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postheadericon The Eight (8) Best Ways to Cross Tucson

I’ve been asked multiple times about how best to get across Tucson. I’ve been meaning to write a piece about it and it looks like I am finally getting around to doing so.

 

The first things we have to do is establish what we mean by “best.” For the purposes of this article here are the criteria (in no particular order) I will be using to decide what “best” means when it comes to roadways in Tucson.

  1. Road Quality – A road where you have to dodge potholes or that is so rough you have to hang on with a death grip will not make the list.
  2. Length – There are some very nice road that only run for a couple of miles. For this article, roads considered must cross a significant portion of the city. As you will see, it is okay for the road to merge with another and change names, as long as it continues in the same direction.
  3. Amount of traffic – a good quality road that has extremely heavy traffic is going to be less safe, especially as far as scooters are concerned.
  4. Intersections – I checked some some Pima County and City of Tucson sources which listed the most dangerous intersections in the city based on numbers of cars and numbers of accidents. This was factored into my choices. The ideal route will not pass through any of the most dangerous interstions.
  5. Personal Opinion – After riding around most of the city for the past 4 and a half years, I have my own opinions on which roads are good or bad for scooters and their riders. Feel free to add a comments and vote for your favorite.
  6. Construction – I realize that construction comes and goes. For this piece, I considered major construction work that will continue for months. This article will, therefor, be accurate only until another major construction project comes along and either spoils one of the “best” roads, or converts one of the bad ones into a “best” one. Maybe I’ll review this and update it every year or so.

 

One thing I DID NOT take into consideration is scenery. I plan on writing a piece in the near future about Tucson’s most scenic rides. Stay tuned for that. I also plan on adding a “Worst Roads” piece soon as well.

I had originally planned on calling this the “10 Best Roads,” however, after doing a little bit of research and applying my criteria, only eight roads made the cut. I have chosen four roads running north/south and four running east/west. I will finish with a couple of honorable mentions.

 

NORTH/SOUTH

Silverbell/Mission – I am aware that these are separate roads and that have to travel about 3 blocks on Congress to fuse them together, but, hey, I claim writers’ prerogative. This is the only road on our list on the west side of I-10. Combined, Silverbell/Mission runs more than 20 miles, from Twin Peaks Road, in Continental Ranch, to Valencia where the road leaves Tucson and enters the reservation. With the exception of about 4 miles, from Ina to Camino del Carro, road quality is pretty good. Traffic can be heavy around St Mary’s at times. There are some “speed tables” and a couple of small traffic circles on Mission between Congress and 22nd St. as well. Silverbell/Mission also gets special dispensation because it’s really the only road that runs for any significant distance on the far west side. We have used this route on a number of different club rides. There are a fewer than average number of stoplights as well.

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Stone/6th Ave/Nogales Highway – Stone is one of the few streets that pass all the way through downtown and are 2-way. On the down side, Stone will only get you as far north as River Rd, however, it makes it up on the south side where it merges with 6th Ave at 5-points. Further south it becomes Old Nogales Highway and will take you as far as Green Valley. Yes, traffic will be heavy as you pass through downtown, but I have found it to less congested than some of the other downtown streets. Road quality is pretty good along most of the way.

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Craycroft – 5.5 miles to the east is Craycroft. Most of the streets between Stone and Craycroft suffer from congestion, construction of roughness. On the north end, Craycroft actually goes up into the foothills then does a big U-turn near Ventana Canyon Resort and comes back down as Kolb Rd. On the south end, it goes into the main gate of Davis-Monthan AFB. Immediately after Golf Links Rd. Road quality is good to very good along most of this road, with the exception of the short section just north of Sunrise which is just fair.

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Harrison – The eastern most road on my list is Harrison. The southern section of Harrison (It stops at Wrightstown then resumes again at Catalina Highway and runs north for 2 miles to Snyder.) is only 5.5 miles long, but crosses the east side from Wrightstown to Irvington. Road quality is good and, because it doesn’t run all the through, traffic is much less than Houghton, which also has poorer quality.

