In the absence of any BMW motorcycles in our “stable” due to either maintenance or mechanical issues, my riding partner, Hal, and I tried again to take the dirt bikes up north to the cooler part of our state. Here in the Phoenix area, it is absolutely unbearable. It never cools down. And forget working out outside any later than 6 a.m.; I’ve been driven inside to the gym.
We were in Hal’s car, on the way once again to the Payson area with the dirt bikes in tow. I started counting campers (aka “caravans”) and RVs, people returning from the high country after a long weekend in the cooler weather. When the day was over, I had counted about 100 of those vehicles, and I counted a relatively short time. Say there were an average of three to four people (conservatively) in each of those. Those are 300-400 people, just that I saw. That’s a lot of extra people running around in the forests and campgrounds. Fortunately, no one managed to set the forest on fire. At least not that I know of.
Originally, Hal and I were going to ride FS300 on the south end, the part that we explored for the first time not long ago, but while we had breakfast at Crosswinds restaurant at the airport, we changed our minds (same page, as always) and went to the familiar entrance on the west end. We thought we’d go explore Milk Point Ranch on the Mogollon Rim. We’d been there a few years ago on our GS bikes, but didn’t get to the actual “point.”
We parked just off the 87, where we usually air down our tires if we are on the BMWs. Naturally, Hal’s DRZ wouldn’t start, the battery was dead again, so he had to jump start it with the car battery. How many times does this have to happen before it gets fixed? I asked myself, but didn’t say anything out loud. Little did I know how this was going to affect the rest of the day.
On the way toward the Rim. Notice the rocky “road” in the background:
We took FS300, but then at the “Y” about a mile down the road we went to the right, FS218. Then we were on Milk Point Ranch Rd. It was an easy road until we got about five miles in when it becomes rocky. Then Hal wanted to go “explore.” This always concerns me, but I followed along. We were then on a little unmarked road that went up, then descended again as it went toward the edge of the Rim. Hal was in front of me, and as he rode down a short rocky descent, he lost momentum through some baby head rocks and the bike went down. I was far enough behind him that I stayed out of the descent. I parked my bike at the top then walked down to help him pick up the bike. It was difficult since it was in a pile of rocks, and was on a grade. Finally, we managed to get the bike upright, but of course, it would not start.
We rested for a few minutes, and then I suggested we push it down a little way where the grade was less steep and the roadway smooth. I thought maybe we could start it by me pushing it with Hal on it, and he could pop the clutch and start it in second gear. We’ve done that quite a few times over the years, and most of the time it works. Not this time, though. And, since we’d pushed it farther down, it meant that we were going to have to push it farther up, and up more of the descent. At this point, I was cursing and swearing to myself inside my helmet, and saying things like, horses never have electrical problems! I think that is what I need to do, return to my roots and get back in the saddle. Literally. I’m sure my attitude toward life will improve greatly.
It took a lot of effort, but we finally got the DRZ back to where my bike was still sitting, waiting patiently. Hal had to sit down and breathe a few times since we were up on the Rim at about 8,000 feet. All this time, Hal had been trying to re-start the DRZ, and since it wouldn’t, the battery was now dead. Really dead. It started making that deathly clicking sound that only a completely dead battery can make.
At least it was pretty up there on the Rim:
Nature’s rock arrangement:
I said we ought to at least try pushing the bike back to the main road, in case we had to fetch the car. That was another slow ordeal. My boots were wearing the skin off my heels because motocross boots are not made for walking! At that point, the plan had to be revised. We figured out how we could ride my little 225 back to the car, retrieve jumper cables, then return to the DRZ, start it from my bike, and (we hoped) each of us ride our own bikes out. It seemed like a good idea, but we would have to go slowly. There are no passenger pegs on my 225, nor is the suspension set up for two riders. There also wasn’t very much room on the seat with both our backpacks on! Hal had to put his in front of him because I would be too far back if I had to leave room for his backpack as well. As it was, I was going to be leaning back because the visor of my dual sport helmet sticks out farther than on a regular helmet. All of this was going to make my back hurt even worse. Last week was a series of strenuous workouts that made it hurt more than the usual pinched nerve. Oh well, I usually push through the pain, and pretty soon it’s gone.
