A snowy riding day

Clouds and road 170325 small

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.

Our bikes at overlook 3304 small

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!

West Side story


White minerals shine,
Sun bites down, an angry glare;
heat sinks to the depths

Hal, Juliette 3207 small

March 14, 2017

Heat, shimmering white minerals, and vast distances – that was what I thought I would experience today on West Side Rd. during our last riding day in Death Valley for this trip.

The day started much the same as yesterday, with a ride up and over Daylight Pass. However, Hal and I took the “Beatty cutoff” down toward Furnace Creek. Our plan was to ride West Side Rd., a road that runs between the floor of Death Valley and the Panamint Range.

As is typical for the deceptively vast distances in Death Valley, by the time we got on West Side Rd. we had already ridden 50 miles from our starting point in Beatty. When you look at a map of Death Valley, you often don’t realize how spread out it is, and how far it is between destinations – and fuel stations.

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West Side Rd. started out heading west from the paved road. It went through the white mineral deposits on the floor of Death Valley. We stopped to look at it, how amazing and unique the white snow-like minerals are.

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We also aired down our tires since the road’s surface became corrugated, alternating with sections of big gravel. As the road turned south, we were able to travel quickly, but we stopped at a few roadside attractions.

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There was a hidden spring, which we never did find, then a prospector’s grave, and then a plaque that told of a group of people trapped here in the valley for a month, unable to go on. The story was that they sent a couple of younger members of the party to find help, and the young people eventually returned with provisions so the rest could make it out alive. I wondered how many stories similar to that one that have never been publicly told or acknowledged. I am sure there are many.

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As we did this stop-and-go thing, it was getting hot. Finally, there were no more things to look at, and we just kept riding to keep the air flowing. All the vents were open in my riding jacket, and I appreciated my dual sport helmet. I haven’t worn it too much in the past, but lately I have really taken advantage of its many benefits. During our exploration of West Side Rd., we passed four different roads that led into the mountains, all designated “four wheel drive roads.” We talked about exploring them on our next visit!

The road is 40 miles long and it is made up mostly of deep gravel. There were a few small spots of deep sand as well. I haven’t quite learned the technique of going faster and floating over the top of the sand, but I made it through anyway.

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Finally, we made it to the south end of the road, aired up the tires, and got back on pavement. We stopped briefly at Badwater Basin, officially the lowest spot in Death Valley, and talked for a short time with another rider.


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GPS at Badwater 3241 small

Hal wanted a photo of his GPS showing 289 feet below sea level in elevation. Earlier, he had seen it read as low as -307 feet as we came through areas near the mountains on West Side Rd.

After Badwater Basin, we rode the 90 miles back to Beatty. When we got there, we were “done” from the heat, tired and dehydrated. Hal got some cold sweet tea from the candy store and I don’t think I’ve ever tasted anything so good.

We went to dinner at Gema’s again, which was super delicious. Then Hal drove the Xterra out to Rhyolite so we could look at the stars in the complete blackness. We also tried (in our own little amateurish way) to shoot photos of the stars, but that was ridiculous since we really don’t know how to do it. It was beautiful to see the myriad stars anyway, away from the light pollution of any populated area.

Today was our longest day on the bike – 175 miles, making our total for this trip 490 miles. Tomorrow we leave Beatty behind (already) and return home. These great times and great rides seem to always be over in the blink of an eye.

Scenes from Death Valley


Alex at A. Point 3099 smallIn order to save time this morning, Hal and I had breakfast at the Denny’s in Beatty, NV. Despite the fact that they were out of a lot of food items (due to the somewhat remote location), it was an excellent choice. The cook is really good – my “poached hard” eggs were done to perfection. The objections I have to this particular restaurant are it is in the back of a casino, and it has no windows. That means you have to walk through all the ugly smells of cigarette smoke and cheap booze, and the noise from the slot machines and bad music to get there. I know this is done on purpose, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

After escaping from casino hell, we formulated our plan, which was to go back to Wildrose Road and explore the dirt roads we’d seen yesterday radiating from the main road. Once we got out there, we accidentally went past the first one we came to, so we proceeded to the second road. It turned out to be a great choice because it was the best of the two.

