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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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