Motorcycle Weekend

A thousand miles in three days, and no monkey butt . . .

If, like me, you live in southern Arizona and want to go riding in northern Arizona, it helps to have a daughter living in Phoenix, right in the middle of the state. It also helps to have a three-day weekend (thanks, Chris).

The old man & his Wing

The old man & his Wing

Friday morning I packed my gear on the bike and rode to work. After work, I cinched everything back down and headed north to Phoenix. Normally I’d take back roads, but I wanted to get to Polly’s place in time to catch the second Bush-Kerry debate, so I decided to defer the scenic route. When Donna and I were first married and raising a family we’d hop in the car and drive across the USA at the slightest excuse. Such is the exuberance of youth. Now we rarely drive farther than we can get in one day, which from Tucson means either San Diego or Las Vegas (fortunately for us, both are good hashing towns.

I don’t know how the interstates are in the rest of the country, but in Arizona, southern California, and Nevada they are no longer the safe, smooth, convenient freeways Donna and I traveled in the sixties, seventies, and eighties. They’re deteriorating, dangerous, overcrowded (especially with commercial trucking), and guaranteed to get you to your destination enervated and atwitch, in need of a good drink. I-10 from Tucson to Phoenix is no exception. I knew I wouldn’t enjoy the first leg of my trip, and I didn’t. But then again, only three inattentive car drivers tried to kill me Friday afternoon – I’ve had worse runs to Phoenix.

Saturday morning I rode north and east through Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, the Beverly Hills of Phoenix, to Highway 87, then north through Sunflower and Rye to Payson, where, after two hours of riding, I stopped for breakfast. Once out of the vast shallow meteor crater Phoenix lies in (surely hundreds of feet lower than Death Valley), the road climbs and curves over rolling hills as it heads north toward the Mogollon Rim, and it seemed like everyone with a motorcycle was out enjoying the day. Just the kind of riding I love. From Payson I continued north through Pine and Strawberry, then up Highway 65 to Clint’s Well, where I cut left on 487 to Flagstaff. From Flagstaff I rode as much of Route 66 as I could to Williams, where I checked into the Super 8. After leaving some gear in my room I rode up to the Grand Canyon, mingled with the tourists on the South Rim, and eventually took Highway 180 to Snow Bowl, back to Flagstaff, then back to Williams for the night.

I left Phoenix Saturday morning wearing a Joe Rocket ballistic mesh jacket, good body armor for warm weather. Before leaving Payson I put on a leather vest, which I wore inside the mesh jacket. For the ride back to Flagstaff from the Grand Canyon I swapped the mesh jacket for a leather one, and as a precaution against a chilly mountain Sunday morning, I stopped at the Harley dealership on I-40 between Flagstaff and Williams, where I bought a neck wrap to wear under my helmet.

A good move. Sunday morning was cold, cold and overcast, and I was glad I’d brought my winter riding gear along. I rode from Williams back to Flagstaff, then down the cliff on Highway 89 to Sedona, where I had breakfast. From Sedona I rode to Cottonwood and Clarkdale, then up the mountain to Jerome, an old mining town now aswarm with art galleries and tourists. From Jerome, on over Mingus Mountain and down into Prescott, where I visited some friends who moved there from Tucson last year – and where, if I had the money and didn’t have to work, I’d cheerfully move myself. Then a dreadful ride down I-17 to Phoenix in crawling bumper-to-bumper traffic, payback for two full days of motorcycle touring as it’s meant to be – but it’s always that way coming into Phoenix , no matter the day, the hour, or your direction of approach.

Another night with Polly, and a nice dinner at a Mexican place a couple of blocks from her apartment, and then up early this morning to ride back to Tucson. I said I was going to take the back roads home, through Superior, Globe, and Oracle, but I knew I was lying when I said it – always, at the end of a trip, I’m in a hurry to get home. So I skipped the back roads and took the interstate again. Had I ridden home as planned, I wouldn’t have gotten back until two or three in the afternoon. As it was I was home by ten and had the rest of the day to do things. Which, if you ride motorcycles, translates into “washing the bike.”

During my ride I wore a Camelback, which I filled with ice and water each morning. Those Butler cups Goldwingers use? I hate ’em – they say “RV,” elderly couples wearing matching square dance outfits. The Camelback, on the other hand, has my enthusiastic endorsement. With one hand you can maneuver the drinking tube up under your helmet to your lips – cold refreshing water all day long. Beats the crap out of the canteen-to-gas-mask drinking tube I used to suck on during my USAF days! Oh, and I learned a new trick this trip. Normally toward the end of a long day’s ride (in my case, anything over 200 miles), my rear end gets tender and sore – riders call it “monkey butt” – but this trip I greeted each new day with talcum powder, liberally rubbed onto my butt and the backs of my thighs. No more monkey butt! From now on I’m keeping a can of talcum powder in the saddlebag!

Oh, and I’ve got something to say to you cagers (automobile drivers): check your goddamn mirror before you change lanes, okay?

© 2004 – 2008, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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