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postheadericon Riding SoAZ Goes North – Part I

I have been writing about riding in southern AZ for more than a year now. However, that is not the only place that I want to ride. AZ has many amazing places to ride and explore, it’s just that since the state is so darn big, it’s a little difficult to get to many places without making a large, multi-day production of it.

Going to Sedona for a little relaxation.

Enter my recent trip to Sedona. My wife and I have vacationed in northern AZ a few times now. This time, we decided to be gone a bit longer (6 days/5 nights) this time. Since this trip was going to be a bit more leisurely, we decided that we would each bring along things that helped us relax. We brought my wife’s sewing machine and quilting materials. For me, it was a scooter (naturally.) Our kids thought us crazy for bringing such things on our little getaway, but bringing those things that helped us de-stress made perfect sense.

Good food, great scenery, my scooter, my baby and me. Should make for a great week.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, I don’t like taking interstate highways if I don’t have to. Since this was a trip specifically for relaxation, I wanted to take a scenic route to Sedona. A friend at work (thanks, Mike!) suggested State Route 87, and I glad I took his suggestion. I knew this would take longer than interstate, so we took I-10 to Phoenix, then turned east on 101, east again on 202, then followed that until we hit Rt 87, aka Beeline Highway. Unlike most of the other roads out of Phoenix, Rt 87, gets you out of town almost immediately, then starts climbing into the Mazatzal Mountains. Road quality is excellent and there is very little traffic. It is divided highway for most the first 60 miles, until you reach Payson. There are a few climbs here, but I would expect any bike 150cc or bigger not to have any problems with it.

Payson is a nice little town. It is about 5000 feet elevation, so carbureted bikes shouldn’t be having any difficulty at this point. There are plenty of places for fuel and food in Payson. At 5000 feet, you are just starting to see pine trees and the temperature is starting to cool off if you’re making this trip in the summer.

From Payson, we continued on Rt 87 / Rt 260, which is now 2-lane blacktop, about 20 miles, through Pine (not Pinetop) to Strawberry, AZ. Road quality is still very good.This area is beautiful. Elevation has slowly increased to about 6000 feet.. There are few steep grades, though, so it is relatively easy to maintain speed. There are a few places for food and fuel and quite a few little hotels, lodges and B&B’s here as well.

Leaving Strawberry, we drove about 20 miles of twisting, turning blacktop to the Lake Mary Road turn. At this point the elevation was right at 7000 feet, but there still weren’t many steep grades. Speed limits are also 55 mph on these roads, so it should be easy to ride with the flow of traffic. We were through here on a weekday and traffic was quite light. I would expect that traffic can get fairly heavy on weekends as people from the valleys try to escape the heat.

Lake Mary Road actually goes to Flagstaff. If you want a short-cut to Sedona from here, simply follow the signs and stay on Rt 260,  The turn off is only about 8 miles after leaving Strawberry. From there it’s about 35 miles to Camp Verde and I-17. At that point you could stay on Rt260, go through Cottonwood and come into Sedona from the east, or jump on I-17 to Exit 298 and take Rt 179 and approach Sedona from the south, through the Village of Oak Creek. Both of these routes are about 30 miles in length.

Here is the Mormon Grassy Area. you can see the San Francisco Mountains in the background

The 55 mile drive from the Lake Mary Rd (mentioned on motorcycle roads.com) turn off of Rt 87 was also beautiful. Again, the road is in excellent condition and, even though it hovers around 7000 feet elevation, it is mostly flat. It is still 2 lane blacktop all the way into Flagstaff. Lake Mary Rd goes past Mormon Lake (which looks like it would be better named Mormon Grassy Area That has a bit of Water in it.) as well as both Upper Lake Mary (almost dry) and Lower Lake Mary. Lower Lake Mary had a fair amount of water in it, with fishermen and boaters visible as we passed.

Can you see the road winding down the side of the canyon?

We stayed in Flagstaff a couple of hours and did a bit of shopping. We took Rt 89A from Flagstaff to Sedona. It is less than 30 miles between the two cities, but the road is breath taking. About halfway between Flag and Sedona is Oak Creek Canyon. This section of 89A drops 1000 feet in just over 2 miles as you go through a series of switch-backs. Once at the bottom, we followed Oak Creek, past several camp grounds and resorts, to Sedona.

This is one of the first views you get as you approach Sedona

The first few miles along the creek are covered with thick pine forest. 2 or 3 miles after passing Slide Rock State Park, the trees opened and we could see the incredible red rock cliffs and formations that make Sedona the tourist Mecca that it has become. I’ve been down this part of 89A many times and it never fails to impress me. As we drove along in the van, I kept glancing back at my scooter in the rear view, eager to ride along this road.

This isn't from this trip, but this is how well my Genuine Buddy fits inside my Caravan

Here is the map of the route we took from Tucson to Sedona. Getting the this way is just over 300 miles and, depending how many times you stop for pictures and gawking, will take 7-8 hours.

This is the fountain at the entrance of Los Abrigados

What's a resort without golf, mini-golf that is?

We drove to our hotel. We had found a great deal at Los Abrigados Resort and Spa online at hotels.com and it is a great place to stay. It is centrally located and the grounds of the resort are magnificent. It is also part of the Tlaquepaque historic shopping district. Be advised, though, it is one of those “Time Share” places and they will ask you to set in on one of their sales talks. If you chose to do so and get talked into buying a time share, don’t blame me or this site. You’ve been warned. We said we didn’t want to go to the sales thing and they said no more about it the rest of our stay.

Part of the Tlaquepaque Shopping area

The plan was for my and I to each enjoy our individual relaxation activity of choice in the mornings, after breakfast. We would then get back together for lunch, exploring, dinner, etc in the after noons and evening. I also planned an all day exploration excursion in the van as well. I didn’t have a lot of specific areas I wanted to ride. I had my helmet cam with me and wanted to record a ride up, then down, Oak Creek Canyon.

This concludes Part I. In Part II, I will have excerpts of the videos I took.

Howard Rains

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