Sandstorms in Moab

Sandstorms in Moab

Dec 08, 2021

Once again we had broken down, and once again, a dear friend was there to rescue us. This time we had a non-starting motorcycle in Boise, Idaho, and our savior was Brandon Lever. As I paced around fretting over our latest mishap, Brandon told me that everything was going to be all right, and that he had a good feeling about it. But I didn't believe him.

Since the mechanics in Idaho were all fully booked, Brandon offered to trailer us and the motorcycle down to Salt Lake City to the dealership there. And hopefully, if all the stars aligned correctly, they would be able to diagnose the problem, and the solution wouldn't require any parts to be ordered, because we had just a few days before we had to be down in Flagstaff, Arizona for the Overland Expo West. There was simply not enough time to get anything done besides a simple fix, and once again, we were alerting the heads of the Expo that it was possible we might have to cancel all our plans.

I don't ever really like to see the bike in pieces.

As we arrived at the KTM dealership in Salt Lake City, I recognized the building and the mechanics since we had just been there the week prior. And years before that, we'd visited two other times for minor repairs. This was now our fourth time with this motorcycle to that particular dealership, and I have to say, with quite a few KTM dealership experiences now under our belt from across the world, this one was our favorite. Every time we went there they were able to take us in right away, and they worked hard, with friendly smiles, and always did an expert job. So if there was anyone we could have faith in to do this miracle in the time it required, it was the wonderful people at the Edge dealership.

They immediately brought the bike into the back, and as we waited for the results, we said our sad farewells to Brandon. He had been a true friend, and had gone above and beyond what any average person would do. He had invited us into his home and shared his incredible life with us, and he had taken the time and energy to bring us all the way to another city in another state so that we could continue our journey. But perhaps most importantly, he had taught me an important lesson, that maybe it's not so useful to fret over every breakdown. But that I should trust my gut instinct telling me that everything is going to be ok.
Us and Brandon at the KTM dealership in SLC.

We spent that night at our friend Emiliano's apartment, and it was fantastic to see him again (we had met on the road in South Africa and traveled throughout Africa with him). It was also great to meet his girlfriend Melissa whom Emiliano had met in Africa as well (small world). But at the same time we were worried about the motorcycle, and worried that this would be our last stop in our travels with it.

But Brandon had been right. Because the next day, the mechanics gave us a call that they had not only diagnosed the problem, they'd fixed it! It turned out the the throttle bodies were out of sync (whatever that means) and they'd realigned them for us. No parts had to be ordered, and after cleaning out all the inner components of the engine that we could never get to, the bike now ran better than ever!

"It's like she's brand new!" I exclaimed as he took the bike for a test ride around town.

And now that we had a functioning motorcycle, and it was about to be the weekend, we all decided to go on an adventure and truly test her out. Emiliano and Melissa packed up their motorcycle too, and the four of us headed south to explore the desert canyons in Moab.

Melissa and Emiliano packing up for an adventure with us!

Marisa and I had been to Moab before, seven years ago on our Maiden Voyage around the Rocky Mountains. We had just purchased the motorcycle just a month prior, and we were testing her out, as well as ourselves. We wanted to know if we enjoyed motorcycle travel together, and spoiler alert - we did.

At the time, we had almost no experience going off road, and we were woefully unprepared for the types of roads that Moab offered. Moab is Utah's outdoor adventure playground, the perfect place to get lost on ATVs, or go rock climbing, sky diving, slot canyoning (still not sure what that is), and anything else you can think of that involves being out in the great desert landscapes surrounding Moab. Being right next to two National Parks - Arches and Canyonlands - it's the perfect jumping off point to all of the adventures these parks can offer.

But as you may know if you've read our first book, Maiden Voyage, we headed into Canyonlands without the right gear, or the right skillset, having no idea what we were getting ourselves into. And we started down a steep and sandy cliff-edged pass called Shafer Pass, and wisely decided to turn back around after the first switchback. It was beyond us at the time.

