Monday, October 25, 2010

Rally Road Trip

The Great Southwest Scooter Fiesta was held this past weekend. This is the second time it was held and it is hosted by the Greater Phoenix Scooter Club. Our Tucson club has done a few things with the Phoenix club and so, a few of us decided to make the trip to support this rally.

Although Arizona has great weather suitable for year-round riding, (at least for some of us) there are not that many rallies. Therefore, I try to get to as many of them as I can. I think it's important so that people are encouraged to continue planing rallies in the future. Tucson is home to one of the longest running rallies in the nation: the Tucson-Nogales Fall Classic, but that is another post.

There were four of us who decided to make this road trip. Since we all (initially) had all of Friday off, we decided to make a bit of an adventure out of it and take the scenic (aka "long") way to the Phoenix area. Using the most direct route, it is about 121 miles from Tucson to Gilbert. The route we took was approximately 200 miles.

John was having scooter problems and had asked to borrow my Stella. No problem, now I had both of my scooters going to the rally! John met me at my house to load up our scoots for the weekend. We then drove to Catalina, AZ, to meet up with Stan and his Honda Helix, then we headed north. At the last minute, Sean's final exam at school was changed, so he decided he would just meet us in Phoenix Friday evening. there would be three of us riding up together.

If you've seen any of my "Riding SoAZ" posts, I've mentioned taking Route 77 out of Tucson before. 77 is rural and if you take it all the way, it eventually ends in Holbrook, AZ, about 60 miles east of Flagstaff. Our journey only had us taking it as far as Globe, though.

Taking the Stella (60mpg) and the Iron Buddy (70-80mpg) necessitated that we stop relatively often for fuel as well as for butt rests. Also, we had all day Friday to get there and so, weren't in a hurry. I had built some extra time into our schedule for site seeing, picture taking and the like as well.

Outside of Oracle there is a 12 mile stretch of 7% grade downhill. I've done this on the scoot before, but it was even more fun with a group. We stopped for our first fuel in Winkelman, a little mining town. There was a lot of climbing from here to Globe (from 2000' to over 5000') but all three scoots did fine.

Winkelman, AZ
Stan took over the lead in Globe because he had a a couple of places he wanted to show us in Miami, which is just west of Globe on US60. Stan lived there a few years back and he is an excellent tour guide. We stopped for bit in Miami and listened raptly to Stan's stories of Miami's past.

Antique Store in Miami
Looking down Main St in Miami
We climbed again from Globe to Top of the World, AZ. You climb some pretty steep grade as you pass the mine outside of Miami. After Top of the World, it's all downhill to Superior. There are a lot of trucks around here so I was always looking behind me for fear that a truck would lose its brakes and come careening down toward us.

There was additional excitement when we hit the tunnel nearing Superior. The warning signs advised us to turn our headlights on as the tunnel lights were out. They were right. The lights were out and our little headlights didn't light they way too much. It was seriously dark in there.

Superior was a fuel and food stop, but first Stan took us on another short tour. Superior was where the movies "U-Turn" and "8-legged Freaks" were shot and Stan showed us some points of interest. We went to the Buckboard Cafe for lunch. The service was good but the food was not all the good. Our treat here was going to the World's Smallest Museum. It's pretty hokey, but in a fun, Route 66-Americana, kind of way.

World's Smallest Museum in Superior
From Superior, we zoomed toward our hotel in Mesa. It started to sprinkle and bit and the skies had been very dark since before reaching Globe, but those few sprinkles were all we got. The weather for the rest of the weekend was amazing.

From US60 we took Old West Highway to Apache Trail (which is old US60). What a treat, If you live in or visit Phoenix, you should take a drive down Apache Trail. It's like a time capsule from the 50's or 60's. There are lots of cool restaurants and old motor hotels. We passed by the Buckhorn Motel and we all dearly wished it was still open so we could have stayed there.

After checking in and resting a bit, we went over to the rally's first meet-up at Victory BMW and we then rode to dinner at Joe's Real BBQ. It was good seeing some scooter friends from the Phoenix group again. Waiting in line is never difficult when you're shooting the breeze with friends. The food wasn't as good as I remembered last year, but it wasn't bad.

