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.
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. I 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.
I 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…
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.