The temperature was in the high 30's when we started out, which meant layers: fleece-lined turtleneck sweater, fleece sweatshirt, and all three layers of my motorcycle jacket: warm inner layer, windblocker layer, and the jacket itself. Celtic Rider neck gaiter pulled up over my ears and head, thermal tights, thermal motorcycle pants liner, and warm motorcycle pants. The heated Gerbing motorcycle gloves completed the package. I couldn't move easily because of all the layers, but I was warm!
As we rode south on I-17, the elevation sloped continuously downward and the temperature went up. People in Prescott talk about going to "The Valley" when they go to Phoenix, and today I understood why. Phoenix is in the Salt River Valley at the northern edge of the Sonoran Desert. The temperature in the Valley is typically 15-20 degrees warmer than Prescott, which is why we ride South this time of year. We stopped to shed some of the clothing layers and then kept going into Phoenix to meet George.
We spent the next hour in heavy Phoenix traffic before we turned south onto Route 60 and then Route 79. We rode through desert landscape with distant views of the mountains as the temperature climbed into the 80's.
Brad suggested lunch at the Old Pueblo Restaurant in Florence, where the two guys sitting at the end of the table told us their favorite menu items and the waitress chatted about the local high school's homecoming parade.
George is Greek, and he took us to St. Anthony's monastery in Florence. Established by six monks in 1995, the monastery today contains the main St. Anthony's Church along with four chapels, each dedicated to a different saint. Stone paths wind through beautifully landscaped gardens, and past the lemon and olive orchards.
Because this is an active monastery, I was asked to wear a head scarf and skirt. Mike, George and Brad wore hats and long-sleeved shirts. The monks greeted us with a traditional kerasma (water and something sweet, which today was Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies) before we wandered around the grounds.
Lynn with George at the monastery
We continued south toward Tucson with the Santa Catalina mountains to our left. Tucson is in the Sonoran Desert, but Mt. Lemmon, at 9,157' actually gets 180" of snow each year. Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley is the southernmost ski area in the United States, and Brad and George promised another trip to ride up the twisty mountain road.
One of George's friends invited us to his home in a high canyon east of Tucson for dinner. We ended the day riding down the twisting, curving and steep road into Tucson at 10pm, with the lights of the city competing with the stars. Tomorrow we ride further into the old West for a day in Tombstone.