Our first real ride in the U.S.A. has been a memorable oneâ€¦ We covered 820 km and spent twelve hours on the roadâ€¦!!
I left the home of Mary Pacini in Gilbert, Phoenix at 6.45 am, a good time to get out onto the road, considering the heat that would later envelop the areaâ€¦!!
Mary is a friend of Patriciaâ€™s and hosted me for the few days I was in Phoenix.
Last night we had a very pleasant dinner with her friends Mike and Lorie, who have traveled extensively throughout the south-west, and were able to give me advice on which were the best roads to ride on my way to the Grand Canyonâ€¦
Mike has ridden a variety of bikes over the years and his current favourite is a Kawasaki Versus, the same bike that my friend Adrian in BogotĂˇ, Colombia, ridesâ€¦ We swapped travel stories until after the bewitching hour and I thoroughly enjoyed our evening togetherâ€¦
I headed north towards Payson on Highway 87, winding my way up into the mountains, and was soon at around 2 000 m.a.s.l. The temperature was far more pleasant than it had been in Phoenix, and for the remainder of the day, I would not be affected by the hot conditions I had been expectingâ€¦
I came close to running out of fuel about an hour north of Phoenixâ€¦ I had expected to find fuel far more easily in the US than I had in South and Central America, but in these sparsely populated parts, fuel stops were far and few betweenâ€¦!!
My luck was continuing to hold out though, and with my range reading â€ś0â€ł I spied a sign for the small town of Tonto Basin, and beneath it the logo indicating fuel was for sale thereâ€¦
Before I reached Tonto Basin, I came across a roadside store that had a fuel pump outside and refueled thereâ€¦ I also filled two of my spare fuel bottles, knowing that I would be using them sooner or laterâ€¦!!
Jakeâ€™s Corner was a general store that sold supplies to both local and campers visiting the Theodore Roosevelt Lake and itâ€™s environs, which was just a few miles down the roadâ€¦ The friendly owner and I chatted for a while before I bade him farewell and headed back towards Highway 87â€¦
I passed through the little town of Pine and rode on to another little village named Strawberryâ€¦ The hills in this area were covered in what seemed to be natural pine forests, the trees reminding me of the Patula species back homeâ€¦
Mike had suggested I ride the Fossil Creek road on my way to Camp Verde, instead of taking the main road that would lead me back towards the Interstate 17, and on to Sedonaâ€¦
The road was a hard-packed, gravel track and wound itâ€™s way through the low range of mountains east of the Interstate. I was looking forward to seeing the beautiful scenery that Mike had described to me the night beforeâ€¦
A few miles outside Strawberry, and having been on the Fossil Creek road for only a short while, I came across signs that had me turning around and heading back the way I had come.
The road had been closed to all traffic due to fire hazard warnings which today were listed as â€śExtremeâ€ťâ€¦
The massive fires burning in Colorado, obviously had the local authorities on edge, and they had decided to keep all traffic out of the sensitive forested areas in this regionâ€¦
Back on the â€™87, I missed the turnoff to Sedona, believing that I would only end up being turned back again by fire hazard signsâ€¦ I ignored all of Gi-Giâ€™s instructions to â€śturn left at the next intersectionâ€ť, and by the time I realised that I had ridden too far north to hook up with the Sedona road, it was too late to turn backâ€¦
The highway took me onto a high plateau where the pine trees gave way to low scrub and a few stunted treesâ€¦
There was hardly any traffic on this stretch of road and I could see far into the distance. I figured this was as good a place to give the Big Fella a blast and with a steady twisting of the throttle, we were soon cruising at 180 km/h, getting rid of any carbon build-up that might be lining the throttle bodiesâ€¦!!
The small town of Winslow was perched on the edge of the I-40, and we turned east on this wide expanse of road and headed towards Flagstaffâ€¦
I hooked up with a few Harley riders and we rode together to the turnoff that led north towards the Grand Canyonâ€¦ They stopped for fuel and a late breakfast, while I continued north, eager to get to the Canyon and from there decided where I would spend the nightâ€¦
I rode through the Navajo Indian Reservation, past the town of Gray Mountain and on to Cameron, where we turned west on the H-64 and rode through rain for the a few miles before reaching the entrance to the National Parkâ€¦
Entry to most National Parks in North America cost about $20.00, and I had plans to visit at least a dozen of them over the next few weeksâ€¦ Mike had advised me to purchase an Annual Pass, which cost $80.00 and was valid for a full yearâ€¦ This is similar to our â€śWild Cardâ€ť back home, and will allow me access to all the parks I intend to visit without having to trouble my wallet againâ€¦
A short distance from the main entrance was the first view-point of many I would stop at to stare in awe at the magnificence of the Grand Canyonâ€¦ This area is what is known as the Southern Rim, and â€śDesert Viewâ€ť is on the far eastern side of the Canyonâ€¦
I was surprised at the size of the parking grounds and the hundreds of vehicles I found thereâ€¦ Apart from the cars and large mobile campers, I also saw dozens of motorcycles, and noticed that none of the riders wore helmetsâ€¦
I tied mine to the back of the bike and decided to ride through the park wearing a bandana only, and this was only to keep the sun burning a hole through my pipâ€¦!!
