Sunday, June 10, 2018

Overnight BMW motorcycle ride to Cottonwood

We're planning a cross-country motorcycle trip later this summer, and decided to try out the new Mosko Moto soft-sided bags on an overnight trip.

We often ride to Cottonwood, about 40 miles away, for a quick day trip and lunch at Bocce where we can sit outside and enjoy one of their fantastic thin crust pizzas and interesting salads. Cottonwood has developed into one of the premier wine-tasting areas in Arizona, featuring Arizona-grown grapes and local wines. Since we don't drink alcohol when riding the BMW, we decided to spend the night and take advantage of walking around Old Town Cottonwood, sampling wine, listening to music, and trying out some of the other restaurants.

We left home about 2pm with the temperature hovering around 90℉, knowing it would be warmer in Cottonwood at a lower elevation than our home in Prescott. Luckily, the trip east takes us over Mingus Mountain and through the old copper mining town of Jerome where we enjoyed the cooler breezes as we zoomed up the twisties on 89A.

As we got closer to Jerome, the views opened up to the tall cliffs of the Mogollon Rim in the distant north.

Mike guessed the temperature would be 102℉ in Cottonwood, and he was off by only .5℉; it was 101.5℉.

We stayed at the Iron Horse Inn on Main Street in Old Town Cottonwood. It was originally built in the 1930's as a motor court, and retains the same basic outside look.

After checking in, we walked through wrought iron gates into the shady courtyard, and found our room up a steep flight of cement steps.

Cottonwood was founded in 1874 when soldiers from nearby Camp Verde were stationed here. It took its name from a stand of 16 large cottonwood trees that grew near the Verde River. Historically it was a farming area for the nearby mountain towns, and today it's often used as a stopping off point for people visiting Jerome or Sedona.

Old Town Cottonwood boasts an eclectic mix of boutiques, restaurants, bars, wine-tasting venues and stores selling everything from countertops to locally produced art. We walked down the shady side of Main Street and stopped at The Tavern Grill where we sat outside and enjoyed an appetizer. Then we headed back up the other side of Main Street to the Merkin Vineyards tasting room where we sampled a few of their wines made from grapes grown in the Wilcox area of southern Arizona.

Our next stop was The State Bar, with its all-Arizona beer and wine selection. The Friends of the Verde River were hosting a music fest and fundraiser, and we sat on comfy chairs outside listening to different local bands and DJs. When it came time for a late dinner, we walked 3 blocks to the 3 Kings Kasbar for tapas and dessert.

This morning we ate a delicious breakfast of huevos rancheros for Mike and a breakfast sandwich for me with fresh squeezed orange juice for both of us at the Red Rooster Cafe. We listened to a talented musician who played a variety of different instruments, including bongos, drums, flutes and all kinds of bells and gourds while we enjoyed our breakfast.

We retraced our route from yesterday through Jerome and back home, and since it was fairly early on a Sunday morning, there was almost no traffic to slow us down as Mike swooped through the hairpin turns up and down the mountain.

We rode past one of the closed copper mines that brought thousands of people to this area in the 1920's. Today around 500 people live in Jerome, and hundreds more come here to see the quirky town and shops.

We're lucky to live in this beautiful area of Arizona where people from all over the world come to ride their motorcycles through the Southwest high desert.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

It was a sunny Saturday with Arizona-blue skies so we decided to go on a 4-hour round-trip ride through the cooler pine forests to Payson and back. Even though this is the start of the Memorial Day holiday weekend, we only encountered traffic in two places:  on the 7-mile stretch of I-17 and riding through the small town of Strawberry, where both sides of the 2-lane highway were crowded with parked cars and people walking through the local arts and crafts fair.

This is a familiar ride for us, since whenever our long trips head north or east we typically ride part of this route:  I-17 north to the General Crook exit onto AZ-260. George Crook was a career US Army officer, promoted to Major General during the Civil War. He was sent to the West during the Indian Wars, and fought against the Apache in Arizona. Geronimo surrendered to General Crook in 1886, marking the end of the Indian Wars in the Southwest. After leaving the Army, Crook worked for the US government promoting better treatment of the Native Americans.

Heading north on I-17 we see the Mogollon Rim, an escarpment that rises to 7,000' elevation and in many places is 2000' above the valley below. The Rim forms the southern end of the Colorado Plateau that slices 200 miles across northern Arizona. Our trip today takes us through "Rim Country", the area in Arizona right along the Rim in the densely forested White Mountains.

Because of the higher elevation, it's 15-20 degrees cooler on the Rim than in Prescott, which is one reason why this is such a popular area in the summer. Due to the extremely high risk of fire this month, the Forest Service closed most of the Coconino National Forest to all types of public access, and we saw bright yellow and red warning signs across all of the forest roads along our trip.

We turned south on AZ-87, riding through the small towns of Strawberry and Pine until we reached Payson. After a quick stop for ice cream and a bottle of water, we retraced our route back home to Prescott.

