Epic Motorcycle Ride: Day 3

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As I woke up alone in my hotel room I was conflicted. The bed wasn’t the most comfortable bed in the world but it required less energy to lay in it than it did to get back on the horse and ride home.

The weather was clear. The skies were a gorgeous blue and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. And yes, you guessed it, there was wind.

I had another big breakfast and ended up riding the Victory Cross Country out of the parking lot around 8:30.

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Today’s route from Chinle back to the Valley would start me off on the 191 South to the Indian 15 then to the 77 South towards Holbrook. After a brief stint on the 40, I would head to Payson by going through Heber. After Payson, it was a quick jaunt down to Scottsdale and into my driveway.

The wind wasn’t as bad this particular Sunday morning. South on the 191 was straight and the flat terrain made it so you could see ahead of you for miles and miles. But there were scenic rock formations, not quite as grand as Monument Valley but a lesser more green version of the same which made the road a lot easier to bear.

The temp was in the upper 60s and I felt comfortable in my leather jacket as I approached a little fork in the road called Burnside. From there I took a road called the Indian 15. The long stretch wasn’t much different than any side street you would take through a neighborhood — minus the neighborhood. And then there were signs like this one — a bovine silhouette. IMG_6499I don’t know about you, but I see signs like this all the time. Sometimes the signs are of elk or deer but it’s only on a rare occasion when they are even relevant because typically, the animal is no where to be spotted. That is until you put up a cow sign. Then less than an hour into your ride home you have to stop suddenly for some coins crossing the road from right to left. I couldn’t get my camera out quick enough to capture the silliness that I’ve never experienced before on a motorcycle in over 40, 000 miles. So I politely waited, for really less than a minute, and then rode on. Until not too much farther, maybe 15 more minutes, I had to stop my bike again. This time, it wasn’t cows but instead a group of horses which were crossing the road I was on from right to left. This time, I was all about the pics. I liked the Indian 15. I liked the 77 on the way to Holbrook. The time flew by just like the miles did. IMG_6504

IMG_6505I should have stopped at Holbrook for food. It was neat that on the beginning of the 2nd day of the ride I took off from Route 66 in Flagstaff. Today about 24 hours later I was returning to Route 66 in Holbrook on the way to the 377 South. And I was feeling good. I mean, why stop for food now? Payson was just a little bit away and I could get some food there…IMG_6512

The 377 lead to the 277 which also rose a lot in elevation. The temps got as low as 60 degrees which was really brisk with a nice wind chill factor from being at speed on the bike. And just when you’re thinking to yourself, this road is too straight and it doesn’t have enough opportunities to pass large lumbering RVs and moving trucks… then it happens: The 260.

Some time in the future, I think a run to Holbrook from North East Phoenix Valley would be a great over nighter or long day trip. Because the 260 is faster, and has multiple lanes to pass and it curves. The 260 curves in ways when you can really press on your handlebars with counter steering and lean. I leaned into the curves and the hum drum dreariness of the straightaways was gone. I could feel myself more focused and more engaged in the ride. I was still hungry… but not nearly as hungry as I was when I wasn’t distracted by riding. I was so nice to ride. Riding without fighting wind and having curves to play with and evergreens on both sides of the road defining my eye line.

Payson was such a welcome site. I had pushed on the motorcycle too long and needed to eat. Where would I go? How about to one of the best breakfast places in town, a place I’ve written about before: The Pinon Cafe. Breakfast sandwich with sausage, and a side of hash browns. Add some water and coffee and I was renewed. I only had an hour left to go and I was content in my restaurant booth taking it easy at about 2 PM.

The traffic was significant. It was Sunday afternoon and all of the recreationalists and other weekend warrior motorcycle riders were heading back to the valley to conclude their mini vacations as well. I wasn’t too fond of having to deal with the traffic on the way down but it was another contrast to what I’ve been riding with up until now. There were so many times on this trip when I would be on a highway and I was easily the only machine traveling for miles all around me. At one point on the 77, I was at a high enough elevation to see the downhill rolled out in front of me like a river pouring back out into the ocean. But those obscure lonely highways were done now. Now I was in a crowd and I was ok with it. I could hear my speakers again since there was no wind noise cancelling out my music.

I don’t taut myself as a fast rider but I enjoy the confidence the Cross Country rewards me. The bike handles and performs like a dream. The more miles I put on it the more it seems to ride better and better. As I started down the 87 back towards the Valley, I was content to set a speed and just safely get home through all of these other cars and motorcycles. But the strangest thing, I was surprised to pass so many other cars and bikers on my way back home. I don’t know the exact reason because I wasn’t flying down the highway at breakneck speeds. I was just riding my own pace. And cars and especially bikes were fading away in my rear view mirrors over and over again. I can’t explain it; maybe I had a sense of urgency since I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Regardless, the ride home on the 87 continued the fun I began to have on the 260.

