Keeping me grounded

I park my bike out in front of the office building. Today I got this email from a co-worker with a photo attachment. Leave it to the guys at work to keep me from getting a big head. Well played my friends.



Customer Appreciation event

IMG_2017Yesterday, Victory of Mesa held a customer appreciation event at their dealership. This dealership also owns the Apache Junction dealership, Arizona Kawasaki where I take my bike for service. The main reason I wanted to go to this event was because of a raffle they were holding. One of the raffle prizes was a set of tires which was really appealing to me. I recently had to replace my back tire because of an f-ing nail in the tire which caused a slow leak. That was about $300 I wasn’t looking forward to paying out. But you had to be present to win the raffle and I wasn’t intending on staying the whole day… can you say backfire?

IMG_2018But it was cool to see all the bikes together. Like a mini Victory motorcycle rally. And I ran into some of my friends from the Victory Owners Group Meetup who also happened to be attending. I did get a free hot dog and some Cheetos out of the deal.

I also ran into a buddy of mine who had just purchased a 2014 Vic XC with the sweet metallic flames on a green paint scheme. I haven’t been on Facebook in a while and he asked me if I wanted to see what happened to his ride. I was a little confused until he explained to me that he was rear-ended while he was stopped at an intersection. He was hit by a vehicle that was rear-ended by another vehicle.

IMG_2019I was really happy to see he was ok. He said nothing happened to him. But his poor motorcycle… the picture says almost everything. He explained that the car pushed him into another car but he was able to veer right and lay the bike down without having much more damage. Because he was already stopped the collision was “low speed”. What a heart breaker. I felt really blessed at that moment that I was safe and able to ride without any issues.

Ride safe out there, folks. Take care of yourself and keep the rubber side down.

Rough road

If you own a motorcycle and you live in the Valley Of The Sun, inevitably you will be asked about riding the 88 by Canyon Lake on the way to Tortilla Flat. It’s “that” motorcycle road. On this morning, I had just finished riding South Mountain (see previous post) and had plenty of time so I decided to head East to Apache Junction and to Tortilla Flat which I’ve done countless times before. I think the first time I rode to Tortilla Flat was in 2002 or around that time. This road was my introduction to twisty turns and where I came to love really twisty roads.

Again, this morning was a really warm day relative to the season and by now I was down to my fingerless leather gloves, just my leather jacket and not my vest, and welcoming the wind cooling my bare neck. The 60 freeway is the price one has to pay to take advantage of the 88. I think I’ve posted in the past how I’m not a huge fan of the 60. It’s just a long boring straight away to get to the lake. I started my Victory app on my iPhone from the gas station that is right off the freeway exit to the 88.

I will admit that I had an expectation. In the past — years ago — when I rode this road the last time, I remember a lot of traffic and a lot of fun. Today was a Friday morning and I didn’t expect a ton of traffic but it was later in the morning and I know how much of a tourist trap Tortilla Flat is. On the way in I was caught behind a car but our speed was fine and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I was in fourth gear heading into the sweeping turns and I immediately noticed the road. Having just come from the well maintained smooth roads at South Mountain, I was getting beat up badly from the worn down 88. Looking at the pavement it looked as if two layers of the road had been worn down and the constant cracks in the pavement sent punches up through my shocks and into my body. The effect only got worse the farther into the road I rode. I have my bike suspension set for over 350 pounds and I’ve never had this issue where a road beat me up so bad. The memories and the expectation I had for this road were quickly replaced by the significant lack of fun I was having. I found certain parts of the road were worse than others and that caused me to want to slow. Another issue was as the pavement deteriorated there would be sand and gravel from the asphalt coming apart. Heading into a turn regardless of the bank, I didn’t feel comfortable my tires were gripping the road like I would have liked and I found myself not committing to turns like I’m used to for fear of losing grip. There are a couple of bridges on the way to Tortilla Flat and they were such a welcome break because they were so smooth in comparison.

