A snowy riding day

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Was I just writing the other day about the heat while on a ride? I was! And now here I am with a story from the other end of the weather spectrum – cold and snow!

A few weeks before this, we rode in Death Valley where it was almost 100° F., and then we roasted in the unseasonable heat here at home. This time I put my jacket liner and pants liner back in. The forecast said highs in the 40°s F. for Flagstaff, with a small chance of rain. Oh gosh I hope so, I thought.

Hal and I headed out of town and soon got on the Beeline Hwy. Just past Fountain Hills after our first fuel stop, we were attempting to get back on the Beeline when we saw that a big plastic cooler had fallen out of a pickup truck into the roadway. The man who had dropped it was trying to pick up the mess before traffic smashed it. All the stuff that was in the cooler fell out, too, and the guy was trying to pick that up as well. He was blocking the left lane, and his vehicle was parked on the right side shoulder. Then an SUV stopped in the left lane to keep traffic from the hitting the first man. Everyone slowed down.

Hal and I were waiting at the light to turn right. Hal started to go, but still being very “gun shy,” I thought to myself, I am not getting into that mess. Our intercom system was still not working, so I wasn’t able to tell Hal to wait. He pulled out, and just then a young woman driving a silver car came barreling through the scene, not paying any attention. I don’t know how she managed not to hit anyone. If she’d hit that SUV from behind, she could have killed the people on the roadway in front it.

As it was, she came very close to Hal as she slithered through the small space between him and the right shoulder. I don’t know how she didn’t hit him. She was completely oblivious to the whole thing until she got past the scene. Then, as realization washed over her, she slowed way down, like maybe she figured out what just almost happened and actually cared about the people she might have hit. It made me freak out again about what happened to me.

When we got to Payson, we pulled in at a Circle K so Hal could put on more clothing layers since he was already getting cool. I asked Hal if he knew how dangerously close that woman in the silver car had come to him. “Yep,” he said in a flat voice, “about four inches.” I shuddered.

We left Payson behind and climbed up on the Mogollon Rim. It was in the 50°s F., not too cool yet. We pulled over again at Clint’s Well to turn on the video cameras. I thought again about how I should always have a video camera on while in the car (if I ever drive again) or on a bike in case an accident happens. Today I could have caught that “almost accident” in Fountain Hills.

Lake Mary Rd., when we got to it, was as pleasant as it always is. It is one of my favorite roads. There were many piles of snow on the sides of the road, evidence of last week’s storm. The snow was melting, the water running merrily from the snow banks, racing along the sides of the road. Before I knew it, we had reached the east end of Mormon Lake – a beautiful sight on any day, but today especially so. I saw that it was wet and marshy, not dry like it usually is. There were clouds building to the west, over the mountains and Flagstaff. I had hoped to get into some rain, and the presence of clouds made me happy (or as happy as I get these days).

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By this time we’d ridden 170+ miles, and we stopped at the usual place to fuel up before riding into Flagstaff. I found that my F800ST got 67.7 mpg, which isn’t unusual for that bike. Then we rode into Flagstaff, to the Indian restaurant that we like. Yes, we rode all those miles just to have lunch at that particular restaurant (and enjoy our bikes, of course). As we pulled in to park, clouds blocked out the sun and it started to rain, and with the rain there were a few flurries of snow.

Hal and I had a nice leisurely lunch at the Indian buffet. Foods like Chicken Tikka Masala, naan bread, and then to finish it off, the coffee was excellent, too. We took our time,   talking and planning future road trips. Soon the restaurant emptied, and we knew it was time to leave.

Outside, it had been sun and clouds while we ate, but now a dark squall line advanced on us from the south. We saw it as we walked out to the bikes. We’d better gear up and get out of here, I thought, even though I secretly wanted to be IN it.

Just then, a young guy got out of the pickup truck that was parked right next to us. “Hey, that’s the exact bike I’m interested in!” he exclaimed to Hal, looking at his F800GS. The two guys got into a big conversation about the GS while the rain got heavier and heavier, and soon turned to snow. The sky was getting darker by the minute. I was getting wet because I couldn’t put my helmet on. I ride with earplugs and it is difficult to hear people talking with them in, unless it is Hal on the intercom. While I was standing there, I put my rain gear on so the rest of me wouldn’t get wet. I couldn’t believe that the guy was making us stand there talking to him while we got wet. Obviously he was not a rider!