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EAST/WEST

Irvington – The southernmost road on this list is Irvington. Truth be told, I almost forgot about this road. Irvington runs for more than 15 miles across the southern part of the city and that is minus the 3 miles that are occupied by Davis-Monthan. The western section runs more than 11 miles between Sunset Blvd and Swan. Road quality is good and except for the section immediately around I-19, traffic isn’t too bad. The 4 mile long eastern section only has fair road quality, but is an excellent alternative route between Kolb and Houghton.

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Glenn – We have to go almost 6 miles north before we come to the next road on our list. I think Glenn is my favorite way to cross town east to west. It runs almost 8 miles from Sahuara Ave, east of Craycroft, to Flowing Wells, which is right at I-10. Glenn has a 35 mph speed limit, which keeps those people in a big hurry off of it. There are also as many 4-way stops as there are stoplights. It is my opinion that 4-way stops are considerably safer for those of us on 2 wheels. Road quality is good and traffic is generally light.

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El Camino del Cerro/Ruthrauff/Wetmore – I know, another one of those combination streets. Well, Ruthrauff and Camino de Cerro are the same road, but separated by I-10. Thanks to some creative roadwork, Ruthrauff and Wetmore merge at Romero and Wetmore continues all the way to 1st Ave. Other than the intersection with Oracle,which gets congested at rush hours, I have found this to be a pretty decent road to travel. Road quality just east of I-10 is only fair, but otherwise it’s pretty good.

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Orange Grove – If you have to travel east/west a little further north, I recommend Orange Grove over Ina. Orange Grove runs almost 7 miles from I-10 to Skyline. I was tempted to add Skyline and Sunrise as part of this but traffic is just too heavy to give that part “best” status. Road quality is good and traffic is moderate. Except around La Cholla and Northwest Medical Center at change of shift times.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

North/South – The Park/Euclid/1st Ave combo runs almost 15 miles across mid-town. The southern terminus is at Valencia and the northern end is at Ina. It doesn’t make “best” status because road quality between Broadway and Speedway is abysmal. Also, the intersection with Grant can be difficult. Road quality from River to Ina is very good, but it has a 45mph speed limit and is uphill, so this can be a little dicey for small displacement scooters to stay with traffic.

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East/West – It is probably because I ride it almost everyday or because it is where Scoot Over can be found, but I really like Broadway. It is very wide and has that wonderful bus lane and bus pullouts that keep traffic from suddenly jumping in your lane to get away from a slowing bus. Other than the section from Camino Seco to Houghton, road quality is good. Of the “Big Three (Speedway, Broadway and 22nd St) Broadway is probably the safest. It does, however, have one of the most dangerous intersections, which is at Wilmot. I recommend avoiding it if you can.

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I will follow this entry with one about the “Worst Roads in Tucson” soon. Do you have a road youy think should have made this list, please make a comment.

 

Safe Riding Everyone

 

Howard

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postheadericon Rally Report – Great Southwest Scooter Fiesta IV

Rally Report – Great Southwest Scooter Fiesta IV (GSSF)

11/30 – 12/2/2012

The Sky Island Riders have now been present at all four of GSSF’s. This is my second rally report on attending this rally and, although there are many similarities between the events of this year’s rally and last, there are also some interesting differences. As it would turn out, getting there and back would wind up being the most memorable parts of the rally.

 

We initially had 12-15 SIR’s that were planning on going to Phoenix to the rally, but life happens and as we approached the end of November, we were down to 9. Because of work schedules and the like, we weren’t going to be able to all ride in as a group. As a matter of fact, were would go to Phoenix in three groups: I would like the first group, leaving Friday afternoon, that would arrive in time for the first ride of the rally. Sean would lead a late Friday group that would arrive later Friday evening and, because not everyone could spend one or two nights in Phoenix, Warren was to lead a group that would leave early Saturday morning and return to Tucson that evening.

