Monday, November 5, 2018

Sand, hawks, and starry skies in Joshua Tree California

Friday was a gorgeous day in Arizona, with bright blue skies that I call "Arizona blue" and temperatures in the mid 60's as we headed south and then west toward Joshua Tree, California. Fall is a wonderful time of the year for motorcycle riding in the Southwest as the daytime temperatures range from the 50's to mid 80's and there's rarely any threat of rain.

We started our trip down familiar roads through the Weaver Mountains in Yarnell where we enjoyed the winding, twisting curves that are one of our favorite motorcycle rides.

We rode out of the mountains and into the Mojave Desert that covers over 25,000 square miles in Arizona, Utah, Nevada and California. U.S 60 took us through tiny, isolated, dusty, sandy former mining communities like Aguila and Salome that oddly enough and due to irrigation are also centers of agriculture. It was a bit of a shock to see the blue Colorado River running through the desert in Parker, AZ and then we were back into the sandy desert.

We have been this way before and knew that it was 109 miles from Parker to the next town, Twentynine Palms so we stopped for gas before heading west on CA Route 62.

Everything looks dusty and grey, and for good reason because the annual rainfall is about 5". There aren't any trees in the Mojave Desert, but there are a wide variety of small, spindly bushes that dot the sandy landscape to the mountains that rim the desert.

Mike had to be extra cautious along the 2-lane paved road because much of the way there is no paved shoulder, and the 'shoulder' is typically deep sand.

A railroad runs along the north side of the road for a few miles, and the sandy bank along the sides of the railway are lined with rock and railroad tie graffiti, such as a heart outlined with white rocks surrounding initials and names spelled out in black rocks or old railroad ties.

I can't imagine the amount of time someone put into painting rocks bright blue, deep red and white and then hauling them out here to make this statement.

We stayed at the High Desert Motel in the town of Joshua Tree, on the edge of the Joshua Tree National Park and where the famous Joshua trees are just about everywhere.

Saturday morning started off just as the sun was rising as we rode 10 minutes down the road to meet with Lorrie Agnew, Master falconer of JT Falconry Adventures to learn about his birds which include three Harris's hawks, two peregrine falcons, and a kestrel, the smallest of the falcons. Lorrie explained falconry and about the birds and we even were able to pet the Harris's hawks soft feathers. It's amazing that these fierce birds of prey with long sharp talons and even sharper beaks sat quietly on Lorrie's gloved arm as we stroked their backs. Lorrie then took us into the desert with the Harris's hawks to watch them hunt.

Lorrie Agnew, hunting dog Sara, and Skippy the Harris's hawk

It was fascinating to learn about the birds and how much time, effort and love for birds falconers put into their hobby.  Here is a short clip of Skippy, Lorrie, and Mike.

We ate a late breakfast at Larry's and Milt Western Cafe in Yucca Valley, saw the new Bohemian Rhapsody movie, and then I ran the Joshua Tree half-marathon that started at sunset. I was the only one of about 3000 runners who arrived on the back of a motorcycle! We started the day at 6 am and ended back at the motel about 10:30 pm and packed a lot into that time.

Sunday morning we retraced our route back home to Prescott, where the BMW's odometer rolled over to 12,000 miles while we were riding through the sandy Mojave Desert.

We traveled 640 miles during our 3-day quick weekend trip into California on little-traveled roads that allowed us to zoom along the mostly straight roads with the sunshine on our backs. We're still smiling.  for a map of our route

Sunday, September 23, 2018

A BMW ride in search of aspens

It's the end of September and we thought we might see the changing leaf colors of the aspen trees in Flagstaff. No Fall colors yet, but we had a beautiful ride through the ponderosa pine forests along the Mogollon Rim.

One of our favorite rides is on Lake Mary Road into Flagstaff, and today didn't disappoint. A dam on Walnut Creek forms Lake Mary, named after Mary Riordan, a daughter of wealthy lumber barons who built the lake in 1905 as a water supply for Flagstaff. There wasn't much water today in the reservoir, and no water at all in Mormon Lake. Unfortunately, Mormon Lake is the largest natural lake in Arizona, and the fact that it has no water today, at the end of the rainy monsoon season, says a lot about the drought in the Southwest.