I did it. Three days. Three states. 900 miles. 16 and a half hours on the Victory. The epic motorcycle ride ended with over 90 degree temps as I pulled into my driveway. This day alone had a 30 degree swing in temps from one location to another. My bike has over 19,000 miles on it now. By some standards, that isn’t many miles at all. But for me, I’m so proud of this experience. And I’m so blessed to have been given this opportunity. It was time for my body to recuperate. It is over and now back to my dog and my bed and somewhere in there, a delicious adult beverage. Now I can check this one off the list in epic fashion.

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Epic Motorcycle Ride: Day 2

After pretty much the perfect travelers breakfast, day two started out brisk and windy. Windy would be the theme of the day. As I started out on the former Route 66, the winds were only about 20 to 25 mph and the chilly temp was perfect for my leather jacket.The plan for this particular Saturday was to make it to Mexican Hat Rock, follow around to the Four Corners Monument and end the day at Chinle, near the Canyon de Chelly Monument.

The ride up the 89 to the 160 to Kayenta was the cost I would have to pay before getting to the heart of my day’s journey. As I began the day fighting the wind, I quickly realized if I had to put up with wind noise reverberating inside my helmet I wouldn’t mentally make it through the day. It was time to put in my custom ear plugs to drop the decibel level around 30 less than what I was dealing with. After a quick stop at a gas station I was set.img_1260 The wind noise was still pretty significant but it was much more tolerable at a lower volume.I’d never experienced wind as gusting as this through a desert route like I did this particular Saturday. At one point approaching Tuba City, sandy dust was being blown across the roadway in front of me that it looked like smoke. Until I was riding through it. Then I felt the effect of the sand hitting my neck and fill all the crevices of the bike while I was still in motion.  The sand hit me in waves as the procession of cars I was part of pushed through.

By the time I hit Kayenta, I still wasn’t hungry. I was well hydrated and my energy was good. I had pee like no one’s business. So after using McDonalds for their restrooms, I grabbed a quick snack (some bars I had stored away for this exact reason) and I headed towards Monument Valley.

I had seen pictures of Monument Valley and always dreamed of visiting. Very quickly the red rocks rose in jagged fat spires out of the ground. It was the payoff which was so worth the ride to get there. And the thing that makes the whole experience even better is how close you can get to these formations. There I was, like a typical tourist taking a selfie of me, the Utah boarder sign, and some of Monument Valley in the background. I must have stopped five or six times to take more photos shortly after that.


A travelers’s tip: if you didn’t already know the best view, in my opinion, of the Valley is on the North Easterly side. You head uphill along a straight away and the perspective is one gorgeous view. The road has several pull offs for exactly this reason. I had already stopped several times to take pictures, only to ride through and see the perfect photo in my rear view mirrors. I had my pics by now and was ready to just ride and rely on my memory from here on out.

I had a great breakfast but my expectation was to get some food in Mexian Hat. The ride to Mexican Hat was gorgeous as well. The red rocks layered like stipes on a flag with ribbons of different colored rocks separating each section made for a scenic ride. The road curved and swooped and quickly I was crossing over the San Juan River and getting my first look at the hotels which were imbedded in the rocks. But the problem is this big city boy had hoped to find a restaurant above and beyond the tourist locations and hotels. Mexican Hat is far from a bustling metropolis though. I had researched Mexican Hat Lodge online and since they bragged about their bar-b-q, it seemed like a great place to grab some food. When I actually stopped at the lodge, there was no one to be found. I literally walked through the entire front lobby and restaurant area and the only person around was a Native working on the landscaping. He tried to help me out but the place didn’t open up for food until after five which wasn’t for a few more hours. So just like in Kayenta, I took a quick break to sit down, rehydrate, and down a snack or two before heading back out on the highway.