One of the nice things I will say about this ride is the water. Canyon Lake was full and high and a gorgeous blue. In the last couple miles to my destination you could see the little old west town that was Tortilla Flat. It was nice to park the bike and get off the saddle to recover from the bumpy ride. I marked the way point in the Victory app and thought I took a photo but apparently I mistakenly didn’t log it in with the waypoint.

When I saw an opportunity to head back without being behind a car I took it. I didn’t stay at Tortilla Flat because I had been there before, I wasn’t going to eat anything at the restaurant, and the band wasn’t playing. It was late in the morning and I had a lunch appointment so I headed back. If I was going to come back I would either come in my SUV or I would rent a BMW dual sport and continue on past the point where the pavement ends and the dirt road continues to Roosevelt Lake. I figure that would be the best two wheeler to deal with this road until some time way in the future when they repave.

On the way back I decided to stop at the Goldfield Mining Town. It’s not a real town but I figure at some time it did serve as a mining out post. Now it’s a tourist trap focusing on the old west complete with a mini-train, a restaurant, and no shortage of taxidermy. Again, if I had more time I would spend it here but I never drink and ride. I entered another waypoint in the Victory app and ended the tracking. The photo is pretty much the only redeeming one I pulled from this ride.IMG_2010

By all means, don’t let my negative review of this ride discourage you from trying this same road. I figure my expectation got in the way and had I been more realistic about what I was about to experience I would have approached this with a better attitude and understanding. Like I mentioned, this is “that” ride that everyone does. I’ll look forward to riding this road again in the future when work has been done to emphasize the flat part of Tortilla Flat. IMG_2011IMG_2026

Getting high

IMG_2003It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything. There are all kinds of reasons why — holidays, travel, weather, and most recently a personal loss which needs to turn into an opportunity for growth. I’ve ridden my motorcycle in that time for various reasons but not for passionate enjoyment. I would ride to and from work or to run errands. But not his day. On this day I was riding to heal, to get closer to God, and to my true self.

On the anniversary of Arizona statehood, the weather was gorgeous. I have no idea who will be reading this but more than likely, if you’re not in this region, your weather is not anywhere near as great as mine. There are few places in the country that would allow for an 80 degree motorcycle riding day in the middle of February. It’s an invitation when the conditions are this excellent. And I took full advantage of that invitation.

I knew with having Friday off I wouldn’t have much other traffic. The sun came up around 7:30 am and after a quick coffee and breakfast at the Starbucks coffee shop, the temperature reading on my display said 62 degrees. I had my winter gloves on,  a Buff around my neck, and my leather vest underneath my leather jacket. I was very over dressed. I left the intersection of 24th street and Baseline and headed south towards the mountain.

I prefer this route to towards South Mountain because it takes you along the base of the park through neighborhoods and along golf courses. The side streets are only 25 mph but the slower speed makes it easier to take in the scenery to my left. I remember one time taking this same route to South Mountain and seeing a javelina along the side of the road. I had to stop and appreciate the chance to see one of the local beasts up close. On this day, there were no furry distractions which was too bad. There were also no other cars. It was early enough on this weekday that I knew I would have this ride all to myself. As I turn to go South on Central Ave. I pass a few horse stables and go through a pair of security houses before I’m officially in the park.

The Summit road starts with a sign reading, “… curves ahead. 15 mph”. I’m in third gear as I begin the climb on the road that starts out with sweeping lazy curves. Can I just say that I love the smooth well maintained road surface. At the lower speeds on twisty roads this surface compliments the experience ideally.

As I climb I drop into second gear and actively shift back and forth between first, second and third as the twists demand it. Even though I’ve ridden this wonderful road before I still really enjoy the balance and feel of this motorcycle. I can attack curves if I want or just lean in and flow with the bank of the road. The engine easily powers up the mountain with smooth transition between gears. Starting out with Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” playing over my speakers is a great touch to the whole experience.

