Friday, May 29, 2020

Utah Route 12 - An All American Road

Thanks to Butler Maps, we decided to ride north a few miles out of Hatch, Utah where we're staying for 3 nights, then head east on Route 12 - a scenic byway known as an All American Road. All American roads offer unique landscapes that aren't seen anywhere else, and we enjoyed a wide variety of them today on our 200 mile ride.

The ride started off with a huge 'wow' factor as we rode past the red stone hoodoos in Red Canyon., which is part of Bryce Canyon National Park. The hoodoos are unique rock formations that have been weathered and eroded into fantastic shapes. Route 12 goes through two tunnels as it twists and turns.

As we continued east, the view opened up and the colors of the rocks changed to creamy white.

Once we rode through the small town of Escalante, named after Silvestre Velez de Escalante, a Franciscan missionary and a member of the first European expedition into southern Utah in 1776 from Santa Fe, New Mexico, the landscape changed again into huge, rounded weathered boulders that extended as far as we could see.

This part of Route 12 is a motorcyclist's dream - lots of twisting, winding turns, elevation changes including a 14% grade at one point, and almost no traffic.

We stopped for lunch at our half-way point in the small town of Boulder at the base of Boulder Mountain. The Burr Trail Grill is nestled under cottonwood trees that provided a shady outdoor dining patio for a cool spot to enjoy lunch.

After lunch we retraced our route heading west on Route 12 watching the changing scenery and the storm clouds building off in the distance.

We stopped in Red Canyon for a photo opp with the motorcycle.

We definitely plan to ride through this area again, exploring more of the scenic byways on our BMW.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

US Route 89 north to Hatch, Utah

We're excited to finally be on an overnight motorcycle trip to Hatch, Utah so I can run the Vacation Races Bryce 60k on Saturday. The race starts only about 4 miles outside Hatch, which according to the 2010 census has a population of 133. Luckily there are a couple of motels and restaurants. 

We left home just before 8am, knowing this would be the hottest day so far this year. It was 71 degrees at home, mid-80's in Flagstaff, and in the mid-90's in Page. Once we got to Flagstaff, we rode north on highway 89 all the way to Hatch, 360 total miles for the day. 

The San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff still have snow on the top, but just a few miles further north on 89 we had to stop for road construction for 9 minutes and the temperature was 94 degrees. I counted 68 cars heading south before it was our turn to get back on the road.

The landscape changed to a high, dry, barren desert with eroded rock piles lining the road.

As we continued north on 2-lane 89 through the Navajo Nation, sandstone cliffs rose up to the east. 

We came to a "Y" intersection where 89A heads west toward the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and we stayed on 89 up through a mountain pass toward Page. The original highway is 89A; 89 toward Page was constructed in the 1960's to serve building the Glen Canyon Dam in Page.

89 goes over the Glen Canyon Dam and as we headed north we could see Lake Powell to the east.

Just a few miles north of Page we entered Utah and the landscape changed again to hot, dry, barren high desert.

We steadily gained elevation the further north we rode. Instead of washed-out colors and rocky cliffs, we started to see green grass, trees, and even water in the creeks.

We pulled into the Hatch Station motel about 6 hours after we left home in Prescott, AZ after a beautiful ride on US Route 89. Tomorrow we plan to ride through Bryce National Park and enjoy some twisty riding through this stunning part of the country.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

First ride to Flagstaff for 2020

Within the last week the temperature warmed up 10-15 degrees and it's finally great weather for a motorcycle ride to Flagstaff. At about 7000' elevation, Flagstaff is about 10 degrees cooler than our home in Prescott at 5400'. It was in the mid-70's when we left home about 10am and in the low 70's by the time we arrived in Flagstaff a little over 2 hours later.

Our original plan was to ride north on I-17 to Camp Verde where we would take AZ 260 east until we turned north to ride by Lake Mary. We were only about 10 miles outside Camp Verde when Mike saw the traffic stopped ahead of us, and then we noticed a medevac helicopter swoop in for a landing. We could potentially be stopped for a couple of hours, so we turned around and got back on I-17 north to Flagstaff. As Mike did a U-turn, I saw bright pink flowers on the cactus along the highway. To see flowers in the high desert, you have to slow down and look carefully.

I-17 is not as scenic, but we wanted to get to Flag around noon to eat lunch at our friends' BBQ food truck. Mike had the brisket sandwich and I chose the pulled pork. Both came with a choice of a side and chips. There was a steady line of people lined up to get their take-out lunch and as soon as we took the first bite of our sandwiches, we understood why - this is excellent BBQ! Be sure to check out their website to find out when they're open and stop by.

We decided to head home through Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona, hoping that it's too early in the season for crowds. It seems like every time we ride this way there is more traffic than we expect, and today was no exception. It's still a gorgeous ride on AZ 89 that twists and turns through switchbacks as dropped down through the Colorado Plateau.

Oak Creek is one of the rare Arizona streams that has water all year long, and especially during hot summer days people flock to the creek to sit in the cold water pools and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. It's not quite summer yet, but there were plenty of people playing in the water as we rode by.

We rode 250 miles and enjoyed a delicious BBQ lunch - what better way to enjoy a sunny day in May?

