I decided to make the best out of having several days off combined with days that still have quite a few hours of day light. After my enjoyable 550 mile ride the previous week, I was looking at some websites featuring roads for great motorcycle rides.
One site mentioned Route 78 which spans the AZ/NM border, connecting US-180 to US-191. The eastern end starts about 45 miles northwest of Silver City, NM. The western end can be found at Three Way, AZ, which is about 35 north east of Safford. Route 78 is approximately 35 miles in length. So, one week I rode 550 miles in order to ride 30, this particular week, I rode 515 miles, to ride 35. It sounds kind of crazy to me as I write this now, but it made a lot of sense at the time.
Once I read about this scenic road, I had to find a way to get there. I did my usual Google Map review. I looked for the shortest, but most scenic, loop possible. I came up with this: 463 miles and I figured it could be done in a shade less than 12 hours. That allowed time for food, rest and some photos.
This time, I rode with a friend, Lori P, who is another Sky Island Rider. After hearing about my previous 500 miler, she said, I wouldn’t mind doing something like that” and since I already had this ride planned, I invited her and her black RV-250, along for a long ride.
If you looked the link of the ride map above, you may be saying something like. “Hey, I thought Howard didn’t ride on interstate highways.” I mentioned many times, that I don’t care for interstate, however, sometimes it is necessary. I-10, from Vail to Lordsburg, NM, is about 135 miles and a little over two hours. I would have loved to have taken a nice back road to Lordsburg. However, here is what it would have looked like if I would have done so: MAP. Now it’s just over 200 miles and over 4 hours. If I were making this a two day trip, I would have done this, but I wasn’t, so I didn’t. Arizona just doesn’t have that many ways to get from Point A to Point B.
The weather forecast called for temps around 105 on the desert floor and a 30% chance of rain in the late afternoon. In an effort to avoid possibly getting caught in one of the afternoon rain squalls as well as to get off of I-10 before the traffic picked up, we left early, about 5:30am. It was dark and east bound traffic was very light as we left from our meet-up location at I-10 and Houghton Road.
The worst part of leaving this early were the bugs, mostly gnats. I pulled us off the road at The Thing! for a much needed cleaning of our face shields. We learned another thing (other than the fact that bugs are heavy around dawn) by the time we reached Willcox. I had been keeping our speed around 75mph, indicated, on my speedometer. When we fueled in Willcox, our usual 65mpg mileage, had plummeted to about 45mpg! our range was now closer to 120 miles on a tank, rather than the 200 miles I was accustomed to. Good thing we never had more than about 100 miles between towns.
Be advised, road quality on I-10 is less than ideal. I suppose it is because of the large number of tractor-trailers on it. Whatever the reason, the worst road we traveled on this day was I-10. The section between Willcox and the NM state line was the worst.
To my relief, we reached Lordsburg and were able to leave I-10 until, I thought, the return leg. We grabbed some fuel at the Love’s Travel Stop right off of Exit 20A and B. (For some reason, there are two exits here that both go to the same place: Motel Drive.) We then cruised to Main St then south to Kranberry’s Restaurant for some breakfast. The food and coffee were good and there was a pair of ladies who had a lot of questions about our scooters.
According to My Tracks, we did the following on this first leg:
- Total Dist – 154 mi
- Max speed- 74 mph
- Elev gain- 4528 ft
Unbeknownst to me, I had a phone issue, so I have no My Track data from Lordsburg to Silver City.
With full tank and full bellies, we turned, made our way to Route 90 toward Silver City. There was very little traffic on 90. We steadily climbed as we left Lordsburg. Route 90 gets a little more than 6000 feet on the way to Silver City. We drove around Silver City a bit and took in some of the sites from the scoots. The old downtown is especially picturesque, however, I didn’t get any pics myself. You should, though.
After our little tour, we found Route 180 and turned toward the town of Cliff. we hadn’t stopped in Silver City, so we stopped for a butt break and some liquid refreshment in Cliff’s only operating retail establishment that we could see: the “Mini Mart.” While we were there, a scooter pulled up and we talked for a while with a local resident named Walter Roth. It was a great little break. he had bought his scooter at Copper Country ATV & Cycle and was very pleased with the service he got there.
17 miles after leaving the mini-Mart, we reached “The Road,” Route 78. As mentioned on the Motorcycle Roads website, it starts as undulating road through some beautiful grassland, steadily climbing as we headed west. High speed sweepers start about the time we reached the pine forest.
The Arizona State line is, apparently, the signal to start downhill and into some serious twisties. These went on for 6-8 miles. gradually, we saw amazing views of the desert valley where Three-Way and Clifton are located. About the time I thought the curves were finished, we hit these incredible 180 degree, downhill sweepers! There several in combination and they were an absolute blast to ride.
It was a thrilling ride. If we didn’t have so far to go to get home, I would have turned around, gone back to the top, and ridden it again. Route 78 ends at Three Way, AZ. Three Way is so, I suppose, because of it’s four-way intersection of three roads, Route 78, US-191 and Route 75. There is a general store and a gas station at said intersection. I wasn’t sure if I could make it the rest of the way into Safford, so we gassed up in Three Way, got onto US-191 and headed toward Safford.
There is a significant climb as you leave Three Way. The road is in great shape and it is now divided highway. It was in Safford that my internal compass let me down. I hadn’t written down a bunch of directions like I did for the previous long ride. I failed to see the sign indicating the left turn near downtown to stay on 191. I didn’t recall needing to turn and was sure we were heading south. We had an enjoyable lunch at Jerry’s and headed out of town. We did need a bit of time to cool off as it was 111 degrees as we hit town.
It was my plan to head south on 191 then turn west onto Route 266 and ride to Fort Grant then hit I-10 in Willcox then ride back to Tucson. I was riding and having a grand time but started to feel a bit uneasy at not having seen the 266 intersection. We finally stopped at a nice rest area in the little town of Bylas. It was there that I asked directions and was told tat we were actually 35 miles west of Safford on US-70 headed toward Globe! The take home lesson here is that there are very few road signs out here. Make sure you’re on the right one.
I felt we were too far out of our way to turn around. Since US-70 would take us to Globe and from there we could take Route 77 back to Tucson, I decided to continue the way were going. We gassed up again in Peridot, on the reservation and climbed up to Globe. One remarkable thing we both noticed at we rode near Peridot was the unique odor of whatever was growing along the road. It smelled exactly like a fine pipe tobacco. It was quite pleasant, but I’ve never smelled it before.
We could see huge thunderheads to the south, as we approached Globe. As with my last ride, we stopped in Winkleman for a little rest. It was obvious we were going to get wet. I did discover in my last ride, that the RV-250 handles wet road quite well.
It started raining as we passed through Dudleyville.We hit severe weather at Mammoth but kept on going. It was late afternoon by this time and we had been in the saddles for more than 12 hours. Again, the RV-250 performed well. By the time we hit Catalina, precipitation was down to a sprinkle.
We rode together until we had to part ways to go to our respective homes. It was another awesome ride. I got the following ride data from My Tracks for the ride from Silver City to Tucson:
- Total Dist – 265 mi
- Max Speed – 66 mph
- Min Elev – 1945 ft
- Max Elev – 6219 ft
- Elev Gain – 10100 ft
- Max Grade – 11.8%
- min grade -9.3%
Our total distance covered was a tad over 500 miles. The RV-250 performed better on this ride than the last one. Mostly because elevation was mostly below 6000 feet.
It was a great ride and I thank Lori for coming along. It was my first long ride with a ride buddy. It’s fun to have someone to share a ride with.
This post has gotten way out of hand. Take care and ride safe.