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Utah: Mission: Possible

Text: Brian Shaney • Photography: Brian Shaney, Kris Shaney

It may come as a surprise to learn that in at least one Utah county it apparently is illegal to hire trombone players to play on the street to advertise an auction, or that Jell-O is the official state snack. Did you know that Utah often ranks as the second or third driest state in the U.S., or that some parts of the state experience about 300 sunny days a year? Oh, and in case you have been asleep for the past several years, you might be interested to know that Utah is heaven on earth for motorcyclists. (It is a fact—I checked.) So it’s no wonder that when Kris and I were asked to do this tour on a pair of 2019 KTM 790 Adventure R’s, I couldn’t say yes fast enough or loud enough. Of course, we will be leaving our trombones at home.

Just Up the Road

The small town of Bluff, UT, is tucked away in the southeastern corner of the state. It’s in the Four Corners region, the only place in the United States where four states meet—Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah, specifically. While the area has long been home to Native Americans, in 1880 roughly 230 Mormon settlers arrived here in search of farmland. The picturesque town has since become a haven for those seeking an escape from larger cities. Many residents of the area are artists, writers, and others who enjoy a less conventional lifestyle. This is where Kris and I start our four-day journey traveling some of Utah’s better known (and a few lesser known) roads.

It’s late September, and while it was quite windy when we rolled into town last night, the winds have died down this morning. Preparing for departure from our overnight stay at the Kokopelli Inn, we are traveling with minimal gear; our only luxury is a pair of Sena headsets. With our communicators paired, we head off under sunny skies toward the ever-popular adventure seeker’s utopia known as Moab, UT.

While the city is just under 100 miles due north, we will not be taking the direct route to “Adventureland.” In short order, we depart the highway in favor of the unpaved CR 146 (aka Montezuma Canyon Road). The hard-packed dirt and gravel surface is well groomed and absent of any traffic, allowing us to get better acquainted with our machines. The 43-mile stretch of road climbs gradually, with a few switchbacks along the way. While it is not technically challenging, we do have to make an extra effort to keep our eyes on the road, passing several caves, unique rock formations, and petroglyphs before we rejoin US 191 and pavement.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the September/October 2020 back issue.