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postheadericon How Far Would You Ride for Pie?

For two or three years now, I have been trying to take a ride on Route 191, formerly Route 666, aka “the Devils Highway.” The part I was interested in covers about 90 miles between Morenci and Alpine, AZ. Those 90 miles are some of the most remote, least traveled miles of any road in the US. They are also twisting, turning, climbing and descending miles of fun for those people on two-wheels.

Routes 191 and 152 have lots of this

Routes 191 and 152 have lots of this

... and this

… and this

Route 191 is on the eastern edge of AZ, very near the New Mexico state line. Because of how twisty it is, much of the speed limit is 25mph and many of the curves have suggested speeds of 10-15mph. That means that it takes 3 hours or more to cover that 90 mile stretch. Therefore, I needed at least 2 days to get from Tucson, ride 191, then get back home. I looked for other things to see/do and other roads to ride since I was going to be out for a couple of days.

I learned of a place called Pie Town, NM a few years back. It is a wide spot in the road along US 60, between Socorro, NM and Springerville, AZ. Pie Town has been around for a long time, and for much of that time, there has been someone there serving pie to weary travellers. What could be more fun than getting a piece of pie in a place called Pie Town? I wanted to include Pie Town in my ride, but it is quite a ways (70 miles east of Route 191) out of the way, meaning an additional 140 miles of riding. Could I find another fun road in New Mexico and use Pie Town as a “way point?” Of course I could.

 

It's not a proper ride until someone is under a scooter.

It’s not a proper ride until someone is under a scooter.

In 2012, I rode my scooter to Roswell and back, to see my grandmother. I was trying to avoid as much interstate as possible and NM Route 152 which runs between Caballo and Silver City was suggested by a friend (thanks, Sean.) I rode it and found it to be equal to, or better riding than Rt 191. In 2011, I had discovered Route 78 between NM 180 and Route 191. It was another excellent road to ride.

Putting these together allowed me to ride three superb motorcycle roads in one 3-day, 900 mile ride. I figured Day #1 to Springerville, AZ or Quemado, NM via Route 191. Day #2 hits the Pie-O-Neer in Pie Town during business hours, then finishes in Truth or Consequences, NM. (I found out that several hotels there have natural hot spring baths/spas making it an obvious stop for folks that have just ridden 600 miles.) Day #3 hits NM 152, Silver City, then Route 78.

Arriving at the Pie-O-Neer

Arriving at the Pie-O-Neer

I came up with this plan in late 2012 or early 2013 but carrying the plan out was fairly hard. One reason was because the route climbs as high as 9000 feet in places and snow or freezing temps are common much of the year. Another reason is that much of the route crosses serious desert terrain with 100+ degree temps likely from late May through September. Basically, there were 2 small windows of opportunity to do this ride as safely as possible; Mid-May or early October. We tried to do this a time or two, but something would happen and it would delay the ride by 6 months.

This year, I had planned a 7 day scooter tour, which included most of the above. Life happened and I had to postpone the tour, but at the last minute, I was able to to take 3 days off. I decided to give the original plan a try. A couple of friends were able to come along. A huge thanks to my long time ride buddy, John Kiniston and to Randy & Cheri Hays for accompanying me.

Here is my account of the “Pie Town Ride”:

Day #1 – Randy and Cheri have a cabin in Lakeside, AZ, so we changed made our destination for the first night. We would be riding with me on my 250cc Honda Helix, John on his 250cc Hyosung and Randy piloting his 400cc Burgman, 2-up with Cheri. I decided to take I-10 as far as Willcox to give us additional time to spend on 191. (If you want to repeat this but avoid interstate entirely, take US 70 from Globe to Safford, AZ. US 70 adds miles and time from Tucson.) We met at my newest, favorite coffee shop, Yellow Brick. We were on the road by 8:00am and stopped for breakfast at the Reb’s Cafe & Coffee Shop, in Benson, AZ. From there is was another 45 miles mile of I-10 til we exited onto Route 191, (the flat, straight part) then through Safford to Clifton/Morenci and the base of the good part of 191. Since there are no services and few other vehicles on this road, we all topped off our tanks on Clifton. We found Clifton to be a really neat little town and hope that we can return there sometime to explore.

