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Tejas Travelin'

Kevin R

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Posted (edited)

     It’s spring 2024 and there’d been a lot of chatter about the upcoming solar eclipse here in the US. With the path of totality passing over the Dallas area, and with personal ties there, my wife and I were planning to fly there to check it out (we had also seen the last one in 2017 in Oregon - path of totality at Smith Rock SP - epic, epic traffic jams!). Then in March, I realized that the US MotoGP at COTA was only a few days later, the light bulb went on in my head: why not ride there? We could check out the eclipse in the Dallas area, visit some folks, attend the MotoGP, spend a few days in Austin (something near and dear to my wife’s heart), then ride around Texas Hill Country for a bit, and visit some National Parks on the way back to Cali. Thus began a very busy couple of weeks planning an epic three week, two-up trip on my trusty ’19 Tracer 900 GT.

I figured that in April the weather would be somewhat unpredictable (it was) in the Southwest – could be hot or cold – which made packing for two people on the Tracer a challenge. It’s not a very big bike and has limited storage/carrying capacity. So the gauntlet was thrown for my wife as we agreed to each have one saddlebag for clothes and the riding gear (electrics, rainsuits, etc.), ditty bag, and lunch box would reside in the Givi trunk. We managed to squeeze what we needed into the available space though it was so tight that I had to go out and buy a small tank bag to catch the overflow. I could not fit my cold weather gloves, so I crossed my fingers thinking there would be more warm days than cold.

Of course, April 5 dawned really cold (for here) and wet in SoCal as a storm rolled through the southland dropping another foot of snow up in the mountains. The temperature down at our level at T minus zero was around 40F with threatening skies but I expected improvement as we headed east and out across the desert. On this trip we avoided interstates as much as possible, but it’s hard to get across the LA basin without them. So off we went for a cold dash on the Ventura Freeway to the Foothill Freeway (with a brief stop to don the rain gear). After a short stint on I-10 into the San Gorgonio Pass, we turned north on CA-62. We passed through Yucca Valley and Twenty Nine Palms (I don’t know, I saw more than 29 of ‘em. Just sayin’.) before heading out into the desert proper for the ride to the Colorado River and Parker, AZ. As the day warmed, we could finally shed rain gear and turn off the electrics - there was jubilation when we saw 70F on the thermometer. Little did we know it would be short lived…

We stayed on 2-lane backroads (SR-95, SR-72, US-60) in Arizona, passing through Wickenburg before turning south and east to skirt around the eastern edge of the Phoenix megopolis while hoping to avoid rush hour traffic. As we skirted the NE suburbs of Phoenix heading for the day’s destination of Globe, AZ, the skies started getting dark again south and east. Darn, that’s the direction we’re heading. I hoped we could make it without rain – this, after all, is the desert and Arizona, not supposed to rain, right? – but no bueno. As the sun set behind us on AZ-70 with a fiery display, the clouds ahead got darker and the rain commenced. As the road tilted up in elevation, the temperature tilted down. Finally, the last hour was a rainsoaked 42F in the dark, on an unfamiliar twisty road - I’ve ridden in better conditions! We finally rolled into town at around 8pm, cold and wet, after a pretty long and eventful Day1 of nearly 600mi. Then we had to scramble to find food as everything closes early in small town America. But we knew one thing: tomorrow would be better!


Day 1 - Fuzzy sunset east of Phoenix

Saturday dawned bright and sunny with the surrounding mountains reflecting a nice white coating of snow and temperature hovering a bit above freezing. Today we’re hitting (hopefully, finally) some nice motorcycling roads on our way to a date with intergalactic aliens in Roswell, NM. We had a choice of routes today to get to our destination: head north to higher elevation or stay south. Given the temperature, we chose south because we figured it would be friggin’ cold up Show Low way. By the time we hit the road, it was comfortably above 40F - still chilly - and we were looking forward to it getting above 60F as the day wore on. While this Day 2 was to be a little shorter than the previous day, tipping in at just around 500mi, the goal would be to arrive before dark this time.