I decided to try out the new Victory app on my iPhone. I’ve logged in and activate the GPS tracking at the beginning of the ride. Then I plug the phone into the bike and take advantage of the music as the bike also charges my phone. I’m really curious to see what I can do with this app and this ride. If I haven’t explained it before, Victory made the option of a phone or MP3 player connection standard on their Vic XCs. I plug in the iPhone in the rear left saddle bag and have a control cluster on the left handle bar in order to manipulate the music and volume. The biggest question I get is, “Can you hear the speakers?” and the answer is yes. I hear them up to about 80 mph with the Arlen Ness windshield I added which takes care of the majority of my rides.

IMG_2005Towards the top of the mountain, you are given a choice to go to various look out points. I chose to head on TV Tower road first. For those of you who might read this who don’t live in Phoenix, the very top of South Mountain is populated with several towers for television, cell phones, Ham radios and pretty much everything else you can think of in regards to broadcasting a signal. At night the towers are defined by bright red lights which you cannot only see vividly from the air but also serve as a kind of light house for the rest of the city. You can pretty much see the towers from any part of mid-town or uptown Phoenix.

By the time I enjoyed all the twisties to the end of the TV Tower road I stopped at a circular parking lot that showcased the towers on the one side and a gorgeous vista of the South East Valley on the other side. As the sun was low in the sky I took a panoramic photo. There were no other cars. I was free to fully enjoy this moment without interruption. After a bit, I took out my phone and marked a waypoint on the Victory app.

Next I headed back down the road and chose the Buena Vista Lookout for my next stop. It was a short trip to the lookout  point and I was behind an older pick up truck. As we arrived at the parking lot the driver got out and carried his newspaper to a bench about 100 feet from the parking lot. I had no idea who that man was but I respect a man who takes the time to drive up a mountain to read a paper overlooking all of Phoenix.

IMG_2007A nice surprise was a helicopter that had decided to land just up from the parking lot I was in. On the side of the chopper it said Fort McDowell Casino. I had noticed it when I was at the parking lot at the Towers because the helicopter was at a lower height than I was. Now having ridden to Buena Vista I was below the helicopter’s landing. I took a few moments to take some photos and then mark another waypoint in the Victory app before I left to go to the last stop, Dobbins Lookout.

Dobbins Lookout is by far the most popular of all the scenic points on South Mountain. There were a lot of other cars here; people who had just finished hiking workouts and tourists with cameras. I have been up here on several previous occasions. For me the TV Towers road was a brand new experience and as such seemed to fit better for today’s ride. I really just wanted time to myself to ride and connect with such a wonderful opportunity to ride today. I didn’t spend much time at this lookout because of my familiarity but I would highly encourage anyone else who rides up here for the first time to wander. At this lookout there is a circular dais with a neat metal legend of sorts which will explain where various other cities are. There is a large stone structure which resembles a house and a lot of different places to watch planes take off and land from Sky Harbor airport. I marked another waypoint and then got back on the VXC to head down the mountain.

Luckily, no traffic on the way down. The twisty turns felt amazing and at the bottom I was able to pull off and conclude my ride on the Victory app and grab a drink of water. As you can see from the screen shots I took, the app was pretty cool way to document the trip. I’m not sure if it goes to a general “cloud” where others can take a look at my ride but I have it saved and there is a share option for when I want to show someone else about this amazing ride.

I cannot recommend this ride highly enough. It is a short ride that will only take an hour or two but the twisty road is conveniently accessible and offers gorgeous looks. But I know this road gets crowded so if you come on a weekend be prepared to be behind a car which will take away from really enjoying the turns. Once a month, the park offers a “Silent Sunday” which prohibits any motorized vehicles on the mountain. And once a month, the San Juan road is open to motorized vehicles. I’ve written about San Juan in a previous post.

The great thing about starting early this particular morning is that I have time to head East for another ride to fill my morning. Next up: Tortilla Flat. IMG_2008IMG_2009