Looking up Clifton's historic "main drag."

Looking up Clifton’s historic “main drag.”

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“The Peoples Bank and Trust”

 

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Downtown Clifton

 

The road begins to climb rapidly through Morenci, which is a town which owes its existence to one of the world’s largest open pit copper mines. There are some spectacular views of the mines as you begin the first major climb of the ride. If you do a You Tube search for Route 191 or Devil’s Highway, you can watch video of various people riding this ride. None do it justice. The camera just doesn’t catch the steepness of the grades or how tight some of the corners really are. That said, you should watch a couple anyway. There are three climbs in this 90 miles stretch. The first takes you rapidly from about 3500 feet, in Clifton, to about 7400 feet. Then it descends to about 6000 feet for a few miles and the switchback carry you to around 8000′. Another descent to around 7000′ then some more switchbacks and cliffhangers take you to over 9000′ prior to reaching Hannigan Meadow. There is a lodge there, but I don’t think they are open year round. They may, or may not, have fuel. If open, you may be able to get a meal there if you arrive when they are serving. We didn’t.

The famous "Arrow Tree" just south of Hannigan Meadow

The famous “Arrow Tree” just south of Hannigan Meadow

Important note: we found the condition of the road surface to back a bit dangerous. The top layer of asphalt is wearing done and, in many corners, has turned into a fine, black sandy material. If you have a fear of heights, there are no guardrails. Also, there is almost a complete absence of caution signs for sharp curves, turns etc. This is in stark contrast to NM 152 which has great signage.

Temperatures dropped throughout the ride. Each time we stopped, one or more of us put on another layer of clothing. We arrived at Alpine, AZ about 4:00pm, with temps in the mid 50’s and a blustery wind blowing. We stopped in for food and hot drinks at the Bear Wallow Cafe. Because this ride was all about pie, I ordered a piece here. It was pretty good.

From Alpine, it was another 70 miles to Randy’s cabin. Temps dropped a bit more and the winds continued. Fortunately, we were in the forest much of this last section and the wind wasn’t too bad. We arrived at the cabin with electricity, for charging our devices but no gas for heat. We got a roaring fire going, which Randy stoked intermittently during the night, grabbed a bunch of blankets and went to bed.

Day #2 – The forecast had called for a low of about 30 degrees, so we planned on a late start, to allow temps to climb a bit. After a leisurely breakfast, we rode out around 10:00am. The problem with waiting until it was warmer, was the fact that John and I still had over 300 miles to ride. (Randy and Cheri would ride to Pie Town with us, but had to return to the cabin to fix the gas issue.)

The wind was with us again this day. Fortunately, it was, mostly, at our backs for the ride to Pie Town. There is some beautiful scenery along US 60, but not much in the way of fun riding. It is mostly long and straight. Pie Town, though, did not disappoint me. As I mentioned earlier, I had known of Pie Town for a few years. Randy and Cheri, though, have known the proprietor for a while. Earlier this year, I was privileged to see a documentary about Kathy Knapp and her pie shop, the Pie-O-Neer. It’s called “The Pie Lady of Pie Town” and it is a wonderful film. I got to meet Kathy at a showing of the film in Tucson, so it was nice to see her and the place the film is about. Business was brisk, but we ordered our pie and enjoyed some time at the pie shop. The pie isn’t the best I’ve ever eaten, but it is very good. If you combine the good pie and the “Pie Town Experience” it is well worth the trip, from where ever you started. By the way, there are two pie shops in Pie Town: The Pie-O-Neer and the Pie Town Cafe’. Rather than competing with one another, they compliment each other. They are open on different days of the week so that there is always pie in Pie Town.

