Epic Motorcycle Ride: Day 3


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. 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.



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.

Breakfast in Payson


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.


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

Hard to be humbled

The sun was beating me down as I exited the I-17 highway at 7th Ave. in my boots and dark jeans. The music was blaring and the bike felt good as I was stopped at the light waiting to make a right. I was feeling like a bad ass.

But if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Pride comes before the fall. I think I’ve even written it.

I didn’t know what it was at first. Something just fell from the sky and made a splash. It happened so quickly. And then I looked down at the left side of my motorcycle gas tank. I’d been bombed. Some POS bird had nailed my bike and the shrapnel off the bird shit had speckled the bottom of my left pant leg as well as my boot from the knee down. Yup. Just when I was feeling like a total bad ass I was reduced to just another vehicle on the road that got pooped on by some bird who doesn’t know me from anything else.

Lesson learned. Well played, God. Well played.




This post is about inevitable heartbreak.

The love affair began when I was on the phone with the dealer. The two of you who are my audience members have already read this but for posterity’s sake I will reiterate. After making the decision to buy a Victory Cross Country, and knowing the paint schemes for the 2013 year models, I really expected to buy a black bike. That was, until Ricky, the Victory sales person, said he had an “orange” one and he was willing to sell it at or below the equivalent price offered for black XCs by other dealers. And there I was, on my old bike, riding down the highway to the dealership in Apache Junction to snatch up the orange Cross Country.

Suede Nuclear Sunset. That is the color name Victory gave to the matte finish paint job on my bike. I already loved orange. I love the color. You might even go so far as to say it’s my favorite color. Because it’s reflective of my personality. To those of you who own black bikes, I don’t have a problem with that at all. Black is cool. No doubt about it. My last bike was black. But orange– orange is unique and to have a bike painted orange you had to have the right shade, the right tone, and the right finish. Not everyone will agree but in my opinion, Victory nailed it.

“What color is that?” “Is that a matte finish?” “Is that a stock paint job?” The color is almost more defining than the brand or the model of the bike. I might even argue, the unique color is what draws people to find out about the brand for the first time. It’s eye catching for sure. I have fellow riders tell me they don’t know anyone else who has the same color bike. Most say it with affection. Some just plain think the color is too much. I don’t care about the haters. They are absolutely entitled to their opinion. I, myself, love Suede Nuclear Sunset. And 2013 was the only year Victory made XCs this color.

But doesn’t pride always come before the storm?

The roads and highways of the Valley of the Sun are strewn with rocks. Ask any driver here — the windshield replacement companies make a fortune out here. If you don’t believe me, consider that Safelite Repair, a windshield repair company in town, is a major sponsor for the Arizona Diamondbacks Major League Baseball team. Their company replaces windshields. Their company sponsors an MLB team with a 48,000 person capacity stadium. So yeah, the Valley has a lot of road debris.

I went years without any issues. No chips in my paint. Then, one day, getting off of the VXC, I noticed this:left saddle bag chip

The agony! The anguish! The horror! I know, there is plague, famine, war, pestilence and death in the world. But look at this scratch in my paint job! I mean look at it! For the love of all that is holy, can you even believe this?!?!!! Ugh! And then, as if the pain and loss and suffering wasn’t already enough, when I cleaned my bike I discovered this:IMG_4320

NOoooooooooo! (picture me looking to the heavens with my arms raised in the air screaming as the camera looking down on me quickly zooms out)

Okay, okay. So I’m a little dramatic. But you get the idea. I told my girlfriend, this is God’s way of making sure I understand the priorities and importance of truly significant things in life. And I do. Sure it sucks but, I figure I’ll go to the dealership and the parts department or service will order a touch up can of paint and I’ll get a body shop to make the restorations. I’m confident this isn’t the last time this will happen. So from here you will see follow up posts about the ongoing saga of chipped paint repair. Because, hey, what doesn’t make an exciting blog but the step by step process of repairing scratches. And you wonder why I don’t have a larger audience.IMG_4322