Saturday, November 25, 2017
Gravel roads on the BMW
Our BMW R1200GS is designed for on or off-road riding, and yesterday we decided to head off-road. We'd heard about a route using county roads, partly gravel/sand/dirt; that ends up in Williams, about 65 miles northeast of Prescott. It was sunny and warm for November, a perfect day to explore.
We rode north on paved highway 89 out of Prescott, and turned east onto Yavapai County road 71 at the Drake Cement plant in Paulden. Chino Valley and Paulden are ranch country, with wide open fields on both sides of the highway.
Just past the Drake Cement plant, county Road 71 turned into gravel, so we slowed our pace as Mike navigated the bumpy road. It's easy to imagine what people in wagon trains saw when they headed West in the 1800's, because the landscape hasn't changed. This is open range country, meaning cattle wander freely without fences.
We passed one ranch with large solar panels outside the house, necessary in this area where there aren't any power lines. Otherwise, we had the road to ourselves as we traveled through grassy ranchland with far-off views of the mountains. At times the road was soft gravel, at other times red sand. We crossed washes that flood in the summer monsoon rains, and as the road climbed into higher elevations, the grasslands gave way to chaparral.
We felt like we left the wilderness behind us as we turned north onto paved Country Road 73. Even though we were about 20 miles south of Williams, we saw only a couple of pick-up trucks as we now sped through the pine trees in the Kaibab National Forest.
We pulled over at Vista Point, looking out over the forest, before we continued on to Williams.
Williams is a weatherbeaten small town that beckons tourists interested in the old Route 66 or taking the train into the Grand Canyon. At 6,766' elevation it's cooler than Prescott, but today the bright sunshine and unseasonably warm late November weather meant we could sit outside and enjoy lunch at Cruiser's Route 66 Cafe.
We took the fast route home, heading west on Interstate 40 then south on Arizona 89. As we passed by the Drake Cement plant I looked off to the east, thinking about how different it is to ride slowly on gravel roads where instead of paying attention to traffic we could gaze out over the countryside and let our thoughts wander.