20150508_122457                          20150508_122442              Happy to be in Pie Town

Happy to be in Pie Town

 

John and I rode out of Pie Town after pie and coffee with about 170 miles of road and wind ahead of us. One, very interesting thing between Pie Town and Socorro is the VLA, the Very Large Array.

John infront of one of the radio telescopes at the VLA

John infront of one of the radio telescopes at the VLA

At least the temperature increased as the elevation decreased. The 85 miles to Socorro is unremarkable. We were both a bit hungry, but didn’t see any place to eat as we rode through the south end of Socorro. The gas station attendant told me that we were only about 10 miles north of San Antonio, NM. San Antonio isn’t much larger than Pie Town but it, too, has something for which it is well known: green chili cheeseburgers from The Owl Bar and Grill. We turned south and stopped at The Owl. I don’t think it was the best burger I’ve ever eaten, but it was good and the service was very good, too.

The main route south, out of Socorro, is Interstate 25. If you are traveling out that way and aren’t in a huge hurry, I recommend driving NM State Road 1. It is the old highway and mostly parallels I-25. Again, there is nice scenery along here. SR #1 takes you through a wildlife refuge and by several ranches. The wind was very difficult. It was very strong with harsh, sharp gusts. At times, it felt as if the wind was trying to rip the helmet off of my head. My scooter would shudder and shake as gusts slammed into me. The worst part of the ride was a 2 miles segment of I-25 from the end of SR #1 to the exit for NM 181. We had to ride through a deep, steep ravine with the wind howling through it. Both of us had “death grips” on our handle bars, but we blew in to Truth or Consequences unscathed.

If you ever get the chance to stay in T or C, I recommend staying at the Pelican Spa. Rates start at $45 and guests get unlimited use of the hot mineral baths from 9:00am until about 11:00pm. The hotel itself is quirky and fun. If you can’t stand bright colors, this isn’t the place for you. We got some tasty ice cream at a little mom and pop shop, spent some time soaking in hot springs, then enjoyed some night air before retiring.

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Parked in front of a very pink building at the Pelican Spa. Our room was on the second floor

 

Day #3 – We awoke with more wind forecast but with highs in the desert in the 70’s. It was in the mid-50’s when we got up, but we still had a lot of mountain riding ahead of us. We had a very nice breakfast at a really neat coffee and pastry shop, downtown, called The Passionate Pie Café. (Another pie reference.) We didn’t have pie, but the eggs, bacon and bacon waffle were delicious. I highly recommend this place if you pass through T or C.

Great service and great food at the Passion Pie

Great service and great food at the Passion Pie

After looking at all the wonderful old buildings downtown, we headed away from town via NM 187. It roughly parallels I-25 as well and has more twists and turns than SR 1 did. You also get a couple of nice views of Caballo Lake. We turned onto NM 152 at Caballo.

The first 15 miles pass through rolling hills with gentle sweeping curves. Just prior to the tiny, yet interesting, hamlet of Hillsboro, there are some tighter sweepers as the roadway drops into the Percha Creek Valley. Spend some time looking around Hillsboro if you pass through.

Beautiful church in Hillsboro

Beautiful church in Hillsboro

The road follows Percha Creek for the next few miles, until you reach Kingston. Kingston has an interesting history (don’t all towns?) but there isn’t much left of the town, now. There is, however, beautiful little cemetery less than a mile from town as you continue on 152. It has the final resting place of the only Congressional Medal of Honor winner I’ve ever “met”: 1st Sergeant James McNally. RIP, sir.

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After leaving Kingston, Rt 152 leaves the creek bed and starts climb up the Black Range mountains through a series of switchbacks and very sharp turns. In 7 or 8 miles it climbs more than 2000 feet to Emory Pass (8228 feet.) John and I got off the bikes to take a few pics from the viewing area. The wind was till blowing quite hard and, as I was taking pictures, my scooter was blown over. The 1996 Helix was in near mint condition and now has 2 cracked lenses and multiple scratches and rubs on her left side. I mourned briefly, for my scooter’s lost beauty, hopped on and continued down the road.

