The Road Home
Yesterday was an ab-so-lutely GORGEOUS day for a motorcycle ride. It’s a good thing, too, because I had a ride to do, and it was going to happen regardless of the weather.
Knowing I didn’t have any particular time when I had to be home, I stayed lazy in the morning and didn’t check out of the motel until 10:45 (the check-out time posted on the door is 11:00). I started my ride with a long-sleeved t-shirt, a flannel shirt, my riding jacket’s liner and the jacket itself. It didn’t take me long to realize that wasn’t *quite* enough, but I also figured that I’d be dropping down the Mogollon Rim pretty quickly, so I decided to stick it out.
I took State Route 89A south. This is the scenic route from Flagstaff to Sedona, and is the route I had planned to ride north on Friday. Yesterday I was very glad I had changed my Friday plans, because not only would I have missed all the breathtaking scenery, but I would have been riding a very curvy, climbing road in the rain and cold – it would not have been fun. But yesterday’s ride was fun, and I was amply rewarded by the scenic vistas all the way down the Rim. I ended up playing Tag with an RV, too – they would regularly pull off to let everyone behind them go by, and then I’d find a place where I wanted to stop and take a picture and they’d go past me again. Since I wasn’t in a hurry, it didn’t bother me, but I found it amusing. Here are a couple of snapshots I took.
This is the first place where the trees opened up to let me see what was behind them. You can *just* see, if you look hard, the Honda in the lower center of the photo. I wasn’t deliberately trying to hide it; that’s just how it ended up. The rock formations are awesome up there. If it weren’t so danged expensive, I think I’d move to Sedona.
Farther down the road, after Oak Creek Canyon opens up a bit, I found this view. It’s actually farther away than this shot indicates, but this highlights the rocks and eliminates the manmade stuff (like phone poles and wires) in the foreground.
Getting *through* Sedona was a very slow process. The town is a great tourist attraction, and the tourists were out in force yesterday. Lots of stopping at crosswalks, at stop lights, and randomly because of traffic tie-ups. But I got through eventually and continued down 89A to Cottonwood. [Once out of Sedona, 89A becomes a divided, 4-lane highway with a 65-mph speed limit. It’s fun, but not as much fun as the Rim section.]
In Cottonwood I turned left onto Arizona 260, because 89A continues south to Prescott and I wanted to go at least back east as far as I-17. Beyond that, I wasn’t sure at the time whether I was going to take the Interstate or if I was going to go back through Payson.
By the time I got to I-17 it was about 1 PM and I was hungry, so I ate lunch at a Subway right by the interchange. Camp Verde, the town there, has an interesting history (which I have yet to explore). After lunch I decided to continue east on 260 and see what I had missed in the rain on Friday.
Since Camp Verde is at just over 3,000 feet above sea level (Flagstaff is over 7,000 feet), it was much warmer there. As a result, I decided to leave off my riding jacket’s liner. Just a few miles out of town, as Route 260 ascended some hills, I realized that had been a mistake, so I stopped and put the liner back on. A few more miles resulted in another stop to add my rainsuit jacket and my Thinsulate gloves (I had been wearing my riding gloves, which are padded but also made from a lot of mesh material). These additions helped me stay warm enough to get back to AZ Route 87 and Payson.
Route 87 again descends the Mogollon Rim (Payson is at an altitude of about 5,000 feet – not as high as Flagstaff, but halfway there when starting from Camp Verde) on its way to Phoenix. After being spoiled by the Sedona scenery, I didn’t take any more photos, but I enjoyed the open views nonetheless. As I headed south and lost altitude, the air warmed up again and eventually I had to take my rainsuit jacket off.
Route 87 continues south through Metro Phoenix. Temperatures kept climbing, and so I took off my riding jacket liner. (Thank goodness for multiple layers!) After Phoenix (87 actually goes through Mesa and Chandler, as well as edging Gilbert) it continues south to Coolidge, which is the home of the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. (I took off the flannel shirt when I got to Coolidge, so after starting the ride with four layers and upping it to five, I was now down to two.) Beyond there, 87 continues south and meets up with I-10 at Picacho, but I decided to “stay local” as it were, so I rode east and found AZ 79. I turned south on 79, rode down to Oracle Junction, caught AZ 77 (also known as Oracle Road), and arrived safely home around 8 PM last night.
While I wouldn’t characterize riding in cold rain as “fun” (especially if I don’t have my rainsuit on!) I must say that I learned a lot on this particular trip that will be useful on my “big adventure” later this summer. I learned that 300 miles or so is about as far as I want to ride in a day, I learned that I don’t want to ride 300 miles *every* day. I learned that my rainsuit is excellent for keeping me dry. I learned I need waterproof overmittens. I learned to take my rainsuit with me on local rides, even if I don’t think I’ll need it. I learned that my tank bag and my saddlebags aren’t 100% protected by their rain covers, so stuff inside can still get damp. [Note to self: Use plastic bags if you don’t want damp stuff!] I learned that my suitcase, when strapped to the passenger seat, is exactly the right size to provide a backrest – and that a trash-compactor bag is just barely big enough to keep it dry. [Note to self: It might be a better idea to use dry-bags on the big trip.] And I learned that 720 miles in 3 days is a lotta miles.