A spectacular fall ride

Above: one of many IR photos I got in Oak Creek Canyon. For more, check out my photography blog at http://azbeemergirl.wordpress.com


Day ride to Sedona
October 26, 2014

Last Sunday, my riding partner and I got on the road early in order to have a full riding day and still meet some friends in Sedona for a late lunch.

We left my house at 8 o’clock, on the road early, for us. We wanted to have another good long riding day, and that included going through Payson, and then north through Pine and Strawberry. After that, we were up on the Mogollon Rim, and into cooler weather.

When we’d left Fountain Hills, a town on the northeast side of the Phoenix, AZ area, the temperatures were already on the “too warm” side, at least in my opinion. By the time we got up onto the Rim, the temperatures were considerably cooler, enough to make me glad I had put on another (thin) layer before we’d left town.

20 or so miles after we’d left Strawberry and climbed, then passed Clint’s Well, we turned onto Lake Mary Rd., on the way to Flagstaff. The air was pleasantly cool, but this time there was a strong headwind. I didn’t mind, though, because I was on my F650GS, and I was totally comfortable. Leaves were swirling in the autumn wind, and I was enjoying every moment of the season.

We rode through dark green coniferous forest highlighted by a few aspens shining gold in the sun. Soon we were descending to a dry lakebed, called Mormon Lake. The wind blew across the wide, open expanse, and far to the west I saw the San Francisco peaks. No snow there yet, but I would have bet it was cold enough on top for a light dusting of snow. We were traveling north briefly, then we swooped around a turn and headed west.

The wind was getting fierce by then, which is normal for this particular spot. Soon we were passing Lake Mary. I noticed how low it was. This drought cycle has really taken its toll on Arizona, and I hope we get a wet winter to replenish all the lakes and rivers.

In Flagstaff, we fueled up. It is 180 miles from my house to the Chevron at the edge of town where we always stop. Hal and I took a short break there, and then we were on our way again. This trip we stayed on 89A south, on our way to Sedona!

89A has been repaved since the last time we were here, at least two years ago. The road was very pleasant and much easier than the last time we’d ridden it. On previous trips, we’d noticed it was in serious need of resurfacing. The downside is that now the nicer road draws more people, and it was crowded once we descended to Oak Creek Canyon. And no wonder, the trees were beautiful, in perfect autumn form. I was carrying my IR camera on the bike. I’ve been here many times, but never seemed to be able to capture with a camera the magic of autumn. I’ve tried to shoot color, but I always seem to end up with photos that look like everybody else’s. That would not happen this time!

We found a great little pullout to park the bikes, just off the road, but not in the dirt (Hal was on his road bike), and we spent 20 minutes or so there. We didn’t have a lot of time since we were due on the west side of Sedona by 1:30. I made the most of my time there, though, because later, when I got home, I found that a good amount of the photos that I took turned out well.

After we got back on the bikes, we rode slowly through the wonder of autumn. Everyone drives slowly through Oak Creek Canyon since it is spectacular whenever you go, and particularly so when it is the fall season. This year was probably the best trip we’ve done, though.

We seem to always gravitate toward Sedona around Halloween, and this year was no exception. When we arrived in town, the place was jammed with tourists. No surprise. We were lucky – again – that an open parking spot seemed to just “appear” in front of us, and right near the fudge shop where we wanted to go. After we de-geared, we went straight to The Sedona Fudge Company where I bought a couple of (pricey) slices of fudge! I hadn’t had it in a long time, though, so I felt that I could splurge!

I was dying for a cup of good coffee, so we took a chance at the coffee stand in the little mall right in front of where we’d parked the bikes. Amazingly, it was super-good coffee, and I wanted to take my time and savor that cup of coffee. It was getting late, though, so we gulped the coffee, walked out to the bikes, packed the fudge (LOL), geared up, and eased out into the steady flow of tourist traffic. We followed the road down into a roundabout, stayed on 89, and rode west. I kept my eyes moving, watching traffic and watching for the shopping center where we were supposed to turn in. It was easy to find, however, and soon we were de-gearing in the parking lot. It was time to meet some other photographers!

We entered Café José, and our soon-to-be-friends were waiting. I was kind of laughing to myself, halfway embarrassed, because they’d been audience to our de-gearing and my hair-brushing as we got ready to meet them. Oh, well, I thought, better that than having helmet head. I didn’t say anything, but it was an amusing thought.

Hal and I spent about two hours talking with the two couples, and shared stories and photography tips. It was 3 o’clock when we left the restaurant, and then we still had to gear up. Hal and I always make a ritual out of that, probably because we don’t have any other time to talk if we’re riding all day. We had to wind through the parking lot on the way out because of construction, but finally we got to a street with a stoplight. We had to make a left-hand turn, and that was going to be impossible without a light because of the heavy traffic.

Once we got onto 179 south toward I-17, we had to contend with the roundabouts, and you know how I hate those. They are just annoying. There are about 10 of them (or more, I lost count after that) between Sedona and the interstate. Finally, we were on I-17 back to Phoenix.

The rest of the trip was uneventful until I got into central Phoenix. All the sports fans that had just left the Arizona Cardinals football game were living up to the stereotype of sports fans being unthinking idiots. They all were going 90+ mph in their pickups, tailgating me because I wasn’t going fast enough for them, even though I was in the diamond lane where I was supposed to be. How did I know they were Cardinals fans? Because they all had those personal license plates that said so. I might not have made the connection between the end of the football game and the dangerous driving had I not seen all of those “FB” designated plates on the back of all the pickups flying by.

They also enjoyed cutting me off, seeing how close they could come to my bike with their pickups, and one Einstein thought it would be fun to swerve around me and turn on his windshield wipers and cleaning fluid so it would splash on my helmet visor. To me, that is what is wrong with the whole country these days. People think that what is portrayed in TV ads by the car companies and what they see on reality TV is actually “reality.” But, since each of their IQs is probably comparable to that of an amoeba, they would be too stupid to differentiate between what’s real and what’s not.

Somehow, I evaded death, and arrived home around 6 p.m., another great riding day with around 400 miles under my wheels. This is the beginning of our main riding season in the southwest, and now I will be able to ride every weekend.


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