If you’ve been following me long enough, you know that I embarked on a major expedition last year, in which I drove 8,300 miles, visited 25 states, saw lots of friends and family, and rode about 600 miles on my motorcycle. (If you haven’t been following me that long, that trip was the genesis of this blog, and you can catch up by reading the posts from last July and August.)
I’ve decided that this year’s trip will be wholly by motorcycle. It won’t be as far (between 4,000 and 5,000 miles), but it will be almost as long (five weeks or so). Recognizing that riding a motorcycle for long distances is very different than driving a pickup truck for long distances, I decided to take a “test run” three days ago. I had scheduled a dinner with Ali and Brian, in Phoenix, and since the day was a perfect one for riding, I figured I’d take the scenic route from Tucson to Phoenix before having dinner with them.
Accordingly, I left home about 10 AM and headed up AZ 77 from Tucson through / past Oracle, Mammoth, Dudleyville, and Winkelman. The weather was actually cooler than I had expected, and by the time I got to Oracle I was ready to put on my jacket’s liner. I felt MUCH more comfortable with it on – even a temperature of 65 or 70 can be chilly at 55 – 60 mph. The road follows the San Pedro River downstream between Mammoth and Winkelman, after which it follows the Gila River upstream for a bit before crossing the Mescal Mountains and dropping down into Globe. It was along the Gila stretch that I found this eroded area where the rocks had been bent and pushed up from below:
I’ve seen “domes” like this one before; in fact, there’s a big one along the Colorado River downstream from Moab, Utah. But this one caught my eye because it’s quite localized – the whole arch of rock, from where it emerges at one end to where it disappears back into the ground at the other end, is only about a mile long. And in that mile it rises and bends sharply to drop back underground.
So that was my geology sighting for the day. There were a lot of great views and vistas along the way, and I found myself musing about someday living up in that area of Arizona, rather than here in Tucson. I stopped a couple of times just to take pictures; here’s one:
I got to Globe about noon and stopped at Mickey D’s for lunch (sometimes junk food just works, y’know?), after which I headed up AZ 188 to Roosevelt Lake and then, eventually, to Payson. When I got to Roosevelt Lake I stopped for a photo of the upcoming bridge:
Roosevelt Dam is just out of sight behind the nearer hill. The curved road in the lower left is the original alignment of AZ 188; it used to cross the dam before continuing to Payson. When the dam was built higher 20 – 25 years ago, they also added the bridge. You can see how low the water is by the “bathtub ring” on the far side of the bridge. I don’t know for sure, but it looked to me like at least 40 feet of rock that had formerly been under water. That’s not as bad as Lakes Mead and Powell, but it’s additional evidence of the enduring drought here in the Southwest.
After leaving the Roosevelt Lake area, AZ 188 heads north and eventually meets up with AZ 87 about 17 miles south of Payson. I had watched the clouds as I rode, and they were looking grayer and lower as I got farther north. Knowing that a front was forecast for that day / evening (depending on where in Arizona you were talking about), I debated whether to head north to Payson or to go south to Phoenix. I made a conscious decision to go to Phoenix – and then abruptly turned north anyway! Go figure.
A few miles up the road I saw a sign saying “Gisela” and pointing to the right. I had just seen that name on the map I consulted before making my (subsequently-ignored) decision, so on the spur of the moment I made the turn and headed up into the hills. The road turned out to be a five-mile-long in-and-out ride with switchbacks and curves all the way – in other words, a short and sweet motorcyclist’s dream. I rode it all the way to the end of the pavement and then back. Gisela itself is a small community of ramshackle houses and trailers – but I was surprised by how much traffic was on the road. I had to be a lot warier on the curves that I would have thought, based on how small the community was.
When I got back to AZ 87, I again headed north – and almost immediately regretted it, because it started to spit on me. The problem was that 87 heads up the Mogollon Rim at that point, so it’s not a place where one can turn around with impunity. I had to wait for a connector between the two traffic directions (it’s a divided highway), which took a while. By the time one came along, I think I was only 2 or 3 miles from Payson. But the weather was deteriorating, so I decided to hightail it back south to warmer, drier (I hoped) climes.
The ride south on AZ 87 was uneventful, thankfully. When I got to the northern suburbs of Phoenix, I saw I still had time to kill before I was due at Ali’s, so I turned off at the Ft. McDowell casino and rode around the reservation for a bit, just to see what it looked like. Then I rode back to 87 and turned south again.
I got to Ali’s and Brian’s a little bit early (I had said I’d be there around 5:30), but they were fine with the early arrival. We sat and talked for a while and then went for dinner at Pita Jungle, where I had their Philly Cheesesteak pita. YUM! When we got back to their house, I fired up the Honda and rode home on I-10, beating the rain and getting here about 10 PM and 420 miles after I had left in the morning.
I enjoyed the day, although it was consistently cooler than I had anticipated. I was happy for my jacket liner, but there were times I could have used an additional layer (like a sweatshirt!). I thought of a couple of things I have to take with me on the big trip (sweatshirt!) and learned how far I can go before my butt hurts (not very). I’ll be taking more “training rides” in the next couple of months, and then sometime in July it’s off to Illinois and South Dakota.