The view from Emory Pass, looking east

The view from Emory Pass, looking east

The road down the west side of the mountains is as beautiful and fun as the east side. We stopped for more pictures and a quick rest at the Chino Mine. It is the second largest open pit mine in the world with the first being in Chile. The last time I was through here, I had seen a sign for Fort Bayard. This time we decided to check it out. I am so glad we did. It is an interesting, though eerie place. (Abandoned hospitals seem to be spookier than most other buildings.)

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Fort Bayard’s abandoned hospital

 

Route 152 ends at its junction with US 180. 180 goes south to Deming. If you follow it north, it ends at Route 191 at Alpine. We followed it into Silver City, where we got fuel and lunch at a little downtown diner. At this point, we could continue on Route 180, or turn southwest onto Route 90, to Lordsburg and I-10 home. We weren’t in a hurry and chose to continue on 180 to Route 78 for our last fun piece of road.

It’s about 45 miles from Silver City to the Route 78 junction. About half of that is along the Gila River Valley, which is beautiful. You pass the two tiny towns of Cliff and Buckhorn along the way.

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Looking west down Route 78. The yellow sign is one I like to see on a road.

 

Route 78 is only about 35 miles from start to finish. The first half is very scenic through rolling hills with some fast sweeping turns. You gradually climb back into the trees until you reach the AZ state line. Once in AZ, the road begins to descend. It starts with many tight turns and switchbacks. A few miles later, the sweepers return. There are some spectacular views as you return to the desert.

At Three Way, we got back onto Route 191 (about 10 miles south of Clifton) and rode into Safford. John was on fumes by the time we got there.

There are no direct ways back to Tucson from Safford. You can either go northwest on US 70 to Globe, then south on Route 77, or you can go due south on route 191 to I-10, then take it into town. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Going south is shorter, but you have to go on the interstate. We chose to take I-10 even though the wind continued to blow. (I am okay with riding in the wind OR riding on the interstate, but I really don’t care for the combination.)

New Mexico prairie

New Mexico prairie

Traffic was light down 191 and on I-10. We headed west and made out last fuel stop just past Benson. We talked about it and decided to stay on I-10 all the way to Tucson unless the traffic got bad. It did, so we exited the interstate at Marsh Station Road and then were able to, leisurely, ride the rest of the way. Upon arriving home, I checked my trip odometer and it showed 998.3 miles since my first stop for gas prior to starting the ride on Day #1. Not bad for 3 days on a scooter.

May is a very windy time of year. I think that I will try to conduct future long rides later in the summer or in early fall. We had an amazing time and I am glad to be able to tell people that I rode 1000 miles for a piece of pie.

Here are a few other pics from the ride:

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Stopped along route 191

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“pie shaped” sopapilla for lunch in Silver City

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Christmas lights still hang from this building at Ft Bayard

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The colorful open pit Chino Mine

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The Spit & Whittle is one of the oldest social clubs in the western US

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The Percha Bank building in Kingston, NM

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Headstone in the Kingston Cemetery

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Kingston Cemetery

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Monument along the Camino de Suenos, located off of SR #1 near T or C.

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Our colorful room at the Pelican Spa

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The one and only

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The smallest credit union I’ve ever seen. It’s in Quemado, NM.

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Good eats in Alpine, AZ

I love this view of curves and a hairpin turn on Route 191, just above Morenci, AZ.

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My green chili chesse burger from the Owl Bar. yummmm.

 

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My pie from the Bear Wallow in Alpine.

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Camera battle with Randy on Route 191

 

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postheadericon Never too Old to go to Young, AZ

A lot of my friends, both riders and non-riders, read this blog from time to time. One of the things that is really great about that is that I get occasional suggestions on places to go or roads on which to travel. This installment is the result of one of those suggestions. (Thanks, Craig.)