Here are Lee (with his back to the camera) Craig, Warren and Kat enjoying the Fiesta

The first group ran in to trouble early on in our trip. First, we found out that Randy had a flat tire on his Burgman and wouldn’t be able to make it at all unless he could find a tire somewhere. That left just 3 of us riding: me, on my Stella, Craig, on his vintage Vespa and Lee, a Buddy 170i. Outside of Marana, the Buddy developed mechanical problems and quit. Lee still has roadside assistance, so once he was in touch with them, he urged Craig and I to get on the road, so we did. The rest of the ride was uneventful.

 

One group of riders passed another

We pulled into Chandler Vespa and began visiting with old friends and making some new acquaintances. We then had a group ride over to Joe’s Real BBQ where eating was added to the visiting. As with last year, the rally had a large section reserved outside for us.

Joe’s serving line closed at 9:00 pm and the second contingent of four SIR’s arrived at about 8:50 pm. The great thing about this second group was that Lee (of the Buddy 170) was with them. I talked before about how cool scooter people are. Well, when Sean had found out the Lee’s scooter wasn’t working, he loaned him one of his for the duration of the rally! Now Sean, John, Annie and Lee were added to our ranks.

We talked and joked with the Phoenix folks until late, then headed to our hotel. During the evening, we had mentioned that, like last year, we were going to do a ride early Saturday morning. Last year one non-SIR joined us, this year there were several.

 

A fun thing about twisty roads is being able to turn around and takes pics of your friends on the road behind you.

Here we are, crossing one of the many one-lane bridges around the lakes.

Saturday morning, we got up early and rode to Hacker’s Cafe‘. 9 of us had breakfast, then we rode out to Tortilla Flat. Last year we turned around at Canyon Lake , so this year we decided to ride all the way to Tortilla Flat. It made us late getting back to the rally, but it was worth it. Apache Trail (aka AZ-Route 88) is a great riding road. The road quality of Apache Trail is only fair because of the many potholes, but the scenery and many tight curves still make it worth the ride.

 

That’s Lee behind me with the rest of the Saturday morning group behind him.

The scooter posse takes over Tortilla Flats. This is a great ride.

As mentioned, we were late returning to the rally and missed the chance to ride in the slow drags, but we were in time to enter our bikes in the scooter show. Sean entered his vintage Vespa P-200 in the “Ugly But Still Runs” category and won! That’s the second year a SIR has taken that particular award. We also met up with the Warren and Penny.

 

Here is Sean claiming his “Ugly But Runs” trophy.

Like last year, the next rally event was a ride out to Saguaro Lake. The road isn’t as twisty as Apache Trail, but it’s still fun. Once there, we spent the entire time out in the parking lot talking scooters. There was a lot of mutual admiration of scooters and eventually, the admiration turned into people taking test rides on each others’ scoots. I got to ride a new Vespa 300 Super. Wow! That is a great bike.

 

I was feeling a strange vibration in my Stella, so that is Sean, in front of me, test riding her on the way to Saguaro Lake. Craig is on the right.

Like last year, the SIR’s had planned an evening ride around central Phoenix as well as dessert at the Sugar Bowl. Guy, from VespaAZ, suggested we meet him for dinner at a place called Carlsbad Tavern. We rode back to town via the Beeline Highway and had dinner. I think we all loved Carlsbad Tavern. The next time you’re in Scottsdale around lunch or dinner time, you should go there.

 

This is at Carlsbad Tavern.

We finished dinner, then rode to GR Herzberger Park (aka Arizona Falls) walked around and shot some pics, then took an adventurous ride along the steep, narrow roads of Camelback Mountain. From there, we rode into Old Town Scottsdale, to the Sugar Bowl. We had a great time there then returned to our hotel.

 

The owners of PCroissant and Crepe Bar were very welcoming

Sunday morning was a nice change from the earlier rallies. We went on a tour of four noteworthy coffee shops. At the second one, we got a very nice class on several different brewing methods. After the four coffee shops, the next event was to ride up South Mountain. Since we SIR’s were riding back to Tucson after South Mountain, we hijacked the rally and made them stop for lunch prior to the ride.

 

Stopped at the top of the South Mountain road.

