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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 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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