Good thing I looked tough on the way because by the end of the day, I was living it:
1-2-14, FR202 and FR54
It was a day of epic adventure. A ride that started out calmly, and and ended up with the unexpected. We experienced beautiful scenery, wide-ranging temperatures, rough, challenging terrain, and a cold, dark ride “home.”
Our ride began when Hal and I had decided to trailer the dual sport bikes from my house to Cherry Creek Rd. north of Globe, AZ. We wanted to relax and ride the dirt roads without having to put on a lot of pavement miles before we got there, and then again possibly in the dark on the way home. This proved to be a very good decision.
We loaded up the trailer with the bikes, put our gear in the car, and then stopped for a bagel at Einstein’s before we got on the freeway to head out of town. A little more than an hour later, we were on Cherry Creek Rd., about a mile or so in, parking the car. We geared up, checked the maps, and off we went.
Our plan was to take FR203 to FR202, and then maybe find the elusive FR54, which we would then take into Young. We have wanted to take this rough “back way” into Young, or if we couldn’t find our way through, the 288 (main unpaved road from Young), for some time.
On the 203, we buzzed along at a good speed. We have been down this road several times now, the last time being in early November, but we never found FR202. We almost didn’t “find” it this time, either. We rode the 203 to Ellison Ranch, and we knew we were too far. A few minutes earlier we had taken an unmarked road off to the right, but Hal was convinced it was not the right road. There was a huge sign at the beginning of it that said “Primitive road, use at your own risk. Not maintained.” At Ellison Ranch, we consulted the map.
“That has to be the road,” I said, “there are no other roads that go that way, and we’ve passed 96.” FR96 was the last road we’d passed before we got to the mystery road, and that was the only other road on the map. So, we went back and got on the road. We found it in good shape, but with big pieces of gravel. I find that often the roads that are supposed to be “primitive” are in better shape than the maintained ones. We were following the power lines as my brother-in-law had said. He is familiar with this area, too, from his hunting expeditions.
Hal is tiny in this photo, toward the left on the road:
Under the power lines:
The weather was beautiful, the warm sun shone down on us, and I started to remove layers. The last few rides we’d been on, I had been cold, so I layered up, almost too much. I ended up down to a t-shirt under my armored coat, and I took the liner out of my mesh pants. I was getting sweaty anyway, but I didn’t dare take that coat off. Plus, as we climbed in elevation, the temperature dropped slightly.
203 is on the side of those mountains in the distance:
Off in the distance, to the west, we saw the mountain range where FR203 is located. We knew it was there, hanging on the side of the mountain, because we’d ridden it last November. It was a rough road, too, but I had enjoyed it very much.
Taking a break:
The road smoothed out, then grew rockier again as it went north. We stopped a few times for some photos, but then, as it became rougher, we didn’t stop as often. Finally, we got up into the trees, and the road and surrounding terrain were the best of the day. We took a break there, shedding some layers, and got off the bikes for a few minutes. “How far do you think it is to Young?” I asked Hal.
“I don’t know,” he said, digging for the map.
“Well, what does the map say?” I asked.
“Uh … g-ding ding ding ding ding?” he answered, thinking of the fox song. I scowled. I wasn’t really in the mood for joking. We were in a lovely area, but I didn’t know what we were going to encounter going north. It had taken a fairly long time to get this far, and the afternoon was getting later. However, we didn’t even discuss turning around and going back. Probably neither of us thought of it! I know I didn’t.
We got back on the bikes. At last, there were some signs that said “202.” They were all clustered in a small area, and I wondered why the people in charge of signage couldn’t use some common sense and put one at the entrance to the road and some more signs along the way. I do not use GPS, and it would sure be nice to have these roads marked. Most of the time that we were on this ride, we had no idea if we were on the correct road or not because there were absolutely no signs in critical places.
We reached a “Y” in the road, nothing marked of course, and stayed to the left. At least we made the right decisions in these trail splits because intuition was all we had to go on. We were unable to travel very quickly because the roads were narrow and rocky. Finally, as it was getting to be later in the afternoon, we reached 54.