Day 2 - Slow your roll on US-70

However, after just 30min on the road we hit a miles long traffic jam on AZ-70 east of Peridot. Road closed due to fatal accident. Initial reports/rumors along the line of stopped vehicles said 3hrs minimum to re-open. Blah! In this sparsely populated part of AZ, there are minimal detour opportunities (as in none, except for backtracking and a big detour). After hanging around a bit studying our options (none of them looked great for getting to Roswell before dark) and watching people turn around for the backtrack/detour, we were just about to do the same when voila! the road reopened. Yay! The joy was tempered, however, as we passed the crash site which was brutal and we sympathized with the poor soul(s?) that had recently departed this earth.


Day 2 - Mt Graham in AZ

We continued on AZ-70 while admiring the view of the nearly 11,000ft Mt Graham off to the south, all dressed up in a new coating of snow. After passing through Safford we picked up US-191 and then state route 78 to head northeast into New Mexico. Finally, some really nice sport touring roads. 191 had loads of fast sweepers while 78 had straight-up mountain twisties. The drawback, though, was that it was very windy and the temperature was heading back into the 40s again as we went higher and higher. While the grip heaters were a welcome aid, my summer gloves were again insufficient for temperatures this cold making it hard to keep my fingers working. After crossing the AZ/NM state line on the really good SR-78, we enjoyed a bit of a warm up on the descent towards Mule Creek. By the time we hit US-180 it was nice and approaching 60F. Turning north on 180 we enjoyed more new (to us) scenery with the 10,000ft mountains of the Gila Wilderness off to the east. After a few miles of entertaining sweepers we stopped in Alma for a bite and to warm up a bit (still chilled from the morning).


Day 2 - Alma, NM

Afterwards it was another nice stretch of sweepers and curvy bits on US-180 up and over Saliz Pass before turning east on SR-12. This stretch was very pretty high alpine sage landscape  and mountain scenery, but, again, the temperature went south. Passing over the 7500ft Continental Divide east of Reserve, NM, we were vectoring against a strong 30mph north wind and temperatures back near 40F. While at least it wasn’t raining, it was a very cold 75mi blast across the Plains of St. Augustine to Datil and US-60. It seemed like we saw maybe 10 cars the whole time. I love being in out of the way places!


Day 2 - Very Large Array near Socorro, NM

A few miles east of Datil we passed the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Very Large Array (VLA). Seems odd to see such infrastructure out here in the middle of nowhere, until you consider their mission: to listen for very faint radio signals originating from interstellar space. Thus the need to be located far away from cities and towns to cut down on radio interference.

Once we hit Socorro, NM, the temperature was comfortably in the 60s – a welcome relief for my wife (and me). We also passed over the Rio Grande for the first of what would be many times in the coming days. From there it was the final leg across to Roswell on US-380, another very lightly travelled byway. I may or may not have been travelling in excess of 100mph – it’s hard not to when you can see 5mi ahead with no traffic. Not to mention the fun factor of it being 20deg. warmer than it had been a while back up the road. Along the way we passed through the Carrizozo volcanic field (nice!) as well as the birthplace of the beloved Smokey the Bear near Capitan, NM. Unfortunately we did not have time to stop and immerse ourselves in this little slice of Americana due to the traffic holdup in the morning. But the ride from Capitan along the Billy The Kid Trail (as 380 is called in these parts) past Lincoln was very pretty and good motorcycling with a nice collection of sweepers along a narrow valley floor. We rolled in to Roswell just after sunset and while Roswell looks like just another town with endless strip malls and traffic lights, we were not disappointed by the proliferation of little, or often times big, “little green men”.


Day 2 - Roswell local yokel

Sunday was the final push to Dallas on US-380. Again, even though TX has generous speed limits of 75mph on some of its back roads, it just ain’t enough for some folk.  We finished the 450mi after a nice roadside lunch stop near Clairemont, TX and a ride through the endless fields of wind turbines near Throckmorton. I’d be lying if I said we didn’t enjoy the 80F temperature after the wet and cold weather of Days 1 & 2.


