4 corners - virgin river


                     4 CORNERS OF THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST – part 3 

At the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, the lush forest stops abruptly giving way to the eroded canyons with pinyon pine and juniper, and a multitude of vistas as it descends to the Colorado. It is unlike the South Rim with its steep cliff drop-offs and views of the River. It is only 10-plus miles, as the Condor flies, across to the South Rim, 21 miles by trail, and 200-plus by road. Bright Angel Point Trail is a short and easy out and back hike. 

We headed to Zion Nat’l Park, yet another beautiful landscape. We were able to ride well into the park, along the Virgin River, before the canyon narrowed, bringing the road to an end. Columbines in bloom, clinging to the rock, spotted the canyon walls with color. Like a painting, but real. The walls close in even more, and flash flooding from thunderstorms miles away up canyon become a danger. Today, parking lots are set up at the park entrance and you are shuttled in. 

Most of the day was spent, and we left Zion to find a camping spot further up the road. Nearing sunset we stopped along the Virgin River to take in the view and the setting sun. 

As we were leaving, the sun lay flat on the highway. A car was coming up from behind us and as I was a few steps ahead of Shino, I was able to cross, and motioned to her to wait for the car to pass before crossing the road. I got on the bike and started it up. The car, blinded by the sun and driving slow “Thank God!” near the road edge, didn’t see me, and hit me and the bike knocking us over. My leg was hit. It was numb below the knee. “Thank God!” again, that Shino wasn’t on the bike. I was beside myself realizing how bad it could have been.  

With Shino’s help, I stood the bike up and straightened out the handlebars, fender, and lights. It was good to go. {Déjà vu. I’d done this before, in West Virginia. Same leg, different bike.} 

A passer-by notified the police and they arrived in a couple of hours to fill out an accident report. Considered no-fault because of conditions, I knew I hadn’t pulled far enough off of the road.  

It was now dark and moonless and as we were winding things up, we saw, low to the ground below the horizon in the river valley, a few miles distant and moving south, a formation of red lights moving slow and soundless across the plain. A dozen or more. A patrolman took a call on his radio. I heard him reply, “Yes, I see them.” “Them What??” was the question. They disappeared, one light at a time. Maybe behind a low rise. 

We left for St. George, and the hospital, to check out my leg, taking many looks to our left for those red lights. Arriving near midnight, it was here we would spend the night. Near 5 am the doctor came in. He confirmed that the fibula was broken just below where it joins the tibia just below the knee.  Being non-weight-bearing and not out of alignment, he said “Go easy on it for a week or so, it will heal fine.” He iced it and wrapped it. I don’t remember paying anything for the services. 

We hopped on Interstate 15 south to Las Vegas, stopping at a rest area for some sleep. It proved fruitless and soon we were on our way. Getting on a smaller highway we passed through the beautiful Red Rocks Canyon alongside of the Virgin River where it flows into Lake Mead (when it still had water). We almost ran over a Sidewinder Rattlesnake as it sidewinded across the road. It was fast. 

In Las Vegas we pulled in the front drive of the Circus Circus Casino. I stayed with the bike while Shino went inside to spend some money at the slot machines.  

We headed west through Pahrump, home of Art Bell and his “Coast to Coast” radio program, and on to Tecopa, a small desert community on the California border with its resort hot springs. Trying to find a free spring we’d heard about, we almost got bogged down in sand that had covered the road. We pushed the bike back to the asphalt. It was now dark, and very tired, we bedded down in the sand and sage.  


Up with the dawn, we made for Death Valley, with stops at Zabriskie Point and Furnace Creek, and Stovepipe Wells. It, too, was a wonderland of eroded rock and valley, and already hot. 

On to Lone Pine, and north on Highway 395 with the majestic Mt. Whitney and the steep rugged spine of the Sierra Mountains. A beautiful drive, and one we’ve done a number of times now. Someone wrote a song about it. Oh, wait! - That was me. You can hear it here. 

South of Mammoth Lakes, we decided to stop early for a good night’s rest. It would be our last night. We followed a forest service campground sign well up a small road high on a mountainside. The campground was already in the shade, and empty, with a gorgeous view down-slope across the valley where the sun would set on the mountains in the east. We could see Hwy 395 below.  

We settled in, Shino cooked dinner, and we watched the sun shadow move across the valley. A soft breeze accompanied the quiet of the evening and wide-open sky. 

A small car pulled in on the far side of the grounds about a hundred yards away. While one fellow set up camp, the other got out his violin and started rehearsing scales. He was well-practiced. With the sun setting on the far-off mountains, he began playing some of the most beautiful music, with slow moving passages and sweeping crescendos. He was concert worthy, and we were his audience. It was classical sounding, but unfamiliar to me. His own music, perhaps. Spellbinding it was, and kudos to him for he greatly added to our trip! 

Then the silence of the night, and the stars. 

With an early start on an easy last day out, we drove past the previously visited Mono Craters and Lake, and the Hwy 120 turnoff to Yosemite, on through Lee Vining north to Hwy 108. Here, we crossed the Sierra Mountains at Sonora Pass at 9624’. It is second in altitude to Tioga Pass in Yosemite by only 320’. Still beautiful, yet still different. 

We coasted down the western slope to the Golden Chain Hwy 49. It runs north/south through the most productive fields and towns of the Gold Rush. We’d been here often.  

North to Hwy 4, then west, and down we went across the flat agriculture rich Central Valley, to the East Bay, to Oakland and the Lake Merritt Lodge, where I worked and we lived. We were home in time for supper. 

So ended our two weeks through a magical mystical land! 

I wrote a song along the way - Here are the lyrics, and you can hear it here. 

                                                “Utah Special” 

Riding into Utah we were miles and days from what we knew, With no one knowing where we were going the two of us could pick and choose, Early summer big ole moon, hot and dry and snow and cold, Sunset time our love is blind, my motor was echoing off the stone. 

I never knew that I could feel so good, We never was closer to never coming home again. 

She knows she went right to my heart but I never really had a chance, With her smile and big brown eyes and her holding me the does, She knows me better than I do, She wants to go where I go to, Nothing else need come my way - She’s all I need. 

I never knew that I could feel so good, We never was closer to never coming home again. 

Utah Special - more than I bargained for – snuck up on me before I knew. 

I never was much for “believing”, least ways nothing that’d ever come my way came close to striking me as true, But in The Valley Of The Gods, Something touched me It ain’t no joke, I’d never been that close before, - I’ve been that close a lot since then. 

I never knew that I could feel so good, We never was closer to never coming home again. 

Utah Special - more than I bargained for – better believe I believe. 

Utah - Special - I never knew that I could feel so good.  Utah - Special We never was closer to never coming home again. Utah - Special! 

End part 3, part 1, part 2. 

Image by Simon from pixabay.com


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