Words and photos by Jenny Linquist
Almost a year ago in May, I set out on the long road to Utah for the first annual Motos in Moab campout. It was my first big solo trip on a motorcycle...I'd been on a few long trips with my husband, Mike, and hauled my bike to far-off places in a truck bed, but never before just me and my two wheels. I parted ways with Mike at a gas station in Seattle, me heading out on my first adventure of this kind, he to a month long work stint in Charleston, SC.
With nervous tears in my eyes I took off, and it wasn't until I made it through the fog on Snoqualmie Pass that my nerves began to settle. Riding solo is a different experience; in a group, my focus is always drawn to checking and rechecking my surroundings every couple of seconds, always paying too much attention to the distance, speed, and riding quirks of the other motorcyclists around me. Alone on the road, my mind wandered. I quickly grew to love it.
Before I left, the guys (Mike & Chris) worked tirelessly to get two new saddlebag prototypes ready for my trip. The design this time around was slightly different...an asymmetrical storm flap to match a design style we'd been playing around with. Two different color ways to experiment with the way the textile/leather wore in over hundreds of miles of use.
The ride to Moab from Seattle is just over 1,000 miles. Every single day I hit a rainstorm and every night I checked the inside of my saddlebags to find everything dry. Waxed canvas is a wonderful thing. I wore the same clothes for three days straight and was starting to look pretty rough toward the end of that 1,000 miles. I remember sitting on the curb checking the forecast at a Circle K when a mother walked up to me and asked if I'd like to have her child's applesauce...she thought I was homeless. I smelled like oil and gasoline and probably looked crazy.
I had no idea how my 1976 CB550 would fare running highway speeds for the 400 miles I would ride each day, but it did surprisingly well, considering it's an old rust bucket. The worst thing that happened was running out of gas as I crested a big hill in Utah. I noticed a gas station in the distance and just decided to coast down the other side with no power, like riding a 500 pound bicycle until I magically slowed to a stop right in front of the gas pump. It might have been the luckiest I've ever felt.
I made a few friends in Salt Lake City and rode the last stretch into Moab with them. When we arrived at the campsite, I admit I was a little let down. Having visited Moab once before, I was expecting grandiose rock faces, sagebrush, and a desert landscape. What I found was Pack Creek, a fenced in campground in the middle of downtown Moab — big trailers full of families on vacation, a 5mph speed limit, and an immediate request to keep the noise down to avoid disturbing the other campers and neighbors right on the other side of the fence. 150 people on loud-ass motorcycles squeezed into a couple of small campsites? There was only so much rule following that could be done.
Apparently Moab P.D. received enough complaints to warrant kicking all 150 or so of us out of the campground the next morning. I kept wondering what I'd gotten myself into, riding to this campout solo without a back up plan. We had until 1pm to clear out our things, which gave the truly wonderful dudes throwing the event (Juan Coles of Loco Lobo and Rev of Salt City Builds) until 1pm to find a replacement campsite for over 100 people on a jam packed Memorial Day weekend in Moab.
Somehow they did it, bless them. The new spot was this giant plot of land just 10 minutes away in the lower Colorado River canyon, and it was everything I hoped for when I imagined this trip. Everyones' moods rose through the roof as we pulled into the new campsite and saw the owner of the land picking up fallen trees with his front loader and dropping them into a pile, which would later become the biggest bonfire I've ever witnessed.
What transpired over the following two days is the stuff of legends. Rain that hit so hard and fast that it flooded our meager campsite in a matter of minutes. Bikes falling left and right as the solid ground beneath their kickstands turned into thick desert mud. Tents filling with water and people scrambling through the (now) lake to get their belongings to higher ground. And the next night, motorcycles ripping around a bonfire the size of a two story house, with flames so hot that you could roast marshmallows from 10 feet away. Group rides with new friends through some of the most beautiful landscapes southern Utah has to offer.
Motos in Moab was almost the biggest failed motorcycle campout of all time, but every mishap over the course of that weekend somehow bonded all of us together in a way I wasn't expecting. I met some of my favorite people on the earth in Moab, and left feeling inspired and grateful to have been a witness to any of it at all. I experienced a few mechanical hiccups on my ride back to Seattle, but discovered a newfound confidence in myself as a motorcyclist that can only be acquired by making the decision to get on the bike and simply go.