Sunday, March 16, 2014

A short motorcycle ride into Williamson Valley

A sunny day with bright, Arizona blue skies and no plans meant a motorcycle ride. Instead of a specific destination, we decided to ride on Williamson Valley Road, a scenic paved road that heads north from Prescott.

There aren't many 2-lane paved roads in this part of northern Arizona, and often we have to first ride for several miles on busy, 4-lane divided highways until we can find roads more to our liking:  little traffic, twisties or sweepers, and views that go on forever.

As Arizona developed into a Territory and then statehood in 1912, settlers eventually turned footpaths into dusty dirt roads. The 66 mile Williamson Valley Road connects Prescott to Seligman on Route 66. Today the paved portion heads north for 22 miles from Prescott, and then the road becomes a primitive dirt road the final 44 miles. We rode the paved portion, veering off periodically onto side roads that led into housing developments that either hugged the sides of the foothills or twisted down into canyons.

The road winds through the prairie and grasslands dotted with occasional trees. Several times we saw cattle or horses, and one lone bicyclist enjoying riding without the traffic in Prescott.

Riding along in the sunshine it was easy to imagine what this part of Yavapai county looked like 200 years ago:  probably just like it does today without the fences, electric lines, and roads. With so much development going on in Prescott, it's fun to ride a few minutes out of town on a road that heads off to the mountains on the horizon without any houses in sight.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Spur of the moment motorcycle ride for lunch

We were hungry, the BMW was ready to go, and we had a free afternoon.

15 minutes later we were on the bike, heading north to Cottonwood, founded in 1879 near the Verde river. We've been through Cottonwood but haven't stopped and this time it was our destination. We took the faster route to get there - it was past lunchtime, after all - riding on 4-lane I-17 to the Cottonwood exit.

The Schoolhouse Restaurant on Main Street was our destination, and what a fantastic find.

Interesting flavors, fresh veggies, and friendly waitstaff made this a wonderful stop. We were intrigued by the cups of seasonings in the center of each table, and tasted each one to find several different types of sea salt, pepper, and hot southwestern spices.

Mike had their homemade burger and a tossed salad, while I opted for the chicken-cashew chicken salad in butterhead lettuce cups with a zingy vegetable soup for a side. We left room to split the fudge chocolate cake and left happy and satisfied.

We rode home through Jerome under dark and rain-threatening skies. We drove this road in our rental car on our first trip to this area, and Mike couldn't wait to tackle the winding, hairpin turns up and over Mingus Mountain on the BMW. We've ridden this way several times, and each time I notice something new. Today I saw scrawny pine trees sticking out at almost 90 degree angles from the rocky cliffs that crowd the 2-lane road, ready to skewer the sides of tall trucks. I also noticed old dirt mining roads that criss-cross the mountain, making me wish for a 4-wheeler so we could tackle those roads - but only for a minute because we were having too much fun on the BMW.

The rain never came, and after we pulled into our driveway the sun started shining. Delicious lunch, mountain twisties, and an unplanned afternoon together. Thanks BMW!