Five day Fall Run, Arizona to Zion National Park

November (Thursday) 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, (Monday) 11th, summer nearing an end, Berni and I decided to squeeze in one last ride for 2019. This ride would be about 1500 miles and take just over four days.

Ride keynotes include: Gillespie Dam/Bridge, Parker Dam, Lake Mead Recreation Area, Duck Creek Village, Zion Natl. Park, Zion Canyon, Jacob Lake, Marble Canyon, South Rim Grand Canyon, and Sedona Arizona.

Map showing notes of the ride north from Arizona to Utah.

Day 1 totaled 310 miles and six hours of riding. We passed over the Gillespie Dam/Bridge in Gila Bend AZ. We followed the mapped plan. Low temps were 66, high 88 No winds. Beautiful day to be riding.

Gillespie Dam/Bridge in Gila Bend Arizona
Gillespie Dam/Bridge in Gila Bend Arizona

Day two, we started out just after 8am, leaving Lake Havasu City and ending the day at 3:30pm in Alamo Nevada. A total of 300 miles.

The low temperature was 66 degrees, and the high was 75 degrees.

Other than the winds, that are often out in the wide-open spaces of the desert, along with the old RT 66 (now the RT95), there really were no other winds. Another gorgeous day of riding. It was such a nice day, I kissed Bernadette right in the Mohave and thanked her for being my riding partner for many years now.

In the afternoon, we rode the Lake Mead National Recreation Area along the northern side of lake mead. This is one of my top-five favorite rides in North America. This would be my 4th time riding these roads, and the first for Berni. This route follows the 167 from Hoover Damn to Moapa Valley, Nevada. Just 70 miles and 90 minutes. It is an awesome ride.

Out where highway 95 meets up with Rt. 11, south of Boulder City and east Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, there is this amazing array of solar panels in the desert. https://goo.gl/maps/tV8TooRAVARu51wY9

Nevada Solar One near Sloan Canyon Natl. Conservation Area
Nevada Solar One near Sloan Canyon Natl. Conservation Area

Shady Frank under pine tree. — in Overton, Nevada.

Day three started at 8:30am, from Alamo Nevada, and ended at Mount Carmel Junction Utah, just over six hours of riding. In terms of miles, this was a short day, just 225 miles.

In the first hour, the temperature started at 39 degree and by 9am, it was up to 50 degrees. The temperature kept fluctuating between 43 degrees and 50 degrees, went down and back up again about 3 or 4 times. By the time we stopped for breakfast in Caliente Nevada, the temperature was back down to 39 degrees! It wasn’t so caliente in Caliente. The morning ride was certainly cold but stunningly beautiful. Thank goodness for the Goldwing heated seats and grips!

Goldwing Parked outside the Side Track restaurant in Caliente Nevada
Goldwing Parked outside the Side Track restaurant in Caliente Nevada

The first leg of the route, between Alamo and Caliente, comes the Great Basin Scenic Byway (https://scenicusa.net/071707.html) Taking this route in the morning, the sunrise casts long shadows on the rugged mountain cliffs.

The sage-brush was a golden color and the pine trees contrasted in dark greens. The pines in this area are Bristlecone Pine, and are the oldest trees in the world, some trees reaching 4000 years old. The ride through this area was incredibly relaxing. There were no winds to fight and we saw hardly any traffic.

Leaving Caliente, we followed eastward along the 319 into southern Utah, passing a 9500 summit into Duck Creek Village on route 14. Duck Creek, where the water is gluten-free and the camp firewood organic.

Our resting point in Mount Carmel is at the historic (e.g.: stuck in time) Thunderbird Restaurant, now connected to a Best Western hotel.

I could not have been any happier with the riding conditions. Berni and I knew we were getting lucky with the weather. This is the second week of November up in the Utah mountains, are we’re riding on sunny dry roads. This is really the limit for motorcycle riding season in this area.

Navajo Lake Lodge, Utah
Campbell Canyon, Utah
Orderville, Utah

On day four we rode for 7.5 hours. This is a bit longer than we prefer to be on the motorcycle. But, sometimes, that is how it works out. Not only were my hands and back tired out, so were my eyes. The experiencing of these roads has been fabulous.