Day 3 - Out on the range in TX. All credit to TxDOT for having lots of roadside picnic areas in out of the way places like this all over the state.

I’d been checking the weather reports during the ride out and it was looking doubtful for seeing the eclipse on April 8 due to expected cloudy, unsettled weather. But we hoped for the best and spent Day 4 with a high school buddy whose property in Quinlan was directly under the path of totality. The day started overcast but miraculously the clouds parted just as the eclipse started and we were all treated to a nice spectacle, complete with Baily’s Beads, Diamond Rings, and confused frogs and crickets beginning to chirp when it went [almost] dark.


Solar eclipse - as seen in Quinlan, TX



Solar eclipse - Black hole sun! That tiny white dot below and to the right is Jupiter.

Afterwards it was a race against time to beat a line of severe thunderstorms bearing down on the metro area. We hit the road hoping we’d waited long enough for any traffic jams to clear and we made it back to the hotel just in time. I have to add, though, that I have NEVER seen such light traffic in the Dallas-Fort Worth area as on the morning of that day. Almost reminded me of early days of the COVID pandemic.

We spent another day to visit my mom and then on Wednesday, Day 6, it was time to head for Austin. The weather, while warm, thank goodness, had been unsettled with nasty thunderstorms passing in and around the area over the past two days. While the afternoon in Austin was forecast to be nice at 80F and sunny, we weren’t going to get out of Dallas without earning it. We rode through an absolute gully washer with 40-50mph side winds for a good hour as we headed west towards Weatherford. At times I was actually pondering whether or not there was enough friction between my tires and the wet road to keep us from getting blown away. But we soldiered on and made the white knuckle ride out to pick up Texas Farm to Market Road 51.

Traveling south from the market (DFW) to the farm(s) we started to see nice arrays of wildflowers along the roadside and fields. The road wasn’t anything special, sport touring-wise, which was fine since it was still wet as we gradually moved away from the rain up north. Finally, the last 5-10mi south of Paluxy turned out to be a terrific section of road: twisty and with excellent pavement. Joy! That turned out to be the highpoint of the day, riding-wise. The rest of the route on other back roads included FM-203 through Walnut Springs, 927 and 1238 near Iredell. I finally gave up trying at Cranfills Gap and headed over to Hamilton where we picked up US-281 and headed south. It was okay, though, because I knew there would be good stuff once we got to Hill Country proper. We finished the day on RM-962 out of Round Mountain, this time called a “Ranch to Market” road (interesting names for roads in TX). It was a pleasant ride curving through farms, er, ranches and hills and I would recommend it for anyone’s list of worthy roads in Hill Country.

The next day my wife wanted to take a day off the bike to explore Austin and let me carve a few corners solo (what a difference from fully loaded to unladen!). I headed NW towards Lake Travis and rode Bullick Hollow Rd and RM-2769 (aka Lime Creek Rd) past Volente. Both are excellent. Before the trip I had even stumbled on a Reddit comment comparing Lime Creek to The Dragon in NC/TN. While Lime Creek is a good road, I can assure you that it is not in the same league as The Dragon. That said, there were lots of bikes out, even midday on a Thursday. Other roads on the day included RM1431 (meh), and then Park Road 4 up by Burnet (namesake here due to proximity to a couple of state parks). This one was really nice with very good wildflower displays to boot.


Day 7 - Texas wildflowers on Park Road 4

The day concluded with a zip down Cow Creek Road (w/route number 328), a very twisty and scenic, though somewhat bumpy, ride (no footpeg dragging on this one) and back for a second helping of Lime Creek and Bullick Hollow, this time in the opposite direction.

Saturday and Sunday were spent at Circuit of the Americas for MotoGP. Maverick Vinales was the class of the field, winning pole and both races on the weekend (the Sprint on Saturday and the main event on Sunday, after coming from around 10th due to a tough start).


COTA MotoGP 2024 - Turn one traffic on Saturday in the Sprint race

There was a King of the Baggers event on the weekend, too. This seemed to amuse the Euro/Aussie announcing teams to no end as the riders put on a great show with close racing throughout (as usual). Think:  NASCAR racing on two wheels!