It took a while to get back to the car, a distance of only about 5.5 miles. I was afraid I was going to lose the license plate again because it was almost touching the tire when we both got on the bike. When we arrived at the car, it was there, but bent, so we took it off. I figured if the cops had time to stop me for not having a plate, they could spend the time to take us back to the disabled bike and help us get it started. I’m joking, of course. I don’t expect them to help. In fact, a sheriff’s vehicle passed where the car was sitting, I tried to get him to stop, and he ignored me.
Hal got the jumper cables out of the trunk, and the tools that he’d need, then we consolidated what we’d need into one backpack. Enough was enough. I also put on my Asics trainers. I could not take any more skin being worn off my heels if I was going to have to walk again. Because who knew? Maybe my battery would blow up when trying to start Hal’s DRZ, then we’d both have to walk out. Hal was not being very reassuring when I asked him if this plan was going to work!
We got back on Little Beast, my TTR225. Thank goodness for its reliability. Between the two of us, Hal and I, Little Beast is the “last bike standing.” The rest have some problem, or are in the shop somewhere. It’s really disheartening, and our summer riding season is drying up like the weeds and grasses in the heat of the desert.
We took it easy again as we returned to the car. I wasn’t very thrilled with this arrangement, but it was almost the only solution. Hal didn’t want to take the car farther into the back roads because it is on its last legs as well. What a mechanical nightmare this summer has turned into.
Finally, we reached the disabled DRZ. Hal started taking panels off both bikes so the batteries could be accessed. He attached the jumper cables to both bikes. Then I started up Little Beast, and kept my fingers crossed. I exhaled with relief because it seemed fine, and we let the battery on the DRZ charge up for a little while. Hal tried the DRZ, and after a little bit of a hesitation, it started! He put both bikes back together, and then we headed up the rocky climb, each on our own bikes.
There were a couple of short rocky descents right after that. I was relaxing. I felt pretty good, too, because I don’t often allow myself to ride in workout shoes, and to be honest, I wish I could all the time. But they offer no protection, and I was going to have to be careful going back to the car. That’s all I’d need, a broken ankle or something. I had to be very conscious of not putting my feet out. No sliding around turns today! Then, we reached one of the descents, Hal started down, and about halfway down, he lost it and the bike went down again! Great, I thought, this is what started all the trouble to begin with. At least we were somewhat closer to the car.
“I don’t know what happened!” Hal said in dismay as I reached him. This time he had scraped his leg.
“I know,” I answered, “those are the worst. When I broke three ribs on my mountain bike that time I didn’t even know how I’d crashed. One moment I was riding, the next I was down.”
It’s true! Those out-of-the-blue crashes happen to everyone. I’ve had more of them than I can count. So, we picked up the bike again, and of course it wouldn’t start – again. But it sounded more hopeful this time, and after a few tries, it fired. After that, we took it easy, I could tell Hal was really tired, and we made it back to the car without further mishap.
Thank you, Little Beast!!
By this time it was already 5 o’clock, but at least it wasn’t any later. And, it could have been worse – we could have had to do all this in a crashing thunderstorm, which is a frequent occurrence up on the Rim. We loaded the bikes on the trailer, thanked Little Beast profusely, and then we were finally on the way home. After all that, I’d only ridden a total of 23 miles, and we’d never reached the “point” of Milk Point Ranch. Hardly worth getting dirty for.
“Well,” I said as we were riding in the car, “as I always say when I mountain bike, if you’re not bloodied and bruised at the end, you didn’t ride hard enough. You’re bloodied, and I’m bruised, so I think we’re good!” I said, smiling. When you ride mountain bikes regularly, you have to draw blood once in a while to appease the mountain bike gods. 😉
“It’s good practice for China,” replied Hal, thinking that he wants to ride in that country.
WTF?! I thought. But all I said was “I ain’t goin’ to China!” And I’m not.
I hope I’m happily riding dressage horses by the time Hal thinks he can go ride in China!
Green Mazatzal Mountains on the way home:
Thunderstorm over Young, AZ, as seen from the Beeline Hwy. on the way home: