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.
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.