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The snow was getting heavy, and piling up on the seat of my bike. It was also starting to stick to the ground, and I began to think about riding on ice. Finally, the conversation ended, I was able to get my helmet on over my now-wet hair, and we got on the bikes. I carefully negotiated the parking lot maze, but by the time we got to Lake Mary Rd. again it wasn’t snowing so much. Then it re-intensified as we rode past Lake Mary, which was very full.

The storm was hot on our heels, as they say, coming up behind us. But we had planned to stop at the overlook to take pictures, so we did. Especially since the sky, the colors, and the rain were so beautiful.

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My dashboard temperature readout was flashing, warning me that the temperature was 37° F., close to freezing. The storm was catching up, so after we finished taking photos, we got back on the bikes and rode out of the storm.

Soon we were in sun and clouds again, but the temperature stayed low. I was not cold or uncomfortable at all, surprisingly. My hands/gloves had gotten wet while the big conversation in the parking lot was going on, but I’d found a pair of old gloves in the bottom of my travel bag and put them on, replacing my wet pair. With the heated grips turned up, I was comfortable.

It was a lovely ride back through Clint’s well, then Strawberry, then Pine, then Payson, where we stopped for coffee again. My hair was still wet in back where it was pulled into a ponytail! I sipped my coffee slowly and sadly, knowing I would soon be riding back into the heat.

Me at Chevron 8266 smallI was a little tired, mostly from all the stress in my life lately.

The sun was sinking by then, we’d gotten kind of a late start on the day, but the clouds were golden at the horizon. We rode together from Payson, winding down the Beeline into the hot city, then Hal left me and we each rode home in the dark. Our total mileage was about 350+ miles, and about 80 miles more for Hal.

It was a wonderful day, and I’d enjoyed the crazy weather. Now all we have to do is figure out the intercom issue that we are having. It is so difficult riding without communication now that we’ve gotten used to it. I don’t know how Hal and I rode together all those years that we weren’t able to talk to each other whenever we felt like it!

No pie for you

Day 2, July 26

Sunday started out at much the same time as the day before. We got on the bikes around 9:30 and headed a few feet north of the lodge on the paved road to a quick escape onto unpaved FR576. We fled down the twisting road that grows less traveled and more remote the farther west it goes. We came to the intersection with FR24 and took the turn to the right onto the previously “closed” part of the road, a former no man’s land. I wrote about it last June when we experienced it for the first time. There weren’t many words that were full enough to describe the beauty and vastness of that open space.

A herd of horses, a surprise “find” on our way towards FR249:

We rode to the Black River, a sight we’d been anticipating since the night before when we’d been told that the river was “roaring.” It was running high and fast, but it wasn’t ripping through its bed.

The Black River looking very blue in infrared:

Still, it was spectacular, the highest we’d seen it in some time. It sighed over the rocks and along the banks, where grass, formerly on the shore, moved in submerged green waves, undulating with the flow of the water.

We stopped and absorbed the sight of it several times, shooting some images as we went along. Then we turned with the road and climbed steeply up FR276 to where we would find FR403.

We rode 403 west to east, and at one point, we waited briefly while some forest service workers finished cutting down the remains of a tree that had fallen across the road, a common occurrence in this area that has been ravaged by the 2011 fire.

I managed to capture this image of a deer that appeared suddenly in front of Hal:

Near the east end of 403, I asked Hal if he’d like to explore 403H, a side road that I have seen many times and was sure would be near an overlook from which we could view Alpine far below.

It turned out to be true, and we got off the bikes where it dead-ended to see the breathtaking view. We were up so high that Alpine looked tiny, and we could see Luna Lake far in the distance. The sky was blue with white puffy clouds, and the sun shone with that pure golden light unique to high elevations.

After we’d had our fill of the lovely scene before us, we talked about our plan to descend to Alpine Grill for a piece of pie before we rode the route we had planned for the afternoon. This seemingly benign decision would set in motion the events of the afternoon.

When we reached Alpine Grill, we saw that it was crowded. Oh, well, we thought, we’re just going in for a piece of pie. It shouldn’t take too long. How wrong that would turn out to be.

It must have been the work of that darn reunion, but we found the place packed. Even the bar was packed. We knew this because we parked the dirt bikes on the west side under the windows of the bar, and we could hear the rise and fall of conversations, and the clink of glasses and silverware. We were able to get a seat in the restaurant area, but when I looked at the dessert case, I saw that it was empty! We found out later that their ace pie maker was ill, and no pies had been available for some time. Plus, our favorite waitress was by herself, and she was working hard to keep up with the demands of all the customers in the restaurant.