It is an easy dirt road, with a few tight, narrow places, which are interesting and fun. After those, we started to climb steeply to an overlook, which led to Aguereberry Point, named after Pete Aguereberry, who mined in the area from 1905 until he died in 1945. Later, we would find and explore his camp.

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While up on top, we stopped, took photos of a scene that was every bit as spectacular as the Dante’s View overlook that I’d photographed a couple of years ago. This view is on the other side of the main “floor” of Death Valley, so we were looking at it from the west this time. It is said that Pete Aguereberry built this road to the overlook so he could share the amazing view with others. I am so grateful that he did. We spent some time there, but then went up higher by riding some steep exposed switchbacks to get to the highest point.

The view was even better, and we hiked a short trail to the farthest point north. It hung over the valley toward Stovepipe Wells. The minerals in the valley below shimmered white in the sun and we gazed in awe at another spectacular view that included interesting geographic features and formations. I took lots of photographs so I could later show my sixth grade students when I got home.

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After drinking it all in, we rode back down. We’d passed two mountain bikers on the way up, and when we pulled over to get Hal’s video camera running, the two cyclists stopped and talked to us. Husband and wife, they had camped at Wildrose campground, and this was their planned ride for today. They were in great shape, obviously, and I thought of my mountain bikes sitting idle at home. Sometimes I’d like to get one of those racks that attaches to a motorbike to carry bicycles. Anyway, the cyclists were very interesting to talk to. The man had done the CDT last year, and that got my mind spinning. I’d like to do it, too, but I think I’d take a moto!

Soon we found the mining camp, and left our bikes at the road because no motorized vehicles are allowed past the entrance. Aguereberry camp is where Pete lived and worked.

Homestead 3139 small

Above: Pete probably watched the sunset each evening from the front of his home. In the winter, he watched the storms roll in over the mountains. I am sure the beauty was worth all the hardship of living in such a remote place.

The buildings are in rough shape now, due mainly to people vandalizing things, but you can still get a sense of how it was when it was a working camp. We took lots of photos there, in and out of the buildings. It always amazes me how these people, who had a pretty rough life, were so passionate about Death Valley, how they loved it so much. I love it too, but I don’t know if I’d like living there through the heat of summer. There was no air conditioning, and people had to work constantly, no matter what the weather was. Apparently, Pete was fairly successful. Later in this trip, we would continue to see evidence of the love people have felt over the years for the seemingly desolate Death Valley.

While at the camp, Hal and I also walked farther up the road to where an abandoned car was parked, presumably Pete’s, deteriorating in the sun. Again I wondered why people have this need to destroy things. The car, I guessed it was a 1946 Buick, was deteriorating, but most of the damage was (sadly) human-caused.

Me and car 3186 small

It would have been nice to see it somewhat intact. Hal and I spent some time photographing it, and then when we walked back down the hill to where we had to park our bikes, we spent more time talking with the mountain biking couple.

Finally, we left that road and rode down to the other dirt road. It, however, wasn’t as long, or as interesting. The road was supposed to lead to the remains of a town called “Skidoo” that reached its heyday in about 1907.

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However, when we got there, we found that there was almost nothing left of it, just a few random pieces of rusting metal strewn around the desert.

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While we were there looking around and trying to get a sense of the place from the sign that showed an old photograph of the town, an SUV came blasting along the road, passing the town site and continuing west on a road that was supposed to end where we were. Being curious, and because the vehicle didn’t return, we got back on the bikes and decided to follow the road. Maybe it led back to the main road? Instead, we found ourselves on rough two-track that got narrower and more precarious. It hung on the side of the mountain with no barrier between the right wheel track and the drop-off. It was obviously not well traveled. After less than a mile, we found the end of the road – and the vehicle, the doors flung open, and no one in sight. It was really strange. The SUV was parked right in front of a gated mine entrance. I saw brightly-colored workout shoes lying on the floor of the front seat, but no humans anywhere. Suddenly, I got that tingly feeling of being where I shouldn’t be, and I said to Hal, “Let’s get out of here!” So we did.

As we descended, I kept looking in my rear-view as we rode fast toward the paved road. Once, I thought I saw the SUV behind us, negotiating the turns in a cloud of dust. We were flying along, and I had all kinds of crazy thoughts of the vehicle running us down for daring to follow it to the end of the road. You never know. Finally, after several minutes of riding hell-bent for leather, we reached pavement, and Hal pulled over to the side to start the video camera again. It wasn’t too long before the SUV roared past us. I cringed. At least they left us alone. I can’t imagine what was going on with them, and the whole episode was so strange.

