Sunday, May 26, 2019

224 miles on the BMW on familiar roads with some surprises

I'm going to start by describing the end of our 224 mile trip today, from our home in Prescott to Wickieup, AZ for lunch (there's a surprise here) and home on some of our favorite roads. As we were heading into Skull Valley getting close to Prescott Mike told me he had a surprise:  the largest cottonwood tree in Arizona. To be exact, this is a Freemont cottonwood, named after John Freemont who was an explorer and governor of Arizona in 1878. This particular tree was planted in 1917 along with 3 other cottonwood trees to mark the corners of a 2-acre plot of land. You can see Mike, who is 6' tall, standing in front of the tree with his arms outstretched. This tree is almost 47' around, so it would take Mike and 8 other similar-size people to join hands and circle this tree.

Back to the beginning of our trip. The weather is cooler this year than usual, so we decided to ride in an area that is usually too hot the end of May:  Wikieup in the Big Sandy Valley in the Mohave desert. Wikieup is the Mohave Native American word for shelter or home. It's a small, fairly bleak stopping point on US 93, the major road between Phoenix and Las Vegas. Our reason for riding to Wikieup was to finally enjoy lunch at Lucia's, famous for homemade food and pie. First surprise of the day - Lucia's is closed on Saturdays.

We started our ride heading south out of Prescott, through the Bradshaw Mountain twisties on AZ 89. We were thrilled at the lack of traffic in front of us so Mike could zoom around the hairpin turns. As we continued south we rode out of the pine forest and through rocky countryside.

Even though we're in the desert, because of all the rain and snow this Winter and Spring there is a lot of green and blooming desert flowers and cactus. One of our favorites is the ocotillo, a shrub with spiny stems which is not a surprise because every plant in Arizona seems to have spines or spikes.

Look carefully and you'll see the bright red flowers on the ocotillo.

We rode 89 south down in elevation to Congress where we turned onto AZ 71 which took us to US 93 North. We celebrated with a little motorcycle dance when our odometer rolled over to 14,000 miles. Eventually this will be all 4-lane divided highway, but currently there are large sections of 2-lane paved roads. We rode through the Joshua Tree scenic byway where both sides of the highway are covered with the iconic Joshua trees.

The Mormon settlers named these spiny trees because it reminded them of the bearded biblical leader Joshua. Governor Fremont - the same one I mentioned earlier about the cottonwood tree - called them "the most repulsive tree in the vegetable kingdom". We love that they're only found in the Mohave desert and have adapted beautifully to the desert environment.

When we discovered Lucia's was closed on Saturdays, we backtracked to Dazzo's Chicago Style Eatery which Mike thought featured German food. It turns out they feature Chicago-style hot dogs.

We came home on one of our favorite roads, AZ 96 East which is a sweeping 2-lane paved road with several sections of roller coaster hills that make my stomach go up and down. It's been recently repaved, and the riding was fantastic. This part of Arizona is covered with saguaro cactus.

We followed AZ 96E to Yavapai County 15 to Kirland, and then north on Yavapai County 10 through Skull Valley and more twisties in the Prescott National Forest. I lost count of the number of cattle guards we rode over; you know you're on little-traveled roads basically in the middle of nowhere when cattle guards are a regular feature.

We love to ride to new places and explore areas we've never seen, but it's also fun to enjoy a ride close to home on familiar roads. You never know what surprises might lie around the next bend in the road.

Follow our route here:  To find the cottonwood tree, in Skull Valley turn east onto Old Road N at the railroad tracks, and the tree is about 1/2 mile down the road.

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