Originally Published in my column for RoadRUNNER Magazine on: 8/21/2014 as Trans America Trail: Moab to Salina (Home of the World’s Best Chicken Dumplings!)
This morning I’ve turned the parking area outside of our room into a garage; opting to rebuild the rear and front brakes just to be thorough. When my fingers prove not to be an adequate vice, I head to the local Ace Hardware store to acquire the “magical C-clamp.” I cannot help feeling like I am channeling my dad as my grease-covered hands attempt to make the necessary repairs. Even with my dad’s spirit helping me, there’s no doubt that Luke’s guidance and encouragement assisted me in getting the job done. He shows me that it’s just as much a belief that I can fix it as it is the actual know-how of doing it!
Zach, the manager of the Rustic Inn, joins us as we work, joking, “if you’re going up Potash, do you really need brakes, especially since you made it down Ophir Pass without any?” Eventually the job is done. The brakes are as good as new; or at least better than they were during the first half of the TAT. I always feel anxious after making my own repairs. But I’m also growing in confidence that I don’t always need to bring the bike in to the shop for every little thing. Look out, Orange County Choppers!
After a quick bite at the excellent Moab Diner, home of the best green chili in Moab, I deliver on my promise to Luke, and we head to Potash Road. I’ve always ridden this route from the top of Canyonlands out, so I look forward to this reverse trek and getting to ascend the twists and turns up to the top.
As we roll out, I again, momentarily, experience some guilt over not following the exact route, as if someone is watching and judging my movements. Perhaps it’s the thought of the watchful eye of online purists. However, I know that anyone who has ever attempted the TAT or any similar journey knows what I mean about needing to ride your own ride. I have a massive amount of respect for the work that Sam put into creating the TAT, but I also know that his original mission was to satisfy himself and not a legion of future devotees. I see the TAT like a musical variation, where a piece of music is altered and repeated over the original theme. The detours are simply our variation on Sam’s theme. Once again, Luke’s the perfect companion for such a ride; a fellow adventurer who’s in it for the ride and not the exactness of the route.
If ever there was one road with infinite photo opportunities, Potash is it! There are also plenty of possibilities for getting buried by sand. Luke gracefully flies over the dunes like Luke Skywalker in a Land Speeder. I, however, sink like the over-loaded Tusken Raider that I feel like with all of my gear. I’m sure it’s the newly acquired C-clamp weighing me down! I let the bike nap in the sand as I shoot photo after photo of Luke tearing it up like a Jedi! (Okay, enough Star Wars references for one blog.)
Soon after we reach the top of the road and are approached by a most international crew. A group of Italian tourists led by a Japanese guide who also speaks fluent Italian—but not English. Our knowledge of Spanish does us no good—but the universal two-hands to face, accompanied by a “clicky motion” and a funny sound, secure us the ability to take each other’s photos at the rim of the road.
Our international experience continues as we roll into the Ranch Motel in Salina. Our Chinese Hostess serves up delicious (and complementary) chicken and dumplings. As we chow down, our guilt of eating next to the chicken coop is eased by cold PBRs that coat our throats and sooth my unbooted—now blackened—foot.