After that, we relaxed and rode back down through Stovepipe Wells where, once again, it was super hot until we started to ride up Daylight Pass to return to Beatty. Today’s ride was only 145 miles or so, and we went to dinner (delicious) at Gema’s. After dinner, we decided to drive over to the local Family Dollar (my favorite place while on the road) to get some candy and other stuff that we needed.

Tomorrow is already our last riding day here. This trip is, as usual, is going by way too fast.

Next: A road on the floor of Death Valley

Dirt bike gangs, and Death Valley daze

Alex, snow mtn 3042 small

Sunday, March 12, 2017

On Saturday, March 11, we left home and traveled in the Xterra with the dirt bikes on a trailer behind us to Death Valley, California, our annual spring pilgrimage to a place that we love. This is our fifth year that we have made this trip, and we were hoping to explore new places. On the way, we met our friends in Las Vegas for lunch, always a pleasant experience, then continued to Beatty, Nevada, the gateway to Death Valley.

Sunday morning, I awoke after a restless night. Hal and I walked from where we were staying to one of our favorite places, Gema’s, for breakfast. Gema’s, a tiny place, serves excellent food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. While we were there, we overheard a child talking excitedly on the phone, probably to his dad, about all the “dirt bike gangs” in town, and about how they were all orange! His dad probably then told him that they were KTM bikes because the next thing the boy said was, “Yeah, KTMs!” Hal and I laughed to ourselves. Dirt bike gangs, indeed. 😉

By the time we got back to the hotel to gear up for our day of riding, most of the fabled dirt bike gangs were gone, many of the outlaw riders probably having to return to their real jobs the next day. We, however, were lucky to have a few days off and some adventuresome riding ahead of us, so we fueled up and headed out. We had talked about going back to the Fluorspar Mine road where we had been last year, but at the main intersection in town, Hal was leading, and before I knew it, he led us onto Daylight Pass. I was saying “WTF?” to myself, but I went along with it.

Up we went onto Daylight Pass, then down the other side to the kiosk to buy the park pass, 20 bucks for each moto and rider. While we were there, two different couples asked us for directions. We must look friendly and approachable, not “dirt bike gang-y” at all, apparently, because that happens to us all the time.

Back on the bikes, we rode down the long descent to the floor of Death Valley, to zero elevation and below, then west through Stovepipe Wells. As we rose out of the valley into the Panamint mountain range, Hal was looking for a road, “Emigrant Pass Rd.” However, we rode almost to Panamint Springs before we decided we were way too far and turned around.

The road was actually called Wildrose Rd. (when we finally found it), and it climbed steeply toward the southeast for about 40 miles. There was a sign that promised charcoal kilns, and of course we wanted to see them. On the way, we saw lovely mountains covered with snow, and the air became cooler as we rose in elevation. To the west, behind us, the Sierras were covered with deep snow at their peaks.

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Once we got to Wildrose campground, the road, still paved at that point, grew narrow, then the pavement finally ended. It was a short but rough climb up to the charcoal kilns. The small parking lot was full, of course, but we managed to find space for our bikes. I thought of the coke ovens near where we live, but these kilns made the coke ovens look like miniatures. There were 10 of them, and people were walking in and out of them, interested in seeing them up close, as we were.

Kilns 3049 small

Surprisingly, inside one of them, a man was playing a guitar. “Come on in,” said the sign at the entrance to that kiln, so we did. Another man joined the first man, and I talked to him briefly to find out that he was going to record some music inside the kiln!

Musicians 3051 small

The acoustics inside were lively, and so when the two men played together, it made a harmonious and bright sound. It made me think of one of my favorite groups, Pentatonix, who have a couple of videos showing them singing in Death Valley.

Hal actually saw and heard the music in the kiln most, as I was outside walking around exploring. There were more people at this place than you’d expect for such a remote location, but I have learned that no matter how “remote” you think a place is, hundreds of people already know all about it even though it’s a brand new discovery for you. Nothing is left undiscovered anymore.

Just past the kilns to the east, the road was closed and gated because of the snow and ice beyond the gate. We were above the snow line, and saw patches of snow in the surrounding forest as well as a few small patches behind (north of) the kilns. A mom and her daughter were having a “gentle” snowball fight that the little girl initiated. They were laughing and having fun.

We stayed for a little while, enjoying everything, then got on the bikes to head back to the highway. As we went, I realized what a steep grade those last few miles of dirt had been. It’s kind of deceptive as you are riding sometimes, you don’t realize how much you are climbing. It was a washboard road, too.

Road from the kilns 3077 small

It always surprises me about the vehicles people bring onto these roads – we passed a person in a nice Lexus car coming up that rough road. I wouldn’t drive my nice car on that road! Oh well, maybe they don’t own dirt bikes? (Or want to be in a dirt bike gang?)

Then we got to pavement and romped all the way back to California 190, enjoying all the turns. Even on a dirt bike with knobby tires it was super fun! But then we descended to Stovepipe Wells where it was very hot, near 100° F. I desperately wanted to get back up Daylight Pass to the cooler temperatures of Beatty. Get me out of this heat!, I thought. We had 40 more miles to go.

Once we got back to town, I was glad we’d explored Wildrose Rd. Hal’s choice was a good one. Our total mileage for the day was 170 miles, and my little KLX 250S never even needed the “reserve” fuel position. When I fueled up the next morning, I only took 2.2 gallons of gas. That means the awesome little bike got 77+ miles per gallon! And, it was many more miles than I’d thought we’d ride on our first day of riding on this trip!

Next: an amazing overlook, and an old mine camp

Diary of the G35


February 11, 2017

I’ve been inside this garage for the greater part of the last seven months. It’s weird. I used to be out on the road every single day. The last time I was out being driven was about three weeks ago, and I got caught in the rain! At least the girl wiped all the water off me when we got home. I mean, like, right away. I was surprised. I know I wasn’t the most popular vehicle in this garage for a long time. I kind of knew things were improving, though, when about a month ago she cleaned out my interior completely. It was better than a professional detailing! She even found that old piece of caramel corn that had been stuck deep in the back seat for a couple of years. It definitely felt better to be completely clean.

But things changed on Saturday. Her motorcycle riding partner came over, left his truck parked on the driveway, then Hal and the girl, Jo, took me into the city! Hal drove, because I think Jo is still hesitant to drive. I have been sensing a change, though, and maybe I will once again become a car that is a daily driver, or at least close to it.

We drove to a restaurant for a late breakfast. We went to First Watch in downtown Phoenix. I could see the two of them through the window, enjoying coffee and waffles and generally having a nice time. I was glad to see that Jo was relaxed. After that, Hal drove to the hairdresser’s shop and I had to sit in a parking garage for two hours. At least it was in the shade. It was worth it, though, because then we got to go on a real drive!

Hal drove out of the city, but when we got to Country Club Dr. and Hwy. 87, they switched places, and Jo got behind the wheel. I was on best behavior because I could feel her hesitation. But, on a positive note, I could also feel that she was ready and open to connecting with me. Two minutes later, we were bonded as car and driver.

She actually drove really well. Last summer, the last time she was behind the wheel, I wasn’t so sure. I thought, oh no, she’s not very good. But today she proved to be a much more confident driver, and even shifted well. I like that she can hear when it is time to go up through the gears, and it is very easy on me. I feel very lucky, my last owner (who was also my first!) did a pretty good job of keeping me running great, and looking clean and beautiful, and now I feel that Jo will do the same.

Our drive was great! We flew up Hwy. 87, then turned onto Hwy. 188 as it rolled through Tonto Basin, then meandered past Roosevelt Lake. The day was perfect, around 70° F. with increasing high clouds. We stopped at the Roosevelt Dam bridge to take pictures – of me! I purred the rest of the day.


Next, we went through Globe, and after that, flowed through the turns toward Superior, and just before we got there, we went through the Queen Creek tunnel, my second tunnel of the day! It was awesome since when we came out the other side, we were descending quickly on the steep grade into Superior.

By then it was getting toward dusk, and then in Gold Canyon, Hal and Jo changed places again. I was a little disappointed because I was used to her driving by then, and I liked it. But I understood. Hal encouraged her to keep driving, but she said she was getting a little tired by then, it was getting darker, and she wanted her driving for the day to end on a positive note.

