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postheadericon Arizona Highways – From Article to Actuality

I have subscribed to Arizona Highways magazine for years. The pictures are phenomenal. One of the parts I most enjoy is the “Scenic Drive” segment located near the back of the magazine. I get some great ideas for rides from it. This month (October, 2011) there is a full piece entitled “One for the Roads.” It details ten scenic drives located in various areas around the state. Number 5 is Mescal Road.

Any road deemed “scenic” by the staff of Arizona Highways is one I want to ride, especially if it is fairly close to home. So, I decided to give it a go. The Accessibility part states “A high-clearance vehicle is recommended” so, naturally, I knew I would be fine. (I know, Ron, these scooters weren’t made for this, but I can’t help myself.)

Mescal Road starts at Exit #297 off of Interstate 10, approximately 40 miles east of Tucson. Anyone who has read more than a couple of blog entries here, knows how I feel about travelling via interstate, so my first planning act was to plot a route to Mescal Rd that used little or no interstate. Doing this, also helped me find another great road.

I knew that I could take the access road near Vail to the Route 83/Sonoita Highway Exit. That would get me 15 miles from Exit 297. I looked closer and saw that the access road become Marsh Station Road continues all the way to the Marsh Station Exit (#291) of I-10. That got me just 6 miles from Mescal Rd, with the added bonus of riding a stretch of road I had never ridden before. Excellent!

I packed up my camera and the Go-Pro and headed out on a recent day off. I rode out to Vail, fueled up and bought an extra large gatorade. (I forgot my hydration pack at home and wanted to have SOMETHING in the scoot in case I broke down in the middle of nowhere again.

great Bridge on Marsh Station Rd

Marsh Station Road is a hidden treasure. Road quality is fair. There are lots of cracks and a few potholes, quite a few of which were recently repaired. Marsh Station is a winding road with a lot of rollers. It also takes you over a beautiful old bridge, where you get a view of the railroad. I was fortunate to catch a train going past, just as I got there.

Agua Verde Castle

A little further along Marsh Station, you get a pretty good view of Agua Verde (aka DuPont) Castle. I have seen the castle from I-10 and have wanted to get a closer view, so this was a treat.

The Marsh Station overpass is brand new, so about a half mile from the bridge, I was riding on brand new asphalt. I hopped on I-10 and cruised the 6 miles to Mescal Road. By the way, the road quality of I-10 in this segment is appalling. It has many potholes and it is generally rough riding.

This is the movie set “town” of Mescal

Closed to the public, bah!

The community of Mescal is located at Exit 297/ I think it is unincorporated. there is gas and food available here if you need it. The name, Mescal, can be misleading though, because it is also the name of the old west movie set three miles north of I-10 on Mescal Road. The set is owned by Old Tucson Studios and has been used in quite a few western movies including The Quick and the Dead, with Gene Hackman. This is another place that I have seen from I-10 and always wanted to get a closer look. Mescal Road gets you within about a half mile from the set. There was a big sign stating “Closed to the Public” the day I was there, so I took a few pics and continued my adventure.

That is sand piled up on the side of the road, and it’s still deep on the roadway.

The pavement on Mescal Road, ends at the road to Mescal, the movie set. For the first mile or so, the dirt road is wide, smooth and well maintained. That quickly changed. I crossed a couple of very large patches of deep sand. Road width fluctuates drastically and quickly. I started thinking that this ride would take a very long time since there were place where I was going less than 10mph and was dodging large rocks.

Some Riparian area for your enjoyment

About 8 miles along, I pulled off to the side of the road and attached the Go-Pro to the front of the bike. I figured dodging big rocks and “swimming” through deep sand would make for decent video. As luck would have it, road quality improved quite a bit as I rode along. I was still dirt road, but the large sandy areas were gone, as were big rocks in the road. The scenery was very nice, though. The road climbs about 2000 feet, to a max elevation of about 4500 feet.

Once I entered the Coronado National Forest boundary, I began seeing tents and campers. Most of the people I saw were dressed in camouflage, so I assume it was hunting season for some kind of critter or another.

Desert or Prairie?

The road follows a couple of stream beds (none of which were flowing) which create some nice riparian areas with unique flora and fauna. There were entrances to a couple of ranches as well along with some horse and cows.

I followed the road for about 20 miles and enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells of this high desert area. The road began getting more and more narrow. Eventually I came to a gate and turned around. The gate had a sign that read “Please close the gate behind you” so I could have kept going, but the road beyond the gate looked more like trail than road.

