My longest ride

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Initially, this epic motorcycle ride was supposed to be through Northern Arizona on an 800 mile loop over the span of three days. But that all changed after I got a text.

The Plan

I had no idea that the MGM Grand in Las Vegas had been hosting the end of pre-season hockey for LA Kings for the last 15 years. About a week and a half ago, I got a text from my cousin who might as well be my brother that he needed “a wingman” for Vegas. When this opportunity presented itself I had to take it. So I adjusted the motorcycle tour.

I would go through Wickenburg along the 93 and head to Vegas through Kingman. On the way back, I would take the I-40 to Flagstaff and then at least do part of my tour south on the 89A back through Yarnell on the way home.

Day 1

The thing about perfect weather is it is not without its cost. For a guy like me, that meant allergies. A steady daily dose of Claritan throughout the week would hopefully keep my itchy eyes and runny nose at bay. Other wise the weather was gorgeous. Not very windy at all and in the low 80s in the morning as I started out. At the last minute before I left I decided to bring my textile jacket — just in case.

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Traffic was mild and the 74 to Wickenburg was pretty wide open. I written in the past about how I love Wickenburg’s old school Western charm. I took a photo next to some of their epochal statues which are hilarious because they are campy and stereotypical. The radio was blaring and I got more than a few looks because of the noise pollution I was creating. Thank God for my music though. I cannot tell you how much easier the miles roll by when I have tunes to listen to. The iPhone jack charges my phone as it delivers the music so no worries about running out of juice on long rides.

 

The 93 is pretty boring on a motorcycle. They’ve done a good job about passing lanes along the way so getting stuck behind traffic isn’t really an issue. And if you want to make it to Vegas in a hurry, it’s a fairly straight shot. The main highlight along the way was the Joshua Tree Forrest. As I’m riding through the desert I was able to “smell the roses”, look around and take in the unique landscape. Living in Phoenix, Saguaros are familiar so they’ve lost their magic, their uniqueness. But Joshua Trees still look pretty cool. I love how jagged they are. The trees are a beautiful ugly kind of like a bulldog. This is one of those cases where I really admired Ewan McGregor and Charlie Borman in Long Way Round for having their own camera man follow them on their journey. I was wishing I could pull out my phone and take some pictures of the forest as I rode along the road that forged right through the middle.20130930-103949.jpg

It was along the 93 that I figured out my fuel situation. According to my console display, I’m averaging about 42 miles per gallon. The stats for the bike give it a 5.8 gallon tank with a 1.2 gallon reserve. So in my mind I’m thinking I’ve got about 244 miles per tank. The reality is, in 6th gear I’m usually going to be around three to four thousand RPM in the 75 to 85 MPH range and this is the only thing I can think of for why I’m at around 150 miles per tank between fills. It greatly reduced my cruising range but that meant I got a chance to get off the saddle a little more so I guess it wasn’t too bad. I think the VicXC can go farther but when the dummy light comes on and my gauge is pointing way down I’m just not in the mood to find out. Better safe than sorry.

So I took a break in Wikieup for some gas and a bite to eat. The looks I get from people don’t generally influence me but I admit that I love it when other bikers come over to look at the bike. I find that the design of the bike is already amazing but when you add the color, people — especially bikers — take notice. Every time someone takes a walk over to check her out my pride gets the best of me and a smile creeps across my face.

My nose was already starting to run so I made the call to skip the Dam and to just head in to Vegas. The 93 from here is all about endurance because it is straight and flat and very, very boring for a motorcyclist. The view of the strip as you come over the hill right after Boulder City is one of my favorites though. At least riding by Lake Mead provides some curves and a chance to lean the bike over even if it’s just a little bit.

One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is ride a motorcycle on The Strip. It was about three PM when I arrived and the Friday night crowd was in full effect. It felt good to be so nimble on the XC in the face of so many crazy tourist drivers. The thought went through my mind, you’ve made it all this way on the longest motorcycle ride you’ve ever taken and you get hit by some dumb ass on the strip at the end of your ride. There are so many things to see and the stimulus can be overwhelming. It’s like being in a canyon of neon and video screens. But I was able to end my trip safely, cruising into the MGM parking lot and hanging up my bike for a couple nights of partying.

The Return

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OK, so today was all about photos and enjoying the journey. I could not help myself but laugh at the Las Vegas welcome sign. As I was setting up to take some photos a pair of ladies walked by. They were dressed in ethnic garb and taking a lot of photos. I asked them if they would take a photo of me, with my bike, with the sign in the background. They happily obliged and then asked if they could take a photo with the XC. I chuckled and agreed and then the posing began, which then lead to another group of foreign tourists to want to pose with the XC. I was very surprised at the attention. One of the gentlemen asked where the bike was made and if it was American. He seemed to have a blank expression when I said Spirit Lake, Iowa. But I still was proud to give him the answer.

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The Hoover Dam was another instance where the world just looks different from a motorcycle. I’ve been to the Dam several times before and even taken the Dam tour but this time everything was bigger and bolder and more vast as a result of not having a roof in the way of my vision as I cruised along the bridge road. After riding a few Dam twisties, I stopped the bike at the Dam parking lot so I could take some Dam pictures. Dam tourists were everywhere — me included. I rode the whole route, dodging RVs and pedestrians and headed back on the 93 to Kingman. It was out of the way but I wasn’t going to miss out on the opportunity to take the bike to this unique destination.