This is the tail end of Shafer Pass in Canyonlands.

So this time around, Marisa and I knew that we had to once and for all conquer Shafer Pass. And Emiliano and Melissa were more than happy to join us on this epic mission.

But as we entered the desert around Moab, we could see the dark brewing clouds of a menacing storm ahead. And soon the winds picked up, and red darkness enveloped the space. It was like the air became sand, and the skies became desert. Clouds of dust started whipping around us, and we braced ourselves against the sandy gusts that scratched at our eyes and noses.


"This is awful!" I cried over to Emiliano.

"Yeah! Let's just get to a campsite as quick as we can!" Emiliano screamed through the wind at us.

But as we headed down the road, we realized that even if we found a campsite, setting up in this weather was not going to be possible. Even just riding down the road was becoming treacherous as the winds knocked us from side to side. The darkness of the storm gathered around us, and the streams of headlights of oncoming traffic would break through the sandstorm gusts like ghost ships passing through the madness.



After about 40 minutes of battling through this, we came into the town of Moab and saw a Denny's in the distance. And like a beacon of hope, we headed to it, no questions asked. Unfortunately, there was a "CLOSED" sing at its front door, but the door was open, so we headed inside in desperation.

"Sorry, but two of our chefs just quit, so we're closed," the woman at the front told us.

But as we took our helmets off and breathed in the tranquil air of Denny's like it was the first breath we'd taken in hours, the woman reconsidered. "Well, if you're just looking for coffee and a place to wait out the storm, I suppose we could let you sit down."

We thankfully did so, and huddled into a booth, holding those warm cups of coffee and tea like they were the best drinks we'd ever had.

I told Emiliano and Melissa, "Marisa and I came to this same Denny's seven years ago when we were in Moab, and it was also a saving grace from terrible weather. But at the time we came here to escape the heat and the sun. I think I downed at least three glasses of cold water when we were here."

Marisa smiled, and confirmed everything. "Yup, and now it's saved us again."

Thankfully, the storm let up, and even though we had to wait until dusk, we were eventually able to continue on our way to find a campground.


There were some beautiful rainbows in the sky after the storm that evening.

The next morning felt as if there had never been a storm the previous day at all. The skies were clear and blue, the waters of the Colorado River were placid. And little birds flitted from thorny tree to thorny tree.

First and last thing on the agenda of the day was to explore Moab's backroads, and most of all, to go down Shafer Pass. So we headed off to Canyonlands, and from the top rim of the plateau, we looked down at the weaving switchbacks of Shafer. And I remembered the steepness, and the loose gravel, but I had forgotten just how narrow some sections were, with an incredibly sheer drop-off to one side. This was not a road for those with vertigo.

But we made it down the pass, this time with ease, and gave ourselves congratulatory high-fives at the bottom. Then we spent the rest of the day taking dirt roads through gorgeous ravines and canyons in the desert, and had lunch in a very picturesque spot.


A pretty nice picnic spot.

And to finish things off with a bang, we ended our day in Moab with a hike to some waterfalls. But after the falls, we had to say our goodbyes to Emiliano and Melissa, since they needed to go back to work on Monday and would try to get as far as they could down the road to Salt Lake City that evening. But our adventures in Moab had been incredible, not just because Marisa and I had finally conquered our nemesis of Shafer Pass, but we had done it all in the company of incredible friends, friends whom we had made in other continents, friends for life.

​Because it's not all just about the views and the roads, but the people you share it with.

It's always nice to end the day with a waterfall.


Emiliano and Melissa on our evening hike.

I want to thank Brandon Lever and his wife Katherine for all they've done for us, and also give a big shout-out to Emiliano and Melissa for being troopers during that crazy storm, and for being there with us for some of our best experiences in Utah.


If you are enjoying our tale, please take a look at the books we have written along our journey. They can be found on Amazon at!

Thank you to everyone who follows us along as we meander around the world!

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