It’s not often you see a state highway marker on a dirt road.

Have you ever heard of Young, AZ? Odds are that you haven’t, even if you’ve lived in Arizona for a very long time. It’s not because Young is small, although it is. It’s not because Young is located is micro-suburb hidden inside a city, quite the opposite. It certainly isn’t because Young is a forgotten ghost town or that it is “buried” under the waters of Lake Havasu. It is a living, thriving little community. This post is about how I found out about Young as well as how I got there and back.

One day, I got a Facebook message, from my friend Craig, asking me if I had ever been on AZ-288 from Roosevelt to Young, AZ. He was asking how I thought the road conditions would be for a street bike, since he had heard that the road was unpaved to Young was unpaved. I had to confess that I had never been on AZ-288. Actually, I had never even heard of it or this town called Young.

I quickly Googled it, found Young and AZ-288 in the middle of the Tonto National Forest. I mentally plotted a couple of potential routes there and back. My route to Young looked like this. Craig actually rode there 2 days later and told me a little about how beautiful it was, thus making sure that I would be riding there soon. It took a month before I could do it, but on a beautiful Thursday morning, another friend, Stan, and I headed out of Tucson headed for Young.

In Globe, looking west toward Miami. You can see the sign for Route 188 coming up on the right.

Young is located almost due north of Globe, so we took Route 77 out of Tucson. We have had decent rains this summer, so the trip up the San Pedro River Valley was absolutely beautiful. Once past the little town of Winkelman, Rt 77 begins to get more interesting. Over the next 24 miles, the road narrows, gets twisty and begins to climb. You will climb about 3000 feet until you reach Pinal Pass. From there it is a steady 8% down grade for about 9 miles until you reach the junction with US-60 about 3 miles east of Globe.

Globe is a really neat little town with a lot of great history. One of these days I will go there and take a bunch of pics just so Globe gets a proper write up. If you have the time, I recommend a little sight-seeing around the town.

 

The Highway 288 junction is a mile or so from this point. You can see Roosevelt Lake in the distance.

We went through Globe until the turn-off to Route 188/Apache Trail. This is also the road to Roosevelt Lake. About 15 miles after turning onto Rt188, in the middle of a long downhill where there is an incredible view of Lake Roosevelt, we made the turn onto Route 288, also known as the “Desert to Tall Pines Highway.” (Much like the ”Florence-Kelvin Highway” the word “highway” here is being used in a very liberal sense.)

 

You probably can’t see it in this pics, but there is an SUV on the top of that round, grassy area. We almost turned around to ride out there.

Route 288 is a scenically, fantastic road and is “paved” for the first 30 miles. Some of the “paving” has been recent, but they appear to have put down the world’s thinnest layer of asphalt. There were some new pot holes in the newly paved sections and the asphalt appears to be well under an inch in thickness. So, road quality for the first 30 miles is only fair, but it is well worth the trip.

Highway 288 goes from this

 

 

 

… to this…

 

 

 

 

 

 

… to this . . .

 

 

…. to this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you want to turn around at the end of the pavement, you will still have taken a beautiful journey. Those first 30 miles climb about 3000 feet and there are beautiful views of Roosevelt Lake and inspiring mountain vistas as you continue to climb.

Malicious Gap? Great name

From the end of the paved area to Young, is about 18 miles. The road is fairly well maintained but it is far from smooth. Much of the road is over granite surfaces that cannot be grated smooth by heavy equipment. If it has rained recently, there will be a lot of debris in the roadway, so take the necessary precautions. Route 288 reaches a maximum elevation of almost 6400 feet before its descent to Young. Snow is not uncommon at this elevation during the winter.

ADVISORY – There is virtually no vehicular traffic along Rt-288 and patchy cell phone service. Make sure sure you and your vehicle are prepared for this journey.

