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Local duo pens regional motorcycle guides

Between the spring of 2007 and the spring of 2009, Parkite Stephen Zusy logged about 15,000 miles on his motorcycle. The long days spent navigating the open road weren’t all in the name of fun, though – he was riding for the sake of research.

The result, a book entitled "Motorcycle Touring in the Southwest: The Region’s Best Rides," was published in December.

Zusy and his co-author, Christy Karras, decided to write a motorcycle guidebook four or five years ago while exploring scenic routes in eastern Utah. They met while working at the Salt Lake Tribune and decided to combine their editorial and photographic talents to create a comprehensive guide of Southwestern routes.

Zusy, a photojournalist who honed his skills at The Park Record from 2000 to 2002, considers himself an avid motorcyclist and has been riding ever since he was a kid, starting on mini-bikes and dirt bikes and eventually graduating to street bikes. "I’ve always loved being on two wheels," he says. "It’s just a fun way to travel."

Karras had never actually been on a motorcycle when they started brainstorming the concept for the book, but she shares Zusy’s passion for recreation and the outdoors. She has authored scenic driving books and has many years of experience as a writer, reporter and editor.

After reviewing the available books on motorcycling in the Southwest, the pair became convinced that there was a need for an updated, information-packed guide.

The authors decided to focus on Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada because that’s what they are most familiar with. "The American Southwest is one of the most rewarding destinations in the world, with breathtaking scenery, astonishing history, and innumerable chances for recreation of all sorts," they write in the introduction.

The book contains a rundown of 34 rides, including directions, mileage, riding time, services, route highlights, and information on when to go. It also provides helpful tips about road conditions, geography, weather, suggested gear and helmet laws.

Each chapter is packed with maps, photos, and personal sidebars sharing the authors’ perspectives. "Part of the fun of traveling is the weird and crazy stuff that happens along the way," Zusy says. Instead of boring potential riders with lists of dry facts, he and Karras set out to make the book entertaining in addition to informational.

Many of the rides encompass national parks, monuments and landmarks – "places you’d want to see whether you’re on a bike or not," says Zusy.

The book is geared toward riders of all experience levels with any type of motorcycle. "Anybody on any bike could pretty much do what we did," he adds, noting that the guide is also helpful for non-riders who want to tour the region by car.

The advantage of traveling by motorcycle, however, is the experience of being in the open air. "You feel like you’re part of the environment," he says. "You have to be almost hyper-attentive to your surroundings, and you end up seeing, smelling and sometimes even tasting things that you wouldn’t if you were driving in a car."

Motorcyclists also find themselves part of an elite but all-inclusive club on the road. "You’re part of this brotherhood," says Zusy. During his travels, he met riders from all over the country and even the world.

Zusy and Karras, who collaborate on both writing and photography, have already completed the manuscript for a second motorcycle guide, "Motorcycle Touring in the Pacific Northwest," which is slated for release in July or August.

The publisher, Globe Pequot Press, would like to make the books into a national series that may be limited to Suzy and Karras’ projects or may incorporate other authors’ work.

The local duo is currently awaiting the green light to start another journey. "There are a bunch of areas that I would like to do," Zusy says.

Meanwhile, he keeps himself busy by recreating in Park City, taking photos for various freelance projects, and, of course, riding whenever possible.

Karras splits her time between Salt Lake City and Seattle. She is always eager to explore, tour or jump on the back of a bike.

"Motorcycle Touring in the Southwest: The Region’s Best Rides" is available at Dolly’s Bookstore and at all major book retail outlets. For more information, visit http://roadwriters.com/index.html .


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