COTA MotoGP 2024 - Turn 15 mayhem in Moto 3

Caught this mishap at Turn15 early in Moto3. The two riders ended in a dogpile on top of one of the bikes when they stopped sliding. Then one of the riders ran over to the other bike which ended up against the barrier and started to hop on before he discovered it was the wrong bike. At that same moment the other rider had run over and started pulling him off. Never saw that on the track before and I’m sure that poor dude will have a tough time living that one down!


COTA MotoGP 2024 - Early Moto 2 action

Joe “No Relation” Roberts brought it home in 2nd in Moto2 (that’s his blue and white bike in P2 in the photo) so we Americans had a fellow countryman to cheer for.

Monday, April 15, marked the 11th day of the trip – and time to move on from Austin to go further into Hill Country and a couple nights in Kerrville. The day’s route took us on Fitzhugh Rd to Johnson City from near Austin and then up to FM-1323 (back to farms now), heading for the Willow City Loop which was reputed to be the pinnacle of motorcycling plus wildflower displays. However, we thought that the displays along 1323, which is also a nice ride through the countryside, were a little better. Plus, the traffic on Willow City Loop was surprisingly heavy for a Monday.


Day 11 - More TX wildflowers in Hill Country

Upon arriving in Kerrville, we settled into the hotel and then took a ride over to Ingram for a visit to Stonehenge II. It’s not made of rock and is 90% tall as the OG in England and 60% as wide. Still an interesting spectacle to see out in the TX countryside.


Day 11 - Stonehenge II in Ingram, TX



Day 11 - Easter Island sculpture all dressed up for an upcoming Celtic festival

The next day, my wife took a day off the bike and sent me out to find the much talked about Twisted Sisters of TX Hill Country. I started off on state highway 16 south out of Kerrville which was an excellent road. But the morning was wet once again after rain showers the previous night and thick fog/drizzle for the first hour and a half. Easy does it once again.


Day 12 - SR-16 south of Kerrville

The sun finally came out just when I reached the best part of the day. The Twisted Sisters are the collection of FM-335, FM-336, and FM-337 west and south of Kerrville and they are a rowdy bunch. Great twisties, fast and slow, and FM-335 in particular had some great elevation changes. Although the road surface was sometimes a little degraded, overall it was good. Texas does loves their chip seal road surfaces!


Day 12 - Gettin' twisted in Texas...

Unfortunately, it seems some bikers love hill country a little too much and don’t make it home. TxDOT makes sure we all know it (what the signs don’t say is how many involve pickups running across the center line and causing the crash).


Day 12 - ...but not TOO twisted

But overall, it was a pretty nice area with some terrific motorcycling roads. Another highlight of the day was state highway 39 west of Hunt, TX on the way back to Kerrville. This road runs along the South Fork Guadalupe River and makes very good use of that fact.


Day 12 - Yup, there's hills in Texas Hill Country

Day 13 on Wednesday was a travel day to Alpine, TX where we would stay for three nights and use as a jumping off point for Big Bend National Park. Along the way we had a nice picnic lunch at the Amistad National Recreation Area near Del Rio.


Day 13 - Lunchin' at Amistad near Del Rio and the border with Mexico

After lunch it was a blazing hot run across US-90 to Alpine which was a little cooler sitting at 4481ft elevation. The 380mi we covered was mostly straight roads punctuated periodically with some nice hill/mountain scenery and border patrol checkpoints.

Day 14 started with a quick run to Big Bend NP along  US-385 to Panther Junction (in Big Bend NP). Along with the occasional 5000 and 6000ft mountains along the way we had to keep a sharp eye out for wandering Javelinas crossing the road, with a few even hanging out at the local border patrol checkpoint out in the middle of nowhere. This was 80mi of out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere blasting.


Day 14 - They say the river curves here...