We went to Matt’s Big Breakfast, enjoyed that, then continued the rally and went up South Mountain. Last year, we stopped at nice scenic overlook, but this year we road all the way to the top. Like Apache Trail, South Mountain is very twisty and scenic. Road quality is good, although it is well traveled by law enforcement, so keep your speed down.

 

It was mid-afternoon when Sean, Craig, John and I said our goodbyes to the Phoenix group and headed toward Tucson. We didn’t want to ride back through town, so we rode west until we hit 51st Ave, then turned toward Maricopa and would return home via Maricopa, Casa Grande, Eloy and Picacho.

 

Riding as the sun sets. I wish I had a slightly better angle on the camera but I still like this pic.

The sun was setting as we left Maricopa. That’s when Sean tells me “Things just got a bit more interesting. My headlight quit working.” Oh boy! Stella’s headlight is fair. Craig’s Vespa’s is anemic at best and it gets very dark out in the desert. Fortunately, John was on his Big Ruckus which also has big headlights. We positioned him at the back of the formation and he lit the way for all of us.

 

Sean took apart the headset then diagnosed, then repaired the problem.

We stopped at Auto Zone in Casa Grande, where Sean bought a soldering iron, found the short in his wiring and repaired the headlight. I took the opportunity to replace the brake light bulb that had burned out on Stella on Friday. We then continued our cold, dark ride home. Everything seemed to be going okay until Craig’s Vespa lost spark and died between Picacho and Marana.

 

The problem was quickly diagnosed and we started making repairs when an ambulance stopped to see if we were okay. We said we were fine and the driver asked if we needed some additional lighting. We said “sure” so he went back to the ambulance, turned their spot light and bright lights on so we had had plenty of light to work in. They also turned on their flashers so cars would see us. Big thanks go out from us to Southwest Ambulance.

 

Here is our Saturday night group cutting up at AZ Falls.

The Great Southwest Scooter Fiesta IV was a memorable one. We got to see riders helping each other and sharing their expertise and even their bikes. We met some new friends and also took the opportunity to pass out flyers for our own rally, For A Few CC’s More III, which will be held in the spring of 2013

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postheadericon State of the SIR’s 2012

State of the SIR’s 2012

It is time, again, for the (hopefully) annual report on our Sky Island Riders. Now that I’ve done one of these before, this one should be a bit easier since I will (more or less) use the same format as the last one.

First – Happy Birthday SIR’s. 11/8/12 was our 4th birthday. From my limited research of scooter clubs nationwide, we are about 3 years older than average

MEMBERS

Let’s take a look at how our membership has changed over the past year:

tucsonscooters – The yahoo group number declined from 309, last year, to 2scooter club.90 as of this writing. Traffic there has also declined dramatically. In 2009, right after the SIR’s were formed, there were 1493 message posted there. In 2011 there were only 191 messages and this year only 139. I will continue to post club rides and info there, but it is clear that the majority of action has moved on.

skyislandriders.com – As of 11/21/12, there are 184 registered users on the SIR’s homepage. This is an increase of 44 users over last year, or about 30%. Unlike the Yahoo group, I periodically go through the names and delete accounts with email contacts like “cheapskate@dirt_cheap_canadian_pills.com.” As with the yahoo group, forum traffic is virtually dead, but like last year, overall visitors to our homepage to view the various articles continues to increase. At this time last year we were averaging 60 unique visitors per day. As of today, that number is 137 visitors/day. A change of over 100% over last year. Traffic is such that I have been contacted by a couple of companies about advertising on the site. Nothing definite on that has happened, yet.

Facebook – Our FB page now has 147 members, which is up from 114 last year. I am very pleased at the amount of traffic present on the page right now. There are people organizing there own rides and a lot of great chatter. This means that we don’t just have a bunch of lurkers. People are feeling comfortable enough to join in the conversations.

Google+ – I think there are now 3 people in the SIR’s circle. Nothing happening here.

RALLIES

Last year I reported that the SIR’s had conducted two rallies. Let me do a correction to improve accuracy. The fact is that we had conducted two SPRING rallies (For A Few CC’s More), now three. I would like to add that we have also conducted four FALL rallies (El Scoot de Tucson.) That means that as of November 2012, we have actually conducted seven rallies.

