own: Some riders like to camp along the route and more power to them. Our dual-sport rides end each day with a warm shower, a nice meal and a warm bed.
Eye candy: If this doesn’t make you want to plan a dual-sport ride, nothing will. Either you get it or you don’t.
Long way to town: Moab is only 20 miles away but BDR ain’t gonna take you on the short route. Maybe the most fun of the entire adventure, this section made over 20 water crossings.
Hangries: Lance said this menu item was named in my honor. I do get crabby when I’m hungry or tired.
Fast tunes: When Lance puts in his earbuds I know I’ll be eating dust. The tunes make him fly.
Best night of the trip: The San Juan Trading Post in Mexican Hat, Utah, was the coolest place we stayed during the trip. Highly recommended.
Hats off: The famous Mexican Hat rock. Yes, those are Fox Racing downhill mountain bike pants that are 15 years old. Jersey by Moto XXX. Jimmy is a kook and proud of it.
Fond farewell: The Goosenecks State Park was an interesting stop and the last day to be remembered from this adventure. The next day ended with a stolen bike and Lance forced to ride solo back to Park City. We will ride again.