After gassing up and comparing notes with a couple riders from Indiana (who had also been at COTA a few days before), we headed down the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive to Santa Elena Canyon. We watched the mercury rising as we descended the 1400ft over 30mi to the Rio Grande where it was 95F.


Day 14 - The river may bend but it also carved a big opening in this cliff, Santa Elana Canyon



Day 14 - Inside Santa Elana Canyon. That's a 1400ft cliff right there!



Day 14 - The Rio Grand is not so grande here

After a picnic lunch we took the 1.5mi hike into the canyon. Here the mighty Rio Grande necks down to barely a trickle, easily stepped across. There was a little more water in the canyon and a nice breeze in the shade making the now 104F temperature somewhat bearable. However, after sweating the hike back out, it was not a pleasure to put on the moto gear and ride away. We stopped at the nearby campstore for ice cream and gatorade, but nothing could really help in that heat. We had to just grin and bear it knowing that it would be cooler when we got back up to Alpine. The loop back up had us exit the west side of the park and head north on TX state highway 118. A dip in the hotel pool (unheated and quite chilly from the cool nights) was pretty sweet after that super hot day.



Edited by Kevin R
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Posted (edited)

The next day was a little cooler after a cold front passed through the previous evening and we headed back down SH-118 past Terlingua to ride the River Road (formally known as FM-170) through the Big Bend Ranch SP. One rider we met earlier in the trip had proclaimed this road to be the best in Texas. It was excellent with a nice mix of curves and elevation changes.


Day 15 - The River Road in Big Bend

There were also a number of nice scenic attractions along the way.


Say 15 - Another one of those nifty TX roadside picnic areas on the River Road



Day 15 - Closed Canyon on the River Road. Pretty cool slot canyon.

Although it was cooler than the previous day, we still saw 98F down near the river on this day. Once the road delivered us to Presidio we opted not to follow it to its end in Candelaria – why suffer needlessly?


Day 15 - A counter to the Cadillac Ranch upstate in TX? Container Ranch?



Day 15 - Gotta watch your a$$ in TX

We hightailed it back north to Alpine where it was 30deg. cooler by the time we arrived back at the hotel. We were treated to a nice sunset at the end of this day.


Day 15 - Alpine, TX. Great way to close out another terrific day touring on a motorcycle

After 14 days in Texas it was time to point the bike out of state on Day 16. Our route for the day took us on SH-118 north out of Alpine through Fort Davis, TX and up into the Davis Mountains past the McDonald Observatory. It is notable as having the world’s 3rd largest optical telescope (10m main mirror) as well as having a radiotelescope that is part of the Very Large Base Array project (a collection of ten radio telescopes spanning thousands of miles in North America). The road here gets to 6791ft elevation which makes it the highest Texas highway.


Day 16 - Hobby-Eberly telescope at McDonald Observatory. The clouds were a hint at weather to come...

Views of the landscape below – and the telescopes themselves – were somewhat obscured by the cloud deck. As we made our way back down on the north slope, the temperature dropped and our nemesis – cold rain – reared its ugly head again. By the time we hit I-10 for the brief stint west to Van Horn, it was wet and miserable with temperatures in the mid-40s. Thankfully, we rode out of the wet stuff after a few miles and then headed north on SH-54. Along the way we passed by the Blue Origin space port outside of Van Horn and enjoyed the beautiful site of the Guadalupe Mountains gradually approaching as we went along.

Here you’ll find the highest elevation in Texas: Guadalupe Peak, at 8751ft – who knew there was a nearly 9000ft mountain in Texas? I do, now. The wet stuff had stayed away at this point under heavy skies but right when I was about to stop and take a nice photo of the impressive sight (it rises 4,500ft above the surrounding terrain), the clouds quickly closed in. Gah! We joined US-180 and continued north passing into the Mountain time zone. The ride up and over Guadalupe Pass at 5500ft was very cold and completely socked in with fog. Visibility was very limited and I was hoping nobody would run into me. It was another one of those cold, white knuckle rides until we came down on the other side.