 

Mexican Hat Rock in the background

I know I’ve already talked about the wind. What’s funny is everyone I talk to about my trip mentions the wind being a factor and it certainly was. I feel like I’ve been initiated into some club. I’m sure many of you who ride have been initiated but for those of you unfamiliar with riding in wind gusts let me attempt to describe it to you. Imagine instead of riding upright at a 90 degree angle, perpendicular to the road, you are going straight but leaning to the side pushing against the wind, counterbalancing against it. But the wind isn’t consistent so it’s a constant adjustment. I would chuckle silently to myself as my helmet was being pressed up against one side of my face and the inside of one of my calves would warm to the heat of the engine despite traveling over 60 miles per hour. There was really only one time the entire three days where I was concerned for my safety because of a gust of wind. Later Saturday I was on my way to Chinle and taking a curve along the highway at about 50 miles per hour when one significant wind gust was powerful enough to catch me off guard. Even though I was already negotiating the wind, this gust surprised me.  My bike moved right and I regained control and could feel my heart in my throat. In my head I told myself to focus and concentrate to get through this turn. And just as I did that, another gust of wind, just as powerful as the previous one, moved my bike again to the right. I initiated a little more counter steering and attacked the turn and rode out of it. I was able to compartmentalize my fear for the time being and get myself back to where I needed to be in order to make it to my destination but that was one close call I won’t soon forget.

 

But I digress. From Mexican Hat, I intended to take the 163 all the way around the San Juan River, into just inside the Colorado border, and down into the Four Corners Monument before heading to the lodge for the night. But instead I took the 191 heading South. Not the worst thing in the world but I ended up having to go a little out of the way 30 miles East to Teec Nos Pos on the way to Four Corners Monument which was another five miles down the road.

As I drove up to the monument which was pretty much out in the middle of no where, I saw a ticket booth. It was $5 to get in to see the monument. I didn’t have any cash — and the Navajo Nation doesn’t accept anything else but cash. There wasn’t an once of sympathy in the face of the Native American woman in the ticket booth. With a soft smile she mentioned there was an ATM… just five miles away … back in Teec Nos Pos. There was no charity to be given to this rider that day. So I turned my bike around and parked in front of the New Mexico sign just outside the entryway to the monument. I wasn’t about to make another 10 mile round trip for $5. Today, after hours of riding and fighting wind, I was going to concede that I wouldn’t get that fourth state in — there was no more Colorado on this quest. From here on out, I’ll have some cash in my pocket. I was easily able to let it go and sleep fine that night.


It was the last 95 or so miles from here to my lodge in Chinle, AZ at the Canyon De Celly Monument where I would hang it up for the day. This would be the windiest part of the day and the most challenging at a time when I was the most road weary. The scenery was still attractive but at this point all I wanted was rest. I had accomplished everything I wanted to for this leg of the journey and was ready to take it easy.img_1288 I looked down at my wrist. There was a thin band of exposed skin. I didn’t even realize how it had been punished by the sun all day and was now burned. Engaging the cruise control on my VXC to pull down the sleeve over my left wrist wasn’t working. The wind would slowly move it back up. Eventually I stopped to wrap my wrist with a handkerchief I had until I made it to the lodge.When I was this tired, I really appreciated my riding position. The ergonomics of the bike to me were a decent fit. Maybe not perfect but a good fit nonetheless. My posture was good enough to keep my back from any major aches. I really came to appreciate the bike, and its balance, and design.
The Thunderbird Lodge was tucked away with the best access to the Canyon and the most affordable prices of any of the other major chain hotels. It was a part of the Navajo Nation. They didn’t have a restaurant as much as they had a cafeteria and there wasn’t going to be any beer for me tonight. They didn’t sell it at the Lodge. But the bed was comfy and the wind had no more power over me.

The majority of the road was conquered and the adventure would conclude in one more day.

Epic Motorcycle Ride: Day 1


Today was the beginning of something I’ve wanted to do ever since I bought this bike in September of 2012. I am blessed enough to have a job which gives me three days off every weekend. So today, at the start of this three day weekend, I began a tour of Arizona on my Victory Cross Country.

The plan is to leave Phoenix, travel up the 89A like I have done several times in the past, going through Prescott, Jerome, Cottonwood, Sedona, and eventually finish the first day’s ride in Flagstaff. I’ve written before about this route and how much I love these roads and this ride. In order to avoid redundancy, I’m not going to spend much time writing about a ride I’ve already blogged to you about. It’s tomorrow and the next day I’m so excited about.
Day two, I will be riding throug Monument Valley to Mexican Hat in Utah as suggested by a riding buddy named Brian. From there, I will continue on to The Four Corners before ending my ride in Chinle, AZ. That will be all about the photos.
Day three, will be the return home, back South through Payson before landing back in the Valley.
As I was riding today I realized how much fear and worry were clouding my experience at first. Did I pack every thing I might need? Do I know where I’m going? What if… What if… What if… only to come to the realization that it’s all going to be ok. The imperfection is what makes it an adventure. Perfect is pretty boring. That being said, I made sure to stay well hydrated all day and not to push too hard after having a big meal at Lone Spur Cafe in Prescott. Just enjoy the ride. Just be in the moment.

