On the way to the Overland Expo, we fueled up in Fountain Hills (no worries about small gas tanks!), we got on the road toward Flagstaff via the “backdoor route.” This route goes through Payson, then Strawberry and Pine, up on to the Mogollon Rim, past Clint’s Well, then onto Lake Mary Road, a beautiful, lightly traveled road that we hadn’t ridden for a while. This route was the main reason I was enthused about riding north to Flagstaff. I loved feeling my GS bike underneath me, and I felt light and lithe as we went along because of having less luggage than I have had on previous trips.
It was hot as we left town, and it was only 9:30 a.m. I noted this, thinking that when I returned on Sunday it was going to be much later in the day. It would be a lot hotter. For now, I was comfortable in the mesh jacket, and was confident I’d made the right choice of gear. I was wearing jeans under my riding over-pants, but once I got to Payson, the jeans did not feel hot anymore. We by-passed our usual breakfast stops because we’d eaten before we left home. We wanted to get to the event, and maybe eat a light lunch at the venue.
After Strawberry and Pine, we were up on the Rim, and the air turned much cooler. When we turned onto Lake Mary Rd., I could smell the wonderful smell of pine forest. In addition there was that woodsy smell, enhanced, I think, by wood chips spread on the forest floor by the forest service. I also noticed how debris on the floor of the forest was minimal; they must have cleaned it up a bit in anticipation of a horrendous wildfire season ahead. The clean air smelled delicious in the sun that now seemed more benevolent than malevolent.
Riding on Lake Mary Road, I was on the verge of actually feeling cold. I had not bothered to stop and put in the wind-proof liner of my jacket, but I was enjoying the cold for the moment. By the time I felt cool, I was pretty sure I only had about 25 miles to ride anyway, and then we’d be there. I was right, and soon we got to one end of the Mormon Lake Rd. (it’s a loop), but Hal rode by it. Then when we got to the other end of it, he disagreed with me that it was a loop, and we had to go back to the original entrance. It was okay, the Expo was closer to that east end.
As I had predicted, when we got to the venue we had to pay an exorbitant amount to get in, and had to ride on a dusty loose surface to park in a field. I didn’t care since I had the GS, but Hal was on his R1100RS. He never minds riding anywhere, even off-road, but I would have if I’d had my street bike. We parked in the grass, and we both had to find a solid object to put under each of our side stands because the surface wasn’t level. As I de-geared, I thought it was much warmer than I’d expected, and I also had expected the event would be held in the area with trees. Most of it wasn’t. It was just more hot dustiness.
We were at Mormon Lake Lodge, a place I hadn’t been to for at least 10 years. When I’d been there before, the place was nearly deserted, and it had been a cold day. There was a fire going in the main restaurant fireplace, and I remember drinking a cup of coffee there. It was a lovely time, but now, at the height of the Overland Expo, it was seething with people. Hal and I walked toward the area where the vendors were and tried to figure out where the motorcycle stuff was! The OX’s vague map didn’t have too many hints!
At the venue:
At last we found what we were looking for, and we started to search for people that we know and only see at this Expo. To be honest, I was hungry and I hadn’t had enough coffee before I left, so I had a huge headache. We stopped in at the GoAZ booth and watched a guy we always seem to run into at these things stand in front of us and eat two enormous hotdogs slathered in ketchup and mustard without inviting us to eat some, too. They were making the hotdogs there at the booth and I didn’t know what you had to do to get one, much less two, but whatever it was, I was willing to do it. No go. Sadly, it was sunny and hot, the very things I was trying to escape, and even after I finally found a decent cup of coffee, I had to dive into the shade of the trees to halfway enjoy it.
Finally, we found Nicole, who is the managing editor of ADV Moto magazine and I really enjoyed talking with her. She is always so positive. Soon, we found our way over to the Rawhyde area and watched some riders go through a small, easy course for “open riding.”
They were riding over some small logs, and I thought how I wouldn’t even have clearance to get over those on the GS! Then we went behind that area to where there was a field of deep cinders for the participants to ride through, similar to riding through deep sand. Some guys on big GS bikes dropped them in the cinders, and one woman had a Honda 230L that she only made it about five feet then dropped it as well. She did it twice. I was trying to hear some of the advice the Rawhyde instructor was giving her, but it was just “keep your eyes up,” and “well, you just have to practice.” Ugh. I suck at riding in sand, and apparently, others do too.
Some of the things we saw:
It was fun to walk around and look at all the things people come up with for “adventure travel.” There were tents that go on the top of a pickup, there was a camper that articulated, up when parked, and down when on the road. There were solar panels, grill surfaces, and all manner of ways to carry things. This is one of those places to go, look, but don’t take seriously. After all, real adventure travelers make do with what they’ve got, and, they are not looking at stuff at the Expo, they are out having adventures.
Tent on top:
After we’d been there about four hours, we were both sufficiently tired of it, so we headed into Flagstaff to “camp” at the Motel 6. I think Motel 6 is the best bargain out there, and we found this place clean and nice. We usually find the Motel 6s clean and nice, with a few exceptions, of course, but that’s how it is with any hotel or motel. Motel 6 is what we can afford, and I am glad it is so good.
We unpacked our bikes, then took a look around the area to see which restaurants were within walking distance. There was a Café Rio, a Buffalo Wild Wings, a Delhi Palace, and a Wal-Mart. I voted for the Indian restaurant, and so we walked over to it. It turned out to be the best meal out I’d had in a long time! I was still so hungry, and the food tasted even better than it normally does. I had an Indian coffee, and it was so good, but later I would pay the price for drinking caffeine that late.
After dinner, Hal and I walked back over to the motel. We sat and talked for a while, working on plans for our summer riding season, and we looked at some maps that we’d bought. The brand of maps that we got were supposed to be so good, but after we started looking at them, we were disappointed that they were not better laid out. It’s too bad because we have to watch every penny we spend, and it sucks when we spend money only to find out the product is not what we wanted.
We both agreed that we enjoyed the ride and being in Flagstaff, but that we didn’t necessarily have to attend the OX every year. It’s very expensive, and most of the products are over-priced, and over-the-top. True adventurers find ways to make everyday objects fit their needs without spending big bucks on shiny things.
Tomorrow: on the way home