You won’t have any problems with noisey neighbors out here.

 

If you enjoy camping, there are frequent pull-outs where people pull off the road and set up camp sites. I saw no notices regarding fees, so it may well be free, since there are no services. Do NOT, take my word for this.

 

This marker is located at a scenic overlook of Pleasant Valley

A mile or two from Young, you will experience the return of asphalt and will experience a new appreciation for it.

 

This is looking northeast as we entered Young.

Young is located in the middle of Pleasant Valley and it is, indeed, pleasant to look upon. When we visited, there was lush, green grass about as far as the eye could see, with stunning mountains in the distance, on all sides. We were hit by a rain squall as we dropped into the valley but it quickly dissipated and the sun returned.

 

I don’t see this as a crumbling heap. It’s a building with character that is maintenance challenged.

Young may be small (population 666 in 2010) and isolated, but still has an interesting history. It was originally named Pleasant Valley and it wasn’t always very pleasant. From 1882 to 1892 a series of gunfights, ambushes and lynchings took place that collectively are known as the Pleasant Valley War. This “war” resembles the Lincoln County Wars of New Mexico because it was based on the conflict between cattlemen and sheep herders concerning water and grazing rights and maybe a little bit of rustling thrown in to add fuel to the fire. Like Lincoln County, the Pleasant Valley conflict included the use of “hired guns.” In this case, Tom Horn, later immortalized in a movie of the same name, was hired by one of the two sides.

 

The Pleasant Valley conflict was especially tragic because it resulted in the complete destruction of two local families, the Tewksburys and the Grahams. Grave markers and some places of note from the conflict can still be seen in and around Young. Pleasant Valley was renamed Young in 1890 in honor of the town’s first postmaster, Ola Beth Young.

 

Another interesting fact I learn about Young, is that they didn’t have outside electricity there until 1965. Isn’t that weird to think about? There is only one school in Young, appropriately named Young Public School. It is K-12, in one school and my source says that it is not unusual for there to be zero graduates in a given school year.

 

A quick internet search (good thing, because you’re not going to get data access in Young) indicated two restaurants in the city. I saw a fellow working in his yard and asked which of the two (Antlers or Alice’s) he preferred. He said “Antlers” so off we went.

 

On our way in for some delicious food.

Antlers did not disappoint. I cannot compare it to Alice’s, but I can say that the food I had at Antler’s was exceptional. I can honestly say it was the best chicken-fried steak I have had in the state of Arizona. The sides were very good and my dessert, peach-rhubarb cobbler was outstanding. The service was as good as the food. I don’t know if I will ever get to young again, but if I do, I will go back to Antler’s.

 

Here is the main building for Young Public School

I hope you go to Young’s website during or after reading reading this piece. While there, read the entries on their guest book. One I found very interesting is by Phil Cody who says that he was in Young as a Hotshot fire fighter in 1975. At that time there were only three phone in the valley and two of those belonged to the forest service. Really? In 1975?  I thought Roswell was behind the times. Oh, if you sign the guest book, please let them know you found it from the Sky Island Riders.

I would really have liked to have spent a bit of time exploring Young, but we were still planning another 300 miles of riding. If you come here and decide to stay, there is at least one little hotel, the Pleasant Valley Inn, at which to stay.

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postheadericon Riding NoAZ – Scooting to the Canyon (the Grand One.)

No photo does this place justice. you just have to see it to get any kind of scale.

I have deliberately written most of the “Riding SoAZ” pieces from a neutral perspective. Meaning that the information contained in them is good for anyone wanting to ride those areas by any 2-wheeled vehicle or even people taking the family car out for a drive. This episode will be directed specifically toward the scooterist. Actually, it is even directed toward the rider of small displacement scooters or 150cc’s or less, although some info will still be good for anyone.