As we rode closer to Flagstaff the San Francisco Peaks, the highest mountains in Arizona, started to come into view.

Our goal today in search of changing aspen leaf colors was the Flagstaff ski area, the Snowbowl. Skiing started here in 1938 at 9,200' elevation at the base lodge with chair lifts taking skiers to 11,500'.

We saw plenty of aspen trees on the climbing, twisting 7 mile road to the base lodge.

The view from the highest point of the road to the ski area is incredible, and a perfect spot for a photo of the BMW.

Today was the first time I wore the new Viking Cycle Ironborn women's textile motorcycle jacket on a ride, and overall I liked the comfortable fit and all the pockets. On the trip home from Flagstaff the temperatures rose to 98 degrees and even with the jacket vents open I was hot and sweating. However, in those temperatures I most likely would have been just as hot wearing my old Olympia jacket with mesh panels for ventilation. Thanks to Viking Cycle for sending me the jacket to review!

We spent 5 hours on the road and covered 267 miles in a large circle in north-central Arizona. Check out our route here. Even in this relatively small area we experienced a wide range of terrain as we traveled from the high desert in Prescott, through ponderosa pine forests, climbed to the higher elevation in Flagstaff, wound our way up to the Snowbowl in the San Francisco Peaks, then descended 6,000' into the green Verde River valley until we finally climbed back to Prescott. What a fun way to spend a Sunday!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Viking women's Ironborn textile jacket

The great folks at Viking Cycle sent me a women's pink Iron Born textile motorcycle jacket to review. Mike caught the "Ironborn" Game of Thrones reference right away!

I've worn a high-visibility yellow Olympia motorcycle jacket for years, and while I like wearing something that can be easily seen while we're on the road the Viking jacket looks much more stylish and has several fantastic features.

First, the Viking jacket has six different spots where I can adjust the fit to snug up the jacket closer to my body or to tighten up the wrists and at the elbows. I usually feel like a marshmallow wearing motorcycle gear, and this jacket actually looks great!

I also love all the pockets. There are pockets on the outside of the jacket on the front, a nifty pocket on the left sleeve by my wrist plus inner pockets. One of the inside pockets is designed specifically for a phone complete with a very clever system to wind headphone cables from the inside pocket to the top of the collar without the cables getting tangled.

The jacket comes with a warm quilted liner that easily zips into the outer shell. There are 2 buttons at the cuff of each sleeve to hold the liner but I found these are difficult to use, and the liner stays in place just as well without using the buttons.

I'll be interested to see how the Viking jacket ventilation system works when I test it out on a bike ride in the next few days. There are vents on the back as well as the front of the jacket that are designed for better airflow and to pull out hot air which is crucial riding in the hot and sunny Southwest. The jacket is also water resistant, and while we have rain gear that we put on when it's raining hard, I appreciate a water resistant jacket for light rain.

Another important feature for me is the removable armor so that I'm confident I'll be protected in case we ever go down on the bike. There is armor for the elbows, spine and shoulders.

The jacket feels comfortable and not at all heavy, and I like that it's lower in the back so that when I sit on the motorcycle it covers me all the way to the motorcycle seat.

Mike took a video of me demonstrating the jacket features:

Look for the next blog post when I wear the Viking jacket on a ride. 

Monday, September 17, 2018

3 hours sitting on a dirt road in Paulden, AZ

We thought it would be fun to take a 1-2 hour ride to explore Perkinsville Road from Chino Valley just north of our home in Prescott, AZ. It was our first ride after our 39-day cross-country motorcycle trip, a beautiful sunny Sunday morning, and we wanted to be home in time to watch the Patriots/Jacksonville NFL game.

We enjoyed smooth riding on 2-lane paved roads into Chino Valley and then turned east onto Perkinsville Road. The road is named for A.M. Perkins who established a ranch in this area in 1900. In 1912 a railroad spur was constructed to connect the copper mine in nearby Jerome with a smelter, and a train depot was located on the Perkins' ranch. In the early 1900's 10-12 families lived here and Perkinsville boasted a school, general store and post office. By the 1950's the only people left were the ranchers.

