Sunday, May 5, 2019

A spontaneous motorcycle ride

While we were leisurely enjoying Sunday morning we decided to be spontaneous and go for a motorcycle ride. The big question:  where should we go? Last weekend we took a longer ride to Flagstaff, and wanted to go somewhere different. It was going to be in the mid-70's so we didn't want to go south to a lower elevation and more heat.

That left heading north to Ash Fork. Ash Fork is the kind of place that you go through; it's not usually a destination. At the intersection of Arizona 89 and Interstate 40, it's a spot to stop and fill up your gas tank on your way to someplace else. In our minds, there are two things in its favor:  it's on part of the old historic Route 66 and it is home to a fantastic BBQ restaurant: Lulu Belle's.

There's basically only one paved road from our home in Prescott north to Ash Fork:  Arizona 89. It's a straight, 2-lane paved road with no twisties, sweepers, or mountains to climb. It's a zen-like ride north as we watched the grasslands meld into pinyon pine forests, with the hint of mountains to the east, north and west backing up all the high desert grassland.

Because of the wet winter and spring, the normally brown grasslands flaunt bright green colors, making the grazing cows and horses extremely happy. One of things we love about riding the motorcycle is that we're closer to nature than riding closed up in a car. The cliffrose bushes are blooming, making the air fragrant with hint of sweet perfume. On a walk this morning before the motorcycle ride I sniffed each blooming cliffrose bush along our path but couldn't detect a specific scent. Yet riding along the highway, every breath was filled with their fragrance.

We had heard about Lulu Belle's BBQ from many of our friends, and this was our first time there. What a treat!

Most of the buildings in Ash Fork are old and crumbling, but Lulu Belle's is big, bright, airy and comfortable. The wooden tables are anchored with lacquered tree trunks and the high ceilings offer a lot of space for Western memorabilia.

Mike had the pulled pork sandwich and I enjoyed a BBQ chicken sandwich - both were spicy, hot, and incredibly delicious. The buns and bread even come branded!

After lunch we rode on the old Route 66 through Ash Fork, which was founded in 1882 as a siding for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, which later became the Sante Fe Railroad. It takes its name from the confluence of three forks of Ash Creek. Ash Fork has a sad and tortuous history:  the original town burned to the ground in 1893 which wasn't uncommon in the West. The Sante Fe Railroad moved it's main line 10 miles to the north in 1960, and approximately half of the town's population relocated along with it. A fire known as "The Big Fire" in 1977 destroyed most of the downtown, Interstate 40 opened not long after and rerouted travelers away from the town, and another fire in 1987 destroyed most of the remaining buildings.

There are a few decaying buildings left in town, along with a building that was originally a Texaco gas station with an early 1960's Chrysler DeSoto on the roof. According to a Route 66 guide, this car was driven by Elvis at one point. Truth, local lore, or advertising? You be the judge!

We retraced our route home, enjoying the bright Arizona sunshine and zooming along with very little traffic to get in our way. Today's ride wasn't filled with exciting riding or an opportunity to explore new areas. But as Mike likes to say:  any motorcycle ride is a good ride!

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