I was more confident in my riding on the way out, so I pickedup my speed a bit and tried to get up “on top” of the washboards. I did smooth out the ride a bit, but slowing down to make the sharper corners was interesting. so I kept my speed around 25mph. I took the exact same route back home as I had used on the way out.\

I got a little too confident, however. I was zipping along around 30mph, hit the bottom of a little hill and the Go-Pro popped off the bike and into the dirt. I quickly turned around to survey the damage. The camera had come out of the protective case, the back cover came off and the battery flew out. It took me a couple of minutes, but I found everything. I was afraid the camera was damaged, but it worked fine when I got it home.

Here is the edited video and some pics that I shot during this ride. You may have seen this before. It’s the same video I posted about a week ago.

This was an enjoyable ride. I don’t know that I would “highly” recommend it though. I seen prettier scenery in quite a few places. If I’m going to punish myself and my bike, I can think of better dirt roads to ride as well. Marsh Station is a pretty cool little ride, but it goes nowhere and it’s not very long.

Here is the ride map of this little ride.

Info from My Tracks:

  • Total Distance: 75 miles
  • Avg Speed: 31 mph
  • Max Elev: 4,470 ft
  • Min Grade: 8.5%
  • Max grade: 19.8%
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postheadericon SIR’s to NM and Back Again – Route 78 Twisties and Sweepers

Why Ride?

I decided to make the best out of having several days off combined with days that still have quite a few hours of day light. After my enjoyable 550 mile ride the previous week, I was looking at some websites featuring roads for great motorcycle rides.

One site mentioned Route 78 which spans the AZ/NM border, connecting US-180 to US-191. The eastern end starts about 45 miles northwest of Silver City, NM. The western end can be found at Three Way, AZ, which is about 35 north east of Safford. Route 78 is approximately 35 miles in length. So, one week I rode 550 miles in order to ride 30, this particular week, I rode 515 miles, to ride 35. It sounds kind of crazy to me as I write this now, but it made a lot of sense at the time.

Nearing Texas Canyon on I-10

Once I read about this scenic road, I had to find a way to get there. I did my usual Google Map review. I looked for the shortest, but most scenic, loop possible. I came up with this: 463 miles and I figured it could be done in a shade less than 12 hours. That allowed time for food, rest and some photos.

Here’s Lori

This time, I rode with a friend, Lori P, who is another Sky Island Rider. After hearing about my previous 500 miler, she said, I wouldn’t mind doing something like that” and since I already had this ride planned, I invited her and her black RV-250, along for a long ride.

If you looked the link of the ride map above, you may be saying something like. “Hey, I thought Howard didn’t ride on interstate highways.” I mentioned many times, that I don’t care for interstate, however, sometimes it is necessary. I-10, from Vail to Lordsburg, NM, is about 135 miles and a little over two hours. I would have loved to have taken a nice back road to Lordsburg. However, here is what it would have looked like if I would have done so: MAP. Now it’s just over 200 miles and over 4 hours. If I were making this a two day trip, I would have done this, but I wasn’t, so I didn’t. Arizona just doesn’t have that many ways to get from Point A to Point B.

30 Percent Chance of Rain

The weather forecast called for temps around 105 on the desert floor and a 30% chance of rain in the late afternoon. In an effort to avoid possibly getting caught in one of the afternoon rain squalls as well as to get off of I-10 before the traffic picked up, we left early, about 5:30am. It was dark and east bound traffic was very light as we left from our meet-up location at I-10 and Houghton Road.

The worst part of leaving this early were the bugs, mostly gnats. I pulled us off the road at The Thing! for a much needed cleaning of our face shields. We learned another thing (other than the fact that bugs are heavy around dawn) by the time we reached Willcox. I had been keeping our speed around 75mph, indicated, on my speedometer. When we fueled in Willcox, our usual 65mpg mileage, had plummeted to about 45mpg! our range was now closer to 120 miles on a tank, rather than the 200 miles I was accustomed to. Good thing we never had more than about 100 miles between towns.

Be advised, road quality on I-10 is less than ideal. I suppose it is because of the large number of tractor-trailers on it. Whatever the reason, the worst road we traveled on this day was I-10. The section between Willcox and the NM state line was the worst.

A Surprisingly Interesting Place.

To my relief, we reached Lordsburg and were able to leave I-10 until, I thought, the return leg. We grabbed some fuel at the Love’s Travel Stop right off of Exit 20A and B. (For some reason, there are two exits here that both go to the same place: Motel Drive.) We then cruised to Main St then south to Kranberry’s Restaurant for some breakfast. The food and coffee were good and there was a pair of ladies who had a lot of questions about our scooters.

According to My Tracks, we did the following on this first leg:

  • Total Dist –  154 mi
  • Max speed-  74 mph
  • Elev gain-   4528 ft

Unbeknownst to me, I had a phone issue, so I have no My Track data from Lordsburg to Silver City.

