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.