A cold ride to snow country


Snow on the Mogollon Rim

Last month when we were planning the ride for today, we thought we would run up to Hannagan Meadow to shoot photos of the forest in snow, but as the day approached, we realized that there was little or no snow there. Then, as the day got close, we saw that the weather forecast was for a storm to move through, but they said “rain” for the area.

Another day ride we’ve been meaning to do is Winslow, then ride down through Holbrook and end up in Heber at the  Red Onion. We could get points for the riding contest, and still get our burger.

Hmmm. What to do?

Last night we decided on the Winslow route. It would be to ride up the 87, through Payson, Pine, and Strawberry, go up on the Rim, and take 87 all the way to Winslow, then I-40 to Holbrook (yes, the dreaded I-40 again), and then the 277/377 to Heber, and ultimately back to the 87 on the 260. Well, you know things don’t always go as planned!

The first hint of things to come was the ominous sky to the north as we rode toward Payson. In Payson, I asked Hal, “Is this a stupid idea?”

“No,” he replied, “but I’m going to pull over and plug in.” He meant his heated jacket liner, which is unusual, he never plugs in, unlike me. I am usually “plugged in” from November to March.

When we pulled over just outside of Payson, I looked to the west. “Sh**!” I said, because it looked like we were going to be riding into a wall of rain. It was white, and coming toward us. I pulled on my rain gear over all my other cold weather gear, felt like a stuffed sausage, and then, just before I got back on the bike, it started to snow heavily! It was beautiful and amazing, but when it hit the ground, it melted. We started riding, and the snow squall was less and less intense as we rode. It got colder.

In Strawberry, we pulled over and conferred again, and after a lengthy discussion, we decided to go up on the Rim. We could always turn around up there, we reasoned, if it got bad. So, we began the climb up after we left Strawberry. Almost immediately, the ambient temperature dropped to 37.8°, and the digital readout on my dashboard began to flash. It does that as a warning to the rider to watch out for ice if the temperature drops lower. The temperature dropped even more, and when we got up on top, it was 32.0°! The road, though, looked fairly dry and seemed okay. That is, until we got a few miles farther on the road.

Suddenly, I found myself riding in slush and ice! I glanced briefly at the temperature readout and it said 31°! I am surprised that a tiny person didn’t jump out of the dashboard waving his or her arms and shout, “Pull over or get out of this ice!!!” At the next pullout, which was the intersection of the 260 and the 87, we did pull over – carefully – and got off the bikes. As we looked up the road, this is what we saw:

More snow than I expected

Uh … time to turn around. But not before we took a few more photos:

The road didn't look too bad here

My bike against a backdrop of snow

Hal's bike with snow in the background

I had so much clothes on!

People will play where they want to play, who cares what the sign says?!

As we were standing there, it was around 30°, and after a while, I began to get really cold. I was no longer plugged into the running motorcycle to stay warm, so it was getting very uncomfortable. As I said, I wish I could stand the cold, but I just can’t. So, we got back on the bikes, turned them around, and headed back down to Payson. The best part was when, a few miles after we got going again, the snowplow passed us going the other way! We both waved.

We went to Payson Airport for lunch and coffee. It was cold there, too, but not as bad, only 46°. It was cold “de-gearing” in the parking lot, but I didn’t want to look like the Michelin Man when I walked into the restaurant. We got a table by the window, and here is what I saw when I looked out:

Runway with snow sky in the background

A helicopter took off as we waited for our food

This pilot was practicing touch and go; the sky got dark!

A small hole in the clouds opened up enough to let this spot of sun through. To the east of this I could see it snowing.

The rest of the ride was uneventful, and I eventually thawed out by the time I got to Fountain Hills. It wasn’t necessarily the ride I had planned on, but it was an adventuresome one anyway. I think we would have found snow and icy roads no matter which of the two options we’d chosen, and I probably should have brought the big dual sport bike. But Hal would have been on his road bike anyway and I wouldn’t have wanted to risk it.

It was a great riding day!

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4 thoughts on “A cold ride to snow country

  1. I think I would most likely be a fair weather rider. That definitely looks (and sounds) like it would be too cold to really enjoy, cruising along at 50+mph in 30 degree weather.

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