For A Few CC’s More – Our third spring rally was, again, a success. We were a little disappointed because the number of riders was slightly lower than the two previous spring rallies, but there were a couple of huge, positive differences this year. First, we had almost triple the number of sponsors for this year compared to last. 60 businesses participated! (Check out the list here: http://skyislandriders.com/?page_id=1293 then go by and patronize some of them.) Second, we actually finished with money on the positive side – a club first! Finally, we were able to donate $742 to Ben’s Bells, up from $545 last year.

El Scoot de Tucson IV – This was a banner year for El Scoot. Look back and read my report ( http://skyislandriders.com/?p=1610 .) In a nutshell, attendance surged over 100% for this years ride! It was very exciting.

*** Planning for For A Few CC’s More III will be starting soon. I hope you will consider bringing your time and skills to help.

RIDES/EVENTS

I didn’t do as good a job tracking rides and events this year, but it looks like we had 29 rides or events and our 3-day rally. This is a huge increase over last year’s 18 rides/events plus the rally. I don’t know that our average number of attendee’s per event has increased much, but we are certainly offering plenty of opportunity for people to participate and that means an overall increase in the number of people who have rideen with us.

In 2012 we also had our first official “Night Ride” as well as our first 2-day ride when we rode to Cottonwood and back.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2013

  • We have more members who are interested in actively participating in the organizing and maintenance aspects of the club. That means we should be able to increase the quantity and, hopefully, the quality of next year’s events.

  • We are planning at least one multi-day, long distance ride.

  • Although we slacked off as the year went on, I want to plan to resume our “Social Nights.” For those who don’t know, these are just simple gatherings for us to get to know one another and enjoy each other’s company. You may have friends who just “don’t get” your desire to ride a scooter. We do. Look for those to start again in December after the Phoenix rally.

  • We have already started “marketing” For A Few CC’s More III. We are hoping for a great turnout. We are very excited about this rally as we already have some fun ideas in mind.

  • I’m not sure how we’ll top this year’s El Scoot de Tucson, but we’ll try to think of something.

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postheadericon Fellowship of the Scoot – Part II (Changes in the plan)

We saw many rainbows on day #1. we knew all would turn out okay.

In Part I we had made it through wind and rain to our destination in Cottonwood, AZ. As night fell, so did the rain and the temperatures. I checked area forecasts (I love smart phones) and found that 1-2 inches of snow were forecast for Flagstaff and the top of Oak Creek Canyon. Rain with below freezing temps, followed by snow seemed like a potentially dangerous combination for save riding so I started looking at alternate routes.

The thought of skipping the ride up Oak Creek was saddening, but safety had to be taken into account. My fellow riders were gracious and said they were willing to ride whatever route I created. I didn’t want to just turn around and go back the way we came, but I needed to try to keep us to lower elevation, at least until we had gone south a ways. Once again, I came back to the trip I had taken the previous August, except that I wanted to make sure we at least rode through Sedona.

We awoke to this scene. This is looking east toward Sedona, from Cottonwood.

My route idea had one area of concern. It would require a 7 or 8 mile sprint down I-17 from Highway 179 to Camp Verde. I had to check with the other riders before committing us to riding interstate, especially  where there is heavy traffic with lots of trucks and RV’s concerned. I asked and we all agreed that we could handle it. I did a few more checks and came up with this route back to Tucson:

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This route still took us up to 7000 feet, but at a point about 40 miles south of Flagstaff, plus it would be later in the day before we got there, thus giving the, inevitable, warming temperatures a chance to melt off any precipitation of the frozen persuasion.

Our intrepid adventurers roughing it at The Coffee Pot

To give it a chance to warm up a bit, we took our time getting on the bikes in the morning. We left Cottonwood around 8:30 and rode to Sedona for breakfast. The temperature was about 40 degrees and it was still windy and it looked like it would rain any minute. The drive/ride along Route 89A into Sedona was beautiful. As we were coming into Sedona, the sun was breaking through the clouds and “spotlighting” various rock formations. It was hard trying to catch it with my camera as were riding, but I gave it a shot.

