A crazy, wintry riding day

Sunday, November 12, 2012

Our motorcycle ride this week started out with a sane location: to ride to Superior, AZ and explore some dirt roads. It also was comparatively warm there, hence the “sane” comment.

For some reason, though, when I woke up, I changed my mind and wanted to ride road bikes to Flagstaff via Lake Mary Rd., then down 89A to Sedona. I knew it would be cold, and I knew we’d run into snow, but that’s the way I am. A risk-y girl.

My riding partner and I soon found ourselves on the road to Payson, and I was already freezing my a** off. I had been cold from my house to the meetup spot in Fountain Hills, and there I’d already put on a couple more layers. I was still cold. Today was not going to go well for me in the “cold” department.

Soon we got to the airport in Payson to have breakfast at Crosswinds Restaurant. Yes, I know. We go there a lot. But we love it. While I ate, I eyed the dusting of snow on the Rim. It was only a couple of weeks ago that we had been up there on the dual sport bikes with Dan, and at the time I said, “it’s going to be snowing up here soon!” Little did I know …

Snow on the Rim:

Our waitress, Danielle, kept us supplied with hot coffee. “Well, at least it will be warmer on the way home,” she smiled.

“I know,” I said, “the only thing is, we are going to Flagstaff first!” Danielle looked shocked and didn’t say any more. She probably thought we were crazy.

We left Crosswinds, and began to go up. The temperatures were in the 40s F., and then a steady 39°. It stubbornly refused to rise from there, and when we got to Strawberry, it dropped to 36-37°. The numbers on the dashboard of my 2008 BMW F800ST started to flash, warning me of near-freezing temperatures. Again, little did I know …

The temperature was 34° F. as we climbed out of Strawberry. “Yeah, we’re going down,” I said to myself. Going down to 32° was what I meant. We reached that temperature quickly, but the road was clean and clear, the weather sunny. So we kept going, but soon we came to the intersection with Arizona 260.

I should have learned last spring when we were there in the last snowstorm of the season that they, meaning highway maintenance, seem to “not maintain” the road once they reach the 260 turn-off. It wasn’t much different today, meaning it wasn’t clear, but the road was not completely impassable and covered with snow like the last time we’d tried this. We kept going. Then I saw that there were patches of slush here and there, and wet places. At least I thought they were wet, but when I looked down at the dashboard for an instant to check the temperature, it was flashing 28°! Uh-oh.

We slowed down in some areas because I wasn’t sure if I was riding on water or ice. The shadows from the tall trees were long, and the shade was deep. I also was thinking about the possibility of black ice. There were several spots where I thought I am not touching anything! meaning throttle, clutch, and especially brakes. I was hardly even daring to breathe in some spots.

There are almost no safe places to turn around on that part of the road, especially in the condition it was in, so we rode all the way to Clint’s Well before we were able to pull over. I looked at my partner Hal’s bike, a 1997 BMW R1100RS covered in slop from snow and salt residue and knew mine looked the same. Crap, I thought. I don’t want that stuff all over my bike, but there it was. Anyway, after a brief discussion, we decided to abort the mission. It was only going to get colder, and who knew what kind of condition Lake Mary Rd. was in. So we rode all the way back through the slop and slush.

I should also point out that lots of pickup trucks came up fast behind us, also covered in dirt and residue, but we always let them pass because they could travel faster. We only have two wheels on the ground, and with the footing unsure, I was not going to take too many chances by going too fast and having to lean the bike over in the turns. I got lots of dirt all over my face shield and bike because of the trucks, but they were usually so close behind me that if I’d gone down, they would have been right over the top of me. I’ll take dirt on the bike over death.

It was warmer when we got back down in elevation to Strawberry, 41° felt positively balmy by then, and I pulled over in Pine. I wanted to salvage my photo shooting day by getting something out of it, and I got some good shots in Pine, mostly of historic buildings, and yes, more doors.

Snow in Pine, AZ:

Historic buildings:

Quilts, fabrics, arts, crafts, gifts, antiques … oh, and rocks too:

That urn must really be heavy, her head is about to fall off:

Only in a small town:

Too late for the seat belts:

The ride on Hwy. 87 toward Phoenix was almost wide open, pleasant, without much traffic. The crazy Sunday race to the bottom of the hill is now over along with the summer camping/escaping season. There was almost no traffic until we reached the Slate Creek divide, and then it wasn’t bad.  The rest of the ride was reasonably sedate and uneventful, except for having to run the gauntlet of several cops lying in wait on the last leg back into town.

We got back to the Valley, and it was in the 50s, low 60s F. I will say, though, I was none too warm at any time during the riding day. I had shed a few layers, but the Gerbings heated jacket liner stayed on. It was no longer on “broil” by the time I got home, but I had gotten chilled early and never really warmed up. I got home in time to watch some NFL football, although most of the games were kind of boring anyway.

What I got out of the riding day was more experience riding in freezing conditions. You never know when it might come in handy, because you never know what you are going to run into out there on the road. I’ve ridden the F800ST in most everything now except sleet, but I think I would definitely pull over if that happened. Although it wouldn’t surprise me if the bike, wearing Pilot Road 2 tires (my preferred type), would handle that, too!

Happy riding!


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