We came back into town, and then went to Jo-Ann’s, a fabric and crafts store. “Oh, the car’s first trip to Jo-Ann’s!” Jo exclaimed. I guess she must go there a lot.

When we finally rolled into the garage, I had been out and running for nine hours or so, and I have to admit, I was glad to be back in my clean, quiet garage. It was nice to feel wanted and loved again, and I am sure I heard Jo whisper, “Thank you, pretty thing, for a wonderful healing day” to me before she went inside.

As the garage door closed down on a wonderful day, I hoped for a future of many more like this one.


Last summer, I bought this new (to me) car, a beautiful silver and blue 2005 Infiniti G35, to replace my destroyed Hyundai Sonata. I mourned the loss of my Sonata, and I will never get over it. But fortunately, the wounds are healing (somewhat), and I am making progress on getting behind the wheel of a car again.


The DR comes home


I bought this DR650 a few years ago, and I’ve barely ridden it. I don’t know why, it’s a nice bike. Added to that, since I don’t ride it much, it has starting problems most of the time, and every time I do want to ride it, it won’t start.

I recall only one great trip on it, and that was to Bagdad, Arizona. My riding partner, Hal, and I rode a long way on paved, busy highways to get there, and when we did, we got on a rough road, known as “The Bagdad Road,” that we would ride from there to near Prescott, Arizona. I had done it before, but on my 2006 BMW F650GS. Being fairly inexperienced (at that time) in riding a “big” (to me) bike on rough roads like this, I remember feeling very apprehensive for most of that trip.

On the DR, it was an easy ride. When I got to the part that I called “the wall,” I thought I would find it was much less scary than when I was on the GS. It wasn’t, in truth, but at least I was much more comfortable.

The DR was great on all the roads that we traveled that day. From being in rough country, to highways, and then after having dinner in Prescott, the winding paved road down off Yarnell Hill. It was just before Christmas, and I remember thinking how rare it was that I would see the town of Yarnell in the dark, with Christmas lights. It was an amazing ride that day for a total of a few hundred miles.

Recently, the DR was in the shop for a couple of weeks, and now I have it back. I want to be able to ride it more often. I had such high hopes for many dual sport rides with it, and I’ve hardly gotten to enjoy it at all. I suppose it’s mainly because I’ve been riding all my other bikes, and there is only so much time available for riding.

I hope I can give the DR more chances to become the great bike I know it can be for me. I am looking forward to getting in some great rides before the heat sets in again.


Some of the finest riding on Earth

October, 2016

On the last weekend in October, Hal and I enjoyed a ride on Hwy. 191, “some of the finest riding on Earth,” in eastern Arizona, USA.

We left home Saturday morning at 7:30 and rode east on US 60 toward Superior, Arizona. It was a pleasant ride, with temperatures in the 70s F. We had originally planned to go to Buckboard, a restaurant we visit often, for breakfast, but once we got on the bikes, we just wanted to ride! We fueled up at Goldfield Chevron, got a couple of Clif bars, and that was breakfast.

I’d been looking forward to this – a nice “juicy” riding day! I had chosen my 2008 F800ST for this trip, a bike that was surely made for the 191. Pearl hadn’t been on a real road trip for over two years, and I think she was feeling thrilled at this opportunity.

Hal and I were especially appreciating every moment of being on the road after several weeks of stress at our separate workplaces. We rode east through Superior, Globe, and then continued east on Hwy. 70. We went through Bylas, which is unchanged (I hadn’t seen it in a couple of years), and still wrenchingly poor. Next is Pima (lots of cotton!), then Thatcher (“Taylor Freeze, 2 miles ahead!”), and then Safford.

We stopped at the edge of Safford because Hal was uncertain if his K75s, with a smaller gas tank than his R1100RS, would make it all the way to Clifton-Morenci. Fueling done, we turned north on 191 outside of Safford, and I felt the joy of anticipation for the best part soon to come.

Next were the two towns of Clifton and Morenci, so close together they blend into one. They are old mining towns, and very interesting to look at. Clifton has a railroad track running parallel to the 191 that goes literally right in front of people’s houses. Like, 20 feet away. I get that it’s because of the mine, but I don’t think even I would like a train right at my doorstep even though I love trains. We had to cross and re-cross the train tracks at weird angles as we made our way through town, and then we climbed up toward the actual mine in Morenci, and the gas station.