The sun was shining out in various places and “spotlighting” different rock formations. The effect was gorgeous.

We went to Sedona’s famous Coffee Pot Restaurant (Home of 101 Omelettes) for breakfast. There was quite a wait to get our table, but we all enjoyed our food. It was about 10:30am before we pulled out of Sedona but we were warm and full of tasty food. We went to Highway 179 and turned south toward the Village of Oak Creek. Hwy 179 is another very scenic road and is part of the Red Rock Scenic By-Way. It’s only 15 miles but there are many, many places where you will want to stop and take pictures.We pulled off at one such place and took a few pics.

Scooters on the Red Rock Scenic By-Way

At the base of that red mountain is the Church in the Rock.

We arrived at the junction with I-17, took a deep breath, opened our throttles and merged. I put Warren and his PCX in front so could set the pace. His little Honda had impressed me the day before and continued to do so on this day. We zoomed down to Camp Verde as fast as that little scooter would go.

This is some of the rugged country east of Camp Verde.

At Camp Verde, we turned east, onto Route 260, aka the General Crook Trail. From here we climbed from 3600 feet to almost 7000 feet over the next 25 miles, until we were up on the Mogollon Rim. Although we still hadn’t been rained on, it was still cold and  windy and once on the top of the rim, there were patches of snow on the side of the road. Brrrr! (You’ll have to trust me. It was too windy to try and take pics of the snow as we were riding.) Snow and wind aside, road quality on Route 260 and Highway 179 is very good.

Route 260 joins with Route 87 about 33 miles from Camp Verde. This was where we joined our originally planned route.After just a few miles on the top of the Rim, we began the steep descent toward the villages of Strawberry and Pine. Even though the sun had finally shown itself, we were getting pretty chilled, so we stopped in Pine to get fuel and something hot to drink.  We stopped at HB’s Place where I had my first ever piece of Oatmeal Pie. Wow! It was exceptional.

This was my first piece of Oatmeal Pie, but it sure was good.

Now that we were warm again, the sun was out and lower elevations were ahead, we rode out with smiles on our faces and hopes of a bit more adventure before getting back home. We followed Route 87 through Payson until we reached the Junction with Route 188, where we turned toward Roosevelt Lake. We made a brief stop in Pumpkin Center just prior to getting to the lake.

Nearing Lake Roosevelt on Route 188.

Once to Roosevelt Lake, we stopped at the dam for a rest and some pics. One of these days, I will ride down Route 88 from Roosevelt into Apache Junction. It is unpaved most of the way, so this day was not the day to do it. From the dam it is about 30 miles to Globe, where had decided we would eat our afternoon meal.

            

Gathered to rest and take pics of the bridge, lake and dam.

 

If you look very near the center of this pics, you can see a faint horizontal line. That is AZ-288, aka the road to Young, AZ.

After a bit of hunting, we decided to eat at De Marcos, which is right off of  Us-60 in Globe. It was dusk as we left the restaurant. One thing I have learned about myself is that I don’t like riding mountain roads at dusk or at night. Every shadow starts looking like a deer preparing to leap out at me. This can be quite terrifying at times.

Two huge tunnels going into the mine near Globe

Darkness fell as we turned onto Route 77 for the final stretch toward Tucson. Only 100 more miles to go. I had Warren take the lead again so I had tail lights to focus on rather than shadows. We took a break at Winkelman and had an uneventful ride the rest of the way into Tucson.

From door to door, my odometer showed a total mileage of about 640 miles over the two days. I had a blast and would do it again in a heartbeat. As a matter of fact, since we missed out on Oak Creek Canyon and Flagstaff, we are trying to figure out when we try this again.

Good friends and good rides make life good

 

Howard

 

 

 

 

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postheadericon The Fellowship of the Scoot (Apologies to Tolkien) Part I

Scooters, along with a good ride, have a way of bringing people together. An excellent example of this happened earlier this month when a few of the Sky Island Riders decided to do a 600 mile, overnight ride. First, a little about the ride.

