(continued from yesterday)
The temperature in Prescott had dropped several degrees after sundown, and I knew I was going to need to put on every bit of the clothing I had shed earlier in the day. I was shivering already as I stood near the bike, but after I got all my gear put on, I was a bit warmer. I asked Hal if he wanted to go to I-17 and blast down the interstate to home, but then I realized how silly that was. Going to the interstate from here was way out of our way. We were closer to re-joining Hwy. 93 and going back home through Wickenburg, and it would take much less time. The only problem was we were going to have to ride White Spars and then Yarnell Hill in the dark. Both of those roads are full of tight turns. I like riding them in the daylight, but I was not sure about how it would be at night. So far, I could not have imagined that the DR would be such a pleasant bike to ride. It exceeded all my expectations. The dual sport tires had worked out great on pavement, and in the dirt. I wondered how it was going to feel to ride tight turns on them, and I was about to find out.
Hal pulled over at the edge of town to put on bigger gloves. I had everything on already, so I was just going to have to “man up.” I knew we were going toward warmer temperatures, but it was still going to be cold until we got down to the lower elevations.
Once we started going through the turns, though, I was moving enough to keep me warm. Later, Hal said he saw four deer on the side of the road, but I never saw them. The darkness was complete up on the side of the mountain, but I had to keep my headlight on low beam because Hal was in front of me. I didn’t want to blind him. I had to stay close enough to him for the headlight on his bike to benefit me, and it was tricky to keep the correct distance between us. My bike felt great on this type of riding, and it didn’t seem to take us very long at all to get to Wilhoit. That is where the road straightens out and opens up, and we were able to travel faster. I wasn’t much warmer, but at least we were moving more quickly toward warmth.
We coasted into the little town of Yarnell, slowing down because there are always cops there. This time was no exception. The town was pretty, though, because it was full of holiday lights that had already been put up for the season. I asked myself if I ever imagined that I would be here to see holiday lights glowing in the darkness. It would have seemed unlikely if I’d ever thought about it. I found that I was enjoying the town lit by the soft festive glow before I had to plunge down into the darkness of Yarnell Hill in a couple of miles.
Meanwhile, a few miles before we’d gotten to Yarnell, another vehicle, a truck of some kind, had pulled out behind us, and was now following us at a fast pace. So, all the way down Yarnell Hill, I had to deal with its very bright headlights in my rearview mirrors. Again, I was trying to stay close enough to Hal to let his headlight help me, but in some places I couldn’t because of the blinding reflection of the lights behind me. Despite all that, we went down through the sharp curves smoothly.
Finally, we were at the bottom of the hill, and we could ease back up to 65 mph, on our way to Wickenburg. I was shivering again, but now the air felt slightly warmer. I won’t go as far as to say “warm,” but it was warmer. About 10 miles out of Wickenburg, another person in a truck pulled right out in front of Hal. No one was behind us for miles, but yet he turned right in front of us. And drove slowly, too. There wasn’t a safe place for us to pass, so we had to stay behind him all the way to the Circle K at the edge of Wickenburg where we had already planned to gas up one last time, and get a warming cup of coffee.
At the fuel pumps, I calculated that my bike had only gotten about 45 mpg; at the first stop of the day I’d gotten around 60+ mpg. This tank had included the Bagdad road, so maybe my little bike is just “thirstier” when she is in the dirt. After fueling up, Hal went in to get coffee while I stayed with the bikes. A carload of people pulled in, parked their dirty, dented car, and the women, dressed in sloppy summer clothes and flip-flops, went inside to use the toilet. A scruffy guy, wearing headphones and smoking a stinky cigarette, sat in the backseat, oblivious to what was going on around him. This little truck stop tableau was accompanied by the ever-present blaring whine of “country” music, and I was glad when the car and its occupants moved on.
Hal returned with the hot coffee, which was uncharacteristically bitter. Usually it’s quite good here, but not this time. I was starting to warm up, though, and I knew I had about another 94 miles to ride until I got home. After we’d drunk the coffee, we geared up, then rode through Wickenburg, and back out east to Hwy. 74, which would eventually take us back to the interstate. Out in the darkness on Hwy. 74, there was nothing but cacti and millions of stars. The sky was cold black, lit only by soft starlight. Then, as we got closer to town, I saw the twinkling of the lights of far-off Phoenix. The long, straight piece of night highway stretched for 30 miles through the desert, and then, after we passed the turn-off to Lake Pleasant, we were on the brightly-lit interstate again.
Hal left me at the Loop 101 split, and then I took the 101 east for a few miles, then turned south on Hwy. 51. I left the freeway at my exit off the 60 into the east Valley, and got home with almost 400 miles for the day. The bike was good as gold through the wide range of conditions I’d experienced during this riding day.
The DR650 is an amazing bike, a real “’round the world bike,” and I am sure this is only the beginning of the great adventures I will have with it.
(Tomorrow: more riding during the long weekend!)