As I woke up alone in my hotel room I was conflicted. The bed wasn’t the most comfortable bed in the world but it required less energy to lay in it than it did to get back on the horse and ride home.
The weather was clear. The skies were a gorgeous blue and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. And yes, you guessed it, there was wind.
I had another big breakfast and ended up riding the Victory Cross Country out of the parking lot around 8:30.
Today’s route from Chinle back to the Valley would start me off on the 191 South to the Indian 15 then to the 77 South towards Holbrook. After a brief stint on the 40, I would head to Payson by going through Heber. After Payson, it was a quick jaunt down to Scottsdale and into my driveway.
The wind wasn’t as bad this particular Sunday morning. South on the 191 was straight and the flat terrain made it so you could see ahead of you for miles and miles. But there were scenic rock formations, not quite as grand as Monument Valley but a lesser more green version of the same which made the road a lot easier to bear.
The temp was in the upper 60s and I felt comfortable in my leather jacket as I approached a little fork in the road called Burnside. From there I took a road called the Indian 15. The long stretch wasn’t much different than any side street you would take through a neighborhood — minus the neighborhood. And then there were signs like this one — a bovine silhouette. I don’t know about you, but I see signs like this all the time. Sometimes the signs are of elk or deer but it’s only on a rare occasion when they are even relevant because typically, the animal is no where to be spotted. That is until you put up a cow sign. Then less than an hour into your ride home you have to stop suddenly for some coins crossing the road from right to left. I couldn’t get my camera out quick enough to capture the silliness that I’ve never experienced before on a motorcycle in over 40, 000 miles. So I politely waited, for really less than a minute, and then rode on. Until not too much farther, maybe 15 more minutes, I had to stop my bike again. This time, it wasn’t cows but instead a group of horses which were crossing the road I was on from right to left. This time, I was all about the pics. I liked the Indian 15. I liked the 77 on the way to Holbrook. The time flew by just like the miles did.
I should have stopped at Holbrook for food. It was neat that on the beginning of the 2nd day of the ride I took off from Route 66 in Flagstaff. Today about 24 hours later I was returning to Route 66 in Holbrook on the way to the 377 South. And I was feeling good. I mean, why stop for food now? Payson was just a little bit away and I could get some food there…
The 377 lead to the 277 which also rose a lot in elevation. The temps got as low as 60 degrees which was really brisk with a nice wind chill factor from being at speed on the bike. And just when you’re thinking to yourself, this road is too straight and it doesn’t have enough opportunities to pass large lumbering RVs and moving trucks… then it happens: The 260.
Some time in the future, I think a run to Holbrook from North East Phoenix Valley would be a great over nighter or long day trip. Because the 260 is faster, and has multiple lanes to pass and it curves. The 260 curves in ways when you can really press on your handlebars with counter steering and lean. I leaned into the curves and the hum drum dreariness of the straightaways was gone. I could feel myself more focused and more engaged in the ride. I was still hungry… but not nearly as hungry as I was when I wasn’t distracted by riding. I was so nice to ride. Riding without fighting wind and having curves to play with and evergreens on both sides of the road defining my eye line.
Payson was such a welcome site. I had pushed on the motorcycle too long and needed to eat. Where would I go? How about to one of the best breakfast places in town, a place I’ve written about before: The Pinon Cafe. Breakfast sandwich with sausage, and a side of hash browns. Add some water and coffee and I was renewed. I only had an hour left to go and I was content in my restaurant booth taking it easy at about 2 PM.
The traffic was significant. It was Sunday afternoon and all of the recreationalists and other weekend warrior motorcycle riders were heading back to the valley to conclude their mini vacations as well. I wasn’t too fond of having to deal with the traffic on the way down but it was another contrast to what I’ve been riding with up until now. There were so many times on this trip when I would be on a highway and I was easily the only machine traveling for miles all around me. At one point on the 77, I was at a high enough elevation to see the downhill rolled out in front of me like a river pouring back out into the ocean. But those obscure lonely highways were done now. Now I was in a crowd and I was ok with it. I could hear my speakers again since there was no wind noise cancelling out my music.
I don’t taut myself as a fast rider but I enjoy the confidence the Cross Country rewards me. The bike handles and performs like a dream. The more miles I put on it the more it seems to ride better and better. As I started down the 87 back towards the Valley, I was content to set a speed and just safely get home through all of these other cars and motorcycles. But the strangest thing, I was surprised to pass so many other cars and bikers on my way back home. I don’t know the exact reason because I wasn’t flying down the highway at breakneck speeds. I was just riding my own pace. And cars and especially bikes were fading away in my rear view mirrors over and over again. I can’t explain it; maybe I had a sense of urgency since I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Regardless, the ride home on the 87 continued the fun I began to have on the 260.