After passing Carlsbad Caverns NP (no time to stop on this trip, unfortunately) we stopped in Carlsbad, NM for lunch and to warm up. The weather ahead in Artesia was cold in the mid-40s and raining (yuck). By the time we finished it looked like the rain had cleared up there and we continued on our way. After turning left on US-82 in Artesia we pointed the bike west towards our stop for the night in Alamogordo. While it wasn’t raining anymore, I was dreading the stretch ahead and second guessing the decision to ride over an 8500ft mountain pass instead of staying south – but that would have meant yet more unexciting straight roads and desert (which we’d seen plenty of in the last week or so!). The clouds were ominous and getting closer to the roadway as we went higher and the temperature went lower, dropping again into the 40s. I was literally hoping it wouldn’t be snowing at the top!

But those thoughts were misplaced, for as we approached Cloudcroft we could see the edge of the cloud cover and brighter skies beyond. Not only that but once we actually got to Cloudcroft it was a fully bright and sunny afternoon and warm, near 70F. What a surprise! The ride down the grade to the valley floor and Alamogordo was really nice, almost euphoric, with the cold, wet weather behind us once again.

Day 17 dawned clear and we hopped onto US-70 with an end point in Silver City in mind for later in the day – but not before we spent a half day visiting White Sands NP. This is an otherworldly place with brilliant white gypsum sand and a couple of nice hiking loops. Though we didn’t take advantage of it, there are hike-in campsites in the park and with its very dark skies would be a treat for nighttime stargazing.


Day 17 - That's not snow, Martha!



Day 17 - Roadside attraction in White Sands NP

After passing though Las Cruces we turned north on SR-185 which parallels the Rio Grande and led us through Hatch, NM. There we learned that it is home to the famous Hatch chili pepper. The little town was lined with shops selling bundles of ‘em tied together on a string, some of them 7-8ft long (that’s a lot of chili peppers). A little farther north we picked up SR-152, a road I’ve had highlighted on a map for years but hadn’t had the chance to ride, and turned west towards Silver City. This stretch of road was superb, especially the section from Hillsboro west on up to Emory Pass. Perfect pavement and loads of 2nd and 3rd gear twists and turns – a real 5-star road.


Day 17 - Sport touring heaven on NM SR-152



Day 17 - Looking west from Emory Pass on SR-152

Approaching Silver City we passed through Santa Rita with its gigantic copper mine on the outskirts.


Day 17 - Santa Rita copper mine



Day 17 - Art deco style in downtown Silver City

We stayed at the Murray Hotel in downtown Silver City for two nights.


Day 17 - Silver City is a cool little town. I can see why it's a popular motorcycle destination

On Day 18 we took a ride up SR-15 to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. The ride there was an incredibly twisty 45mi...2nd gear left and right, up and down for mile after mile through forest and over hill and dale – pretty sweet on a bike! The dwellings themselves were also really cool and worth the extra day to visit/explore. We joined a free ranger-led tour to get a really good insight into the history of the place. You can also climb up inside the structures to really get a sense of what it was like to live there 700yrs ago.


Day 18 - Gila Cliff Dwellings



Day 18 - Gila Cliff Dwellings

After a nice day of off-the-bike stuff, it was time to leave Silver City and head west once again. It was the eve of the Tour of the Gila multistage bicycle race (one of only two UCI sanctioned races in the US, they said). We had encountered many bicyclists and pelotons out on the roads as the teams got in their pre-race training rides and the town was about to get really busy starting the following day through the weekend. On the way out of the hotel in the morning I noticed a nice array of license plates on the bikes that had collected out front: CA, MT, TX, TN.


Day 19 - They come from far and wide to be here in Silver City

Day 19 was another terrific day of motorcycle touring on the backroads and byways of New Mexico and Arizona. We headed west out of Silver City on US-180 which soon curved north. We “closed the loop” on our travels when we passed the junction of NM-78 which had taken us up and over the state line from Arizona to New Mexico on that cold and windy day nearly 3 weeks ago. On this day, though, we were in the goldilocks zone weather-wise, with temperatures a good 20 degrees higher and a light breeze. It’s amazing how a few degrees of warmth makes a big difference when moto touring!