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To be honest, the rest of the day was pretty much downhill from here. My concerns over my allergies coming back weren’t very warranted because the climate and landscape were more lush and green and less desert. The temps were low and I was very happy I made the right call by bringing my jacket. It was perfect. But the miles were long and boring on the I-40. Kingman to Flagstaff was an endurance run and my ass and lower back were cursing me. So the argument began in my mind. I was low on sleep. I was worried about allergies. I was saddle sore. I was running out of daylight. I had already been on the bike for five hours. But I had already come this way. It would be a waste if I didn’t take the 89A down after all of this. That was the pint of taking this route wasn’t it? Otherwise I would have just gone back the way I came which would have put me in Phoenix a lot quicker. I made the decision to get gas and call an old friend while I took a break from my bike once I landed in Flagstaff. The time off the bike was so wonderful. And visiting my old friend, Kristen, seeing her house and sitting on her couch was just about what the doctor ordered. She had just been on the 89A to Sedona and loved it and encouraged me to press on. But I was still on the fence as I got on the bike and tried to gauge the sunset against my route.

At the end of the day, the Sunk Cost Fallacy prevailed and I chose the busy, congested, straight forward I-17 South to Phoenix in order to save my body and my mind. My ambition had lead me astray but in the future, I will just leave earlier and get more rest the night before. As I finally made it to the surface streets on the way to my house, the sun was setting. I hadn’t seen dusk in quite some time and took some final appreciation of the colors as I closed out my ride.

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Home was wonderful and being greeted by my dog as I opened the garage was perfect. The front of the XC was covered with more bugs than I have ever seen. 731 miles, two days, one motorcycle. This is my first epic motorcycle ride. I’m looking forward to many more to come.

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September is still Summer

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The mornings here are finally lower than 90 degrees so I’ve slowly been taking the XC out here and there but on this particular Saturday, the craving to ride bigger miles took over. I’ve made the trip to Prescott before but not on the Victory. This would be a special journey because of the 19 firefighters lost in Yarnell. A classic route for motorcyclist is through Wickenburg then on the 89 through Yarnell Hill on the way to Prescott. Last Summer in a wild fire in the Yarnell area 19 hot shot firefighters were burned to death trying to defend the area homes. It was a national tragedy and a heartbreaking story about true American heroes.

Getting through the Phoenix highways and the Carefree Highway is the cost of making it to one of the best motorcycle rides in Arizona. Cruising through Wickenburg is always fun. They try so hard to become an Old West tourist destination with their statues of cowboys and animals. The downtown has a lot of personality with its turnoff the century architecture.

The problem with Saturday mornings is the traffic. Any other day this road would be much less populated but today there were a bunch of joy riders and drivers on their motorcycles and convertibles. It was about here where I was cruising at a nice decent speed and was passed by a convoy of BMW 2-door sportsters. Can I just say how much I hate when people on a two lane road are cavalier about driving in the opposing lane of traffic in order to pass “slower” traffic. Maybe I’m old. Or maybe I’m just not an asshole. I get it, that sometimes people want to go fast on a twisty road but how many times have we repeatedly heard of the over zealous speedster who sacrifices safety and wrecks. So I’m laid back and suddenly this line of BMWs begin weaving in and out of lanes in order to pass me. It’s not a comfortable feeling when you’re on a motorcycle. And it’s not even worth it. About five minutes after they passed, there was a passing lane. It was difficult for me not to isolate BMW drivers as egotistical prick stereotypes. Did I mention that the lead Beemer’s license plate was “IMPRESIV”. And just like I had predicted, by the time we got to the hill, I had caught up to them. So they basically passed me for nothing.

But enough about those fools. The XC has been a champ handling on the twisties of South mountain so I was confident it would devour the curves on this uphill. I will completely admit I took some personal pride as I rode past a group of Harleys in the passing lane through the curves on the hill. But I will also admit not riding caused a little bit of unfamiliarity with my machine. Shifting was the issue. The relationship between speed and gear was not as effortless as it has been in the past when I ride. So operator error caused me to be in higher gears than I should have been at lower speeds. The bike however was amazing. Had I the chance to ride the bike the right way I can only imagine how even more amazing I would have felt. Yet despite my shortcomings, the bike handled the road better than the few other bikes I’ve ever been on. There were points where the lean of the bike was such that I swore there would be floorboard scraping and the entire time the XC was carved right into the turn and extremely stable. The balance on this Victory is impressive for its size. And the power was solid even though my shifting was off.

Arriving in Prescott is like coming out of an intensely focused sporting event. As I lost myself in the nuances on each curve suddenly you’re out of the twisties and cruising into the town. The familiar feeling of Whiskey Row was a calming feeling. And we stumbled upon a Christian event in the town square which felt like providence. There were Christian riders everywhere and pop up tents through out the quad to the tune of a live Christian band. It was a great vibe to arrive to.

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I’ve gotten figure out a way to take photos of all the things I want to share with you. Obviously safety is paramount so I’m not going to be able to take pics as I ride but it would be cool to mount something. And unless Cris is riding with me, I have to count on some random stranger to take photos of me — that is if I’m in an area that actually has other people.

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After a nice lunch to re-energize us, we headed back down the I-17 towards Phoenix off of the 69 highway. When we left, it was about 88 degrees. As I slowly saw the display thermometer rise the closer we got to the city my morale sank. By the time we were on the outskirts of the town the reading was 110 degrees and the ride was really uncomfortable. Leaving the city on the morning and enjoying the mid day temps of the higher elevations was not without its cost. The ride back to Phoenix was punishing and not fun. It was an unfortunate way to close such a wonderful ride day. It will get better but for now, it’s still hot for Valley riders.

Now it’s time to clean off all the bugs and get ready for next weekend.

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