Silver City’s downtown area is nostalgia filled

With full tank and full bellies, we turned, made our way to Route 90 toward Silver City. There was very little traffic on 90. We steadily climbed as we left Lordsburg. Route 90 gets a little more than 6000 feet on the way to Silver City. We drove around Silver City a bit and took in some of the sites from the scoots. The old downtown is especially picturesque, however, I didn’t get any pics myself. You should, though.

We had a nice visit with another scooterist in Cliff, NM

After our little tour, we found Route 180 and turned toward the town of Cliff. we hadn’t stopped in Silver City, so we stopped for a butt break and some liquid refreshment in Cliff’s only operating retail establishment that we could see: the “Mini Mart.” While we were there, a scooter pulled up and we talked for a while with a local resident named Walter Roth. It was a great little break. he had bought his scooter at Copper Country ATV & Cycle and was very pleased with the service he got there.

17 miles after leaving the mini-Mart, we reached “The Road,” Route 78. As mentioned on the Motorcycle Roads website, it starts as undulating road through some beautiful grassland, steadily climbing as we headed west. High speed sweepers start about the time we reached the pine forest.

Any Place trucker shouldn’t go sounds like good riding to me!

The Arizona State line is, apparently, the signal to start downhill and into some serious twisties. These went on for 6-8 miles. gradually, we saw amazing views of the desert valley where Three-Way and Clifton are located. About the time I thought the curves were finished, we hit these incredible 180 degree, downhill sweepers! There several in combination and they were an absolute blast to ride.

If you look closely, you can see the line where the pine trees start.

It was a thrilling ride. If we didn’t have so far to go to get home, I would have turned around, gone back to the top, and ridden it again. Route 78 ends at Three Way, AZ. Three Way is so, I suppose, because of it’s four-way intersection of three roads, Route 78, US-191 and Route 75. There is a general store and a gas station at said intersection. I wasn’t sure if I could make it the rest of the way into Safford, so we gassed up in Three Way, got onto US-191 and headed toward Safford.

There is a significant climb as you leave Three Way. The road is in great shape and it is now divided highway. It was in Safford that my internal compass let me down. I hadn’t written down a bunch of directions like I did for the previous long ride. I failed to see the sign indicating the left turn near downtown to stay on 191. I didn’t recall needing to turn and was sure we were heading south. We had an enjoyable lunch at Jerry’s and headed out of town. We did need a bit of time to cool off as it was 111 degrees as we hit town.

Looking east down US-70

It was my plan to head south on 191 then turn west onto Route 266 and ride to Fort Grant then hit I-10 in Willcox then ride back to Tucson. I was riding and having a grand time but started to feel a bit uneasy at not having seen the 266 intersection. We finally stopped at a nice rest area in the little town of Bylas. It was there that I asked directions and was told tat we were actually 35 miles west of Safford on US-70 headed toward Globe! The take home lesson here is that there are very few road signs out here. Make sure you’re on the right one.

I felt we were too far out of our way to turn around. Since US-70 would take us to Globe and from there we could take Route 77 back to Tucson, I decided to continue the way were going. We gassed up again in Peridot, on the reservation and climbed up to Globe. One remarkable thing we both noticed at we rode near Peridot was the unique odor of whatever was growing along the road. It smelled exactly like a fine pipe tobacco. It was quite pleasant, but I’ve never smelled it before.

We could see huge thunderheads to the south, as we approached Globe. As with my last ride, we stopped in Winkleman for a little rest. It was obvious we were going to get wet. I did discover in my last ride, that the RV-250 handles wet road quite well.

It started raining as we passed through Dudleyville.We hit severe weather at Mammoth but kept on going. It was late afternoon by this time and we had been in the saddles for more than 12 hours. Again, the RV-250 performed well. By the time we hit Catalina, precipitation was down to a sprinkle.

We rode together until we had to part ways to go to our respective homes. It was another awesome ride. I got the following ride data from My Tracks for the ride from Silver City to Tucson:

  • Total Dist –  265 mi
  • Max Speed –  66 mph
  • Min Elev –   1945 ft
  • Max Elev –  6219 ft
  • Elev Gain – 10100 ft
  • Max Grade –  11.8%
  • min grade    -9.3%

Our total distance covered was a tad over 500 miles. The RV-250 performed better on this ride than the last one. Mostly because elevation was mostly below 6000 feet.

It was a great ride and I thank Lori for coming along. It was my first long ride with a ride buddy. It’s fun to have someone to share a ride with.

This post has gotten way out of hand. Take care and ride safe.

Howard

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