We resigned ourselves to sandwiches, and then began a long wait. There were just too many people in the restaurant. We did not get served for a long time, and then it took a long time to eat and pay. Our afternoon was being gobbled up faster than the food on our table.

Finally, we got out of there and headed east to an area around Luna Lake. Hal wanted to see if we could find a herd of elk that we’ve seen many times in the general area. I was wondering what is the appeal of glimpsing the hindquarters of a fleeing herd of animals, but I wasn’t going to object to an opportunity to ride this road. It took a long time to get to the turnoff that we wanted, the one that would lead us deeper into the woods.

(No more photos of this day, too busy riding.)

Our bikes flowed along the dirt surface, weaving in and out of various landforms. No elk today. I had, however, noticed as we left town that the clouds were building to the east, and had said so to Hal. Normally, I don’t mind riding into the rain, but I was remembering how protected I’d been on Katarina, my 2009 F650GS, during our nine-day trip to Colorado and New Mexico, and didn’t expect the same level of protection on Alex. I just wasn’t in the mood to get soaked and freezing, because these storms come up fast. Plus, I was hoping for a late afternoon of sitting on the porch at HML and drinking hot coffee as I watched the rain.

I thought we were going to turn around at the “elk spot,” but we didn’t. Hal just kept going. He was in one of those “just a little farther” moods, and I was the caboose on this train. By now, the sky was very dark with storm clouds to the east.

“Hal! I see lightning!” I shouted urgently into the mike inside my helmet. I had no desire to be in the White Mountains in a big thunderstorm (again). We’ve had quite a few close calls. Yet, Hal kept riding headlong into it.

“I think we’re almost at the road to Luna,” he said. I was skeptical, but we still rode quite a distance into the storm. It was getting treacherously black when I said, “That’s it, I’m turning around!” I was envisioning being in the middle of a storm very soon, and I really wanted to be back at the lodge.

“Fine!” he said. I was already turning around and he had to come back. We rode like hell, and actually got to the road near where the elk usually are, and turned toward the 180 on a road we’d taken before. We started heading south, and down, and the sky darkened ominously all around us. Sure enough, the rain started, with big drops at first, as it always does. Fortunately, we stopped fairly quickly and put on rain gear. I was even able to get the difficult pants on in time. Later, I would thank myself profusely.

All this time, Hal was wearing my GoPro camera. I hoped he’d captured some of the riding in the rain. When we pulled over, though, he put the camera away.

As we got on the bikes and began to head south, the rain came down harder and harder. I was blinded by rain, and my glasses fogged up underneath my visor. They weren’t the kind of glasses that were made for dirt riding. When I cracked the visor open, the rain came down inside it, and that made it even more difficult to see. I was surprised I could keep up with Hal because I really couldn’t see. I was riding blindly.

I had gotten wet enough before we stopped to put rain gear on that I was getting cold. My hands were soaked (my fault since I refuse to wear heavy gloves), and then I saw a sign, “Luna, 10 miles” OMG, 10 more miles. Then we would have to ride several more miles into Alpine, then the 22 miles back to Hannagan. It might as well have been 100 more miles because I knew we were going to get back late. Again.

All the while I was riding and freezing and unable to see properly, I wished again to be sitting on the porch of the lodge drinking hot coffee. Suddenly, there was nothing I wanted more in the world than that coffee.

Eventually, we reached the pavement of highway180. The surface was shiny and slick, and I reminded myself that I wasn’t on Kat. Not that it mattered, Alex is competent enough in every situation. I was just not in a good mood right then, annoyed that we’d gone so far and not heeded the warning in the darkening sky.

After what seemed like forever, we got to Alpine, and the rain let up a little bit. We turned south onto 191, and watching the steam rising from the warm roadbed, we worked our way through the rain showers back to the lodge. It was about 5:30 when we got back, and I’d wanted to be “home” by 4:00. Dammit, and it was our last full day, too.

We parked the bikes, and took off our gear, then I discovered that in his hurry to get out of the rain, Hal had packed the camera away without turning it off! Oh great, two hours of blackness caught on video.

