I went to the desert in search of sun and sand. What I found instead was mud and adventure

I started planning the April trip before Christmas. It was epic. I drove four days straight, more than 2,500 miles from my home in Portland, Maine, to Moab, Utah, a mecca for desert motorsports adventure. Dragging my Russian sidecar bike behind my truck, I made it all the way out west, over the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains, losing a trailer wheel bearing in Des Moines and sleeping in truck stop parking lots.

But I made it.

I'm usually dead set against trailering my bike somewhere to ride. But I made an exception in this case since it was over 2,500 to Moab.

I’m usually dead set against trailering my bike somewhere to ride. But I made an exception in this case since it was over 2,500 miles to Moab.

I met up with a group of sidecar nuts, like myself, at a campsite near Moab, a town hemmed in by dramatic cliffs, canyons and river bottoms. I was prepared for dusty trails, sunshine, cactus and sand. What I mostly got was drizzle, chilly winds, mud and washed-out ruts.

According to usclimatedata.com, the average April rainfall in Moab is .83 inches, as opposed to the average of 4.33 in Portland. I’m not sure how much we got that week, but it rained every single day I was there.

The desert was unexpectedly muddy near Moab when I was there. This bit came from Mineral Bottom Road.

The desert was unexpectedly muddy near Moab when I was there. This bit came from Mineral Bottom Road.

It didn’t rain enough to flood us out, but the sky juice turned the powdered sand into sludge and rendered many of the cliffside trails I wanted to ride unsafe and dangerously slick.

That’s not to say I didn’t have fun. I had plenty of fun and the folks I met up with — none of whom knew me at all — couldn’t have been more kind.

Outside Moab, Utah, Long Canyon stretches out below and beyond my bike as a thunder storm moves in the area. A few minutes later the sky opened up and dumped hail on me.

Outside Moab, Utah, Long Canyon stretches out below and beyond my bike as a thunder storm moves in the area. A few minutes later the sky opened up and dumped hail on me.

I did manage to ride the length of Long Canyon while out for a solo ride on Thursday. It rained on me, of course, but there was also thunder, lightning and hail, just for variety. Looking up, I could see the rainfall pouring off the hard rock canyon tops in makeshift waterfalls. I wondered how much rain was needed for a flash flood down the bottom of the canyon. Luckily, it only rained for a half hour or so that day.

A windmill stabs the sullen sky with the La Sal Mountains partially obscured by clouds behind near Hovenweep National Monument in southeast Utah. The unsettled weather was a pain but it also made for some dramatic skies.

A windmill stabs the sullen sky with the La Sal Mountains partially obscured by clouds behind near Hovenweep National Monument in southeast Utah. The unsettled weather was a pain but it also made for some dramatic skies.

The steepest part came at the top, in a series rutted switchbacks called “Pucker Pass.” I managed to get hung up on a ledge and pile of rocks there. I was able to yank the bike out, but almost ran myself over in the process.

After that, it was a series of magnificent views and changing clouds. The fickle weather did provide some spectacular sunsets and dramatic lighting reveals.

I finally washed the Moab mud off my bike a few days after getting home. The dog looks unimpressed.

I finally washed the Moab mud off my bike a few days after getting home. The dog was unimpressed.

I have a ton more video to edit, but I’ll leave you with just this song and record of Long Canyon today. Eventually, I’ll edit the rest of my footage into a “best of” film.

Until then, I’ll leave you with this thought. You can’t have adventure travel without adventure and adventure only starts when something unexpected happens. I went to the desert looking for hot sun and sand. I found dark skies and cold mud. But it really didn’t matter much in the end because what I really wanted was adventure. And I got plenty of that.

I held the Maine flag aloft while standing on the rocks on the west side of the Monitor and Merrimac Buttes north of Moab, Utah. Dom Chang took the photo for me.

I held the Maine flag aloft during a break in the weather while riding the rocks on the west side of the Monitor and Merrimack Buttes just north of Moab, Utah. Dom Chang took the photo for me.

Troy R. Bennett

About Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.