March 22, 2014
Call me crazy, but I was looking forward to a long riding day on my 2009 Kawasaki KLX250S. Hal and I planned to go for the day, changing our weekend riding day this week to Saturday instead of Sunday. Since I got this bike, all I’ve wanted to do is ride it to the roughest, most remote places I can think of, or just ride it in as much dirt as possible. Sometimes that can pose a challenge, to put together a route consisting mostly of unpaved roads and/or trails. You’d think it would be easy in a relatively uncivilized place like where I live, in Arizona, USA, but even though there are a lot of unpaved roads, they don’t necessarily connect with each other.
After the trip to Death Valley two weeks ago, I made some slight changes to how my bags were attached to the bike. They looked lopsided to me from behind, and it was driving me crazy, even though I wasn’t looking at it from that perspective that often! The maker of the bags, Wolfman Bags (http://www.wolfmanluggage.com), posted on the website, “Do yourself a favor and make a dry run when you first attach the bags.” Well, I took it literally, I guess when I rode 500+ miles in Death Valley. It was a “dry run,” all right – both literally and figuratively. The bags worked great, but they needed slight adjustment. It took me only about 10 minutes to move them slightly once I was home. Now they are good to go anywhere. I love this bike and how I have set it up.
Hal trailered his Suzuki DRZ400 to my house, unloaded, and left his car and trailer parked in our driveway. He does that in case we have bike problems and we need to get a bike home from somewhere. We learned to do this strategy after the F650 breakdown last April when we had to do some major finagling and get that big bike home on the back of the pickup. Not the ideal situation.
Hal and I left Gilbert mid-morning to ride the Beeline Hwy., Hwy. 87 north toward Payson. The purpose of this ride was to see how I would feel after a long day in the saddle of the KLX. When I first started riding this bike, I was worried that it would be uncomfortable to ride all day, that the revs would be too high when I was at 65 mph, and that the bike would be working too hard. None of these things came true, and I have thoroughly enjoyed riding it. This bike seems happy all the time! It gets around 70 mpg if I use premium grade, but if I use what I term “crap gas,” 87 octane or so, it gets around 50. I hate running “regular” gas in anything I own.
The little KLX did well climbing the hills, but I did drop down into 5th gear to maintain 65 mph when climbing the biggest ones against a headwind. Soon we were in Rye, where we turned off the highway and onto the dirt road that would take us “the back way” into Payson.
Off the pavement, at last:
Most of the road was very smooth and easy. There weren’t any ruts since we haven’t had any rain to speak of this winter, and therefore, no mud. All through the day, Hal and I were amazed and saddened that absolutely none of the creeks we crossed had any water in them. In fact, they were bone dry. There were a few steep rocky areas on this road, but nothing really challenging. Since I’ve been riding this bike, I find that, 1) I don’t want to ride anything but dirt, and 2) the end of dirt roads comes way too quickly! I mention this because we were too soon out on pavement, three miles from Payson.
View of the Matzatzal Mtns.:
We went to one of our favorite places to eat, The Crosswinds Restaurant at the Payson Airport. It was more crowded than I’d thought it would be, but we always manage to get great service no matter what. As we were leaving, I bought one of their t-shirts because they had one in my current favorite color: Hi-Viz yellow! I put it right on.
At that point, we made the decision to take Control Rd. instead of going all the way up to FS300, aka The Rim Road. We’d heard it was closed for some reason, and since we’d had a late start, it was time to start thinking about how many miles we had yet to ride if we were going to go to Young. Control Rd. is easy, and the scenery is always beautiful as it winds through the tall pine forest. As we crossed Webber Creek, a place that we’ve stopped before and taken many great photos, we saw that there was no water in the creek bed.
Soon we came to the 260 on the east end of Control Rd., and made the decision to ride up to the top of the Rim then take FS512 into Young. The alternative was Colcord Rd., but we knew we would make better time on the 512. We did indeed. It took very little time to buzz south into Young. We stopped there at Buddi Gas, and I filled up the KLX’s tank. Soon I will get a bigger gas tank for this super little bike. I need a longer range between fuel stops, and capacity becomes a factor when there are very long stretches between fuel stations.
Taking a break at Buddi Gas:
We headed south out of town, on the 288, known as “the south road” by the locals. If you recall, this is the road we were on after the big crash day on January 2, and we rode it in the dark and the cold. On Saturday, it was slightly less cold, and we were able to travel much faster because it was still daylight. On the way down, there were two times when deer leaped across the road a few hundred feet in front of us. Soon we were making our “final descent” through the switchbacks on the Roosevelt Lake side, and then the road flattened out and straightened out as we made our way toward the 188, which would take us to Globe.
As we passed a particular spot on the road, I pulled over to get the photo that I have wanted for months, of the crested saguaro cactus growing almost next to the road. This cactus is a rare and beautiful thing, and I shoot photos of crested cacti whenever I see them.
It didn’t take me very long to shoot the photo, but I found it a little odd that Hal didn’t turn around and come back to see what I was doing. He usually does, eventually. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but after I caught up with him, he slowed down and motioned for me to draw alongside him.
“Can you hear me?” he shouted over the engine noise and rushing wind.
“Yes!” I yelled back.
“My clutch cable is broken!” he shouted. I formed my mouth into an “Oh” shape, and then dropped back behind him. Then I started to laugh. It wasn’t that it was funny, I laughed because I thought, with that bike, it’s ‘what is going to break today?’ How many times has this happened to us? (Like, all the time.) I’ll be honest, this is one of the big reasons I didn’t get a DRZ400 when it was time for me to decide to upgrade my dirt bike. Maybe they are reliable and good for most people, but that one that Hal rides is not good. So, then I started to think about the logistics relating to the next 100 or so miles that we had to ride before we got home.
Tomorrow: how the trip ends