We soon dried out, and ended up talking to a nice couple from Tucson also staying at the lodge. Later, we cleaned up and went to dinner. We didn’t feel like going out again even though the rain had stopped by then. After dinner, we walked out to the horse corral on the property and met the new wrangler who was taking care of the horses that had just arrived, too. Personally, I think all horses ought to have nice big, clean, enclosed box stalls to live in inside a cozy barn, but that’s just me.

Tomorrow we’re going home already. But not before one last ride …

Willow Springs Lake

Sunday, I took my 2009 BMW F650GS out on the road to give her one last chance to behave before I go on my road trip next week. I want to take her on the trip, but so far, she has seemed a bit unwilling. However, some planning and work went into this determining ride.

Last weekend’s trip didn’t happen for this bike because of suspension issues, and last Friday I took the bike to AMP Motoworks in Mesa, Arizona. Colin B., an independent BMW mechanic, and friend, always does an excellent job on my bikes. Colin and his assistant, Mike, worked with me and the bike for a couple of hours, adjusting, measuring, and then writing down the settings. I should have written a whole post about it because the outcome of setting up the suspension properly on this bike was that significant. It did much to improve everything about riding it. Like night and day! (this is one of my favorite quotes) I should know about the importance of setting up the suspension properly by now because of my experience with mountain bikes, and with other motorcycles.

It also helped that I was able to get a BMW “low seat” to put on this bike. It is what I am most comfortable riding on, doing the big mileage, and I have low seats for all my BMWs. It was pure luck that I ended up with the one that I now have on the ’09, and I am grateful because that seat is better than a custom one for me.

But will this all be enough? I wondered as I mounted up on Sunday morning, the sidecases carrying my usual baggage for a day ride. It didn’t take long to know that it was all working! I was flooded with a feeling of relief and happiness. Now if I could only get through a day of riding without some problem happening, either large or small.

I had promised the ’09 GS, whose name is Katarina Maria, garage name “Kat,” that I would buy her some BMW logo motorcycle tire valve stem caps if she would be good from now on. (silly, I know, but that’s me) I felt it as I rolled out of the neighborhood, that it was going to be a good day, and that things would be fine. She was going to earn them.

The weather is still incredibly hot where I live in the Phoenix, Arizona, USA area. We’ve had weeks of 110° F-plus temperatures. Hal and I met up, then rode to Payson to get into temperatures that went down into the 80s. There are really only three routes out of this town, and we usually choose Hwy. 87 north because it is the most pleasant road. It is also the quickest way to the cool air. We rode through all the twisties on the way up, and the bike felt great.

In Payson, we ate a hearty breakfast at Tiny’s. By chance, we also met a nice couple, who turned out to be friends with someone else we know in Payson. The conversation started because of the boots I was wearing, and went from there!

After eating and talking, Hal and I decided to attempt another photo session at Willow Springs Lake. I said, “why don’t we go all the way to Heber and then turn around and come back to Willow Springs Lake? I want some miles with this bike today!” Hal agreed, and we rode up to the Mogollon Rim.

I had no problems this time, large or small, and by the time we got to Willow Springs Lake, the afternoon clouds had started to gather. I found the last (and best!) available parking space for Hal and I to share, and we hiked a short way to the edge of the lake. Thunder rumbled in the distance, and soon it began to rain. I put away the cameras; I’d had only enough time to shoot a few images. It was enough of a shower to get everything wet, and then it was time to start heading home.

In Fountain Hills: a cold drink at the end of a very hot day:

On the ride home, I started to feel the harmony of motorcycle and rider, something I hadn’t yet felt with this bike, but caught a glimpse of on that very first ride. It was all coming together at last, after all the doubt and worry. I had a good 250-mile day even with having to return in the extreme heat.

So, Monday morning, I went out to the garage and looked for any signs of a problem, leakage, or otherwise. There were none! I put the pretty little valve stem caps on Kat’s tires. Yeah, it’s the accessorizing that makes all the difference! 😉

I am hoping for problem-free riding with this bike from now on.


Running cold, then hot

Leaving the cool country:

Sunday, June 21, 2015

“We have to be rolling by 7:30!” Hal warned the night before.

Since I am not a morning person, I set my alarm for 6:00 in case I needed extra time to get up, packed, and the motorbike packed as well. I had plenty of time. In fact, I managed to have time to grab a cup of coffee and a muffin at the hotel’s continental breakfast because I hate getting on the road with an empty stomach. We were rolling by 7:14 a.m.