Perkinsville Road in Chino Valley soon turns to dirt, but there are several businesses right outside town:  The Chino Valley Shooting Facility, Perkinsville Meat Processors, and Perkinsville Livestock Auction.

The well-maintained dirt road becomes a primitive road with prominent signs that state: "Primitive road, caution, use at your own risk. This surface is not regularly maintained." Much of this land is designated wilderness where ranchers have grazing rights. At first the land was fenced in and then later we rode through open range country. Notice the fence poles are made from tree limbs, not metal poles, and imagine how many hours of work it took to build these fences.

About 9 miles east of Chino Valley we passed the Garchen Buddist Institute, a Tibetan Buddhist retreat and teaching center. We had heard about the center and honestly, we're somewhat surprised that many people manage the trip on the dirt road.

As we continued north, we crested a hill and saw amazing views of the red rock landscape around Sedona.

We love riding on roads with little traffic which gives us the opportunity to take our time and enjoy the high desert landscape. Today we could ride for 20 minutes or more before seeing a vehicle, but we were within 20-30 miles of a small town or highway the entire day.

About 25 miles out of Chino Valley we finally came to the old Perkins ranch with a cedar corral next to the road, and in the distance saw some of the Perkinsville buildings. A one-lane bridge crosses the Verde River, one of only two wild and scenic Arizona rivers. The Verde River is a free-flowing river that has water in it year-round, unlike most of the rivers in the state that are typically a dry, dusty riverbed with water only during the monsoon rains.

We continued following Perkinsville Road until we came to an intersection with Yavapai County Road 73, a paved road that leads to Williams, AZ. We have been on this road before and had a decision to make:  should we take the paved road north to Williams, adding another hour plus to our trip? Or should we continue about 10 miles on the dirt road to AZ 89 north of Paulden and a much shorter trip home? The football game was calling us so we decided on the shorter route.

About 5 miles down the road after crossing a dry wash lined with sharp rocks the tire pressure warning light on the dashboard started flashing red.

A flat rear tire is normally no problem because Mike carries a tire repair kit and a compressor. However, a rock cut a 3/4" wide gash in the tire which is far too large to plug.

We're on a lightly traveled dirt road with no signs of people in sight, and it's noon in Arizona on a sunny September day with the temperature hovering around 90.

Big sighs from both of us as Mike attempted to contact BMW Motorcycle Owners of America roadside assistance. Of course there was no cell phone coverage. Because it was supposed to be a short trip, we didn't bring water with us, and suddenly we were in a difficult situation.

Within a few minutes a man driving a pick-up truck saw us on the side of the road and stopped to help. He had cell phone coverage and generously allowed Mike to use his phone to get through to MOA roadside assistance. Explaining our location to the lady at roadside assistance wasn't easy, but finally she seemed to understand where we were and located a tow truck company in Chino Valley. She told us to expect a 90 minute wait, so the helpful gentleman in the pick-up gave us a bottle of water and continued on his way home.

Every 20-30 minutes a car, pick-up truck pulling a camper, or an ATV slowed down as they drove by and asked if we needed help. One group gave us 3 bottles of cold water so we wouldn't get dehydrated, and we wore our motorcycle jackets to protect us from the sun. Mike sunburns really easily so he also wore his motorcycle helmet while we waited, but it was too hot for me so I put a washcloth that Mike keeps on the BMW over my head.

90 minutes later with no tow truck in sight, we flagged down the next vehicle to come by, a camper driven by a couple from Yuma who thankfully had cellphone service. We stood in the shade of their camper while they waited almost an hour with us, sharing conversation and more cold water.

After a few back-and-forth calls with the tow truck company who originally had the wrong location for us, Johnny from Tri-City Towing came to our rescue.

We spent approximately 3 hours on the side of the dirt forest road from the time of the flat until Johnny arrived. Our short motorcycle ride turned into a much longer adventure than we anticipated, and thanks to the friendly people who stopped to help us we survived a potentially hazardous situation with yet another exciting motorcycle story to share.

Follow our route here

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

39 days, 8723 miles and 33 states on the BMW

There's a certain symmetry to today's ride, our last day on the BMW on our 39 day cross-country motorcycle trip. 5 years ago we moved from Vermont to Arizona and decided to ride our BMW across the country for the move, because when would we ever have this type of opportunity again?