“It’s 54!” I shouted, triumphantly. We’d made it this far. Little did I know…
We got on 54, and the road got smaller and smaller. We passed through a total of three gates that we had to unlatch, go through, and then close again on the other side. Lots of cattle lined the roads on this part, looking at us like, “oh, here come the stupid humans.” We were high up at that point, and I knew we were going to have to drop in elevation before we got to the part of 54 that I had ridden as an out and back a couple of times from Young. We were on what I will describe as a “goat track,” because it was not even a road at that point, but a rocky slash in the earth that we guessed, and hoped, was still FR54. It was like riding on a rocky, single track mountain bike trail.
We came to a series of difficult descents, very rocky and steep. Hal dropped his bike twice, and I helped him walk his bike down to the bottom. We walked mine down, too, a couple of times because once I stop before riding an obstacle like that, I am not going to get going easily again. That is inviting disaster. We were in such a remote area, and no cell phone service, it crossed my mind that if one of us got hurt, it would be difficult to get out, and may be a life-threatening situation.
I got my dose of reality on one of the downhill sections, too. It was a steep downhill, and I came down too fast to begin with, but when I reached where Hal had already pulled off to the right side, I saw at the last second that the turn went left, it was a more than 90° turn, and it was deep sand! With my worn-out dual sport tires on the Kawasaki, I had nothing, no big knobby tires to hook up in the dirt, and I went down – hard. My handlebars turned and one side went deep into the quadriceps muscle of my left leg, the fall turned my knee hard, and then my right leg was trapped beneath the bike! Hal had to come and lift the bike off me, and I was whimpering because my left leg hurt when he took the handlebar out of it. Well, I thought, this is what I was afraid of. My knee hurt most, though, and it wasn’t because I landed on it hard, it was because it was tweaked under the bike. It had been twisted forcefully, and something might have gotten torn.
I moved everything, and it felt okay. I stood up, opened my riding pants, and didn’t see blood soaking through my jeans. I touched my leg, and it really hurt, but it was functional. My knee hurt a lot, too, and at first I thought it had been hit hard and would bruise, but then I felt a searing hot pain when I bent it. I moved things around, though, and massaged it, and it seemed okay, just a bit numb on top. Hal was talking to me, concerned, but as the minutes passed, I realized I was pretty much okay. I even dared to look at my leg, which had a big lump on it, but it looked fine. I thought, nothing’s bleeding, no bones are sticking out. “Let’s get the hell out of here,” I said to Hal. I am sure he was relieved. I always say my crashes are more spectacular because I am usually going faster, and I had been. Hal’s were mostly tip-overs, and mine was a crash. Even if I had been hurt badly, I still would have ridden myself out of there, and not thought about the injuries until later. As I rode, I moved my knee around so it wouldn’t lock up and make it difficult for me to move.
You know what they say: “adventures suck when you’re having them.” It was getting late, and I was worrying that we would get stuck out there in the middle of nowhere after dark. We went on, had to go slowly down a few more rocky descents, through some more deep sand, and ruts. How deep sand can hang on the side of a mountain and make for impossible (for us) conditions, I don’t know! Finally, we got to an area that looked familiar. It was the place I had turned around and went back to Young on a couple of previous rides. It was a good thing, too, the sun had just set. Our little passage through the rough areas had taken some time.
(No more photos; too busy riding!)
I had my helmet visor flipped up by then, but I left my sunglasses on. I had to have some eye protection, and I didn’t feel like stopping at that point to dig out my clear-lens glasses. We both just wanted to get out and back to pavement at that point, and we were going to Young. I knew it was about 10 miles or so, and it felt like it took forever. We crossed a couple of water crossings in the dark, the water black like melted coal, and impossible to judge, and the last one was just before town. I knew from riding through it on previous trips that it wasn’t too deep, otherwise there would have been no way of knowing where to cross. At last, we came out of FR54 in Young. I breathed a sigh of relief.
It was dark, and the temperature was plummeting. Hal pulled over, and I was right behind him. “If we’re gonna ride down, I have to put on my layers,” he said. I wondered what he thought was the alternative. There wasn’t any way of getting back to the car without riding!