After passing over Saliz Pass (6500ft) again, we stayed on 180 at the NM-12 junction, where we had turned east 3 weeks before, and the road curved west up into the San Francisco Mountains. The road goes up, up, up here as we headed for another town called Alpine, this time in Arizona. Unlike its Texas counterpart, this one sits at an elevation of 8000ft (vs. 4500ft in TX) which truly makes the town worthy of the name. There is a different feel when you’re riding at elevations this high. Things just looked “different” – the trees, the lakes – compared to the lower elevation desert scrub we’d spent so much time in over the past three weeks. While signs of spring were everywhere earlier in our trip, it was still a ways off up here.

From there we picked up AZ-191 and continued north. Shortly afterwards we turned left onto AZ-260 near Eagar to head west towards the Mogollon Rim. This escarpment (yeah, I had to look that one up, too) runs for 200mi in a roughly east-west direction and marks the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau. We steadily climbed to over 9000ft elevation on AZ-260, with more and more snow and snow fences along the sides of the road. Eventually, we passed Sunrise Park Ski Resort which looked to still have plenty of snow on its trails, though I expect it was probably closed for the season.


Day 19 - Still a bit o' the white stuff in this corner of AZ

After descending a bit and grinding through the Pinetop/Show Low mini-metropolis with its mile after mile of stoplights, strip malls and lodging – clearly, this area is a popular vacation destination for Arizonans looking to escape the summer heat – we escaped the area and continued our way across the Mogollon Rim. To get the best Rim experience, I suspect it would be best to hop onto the Rim Road (Fire Road 300) which runs right along the edge of it but, unfortunately, it is largely unpaved and we were not set up for that. Fully loaded we were at the max weight limit of the Tracer with the stock suspension. Before starting the trip I had dialed the rear spring preload to max and we were still undersprung. I had also raised the forks in the triple clamps 7mm to offset a propensity for wheelying when loaded thusly (it helped). Even so, we were definitely in Gold Wing mode: pretty heavy and wallow-y. We were still able to enjoy some nice twisty pavement during the trip – yup! – but, combined with street tires, it would have been risky – and slow! - to travel the unpaved Rim Road. For future trips I’ll upgrade the rear shock and invest in some James Bond tires with retractable studs for such occasional off road use.


Day 19 - Ridin' to the edge of the world on the Mogollon Rim



Day 19 - Sittin' on the edge of the world at Mogollon Rim

We stayed on 260 as it dove over the edge of the Rim and headed south towards Payson. Passing through Payson, 260 once again turned north and headed back for the Rim. After riding some nice curvy blacktop for a while we turned left where US-87 splits off north of Strawberry. Here we were once again at higher elevation (above 7000ft) and cruising west through scenic high alpine meadows. After a long slow descent back down off the Rim we approached Camp Verde where the temperature went from low 60s to mid-80s very quickly in the last few miles.

From there a quick hop on I-17 (freeway – yuck!) past Pinto Mesa got us to SR-169 for a quick blast west to Prescott Valley and the town of Prescott, AZ. As we had done for the whole trip, we opted for lodging in town with walkability in mind. We found another cool old hotel there called the Hassayampa Inn, its namesake coming from a local river.


Day 19 - Proper digs for our last night on the road. Prescott, AZ

We’d never been to Prescott before, but it has a nice downtown with a nice park and many shops, eateries and pubs. It’s not far from Sedona, another place as yet unvisited by us, which will be a good reason to visit the area again on another trip.

Day 20, our last for this trip, started sunny and cool. It was nice to start at higher elevation (5300ft), as I knew we would soon be descending back into the lower regions of the Sonora Desert where I hoped we would avoid triple digit temperatures. But first we headed south out of town on US-89 which quite unexpectedly turned out to be another 5-star twisty bit of heavenly asphalt. The 40mi stretch of this road from Prescott to near Congress, AZ is terrific. It culminates in a steep dive over the edge of the Weaver Mountains and descends 1400ft down the grade with the north- and south-bound lanes taking separate (and twisty) paths = no worries about oncoming traffic while corner carving.