There are a couple of places a number of us have been wanting to go that will require at least two days to complete. Riding AZ Route 191 and NM Route 252 are a couple. Unfortunately, these require riding in some remote areas and not all of our scoots were ready at this time to do either of those rides, so we decided to look for a long ride that would have a bit more support available in the event of problems.

This is a section of AZ Route 89 south of Prescott.

The club had never ridden up to the Sedona region, so we started looking at that. I had done a similar ride in the past, so the plans started falling into place. It was decided that we would ride around to the west side of Phoenix by way of Maricopa and make our way up to Prescott via Wickenburg, US-60 and AZ-89. From there, we would climb over Mingus Mountain, stop in Jerome, then spend the night in Cottonwood, AZ. We chose Cottonwood because hotel rates there are about half of what you will pay Sedona. Also, the way our ride route was coming together, Cottonwood was almost exactly halfway.


View Larger Map The ride was supposed to look like this.

Day 2 would have us ride to Flagstaff by way of Sedona and the beautiful ride up Oak Creek Canyon. From Flagstaff, we planned to take Lake Mary Rd to Route 87 and take that to Payson. Then we would ride past Roosevelt Lake, up to Globe and back to Tucson. This worked out to about 300 miles each day. Vacation days were requested, time off arranged and hotel reservations were made.

Once we got within a week of departure (Thursday, Oct 11th) we started watching the weather, to help us dress appropriately. This is Arizona. Temps were still in the 90’s in Tucson, but you never know about the northern part of the states where elevations are much higher.  The long range forecast was calling for a significant cold front coming into the state Wednesday or Thursday. There was a cold wind moving in from Mordor.

We saw a lot of storm clouds, especially on day 1.

I was hoping that as the day got closer, the forecast would improve, or the front would slow down by a day. It remained unchanged. The sad part is that the weather was only supposed to be bad the two days we were riding. Sunny with temps in the 80’s the days before AND after the ride. Oh well. I began warning all potential riders of the forecast and the fact that it looked like we would be riding in temperatures in the 30’s with rain and a lot of wind.

I went all over town looking for thermal stuff. Found these at Target. Ooh! Pretty colors.

I went out and bought more cold weather gear, specifically a thermal shirt and as many chemical hand-warmers as I could find. It wasn’t easy because cooler weather hadn’t arrived in the desert yet. Stores that usually sold the hand-warmers told me “We carry them in the winter, but we haven’t ordered them yet. Check again in a month or so.”

The day arrived. I was first to get to our meet-up point. Given the weather conditions, I wouldn’t have been surprised if no one showed. As it turned out 2 more scooter and one rider in a car turned out. There was Warren and his PCX 125, John in his Honda Fit, me and my RV250 and a new rider, Jim, on his Kymco 250. When asked why he chose this as his time to join us on a ride, Jim said, “It sounded like fun.” Yes, scooters and bad weather (apparently) have a way of bringing us together.

The Tucson Sky over the QuikTrip where we met prior to leaving town.

It was raining lightly as we left but that stopped within about 15 minutes. We made our way up the I-10 access road to Picacho. Then we took AZ Route 84 through Eloy and into Casa Grande. We did a little zig and a zag through town and wound up on Cottonwood Lane, which becomes the Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway. That took us into Maricopa for our first fuel stop. Road conditions of the access road, Route 84 and the Maricopa-CG Highway were all very good.

Here we are after breakfast at the Waffle House. Photo by Guy.

Our next stop was in southwestern Phoenix where were meeting another friend of the SIR’s for breakfast. Guy is part of the Phoenix scooter community and founder of VespaAZ. He found out we were coming through Phoenix and took a bit of time off work to come eat and visit with us. Thanks, Guy. It was a pleasure introducing you to your first Waffle House experience.

Yes, this is a corn field in a Phoenix suburb. That is a shopping center in the background.

