Our day on Saturday was going to be a weird riding day anyway. Hal and I had planned a long time ago to go to breakfast on Sunday with some friends, but that means taking the road bikes. I wanted to do dirt – for some reason I don’t feel quite right if I miss a week of riding in the dirt – so we were going to do a short dirt ride on Saturday.
We opted to get going on the ride and not eat a restaurant breakfast in order to make the most of the riding day. Our plan was to ride near Four Peaks, explore some of the dirt roads that we see from Hwy. 87 when we are on the way to Payson. We passed Four Peaks, then climbed up the part of the road we call “rock garden,” and right after we dropped down the other side, we turned right onto a road that has a sign that says “Great Western Trail.”
World of funnel webs:
We’d been on it before, a few years ago, but didn’t remember where it went. Besides, now we both have better bikes for exploring it. The road was a bit rough right when we got over the first little hill, and then we climbed a short grade. The road split there, and we took FR11. Then next part was rocky and sandy as it climbed, it dropped down, and then we were in a wash. A sandy wash. And the sand was at least a foot deep.
There is almost nothing I hate more than deep sand, and I think it’s because I don’t know how to ride it properly. I think you have to ride it fast, and let the bike float over the top of it. I think the little Kawi could do a great job, but I was too scared to go into it fast. Plus, Hal was in front of me on the DRZ, and he was going slow. I suck at riding sand, though, that is the bottom line, so it’s no one’s fault but my own that it is never a good experience. It wasn’t this time, either.
The first thing that happened was the bike bogged down, and as I was paddling through, the engine quit (due to my sucky throttle management). Then I started the bike and attempted to get going again, but as usual when the bike started going faster it was almost uncontrollable, wallowing around in the sand. As usual, I went down, the bike on top of me. I shut off the engine, and slid my leg out from underneath it. At least in sand I never get hurt.
The fall, soft as it was, did tweak my knee again, and I could feel it. By “it” I mean the after effects of the last hard crash. When I got up from today’s mishap, my knee hurt more than usual, which means I was correct in thinking that nothing really was “crushed” in the big crash, but the leg was turned and tweaked. That’s all I need, I thought.
I didn’t say anything about the knee, though, because I didn’t want Hal to think I was being a baby, and he helped me get the bike upright. “This sucks,” I said.
“Where’d I leave that bike?”
“I agree,” Hal answered. We got my bike turned around, and we walked it out using the throttle to make it propel itself. Then Hal had to walk back into the sand to get his bike. He had been about 300 feet in front of me when I went down (because I was going too slowly), and stopped when he saw what happened.
He rode his bike out, and then we conferred. “What do you want to do now?” he asked.
“Well, let’s just go back out,” I said. “This happens every time we come here, every time we try to ride this area. I keep thinking there are going to be good trails here, and it always ends up sucking.”
“Yeah, I know,” he agreed. After I’d shamed myself as a true adventure rider, I didn’t even care that I was “giving up” on that wash.
Where we were, there was a split in the road, and instead of going right, which was the way we had come in, we took the left. I guess we were both hoping to find something amazingly worth riding. Not!
At least I got a “wildlife” shot, a beautiful moth:
It was just another endless wash, full of deep sand. It was “hate-able” from the beginning, and so we turned around again. “Let’s take that same way back out,” Hal said resignedly. “At least we know it’s not sand. Do you want to ride some more, or go back and get some coffee or something instead?” he asked.
I thought about it. The allure of sitting and talking over coffee was great, but I wanted to ride. “How about going back to Ord again?” I said. “It’s not the most thrilling ride, but at least we know it’s fun, and I want to ride!”
“Sounds good,” Hal said. And soon we were back on the 87 headed north.
I should have mentioned earlier that the weather was perfect. It was fairly cool, and there were clouds in the sky! In fact, as we had passed Four Peaks earlier, it looked very dark, and there was virga falling from the steel gray clouds that hung over the peaks. It was very dramatic. Yet, as we were struggling through the wash in the sand, the sun had come out and beat down on us mercilessly. I started to sweat, and even with my Under Armour shirts on, I could feel the dampness on my skin.
As we headed north to Mt. Ord, the air was cooler as we climbed. I was glad of it, though, and then as I looked up at Ord, the sky was dark up there, too. Maybe we’ll run into some rain after all! I thought. I’d left my rain gear home on purpose, thinking that would surely make it rain!
We reached the turn to go up Mt. Ord, and as we passed a small pull-out, we saw an American car, one of those big “boats” like a “Grand Marquis”-style thing, and four older women. The hood of the car was up, and they obviously had a problem. We buzzed by, but then Hal pulled over. “Should we see if we can help them?” he asked.
“Yes, we should,” I answered. So, we turned around and went back.
The four ladies were from Minnesota, had wintered in Mesa, but were returning home. The husband of one of them had gone ahead, and he was driving the truck with their trailer attached to it. The car was disabled now, but at least they’d been able to drive it to a safe place, out of the way of traffic.
At first, I thought it was going to be something simple, like it needed water in the radiator, but there was a pool of oil under the car, and a line of it had dripped from the road to where the car was parked. Hal put his hand under the car and swiped the oil to see what it looked like. It was tinged red, so it was either transmission or steering fluid. The woman who owned the car was on the phone to Triple A, and there was nothing we could do for the four ladies. Well, except for Hal, who was coming up with one-liners to make them laugh.
They thanked us for stopping, and then we went up the mountain. It was even more fun than it had been last week, and we went up twice as fast. It was almost cold on top of Mt. Ord, but I didn’t stop to put on any layers. I wanted to keep that feeling of cold for the near future, for the time that will surely come during the heat of summer when my skin forgets what it is like to feel cold air on it.
Dark clouds up on top of Mt. Ord:
View to the east as we descended:
Time was running out, Hal had to be home early, so we went back down Mt. Ord. We checked in with the four ladies before we left. Help was on the way, so we said goodbye and good luck, and got back onto the Beeline Hwy. to head back to town. The weather was perfect again until we got into traffic, and then it was hot. I thought, wasn’t it just a couple of hours ago that I was feeling almost cold?
The day was over too soon again, but the one thought I had at the end of it was that since I had gone down again in the sand, that was my “third thing.” Usually when I crash my mountain bike or motorbike, there are three drops or crashes. That was the third one, and now it’s over for a long time. Once I thought of that, I was glad I’d been in the sand, and I didn’t even go there on purpose to break the jinx!