August 16 – Home! (Yay?)
It was a hail of a day!
Sunday morning, my last day on the road for a while, dawned clear and beautiful, as desert days usually do. I stacked and packed the Honda, left the Best Western behind, and headed south on US 191 with the objective of getting down to I-10 and then home.
Northern Arizona has its own kind of beauty. It’s often grassy, always wide open, and can seem as endless as your dreams.
A few hours after leaving Chinle, I had crossed I-40 and was nearing Eagar. The ride was easy, but getting warmer by the mile. Then I started climbing into the White Mountains and the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, and the road became *really* interesting! For a while, the speed limit remained a reasonable 55 or so, through steep mountain valleys and passes. Whenever I topped out, or came around a curve, there were beautiful vistas to look at. It was really hard sometimes to keep my eyes on the road!
Notice, too, that there are more clouds in this photo than in the first one. Arizona’s like that – clear as glass in the morning, with increasing clouds during the day, often resulting in localized – but heavy – rain. As I rode, I kept my eye on the “increasing clouds” part.
US 191 through the National Forest is a biker’s dream. It’s about 90 miles from Eagar to Clifton, but the speed limit is often 25 – with warning signs for 15 or even 10 mph in lots of places, due to the constant twists and turns. MapQuest says it should take about two hours to make this run, but it took me closer to four, I think. If you’re familiar with The Dragon’s Tail in TN/NC, then you’d love this road!
As I rode, the clouds kept growing darker and closer (along with the rain falling from them), so I finally decided to pull off and suit up. My timing was impeccable, as the rain started falling on me just as I finished putting my rainsuit on. As with other days, though, I managed to avoid the worst of it due to the vagaries of the road’s direction. I was off to the left, off to the right, in back, and in front, but somehow always managed to miss the hardest downpours. Thank goodness for small favors!
One phenomenon in particular that I missed was a hailstorm. I could see the precipitation ahead of me, but luckily it had moved off by the time I got there. It left behind a goodly amount of hail on the road, though.
I rode very carefully through the slush.
This continued for, literally, a couple of hours. The storm and I were playing cat-and-mouse, but I don’t know which of us was which. It prevented me from having as much fun on the road as I would have preferred, but it was still a good ride.
Of course, all good rides have to end sometime. This one ended at the Morenci open-pit copper mine, which is itself a wonder to see. This was my first view of the mine from 191, and I was still several miles away:
The mine is HUGE. US 191 actually runs through the pit for several miles, and has been realigned several times as the pit has grown. There are a couple of spots where you can pull off to look at the mine; I took this panoramic shot from one of them.
After leaving Morenci (it’s also a town), I rode through Clifton and Safford before reaching I-10 and heading west. I stopped in Willcox for dinner (partly because I was hungry, but also so I could miss a local shower that was directly in front of me), and then finished my ride, arriving home shortly after dark. I took a photo of the Honda the day I left:
And here we are, five weeks and 7500-plus miles later:
So now I’m back in “the real world” – or so I’m told – and unwinding. I bought a US map, on which I’m going to show my adventures (both last year and this) in a future post. I also have some other topics that I want to expound on, so you haven’t seen the last of me. And it’s also time to start planning for my next trip, which is a five-day canoe / kayak float down the lower 52 miles of the Green River in Utah with some of my family. I’ve enjoyed writing this travelogue and hope you’ve enjoyed reading it!