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postheadericon A Ride to Roswell & back Part II (To Tucson via the Scenic Route)

In Part  I, we took the most expeditious route between Tucson and Roswell. I have been back and forth to Roswell many times over the years (I have family in Roswell.) but have only travelled on the routes described in Part I. I decided that it was high time for me to try something a bit different. A friend had told me about NM Route 152 and how amazing it was (Thanks, Sean) so I plotted a route that would get there.  Route 152 intersects I-25 at least 60 miles north of Las Cruces, so it made no sense to go that far south, then back back to the north, so I began looking for roads north of Alamogordo and Ruidoso. That was when I discovered NM-380.

NM-380 actually goes through Roswell and I remember seeing the junction for it along US-70 and had always wondered where it went. Let’s find out. It required almost 50 miles of backtracking along US-70 to get to the 380 junction. This was awesome because it involved going back along the Hondo River Valley. I did this early in the morning and it was absolutely gorgeous. Again I got to pass through the tiny little hamlets along the valley floor.

At the junction of US-70 and NM-380 is this informational sign about the Hondo area as well as Lincoln

As soon as you merge on to NM-380, there is a historical monument. There is an informational sign there telling about the Hondo River Valley, on one side, and Lincoln County and the connection between the Lincoln Country War and Billy the Kid, on the other. This was a great stop for me, because I have a lot of family history in Lincoln County.

This is Lincoln’s torreon. It is where the men-folk would take fighting positions to defend the town.

This tells you about the torreon

NM-380 tracks mostly northwest and along the Bonito River Vally. It is almost as pretty as the Hondo. 10 beautiful miles later, you arrive in the historic town of Lincoln. Lincoln is the old stomping grounds of Billy the Kid. Lincoln is where Billy escaped from jail, then shot and killed a deputy and Marshall Bob Ollinger. There are quite a few historic structures here including the torreon as well as the Wortley Hotel (Please click the link and read their homepage. It is hysterical.)

There is a small fee to walk around the park.

About 12 miles further along NM-380 is the little town of Capitan, best known as the home and final resting place of Smokey Bear. (See you learned something here, today.) Capitan is about 70 miles from Roswell and is a great stopping place. The Smokey Bear Park is very pretty and I couldn’t resist stopping in at the Smokey Bear Restaurant for breakfast. With a population of only about 1500, it doesn’t take too long to look around town.

I didn’t try the food, but I don’t know if there is another restaurant in Carrizozo, but bikers are welcome here.

Continuing west on NM-380 takes you down out of the mountains to the high desert of the Tularosa Basin. 20 miles down the road brings you to the tiny crossroads village of Carrizoza (pop 1000). This where NM-380 intersects with US-54. A left turn here will take you back to Alamogordo. There is food and fuel available here, including a drive-in that welcomes bikers.

This is a close up of some of the former lava.

Just after leaving Carrizozo, you will begin seeing signs for a state park called Valley of Fires. I was thinking it had something to do with large gatherings of native Americans or some such thing and was quite astonished when we came over a little hill and saw the black, formerly molten lava flow that extends for 45 miles down this valley. I did not stop at the park, but hope to the next time I pass this way.

The staff at the San Antonio general Store were very nice. They make fudge and other candy there, too.

The next 65 miles take up, down and through rolling hills and small valleys, skirting the northern border of the White Sands Missile Range. As you  reach the end of this section of NM-380, you, again, cross the Rio Grande (as we did in Las Cruces) and into San Antonio, NM. There isn’t much change that you will mistake this San Antonio for the one in Texas, but there is one tiny Fina gas station, aka the San Antonio General Store, a pretty church and at least one bar.

My route turned south from here, but if you have any needs that cannot be met in San Antonio, Socorro is less than 10 miles north, along I-25. With a population of almost 10k, there are several hotels, quite a few restaurants and other retail establishments to meet your needs. Socorro, is also where you can find the junction with US-60. It also home to the NM Institute of Mining & Technology, best know for one of the places where the “Myth Busters” love to go to blow stuff up.

This shows that quality of NM Highway #1. It’s is good shape. You can also see the northern end of Elephant Butte Lake in the distance.

Back to San Antonio. I-25 is the fastest way to our next stop, but that is way too easy and way too bland for me. NM Highway #1 (aka old US-85) runs parallel to the interstate. It is about 65 very scenic miles to Truth or Consequences on Hwy 1. There are no towns, but there is a wildlife refuge, a slower pace, no traffic and some great views of Elephant Butte Lake. I was surprised, but road quality of Hwy 1 is very good. Another advantage over I-25, especially if you are on 2 wheels, is that there no “High Wind Advisory” bridge crossings. Hwy 1 crosses the washes and valley much nearer the bottom than I-25 so you don’t get the high winds.