While having fun on the bike here is great, it is also where a memorial is constructed for the Granite Mountain Hotshots. It commemorates the great loss of life (19 brave firefighters) during the Yarnell wildfire in 2013. Obviously, this serves as a sobering reminder of the risk to life and limb that our wildland firefighters accept in their efforts to keep us safe.

Once past Congress, we picked up Arizona state route 71 and continued heading southwest. And again we were in the wide open desert with Saguaro cactus, little traffic, and ample opportunities to, ahem, make some time. After a bit we closed the loop one last time when we joined up with US-60 which we had traveled in the opposite direction three weeks ago. A while later we enjoyed a picnic lunch on the banks of the Colorado River in Parker, AZ. From there it was a manageable blast across the desert to Twenty Nine Palms and Yucca Valley. Fortunately, the temperature stayed in the upper-80s/low-90s which made the traverse reasonable. From there, it was home free even if we were going to have to bob and weave our way through San Gabriel Valley traffic to our home in Ventura County.

But first, there was one last curveball thrown our way. As we descended downhill on CA-62 from Morongo Valley towards the San Gorgonio Pass the winds became ferocious. These bad boys were blowing a good 50-60mph directly across the roadway. There was no other route we could take so we had no choice but to ride it out. It was so bad that we had to hunch over the bike like Vinales blasting down the back straight at COTA. It was a four lane road here and I had to make sure there was no vehicle in the lane next to me in case one of the many ridiculous wind gusts blew us sideways. That was one of the longest five mile stretches of riding I’ve been on in a long while. But we lived to tell the tale!

In total, the trip covered 5,260mi in just under three weeks (20 days). The bike ran flawlessly and the rear Dunlop RS-IV tire was slightly flattened after thousands of miles of straightlining across coarse southwestern desert chip seal road surfaces. I did have to stop at a shop in Alpine, TX to get the right mirror stalk tightened. After days on end of ripping through some, at times, vicious cross winds, it had loosened up and was flapping in the breeze. I had to buy a 10mm socket at Autozone so the very helpful guy at the local powersports shop could grind it down to make it thin enough to fit (now I'm keeping it on the bike just in case).

The ol' bike has never been so dirty, though, with nasty highway grime and bug splats on top of bug splats despite my best efforts to remove them daily (the windshield would have been opaque if I didn't!). Over the course of the trip we saw weather ranging from 40F and raining to a baking 104F. Aside from being a little too cold a few times and a little too hot at others, it was a great success. My wife and I are even still on speaking terms! 😆 I was able to shorten the bucket list a little with visits to Texas Hill Country, COTA, Big Bend NP, and White Sands NP. But, of course, the list is still long with many others out there that will be a draw for the next big moto trip!

Edited by Kevin R
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Thanks for posting this, it gives me motivation to plan a trip myself. Oh and nice job with raking that sand on the second day 17 pic, someone takes their photography seriously 😁

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What a fantastic trip... great write-up and photos. Feeds imagination. Thank you for sharing.


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5 hours ago, Heli ATP said:

Thanks for posting this, it gives me motivation to plan a trip myself. Oh and nice job with raking that sand on the second day 17 pic, someone takes their photography seriously 😁

Yup. Good thing there was a rake just sitting there by the side of the road. Little did I know that I would be doing yard work during the trip!  🙂

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Thanks for the photos and ride report, sounds like it was a fantastic trip.  Congratulations to you and especially the wife for braving so much time on the bike under (at times) adverse weather conditions. 

I've spent 10 consecutive days on the bike riding solo but don't consider the Tracer a large bike and with the top box installed really limits passengers "living space".  Thumbs up to her for sticking it out without too much protest.

***2015 Candy Red FJ-09***

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Thanks for the road names. I'm planning a trip through TX in a couple of months and I'll look at your suggestions west of Austin. I rode a lot of the stuff you liked in NM back in 2006. Good choice of roads. 

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