As we left the Flagstaff area, it was deliciously cool. In some places on I-17, there were pockets of air that were actually cold. I was so happy, and tried to make my body hold that memory for later when I would be roasting in the heat. Jewel was feeling good, too, probably reveling in the cool air as well. She never has trouble with her cooling system, thank goodness. I absolutely never have to worry about that, or oil consumption, since she has never used an ounce of it.

Hal and I made it to Camp Verde by 8:30-ish, and it only took a moment to fuel up. We were going to arrive in Phoenix early. Indeed, we did, because we were due to meet up with Hal’s elderly parents at 10:30, and even with time to de-gear and make ourselves somewhat presentable, it was 9:50. It was hot already, and we were lucky to be able to park our bikes in the shade.

Brunch was lovely, and we ate many wonderful foods. After we were done, Hal’s parents went home, and another friend who had joined us, Boyd, was going to stay with us on a day ride.

Hal and Boyd:

The plan was to go back up to Camp Verde, take General Crook Trail, then ride to the coolness of the Rim before returning to Phoenix via Payson. But the plan didn’t work out too well.

As we left town, again on I-17 but this time heading north, an electronic sign board warned of a crash 20 miles ahead, with long traffic backups. I knew we would not be out of the heat by then, and I did not want to sit in an indefinite delay. Hal’s bike overheats quickly, too, and would not be able to last too long and he’d have to pull over and shut it down. So, Hal raced to catch Boyd on his Goldwing, and the two exited at the New River exit, me not far behind.

There, we modified our plan. We would take New River Rd. to Hwy. 74, to Wickenburg, then ride up Yarnell Hill, have a cold drink at the little restaurant in Yarnell, then return home the same way. As we rode, I realized that I was going to be riding in heat the rest of the day. I tried not to think about it too much because it was already way too hot.

We only made it to Wickenburg. All across the desert as we rode west on 74, it was already starting to become unbearable, and by the time we reached the edge of Wickenburg, Boyd, who was in front, turned into the parking lot of the Burger King. He’d had enough. We parked our bikes and went inside for cold drinks.

It actually was quite pleasant to sit and talk for about 45 minutes or so, and cool down. But, after a while, there was no putting it off any longer – we were going to have to go back out into the heat and ride home. The guys had only about an hour to ride, but as I live on the east side of town, I had an additional hour after I left them. Before I left the restaurant, I soaked my shirt so I could be cool at least for a little while. After I left the guys, I was going to make a run through the heat for home!

As we turned back onto 74, I glanced down at my left leg. It was so hot from the wind blowing through the engine that I thought the shin of my pants was on fire! Liar liar, pants on fire! I thought. Except I wasn’t lying about anything. I kept having to hang my foot out in the wind every few minutes to cool it down. Then the wind shifted and I had the same problem on the other side for the rest of the way. The heat was terrible all the way across the open desert on Hwy. 74 back to the interstate. I wondered again how I had come to find myself riding on the hottest day of the year, at the hottest time of the day. Me, the person who hates sun and heat almost more than anything else in the world.

Once we got on the interstate, it felt a bit cooler, but cooler is a relative term, in this case. The guys left me in a few miles, and I was left to suffer through the rest of the ride to my house by myself. It wasn’t nearly as bad as going across the 74, but I was “done” by the time I got home. I unpacked Jewel and got her put up for the day, and I went inside to blissfully cold air conditioning.

The good little ’06 GS ran perfectly the whole time, and was so pleasant to ride, I caught myself thinking, why did I think I needed anything else? There were the inner arguments with myself about the relative fragility of the ’06 GS, and the fact that it won’t last forever. But maybe I should have decided to ride it until it dies, then get a new “G” series, the G650GS, which is essentially the same bike.

What’s done is done, and I am going to find out the hard way if I made the right decision.

Another ride, another … problem

Parked up on the Mogollon Rim:

Another ride, another (small) problem. Will it ever end with this bike? I thought as it was happening. What happened? you ask. Well …

Sunday, I rode the 2009 BMW F650GS. It was the first ride since the gas tank was replaced. Hal was on his red 1997 R1100RS, and we had planned to ride to Payson, then ride to the Rim and do a short photo shoot, and ride home. Hal was going out of town on Monday on a business trip and he didn’t want to be out all day.