I did it. Three days. Three states. 900 miles. 16 and a half hours on the Victory. The epic motorcycle ride ended with over 90 degree temps as I pulled into my driveway. This day alone had a 30 degree swing in temps from one location to another. My bike has over 19,000 miles on it now. By some standards, that isn’t many miles at all. But for me, I’m so proud of this experience. And I’m so blessed to have been given this opportunity. It was time for my body to recuperate. It is over and now back to my dog and my bed and somewhere in there, a delicious adult beverage. Now I can check this one off the list in epic fashion.
After pretty much the perfect travelers breakfast, day two started out brisk and windy. Windy would be the theme of the day. As I started out on the former Route 66, the winds were only about 20 to 25 mph and the chilly temp was perfect for my leather jacket.The plan for this particular Saturday was to make it to Mexican Hat Rock, follow around to the Four Corners Monument and end the day at Chinle, near the Canyon de Chelly Monument.
The ride up the 89 to the 160 to Kayenta was the cost I would have to pay before getting to the heart of my day’s journey. As I began the day fighting the wind, I quickly realized if I had to put up with wind noise reverberating inside my helmet I wouldn’t mentally make it through the day. It was time to put in my custom ear plugs to drop the decibel level around 30 less than what I was dealing with. After a quick stop at a gas station I was set. The wind noise was still pretty significant but it was much more tolerable at a lower volume.I’d never experienced wind as gusting as this through a desert route like I did this particular Saturday. At one point approaching Tuba City, sandy dust was being blown across the roadway in front of me that it looked like smoke. Until I was riding through it. Then I felt the effect of the sand hitting my neck and fill all the crevices of the bike while I was still in motion. The sand hit me in waves as the procession of cars I was part of pushed through.
By the time I hit Kayenta, I still wasn’t hungry. I was well hydrated and my energy was good. I had pee like no one’s business. So after using McDonalds for their restrooms, I grabbed a quick snack (some bars I had stored away for this exact reason) and I headed towards Monument Valley.
I had seen pictures of Monument Valley and always dreamed of visiting. Very quickly the red rocks rose in jagged fat spires out of the ground. It was the payoff which was so worth the ride to get there. And the thing that makes the whole experience even better is how close you can get to these formations. There I was, like a typical tourist taking a selfie of me, the Utah boarder sign, and some of Monument Valley in the background. I must have stopped five or six times to take more photos shortly after that.
A travelers’s tip: if you didn’t already know the best view, in my opinion, of the Valley is on the North Easterly side. You head uphill along a straight away and the perspective is one gorgeous view. The road has several pull offs for exactly this reason. I had already stopped several times to take pictures, only to ride through and see the perfect photo in my rear view mirrors. I had my pics by now and was ready to just ride and rely on my memory from here on out.
I had a great breakfast but my expectation was to get some food in Mexian Hat. The ride to Mexican Hat was gorgeous as well. The red rocks layered like stipes on a flag with ribbons of different colored rocks separating each section made for a scenic ride. The road curved and swooped and quickly I was crossing over the San Juan River and getting my first look at the hotels which were imbedded in the rocks. But the problem is this big city boy had hoped to find a restaurant above and beyond the tourist locations and hotels. Mexican Hat is far from a bustling metropolis though. I had researched Mexican Hat Lodge online and since they bragged about their bar-b-q, it seemed like a great place to grab some food. When I actually stopped at the lodge, there was no one to be found. I literally walked through the entire front lobby and restaurant area and the only person around was a Native working on the landscaping. He tried to help me out but the place didn’t open up for food until after five which wasn’t for a few more hours. So just like in Kayenta, I took a quick break to sit down, rehydrate, and down a snack or two before heading back out on the highway.
I know I’ve already talked about the wind. What’s funny is everyone I talk to about my trip mentions the wind being a factor and it certainly was. I feel like I’ve been initiated into some club. I’m sure many of you who ride have been initiated but for those of you unfamiliar with riding in wind gusts let me attempt to describe it to you. Imagine instead of riding upright at a 90 degree angle, perpendicular to the road, you are going straight but leaning to the side pushing against the wind, counterbalancing against it. But the wind isn’t consistent so it’s a constant adjustment. I would chuckle silently to myself as my helmet was being pressed up against one side of my face and the inside of one of my calves would warm to the heat of the engine despite traveling over 60 miles per hour. There was really only one time the entire three days where I was concerned for my safety because of a gust of wind. Later Saturday I was on my way to Chinle and taking a curve along the highway at about 50 miles per hour when one significant wind gust was powerful enough to catch me off guard. Even though I was already negotiating the wind, this gust surprised me. My bike moved right and I regained control and could feel my heart in my throat. In my head I told myself to focus and concentrate to get through this turn. And just as I did that, another gust of wind, just as powerful as the previous one, moved my bike again to the right. I initiated a little more counter steering and attacked the turn and rode out of it. I was able to compartmentalize my fear for the time being and get myself back to where I needed to be in order to make it to my destination but that was one close call I won’t soon forget.
But I digress. From Mexican Hat, I intended to take the 163 all the way around the San Juan River, into just inside the Colorado border, and down into the Four Corners Monument before heading to the lodge for the night. But instead I took the 191 heading South. Not the worst thing in the world but I ended up having to go a little out of the way 30 miles East to Teec Nos Pos on the way to Four Corners Monument which was another five miles down the road.