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Home through the mountains

We started the last day of our Bisbee trip in Show Low, a town of about 10,000 people at 6200' elevation in the heart of the White Mountains on the Mogollon Rim. According to local history, Show Low received its name based on the outcome of a card game. Sometime around 1876 two neighbors in the Show Low area decided the region wasn't big enough for both of them, so they played cards to decide who would leave. One of them told the other:  If you can show low, you win. Of course that led to the person with the deuce of clubs 'showing low'; he won the bet, and the town was named Show Low. If that isn't enough, the main street is named Deuce of Clubs.

This part of Arizona is known as Rim Country, and it's popular in the summer for folks in Phoenix who want to escape the baking heat in the Valley of the Sun, and also popular in the winter for the snow.

We started a bit later than usual because the temperature was in the 30's at 7am. I put on just about all of the clothes I brought with me, plus all the liners for my motorcycle jacket, and added raingear for extra warmth. It's days like this that a heated seat would be heavenly! Typical for Arizona, the bright sunshine warmed up the air so the temperature was tolerable, but I never took off any of my warm clothes as we rode from Show Low west to Payson at elevations around 7,000'.

It seemed like Monday was a popular day for people driving slowly, erratically, talking on their phone, texting - or all of the above at one time - to be on the road. Periodically we were able to take advantage of passing lanes on the curving 2-lane road through the mountains, zooming past the slower moving trucks and cars.

US 260 descends several thousand feet over a few miles into Camp Verde, giving us gorgeous long-distance views of the Mogollon Rim and the nearby grasslands.

We were close to home now, with only a short stretch south on I-17 then about 30 miles on 169 into Prescott Valley and a few final miles to our home in Prescott. We rode 930 miles this weekend on a looping trip to Bisbee, exploring twisty mountain roads with technical hairpin turns on the Coronado Trail and enjoying riding other, more familiar roads. The BMW is our favorite way to travel, and we're planning more trips soon.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Mountains, twisties, hairpin curves, high desert from Bisbee to Show Low

We rode south from our home in Prescott, Arizona on Friday and spent Saturday exploring Bisbee, an old copper mining town built into the side of the mountains in southeastern Arizona.

We stayed at the Oliver House, a boarding house built in 1908 that today has new life as a B&B. Nothing is easy to find in Bisbee due to the narrow, winding roads and alleys. To reach Oliver House, we found a flat spot in a parking lot then climbed up the stairs and across a walkway over a concrete spillway for overflow water. Supposedly Oliver House is haunted, but we didn't see or hear any ghosts during our two-night stay.

We took a fascinating tour into the Queen Mine, the large copper mine started in 1880 and that ended production in 1975. We rode on a 100 year old train 1,500' under the mountain to learn about the dangerous and hard work of mining.

Today we started our trip back home, riding north most of the day on US 191. Just outside Bisbee we rode past corn, hay, and pecan farms in a wide valley between the Chiracahua Mountains to the East and the Dragoon Mountains to the West.

This was Apache country and the home of Cochise, a prominent Native American leader in the mid-1880's.

We rode about 20 miles on I-10 then continued our trip north on US 191 toward Safford, retracing our route from Friday. Once in Safford we continued north on 191 into a part of Arizona new to us. The highway changed from a ruler-straight path to wide sweeping turns as we headed into the mountains that surround Clifton and Morenci. These two towns are home to the Morenci Copper Mine, the largest copper producer in North America. It's an absolutely huge mine that produced 902 million pounds of copper in 2015.

We've ridden past many mines in Arizona, but the size of this mine astounded us. We watched large dump trucks that hold over 200 tons of rock each drive around the mine.

We left the copper mine behind us and saw a sign warning that there are no services for 90 miles. Mike said this is why we bought a GSA with an 8 gallon tank; so we don't have to worry about running out of gas during long stretches between towns. Not only did we have 90 miles to travel before the next gas station, these were 90 twisting miles with tight and technical hairpin turns, sheer drop-offs with no guard rails along the side of the 2-lane paved road, and jaw-dropping views across the White Mountains. We haven't had this much fun on Arizona highways in months!

US 191 between Clifton and Springerville to the north is known as the Coronado Trail named for the route used by the Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado in 1540 as he searched for cities of gold.

We had the road to ourselves as we zoomed through the twisting mountain curves. Signs warned about cattle, deer, elk, and bighorn sheep, but all we saw were 4 deer and a bunch of squirrels. The odometer rolled over to 16,000 miles as we came out of a tight hairpin turn, and then the elevation climbed even higher to 9,000'.

We kept seeing signs for Hannagan Meadow, and while our stomachs had been growling for a couple of hours we didn't hold out hope for a restaurant in the middle of the Apache National Forest. We were pleasantly surprised to find the Hannagan Meadow Lodge where we not only enjoyed a hot lunch, but also had fun talking with Brian from Tucson. He was riding a Royal Enfield Himalayan scouting out a route for a bicycle trip.

Hannagan Meadow is named after a Nevada miner who also did cattle ranching in this area. The Lodge opened in 1926 and is the only place to stay or eat between Clifton and Alpine.

As we continued north on 191/Coronado Trail, the views opened up and instead of tight hairpin turns we spend around wide sweepers. Over 550,000 acres of this forest burned in 2011 and signs warn of flash flooding.

Once we rode through Springerville, we were officially off the Coronado Trail and rode through grasslands at around 6000' elevation on the Mogollon Rim toward Show Low.

We rode almost 8 hours today and covered 351 miles through some of the most beautiful and remote parts of Arizona we've yet explored. Tomorrow is a short day of 190 miles from Show Low, a town named for a card game.