Ride report, 11-13-11
What I love most about winter weather is how changeable and dramatic it can be. I especially love to ride in it, and today was no exception.
The weather Sunday morning was cloudy and cool with the threat of rain, in other words, the perfect day for riding, at least for us. So, my riding partner, Hal, and I decided to meet for breakfast at one of our favorite places, Road Runner Café and Saloon in New River, to begin our day.
At first, we thought that might be the destination for the day and we would ride home afterward, but the temptation to find changeable weather up the road was too great, plus it was not enough riding for us. As we sat in front of the fire at Road Runner, it all seemed warm and cozy with the overcast sky outside and the spitting of rain, so we decided to run up to Camp Verde then take the 260 around to the 87 and come home through Strawberry, Pine, Payson, then Fountain Hills. So, as we stood there in the Road Runner parking lot, which was kind of muddy from current and recent rain, we geared up to ride in cold temperatures. I suppose if anyone had seen us they would have laughed, but they would have understood the need for winter gear when we got to the high country. We didn’t know how cold it would get, nor could we foresee the spectacular sights we were about to enjoy.
We headed up I-17. The road was wet in places with that sticky, sloppy water that flew up from the tires of vehicles in front of us. I kept wiping my helmet visor again and again, and it finally dawned on me that it was drizzling as well. No wonder it was impossible to keep the visor clean. I also decided that if I do not get a new helmet soon, I am going to go insane! This poor old Caberg is worn out, the visor is nearly impossible to see through, and it makes my head hurt lately when it interacts with the earplugs I have been wearing for as long as I’ve had the helmet. Time to upgrade, maybe both items!
As we passed Sunset Point, I looked to my left. The mountains where Crown King is (I assume so anyway, I’ve never been there!) were completely obscured by low-hanging clouds. They floated and churned, depending on the air currents, and I thought how great it would be to be up there riding. I was, however, enjoying myself on my road bike, the bike I love most in the world. When we got to where the juniper grows, the pine smell was pungent and clear, as if the pines had been washed clean of summer dust at last and were clean enough to let their sharp aroma permeate the air.
North of there, we came to the Camp Verde grade, and as we came up over the top of it, another spectacular sight awaited. Far below, the valley in which Camp Verde sits was boiling cauldron-like with low clouds. As we rode, we could see a slit in the clouds where a band of prismatic light shone through like a horizontal rainbow. It was achingly beautiful, but it disappeared as we dropped down into the clouds and rode in fog that was alternately thick and thin, depending on the movement of the clouds in the wind. When we got under the clouds, we exited the interstate at the General Crook Trail exit, and I pulled over to wipe off the lens of the GoPro camera attached to the front of my bike. There was condensation on the inside of the camera housing again, but I still hoped I got video of the amazing clouds we had just ridden through.
We rode east, skirted Camp Verde, and rode toward Fossil Creek Rd. and the Rim. I was in front because I had the camera recording again. The turns were wet, so I didn’t go too fast, but I also wanted to get on camera the full effect of the beautiful scenery that was unfolding before me. The more we climbed, the colder it got, and then I began to see patches of snow along the side of the road. Leftover from last week, it still clung to the rocks where it had been in shadow for most of the week. This storm probably added a little more to it. Soon the patches got bigger, and then most of the ground was covered in it. The clouds that had been fluffy cotton at the beginning of this ride changed to glowering gray, low, snow clouds. It was very dark as the clouds lowered, but the foliage was the most spectacular sight! The colors turned vivid in the damp, the muted light making the colors deeper. The greens popped, the brown boughs of evergreens where there had been a controlled burn last summer turned dark amber. A few trees had sparse golden leaves still attached, and a few vivid red leaves were sprinkled among the jade green of the pines.
It was drizzling again as we turned from the 260 onto the 87, and it was the coldest in this area, around 38°. I was perfectly happy and comfortable wearing my winter riding clothes, recently dug out from the depths of the closet, and also my heated gear. I love weather like this and appreciate being able to enjoy it so fully. Soon, the road began to drop in elevation, and as we descended into Strawberry, it warmed almost into the 50s F. By the time we got to Payson it was positively balmy, in the mid 50s. We stopped for fuel, and then headed down the 87 at a relatively leisurely pace. It wasn’t until we were leaving Payson that we saw the first motorcyclist, riding a Gold Wing, besides us on the road today. The two week riding window of 80° weather has closed for the fair weather HD riders, and now we have the road to ourselves once again.
Back in town after a mere 250 miles, we headed to our favorite hangout for Sunday afternoon, Paradise Bakery and spent a relaxing hour having coffee and talking over plans for another riding adventure to come during Thanksgiving weekend.
I can’t wait!!
(Video of this ride to come later this week!)