Saturday, August 27, 2011

Deeds Done & Dues Paid

I haven't really had the opportunity to blog about it lately, but I've been having a LOT of scooter mechanical difficulties. The Buddy broke a belt on my way home from work, then again when I brought it to Sedona. The RV-250 lost its starter in the middle of the desert, leaving me stranded for a few hours. Then, earlier this week, Stella seized her crank on a ride to Sonoita with some friends, again leaving me stranded, but at least John K. stayed with me while we waited for my son to come pick me up.

So, it was with some trepidation that I left on a very long ride a few days ago. At every major point along the way, I was thinking about who I could call and where I could keep the scoot until I could come back to pick it up. Thankfully, the scoot ran perfectly for the entire 550+ miles.

Did I say 550 miles? Yes, I did. For details of how and why the route came to be that far and on those particular roads, please refer to my scooter club blog post: Of Prescott Twisties to Jerome to AZ Rim Country and Home. But why consider riding that far, knowing that it would take 14-16 hours in the saddle?

Here is a comment my mother made on my facebook status referring to the length of the ride: "And why is it you are doing this? I know you love to ride that scooter, but sometime-----" She wasn't the only person who asked either.

It was a cloudless morning when I set out

The fact is that there is more than one answer to that question.The first, and most obvious is that I wanted to ride the area. Yesterday seemed like as good a time as any. Actually I was going to do it 2 weeks ago, but it was raining the morning I planned and going.

The Weaver Mountains outside of Congress, AZ

Another reason is that I'm pretty sure I won't always live here in Tucson. I don't want to move away wishing that I had ridden a certain road(s) before moving. again, now was as good a time as any.

Frog Rock outside of Congress, AZ

Third, I just love to ride, and I love to ride where I've never ridden before. I had several days off work and this was a good time.

So, what is it like to ride long distance on a 250cc scooter?

I felt great as I left Tucson. I had found some roads outside of Casa Grande on which I had never ridden, as well and a new route around the southwest part of Phoenix. I was looking forward to what lay ahead. Never the less, every bump in the road, made me wonder if the scooter was about to die on me.

Being somewhat of a farm boy, originally from Roswell, NM, I enjoyed the ride between Casa Grande and Maricopa. There were lots a cattle and hay cutting and all the associate smells were there. I may be the only one, but the smell of manure brings on a certain nostalgia for me. The road itslef was straight and flat, but I still enjoyed it a lot.

Elevation and cloud cover started increasing as I left the Phoenix area, riding toward Wickenburg. One of the many things I love about riding in AZ are the mountains. A 50 miles ride can take up, then down several thousand feet, depending on where you are. Temperatures can drop 30 degrees and you can go from desert to pine forest. It is amazing to experience. On this day, I experienced it over and over again. What a treat.

Roadside Memorial along the White Spar Highway (AZ-89)

My excitement in creased as I left Congress, AZ. I knew that I would be climbing a big mountain (the White Spar Highway) and then, not far after that, I would reach the first of the roads I was out here for. The White Spar is an impressive climb. The I was limited to about 45mph top speed, because of the grade. I've read that this is a dangerous stretch of road, but there was little traffic when I was there. Riding down probably would have been a bit scarier.

Route 89 outside of Prescott.
I reached the top and wished there had been a scenic overlook for pics of the valley. As I am writing this, I discovered that there is one, but it is only available to vehicle goes DOWN. Another time, maybe. I pulled over in the little town of Yarnell to mount my Go-Pro camera. I really wanted to catch the twisties and share them with others.

Beautiful Blue Stella w/sidecar Combo at Prescott Scooter & Auto Source

My desire to share my rides is another reason I enjoy these rides as well. Since I have started blogging about my rides, I have had many people tell me that they enjoy each installment. I encourages me to know that I bring other people enjoyment by writing about my little scooter hobby.

Scooter & auto source also had this 150cc Tomahawk Replica

I learned from from my first video attempts in Sedona, so I changed up the way I was videoing. Rather than just letting the camera run, I only shot 1-2 minutes at a time. That way it would take forever to load and edit. The biggest problem I had with this technique was that it is hard to tell if the camera is on or off. There is no indicator light on the top or back of the camera, so I had to guess a bit. I did end up missing one to the better segments of the road. Here is my edited video of the segment of AZ-89 HERE.

I was thrilled to see a lot full of scooters as I rode through Prescott. I stopped for a bit and met Mark Tetreau, owner of Prescott Scooter and Auto Source. I love scooter people.

Storm heading toward Jerome

I cut my visit short because it had started sprinkling. It initially looked like the skies were clearer to the south, but once I got out of Prescott, I saw the storm clouds you can see in the pic above. I could see frequent lightening as well. I knew I was probably going to get wet.
Looking through rain squall toward Jerome, AZ

I found myself looking forward to the rain. It's probably just me, but I don't want to be a "fair weather" rider. So, I rode through the rain, up, then down, a steep, winding, mountain road. I kind of feel like I've "paid my dues." Another milestone passed. Also, I was pleased, because I had just ridden the other stretch of road that I wanted to ride.

I was a bit disappointed that it was pouring down as I hit Jerome. It's a very scenic little town. I might have gotten off the bike and walked around a bit had it been nicer.

Riding in the rain got my manual GPS a little damp

I had planned on stopping for a bit in Cottonwood, but I was right on the leading edge of the rain as I got there. I decided to keep going. It took until Camp Verde, another 25 miles, before I was into some partial sunshine. At this point I was just over 300 miles into my ride. I checked in with my wife to let her know that I expected the ride to take another 6-8 hours.

Rain squall near Roosevelt Lake

A lesson I learned while on this ride: Don't bet new glasses then take off on a 15 hour ride the next day. I wasn't having problems seeing, but they were too tight behind my ears. Over the course of the day, they were getting more and more painful. I'm sure the helmet didn't help, either.

More anticipation: I was now headed toward Pine, Strawberry and Payson. I had never been to any of these communities until my last trip to Sedona. This area is what is known as AZ Rim Country, because it is on the Mogollon Rim, and it is beautiful. It is also a bit under utilized because it is not really "on the way" to any place. The good thing about that is that there aren't big crowds. There are nice looking hotels and B&B's as well as a lot of campgrounds. The road quality all around this area is excellent, though. I definitely have plans to return to the Payson area with my wife.

I was getting tired at this point. One thing that keeps me alert is the excitement of a new road. I left Payson then turned onto AZ-166 which would take me by Roosevelt Lake. I had never been on that road now had I seen that lake before. I remained alert as I approached, rode along side, then passed this beautiful lake. There are many large camping and picnic areas along it shores and most were almost completely empty as I went by.
I found this bridge next to the Roosevelt Dam to be quite beautiful

I reached Globe, AZ for some food and my final fuel stop. It is just over 100 miles to Tucson from Globe, night was falling and I had been riding for more than 12 hours.

More lessons learned:
1. Even a good fitting helmet gets uncomfortable after this long. The top of my head was feeling like it was burning from the continuous pressure.
2. Even a comfortable seat gets uncomfortable. My butt was also beginning to feel as if it were burning.

If you think you'll be doing a long ride like this, then plan for the fact that you will likely have to stop more and more frequently the longer you ride. I had been stopping about every 100 miles or so until now. I had to stop twice more before I got back to Tucson

The other thing I had trouble with, was driving at dusk. I found that I was pretty darn frightened. I kept imagining a deer leaping out from the side of the roadway. Once it was completely dark, I felt a lot better. I am glad the RV-250 has such great lighting.

Ride on,