You do, eventually have to join I-25, but it is only 8 miles until you can exit on Rt 181 and go into Truth or Consequences (aka TorC.) TorC was called Hot Springs until 1950, when the city fathers took up a TV hosts wagers to rename a city after his game show. With a population of about 7000, you should have no problems finding food, fuel, lodging or services. If you like water-related activities, Elephant Butte State Park is next door and has plenty to offer. there is also a very nice veteran’s memorial park with a museum.

The signs remind you that CR152 is a “road less traveled.”

If you are thinking of making this ride back to Tucson a 2-day trip, Truth or Consequence with the lake and hot springs nearby, is a good choice. You are about 220 miles into the trip. If it’s a little too soon to stop, Silver City, NM, another 90 miles, is your other best option. After some of the most amazing road I’ve ever ridden, Silver City is our next stop, but first County Rd 152.

A friend had told me about this amazing road out east of Silver City. After scanning through Google Maps, I found County Rd 152 (hereafter referred to as CR152.) Again, the quickest way to CR152 from TorC is 17.5 miles south on I-25, but why do that when you can take County Road 187 out of Tor C. It is less than 2 miles longer and certainly a prettier drive.

Hillsboro is just a mile or two up that canyon.

The first 13 miles or so of CR152 are mostly flat with mountains visible on every horizon, especially in front of you as you’re headed east. This is also open range for cattle, a concept which was pressed home when i popped over a hill and the was a large heifer standing in my half of the road. Around the 13 or 14 mile point, you  drop into a lovely little canyon, then start to climb the mountains known as the Black Range or the Devil’s Mountains.

I love the architecture of churches.

A mile or two after dropping into the canyon, you pass through the village of Hillsboro, which is listed as a “semi-ghost town.” There is no fuel here, but there is at least one little cafe’ a church and a hotel. I didn’t get the chance to spend anytime here, but I will next time.

I caught site of this sign and barely had time to get the camera up and snap the pic. Pardon the quality.

9 miles later, you pass by Kingston, NM. Take a bit and visit. There is a beautiful lodge here, called the Black Range Lodge. I’ve never been there, but after doing the research for this post, I am seriously considering it. Kingston is also home to the Spit & Whittle Club. (What a great name for a social club.)

Final resting place of James McNally, winner of the MOH. I hope you can read the plaque.

A mile or so east of Kingston, on CR152, is their cemetery. I love visiting old cemeteries and this one did not disappoint. It is where I got to “meet” my first Medal of honor winner. You’ll see it on the north side of the road outside of Kingston.

Even 15mph is a little much on a few of these turns. God help you if you’re towing a trailer.

CR152 road quality is good, as you can see here. Beware of the 90 degree turns without guardrails.

It is soon after passing Kingston, that you begin my favorite part of this trip; the climb to Emory Pass. In just 8 miles, the road climbs from 6000 feet elevation at Kingston, to 8900 feet at Emory Pass. This 8 miles is amazing. You climb from a pinion/juniper forest at Kingston, to Ponderosa pines as you near the top of the pass. There are numerous switchbacks and tight S-curves. The speed limit is 25mph and this is too fast at times.

Taken near Emery Pass, this pics shows a few of the twists and turns that CR152 makes.

ADVISORY: CR152 can be exceedingly dangerous in the winter. It routinely gets snow and regular signs will tell you that it is NOT plowed at night or on weekends. Please plan your trip accordingly. Also, watch for debris in the roads. I came across numerous areas of sand and rocks in the road.

This is a small part of the El Chino open pit mine near Silver City.

There is a nice little rest stop at the top of the pass with great photo opportunities. The road down the other side is more of those fun switch backs and S-curves. About 18 miles later, now out of the twisty parts, you meet the junction with CR61 at San Lorenzo. Going south here would take you to Deming. Continue on CR152 toward Silver City. 10 miles later, you’ll come to the El Chino aka Santa Rita copper mine, once the largest open pit mine in the world. There is a nice viewing area with a lot of informational/historical signs and pictures on the south side of the road.

The incredibly scenic CR152 ends 6 miles later when you merge with NM-180 at the town of Santa Clara, which actually known as Central, until 1996 when they changed their name. (What is it with towns in NM changing their names?) The thing I most remember about riding through Santa Clara was their sign for the “Bataan Death March Recreational Park.” That name struck me as a bit, uh, odd, macabre and slightly disturbing, but memorable. Too bad, I didn’t get a pic.

A guy in TorC said that one can see Elephant Butte from Emery Pass. Well, it’s out there somewhere.

from here, it is only 8 miles to downtown Silver City. There is a wonderful main street area which makes you feel like you’re in an old movie. At this point you have travelled about 300 miles from Roswell. If you did not spend the night in TorC, you might want to consider staying in Silver City. With a population of 10k, and a great mountain location, there is plenty to see and do here.

From Silver City, there are 2 primary ways to get back to Tucson. the one I most recommend is taking NM-180 to CR-78. This, too, is another amazing road. I wrote about this in September, 2011 (SIR’s to NM and Back Again.) The other way is to take CR-90 out of the south side of town. This takes you through some beautiful pinyon forest, across the Burro Mountains and through the Gila National Forest.