As I drove up to the monument which was pretty much out in the middle of no where, I saw a ticket booth. It was $5 to get in to see the monument. I didn’t have any cash — and the Navajo Nation doesn’t accept anything else but cash. There wasn’t an once of sympathy in the face of the Native American woman in the ticket booth. With a soft smile she mentioned there was an ATM… just five miles away … back in Teec Nos Pos. There was no charity to be given to this rider that day. So I turned my bike around and parked in front of the New Mexico sign just outside the entryway to the monument. I wasn’t about to make another 10 mile round trip for $5. Today, after hours of riding and fighting wind, I was going to concede that I wouldn’t get that fourth state in — there was no more Colorado on this quest. From here on out, I’ll have some cash in my pocket. I was easily able to let it go and sleep fine that night.
It was the last 95 or so miles from here to my lodge in Chinle, AZ at the Canyon De Celly Monument where I would hang it up for the day. This would be the windiest part of the day and the most challenging at a time when I was the most road weary. The scenery was still attractive but at this point all I wanted was rest. I had accomplished everything I wanted to for this leg of the journey and was ready to take it easy. I looked down at my wrist. There was a thin band of exposed skin. I didn’t even realize how it had been punished by the sun all day and was now burned. Engaging the cruise control on my VXC to pull down the sleeve over my left wrist wasn’t working. The wind would slowly move it back up. Eventually I stopped to wrap my wrist with a handkerchief I had until I made it to the lodge.When I was this tired, I really appreciated my riding position. The ergonomics of the bike to me were a decent fit. Maybe not perfect but a good fit nonetheless. My posture was good enough to keep my back from any major aches. I really came to appreciate the bike, and its balance, and design.
The Thunderbird Lodge was tucked away with the best access to the Canyon and the most affordable prices of any of the other major chain hotels. It was a part of the Navajo Nation. They didn’t have a restaurant as much as they had a cafeteria and there wasn’t going to be any beer for me tonight. They didn’t sell it at the Lodge. But the bed was comfy and the wind had no more power over me.
The majority of the road was conquered and the adventure would conclude in one more day.
Today was the beginning of something I’ve wanted to do ever since I bought this bike in September of 2012. I am blessed enough to have a job which gives me three days off every weekend. So today, at the start of this three day weekend, I began a tour of Arizona on my Victory Cross Country.
The plan is to leave Phoenix, travel up the 89A like I have done several times in the past, going through Prescott, Jerome, Cottonwood, Sedona, and eventually finish the first day’s ride in Flagstaff. I’ve written before about this route and how much I love these roads and this ride. In order to avoid redundancy, I’m not going to spend much time writing about a ride I’ve already blogged to you about. It’s tomorrow and the next day I’m so excited about.
Day two, I will be riding throug Monument Valley to Mexican Hat in Utah as suggested by a riding buddy named Brian. From there, I will continue on to The Four Corners before ending my ride in Chinle, AZ. That will be all about the photos.
Day three, will be the return home, back South through Payson before landing back in the Valley.
As I was riding today I realized how much fear and worry were clouding my experience at first. Did I pack every thing I might need? Do I know where I’m going? What if… What if… What if… only to come to the realization that it’s all going to be ok. The imperfection is what makes it an adventure. Perfect is pretty boring. That being said, I made sure to stay well hydrated all day and not to push too hard after having a big meal at Lone Spur Cafe in Prescott. Just enjoy the ride. Just be in the moment.
Today’s ride was a very windy 234 miles in about five hours. As you can see from the photo, I learned my lesson from my trip to Las Vegas and donned a full face helmet for the first time in over a decade of riding. And with the wind as forceful as it was today, the purchase was well worth it.
Not just any full face would do. Bell introduced a new retro style helmet called the Bullit. It is by far the most expensive helmet I’ve ever bought even after getting a 20% discount by buying it at the Progressive International Motorcycle Show. That is another blog entry I need to write since it involves me demo riding the Indian Scout. Although the Bullit isn’t perfect, I am content with it and would recommend it. Despite the price, no other helmet I’ve looked at solves the full face retro style conundrum that has kept me away from full face helmets this entire time. Sure, it is noisy, and little heavy (compared to my half helmet from Scorpion) but it looks Evel Knievel cool, man.
As you can also tell from the pic, the selfie-stick is in full effect. Since I don’t have a second biker following me around to photographically document my quest ala Ewan McGregor in Long Way Round, I have to resort to this geeky yet very handy little tool. It’s either that or I relegate myself to countless photos of my bike, by itself, at various locations. Tell me I’m wrong: doesn’t solo motorcyclist and selfie-stick just perfectly go together? If not, then too bad; I’m doing it anyway and justifying it by pointing out that I’m half Asian.
Now for a fun evening in Flagstaff, at my AirBnB house to rest before a big day two.