We started the day a little later than we usual do. We started out just before 10am. We had to wait to avoid 39 degree temperatures and the morning deer that would be on out on the road.

When we got rolling, the temperatures were 45 degrees. With just 18 miles before our first stop of the day in Zion National Park. We followed highway 9 into the park.

The cliffs in Zion are beautiful, especially in the morning sun. This being a Sunday, it was a little crowded with car traffic. In the park, there is a tunnel built in 1930 that is just over one mile long (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zion_–_Mount_Carmel_Highway) I hadn’t known about this before going on this ride. So it was a bit of a surprise when we entered the tunnel and it didn’t end as soon as I expected.

The temperature quickly jumped to 61 degrees and it pretty much stayed at this point for the rest of the day. It was another day of windless, sunny, dry riding. Bliss. A blessing.

Leaving Zion, we headed west toward Hurricane Utah before turning back eastward to enter into Arizona at the extreme northwest corner, we road into the Kaibab National forest and plateau.

In just this one day, we rode passed through Zion National Park, Jacob Lake, The Vermilion Cliffs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vermilion_Cliffs_National_Monument) , Marble Canyon (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marble_Canyon), Balanced Rock at Lee’s Ferry (http://www.rockhounders1.com/Balanced%20Rocks%20at%20Lee%27s%20Ferry.htm), The Gap, Cameron Arizona, and the south rim of the Grand Canyon. That’s a lot of territories to cover! It was another scenic packed ride. 330 miles total. These rides humble me and make me grateful for the opportunities to ride.

Frank with Goldwing, November 2019, Utah
Berni and Frank, Lee’s Ferry, 2019
Riding south east into Jacob Lake

The 5th and final day started from Tusayan Arizona.

We left Tusayan just after 9am, after waiting again for the temperature to finally get above freezing. When we rolled out, it was 45 degrees. Our normal roll time is normally an hour earlier, at 8:00 a.m., but at 8am the temperature was at 24 degrees. Way too cold and unsafe freezing conditions to leave. In all our rides, we have a saying, “we roll at 40” … as in 40 degrees or more. At 9:00 a.m. the temps were above freezing, and so we got on our way.

The ride plans for today were reduced to shorten the length of time on the road. Two 7+ hour rides back to back would be too much for my old body to handle. So we had to eliminate going through Jerome and Wilhoit and headed directly east out of Sedona to Interstate 17. This would speed our journey southward.

We rode south out of Tusayan (the south rim of Grand Canyon) into the Kaibab plateau and National Forest. We followed highway 64 south to highway 180, then we into our old home town, Flagstaff. The morning was sunny and dry with temperatures ranging between 52 and 61 degrees.

After grabbing breakfast at the downtown diner in Flagstaff, we rode through Oak Creek Canyon then into Sedona. Temperatures settling in around 70 degrees. The oak trees in the canyon are all bright colors for the fall time, as well as golds, and greens. Our riding bliss ended abruptly as we rolled into downtown Sedona where the construction was a nightmare, a mess.

We followed highway 179 from Sedona onward toward Interstate 17 and then picked-up Interstate 10 in Phoenix, which would be the final road of the journey. I always dread passing through Phoenix. It seems at any time of the day, of any day, there are lots and lots of cars and traffic. We made it through there, alive, again. Thank goodness.

The remaining 90 minutes we followed Interstate 10 south out of Phoenix to Tucson. This leg of the Interstate is wide open, flat and much of it has recently been improved to 3 lanes each direction. A good time to spend reflecting on the 5 days riding.

After 331 miles, our 5th and final day had ended. This day, too, would be 7 hours of riding. This, even after removing parts of the planned ride for the last day.

I cannot express how very thankful I am to be able to have these chances to ride. Mother nature was kind to us. Thank you, Bernadette, for being an awesome riding partner and for your outstanding photographs. Great photos.

See also my Facebook posts: https://www.facebook.com/fkoenen/posts/3389302437754182