After breakfast, while on the road climbing up to the Mogollon Rim, all of a sudden I was getting sprayed with fluid from behind the windscreen of the bike! I immediately pulled over. I checked the temperature gauge, and it was sitting right in the middle, as it always does. At the side of the road, which wasn’t very wide, the coolant stopped erupting the minute I shut the engine off.

At first, I thought that the coolant overflow tank had cracked, and that was where the liquid was coming from. But nothing was leaking from under the right side fairing, which is where the tank is.

“Let’s get the bike to the rest stop at the top,” said Hal with concern. “We’re almost up anyway.”

“Okay,” I said, knowing that I would have to pull over on an even steeper part of the grade if the bike continued to lose fluid, or worse yet, overheat. I started up the engine, everything seemed fine, and we got underway. It was literally only about two miles to the top, the temperature gauge didn’t go up, and we turned into the rest stop as soon as we got there. We found a parking spot, and then began the tedious chore of taking all the little screws out of the right side fairing to be able to move it out of the way so we could thoroughly inspect the radiator and overflow tank.

Hal taking things apart. You can easily see the white overflow tank:

After we were able to move the bodywork out of the way, we inspected the plastic coolant recovery tank first. No cracks. In fact, it looked reasonably new. However, the screw-on lid didn’t have a thin overflow hose on it, just a little hole. (I later found out that this is normal.) We had to take things apart further in order to check the fluid level lines, which, illogically, were on the back of the tank. It was overfilled, higher than the “high” line. I was fairly sure that was the problem, because if it was almost full after shooting a lot of liquid out already, there was no place else for the excess liquid to go except out of the hole in the top.

Inspecting under the fairing:

Hal and I checked all the hoses. They were all pliable and not leaking. The clamps were all on tightly. The only place there was anything wet was at the top of that recovery tank. I didn’t have anything to use to extract any more fluid from it, and since it was all attached, I couldn’t turn it upside down. I was pretty sure it was going to be okay. So, we put the bike back together.

While I was standing there in the parking lot, I noticed this little guy on the ground. Too bad he was squashed, he was pretty! (No, I didn’t squash him!):

By this time, we had used up the time we would have had to shoot photos at Willow Spring Lake. We settled for shooting a few at the rest stop, and the view from the top of the Rim was spectacular. Rain showers seemed to be building up to the west and south, and I hoped we would be rained on during the ride home. It was too hot for me to be comfortable already, and the cool rain would be nice.

Reluctant to return to the heat, we slowly rode down Hwy. 260 off the Rim; I kept a close eye on the temperature gauge again. It never moved off the halfway point, just as it had always done on the F800ST. It’s the same engine, and I expected the same behavior. We fueled up in Payson, then as we left town, we rode through wet areas on the road. It was 73° F., overcast, and rainy as we left Payson. I knew it wouldn’t last, so I tried to drink in the fantastic coolness of the air to remember later. By the time we got to Rye, it was back up to about 96°. We had gained over 20° of heat in about five miles. That part was awful.

It didn’t get any better. By the time we got south of the Sunflower, AZ turns, it was about 106° with blasting sun. It went up to 107° shortly thereafter and then stayed there for the 40+ miles home. During the ride, I kept my eye on the temperature gauge, but it didn’t move. The closer I got to home, the more confident I felt that we would make it without incident, and that I had been right in my diagnosis.

I wished for my mesh jacket as I rode. Last year, wearing a cool vest beneath a textile jacket worked, but I didn’t count on the bigger windscreen that we had just installed on the ’09 GS. It didn’t allow for as much airflow. As we entered the neighborhood, I said, “good girl!” to my GS because she had gotten me home without further problems. By the time I got home, I was overheated myself, and ready to peel off my riding clothes and jump into the pool!

All things considered, it was a good riding day. Not great, but at least I’d gotten to escape the heat for a little while. None of these problems I’ve had with this bike have been the fault of the bike, but a result of being neglected for so long. I hope we are done with the problems now, though, because I would like to feel confident that this bike is reliable, which is a big reason why I ride BMWs!

Monday morning tear-down in the garage. I can take more things apart at home. And Desmond is there to help me!:

Stoneman Lake

DR650s near Stoneman Lake, Flagstaff area, Arizona


The heat rolls in

It’s finally here – the dreaded heat of summer. To escape it, my riding partner, Hal, and I planned to ride north to the Mogollon Rim. We would take at least part of the same road we were on last week, but ride different bikes in order to explore some of the many dirt roads that radiate from Lake Mary Road.

