Colder than a… uh, never mind


That wasn’t my initial thought when I left Tucson on the Honda this morning, but I sure used it a lot of times between there and Flagstaff today! In fact, I’m still not completely warmed up, and I’ve been in the motel room for almost three hours with the heat (what there is of it) on high.

This weekend is the annual Overland Expo. For a couple of years, it was held south of Tucson, in a small town called Amado, but several years back it outgrew that venue so they moved it up north to a place called Mormon Lake. If you *want* to, you can camp there, and exhibitors can stay in the Mormon Lake Lodge, but other than that, there are no accommodations. It’s not that far from Flagstaff, so I have always stayed in Flag (this is my third year going to the Expo).

I knew it was going to be cold and rainy this weekend, and for much of the past week I vacillated between riding the Honda and taking the truck. The truck would have been the more comfortable choice, of course, but the Honda offered more fun. Additionally, it gave me the chance to try out my new rainsuit before riding to Illinois in July.

I packed and loaded the Honda this morning, because I knew that, even taking the scenic route from Tucson to Flagstaff, I could easily make it in one day without pushing too hard, and it would give me more experience in daylong rides. I left the house about 10 AM and headed up AZ 77 to Oracle. I started with three layers: a t-shirt, a long-sleeved flannel shirt, and the rainsuit jacket. I left the rainsuit pants and the booties in their carrying bag, but bungeed the bag to the luggage rack instead of putting it in one of the saddlebags. In one saddlebag I had my standard motorcycle jacket and its liner; in the other, my Tucson Rough Riders club jacket. I also started out wearing my riding gloves, but took my Thinsulate gloves just in case.

Somewhere along AZ 77 I stopped to add a layer. I chose my motorcycle jacket’s liner, and also opted to put on the rainpants and the booties. This turned out to be one of the rare times in my life when I actually planned ahead and it worked out – the rainpants are hard, but not impossible, to put on over boots, and the booties also take some time to put on. I’m glad I didn’t wait until I was getting rained on! Since I was already off the Honda, I snapped my first photo:


The white thing on the back is my suitcase (which has no suits, by the way – just books, the computer, toiletries, and some regular clothes) stuffed into a trash-compactor bag. The bag was the only thing I could think of that would keep the suitcase dry if (when!) I got rained on.

About 12:30 I rolled into Globe and had lunch at Mickey D’s, just like I did on my last big ride. I thought I’d commemorate the occasion:


At this point, I added Layer 5: my TRR club jacket. I also switched from my riding gloves to the Thinsulates. After eating, I rolled west on US 70 until I found US 60; then I followed it until I turned north on AZ 188 and rode north past Roosevelt Lake – following my big ride of a few weeks ago.

I could see the weather worsening ahead of me, and in fact I thought some was going to roll right over me, so I stopped for a photo:


I managed to miss this particular squall, though, because I was very close to the end of AZ 188, and when I got there, I turned right (north) onto AZ 87 and rode into Payson. At that point, my luck ran out and it started to rain on me.

My original plan had been to get to Payson and then take AZ 280 west to Cottonwood and Sedona, and then go north to Flagstaff. As soon as I turned onto 280, though, I realized I was cold (again), so I added Layer 6 – the outer shell of my riding jacket. So here I am, bundled up with a t-shirt, a flannel shirt, a jacket liner, a club jacket, the riding jacket, *and* the rainsuit jacket – and I’m still kinda cold. It didn’t help that my Thinsulate gloves aren’t waterproof, either. My hands got REALLY cold on the ride today, and several times I literally wrung the accumulated water out of the gloves. Hence the decision to get rain gloves.

When I arrived in Verde Valley (basically, where 280 goes under I-17 on its way to Cottonwood), I decided I was cold enough and hungry enough to get something to eat. AHA! Starbucks’ll do just fine. So I pulled in and had a vente caffe mocha and a slice of their frosted lemon loaf. It stopped raining while I was inside, and I had hopes (soon dashed, of course) that the worst of the weather might have passed. By this point I had decided to skip the rest of the scenic route (Cottonwood and Sedona) and take the Interstate. Several people asked me where I was from and where I was going; when I told them I was headed north, they said there was a lot of water on the road and to be careful. I assured them I would. When I was done with my snack, I took another photo of the long-suffering Honda, showing the storm I had ridden through:

IMG_0425Of course, shortly after I pulled onto I-17, the weather closed in again. Then I came upon this traffic-warning sign, which I just *had* to take a picture of! Winter weather conditions! In Arizona! In MAY!!! (The Weather Service says, though, that Flagstaff averages one May day a year with snow. Go figure.)


Well, as I rode higher, it got colder, and my fingers hurt worse, and it rained harder, and I could see less, and all that stuff. For a while I followed a car because that was all I could see clearly enough ahead of me. The windshield and my helmet visor were both streaming water, so I just fixed on something bright and followed it.

It never actually *snowed* where I was riding, and I never saw any accumulation on the ground as I rode by. But it was plenty cold, nonetheless. The San Francisco peaks are white (when you can see them – the clouds were low when I arrived at the motel, and then it got dark), but again, no snow where I was / am. I checked my little (admittedly probably-not-too-accurate) thermometer when I arrived at the motel and it said 40 degrees. :-p


The final indignity of the day: *After* I checked in, and *in* the parking lot, I dropped the bike. I think I was too tired from riding all day, and shivering for a good part of the day, but whatever the reason, I tried to turn around in the parking lot and it fell over. I got immediate help to get it back up (there were several folks checking in at the same time I did), and then I parked it, unloaded it, covered it, and retreated into my room for the night. I decided I’d rather be hungry than go out in the cold for some food, so I brewed up a batch of (nasty) motel coffee and drank it all to warm up. And I put my jacket liner back on, too.

So tomorrow I’ll head over to Mormon Lake and see what’s happening there. There have been some posts on my Facebook feed today that showed snow on some of the vehicles, and indications that all was not well with the camping area. I think it’s a good thing I decided to stay in a motel. Stay tuned – I’ll have an update on the Expo tomorrow.

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