There is some much history out here and many never get to see it because so much of New Mexico is fairly remote.

Approximately 45 miles, you’ll reach the junction with US-70 then you come in to the north side of Lordsburg. Since I already covered I-10 from Tucson to Lordsburg, I will end this lengthy post here. Although, I did not spend a lot of space writing about it, CR152, is one of the most beautiful and exciting roads on which I have ever ridden. I hope you get a chance to go there in one kind of vehicle or another.

I am hoping to put together a two or even three day ride to this area in the spring of next year. I hope some of my scooter brethren will be able to accompany me.

 

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postheadericon A Ride to Roswell & Back (Pt I)

The San Andres Mountains near Las Cruces, NM. (As seen from San Augustine Pass.)

Have you been thinking that you would like to try a bit of a road trip? Whether you are driving, riding a motorcycle or a scooter, I highly recommend a trip to Roswell. I recently rode this and will describe the routes taken, towns passed and sights along the way. Following the route described, it is a trip of approximately 500 miles there and approx 600 miles on the return. I did the trip in two travel days. If you are doing this on 2 wheels and want to take in the incredible scenery, I recommend taking your time and using 4 travel days. Part I will describe the trip from Tucson to Roswell and part II will discuss the return trip.

I-10 eastbound approaching Willcox, AZ.

I know I have disparaged the use of the interstate in the past. I will continue to use it as little as possible. However, when taking long trips out of Tucson, it can cost you a lot of extra miles and even more extra time if you chose not to use interstate at all. For example, compare the shortest route, which is the one I will describe in Part I, to the first route suggested when you use Google’s “Avoid Highways” option. Avoiding highways is 100 miles and 4 hours longer. As you have probably figured out, if you have read many of my posts,  if it means cool roads, I don’t care too much how much further it is, nor how much longer it will take.

On to the journey.  I have written about the Arizona section of I-10 in the past and there are some nice places and some interesting sites along the way.This route is best taken mid-week to avoid the many other travelers who use this road. Road quality is good UNTIL you hit San Simon. Suddenly there are pot holes and sections that are very rough, especially if you are on 2 wheels. Fortunately, the rough section only lasts until you reach the states line (about 12 miles) then it become good again.

As mentioned in Riding SoAZ, Part VIII, you pass the  ghost town of Steins on the north side of I-10 about 3 miles after crossing the state line. If you have a few minutes, I recommend a quick stop there. 25 miles after crossing into New Mexico, you pass the town of Lordsburg. I enjoy getting off the interstate and actually going through town. Lordsburg has less than 5000 residents, but there is enough here to meet most of your needs. There are several hotels and a few restaurants. I ate at Kranberry’s the last 2 times I stopped for food in Lordsburg and found it to be pretty good.

If you’re not in the need of food or rest, you can continue another 60, mostly flat, mostly straight, miles to the town of Deming, which is another great example of small town America. There are 15k or so residents here, so there are more options in the way of food, fuel and services. As with many other towns bypassed because of “progress,” I recommend taking the Business I-10 route through town and checking out the “real Deming” and maybe stopping by a local restaurant of gift shop and helping out their economy. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, take NM Route 549 (Old Las Cruces Highway) going east. It parallels I-10 for about 35 miles before rejoining the interstate about 25 miles outside of downtown Las Cruces. Road conditions of Rt 549 are average to good.

That’s the Picacho Rd bridge crossing the Rio Grande. In the foreground is a beautiful park that runs along side the river.

If you are planning on continuing to Roswell, I suggest taking exit #135, W. Picacho Ave/US-80. Picacho Ave takes across the Rio Grande (There’s a nice little park along the river here as well.) and in to the older downtown area. For those choosing to make this a two-day ride, I would recommend Las Cruces as an excellent stopping point. Las Cruces is the 2nd largest city in NM and has a lot of history and culture. There are numerous hotels and restaurants from which to chose, plus it is a college town, so there is night life to be experienced.

San Augustine Pass is just to the right of the center of this pic.

This is looking east, down toward Ft Bliss Proving Grounds from San Augustine Pass.

When you’re ready to be on your way, turn north on Main St and follow the signs toward Alamogordo. Main St becomes US-70. As you leave Las Cruces, you can see the highway climbing straight up the side of the San Andres Mountain range. You climb approximately 2000 ft until you reach San Augustine Pass. Pull over and enjoy the view down into the valley. Much of what you can see from here is either part of Fort Bliss or part of White Sands Missile Range. US-70 is divided highway all the way to Alamogordo and road quality is good. Alamogordo’s claim to fame is their proximity to the Trinity Site, home of the world’s first nuclear bomb blast.

You can see the white sand peeking outaround the side of this building near the visitors’ center.

It is approximately 35 miles from the top of the pass to the White Sands visitor center. For $3 you drive through this most unique park. If you have a parks pass, it is free, of course. From the park entrance, it is only about 15 miles to Alamogordo.