Here’s a little bit of background before we get started. My wife and I recently spent a 5-day vacation in Flagstaff, AZ. I have recently started taking a scooter along on these trip so that I have a certain period of time where I do what relaxes me most – riding. When I bring a scooter, my wife brings along her quilting stuff so she can do what relaxes her. See how nicely that works out?  We had decided that I would do short rides on two of our days there, and one day, I would do a longer ride. My wife suggested that I use the long ride day to go up to the Grand Canyon. That sounded great to me. The thought of posting a pic of the Iron Buddy on the edge of the Grand Canyon really appealed to me.

Riding in the Desert – It’s all fun and games til someone’s bones are bleached in the sun.

Riding in southern Arizona has taught me the value of route planning. Gas stations tend to be few and far between out here. Well, northern Arizona is no different. From Flagstaff, there are two possible routes to the canyon. I did a bit of research in our hotel room before heading out. I not only needed to take distances into account, but elevation changes as well. Iron Buddy is carbureted and my mileage suffers a bit at elevations above about 6000 feet. I did a test ride the second day we were there and found that my max speed at 7000′ was 50mph, indicated, meaning I was actually only going 45-46mph. Hmmm, decreased mileage AND speed, that was sobering.

First, there is US 89, north out of Flagstaff, to the town of Cameron, AZ (pop 885). At Cameron, turn west on Route 60 to the canyon. It is approximately 50 miles to Cameron and another 50 miles from Cameron to Grand Canyon Village. Elevation-wise, this route looked pretty good. Flagstaff and Grand Canyon Village are at 7000 feet, but US 89 drops as low as 5000′ on it’s way to Cameron, before beginning to climb again. Unfortunately, I had to rule this route out once I looked at potential fuel stops. I had not brought my gallon gas can with me this trip and only had a 750ml fuel bottle as reserve. I could fill up as I left Flagstaff  and again at Cameron. I could make the 50 miles to the village, but at that elevation and the fact that I would having to climb grades at highway speeds, I wouldn’t make it back to Cameron. The reason? I could not count on my usual 60-70mpg. I figured 50-60mpg may be more realistic. (I learned that lesson on the Iron Butt ride.) My 1.5 gallon tank would get me about 75 miles. 10-15 more miles from my fuel bottle still left me at least 10 miles short of Cameron.

Mt Humphrey still has snow!

Route #2 uses Route 180 west to the community of Valle, AZ, then north on Route 64/180 to Grand Canyon Village. It is 50 miles from Flagstaff to Valle (same as Flag to Cameron) but a little less than 30 miles from Valle to the Village. According to Google maps my last gas would be at Valle, (Google wound up being wrong about this.) but that wouldn’t be a problem, since I knew I could make it 60 miles on my little tank of fuel. What about elevation? This route is a bit more challenging. Route 180 climbs to just over 8000′. It then drops at 6000′ at Valle before climbing back to 7000 ‘ at Grand Canyon Village.

Looking to the east

I had initially considered making a loop and taking 180 and Route 64 yp to the Canyon, then continuing east on 64 to Cameron and back to Flagstaff. I wish i could have done this, but I had to work on the fact that Google said there was no fuel, on that route, between Valle and Cameron. That is right at 80 miles and I felt it was cutting it too close. It is pretty desolate in this part of AZ and cell phone coverage can be spotty, at best. If I am ever up there, again, on a bigger bike or in a car, I will do the loop.

The high desert plateau is flat and empty, as far as human habitation is concerned.

So, how was the ride, you may be asking? It went well and I had a lot of fun. However, the ride back to Flagstaff was also one of the most challenging 80 miles I’ve ever ridden. The forecast that day, late in May, was for temps about 75 degrees with winds 15-20mph. I don’t enjoy riding in the wind very much, but there was no way I was going to miss out on riding to the Grand Canyon.

On the way out of Flagstaff, you pass the Pioneer Museum and the Museum of Northern AZ. I stopped at neither, but might do so another time. Road conditions on Rte 180 are below average near Flagstaff city limits but are average to above average the rest of the was to Valle. I suppose most of that is due to heavy traffic getting to/from the ski resort just outside of town.

