Not surprisingly, the TV in the bus was tuned to the Weather Channel. Looking at the forecast, I noted that it read "Ceiling Unlimited" - title to one of the songs on Vapor Trails.
"Yes, that's where that came from," Neil said, smiling. "You're the
first person to make that connection."
"So, what's the plan?" I asked.
"Well, I've never been to Canyon De Chelley, so I'd like to go there
first," he replied.
I actually figured we'd be going there, since Neil wrote in his book
that he'd been turned away by bad weather during a previous attempt.
up, then headed north and west, back across the Arizona border (for me) and
up into the barren grasslands of the Navajo Nation. We paused at
a couple of canyon overlooks, then departed to the northeast, taking
the dirt turnoff for route 13 - a number that we should have regarded
with the customary suspicion.
A mile or so up the road, we encountered
a construction crew that was preparing to pave the road. A series
of large highway markers stood in a row, and the three of us began
slaloming between them. the party ended abruptly when the dirt turned
to slippery mud, a water truck having just done its thing. We pressed on -
carefully - and eventually returned to pavement, where we were marveled
at the fact that we would probably be the last motorcyclists to ride
that road in "unimproved" form.
We continued in the dirt on Route
63, only to have the main road dead-end, symbolically, at a cemetery.
So we turned back and took the path less traveled, which quickly
deteriorated from graded dirt road, to two-track jeep road, to single-track.
It then merged with a sand wash, whereupon Michael's rear wheel promptly
sank up to the axle.
I snapped the obligatory humiliating photo with
my new digital camera, and then we headed back the way we came, turning
the other way at a fork. The day before, my younger brother Paul
had said to me, "Whatever
you do, don't hurt Neil. I have tickets for the Madison Square Garden
show." Those words reverberated
through my head as I watched Neil's BMW slither sideways climbing a rise and
then fall over, pitching him over the top and back down the hill!
the desert sand broke his fall, and Neil emerged unscathed. And not the least
bit embarrassed, because he encouraged me to snap another photo before righting
"Do you guys always ride like this?" I asked.
"No, the only time I've ever ridden off-road in the desert was in Baja, and
when Brutus and I tried to cross the Sahara," Neil replied.
Forging on, we arrived
at a rocky ledge, from where we spied a graded dirt road leading to a highway
on the horizon. And so we eventually made our way back to "civilization."
now it was late afternoon, and we still had a couple of hundred miles to go
to Moab, Utah, our evening's destination.
"If there were a show tonight, we'd be calling in a chopper right about now," remarked
Michael. He carries a satellite phone for just such emergencies, but so far,
the worst the pair has suffered is a ruptured oil line.
With Neil leading we
high-tailed it to Moab, covering the distance in little more than two hours.
"You said your 650 cruised comfortably at 95," he told me later, "so I took
"Actually, I think I said 85," I replied, "but I stand corrected."