I zipped up my motorcycle jacket all the way to the chin as we rode along the windy Mogollon Rim, and then unzipped it as we dropped down off the Rim into Camp Verde, where at 3,100' elevation the temperature soars into the high 80's and the landscape changes from pine forests to scruffy high desert vegetation.

We saw several groups of motorcycles along our trip today, but the majority of the time we had the 2-lane AZ-260 and AZ-87 to ourselves - just the way we like it.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Testing out the new BMW on a favorite dirt road

One of the reasons we love our BMW R1200 GSA bike is that we can get off the highways and enjoy riding on dirt roads. Yesterday Mike wanted to see how the new BMW handles on Arizona 71, a bumpy dirt road that travels between paved AZ 89 and AZ 73, taking us to the old Route 66 tourist town of Williams.

Mike loved the way the electronic suspension adjustment worked, but even with that addition all the pictures I took of people riding mountain bikes and cattle browsing in the field just off the road were blurry. Since you can't see the photos, imagine a solitary cyclist peddling their way up the dirt road, and then around the bend 2 more cyclists working hard to peddle up a steep incline. It's mesmerizing to gaze over the dusty road and dry fields to the mountains in the distance, knowing that our route today would take us up into those mountains.

Since this is open range country we rode over several cattle guards, and a few times saw small groups of black cattle, some with young calves, resting under a shady tree or browsing in the fields. Unlike previous rides, this time there were no cattle IN the road.

It was a sunny day with my favorite Arizona-blue skies for our 3-hour ride, where the temperature ranged from 77 degrees at lower elevations to 64 degrees as we climbed through pine forests over Williams Mountain into the town of Williams.

We rode slowly through Williams looking for an ice cream shop, since there's no better way to enjoy a summer ride on the motorcycle than stopping for ice cream. We weren't disappointed when we found the local Dairy Queen with a line of people snaking out the door into the parking lot.

The route back home isn't as much fun, since we ride west on Interstate 40 for about 15 miles until we reach paved AZ 89 to take us the 50 miles south back home to Prescott. I-40 is always filled with semi-trucks, and the seemingly never-ending road construction makes it even more congested. The positive is that Mike was able to test out the new BMW's power and speed merging onto the interstate and passing slower-moving trucks.

At one point Mike remarked (using our new Sena helmet communication system) that in just a couple of months we will be riding the motorcycle 8 hours each day, every day for approximately 4 weeks as we travel cross-country. Keep your fingers crossed for sunny days, smooth roads, and plenty of ice cream stands along the way.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

First ride on the new R1200 GSA

Today we took our first ride together on our new BMW R1200 GSA! Mike bought the new BMW last week, and has gone on a few rides on his own. Today was our first ride together.

Before I could ride pillion he needed to install the Brooks AutoSports black top case so that I don't fly off the back of the bike. The top case provides a comfy back rest after Mike figured out how to attach our backrest pad to the top case.

We rode one of our favorite twisty loops through the Bradshaw Mountains that heads southwest out of Prescott on Highway 89 through the small town of Wilhoit. Mike zoomed through the hairpin curves and the bike powered up the hills and flew on the downhills.

We saw several motorcycles on the road, and the slower cars in front of us all pulled over to let us zoom past. We turned northeast at Kirkland Junction, riding through the ranching community of Skull Valley back into Prescott.

We put 51,000 on our old 2012 R1200GS and with a cross-country trip planned this summer, we're looking forward to adding miles to this new bike. Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Helmet commo, Butler maps - we're getting ready for a cross-country trip!

Mike and I have ridden together on our motorcycle, Mike as the driver and me as the pillion rider, for 10 years, and we've always communicated by poking each other on the shoulder or leg and pointing. We've ridden for hours in silence, listening to the sound of the bike and the wind rushing past us.


That all changed this weekend when we purchased the Sena 20S communication system. Shawn at Cycle Gear in Surprise, Arizona, is a master with the Sena system, explaining how it works, all the details we need to know, and installing it in our helmets in minutes.

Cycle Gear, Sur

We took our first test ride using the system today, and after we figured out that Mike needs to keep the microphone closer to his mouth so I don't hear static, and how to control the volume, we were able to comfortably talk while riding. Instead of poking his shoulder to point out the herd of pronghorn alongside the road, I told him to "look at the pronghorn on the right". We were able to discuss which direction to take at the stoplight instead of trying to yell through our helmets amid the noisy traffic. Don't get me wrong - we weren't talking non-stop, and there was more silence than words. Still, talking with each other while riding allows us to share the experience in a different way.

We've used Butler motorcycle maps for several years to plot our travel routes and find the twisty, sweeping, little-used roads that we love. We're planning a cross-country ride this summer to ride through the 19 lower-48 states we haven't been in yet on the bike, and today we ordered Butler maps to complete our collection. We not only want to ride through every state, we want to experience the best motorcycle roads in each state, see new parts of the country, seek out interesting places, and zoom through the countryside. I can't wait to receive the maps and start planning our trip in earnest!