“Me too.” I was already shivering, and I knew we had about 40 miles to ride through twisting unpaved road in the dark, back to the car. I also called home, because it was 6 p.m., I had a lot of riding to do yet, and I was sure my husband, Desmond, was starting to wonder if I’d call. I let him know what was happening, and Hal and I spent about 20 minutes on the side of the road calling, putting on layers, and dumping the extra fuel into our gas tanks. It was 6:21 when we left Young, and as we reached the south edge of town, I was already shivering again. Plus, my hands were already frozen to the grips. It was time to “man up,” because as I said, I had a lot of miles to ride before I’d see the car and trailer.
It was pitch black out there on the unpaved 288 as it leaves Young. “The south road,” as it’s called by the locals, looked like a super highway to me after what we’d been through earlier. Then there were the yellow signs that said, “Watch for animals, next 47 miles.” We stuck to the middle of the road since there were no other vehicles out there anyway. In fact, during the entire day we had met only one pickup truck once we got on the 202 road early in the day, and no one after that until just before Young when we passed a quad headed for town.
As I rode, I was able to appreciate the beauty of the road at night. This is why I ride, so I was thinking I’d better enjoy it. Off to my right was a spectacular sight: the moon, a lounging, lazy sliver above the mountains, a slight glow still showing from the west. Overhead were about a million stars that I could only see being out in the total blackness of the forest. We went in and out of pockets of warmth on the way down from Young, and I would alternately freeze, then thaw, freeze, then thaw. My hands hurt, but I realized it was because they were so cold, then warmed up, then cold again. I had put my clear lens glasses on by then, but I still had my dark face shield on my helmet. Stupidly, I’d left the clear shield in the car, thinking I’d be back long before the sunset. So, cold air jetted onto my face for the 40-plus miles back to the car.
I was watching the mile markers flip by: 308 is where we started in Young, and I knew from experience that the Cherry Creek Rd. turnoff on the 288 near Globe is at mile marker 265. So, that was 43 miles, and I had already ridden a few of them. In some of the areas we had to ride fairly slowly as the switchbacks were tight, and it was so dark. When we came down the final steep switchbacks, I could see Roosevelt Lake glimmering in the distance, lit by the lights from buildings on its shore near the dam. It was warming up at this point, but that was relative. Near the end of this section, a sheriff’s SUV came roaring by. I thought, well, at least we know where he is. Not that Hal and I were setting any speed records.
Before I knew it, mile marker 265 appeared, and then we turned on Cherry Creek Rd. for the last mile to the car. When we reached the pullout where we’d parked earlier and I saw the reflectors on the back of the Volvo light up in Hal’s headlight, I was so relieved. We were both shivering in the cold desert, but we helped each other load up the bikes. Just then, the phone rang, it was Desmond, calling to see if we’d made it back to the car! It had taken an hour and a half from Young. Hal and I were starving by then because we still hadn’t taken time to eat anything since that bagel in the morning. We planned to stop in Globe somewhere and get a sandwich.
We cranked up the heater in the car so we could thaw out, and soon we were on the paved road back to Globe. “How do you feel?” asked Hal.
“Oh, I was just thinking that it was a great way to make my back stop hurting: make everything else hurt worse!” I answered, then I started laughing. We both started laughing like crazy. That’s what happens when you’re tired and you don’t know it. Actually, I felt pretty good.
We stopped at Judy’s Cookhouse and got a greasy sandwich and some bad coffee, but we didn’t care by then. It was food, and I wasn’t going to be fussy. The coffee was hot, and the fries were pretty good! By the time we left Globe it was 9:40 p.m., and when I got home, it was nearly 11. We certainly had not intended for it to be a 14-hour day! We had ridden 71 (rough) miles in the dirt, and by the time we got back to the car, about 110 miles total.
You can believe I took a nice long hot shower, iced my leg, and then took some ibuprofen before I went to sleep. I felt great when I got up this morning.
So, where are we riding tomorrow? 😉