5 years later, and we just finished an even longer cross-country motorcycle trip.

We spent the last night of our move 5 years ago in Flagstaff, and did the same on this trip so that we could miss the monsoon rains that develop later in the day and also have time to celebrate before the reality of being home with laundry, grocery shopping, taking care of the lawn, and the day-to-day chores took over. We had an outstanding dinner last night at Shift, a new restaurant in Flagstaff owned by husband and wife team Dara and Joe Rodger where we sampled a variety of small plates with amazing flavors and presentation and enjoyed watching the couple as they cooked.

5 years ago we took what we thought would be the scenic route from Flagstaff to Prescott and ended up on a narrow, potholed dirt forest road that thankfully took us to I-17 before we were hopelessly lost or out of gas. Today we traveled south on I-17 straight from Flagstaff, enjoying the scenery on this familiar highway.

5 years ago we marveled at the views between Flagstaff and Prescott that change from ponderosa pine covered mountains at 7,000' elevation in Flagstaff, down a steep 5-6% grade over 18 miles long to around 4,000' in Sedona and 3,000' in Camp Verde, and then climbing back to 5,500' in Prescott.

5 years ago we congratulated ourselves on a one-way cross-country motorcycle trip, looking forward to learning about our new home in the Southwest and discovering fantastic year-round motorcycle riding. Today we're thinking about our circular trip across the country and back and where future motorcycle journeys might lead us.

The odometer rolled over to 11,000 miles when we were less than 10 miles from home. 11,000 miles in the past 5 1/2 months seems incredible until we think about the 250-350 miles that we've traveled day after day during the past 5 weeks. The miles add up: we traveled to places we've never been and revisited familiar areas, visited family and friends in 4 states, crossed time zones at least 10 times, were so hot and sweating we felt like we were riding in a convection oven being blasted by a hairdryer along the Gulf Coast, put on every piece of gear we had to stay warm as we crested 10,000' passes in the Rocky Mountains, endured miles of straight roads through flat farmland and prairies, twisted and curved our way through mountain ranges whenever we could find them, waved to hundreds of other motorcycle riders, and looked forward to what each new day would bring.

Riding two-up on a BMW is our favorite way to travel, whether it's a 2-hour ride for lunch or a weeks-long ride across the country. There are miles more road in front of us and more memories waiting to be created.

Here is the route we took today.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Cross country motorcycle trip coming to an end

It's a bittersweet feeling as we started on our last full day on the BMW today, heading west from Pagosa Springs, Colorado on U.S. 160. Seeing a brightly colored hot air balloon hovering over the town, and then enjoying a bright, sunny day as we rode through the San Juan Mountains past Chimney Rock kept us happy as the BMW hoovered up the miles.

Chimney Rock is a national monument that was home to the Ancestral Puebloans of the Chaco Canyon. We've ridden past Chimney Rock a few times on previous motorcycle trips, and one day we plan to stop and hike in this area.

Continuing west we saw some amazing scenery as we rode through Durango and Mancos.

When we reached Cortez, U.S. 160 turns south through the Ute Mountain Indian Reservation  on the Colorado side of the Four Corners National Monument which is the only point in the United States where four states meet:  Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.

The landscape quickly changed from mountains to high desert as we crossed into Arizona in the Navajo Nation.

The ride from Kayenta to Tuba City is absolutely beautiful, with multicolored cliffs on one side, and desert pastures on the other.

Towns are few and far apart on the Navajo Nation, and since we've been through this area numerous times we decided to stop for lunch at the Hogan Family Restaurant in Tuba City. It's a great lunch spot, and one day we plan to make time to walk through the Navajo Code Talkers Museum that is next door to the restaurant.

We started watching the sky, which over the past hour had turned from bright blue to covered with large, angry clouds that looked to be directly in our path as we turned south onto U.S. 89 toward Flagstaff.

We decided to stop and put on our rain gear as the sky turned almost completely black. Once again we were lucky that we missed the worst of the storm as the temperature dropped 30 degrees from 85 to 55 and we rode through scattered rain.

We're celebrating the last night on our cross-country trip in Flagstaff, with a short 2-hour ride home tomorrow morning. We can't believe the trip is almost over!

Here is today's route