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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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postheadericon Patrolling Picacho

My apologies for not posting something sooner. It’s been 2 months since my last post, but life gets in the way of blog posts sometimes. Now we’ve got the High Roller rally coming soon, plus our own For A Few CC’s More II” coming up soon, so I don’t know that I’ll be any better about more frequent posts, but I’ll try.

On January 26, last month, I went for a ride. My original plan was to ride out to Coolidge, AZ, to verify ride times and route for our February 4th club ride to meet the Phoenix Scooter Club for lunch, but the road called for something a bit different.

Along the frontage road, north of Marana

I rode across town to the I-10 Frontage/Access (Is there a difference, or are these terms synonymous?) road. This is a great way to cross Tucson, is you need to do so on the west side. The big issue now is that there is construction being done at and around the Prince Road area. The frontage road is nice because there is little traffic and few stoplights. Once you get past Marana, there is virtually no traffic. Road quality is above average.

I rode out of town, enjoying the sites and sounds. 22 miles from Ina Road is the Red Rock exit and overpass. Red Rock is an unincorporated village which, according to Wikipedia, had a population in 2010 of a little over 2000 people. The only functioning business that I have seen there is the “Red Rock Bar.” There are a lot of homes being built there and I suspect that some additional retail will be there before too long.

That’s one BIG puddle!

In September of 2008, my son and I rode out this way, in an attempt to explore what’s left of Sasco, AZ. We came this same direction, and were confounded by a huge puddle (at least 100 feet across) blocking the road. We couldn’t tell how deep it might be and didn’t want to risk crossing it. As I was riding along the frontage road, I recalled our trip and decided to change paths and see if I could find another ghost town. After all, a puddle that was there two and a half years previously would be there now, plus there hadn’t been any rain recently.

From the frontage road, go across the overpass and turn left onto Sasco Road. This will take you through the middle of the tract housing, past the skate park, the pool and the elementary school. 4.3 miles after passing the school you will see and smell a large cattle “feed lot” to the right. Coachway Rd branches off to the right here as well. From this fork in the road, it is another 7.5 miles to the Sasco Cemetery. Off I went to do some exploring, glad that I wouldn’t be blocked by a water hazard.

Well, I was wrong. That “puddle” isn’t a rain puddle. It is actually the Santa Cruz River and at this point, and it flows directly across the road! It wasn’t as wide as on my previous visit and I could see recent evidence of cars or trucks crossing, but I still couldn’t tell if there were any “sippy holes” or other hidden obstacles. I debated on scooting across but I was alone and if I dumped the bike, it would be a long, cold ride home.

“Now what should I do?” I thought.

I remembered that Coachway Rd was paved and went in the same general direction as Sasco. I thought that Coachway might have a bridge across the Santa Cruz or that the river may have gone back under ground a bit further north. Either way, I still might be able to find a ghost town.

Wrong again.

Coachway took me on a nice ride, but it never got me back to Sasco. Coachway runs due west along the southernmost border of Picacho Peak State Park. The road becomes well-maintained dirt after a half mile. Another mile and the road turns north and becomes and Cripple Creek Rd. About two miles later, the road turns west again and is then called Baumgartner.

At this point, I was directly south of Picacho Peak. The view was great and I should have snapped a couple of pics, but, alas, I didn’t. I was actually considering what I would do if I broke down. The RV-250 was running great, but after breaking down in the middle of nowhere in the not so distant past, I was having those terrible “what if” scenarios running through my head. Mostly, I was trying to figure out how to give someone directions to my location and who that “someone” might be.

I continued along Baumgartner. Even though it remained dirt, road quality was remarkably good. I think it’s because they are doing construction on the canals but the road is very wide, smooth and free of significant sand patches. A little more than 4 miles in, I reached a “T” intersection. If I kept straight, the road would become Wheeler Rd. Baumgartner went left and I could see asphalt. I went left.

What community is this? The “store” is on the right.

There were a number of houses at this intersection. There were no signs indicating a town, nor is there any indication on Google or any of the maps I’ve got. The reason I thought it may have been a town or village is that across from a large house on the north side of the road, is what appears to have been a store. There is even an old gas pump in front of it.

I like the way the farmer used this old bridge to hold up his irrigation pipe.

A quarter mile west of the house and the “store” is an old bridge next to the current road. It is in poor repair and is clearly unsafe, but I did snag a couple of photos.

Two miles later, I reached the intersection with Picacho Highway. Although I had never been this way on Picacho Highway, I knew exactly where I was and how to get home from here.

A good photographer could have made something out of this.

It’s only about 9 miles from Baumgartner Rd to I-10 and our favorite frontage road. Even though this is a straight piece of road, there are still some points of interest along the way, As may recall from earlier posts, I not enjoy ghost towns, but any old, ruined buildings. About a mile north, I saw a burned out hulk of a building at Curtis Road. I pulled over and snapped a few photos.

Rest in Peace.

A quarter of a mile further, was a roadside marker. The friends or family of this person had built a small building as a memorial. I stopped and took a few more pics.

Guess Your Weight?

A littler further were the ruins of an old weight station. I think it was probably part of  a cotton gin. It doesn’t seem so interesting now, but there was a swarm of bees nesting in one of the walls.

Three miles further north, is the Picacho branch of the Florence States Prison. I didn’t take any pictures in fear of them thinking I was going to help with a breakout, but it is an interesting looking place.

A mile further, I saw what looked like one of those Border Patrol observation towers in the desert a half mile off the road or so. A little while later, I saw the following sign:

A pilot friend told me this is used for national Guard helicopter pilots.

I was intrigued, so I pulled off the road and followed the dirt road. I came up to a gate and could see at least one runway. There were no aircraft, but there were 2 cars and a neat little control tower.

Three and a half miles further, I passed the campground where my parents used to live, turned east on the frontage road and was astonished. If you haven’t driven past the town of Picacho lately, you’ll be surprised. It seems a large portion of the town was razed to the ground sometime in December or January. Remember those vacant, dilapidated hotels? They are gone now. There is only dirt remaining. Several of the remaining buildings have notices posted on them indicating that more demolition is imminent. I would have taken a picture, but an empty field of fresh dirt doesn’t make for good photography.

I stopped at the Dairy Queen at the Picacho Peak exit and checked in at home. I then had an uneventful ride back to Tucson.

Ride Map: http://g.co/maps/5ydqd If you’re interested in doing this ride, it is about 85 miles in length, from Ina Road, to Picacho, via the back way, and back. The dirt portion accounts for about 8 miles and it is in good shape, but remember, it is dirt. Take your time and ride within your ability and you should be fine. I rate the difficulty of this ride as moderate.

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