Today’s ride was a very windy 234 miles in about five hours. As you can see from the photo, I learned my lesson from my trip to Las Vegas and donned a full face helmet for the first time in over a decade of riding. And with the wind as forceful as it was today, the purchase was well worth it.
Not just any full face would do. Bell introduced a new retro style helmet called the Bullit. It is by far the most expensive helmet I’ve ever bought even after getting a 20% discount by buying it at the Progressive International Motorcycle Show. That is another blog entry I need to write since it involves me demo riding the Indian Scout. Although the Bullit isn’t perfect, I am content with it and would recommend it. Despite the price, no other helmet I’ve looked at solves the full face retro style conundrum that has kept me away from full face helmets this entire time. Sure, it is noisy, and little heavy (compared to my half helmet from Scorpion) but it looks Evel Knievel cool, man.
As you can also tell from the pic, the selfie-stick is in full effect. Since I don’t have a second biker following me around to photographically document my quest ala Ewan McGregor in Long Way Round, I have to resort to this geeky yet very handy little tool. It’s either that or I relegate myself to countless photos of my bike, by itself, at various locations. Tell me I’m wrong: doesn’t solo motorcyclist and selfie-stick just perfectly go together? If not, then too bad; I’m doing it anyway and justifying it by pointing out that I’m half Asian.
Now for a fun evening in Flagstaff, at my AirBnB house to rest before a big day two.

Breakfast in Payson

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May in Phoenix has been simply amazing this year. I’ve been taking full advantage of the weather by riding as much as I can so naturally for a long weekend, some buddies of mine planned a nice ride to soak up these pre-Summer temps.

Originally, three of us were going to ride but the one guy who wasn’t riding a Victory had to cancel. So it was just my buddy Jacob and me along with his passenger, Echo and my girlfriend, Jenn. Jake rides a Victory Hammer. He loves the bike but admits the creature comforts I get along with my Cross Country like music, and saddle bags are really appealing to him. He hated it every time I plugged my phone into the bike so listen to my tunes. He was able to attach his windshield and put some saddles bags on but he told me it wasn’t the same as having a fairing like I have on my VXC. I will say this though, that fat rear tire on his Hammer is pretty boss and like the majority of Victory’s bikes, I think they can be proud of that design.

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We got a late start but it didn’t matter because the day was so beautiful. The high in Payson was going to be 75 degrees. You typically see me write about the cities along the 89A but today was all about the other side of the state and the 87 straight up to Payson, AZ. The 87 is also known as the Beeline Highway and it takes a North Easterly direction out of town past Scottsdale, Mesa, and Fountain Hills.

I set up my Victory app off of my iPhone before we took off. The app has been taken over by RiderX and all in all I give it a “b”. It’s a good app, better than average which is why it didn’t get a “c” but still needs to get the kinks worked out. The tracking isn’t bad and it’s fairly easy to attach a picture to a waypoint but little annoyances like unresponsive buttons and the counter intuitiveness of labeling things make the app cumbersome.

There wasn’t much traffic as we began to head East. Jenn has always told me she really enjoys how comfortable the detachable back rest / luggage rack is for her passenger seat. She has no problem being the envy of other passengers who don’t have that comfy seat. There was just little wind and the skies had a few clouds with plenty of sunshine. It’s two lanes all the way up. The majority of the road is about 65 mph and curvy at spots. There is only one major curve where you need to mind your speed but the most part I was able to cruise comfortably at about 75 mph up the hill and pass the majority of other cars. We were able to climb the 77 or so miles to Payson in about an hour and 20 minutes according to the Victory app.

Riding with another bike in your crew is something I take a little seriously. I am conscientious about spacing and speed. I try to lead by maintaining a line on the left side of the whole lane which is easy when you’re just going straight. But throw on a passenger which adjusts your typical center of gravity and some high speed curves and I wan’t able to be quite as disciplined as I would’ve liked. But Jake was very cool about it and a great rider so we worked well together as we climbed the hill.

Our destination was The Pinon Cafe in Payson. IMG_4513I belong to a Facebook closed group of Victory riders who live in the Valley. The group is made up primarily of people who bought their Victorys from Arizona Kawasaki Victory in Mesa which is a sister business to the store I bought my bike out of in Apache Junction. I posted a question to the group about which restaurant to hit in Payson and got few responses. Other non riding residents of Payson said Pinon was the best so we decided to save the Crosswinds restaurant at the airport for another time. As we arrived and walked in, it felt cozy, and very much like a traditional small town diner. I knew I was in the right place when I saw two metal signs on different walls for Indian Motorcycles. Breakfast was delicious, conversation was great, and soon we were headed back out to find a gas station. IMG_4512 IMG_4510

The ride back wasn’t nearly as open as the ride up because other travelers were heading back to the Valley with their toy haulers. And you could certainly feel the 90+ degree heat as the elevation dropped getting closer and closer to Fountain Hills. IMG_4525The heat off of my engine wasn’t bad at all unless I was stopped. Then it was an oven but that’s just the way it is when you have a 106 cubic inch engine between your legs. One thing I did notice which I thought was cool was on the way back down the 87, as we were cruising through a left curve on the highway, I noticed I could hear the sound of my exhaust pipes as the rumble bounced off of the concrete highway divider. The sound reflection brought a smile to my face.