We always fuel up here before we get into the twisty section of 191. There is no fuel between here and Alpine, and we know better than to pass up a gas station in these circumstances. We took a break, ate a Snickers bar, then turned on our video cameras to record the amazing, sinuous, legendary Hwy. 191 formerly known as Hwy. 666.

I don’t know why I was apprehensive about the first turns out of Morenci, but I was. They are very tight, climb steeply, and can be technical. When I got there, though, I thought, these aren’t any worse than anything else I’ve ridden lately. The turns are tight, but the F800ST went smoothly through them. Up and up we went in elevation until we were “in” the actual mine, the road runs through it, and in a few miles rode through the blasting zone where we’d had to stop and wait last year. There was no one in the guardhouse this time.

Then we were free of the mine, and into the beauty of the mountains! We found the condition of Hwy. 191 to be absolutely perfect. I have often said that October is the best month to ride this road. The summer storms have washed it clean of any remaining winter debris, and the road surface is dry and fast. The golden autumn light highlights the color of the aspens along with the bronze and wheat-colored vegetation that grows on the forest floor. It is so beautiful in the season that I love.

Pearl flowed through the turns, and I re-discovered how much I love riding this bike. The F800ST was absolutely made for Hwy. 191, and I did not feel uncomfortable for one second. The riding position was great, my new helmet worked great, and above all, the bike handled perfectly. Since we were riding this part earlier in the day than we had last year, the sun was not too low and not directly in our eyes as we climbed.

We came to the part that I call “halftime,” the long grassy plain where the road is flat and straight. We let the motorcycles stretch their legs there as we flew along, but then after a few miles we brought the speed back down as we were back into more turns. It was pure fun and technical riding. We came to places where last year we had seen deer. It was too early in the day for them to be out this time, but we kept a wary eye out for them anyway. You never know!

Time passed so quickly and I was enjoying myself so thoroughly that before I knew it we were at Strayhorse work camp; we started to go up through the turns to Blue Point Vista. There were some black areas in the middle of the road, they looked like melted tar, that were a little “slippy” so as I rode, I tried to stay away from them.

It felt like home after that because we were on the part of the 191 that we know so well. It was cool, and all the vents in my jacket were still open (since Morenci), but I didn’t care. It felt so nice to be cool. We went faster on some of these parts since we are so familiar with them, and it was so different to be riding them on a quick road bike instead of a dirt bike. We loved every moment of going through the turns, enjoying the road. I think this is the best experience we’ve ever had on 191! Two and a half hours after leaving Morenci, we rolled into Alpine. It was about 94 miles since we’d left the gas station.

After we unpacked the bikes, we had time to enjoy a cup of coffee while sitting in the sun and waiting for a herd of elk that was supposed to show up later (they had the two nights before), but didn’t when we were there. We barely even heard an elk bugling, maybe once the whole night, much less see any. The hunt was on, so the elk were probably smart enough to stay away.

Around 6:00, Hal and I walked to our last dinner of the season at Foxfire, joining the locals to shut it down until next May. We sat in our favorite area near the bar, splurged a bit on wine and dinner, enjoyed the live music, and said our goodbyes (for now) to everyone there. The stars were sparkling in the sky as we walked back to the lodge, and the air was crisp and cool. What a wonderful day, the best ever, I think!

On Sunday morning, we ate corned beef hash at Alpine Grill, the best corned beef hash in the world, in my opinion, and said goodbye (temporarily) to all our friends there. Then we had to go home, but it was at least going to be another wonderful long riding day. We were still in the “non-stop” groove, so we only stopped for gas in Springerville, and then at Payson Chevron. It is our habit to have a cup of their wonderful coffee there no matter from where we are returning. We even got back to Phoenix in time to watch some of the football games on TV.

I don’t think I have enjoyed a trip or a ride so much as I have this one, for a long time. I loved the ride, loved being on my F800ST, loved riding the 191 in autumn, loved being in Alpine, loved the last night of the season at Foxfire on a magical pre-Halloween Saturday, and I even loved the nice long relaxing nearly non-stop ride on the way home.

It was the best riding day/weekend ride ever.