Friday night at Joe's Real BBQ
Sean got out of school later than planned and texted at 6pm to say he had finally left Tucson and would meet us at Joe's, so we waited.... and waited ...... and waited. It takes some stones to ride a small scooter 120 miles in the dark, and that's what he did. Joe's was closed and the parking lot was empty, but Sean arrived around 9:30. We saddled up and rode safely to our hotel.

Stan had written a few places down where he wanted to try to eat while in Phoenix. As it turned out, Matt's Big Breakfast (featured on the Food Network's Diners Drive-Ins and Dives) was on his list AND was a meet up location for the rally. Google informed us that it would take at least an hour to ride to Matt's, so we knew we had an early start coming. Sean and John wimped out as Stan and I set our alarm for 5:15am.

I figured that at 5:30 on a Saturday morning it would be fairly easy to ride US60 on the scoots. I was wrong. There was traffic than I figured and it was a bit scary. An hour and 5 minutes later, Stan and I made it to Matt's. I was pretty pleased with my breakfast, but Stan wasn't impressed with his.

It was "every scoot for itself" for the ride to Joe's Farm Grill (the rally's main event) so Stan and I plotted out a different route than the one we came in on and headed for Gilbert. neither of us knows much about the streets in Phoenix, but it didn't matter. That's one thing I like about the guys I rode with, they are always ready for an adventure.
The Lawn at Joe's Farm Grill
Scooters Lined up in front of the coffee shop at Joe's
We made it to Joe's with no problem, parked the scoots and began to take in the rally activities. In my opinion, Saturday's highlight was the ride to Saguaro Lake. We left around 3:00pm and 20-30 scooters headed out for the lake. Once you get out of town, this ride is beautiful. There are amazing desert views, then cliffs, then you arrive at the lake. We did this ride last years and it is excellent. The road has some nice twists and turns in it as well.

Our bikes at Saguaro Lake
The four of us Sky Island Riders finished the ride and found our way to Vito's Pizza Place for dinner. we all agreed that the food here was very, very good and the prices were reasonable. The service was good, too. An additional bonus is that they have a scooter painted on the outside or the restaurant. How cool is that?

Vito's - Check out the scooter on the wall
Sunday morning's rally ride was another ride to downtown Phoenix. We figured that since we had already ridden there to go to Matt's, we would load up and head toward home.

Have you ever noticed that saddle time, and its associated butt pain, is cumulative if you don't take at least 2-3 days off? I have. As we started riding toward Tucson, I needed to stop more and more frequently to stretch.

On the way out of town we stopped for fuel, then again at the 5 & Diner for breakfast. I think we were all very pleased with our food and Pebbles, our waitress, was a delight. We took Power Road south to Hunt Highway, then southeast toward Florence.

Just outside of Florence is Poston Butte, aka "F" Mountain. We thought about trying to riding to the top, but the trail is too steep and rocky, so we hiked it. We had no idea it was called Poston Butte until I looked it up while writing this. I was raised in Arizona and didn't know that Charles Poston is known as the Father of Arizona. Did you know that? Apparently he wanted to build and Temple to the Sun at the top of this little mountain.

From "F" Mountain, we rode the 2 miles in to Florence, got gas and stopped in the little park to rest a bit more. Since we were in Florence and none of the other guys had ever been there, we then stopped in at the Florence Prison gift shop. It's a fun little place and if you buy something that an inmate made, the proceeds help the inmate pay restitution to his victim(s).

Hunt Highway dumps you out onto Route 79 which eventually dumps you out onto Route 77 which becomes Oracle Road. the more I ride on Oracle, the less I like it. We have had a couple of close calls on group rides. Traffic moves fast and there isn't that much to look at, so I decided to take the Park Link Rd cutoff and come in to Tucson via the I-10 frontage road. this adds a few mile to the trip, but I felt like it would be a bit more fun and possibly safer. Plus, I was the only one of the four of us who had been on it before.

I got home about 7 hours after leaving the hotel. We had logged in over 500 miles during the three days and had had a great time. Both of my scooter ran great. None of us had any mechanical failures. We had some good food and shared some funny stories. To me, that equals a great weekend.

Ride on,