On the way:
July 27, 2014
Once again Hal and I find ourselves in Alpine, AZ. This is the last time of this summer, and Friday I have to go back to work. I don’t want to think about that, so here is my ride report from Sunday, July 27.
It took forever to get going this morning. Poor Hal has effectively been gone from home for two weeks, and he just barely got back from yet another business trip. Because of that, he hadn’t had time to get some things done at home, which meant he had to do them here this morning, for example, clean and lube the chain on his DR. We didn’t even go to breakfast out today, we had granola bars and coffee at the motel, and that was a good choice because even after taking that time-saving measure, we still had a somewhat late start. We finally left Alpine at 9:42.
We went north to FR249, which I am sure you are familiar with by now from my reports. It was fast and easy, and we took it to 88B, a forest road that is as yet undiscovered by us. It was much like 88, very pretty, narrow, and fun. It intersected with 88 east of where we usually join it, and we took 88 west to FR285. We had never been on the segment of 285 that is north of the 88 junction, and it, too, was scenic, easy, and fun. We can travel very fast on these gravel forest roads, and that is how we get to travel so many roads in one day.
I was looking for another road as we rode north on 285. It was on the map, but it didn’t have a number marked, at least on the map I had looked at. There could only be so many roads going west off 285 between the 88 junction and Springerville, I reasoned. I was in the lead anyway, Hal behind me, because most of these roads are mapped in my head. Once I look at a map, I usually can remember how the roads fit together.
Soon we were no longer riding through evergreen forest punctuated by aspens, as is usual here. We must have climbed enough to be above the tree line and were in a high grassy plain. Then we found the road, FR90, and I thought, this has to be it! 90 was a single lane twisty road, and it rose and fell through the open grassy plain. Sooner than I thought, we came to 261, a paved road that we had been on with the car years ago, and the road I was looking for.
Hal in the rearview:
The route had been planned up until this point, but now it was time to “wing it.” I suggested we take it to 273 near Big Lake, and then go west to get FR116. 116 is familiar, and it is a pleasant unpaved road. I also knew that we’d been on most of it, but not all of it, and this time we were going to take it past FR72, where we usually get on it when coming the opposite way, and then go to Reservation Lake. The lake is appropriately named since it is on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. It was only about one mile onto the reservation, but when we got there, the road turned to crap and there was a sign that said something about “No ATVs or dirt bikes allowed on the reservation.” I am not sure what that was all about since the sign was so faded and full of holes that I could hardly read it. All I knew was that we were going to turn around and get the hell out of there. The reservations are sovereign nations and they can do what they want with those who cross the line onto their land. So, we spun around, and left quickly. After that, it was a quick ride back to FR72, one of our favorite roads.
72 is not “big bike friendly,” as they say. It is rocky in places and narrow in almost all places. In other words, it’s really fun! It also had a lot of trees that had fallen either partially across the roadway, or had been cut in the section that lay across the road. It was fun to ride fast on this road and enjoy the feeling of being out in the wild, lush forest. The sun was still out, the afternoon thunderstorms hadn’t moved in yet, and the temperature at this higher elevation was perfect. We rode 72 as it descended to FR25, the main connecting road of this part of the network.
We didn’t stay on 25 too long, though. It is a dirt super highway, and we wanted something a little more than that. Farther up 25 was the perfect road – FR68. 68 twists and climbs, and usually is not heavily traveled. It starts out on the 25 end reasonably sedately, but almost immediately begins to climb. It, too, is somewhat narrow, about a lane and a half wide, and if we did meet traffic coming the other way, it was easy to find a path far to the right and not have to stop. After a while, though, as we got higher in elevation, the road is made up of perfectly engineered turns, and Hal and I were riding our bikes like we’d stolen them! It was so much fun, it was like racing. We were taking racing lines through the curves, and powering through the straight sections. It was wonderful! However, as we came to the campgrounds that were near the Big Lake recreation area (yes, we’d done a big loop), we slowed down. There was more traffic, and we wanted to be cautious.
After we came to the end of 72, we went briefly onto 249 again, and then to 285. Our route looped and intertwined today, and we took 285 back to 88, only this time we were aiming for Auger Canyon Rd. to intersect with FR81, the route we’d wanted to take at the end of last week’s ride until that was quickly ended with the flat tire on Hal’s bike. When we came out on the east side of the mountain and began to descend toward Auger Canyon Rd., we saw the whole valley below us, and the storm clouds, which had been gradually gathering the past couple of hours, were coming quickly for us. The whole east, south, and southwest were dark, and already there was rain falling near Alpine.
Riding into the storm:
Were we going to get caught in a storm – again?
(Tomorrow: riding the storm out)