Quest for snow

Above: Dry Webber Creek


Webber Creek, and the Verde River, 12-21-14

Sunday’s ride should have been titled, “Quest for Snow.” But, what was I thinking? It is in the 70° F. range here in the Valley. Sometimes it doesn’t matter, though, so I rode out on the DR650 in hopes of shooting some images of “snow trees.”

Hal and I stopped in Payson for breakfast, this time trying a new restaurant, Tiny’s, on Hwy. 260 at the east end of town. I liked the atmosphere, it was “Christmas-y” with pretty decorations, the food was okay, the coffee was good, but the bathrooms … well, I won’t say. We were told that the place is being gradually re-done, and slowly but surely it is being improved. Let’s just leave it at that because my experience there was positive.

I was warm on the ride, my jacket liner plugged in. I was also wearing sweatpants under my riding pants, which I’ve never done before. I wore tights under those, too, and the combination kept me comfortable all day. On top I had a long-sleeve t-shirt made for colder weather, which I got cheap at Costco (very nice shirt), and another over-shirt, the Freeze Out brand sold by Cycle Gear, also good at keeping most of the cold air out. Then there was my heated jacket liner, and the winter overcoat. I felt like the Michelin Woman with so much clothing on, but I was warm.

After we left the restaurant, we rode to Houston Mesa Rd. and took it to Control Rd. I thought we were going to take Hwy. 87 north out of town and continue to just outside of Pine where we would pick up Control Rd., but Hal thought differently. We discussed it, and I said I thought Webber Creek was closer to Pine, but when we got to the intersection of Houston Mesa Rd. and Control Rd., Hal turned east. Well, maybe I am wrong, I thought, and I followed him.

I enjoyed Control Rd., which is easy, but has enough changes in elevation and curves to keep it interesting. I was already figuring out that there was going to be no snow since when we left town the temperature read 54° F. The road we were on was damp, with good traction, more toward “wet” in some places, and I could tell there had recently been snow on it. It was much too warm, though, and had been for a couple of days, for the snow to stay.

We rode over several small bridges, creek crossings, and as I looked down at the creeks, they were all bone dry. We are still in a drought cycle here in the southwest, and I wished again that the winter storms of a few years ago would materialize this year. It was amazing to be on forest roads this late in the year (usually closed due to snow), and there was nothing up on top of the Mogollon Rim either. I looked up there as we left town, and didn’t even see a dusting of snow. Very odd.

Finally, we came to where I knew we were only a couple of miles from the other end of Control Rd., where it intersects with the 260. I kept saying to myself “we’re going the wrong way, I’ll bet” as we rode, and I was right. There was no joy in knowing I was right, as the light was already starting to slant low. Trust me to choose the “shortest” day of the year to try to shoot photos, and especially shoot in IR where light is one of the most important ingredients for a successful image.

We stopped at the intersection with Hwy. 260, and Hal said, “Obviously we should have turned left.” Uh, yeah.

“It’s okay,” I said, “it’s still salvageable. We can take 260 back through Payson, to outside of Pine, and go in there. We still should be able to shoot something.” So, that’s what we did. We were essentially doing the route that we had planned, but just as a “figure 8” instead of a loop.

By the time we got to Webber Creek, though, I was in for a big disappointment. First, there was no snow, of course. Then, the creek was dry, as I’d suspected, and the last thing was that previous water flows had “re-arranged” some of the rocks in the creek bed. I was looking forward to shooting a particular rock formation, and it was almost obliterated by “babyhead” rocks that had been deposited there, probably during the spring when there was actual water flowing. I got out the cameras, though, and tried to make the most of what was there.

Hal and I then conferred and decided to go back on Houston Mesa Rd., then a couple of miles north on 87 to where the road crosses the Verde River. We’d shot photos there before that turned out well, and I thought this trip could yield at least a few good images.

By the time we got there, the light was really slipping away, but we managed to make the best of it again. There is always something interesting to shoot, in my opinion. I just didn’t get a lot of IR images because the light was too dim. I was glad I had brought the T2i with which to shoot color.

Finally, we could wring no more images from the landscape, and we got back on the bikes to ride home. Before we left, though, I changed to my clear visor on my helmet, and clear-lens glasses, for the trip home. The sun had just barely set by the time we left Payson, and I noticed a dusting of snow high on the Mazatzal Mountains to the west, only in the very highest elevations, and on the sides where the sun is meager during the day. All the way “down the hill” to home we were treated to a spectacular sunset, the sky painted with hot pinks and oranges to contrast with the purples and blues. One cloud formation looked like a pod of humpback whales, probably produced by the strange strong wind that suddenly sprang up between Rye and Mt. Ord.

I was thinking while I rode Hwy. 87 home. Thinking about how I need a better job, one that I can work from the road, or work in a reasonably creative, isolated, independent work environment. Or at least a job that I can sit in a cubicle and not hear noise all day, and not have a pointless job in which I am always “held accountable” for things over which I have no control. I was also thinking about how time is running out in my life, and that I might not get to do all the things I want to. More and more, the allure of the stories on appeal to me. These are stories about people who sell all their belongs, pack their motorcycles, and get on the road. It sounds more and more appealing to me every day. If only my husband would want to do the same.

I came back to reality, and watched as the sunset simmered at the edge of the horizon, draining away gradually to purple night. I split from Hal and made my way home. I had ridden a total of 240 miles, an easy day for me, and had another wonderful day on the DR650.


2 thoughts on “Quest for snow

  1. In the first part of your post I got the vision of you as a bike riding Don Quixote (yes, with Hal as Sancho Panza) in a quest for snow – then sadly it took a dark turn. Sorry to hear that your job is getting you down, but I’m guessing we are in the majority on this point…to quote a fav song: “Life is to short, so don’t even try, to bother waving as it passes you by…”

    • I think so, too. Many of my colleagues are burned out and tired of the whole thing. At least I have some time off now, and I’ll try not to think about eventually having to go back.

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