The viewpoint was built on the edge of the canyon rim, and a large stone watchtower, whose bottom floor was taken up by a very well stocked curio shop, allowed visitors to climb up a series of stairways to the very top, where the views of the canyon were spectacular to say the leastâ€¦
The Grand Canyon is considered to be one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and is almost 450 km long and 30 km wide in some placesâ€¦ The Colorado River is almost a mile below the rim of the canyon in placesâ€¦!!
Whe an elderly gentleman asked me what I thought of the Canyon, I replied,
â€śWell sirâ€¦ Itâ€™s certainly the biggest crack Iâ€™ve ever seenâ€¦!!â€ť
He and his family â€ścracked upâ€ť with laughter and then spent the next few minutes asking me about my tripâ€¦ I was dressed in full riding kit and obviously attracted many a curious glance from the visitors at the viewpointâ€¦
The Grand Canyon attracts almost 5 million visitors a year, and is one of Americaâ€™s top tourist destinationsâ€¦ The first European to lay eyes on this particular geological fault, did so in 1540â€¦
I rode on through the park, stopping at the various viewpoints and meeting up with other riders doing the very same thingâ€¦ We all stood staring out at the walls and myriad of colours that the sun was exposing as it began itâ€™ slow fall to the westâ€¦
Like myself, many people stood silently while they absorbed the spectacleâ€¦ People seemed to whisper to each other rather than talk in normal tonesâ€¦ At one such viewpoint, where there were far fewer visitors, I was able to sit quietly and reflect on the long rides I had made to date, and all the fantastic natural wonders which had come before this oneâ€¦
I cruised slowly through the park, enjoying the feeling of being without a helmet, the sun beating down on my face and when I was moving, the wind blowing over my head and shouldersâ€¦
The main camp was abuzz with tourists, the parking lot packed to capacityâ€¦ I parked in the shadows of one of the building and walked out to the main viewing areaâ€¦ It was blazing hot at this point and I wished I was wearing the light clothing that everybody else was wearingâ€¦!!
I decided not to stay in the park, even though it was going on 3.00 pmâ€¦ I made my way towards the main exit and stopped to take a photo thereâ€¦ A guy came running over to ask if he could take a photo with me in the picture, and I handed him my camera with gratitudeâ€¦
I rode through Tusayan, a touristy village just outside the park and then bombed south towards Valle and Red Lake, where I stopped to shelter from a sudden rainstorm that had me soaked in minutesâ€¦
I was surprised at how high the sun still hung in the sky on the approach to Williams, where I had planned to spend the nightâ€¦ I judged that there might still be at least two hours of good riding light left and made a snap decision to ride onâ€¦
I took the I-40, heading west to Seligman, where I turned off onto the historic Route 66, happy to be off the interstate highway and onto narrower country roadsâ€¦
Not that there was much to see in these partsâ€¦ The surrounding lands were flat, broken here and there by a series of low hillsâ€¦
At Hackberry, I slowed down to see if there was a place to stay and could not see anyâ€¦ In fading light I lit the afterburners and tore west towards Kingman, and entered this industrial town just as the sun was settingâ€¦ Kingman seemed to be a truckers hub, as hundreds of big rigs were parked on the roadside or in lay-bys, their drivers sitting around on camp chairs, shooting the breezeâ€¦
Motel 6 was the cheapest place I could find before nightfall, and after checking in, I shucked my jacket and lay on the lumpy bed for half an hour, thinking about the long ride I had just made and the 12 hours I had spent on the roadâ€¦
I realized that with these great road conditions, I would be able to cover fairly good distances if I needed to over the next week or so, and getting to Vancouver by the 10th or 12th of July was no longer a worryâ€¦
I checked my route for the following day, and changed it to culminate in Bakersfield instead of Death Valley, confident that I could put in another big ride and still take in a few of the sights I wanted to seeâ€¦
After a short walk to a nearby convenience store to get â€śsuppliesâ€ť (you know the onesâ€¦!!) I ran a critical eye over the Big Fella, checking the small oil leak from the gearbox that Victory BMW had not been able to take a proper look atâ€¦ I wondered if they had topped the gearbox oil up like I asked them toâ€¦!! If they had, the Big Fella wasnâ€™t sayingâ€¦!!
He was as disappointed as I was by the shoddy service we had received in Phoenixâ€¦!! The bike had run well and certainly showed a turn of speed that we had long last had a tilt atâ€¦ But still, there were many small things that I had hoped to sort out before the long ride to Alaska, and I wondered when next I could afford to stop for a day or two and have them sortedâ€¦
Not for some time, I suspectâ€¦!!
FG_AUTHORS: Ronnie Borrageiro