Sept. 1, 2013
Clouds building over the Mogollon Rim made me think we were going to get into yet another severe thunderstorm
Saturday, Labor Day weekend, wow, what a feeling. It’s the feeling of freedom, of being released from the stress of work, at least for three days!
We usually don’t ride the motorbikes until the “middle” day of a three-day weekend; the worst traffic is already at its destination, and all the travelers haven’t begun to come home yet. Of course, there is no riding with joy and abandon, thanks to the overabundance of cops, at least on the paved roads. Since we are going on a four-day road trip next weekend, I expected that we’d take the road bikes this weekend. But, to my surprise and delight, on Sunday Hal suggested we tow the dirt bikes to the Rim where it’s cooler, and ride there. Then, he suggested, “let’s ride the south 300,” and I was IN!
We got there later than we wanted to, as usual, but despite the building clouds towering over the north part of the Rim, they seemed to dissipate as we turned onto FR300 and got ready to ride. As I geared up, I noticed the traffic – about 20 cars passed the pullout where we had parked the car, right at the entrance to 300. “What is it, rush hour up here??” I asked with irritation in my voice. Somehow when I am out in the woods, I really don’t want to see other people. For one thing, people generate trash, and I see tons of it all over the forest. I wish people would clean up after themselves; I might feel more tolerant.
“It’s the last hurrah of the summer, the last weekend that people have time to get out and camp before it starts turning cold,” Hal explained.
“Oh, yeah,” I admitted. I still don’t want them to be where I am, I thought.
After we got on the bikes, about a mile down, we saw there were a couple of cop cars with lights flashing and several vehicles off to the side of the road. There must have been a minor accident, I thought. We’d seen a SUV leave on a tow truck minutes before. Luckily, after we were in a few miles, we saw less and less traffic, and after we passed Gentry Lookout, about five miles in, it was almost deserted.
Looking north, just east of Gentry Lookout
The unpaved road was like a super highway at this point, I thought, with the surface much better than the last time I’d tried to ride here. That was when I had first put the new “knobby” tires on my Yamaha TTR-225. I don’t know if they had too much air in them, or if it was because they were brand new, but I felt like they squirmed all over the road. It made for an unpleasant ride, and we didn’t go too far that day. Today we were up for possibly going all the way to Show Low. We traveled fast, stopping only to take photos here and there.
Game drinking hole. It almost looks like one of those infinity edge pools, but this one is natural
The road was easy, and around mile marker 69, it started to get interesting. It curved and twisted, rose and dropped in elevation. Then, the surface turned to clay. Today that was not bad, but the ruts were deep and we could see that this was no place to be when it rained.
We were lucky, the sky had cleared for the most part, but we were negotiating the ruts left by trucks driving through it when it was wet. I chose a line, usually in the middle between the ruts, and didn’t have to slow down.
Hal, sticking to the middle!
About 20 miles out of Show Low, the road began to go up and down more steeply, and then it was covered in cinder gravel the size of golf balls. We started to meet more traffic, and I knew we were getting close to Show Low. The signs said “US60” and then stated how many miles until we would get there, but I wasn’t sure where we were going to come out.
As it turned out, we were right at the town limit, south of Show Low at the 60. Across the road was the continuation of the 300. A sign warned that it was a single lane wide, and was closed and impassable when it rained. We had wanted to take it the rest of the way, but it was late enough in the day that it probably wasn’t going to be feasible this time. It was time to make a decision.
Outside Show Low, AZ. It is to the right in the photo
Should we go on to Pinetop-Lakeside? Should we take the pavement back to the car? Or should we just turn around and go back the way we’d come? We’d ridden 53 miles, and it would be another 53 back. After a short conference, we chose the last option, to turn around and ride back the same way. It had taken 2-1/2 hours, but that was with lots of stops for photographs and to take short breaks. It’s always faster on the return trip anyway, we reasoned. Besides, we could always “bail” and take one of the other forest roads to the 260 and ride the paved road to the car. We didn’t care too much how late we got home, so we might as well enjoy it.
The return trip was even more fun than on the way to Show Low. Since the road was now mapped in our heads, we could anticipate the turns and rough spots and power through them, and make time when it was easy. We were able to travel very quickly. There was no rain, and we only stopped a couple of times to take more pictures. We made it back to the car in one hour and 55 minutes, 106 miles under our wheels.
Big beautiful clouds at the end of the day
I wasn’t even tired, that was the funny thing. And I was so glad to continue my enjoyment of riding fast and far on forest roads, the way I’d been riding all summer in the White Mountains. It was a glorious day, and maybe in two weeks we can return to the area to explore the many forest roads that radiate from FR300 south. I am looking forward to it already.
Summer sunset on the way home