With a population of almost 40k, Alamogordo is big enough to have a lot going on and plenty of things to see, but still small enough to have a great “small town feel.”The town sits at the foot of the Sacramento Mountains. From here, there are two main routes to cross and get to Roswell on the other side.  As you near the north end of town, turn east on Route 82. Road quality is fair to good, but can be treacherous in winter. This takes you 110 miles on a lovely, two-lane mountain road that takes you through the ski village of Cloudcroft, then down to other side to Artesia. Once there, turn north and follow either Highway 285 or Route 2 and Roswell is only another 40 miles. Be advised, Cloudcroft is over 8000 feet in elevation. Snow is common in winter months and temps, even in summer, are considerably coolers than in the valleys below so dress accordingly.

The more common route to Roswell, from Alamogordo, is via US-70, through Ruidoso. It’s only 40 miles to Ruidoso and the road is 4 lane highway and is in very good condition. Prior to getting to Ruidoso, you enter the Mescalero Apache Reservation and pass through the tiny village of Mescalero. Mescalero is situated at about 6600 feet elevation. You’ll climb just a bit more before gradually starting down and into Ruidoso. Be advised, most of the food lodging and retail in Ruidoso is NOT on US-70. Turn west on Sudderth Dr once in town to find a lot more stuff. Ruidoso’s claim to fame is that their horse racing track is home to the Worlds Richest Quarter Horse Race.

Leaving Ruidoso, it is 70 only miles to Roswell. The road continues to be four lane and is in very good condition. US-70 follows the Hondo River and the scenery through here is nothing short of spectacular. I don’t recall and gas stations but there are several tiny villages (Glencoe, San Patricio, Hondo, Arabella, Tinnie and Picacho) and quite a few little fruit stands (open seasonally) and gift shops along the way. Slow down and enjoy this amazing drive. One of my favorite places to stop along here is the Ruidoso Trading Post, best known and “Fox Cave.”

These are some of the rolling hills west of Roswell.

Once you leave the mountains, you come into some wide-open, rolling ranch land. One can frequently see small herds of antelope along the side of the road. You come into Roswell on 2nd St. Most of the food and lodging is located to the north of 2nd St. When you come to Main St, the “world famous” UFO Museum and Research Center will bbbe on yuuur right. (Sorry, I can’t even type that without laughing.)

This “museum” is located at the corner of Main St and 2nd St.

Roswell is a neat little town, even without all the UFO stuff. It home home to the NM Military Institute with many notable alumni like Dallas CowboyRoger Staubach, actor Owen Wilson and ABC Newsman Sam Donaldson. The Pecos River flows along the east side of town. There are still many family farms in the area and Roswell still has that small town America feel.

According to Google Maps, it is 466 miles between Tucson and Roswell, but if you got off the road at all to sight-see you’re have probably logged in 500 miles. This is a great ride/drive with lots of sights and even more American history. In Part II, I will cover different route back to Tucson.

Sunset over the farm, or is that the Mothership landing to take us away?

 

 

 

 

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postheadericon A Winkelman Loop

I love this rock formation near Kearney, AZ.

The Ride Map to this route has been posted on the Ride Maps tab for quite some time and I have mentioned it in at least one “Riding SoAZ” post. I recently rode it again and thought I would “flesh it out” a bit since this is such a great ride, especially if have any interest in AZ history.

Here is the overview taken directly from the Ride Maps page: “ 200 miles. Difficulty – Easy. This loop cruises through some beautiful country along the San Pedro River Valley. It includes the 177 spur from Winkleman to Superior. If you continue on to Globe on 77 you get to go through Top-of-the-World and it is only 26 more miles.” I would only add a couple of things. First, it is 200+ miles. Make sure you are dressed appropriately for weather conditions. Second, if you ride this as it is mapped, you have 15 miles of US-60 to ride. Speed limit there is 65mph. Others may (and will) disagree, but I think that any vehicle 125cc or better should be fine. Smaller than that and you likely feel pretty uncomfortable on that 15 mile stretch.

Advertising one the side of a building in Superior, AZ.

On to the route. I am going to describe this route in a counter-clockwise fashion because that’s the way I rode it. Feel free to be wild and crazy and go clockwise. If you do so, start at the end of this piece and read it backwards if you want to see all the things I did. Once out of Tucson, follow Route 77 toward Oracle. A few miles past the community of Catalina, you’ll see the sign for Biosphere 2. Once past Biosphere, you go past Oracle. If you want to actually see any of this little town, you’ll have to exit at American Ave, as there is virtually none of Oracle visible from Route 77.

Once past Oracle, you come to one of my favorite sections of the route. You start a 10 mile stretch of 8-9% down grade as you drop down in to the San Pedro River Valley. If it is a clear day, there are some great views down in to the valley. The road conditions here are very good and there are intermittent passing lanes as well. At the bottom of the hill, you pass through the community of Mammoth.

One of ASARCO’s buildings with the smelter stack dominating the skyline

Like many AZ towns, Mammoth’s history is associated with mining. For years, it looked like Mammoth was fading away like so many other old mining towns. I was pleased to see a number of new buildings going up as I passed through. Many AZ mines are back in business now. Maybe that is what is fueling the growth I saw. Please keep in mind that the local police here are known for strictly enforcing the town speed limits. There is food and fuel available in Mammoth if you need it.

Once in the valley enjoy the trip through trees and farmland. There are also great views of the northern end of the Galiuro Mountains to the east of you. It is a little more than 20 miles from Mammoth to Winkelman. AS you get to the end of the valley, you arrive at the intersection of Route 77 and Route 177 Spur. This intersection is located in the tri-city area of Dudleyville, Winkelman and Hayden. (I found an excellent history of the area HERE.)

I know it says “Superior” but Giorsetti’s is in Winkelman.

One point of interest here is Giorsetti’s Grocery, located 1 block north of Rt 177 on Giffith St. Giorsetti’s has been owned and operated by 4 generations of the Giorsetti family since it opened in 1910. My friend and I stopped in and bought ice-cold bottles of Coca-Cola and drank them before we continued on to Hayden.

Downtown Hayden with the old movie theater on this end and the “police officer’s station” at the other.

Hayden shares a town boundary with Winkelman, so it doesn’t take long to get there. Go 1.5 miles from the Route 77 / Route 177 junction and turn north on Velasco Ave.  Once up the hill, turn left on 4th and right on Hayden Ave to see the old downtown area. I especially enjoyed police headquarters which is now located in what used to be the bank. I looks like something straight out of an old gangster movie. Unlike Winkelman, Hayden was a true “company town.” Among other things, your housing was directly tied to your job at the mine. If you lost your job or even if you retired, you had to move.

Three towns used to be out there. This is the Ray Mine.

Less than 10 miles east of Hayden is another community planned out by the mines. In 1958, the towns of Ray, Sonora and Barcelona were relocated because they were about to be swallowed by the the Ray open pit copper mine. The town of Kearney was established so that those people, most of whom worked at the mine, had a new home. There is a hotel, a couple of restaurants and fuel available. Kearney is where I finally caught a ride after my ill-fated ride on the Florence-Kelvin Highway.

Those are the foothills of the Dripping Spring Mountains.

Since leaving Winkelman, Route 177 meanders along between the Gila River and the foothills of the Dripping Spring Mountains. The scenery is very pleasant and there are some great opportunities for taking pictures. 7 miles past Kearney, you begin climbing up the mountains. As you begin the climb you can start to see down into the open pit mine. If you’ve never seen one before, they are quite impressive. The next 15 miles are twisty with a lot of climbs and steeps descents. The road is a bit narrower here as well, but there isn’t a lot of traffic. The city of Superior appear before you as you leave the mountains.

Looking east, up Main St in Superior

Superior is small, but I think it is a cool little town and it’s worth a visit (a short one.) The town sets at the base of some impressive cliffs. There is a road tunnel just east of town on US-60 that you must go through if you chose to get here by going through Globe. There are a couple of nice little diners here as well. I have eaten at the Cafe’ Piedra Roja as well as Buckboard City. Both were very good. there are other places here as well. Other points of interest are the Boyce Thompson Arboretum (oldest, largest botanical museum in the state) and, I’m sure you knew this, the World’s Smallest Museum!

The sign says it all

As mentioned earlier, it is 15 miles down the 65mph US-60 to Route 79, aka the Florence Highway. The good news is that this is divided highway and it is in very good condition. From US-60, it is another 20 miles of mostly straight, flat road to get to Florence.

Look closely when you’re in Florence. The time is always 11:44

I believe I have written about Florence before. There are three state prisons located in Florence and the prison gift shop, located at the intersection of Route 79 and Butte Ave is one of my favorite places to stop here. Another mildly interesting place to check out is the old Pinal County Courthouse. If you look carefully at the clock on the tower, you will note that it says it is 11:44, regardless of what your watch says. Apparently, the original architect wanted a clock in the tower. The board of supervisors at the time decided that a clock was frivolous and wouldn’t pay for it. So, the architect painted one on there. That was in 1891 and it’s been there ever since.

This almost completes our loop. At this point it is about 60 miles back to Tucson via route 79. there are several food and fuel options in Florence, so use them if you need to. the route back. the first 20 miles out of Florence are some of the straightest road I’ve ever traveled. about 20 miles south of Florence you will pass one point of interest for those old enough, or interested in movie history enough to know who Tom Mix was. The site where he died, on October 11, 1940 is memorialized by a very nice statue and small picnic area.

A note of caution: people driving Route 79 between Florence and Tucson tend to do so very quickly. Watch you rear view mirror frequently for speed demons rapidly approaching your six.

