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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are Jim, Glenn and the Silverwing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

They even have a Harley-Davidson Topper on display.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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postheadericon Of Prescott Twisties to Jerome to AZ Rim Country and Home

The scenery as you approach Prescott on Route 89 is beautiful

In addition to our Sedona trip the past June, my wife and I also went there in May of 2010. On that occasion, we got there by going through Sedona via AZ Highways 89 and 89A from Wickenburg to Prescott then through Jerome and Cottonwood to Sedona. At the time, I talked about how awesome it would be to ride some of those roads on a scooter, knowing that it would probably never happen. It just seemed too far to ride from Tucson and I would need to rope someone into coming with me if I were going to bring it up in the back of my van.

I recently decided to ride it anyway. Since I am writing in two slightly different blogs, this one will be the technical aspect of the ride. This will include road conditions, speeds, etc so that if someone wants to replicate all or part of this ride, they will know some of what to expect. My other blog (In The Desert Scootin) will be more about how I felt, the fun parts, scary parts etc. I shot some video and will try to put some video in both posts.

Looking up at Jerome when it’s NOT raining.

The sections of road I most wanted to ride were Route 89, from Congress to Prescott, and Route 89A, from Prescott Valley to Clarkdale. The shortest route from Tucson to Jerome (the furthest point away) is just over 225 miles and that is taking I-10 and I-17 and does not include any of “the good parts” that I wanted to ride. so, no matter what, I knew I was looking at at least a 500 mile ride, but how to get there? We’ve already established that interstate travel is not generally my preferred method of scooting from point A to point B.

I love Google Maps. I put my start points and desired ends points, then started “pulling” then lines around to various streets, trying to find the most efficient route as well as one that helped me avoid trouble spots, like the entire Phoenix metro area. Additionally, I love to ride or drive roads that I’ve never been on before. There are few options when leaving Tucson going north, but once you get as far as Case Grande or Florence, you options open a bit.

I decided to do a clockwise loop, heading toward Prescott first. Here is the what the first segment of my journey, from Tucson to Prescott, looked like. I initially planned on riding the access road from Tucson to Picacho, but looked over at the interstate and traffic was light. I decided to make up time where I could, so I hopped on the interstate and rode to the Toltec exit then moved over to Arizona 84 into downtown Casa Grande. If If you want to go to Casa Grande, but don’t or can’t take the interstate, do this.

Picacho Peak, impressive, but looks the same as in my Kelvin highway post.

I had decided that the best way to avoid Phoenix traffic was to skirt around to the southwest, then find my way to US Highway 60. I saw that 51st St goes very far to the south. In order to get there I made my way to Maricopa, AZ along the Casa grande-Maricopa Highway. This road is straight and flat, but if you like agriculture and/or livestock you’ll have an interesting and odor-filled ride. From there it was to AZ 347 to Riggs Rd. 347 was probably the the fastest road I rode on. The speed limit is 55-65, however, most folks were driving closer to 75. It’s only about 10 miles to Riggs, so hang in there if you want to try this route.

Riggs turns in to Beltline, which becomes 51st. I took 51st, toward Phoenix, up to Buckeye Rd, then turned left, to get to the west side. This part of town is filled with warehouses and traffic was very light. There aren’t very many stoplights either so I moved quickly. I didn’t realize Buckeye went all the way to Cotton, aka Loop 303, so I turned north on Dysart to Van Buren then west again to Cotton.

Check out the sign at the base of this massive climb.

Click on the pic to make it bigger, then look in the middle and you can see the road climbing along the face of the mountain going from left to right.

Cotton quickly changed from warehouses back into farm land, but I moved quickly to US60, then northwest toward Wickenburg. I hadn’t done thorough research on fuel stops before heading out this time. I had filled up in Casa Grande and it was about 110 miles to Wickenburg, so I filled again. I was now getting very close to the first section of road that was my goal.

Elevation increased steadily and rapidly as I left the Phoenix area. I climbed 1000 feet in the 15 miles along US60 to Wickenburg, then 1000 more  in the 10 miles from Wickenburg to Congress. As I left Congress (Now on AZ-89) I saw a formidable range of mountains, the Weavers, rising before me. This climb reminded me of the early climb of Mount Lemmon. The road climbs about 1500 feet in about 5 miles. AZ89 is divided highway, 2 lanes each way, during this climb and is fairly scooter safe.

