I’m the little dot on the road, above (photo by Hal Korff)
In an effort to get rid of a nasty cold that I’d acquired from my school kids coughing on me all week, I got on my Kawasaki KLX250S dual sport motorbike last Saturday. I thought that once I got out in the air, flipped my visor up and let the cold air jet through it, I’d be fine. Not. My sinuses clogged even more. Oh well, it was better than not riding at all, and as long as I was feeling halfway decent, I would ride.
Instead of taking up time eating breakfast out, last Saturday, Hal and I left the house mid-morning after a snack at home, and then we got on the road toward Globe, AZ.
Never wanting to leave anything unfinished, we made up our minds that we were going to make it up and over the mountain on FR112 south of Globe, the place we started to explore last weekend. I had also wanted to stop and shoot a few photographs in Globe, but Hal wasn’t enthused, so we didn’t. I brought my big DSLR, and usually try to make it worth the risk of carrying it.
We went through Globe early, and thanks to last week’s exploring, we knew exactly where to go. It hardly took any time at all to get on the correct road, and soon we were on FR112, in the dirt!
I found out that last week we had only gone in about three miles, not five, as I had thought. We rapidly reached the turn-around point from last week, and kept going up. The more we climbed, the more we got into pine forest. It was cool and beautiful. The road narrowed, and our tires moved softly over the velvet-like soil that can only be found under a thick canopy of mature trees. We went past campsites, picnic tables, campsite toilets. Then we were on top, at Pioneer Pass.
We stopped for some photos, and as we looked south, I could see for many miles in the distance. I thought I recognized some of the landmarks from one of the other times we’d been on the south/east end of the road.
However, I wasn’t sure how far we’d now have to ride to get down there, how many switchbacks or steep hillsides we’d have to negotiate. Meanwhile, we took a short break.
When we got back on the bikes, we were soon out in the sun again, and going down a winding road lined with low high desert plants.
We meandered down at a comfortable pace, looking at the wide vistas first to the south, then to the north. After a few miles, we came to an intersection.
The road split, one side becoming a different forest road, and the other was 112 as it went it south. I knew from looking at the map that we were supposed to stay on 112 all the way down to Dripping Springs Rd. Hal looked at the signs and shrugged. I pointed to 112, and we started down that segment of 112.
Immediately, the terrain became challenging. I found myself on a steep, rough descent. What made it challenging was that not only was it steep, but I was negotiating rocks, deep erosion channels, and sand. I was freaking out a little bit at first because this is exactly the type of situation I found myself in a few months ago on FR54 when I crashed hard. My injuries from that crash started to ache at the thought of it.
I slowed way down. This was certainly more than I bargained for in the day’s riding plan, but I was already in it. I will never be a fast rider, and I certainly wasn’t this time, as I was riding my dual sport motorcycle like a mountain bike, taking it easy, finessing my way, picking the best lines through the obstacles. It was a series of descents, broken up by a couple of fairly flat turns, but most of it in the “technical” category. While I was doing all this, I thought fleetingly of my expensive DSLR in my backpack. But I didn’t dare think about it, or anything else, for too long. I already know painfully well what distractions can do.
I kept the bike in first gear and used mostly engine braking, but feathered the brakes lightly when necessary. This little section was only about a mile or two long, but it seemed like it lasted forever. At last we came to the bottom. I looked up at what I had just descended, and had a “holy crap” moment. Hal had come down about 30 seconds in front of me, and he said, “I was worrying about you. I put my feet down a couple of times, but knew you don’t have as much foot on the ground as me. Did you go down that whole thing without putting your feet down?”
“Yes,” I said, but I was breathing hard (almost ready to hyperventilate!). I don’t normally worry about things like this, but since the last experience with that type of terrain didn’t have a very good outcome, it made me more nervous than normal. Hal handed me a bottle of water. After I drank about half of it in a few gulps, I handed it back to Hal and said, “thanks, I needed that!”
We looked at the map again. We had been expecting that “rough” part of the road since it was drawn in a lighter-colored, more broken line, but you know how it is, the little line on the map takes on epic proportions when you are actually in it. There was more of it ahead, according to the map. Also, we thought we were supposed to go left at another split, but the left side went right up to a closed, locked gate. I was afraid that we were going to have to ride back up the steep part we’d just ridden down, but the map said either direction we’d take, we’d end up on Dripping Springs. It all seemed to be part of 112, so we turned right with confidence.
This road was rough, too, but it wasn’t as steep. I can handle rocks and erosion easily, just not on a 10+ grade with sand. I didn’t think the rest of the rough part was too bad at all. Or, more likely, I was used to it by then. It doesn’t take long to get acclimated to challenging terrain.
I could see what I thought was Dripping Springs Rd. down below from where we were. Then, we dropped down through the rocky terrain, but not as drastically, and soon we were in sandy, almost flat terrain. When we were at the bottom, we passed a ranch, and then the road looked like it dead-ended at the edge of the property! But, the road (such that it was) went through, and soon after that, we came out on a wide, “dirt super-highway” kind of road, and I thought it had to be Dripping Springs. Once again, no signs were in evidence anywhere, and I did not recognize where we were on the road. We turned east, though, because that was the way to Hwy. 77.
We flew along, raising a cloud of dust behind us, but we slowed as we got to a residential area that included houses with actual mailboxes. That is always a big clue that we are getting close to a paved highway, or main road. There was a man walking his dog along the road, and I slowed down, then stopped. “Is this Dripping Springs Rd.?” I asked him.
“Yes!” he said. He talked to me about how he was from out of town, but knew that Hwy. 77 was not far. I could barely hear him because my ears were clogged up from my cold, and I was wearing earplugs. I did hear him ask me where I had come from.
“We came from Globe,” I answered. “We came up over the mountain, and then down this side.”
“Wow!” he said, eying my dirt bike. “Be careful up the road,” he said, “some of the washes are rough!” I couldn’t remember anything like that from my previous short trips on this road, but smiled, nodded, and thanked him for the advice. He had no idea what rough terrain I’d just ridden. Then I rode after Hal.
Hal, by this time, was long gone, and as I started out to catch up, I saw him coming toward me. We stopped, and I relayed the information I’d gotten from the man, including the wash part. As I suspected, though, it was a fast ride through sandy dirt for the next few miles. We came to a part with a long, slanted climb up ahead, and I recognized it as being not far from Hwy. 77. Wow, I thought, we came out really close to the paved road. I was a little surprised.
Soon, we were back on pavement, and we rode Hwy. 77 back through Winkelman, and then to Kearny, where we finally ate some lunch.
Rejuvenated, we got back on the bikes to ride Florence-Kelvin Hwy. another dirt super highway.
On the way back to Florence, we saw an awesome bull snake in the middle of the road, sunning himself. After taking photos of the snake, we rode on, taking paved roads home. Our total mileage for the day was 222 when I rolled into the garage.
I was glad he got off the road, I didn’t want to see him smashed
That makes the totals for our last three rides 309, 176, and 222. Before that, we’d done a 500+ mile weekend in Death Valley, CA. I’ve proved that I am comfortable putting in the long miles on the KLX. Nothing makes me happier than that. I really couldn’t have anticipated how well this bike would work for me, and I couldn’t be more pleased!