By the time you finish this described route, you will have traveled more than 200 miles. You will have passed through some interesting, though lesser known Arizona places and will have seen some beauty as only a desert can provide.

Enjoy,

Howard

 

 

 

 

 

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postheadericon Riding NoAZ – Part II The Flagstaff Area

Tourist Map of Flag

If you briefly return to my previous post, you’ll see how my scooter, Iron Buddy, and I wound up in Flagstaff, AZ for five days. Go ahead, check it out, I’ll wait here.

I even bought some loading ramps. I parked the van just off the curb and loaded the scoot by myself in about 15 minutes.

Welcome back, you didn’t miss anything. In a more distant post (here) I wrote about exploring the area around Sedona. I shot some video, took a bunch of pics, explored some great areas and broke down. It’s only 30 miles to Flagstaff and I had planned on exploring up there a bit but didn’t get the chance. When we decided to stay in Flagstaff this time, I was chomping at the bit to explore the area on two wheels.

I saw this massive yard full of bikes and stopped to check it out. The sign says “Sales” but most of the Google reviews about it say that the owner lets people look around, but then refuses to sell anything.

I planned to ride three of the five days we were there: shorter rides for local exploration on days 1 and 3 and riding all day to the Grand Canyon and back on day 2. We packed our stuff and the scooter and left for Flagstaff on May 20. I enjoyed driving up Highway 87 (Beeline Highway) so much last when we went to Sedona, that I chose that route again. Climbing out of Phoenix and up to Arizona Rim Country is a great drive. Once on the Mogollon Rim and to Payson, it was on to Lake Mary Road, through Happy Jack then past Mormon Lake and eventually into Flagstaff.

After the first night, i kept my scooter parked on the little patio outside our hotel room.

For security reasons, I kept the bike in the van for the first night. The next day I unloaded , check some maps and began to explore. An ongoing “problem” I found is that there is a distinct lack of paved roads in this area. I know that it is hard to many paved roads up and down all the mountains, but even the flatter areas don’t have any. Another reason is that there is a lot of Indian reservation in this area and many tribes don’t seem to want a lot of asphalt on their land. Much of the remaining land is part of National Forest, so I guess they fit into the same category. The take home lesson here is that if you have a sports car or pure street bike, you won’t be doing much in the way of exploration. If you’ve got a dirt bike, dual sport or car that you don’t mind getting dirty, there are many miles of forest service roads to check out.

There is a bit of “The Mother Road,” Route 66 that goes through Flagstaff, so I went there first. I forgot to bring my Go-Pro this day, so still pics had to be enough. I went east on Route 66 toward Walnut Canyon. The surface is poorly maintained and full of potholes and patches, but nevertheless, there is still something about being on that road. This section of 66 is only 5 miles long and before I knew it, I was at Walnut Canyon. One of the maps I looked at, clearly showed “Old Walnut Canyon Rd.” That sounded like a good way to go back to town. I had to go to the Walnut Canyon Gate to get directions to go back and find it. As it turns out, at this end, it has a Forest Rd number. It is almost entirely dirt. Not wanting a simple “out and back” ride, I decided to give it a whirl. Some of the road was in great shape:

Near Walnut Canyon, it is in great shape

Some of it wasn’t:

Can you see the deep ruts in this part?

I made it back to town but had only managed to put less than 20 miles on the scoot and I had wanted to get some idea of what my mileage was to be at that elevation, so I pulled up a map on my phone and saw what looked like a great little road with good photo ops – Elden Lookout Road. I had wanted to scout out a little of the start of my Grand Canyon ride anyway and the base of Mt Elden Lookout is on the west side of Flagstaff on Route 180. Perfect.

At the bottom is wasn’t too bad, but it was pretty steep.

I wound my way through town (always beautiful) and found the turn and started up. The first few miles are paved, then, you guessed it, it turned to dirt. One of the signs I saw said 6 miles of unimproved road, but my odometer said it was almost twice that.

The further I went, the steeper it got.

It’s hard to see in photos, but this is steep grade, with a lots of loose rocks, gravel and sand. I picked my way along and made it to the top. the view is fantastic! i took a few photos, had a monor crash when the bike slipped on hard packed dirt/rock covered in a thin layer of cinders.

On Mt Elden looking down at central Flagstaff.

The previous pic is taken from the top of the mountain in this one.

I became a little concerned on the way down. Because of all the loose dirt and gravel and the fact the I was using only my rear brake, I was worried my tiny rear drum brake my give out. It didn’t. I made it back to the hotel without further incident. I  checked Iron buddy for damage and only found a few minor tears in his vinyl.

The next day I rode to the Grand Canyon. The previous post tells all about that. For day three, I considered riding out to Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Parks. If you go to the Flagstaff area, I highly recommend both places. However, I had been to both a year or so previously and decided to ride around the city of Flagstaff looking for interesting buildings to photograph. I’m a sucker for old buildings, other structures and murals.

