Another perfect riding day

The venerable GS that makes me “AZGSgirl”:

If I could have created and asked for a dream day of riding, it wouldn’t have been any different than this past Sunday. The ride to Flagstaff and Oak Creek Canyon in Arizona included a tasty breakfast, varied weather conditions, a stop along Oak Creek for a photo opportunity, and best of all, it was a long day of 400+ miles. What more could I ask for?

The plan didn’t work out exactly as I’d hoped. On Saturday, while picking up (from Colin) my recently-acquired 2009 F650GS, I found out that the gas tank had cracked to the point that it is leaking fuel. This after last week when the valve cover seal was weeping oil (fixed). Needless to say, I am disappointed because now I will have to buy a new gas tank from BMW ($1200). So far, I’m not too happy with this bike. Well, would you be??

That is what led to taking my 2006 BMW F650GS, my old faithful, Jewel. I was happy about that, though, because it is my easiest bike to pack and the one that protects my cameras best.

I joined up with Hal and Boyd, my riding partners for the day. We first rode to Payson for breakfast at Crosswinds restaurant at the airport, which was packed because of the Memorial Day holiday. While there, we stared out the window at the building clouds over the Mogollon Rim. I smiled.

At Crosswinds restaurant:

Luckily, I had checked the weather forecast online before I left home. The forecast for Flagstaff was 49° and rain. Really? I had thought hopefully. I packed all my gear despite the sun and heat in the Phoenix area. I was ready for any type of weather.

We left the restaurant and rode north toward Pine (arts/crafts festival in full swing), and Strawberry. Our ultimate destination was going to be Flagstaff via Lake Mary Rd., a favorite route. “The boys” were on faster bikes, Hal on his BMW R1100RS, and Boyd on his Gold Wing, but after the initial 65 miles, most of the ride would be spent around a reasonable speed for the good old GS to handle.

As we climbed up on the Mogollon Rim, the temperature dropped. I’d put my jacket liner in, so I was very comfortable sitting behind the big windscreen, and I had the hand guards protecting my hands. It was a sun and clouds day on the Rim, absolutely beautiful, and as we got to Lake Mary, the sky was mostly overcast and gorgeous with varying shades of gray and blue. The views were, as always, spectacular. Soon, we fueled up at the Lake Mary Rd. Chevron just outside of Flagstaff, and before we knew it, we were headed down 89A, twisting down the steep switchbacks, into Oak Creek Canyon!

At first, it wasn’t as crowded with Memorial Day traffic as I’d thought it would be. We found a pullout to stop and do the photo shoot. Here is one of many images that I got:

Slender Trees:

I shoot in IR most of the time now. If you are not familiar with IR photography, anything bright green turns white in IR, and I need at least partial sun to do the “paint with light” effect. Fortunately, the light then in Oak Creek Canyon was perfect. This monochrome look is the look that I love.

Back on the bikes, we headed down the canyon toward Sedona. The road became more crowded the farther down we got. Later, we realized that was why there were so many DPS officers out on motorcycles when we’d never seen them there before. About five miles north of Sedona, we saw another problem. Traffic was backed up from Sedona all the way out to almost five miles north of Sedona, the worst I’d ever seen.

After inching along in traffic for a while, I got tired of it, and the temperature on Hal’s R1100RS started to creep up, so we decided to bail. We turned around in a small spot, and headed back toward Flagstaff. Yay, more miles! 🙂 By this time, the clouds were really darkening, and after starting to get warm sitting there in traffic, I was relieved to be going back up in elevation to the cool weather. Just before we started to climb the switchbacks going north, it started to rain. The sky was beautiful, and it was cold. I was in heaven! Jewel negotiated the turns in her usual predictable, dependable way, and soon we were up on top.

Back at the Chevron station:

Hal and I were chatting the whole time on the comm. system, and we chose to go back to the Chevron and get some coffee (best coffee on the road, IMO), a snack, and figure out the plan for the rest of the day. The rain let up temporarily, and then as we were sitting on the bench outside the door drinking coffee at the Chevron, it began to rain fairly hard. It was lovely. There I was, in May, shivering slightly and about to ride out into the rain!

Just before the rain started:

I didn’t even bother putting on full rain gear, I figured that the rain wouldn’t last long enough to matter. But we did ride all the way past Lake Mary under a dark glowering sky and through insistent rain. Behind the protective windscreen, I was comfortable, not getting too wet, hands warm with the grips on. I did not need more heated gear than that.

We rode back to Payson for dinner at Macky’s Grill (and more coffee, of course!), and then we rode down the hill to home. I got home in the dark, about 9 p.m., the most wonderful thing in the world to me. We’d done a good full mileage day through all kinds of weather, and I loved every moment of it! I wish I could be on the road all the time, but that is another story …

– Jo


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