For those interested in getting between Tucson and Phoenix using alternate roads, we took Route 347 north out of Maricopa, then turned west on Riggs Road. Riggs become 51st Avenue. If you’re going to Glendale, stay on 51st. We were wanting to avoid more of town than that, so we went west on Baseline until it ends at 91st Ave. Other than stopping for breakfast and fuel, we took 91st St north until we hit US-60, aka Grand Ave. We had initially planned on going further west to Loop 303, but there is a lot of construction there and when that is done, 303 will no longer be suitable for smaller scooters, so I would recommend the 91st Ave route for those wanting to go to Wickenburg and beyond.

Here are Jim, Glenn and the Silverwing.

After meeting with Guy, it was on to Wickenburg to join yet another new friend of the Sky Island Riders, Glenn Mason. Glenn rides a Honda Silverwing. He found out about our ride after joining our Facebook group. He met and rode with us all the way to Prescott. He even led us through most of the twisty parts of  AZ Route 89 between Congress and Prescott. This, he did,  in spite of deteriorating weather and rain. Another fine example of fellow “adventurers” being brought together by scooters, a great ride, oh, and the internet, of course.

Part of the climb up to Yarnell. As you can see, the road is in good shape.

We rode US-60, through Wickenburg, then took Highway 93 north toward Las Vegas for 6 or 7 miles north of Wickenburg to the Route 89 junction. 13 miles later you start an amazing climb (1200 feet in 4 miles!) up the White Spar Highway to Yarnell, AZ. Road conditions on White Spar are very good and the steepest part of the climb is 2-lane divided highway, so it is pretty safe for slower vehicles, because it is easy for people to get around you.

Can you see all the twists in the road over there?

From Yarnell it is only 35 miles to Prescott. The first 20 of it are flat and mostly straight as you go through the beautiful Peeples Valley. The last 15 miles are mountainous and twisty with great places to put off the road and take pictures. Our ride was pretty nice. It was a bit windy, so we had to be especially careful in the twisties. We could see rain clouds over Prescott, but it stayed dry all the way there.

Here I am, trying on a Ural at Scooter and Auto Source.

They even have a Harley-Davidson Topper on display.

We stopped in Prescott to visit at Scooter and Auto Source. They are very nice and have a great selection of vehicles: Jeeps, lots of scooters, Ural sidecar rigs, mopeds,  even electric bicycles. Stop by and check out the vintage bikes that they have displayed.

The rain started in earnest while we were checking out the bikes at Auto Source. It was raining pretty hard as we left Prescott. Fortunately, it stopped shortly before we got to Route 89A where we had to climb up and over Mingus Mountain. It was still windy but the road was dry. Road condition on 89A between Prescott and Cottonwood is fair to good. There are some rough parts in some of the corners.

Scooter Trash is a biker shop. “I we don’t have what you want, then you want the wrong stuff.”

We stopped in Jerome to get a few obligatory pics in front of the Scooter Trash sign. We looked down toward Cottonwood and saw a huge storm rolling toward us. We cut our visit to Jerome short and raced down the hill in an attempt to beat the storm. We didn’t make it. The storm slammed into us as we came out of the first traffic circle. There were high winds and heavy rain all the way into Cottonwood.

Don’t you just love classic, old neon signs?

Our hotel was The View Hotel. It is older, but it is well maintained. It’s only 20 miles to Sedona, where room rates are extremely high, but at the View, rates (as of this writing) are as low as $50 a night. They have wi-fi, a pool and a hot tub. Our rooms were pretty basic, but clean. The staff was nice in our dealings with them.

We walked down the hill and went to Renegades Steakhouse for dinner. The service was excellent and we all really enjoyed our food. TIP: Try the nopalitos appetizer. It was superb.

I hadn’t planned on making this a two part episode, but it looks like that is what it will be. Part I recounts the Sky Island Riders’ trip to Cottonwood, AZ. It shows how our love for scooters brought people from several different communities together and how our love for the ride wouldn’t let something like bad weather keep us from it.

Stay tuned for Part II. After that, I will be writing about the 25th annual Fall Classic Scooter Rally.

 

 

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