Formerly a motel, now the Dubeau Hostel, it looks like those old motor hotels that you found along Route 66.

I’m thinking this old sign is a bit outdated.

The back of the old train station. it’s now a very nice tourist information center.

Here’s an interesting mural I found. It runs the length of this building and along another wall.

I had a great time exploring, but that doesn’t make for interesting reading, so I’ll spare you the details. On our way home, we chose to drive down Oak Creek Canyon, through Sedona then south on route 179 until it rejoined I-17. i don’t think you can have had a proper trip to this part of the state without seeing Oak creek canyon. I’ve been there many times and it’s always a treat.

This is looking south from the top of Oak Creek. Sedona is at the other end.

Here, you can see parts of the road that lead down the wall of Oak Creek Canyon.

Godzilla!

One of the critters we saw at the top of the canyon.

Route 179 after Sedona is a really nice drive as well. The road is in great condition and the scenery is beautiful. Once you get back to I-17, you don’t have to just put the accelerator down and zoom back toward Phoenix, either. The next exit south of where you enter I-17 is Beaver Creek Rd(Exit #293). If you take this exit and go east, you will come to Montezuma Well National Park. A short easy hike give a nice little Arizona history lesson. Just 4 miles further south brings you to Middle Verde Rd. From here, go about a mile east to Montezuma Castle Rd and follow the signs to Montezuma Castle Nat’l Park. Another short, easy hike brings you to some spectacular cliff dwellings.

Sunset Point has a huge sun dial as a memorial to employees of the Department of transportation who died “while serving the citizens of Arizona.”

The view off the mesa is quite impressive.

If you don’t stop at either of those places and need a quick break, or if you just want to see one of my favorite rest areas in the state, pull off at Exit 252, Sunset Point. this rest area sets at the edge of a mesa and give some spectacular views down in a little valley. The rest area is beautifully maintained and well lit at night.

One other place I can recommend going to before you get to “civilization” is the Rock Springs Cafe. If you do a Google search for “Best Pie in AZ” they come up at the top of the list. I don’t know that they are the best pie in the state, but it’s pretty darned good. Take Exit 242 and follow the signs.

I really enjoyed this trip. I was a tiny bit disappointed in the lack of nice, scenic roadways up north. The architecture of Flagstaff did not disappoint. The drive up and back was also quite enjoyable.

I put together a little video to go along with this post. Video quality isn’t as good as it could be because the part of the scooter towhich I attach the Go-Pro was loose and I didn’t realize it. I hope you get a little feel for Flagstaff anyway:

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postheadericon Winter Riding for Desert Rats

I admire my scootering friends who live in the mid-west or further north and are still riding, even in cold temps. This blog post is NOT for you. The definition of cold is a bit different for those of us who live in southern Arizona and I am writing this specifically for those who grab jackets or coats when the temperatures drop into the 60’s or below.

Temperatures in Arizona are not always warm and balmy. Just this week we have had low temps in the high 20’s. That, my friends, is cold, no matter who you are. The big difference here is that most of us not only don’t own cold weather riding gear, it is very difficult to find in stores here because there isn’t much of a demand.

TORSO

So, what is a determined scooterist to do if he/she doesn’t: a) have the money to buy cold weather gear, or b) doesn’t want to spend the money on something that they will get relatively little use out of? Well, I’m going to give some suggestions. I have been riding year round for 3 and half years now, in all kinds of weather. I am cheap by nature and haven’t wanted to spend big bucks on cold weather gear. If you are on a budget and want to ride this winter, I hope to give you some suggestions that will help.

Cool in summer. It has reflective piping and removable pads.

One thing I didn’t skimp on was a riding jacket. When I bought the scooter, I bought a helmet and a textile riding jacket. I am not going to preach to you about how important it is to wear to wear the proper safety gear. That is a personal decision. My recommendation though, is to go out and get you an actual riding jacket. Leather or textile, expensive or bargain, stylish or not, just get something that will protect you if, God forbid, you end up on the pavement when you’re riding. The jacket, however, is the foundation for my cold weather ensemble.

It’s thin but effective for mild temps.

I wear this jacket year round. Because it has all of the “holes” in it, it breathes great and is great for summer. I really like the fact that it has reflective piping for better visibility. I wear just the jacket until temps dip to the low 70’s. At this point, I put in the liner that came with the jacket. I don’t know if you can tell from the pic, but it isn’t very thick. It zips in and keeps me comfortable to the mid-60’s.

Because the jacket breathes so well, I needed something to keep the colder air out of the jacket. Once temps are in the 50’s, I need more than just the liner. I went to one of my favorite places, a thrift store, and found this:

Extremely effective. This allowed me to comfortably ride in temps down to about 40 degrees.

It is a lined wind breaker. I think it cost me $7 or $8. It, unfortunately, does not have reflective tape or piping on it. I went to Harbor Freight and bought this reflective, hi-vz vest for $2.99. Please note that this jacket has a high collar. It is important to keep as much cold air out as possible This combination has gotten me through all but a handful or rides. I have found that it works for me until temps are in the 30’s.

