What do bikes and balloons have in common? Both represent freedom; freedom of the road and freedom of the air. Every June, Panguitch, Utah, has a double event, the Panguitch Valley Balloon Rally and The Sky’s the Limit Rally for bikes and cars. My husband, Jim, and I loaded our trike, a conversion of our 2003 Harley Electra Glide Ultra Classic, and began our journey to Panquitch. We blazed our way north, through the heat, on Interstate 15 past Baker, California, and Primm, Nevada. There was a short reprieve from the high temper- atures as we crested over Halloran Summit at 4,730 feet. We aimed to make it to Mesquite, Nevada, and take a break to cool down. We were trying to catch up with rider friends who left earlier that morning.
Turns out one of their bikes blew a tire, and they were hanging out at Zion Harley-Davidson in Washington, Utah, waiting for repairs. We were only 36 miles from them—catching up was going to be easy. Everyone was frustrated but OK and in three hours we were all on our way to get some supper at Café Rio Mexican Grill in Cedar City, Utah. Be sure you eat there; every one of their menu items is a masterpiece. Onward north on I-15 to State Route 20, then south on Utah Heritage Highway 89. It was cooler as the elevations were now averaging between 6,000-9,000 feet in the Dixie National Forest mountains. We cruised into Paradise RV Park and Campground just north of Panguitch, made camp and wound down under the stars and full moon. The hot day turned into the perfect evening.
Friday morning we all got going at a casual rate before we rode five miles into town looking for a good breakfast. We found the Flying M Coffee Shop and Restaurant. Other than one fast-food place, it is the only restaurant open for breakfast, the food is good and they are very busy.
Now it was time for a scenic side trip. Jim and I opted to go see Antimony, which is nearly a ghost town with a population of 168. Leaving Panguitch, Jim pointed the trike south on Highway 89, and turned east onto Scenic Byway 12 continuing through Red Canyon and its two tunnels. At State Route 22 we headed north and rode through cattle ranches of rolling hills and on single lane roads through small canyons. This ride was an unruffled journey through another time lost to history. In Antimony be sure to stop at the Antimony Mercantile to browse and eat; you will truly enjoy the patty melt on rye bread. After lunch and a breezy chat with the proprietors, we continued north on State Route 22. As we cruised our way back to Panguitch, we picked up State Route 62 west and before long we made it to Highway 89 and started traveling south. Along the way we saw these long mounds of dirt with wooden double doors and supports. Finally, near Circleville, Utah, one was close enough to the road to park the trike and investigate more closely.
In Circleville we stopped at Butch Cassidy’s Hideout Motel and Café to have an espresso and some ice cream. There we asked the owner about the earthen mounds. He said they were used to store potatoes, and the one we took a closer look at was the only unit still in operation in the area. We also learned that just four miles down the road was Butch Cassidy’s family homestead where he grew up—the cabin is still standing. We went to scope it out and spent more than an hour there exploring and fantasizing about Cassidy’s life.
The next morning we got up at 5 a.m. to fly a balloon. Well, at least hoped to be a crew member. We and another riding couple made it to the mass balloon ascension staging grounds about 6 a.m. We were all chosen by Blowing Wind balloon owners to help, and what an experience. It’s lots of hard work, and there’s only a chance you may get a ride. We didn’t, but by 10 a.m. we were at a balloon tailgate party having mimosas and lots of terrific food. Saying good-bye to our gracious hosts, Jim and I rushed off to be in the motorcycle parade down Main Street at 10:30 a.m. The riders honked and revved to a cheering, waving crowd. As 5:30 p.m. rolled around everyone made their way behind the County Courthouse to catch the biker rodeo event. There was more fun, cheering and wagering going on than should be allowed. At dusk a few of the 35 hot air balloons that were at the rally put on a glow show, synchronizing shots of fire to music. Unfortunately, the show had to end early because the wind got so bad. By then night had come and we were all exhausted and worn out.
The rest of our group left early that Sunday morning but Jim and I made it a two-day trip home to Apple Valley, California. On Monday, just south of Baker, California, we took a needed break at Desert Star Ranch at Afton Road exit off I-15. This stop is making a comeback as a rustic, country-style, rider-friendly rest stop, especially with the outdoor shower they installed plumbed with natural well water at a cooling 68 degrees. When you get on the road again, your wet clothes act as an evaporative cooling system, keeping you quite comfortable in the miserable heat. My husband tried it out, I resoaked my cool vest and away we went. It worked and the rest of the trip home was more comfortable. All together we had a jammed-packed weekend, rode a lot of miles and had a great adventure with good people. We’ll be out there again searching for the next one soon.