Dec. 30, 2013
It’s amazingly great to have all these days in a row away from work. I love my school kids, and I kind of miss them, but being the restless adventuresome person that I am, I don’t think of too many other things lately than where I am going to ride next on one of my motorbikes.
Hal and I had been talking about doing Four Peaks Rd., then A-Cross Rd. around Roosevelt Lake, and then taking the Apache Trail back to Apache Junction, all Arizona places near where I live.
When I was getting ready this morning, I kept putting on layers of clothing until I almost could not move. It’s not even cold here by most people’s standards, yet I knew I would be freezing as I rode up the Beeline Hwy. toward the intersection with the 188. I was freezing. When I got to the intersection, then headed east facing the sun, I hoped to get warm. Normally a boring road for us because the speed limit is only (technically) 55 mph, and the cops love nothing more than busting people there, today it was a good choice, the speed was perfect for our small dual sport bikes. We didn’t even see a cop, which is always a good thing.
We were making our way toward Punkin Center, yes that’s its real name. Not Pumpkin. We had already fueled up once, near Fountain Hills, and I won’t bore you with the excruciating minutiae of how my day began since you know most of it by heart already.
Already, we had scrapped the Four Peaks route because we thought it would take too long; however, the long way round to Punkin Center probably took just as much time. Anyway, we fueled up there at Butcher Hook (store, restaurant, gas station), and the nice man even funded 10¢ of the price from a cup inside the station containing change. This is why I go to Butcher Hook instead of the newer gas station up the road, I get to talk to, and pay, a real, normal person instead of a faceless corporate entity.
Soon, we reached A-Cross Rd., and went into the unpaved road. We stopped for a few wardrobe adjustments at the beginning of that road, and away we went. A short distance in, we came to a water crossing at Tonto Creek that at first looked deep, but wasn’t, and then we opened the throttles of our bikes for a few miles that were easy, wide and graded. Then we got to the first big grade, which is narrow and a little rutted from recent rains. The hard-packed clay had dried, and it was easy to climb up and drop down the other side. The sign ahead said “curves, mountain grades,” and they were right. They forgot to mention the narrowness of the road. All of this was no problem for me, and the scenery was spectacular. The great view we had was of Roosevelt Lake far below in the foreground, and in the background was Four Peaks rising majestically.
Four Peaks in the distance:
The bridge in front of Roosevelt Dam, which we would soon ride behind:
Hal’s new nickname for our bikes is “ketchup and mustard”:
I’ve ridden this road on two other, different bikes, and the KLX, which I was on today, was the most pleasant. I absolutely enjoyed the whole day, beginning to end. I loved riding A-Cross, and there were a few places that I stopped to take photos. Near the last steep descent was an amazing landform, a horseshoe-shaped meander of the river that we could see from the road high above. I had wanted to shoot this photo the last time we were here, but didn’t get the chance to stop.
The river meander:
Then we went around a bend, down a steep grade with a couple of tight switchbacks to the bottom where there was another shallow water crossing, and a small ranch!
As we climbed the next grade, we looked down on their agricultural fields, a surprise for us to see green patchwork right in the middle of saguaro cacti-studded desert. After the climb, the road widened and its surface varied from easy small gravel to large golf ball sized rocks. We traveled quickly along this section, and soon we came out onto the 288, which is the south road from Young.
A lovely, favorite sight:
We took 288 to the 188, the intersection where my F650GS failed last spring (since rebuilt and back on the road), but we turned north this time toward the dam and Apache Trail. I hated that we had to do about 30 miles of pavement to tie our two dirt routes together, but that is the way it is. We also were going to stop for fuel again because of the small gas tank on the KLX, but at that point we had fewer miles than I’d thought on the trip odometer. That is how I can tell if I need gas or not, how many miles I’ve ridden since the last tank. Bikes don’t have fuel gauges as a rule, and knowing how many miles I’ve gone since I filled up is my only way of knowing if I need gas or not. That, or if I run out!
(I should have taken more photos, ones of the sparkling water, the overlook at Apache Lake, and then at the end, Tortilla Flat. I suppose it’s because I have been to these places so many times, I am less enthused about shooting photos than I am at places I haven’t been before. So, try to picture them in your mind as the story unfolds.)
We got onto 88, which is the Apache Trail, and it goes behind Roosevelt Dam. Roosevelt Dam is how Roosevelt Lake, a reservoir, is formed. A series of reservoirs hold the water that we use in the populated Phoenix area. Behind the dam, the water flows, and it sparkled in the sun as we followed the road, paralleling the water to our right and below us, which eventually becomes Apache Lake, another reservoir, made behind Horse Mesa Dam. The road was sandy and washboard-y, as usual, and it was also crowded with tourists. It seems to be a tourist attraction to drive it between the holidays especially. I never get why car and truck drivers think it’s a great idea to do this because the road is narrow and steep in some places. Then they freak out and go real slow, and it makes me crazy!
Soon we were at Fish Creek Hill, a notoriously steep and narrow part. Last time I climbed it I was on the F650GS, but I wasn’t worried at all for some reason. Today I wasn’t worried for any part of this road, and it was pleasant all the way, at least until we reached the top of Fish Creek Hill when some old people were going too slowly, and wouldn’t pull over. Finally, they did, and none too soon for me.
We rode down to Tortilla Flat, a funky tourist stop made to look like an old western town. The bar and grill is popular for out-of-towners, and also for us, at least today. By this time, it was around 3 o’clock and Hal and I were both starving. So, we parked the bikes, peeled off quite a few layers (which probably was amusing to anyone who was observing), and went into the restaurant. There we each ate a grilled chicken sandwich, fries, drank coffee, and discussed the last few hours of our wonderful riding day. It took about half the time today to ride those roads compared with previous times. The difference was my bike. We could have done Four Peaks Rd. as well, and been back to town in plenty of time.
When we left Tortilla Flat, we went up and over, passing Canyon Lake. As we reached the last turns there, the setting sun painted the orange canyon walls and made them glow. It was yet another photograph I later wished I had taken today, but I have been on this road so many times, I forget sometimes how spectacular it can be.
More slow traffic back to town, unfortunately, and then finally we were back at my house. After a cup of coffee, Hal loaded his bike onto the trailer, which he had parked here, and went home. For some reason, we were both cold all day. Soon, I was standing in the shower letting the hot water warm my chilled body.
It was another 209 miles of enjoyment for me today, and I am looking forward to more rides this week, before I have to go back to work!