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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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