It is most important to keep your core, i.e. you upper body, warm. If you can keep your torso from getting cold, you will be fine. Cold legs, arms and/or feet are a nuisance, but they won’t stop your ride. Cold hands are different, but I’m getting to that.

When temperatures fall into the 30’s, I add one more layer:

The hood won’t fit under a helmet, but the sweatshirt lets me ride in temps into the high 20’s.

Sweatshirts of all shapes sizes, colors and designs can be found in any thrift store for prices as low as $.99. I have ridden in temps down to the mid 20’s with this combo and had no ill effects.

LEGS

Everyone knows that layering is the key to staying warm. This is the way I do it. I have found that the scooter provides enough protection that my feet have never gotten cold. My legs do, however, get uncomfortable at colder temps.

Purchased at a thrift store, these ski pants even have reflective tape.

By colder, I mean that I don’t generally worry about additional leg protection until temps are in the 30’s. Even then, I don’t worry about it unless I am plan on being out more than 45 minutes or so. Thrift store to the rescue again! I bought these “ski pants” for $8-10. Thrift stores around Tucson always seem to have plenty or these in stock. They are nice because they are lined and have zippered bottom so that they are easy to get off once it warms up or when you get to your destination.

HANDS

Probably the hardest body part to keep warm is your hands. Most of here ride smaller scooters. Therefor, we don’t have the luxury of electric hand-grip or powered riding suits. Our scooters just don’t generate enough extra power. We have to do it the old fashioned way.

The first 3 winters, I used the gloves I was issued when I was in the Army:

The shell and wool insert combo worked pretty darned well.

These are frequently available at Surplus stores like Millers. They have a leather “shell” with wool inserts. Wool is a great insulator. These are pretty inexpensive. I don’t know how much the shells are, but I recently paid $3.99 for a new pair of inserts.

I got these nice, Tour Master “Cold-Tex”gauntlets when a friend sold his motorcycle:

Cold weather protection plus additional armor on the tops of your hands.

I have been been wearing them this year and they are very nice. A quick Google search reveals that gloves like this will set you back $35 to $60 depending on store, sales and which model you buy. I recommend them if you’ve got the dough to get them.


Another thing that works well is keep the wind off of your hands in the first place. I don’t use them but one common item used by riders in colder climes is called “Hippo Hands.

These can frequently be seen on snowmobiles, er, in places other than southern AZ.

I seriously doubt that anyone in Tucson carries them, but they can be purchased on-line easily enough. I’ve heard that you can wear thin, summer weight gloves in the coldest temperatures with these muffs attached to your bike. If you have craft skills, I’ve seen patterns on-line, to make them out of insulated lunch bags. As you can see by the pic, they aren’t just for scooters.

Scoot Over carries, or has carried, hand guards that will fit the Genuine Buddy.

These come in a variety of colors as well. Simple, yet effective.

Hand guards block a lot of the wind from hitting your hands in the first place, thus helping you keep your hands warmer, longer. I don’t remember how much they were at Scoot Over, but somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 plus more if you need them to install them. I don’t have these, but have considered them.

NECK

Keeping your neck warm is important too. Your carotid arteries run very close to the surface and if your neck get too cold, it can cause your core temperature to drop quite a bit. My lined windbreaker gives me quite a bit of protection but sometimes I need a bit more. If inexpensive is what you need try a scarf:

Cheap, not stylish, but Chicken Dance Elmo approves.

Like ski pants, they can be picked up at most any thrift store for pocket change. They work great at protecting the old carotids.

I lost it, but another thing that has worked well for me was a neck gaiter:

Effective and multipurpose. I want another one.

There are a lot of variations to neck gaiters. One of the most versatile pieces of neck ware is called the BUFF. They range in cost from about $10 to about $40. Most not only protect your neck, they can be pulled up around your ears, nose and mouth as well. This is especially handy if you don’t use a full face helmet.

MISC

There are a lot of other items that you can use to increase your comfort during cold weather. I don’t have any of these, but I do know of people who have used them:

Lap Aprons. Kind of goofy looking IMO, but extremely effective

The Lap Apron or “scooter skirt.” These are not cheap. They are, however, very good at keeping you warm. Corazzo, a well known maker of scooter and cycling accessories makes some complete with reflective piping and pockets.

Starting under $10. These come in hundreds of designs.

Then there’s the neoprene face mask. I got one of these once (although mine wasn’t nearly so stylish as the one above) but couldn’t wear it because my head is too big. These are another item that is especially useful is you don’t have a FF helmet. They simplyact as a windbreak for your face.

This entry is not intended as a complete source for cold weather riding gear. It is simply a list of some things that have worked for me. Again, I know that people who live in colder areas really require serious gear or risk serious injury. Please, ride safely and gear up. Spend as little time as possible exposed to cold temps.

Howard

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