As the heat of the end of our ride caught up with us, Jenn and I ended up taking a quick detour to a gelato place in the San Tan Marketplace called Frost. It was an almost perfect end to a long, hot ride. I finished my peanut crunch and cookies and cream combo in record time. IMG_4526

Williams

I’ve said it before but it deserves to be said again: October is the best month in the state of Arizona. And that applies state wide — especially when you’re riding.

I was fortunate enough to get together with a  group of about 10 other riders on the way to a Men’s Challenge Retreat with Central Christian Church. The destination to a camp/resort in Williams, AZ isn’t more than a few hours straight up the I-17. Unless you decide to make a day of it. If you make a ride day of it, then you meet early in the morning and take the long scenic route.IMG_3201

IMG_3202We began in Mesa and went North East towards Payson via SR 87, the Beeline Hwy.  There we decided to fuel up. It was a great chance for me to get an energy boost.   Since the retreat went from Friday through Sunday, it was a perfect chance to try out the new blacked out backrest WITH a Victory luggage rack. This is the first bike I’ve had with a legitimate luggage rack. I had to go with the Vic rack because I really like how the blacked out look and design carries through. It’s so funny how it’s more than just the performance of the bike. It’s also the attitude and the look. I laugh at myself but the look is definitely part of being a rider. After this trip I’ve decided I am definitely in the market for a new set of soft sided riding luggage.

From Payson, we took the 260 west through Pine, Strawberry, on the General Crook Trail across to Cottonwood, AZ eventually taking the 87A before ending up in Jerome. We took a great break in Jerome to grab some food and enjoy a gorgeous view over a picturesque valley.

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From Jerome we twisted to North of Prescott before connecting with the 89 North towards the I-40 which would speed us on to Williams. I’ve lived in Phoenix for over 18 years now and I’ve been to Flagstaff countless times but have never driven through the city of Williams. This is another part of Historic Route 66 and they’ve done a great job of making the Main Street down the center of down town look like it is frozen in time. The evening is dotted with neon from the diners. The shops along the street have cowhide rugs and metal decorative street signs for sale. The more time I spend in this part of Arizona the more I love it.

All in all the day was about 262 miles over the span of five actual hours riding. We started about nine AM and landed at the camp around three in the afternoon. This was the first chance I’ve had to use the revised version of the Victory ride app on my iPhone. The company partnered with RiderX so even thought it’s not as aesthetically pleasing it functions better. I tracked the entire time on the ride and was able to put in way points.IMG_5583IMG_3205

The next day offered a few hours to break free so a pair of other riders and myself escaped the camp and took off North towards the Grand Canyon. According to the nav, the ride was about 50 to 60 miles one way. It was a direct shot and the traffic for a weekend wasn’t bad in the least. When we got to the park, it was a $12 entry fee (which was good for an entire week oddly) and we were in. Approaching the Canyon from the entry roads felt a lot like when you’re traveling towards the ocean and you summit a rise and see the water for the first time. Except, instead of water it was a vast crevice.

I’ve been to the Canyon several times and hiked and camped down inside, but seeing it is a powerful experience for me every time. For me, I cannot help but realize my own insignificance against the spectacle of one of the Seven Wonders Of The World.

IMG_0249And when you have landmarks you gotta have pics. The guys I was riding with were great about humoring me. We rode along the various roads in order to find a great picture spot — one not interrupted by other cars or busses or people and that would capture the day and the amazing scenery. We were like kids. But the result was fantastic and one of my favorite photos with the Vic XC.

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After I got home from cruising down a boring and crowded I-17, I settled in to watch the Cardinals finish off the Eagles in the final seconds. And grab a beer. My right boot turned out to be a graveyard for some unlucky bug as I was at speed on the highway. But that didn’t look nearly as bad as my windshield. The odometer passed 10K so it’s time to bring the Pumpkin in for maintenance.IMG_3232

Rides exactly like the one I took this particular weekend are exactly what having this bike is about. The ride was scenery, comaraderie, discovery and spirituality. And the weather was perfect.

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