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.

Sunshine: a perfect reason for a local BMW motorcycle ride

It was a beautiful, sunny, warm November day - and perfect for a short ride to Bagdad, Arizona, a copper mining town about 60 miles west of our home in Prescott. It's a twisty, fun road on little-traveled 2-lane paved county roads that remind us why we love riding the BMW. We took Iron Springs road west out of Prescott, and along the way passed a train and several people on bicycles. We actually saw more bicycles today than we did cars.

Saguaro cactus don't grow in Prescott because it gets too cold here, but just west of us, on the one paved road into Bagdad, we start to see saguaro covering the rocky hills as the climate warms up.

We joined several other motorcycle riders in The Diner in Bagdad for a late lunch, and chatted with a couple of guys riding dirt bikes as we got ready to leave. One day we hope to travel the old dirt roads from Prescott to Bagdad, but today we decided to retrace our route and head back home.

While we love exploring the country on the BMW, it's fun to ride familiar roads and enjoy our local sunny skies.