I might be biased, but this wine from Mark Ryan and Board Track Racer Cellars called The Chief was delicious.
Yesterday I took full advantage of the opportunity to ride San Juan Road at South Mountain Park as a result of a fortunate job perk.
I’ve ridden the XC up South Mountain before. The road is a perfect set of twisties very close to the house that I will be blogging about in the future. But the side road off to San Juan is typically closed to vehicles. At the road’s junction there is a gate and the gate only allows access to bicycles or hikers and joggers because it’s normally locked. One weekend day a month the park rangers open up the road to vehicles and then a crowd of machines compete with cyclists to enjoy the views and vistas.
The road is a gorgeous stretch that though only a short five miles or so, is surrounded by mountains, and gives you the effect of not being in the sixth largest city in the United States. You see desert hills on both sides of you as the road twists through a valley. Along the way there are trail heads, picnic areas, and scenic pull outs. Then the road ends on a rise to a cul de sac and a gorgeous view of downtown Phoenix. From the end you can connect to more trail heads or spend time in the old stone structure. It’s an out and back that provides a wonderful temporary escape from city life.
So on this Thursday morning, I was on my XC and given permission by the Rangers to access the road along with several other volunteers. Everyone met at a scenic lookout point in order to set up a sort of command post and do some hiking and looking around. As luck would have it (wink, wink) I was able to leave the site early. Instead of heading straight back out of the park I took the road less traveled and embraced the perfect weather and the empty asphalt.
I turned my speakers down so I could take in what I was experiencing. The road wasn’t straight for long but before curving and twisting you ride towards cobalt colored mountain peaks off in the distance. It was in the upper 70s with the slightest breeze and wide open blue skies. Ideal conditions. To me, this is the definition of motorcycle cruising. I only wished it was a longer road or that I didn’t have to leave so that I could keep the fantasy going.
People say go to your “happy place”. My happy place has typically been a beach somewhere like Byron Bay. But I think the challenge and the reward are in realizing happy places that are right under your nose. This was an opportunity and I thank God for giving this chance to me. It’s times like the moment I was in, on that winding road, that really embody why motorcyclists are such passionate people about riding. Sure, maybe you could appreciate the gift of that morning in a convertible but I’d take that Pepsi challenge any day and choose a motorcycle, pretty much any motorcycle, every time.
Alas, all good things must come to an end. As I rode past the gate, I fought the urge to turn right and complete the ride by heading up to the summit of South Mountain and instead went left. Left headed back to the office. Another stretch of miles to check off the list. Another memory strengthening my love affair with motorcycle riding and with this bike.
October is one of the best months to spend in Phoenix. But as Halloween passed I was still able to take advantage of the first day of November temps by attending Motorcycles On Main in Mesa once again.
The skies are clear blue and the highs are in the 80s. By the time the sun was setting the temps were in the upper 70s and slowly falling as the night got darker. Feeling the crisp wind on bare arms as I’m riding is a refreshing chill. Tonight would be special because I would reunite with my Meetup.com Victory Owners Group at an Italian deli on Main Street in Mesa.
If you aren’t familiar with Meetup.com, it is a website where people with common interests can “meet up”. They have everything from card playing meet ups to pet meet ups to singles meet ups to sports meet ups. And there are dozens of motorcycle meet ups that can get very specific. This meet up or that meet up is just for Harleys or just for women or just for sport bikes. Ours is technically just for people who ride Victory motorcycles but I’ve been out with these folks on rides in the past and people riding any make and model of bike have joined in. What I like about these guys is they are just down to Earth nice folks. The guy who established the meet up, David, does a great job about ensuring safety on rides by making sure everyone in the group rides carefully and no drinking is allowed. Another member of the meet up is Lee, who used to be a Victory mechanic. Between the two of them, both Vision riders, they know more about the nuances of Victory bikes than anyone I’ve met including people who work for Victory. They are an excellent resource and they love riding and they love Victory.