Here is how i set up the Go-Pro.

After reaching the top, I stopped in Peeple’s Valley and attached the Go-Pro. I had never put it on the RV250 and it was much more difficult than I anticipated. With it placed as good as I good get it, I set off again. Once I saw a road sign that said “No vehicles more than 40 feet long 7 miles ahead” I knew I was about to reach the first stretch I had been anticipating for over a year.

I started shooting 1 minute long videos after passing Wilhoit. This 15 mile stretch of road is some of the twistiest I have ever ridden. The curves come fast and furious. As soon as I exited one corner, it was time to set up for the next. It was great! I passed several motorcycle along the way.  The clouds had been thickening as I rode and, by the time I got to Prescott, it had started to sprinkle.

A Simba, electric stand up thingy and a Mad-Ass all in one place.

As I was crossing Prescott, a scooter store caught my eye and I stopped at Scooter & Auto Source and talked with Mark Tetreau for a bit. If you live anywhere from Phoenix to Flagstaff, you ought to go check them out. He had a great selection of scoots and, uh, other things.

Black storm moving in on the Black Hills

Rain looked like it was moving in, so made my stop brief and rode toward the next stretch of highway I was looking forward to crossing the Black Hills to Jerome. The hills were especially black because an enormous thunder storm cell was moving in there as well. I knew I was fixing to get wet.

Looking through the rain toward Jerome, down into the valley

This section is as good as the earlier one, even if dry. It not as twisty and it climbs from 5000 to 7000 feet, then descends steeply, so speeds are kept down. Add the fact that it was raining steadily so I was being pretty careful. It was still a whole lot of fun. By the time I got to Jerome, it was pouring. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of Jerome but I just cruised on through, trying to see where I was going. From the cliffs above Jerome, I could see sunlight down near Cottonwood, so I was looking forward to getting down there and drying out.

I had completed riding my goals and now just had to get home. The shortest route was to take interstate. As established, I don’t care for interstate and I-17 from Camp Verde to Phoenix is some of my least favorite. High speeds, steep downhills and some tricky curves make for dangerous riding. No thanks. I noticed, though, that taking AZ-260 to Payson, then 188 to Globe and back to Tucson, only added 30 miles to my total. I had never been on most of 260 and none of Route 188, so my choice was simple.

Even little Camp Verde has a Starbucks

I had hoped to dry off in Cottonwood, but every time I slowed down, the rain caught up with me. I decided to continue to Camp Verde. I knew I would fuel by then as well. I gassed and grabbed a snack and it had just started to rain as I pulled out.

I was surprised at how much climbing I did coming out of Camp Verde. CV is right at 3000 feet and a few miles down the road, I was back at 7000 feet. I was down to 35 mph at times as well.I made it to Strawberry and was relieved, because I knew it was mostly downhill from there. I had a great time exploring Arizona Rim Country on my last trip this way, so I enjoyed this trip as well.

Storm cell near Roosevelt Lake

AZ-188 was new to me as well. I was tired and a bit hungry at this point, but the ride past Roosevelt Lake was inspiring. Road quality remained high. There a bit more climbing from the lake to Globe. I stopped for fuel and food again in Globe. By the time I started on the final leg toward Tucson, it was dusk. I HATE riding at dusk. I would have pulled over and stopped to wait until full darkness, but I had been on the road too long.

A scoot, a bridge, a lake and a storm

The worst road quality I hit on this ride was between Winkelman and Oracle on AZ-77. Heavy trucks and rain had created debris in the road and small sections where the asphalt was crumbling and rough. This was made worse by the darkness.

Edit: Here are the “official” stats according to My Track – Android app:

  • Total Distance – 556 miles
  • Max Speed –           75.03 mph
  • Avg  Speed –           47.98 mph
  • Total Time –            15:09
  • Elev Gain –              23,025 feet
  • Min Elev –                       951 feet – In Goodyear, AZ
  • Max Elev –                 7,071 feet – Mingus Mtn
  • Min grade –                      -12.3%
  • Max grade –                       10.8%

Sorry for the length of this post, but it was a long ride. I hope you have the opportunity ride some or all of this ride. It was amazing.

Howard

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