Riding through trees is very different from riding around Tucson.

Talls trees give way to smaller trees and shrubs as you go west toward Valle.

The 40 miles to Valle was uneventful. There was very little traffic along the entire route. There is a 3 miles-long 6% grade downhill that was made interesting by the wind. As the elevation decreases, you leave the Ponderosa Pine forest and onto a high desert plain. There was lots of dry grass and occasional scrub bushes.

See what’s left of Dino at Bedrock City!

Valle is a hoot. There is an airplane museum (Planes of Fame) located at their tiny airport. There is a new gas station/gift shop here as well. There are a couple of small hotels and, if you have an RV or are camping, you’re in for a real treat. Bedrock City is here. If you love Route 66 kitsch, then you will LOVE this place.

I gassed up, took a few pics at Bedrock City and headed toward the canyon. Traffic really picked up on Route 64. I stuck to the right side of the road and kept on going. Most folks gave me plenty of room as the passed. I met many, many motorcycles all along the route. Virtually all waved as they went by.

Why spend the money on renting a helicopter ride? See the same thing safely, in the IMAX theater.

Just before you enter Grand Canyon National Park you pass through the tiny town of Tusayan, AZ. This is where Grand Canyon Airport is located, where many folks take plane or helicopter tours of the canyon. I was quite surprised as I got here and saw construction everywhere. There are hotels, an IMAX theater, restaurants and (shame on you, Google) a gas station.

I saw my first Elk in the wild! there are three in the pic. Can you see them all?

NOTE: It is $25 per car or $12.50 per motorcycle to enter the park. Your other option, if you frequent various national parks, is to buy an annual pass for $80. That’s what I did.

My first attempt at a pic with my scooter at the canyon. You can just see it through the trees.

I rode into the park, looking for a place to get a couple of good pics. I had only been to the G.C. by train before and so I wasn’t familiar with where to go. I checked my complimentary map and finally found a good place to go. Because there is a walkway all along the canyon rim, you can’t really ride to the edge.

“Dude! I wanted all of me AND my scooter in the picture with part of the canyon.”

So, I killed the motor and pushed Iron Buddy up the pathway, looking to make sure there were no Park Rangers nearby. I had someone snap a couple of pics (His aim wasn’t too good.) took a few myself, posted a couple to Facebook, texted my wife then turned around and headed back toward Flagstaff.

This beautiful meadow area is about 12 miles outside of Flagstaff on Route 180.

The 25 miles back to Valle was particularly difficult. The wind had picked up and at times my speed was down to 45mph. I had to keep reminding myself to relax my grip because I kept squeezing tighter and tighter in fear that the wind would rip the handlebars out of my hands. This made my arms and shoulders pretty sore. I had gassed up in Tusayan, then again in Valle.

A place for a weary traveler to catch a spiritual “breather.”

I caught a bit of a break once I was back to Rte 180. The wind was at my back quite a bit of the way. I stopped a couple of times to take pics. About 15 miles outside of Flagstaff, there is a lovely little interdenominational chapel, facing the forest. I stopped for a few pics and to stop and give thanks for a safe journey. I felt much better when I hopped on the bike for the last few miles.

For a 150cc bike, the Buddy did great. Were my fears of poor mileage confirmed? Sort of. Not counting my initial fill up as I left Flagstaff, I put gas in the scooter 4 times on this trip. Here are the stops and the mileage for each leg:

  • Flag to Valle – 58mpg (Lots of downhill)
  • Valle to G.C. to Tusayan – 63mpg (Low speed sight-seeing)
  • Tusayan to Valle – 48mpg (Serious headwind)
  • Valle to Flagstaff – 56mpg (Tailwind, but lots of climbing)

All things considered, it was a beautiful trip. It is one well worth taking and one that I  heartily recommend, providing you do it safely.

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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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