As I rode through the barricades in order to park my bike next to the Italian deli, I saw there was another VXC with the same color as my bike. Obviously a man of good taste. I joined the table where everyone was gathered and started shaking hands of the people I hadn’t met before. One of the riders, Steve, began talking with me about his VXC Tour and his pin striping. I took a look at his bike while I was waiting for my food to arrive and was extremely impressed by the custom paint Steve had done. Steve told me he went to Vegas to have a guy do the work who he had read about on the internet. An hour and a half later and the very professional hand painting was finished. He called it “Subtle elegance” which basically meant, the pin striping would add to the whole bike and not be the dominating feature. His painter nailed it. Not all artists use clay or canvas.
So a funny thing happened tonight. As Steve and I sat back down, we began talking Victory and the discussion eventually lead to maintenance and I shared with him my recent experience. He had gone to the same dealership to buy his bike. He said he read a blog about going to that dealer and because of that he would be returning there when his next service was up. He told me the blog was called, Passion 106. A smile crept across my face. At first I had to confirm what he had just said in my own mind. But once I figured out he was talking about this blog, I told him he was speaking with the author. It was a classic moment. To be totally honest, I wonder who even reads these words I put down here. My expectations aren’t really high. But hearing Steve talk about the blog did a couple things for me. One, it showed me that I will probably never know who does or doesn’t read what I write and that’s perfectly ok because I’m really writing this for me at the end of the day. Two, Steve actually enjoyed what I wrote and learned some things from my experiences. I might be writing for me, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m putting these thoughts and opinions out there for the world to judge. I would imagine this is how an author feels when their book is reviewed positively by a critic. It was just nice to know Passion 106 is being well received.
The rest of the evening was spent talking at the table outside of the restaurant behind our line up of bikes watching the passers by take notice of the uniqueness of the Victory line, point, ogle, and comment. It was like people watching at the mall during Christmas. After a while we all went our separate ways and walked the strip of bikes ourselves.
Tonight I was on my own. Cris was drinking wine with her girlfriends, so I was free to wander. At events like this, I feel the need to separate myself from the rest of the model T riders. I don’t want to be mistaken for a Harley guy so I don my Victory trucker ball cap and confidently pick a side as I walk the street. Both curbs and the center median are lined with motorcycles for about a mile down old Mesa downtown. There is no shortage of leather vests. Bands playing a mix of blues, Kid Rock, and country battle for your attention depending on where you are along the road. Pop up tents selling motorcycle crafts dot the route as well. It was nice to see the Hells Angels maintaining their capitalist nature.
If you go to a car show, you will not see dealers showcasing their newest models on the side of the street like you do at bike nights/rallies. I was able to look at the new ’14 Harley line and see up close what all their relentless marketing was really about. But I naturally gravitated towards the Mesa Victory tent. They are good folks and invited me to a breakfast ride they have at the beginning of every month which was happening tomorrow. If I didn’t already have plans… but next month. Then I saw it. Like a Holy Grail or some kind of unicorn, there was a deep blue Indian Chieftain on display. So I took it for granted that Victory dealerships would naturally also start selling Indians as well. But I learned last night that despite both bikes being owned by Polaris, there were separate brands and not automatically sold by Vic dealers. Here is where it gets confusing: the Chieftain was being shown by Victory BMW of Chandler who does not sell any Victory bikes. They had the “Victory” name much longer than 16 years ago when Polaris introduced the Victory brand. Their “Victory” dealership sells, Vespa, BMW, and now Indian. It kind of makes sense. Now their dealership could sell cruiser motorcycles that were a “higher end” brand which could possibly appeal to their BMW clientele. I get it. Regardless of why they did it, there it was for me to touch and inspect. The engine was a gorgeous work of art and the fairing wasn’t as harsh as I initially thought. It was a great looking homage to the classic Indians. I’m glad I got a chance to see one up close and I’m glad it was the talk of everyone attending the event. No one was at the Harley tent. Soon, more Indians will ride the road. It was great to see. I like competition because I will then expect innovation.
Ironically, I fully expected my next post to be about a ride up to South Mountain and I would just be attending Motorcycles On Main for fun with nothing to write about. Go figure. It was a great time and with great people. I’m looking forward the next ride with these guys.