Thursday, 24 April 2014

Riding in the Desert

Flying in to Phoenix, the roads wrap around the
mountains like ribbons.  Riding them you'd
seldom be upright.
I'm still having culture shock over going to Arizona.  They have "buckle up it's the law" signs everywhere but most motorcyclists ride around without a helmet on.  They do things different in Arizona.

I was gutted to learn that Eaglerider was closed on the one day I wasn't at the conference I was going for.  I ended up in the desert in a cage.  I still had a great time hiking in the heat, but Arizona really is built for bikes, especially in the spring when it's hot but not too hot.

I took the route I was going to take anyway if I had the bike.  The only part I didn't enjoy was 87 back down to Phoenix where everyone was thumping along at twenty over the limit in massive pickups towing boats.

The ride out of Phoenix was smooth and the road quickly went down to one lane and got interesting.  Soon enough I was working my way up into the Mystic Mountains.  If you're riding from Phoenix a nice place to stop is the Boyce Thompson Arboretum on the right of US-60E about an hour out of Phoenix.  It's a lovely place to stretch your legs and smell the desert blooming.

On towards Globe it gets switchbacky and a dream ride for a bike.  The roads are smooth and never dull.  Turning toward Lake Roosevelt in Globe, the road takes on a less frantic vibe and has you taking long curves at speed.  I stopped at the Tonto National Monument.  It's a sweaty hike up the hill, but another interesting stop for a leg stretch.

Take 88 back to Phoenix, 87 is fast
and crowded.
I then pushed on up to the intersection at 188/87 at the top of the lake which I'd classify as a mistake on a bike ride.  There is a much more interesting road, the Apache Trail/US88 that follows the Salt River out of the Mystic Mountains and down to Apache Junction on the outskirts of Phoenix.  Had I been on two wheels I would have taken that one without a second thought.

Arizona begs to be ridden on a bike.  When I was out in the desert hiking I got a real sense of how wide open it feels.  Being able to feel that all the time on two wheels would be wonderful.

There will be a next time now that I've seen how easy it is to get down there.  From Southern Ontario I flew out of the tiny and quick Kitchener Airport into Chicago and on to Phoenix.  I was travelling for about five hours, but with the time change I left at 6:30am and I was on the ground and ready to go by 10:30am Phoenix time.  With that in mind, I'm now thinking about what a week in the desert on two wheels would look like.

Voila, the Desert Ride.  ~1765kms/1100 miles.  I think I could comfortably do it in a week.
The route: Phoenix up the road I missed, on to Sedona and some vortexes (!).  Then the Grand Canyon and 'Vegas before orbiting back to Phoenix through Yuma.  If I left on a Sunday morning and came back on a Sunday night it would be seven days of riding with the pickup and return of the bike on consecutive Sunday mornings.  252kms of riding per day minimum, more if I get lost, should be pretty manageable.

It was about $800 to fly down return, $1118 to rent a Harley Fat Bob for a week (7 day discount!) from EagleRider.  A couple of hundred a day for food & lodging... $3320 for a week riding in the desert.  That's not crazy for a chance to ride when I can't at home and shake off the winter blues, and an adventure bike would probably cost even less.

Now that I know how close and easy Phoenix is to get to, I think I'll be back.

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