A two-up ride into the darkness


Friday after a long day at work, and I was ready to get out of there. Enough was enough. In fact, in this case, enough was too much. The day had been framed beginning, middle and end with way too much “kid drama,” and even though I love “my” classroom kids dearly, I’d had enough of the day after Halloween behavior. I’d thought they would be on a sugar high, but instead most were sugar comatose and on an emotional roller coaster. By the time 4:00 rolled around, I was ready to be done. I grabbed my things and headed out the door.

As soon as I left, I turned my thoughts to other things, namely the ride I was looking forward to. My motorcycle riding partner, Hal, and I decided to do something different and ride two-up to Payson. Normally, I’d want to be on my own bike, but once in a while, I want to be two-up with him. I thought it would be fun and relaxing, and it turned out I was right.

He arrived on his beautiful red BMW R1100RS, and I got on behind him. The sun was low in the sky, and I realized it would be down very soon. I had plenty of clothes on already, but wondered if I would still feel cold as we climbed up the Beeline. The most difficult thing about riding in our climate is that I can never quite believe how cold it can get whenever we leave the Phoenix area. I’ll never need more layers, I thought to myself before we left, but I packed them anyway, knowing from experience that 80° F. here could easily turn into 50° F. as we climbed in elevation and the sun dropped.

We rode through town, and I realized that Hal and I fit together perfectly, like the pieces of an interlocking puzzle. We’ve done this before, many times, but it seemed especially pleasant this time for some reason. We were also dressed almost exactly alike, and from behind we probably looked like only one rider on the bike.

The shadows were long as we reached the edge of town, and I glanced over Hal’s shoulder. The road was empty, bathed in golden light as the sun sank behind us. I hadn’t yet relaxed from the day, but I was trying to make myself get there, to my “happy place,” as soon as possible. As we passed Four Peaks, I noticed how beautiful it was in the golden light, the mountain purple in the late day dusk.

I was glad we didn’t have to stop for fuel in Fountain Hills. I hate stopping, and was just getting comfortable, getting into the groove of the ride. At the bottom of Rock Garden, we began to climb, and Hal picked up the pace. The faster we go, the better I like it. I glanced around him, and except for one or two vehicles, the road was still wide open. The sun had dropped below the horizon by now and the pink ring around the sky glowed more vibrantly. We passed through a few small pockets of cold air, hints of what lay ahead. In my new cold weather jacket, I felt comfortable, but I shivered slightly. Hal felt the tremor and touched my knee. I know! he signaled, feeling the cold, too. We usually are on the same page.

We flew through the turns near Sunflower, and then we began to climb toward Mt. Ord. This is the coldest part of the ride, and it tops out at around 4500 feet in elevation. Again we flew down the other side, but this time the cold didn’t relent. Hal guided the bike through the turns that followed, and soon we were in Rye. It was slightly warmer there, but I knew it wasn’t going to last. As we climbed the last few steep turns up into Payson, the temperature dropped and stayed there, probably in the 50s F.

We parked at Macky’s Grill on the south end of Payson, and de-geared. It was none too warm, and I wore my coat into the restaurant, partly because I was chilled, and partly because it is a nice jacket and I wanted to show it off! It is black and has big silver wings outlined on the back à la HD wear, only more tasteful. I like glittery things, especially Speed and Strength coats because I don’t usually have to add any more “bling” of my own to them. Plus, they last a long time, and as much as I ride, I appreciate their durability.

The restaurant was packed, but we were able to get a table right away. It was warm and glowing inside, and it was so nice to sit and relax, to not have to be hurried or pressured, to not have to listen to insipid non-descript music played through tinny speakers. We ordered sandwiches and coffee, and spent the next hour and a half talking, about work, about planned rides, about how many more miles we want to ride in our lives, and about our next off-road adventures with the dirt bikes. It was a lovely relaxing evening, and so rare.

Eventually, we walked back out to the bike, and I dug out all the layers I had brought. I was glad for them now, and I put them all on. It made me feel like a stuffed sausage, but it was better than freezing all the way home. When we got to the first series of turns, the four that drop us into Rye, I could feel the hint of warm air wafting up from below the minute we entered the first turn.

Out past the intersection with Hwy. 188, it was complete darkness. Overhead the constellations turned. I saw again that weird cluster of stars that seems to disappear when you look directly at it. It was wild and cold out there in the darkness beyond the road, and I moved closer to Hal. Only my hands were getting a little cold, and I put them between our bodies. I could feel Hal’s warmth through my clothes, plus he was doing a good job of blocking the wind. I never “cling” to him, I am perfectly comfortable and balanced there behind him, but for warmth I slid forward a little on the seat.

Before we knew it, we were back in Fountain Hills. This time we did stop to top off the bike with more fuel since Hal had to drop me off at home, then ride the 40 miles to the other side of town where he lives. It was warm, but I didn’t want to take any layers off. I was starting to get a little too relaxed, and I knew I would be asleep not long after I got home. The murmuring of the motorcycle beneath me lulled me into the fuzzy grey between wakefulness and sleep. After a short ride from the gas station, I was home.

My sweet dog greeted me, and I bid Hal goodbye and thanked him for a rare relaxing evening. Soon I was in bed, drifting off to sleep to the sound of the dog snoring comfortably at the end of the bed. I slept deeply, without a care in the world.

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