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Author Topic: Riding the Arizona Desert  (Read 364 times)

Online Dan

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Riding the Arizona Desert
« on: March 14, 2017, 03:08:54 PM »

About a week ago I returned from a three day trip in Tucson Arizona for a ride around the high desert.  Visited Nogales, Saguaro National Park and Mt Lemmon and some interesting points in-between.  My friend John had just moved there last fall and as luck would have it he has two bikes, his Honda Interceptor and a nice Yamaha FZ6R.  For the most part I rode the Yamaha and it was a good fit as it is very similar to my Ninja 650, harder seat but rider triangle a bit more comfy.  Power and handling fairly similar but I think his Yamaha needs new tires as I felt the back wheel break free on more than one occasion.

From lumber to limber.

Our first stop was the sleepy little town of Patagonia, AZ.  Mostly art studios and touristy knick-knack stores and a few restaurants surrounded by dirt and cacti.  You can see in the photo above that the old lumber store is now a pilates class.  We rode off along the very twisty road on our way to Nogales on the border.

Notice the tallish square tupperware, it gets passed from table to table and is filled with the most delicious and HOT homemade sauce.

We rode up and down the streets of Nogales and at a fill up John asked me what I wanted to eat.  I thought a good Mexican restaurant would be just the ticket.  He looked up for the best one according to Trip Advisor and they sent us to Concina La Ley.  Hard to find as it sit just out of town in an industrial park and off the main road.  The interior is lit with unflattering fluorescent lights and the tables and chairs are old but serviceable.  The menu only has five different tacos, ceviche, soup and broth.  After ordering John asked for nachos without looking at the menu, "we don't have nachos" was the kindly reply, he then asks for chips, "we don't have chips either".  The server recommended broth and according to John it was fantastic.  The service was exemplary.  Note in the photo our tacos look a bit sad, after my first bite one of the workers pointed me to a bar at the far side of the restaurant with different fixings like onions, lettuce, cilantro and such.

Here is the border wall separating Nogales, AZ from Nogales, Mexico.

We make one more stop along the twisty highway before our trek back home.  The weather is hot when you're not moving and a bit cool to downright cold when you're on the throttle.  Overall it was a good first day.  I tried a few stints on the Interceptor a bike I've had a long time infatuation with but I just couldn't get along with the very sporty clip-ons.

Big sky views along a rest stop on HWY 83.

The next day we travel to Saguaro National Park and Kitt Peak.  Saguaro is really neat and my experience in the AZ mountains only it's heavy with traffic and we can't really enjoy the bikes in a sporty way.  It's also colder and windier today, very windy at times.  Between Saguaro National Park and Kitt Peak you have to travel around thirty minutes across the high desert and the wind starting hitting us something fierce.  Fortunately we received some relief once we were in the shadow of the mountains.

Me and my cactus friend.

If you look to the upper right of the photo you can make out one of the observatories, over 6,000 ft in elevation.

We had some great views on the ascent.  I believe it's about twelve miles of nothing but curvy roads all the way to the top.  It got quite a bit colder too but not unbearable.  The worst part was the wind, it was very gusty when we were about four miles from the top.  One time it was so bad it nearly knocked the bike out from under me.  I literally stopped in the middle of the road thinking I couldn't control it anymore.  I soldiered on and the wind abated once we rounded the corner and got some cover.  There is a neat visitors center at the top of the mountain as well as a number of observatories.  The visitors centers does tours and has a nice little museum as well as a gift shop.  I don't have many photos from this part of the ride because the cold air was sucking the life out of my phone's battery, which I was using as my camera on this trip as well.

The road leading off the highway to Kitt Peak is long, straight and about three miles long.  It's also largely unpopulated with great sight-lines which gave me an idea.  I had meant to ask John if he wanted to drag race the two bikes but the thought slipped my mind as we were making our descent.  So I surveyed the situation and thought, I will race him anyway even if he is unaware.  As the road straightened out I was traveling about 45 mph and was following John, I dropped two gears and ripped the throttle on the Yamaha.  I got the speedo up to around 110, fastest I've ever traveled on two wheels.  I was surprised how stable the FZ6R was at those speeds opposed to the Interceptor which gave me some shaking around 87 mph.  Oh yea, John suggested I give the Interceptor a speed run too.  It's possible that the shaking may have been induced by the top case on the Honda.

Thinking I had four more miles to go I stopped here to put on another layer and switch to my thicker gloves.  Little did I know the parking lot was right around the corner.

View from the top.

A nice meal of calamari and meatballs ended the day.

On the final day of the ride we made the trip up to Mt. Lemmon through Coronado National Park.  This is an amazing route and should be on the list of every rider.  If I remember right it's around 25 miles and just under 9,000 ft in elevation, John's fitbit assumed he was walking and he got some amazing stats that day.  We went on a Monday and there wasn't a cloud in the sky, very little traffic and generally agreeable temps even at the very top.  There are some amazing views on this road but sadly either my iPhone couldn't really capture them well or worse yet, once again the battery died on me during the ascent.  I'm working with an old iPhone 4 here and it's just barely hanging on as is.  Anyway, the road twists and turns all the way to the very top, the speed limit is 35mph but we were doing 50-ish most of the time.  Traffic generally pulls over for you if you catch up with the car in front of you, though on one occasion this did not happen and we had to pass, one of us legally the other not so much.

One of the amazing views on the ascent of Mt Lemmon.

My trusted steed named, Dos Pacos, a very easy to get along with Yamaha FZ6R.

We had snow the last two miles of the ride to the top.

So that is about it.  John did a speed run at the base of Mt. Lemmon, I tried to keep up but thought better of it as it was a bit more congested there than at Kitt Peak.  This is a neat area to ride though admittedly the scenery is rather brown.  We did have an incident with the border patrol returning from Kitt Peak.  I went through easy-peasy but John being a Canadian had to go through some vetting, it wasn't too extreme.  The guards were actually quite nice and one was a rider giving us all sorts of info for the rest of our trip.  Looking forward to riding weather here in New England, soon very soon.


Offline aycaramba

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Re: Riding the Arizona Desert
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2017, 04:04:04 PM »
Nice report. I've been to both Saguaro and My. Let, but unfortunately it was on 4 wheels. Would love to do it on 2 some time.

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Offline Raven

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Re: Riding the Arizona Desert
« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2017, 05:15:19 AM »
  Great pics and beautiful scenery.
I had considered buying an FZ6R. They're a good looking bike and quite affordable. Also a 4 cylinder which I still really like.
 Sadly riding season is about a month away here. We got 7 inches of snow last night.


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