The heat was already intense as we rode out of town on the Beeline Hwy. We were on our Suzuki DR650s for this ride, as we had planned to do some dirt. Riding dirt is one of those “you never know what you’re gonna get,” things – it could be easy, it could be rough. But first, we stopped off at Crosswinds restaurant at Payson airport for a hearty adventurer breakfast.

After we got back on the bikes, the Rim beckoned. We topped up our fuel tanks in Pine. On the way up to the Rim, we got stuck behind a “spoiler,” a cager (car driver) who couldn’t seem to negotiate the turns over 20 mph. Gosh, I hate that. There aren’t many places to pass safely on the 87 north, so we just had to grit our teeth and curse over the intercom!

Hal had mentioned that we should probably check out his property, which is north of Clint’s Well, so first we rode up there. Yep, it was still there! It’s the dumbest thing ever – he can’t even have a tent on the property over the weekend because of the HOA! I would never buy a place with a HOA, and that is one of the reasons. Who are they to control anyone’s life? Hal wants to sell that property, and that is just one of the many reasons. We stopped in at the real estate office so Hal could talk to the guy there, but selling the property in the near future doesn’t look too feasible without taking a financial loss.

We rode back to Lake Mary Rd. I was looking for a particular forest road, so I took the lead. We passed many. Hal kept saying, “is that it?” “is that it?” Nope. Finally, I found what I thought was “it.” It turned out to be the road to Stoneman Lake.

After we got past a forest service bulletin board structure, I saw a sign that said, “Primitive road, not regularly maintained. Use at your own risk.” That raises my awareness a little, but as I have said, these roads are sometimes better than the maintained roads.

Interesting sign:

This one was narrow and corrugated, but that was about it. There were a few holes in it as we wound through the thick, tall pines, and then we came to a mile-long descent. It was fun as it twisted its way down to where it came out into an open area. The sun beat down as we then found and turned onto the actual road to Stoneman Lake. Whenever I am out on these forest roads, I always think, are we the only riders out exploring? We hardly ever meet any other ‘adventure’ riders.’ But then again, maybe they’ve been there, done that already, and we are just late to the party.

Stoneman Lake road was narrower, and had ruts in it from people driving on it when it was muddy, probably last week when it rained! However, when we got to the actual lake, I was disappointed. It wasn’t a lake at all!

So much for lakefront property:

It was now “Stoneman marsh,” dry except for some green tall grass that was in the very middle of a large flat area that probably used to be the lake. The drought has dried up all but the most robust lakes. At Stoneman Lake, it was hot and dry, and we rode down onto a smaller, more rutted driveway that led to an area where people were supposed to pull out and enjoy the view of the lake. As we bumped through the dried mud, I said to Hal over the intercom, “Never put me up front again!” I laughed, but there was some truth to it. He is usually the one who rides up front, and for good reason, apparently. 😉 The road we’d taken wasn’t the one I had wanted to find. Any road is a good one, though, when ridden on a motorbike.

We stood there for a few minutes, looking at the remnants of the lake, and then we got back on the bikes and rode out, back to the main road, which was FR213. If we had gone to the right, the road would have taken us back to I-17. According to the map, the road also improved in that direction. We, however, wanted no part of I-17, so we went back the way we had come in. When we reached the forest service bulletin board that we’d seen on the way in, we pulled over and took a break.

There was a picnic table about 300 feet behind the board, and we went over to it and sat down. We sat there, relaxing, for a while. It was nice to not be surrounded by thousands of people and their noise, for once. While we were there, all we could hear were the occasional pinecones dropping from trees, and the sound of squirrels making their way through the underbrush. It was an island of calm in the storm of urban insanity. An escape to the forest is always good to restore inner peace.

After a while, we rode back to Pine, got coffee at the Ponderosa Market, and waited for the blaring glaring sun to go down sufficiently so it wouldn’t be a miserable ride home.

At the Market:

It was still miserable, but not as bad as it could have been if we’d had to ride in the sun. I got home after twilight, and had ridden a good full day of 350 miles or so.

Next weekend, we are in the White Mountains for a couple of days of blissful riding, but my summer long-distance riding is still in limbo.


If you are “into” horse riding as well, check out my (somewhat wanna-be) equestrian blog at https://arabianhorselover.wordpress.com

and, of course there is my photography blog, if you like good photography: https://azbeemergirl.wordpress.com


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