Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Northern Arizona KLR ride report: March 2013

March 2013 Northern Arizona KLR Ride Report

Here's a video of the ride:

Here’s a link to my SPOT GPS track:

Oooo, eee! Did I have a great time!

This was a ride set up for KLRs on one or two of the KLR forums, by a Chino Valley, AZ local. This ride was everything the guy who set it up (19Willys51) promised and more.

The ride was scheduled for March 23-24 and promised two days of some prime Northern Arizona riding, exclusively for KLRistas. Half were local riders, with the others coming from California and New Mexico.

I rode out Friday, taking the Bradshaw trail from Niland to Blythe overland. It borders a bombing range, so there were LOTS of really big bombs lying around. Good stuff. I gotta say it was a little tough at times with all of the gravel and sand, but do-able. I saw two desert tortoises along the way, which was cool. It's a desolate ride and I was warned not to go solo...but that just made me want to do it solo. Saw 3 quad riders at the start of the trail and 2 Border Patrol Agents at the end. That was it.

I arrived late afternoon and was greeted by our hosts – 19Willys51 and his gal, Kayla.

I was immediately asked by his son (as were the other ride participants): "Are you my dad's biker buddy or part of his gang?"

Hmmm. I'll take the former. Or "motorcycle enthusiast" would work.

CraigES was kind enough to allow the use of his RV for out of town riders and I set up my stuff and started socializing.

We headed over to a local steakhouse for more socializing where I met the two Corey's (no, not THOSE two –- Scrapper and his dad, who will forevermore be referred to as Captain Inappropriate) and Surly Will, who is not surly at all. I could tell by the fine company that this was going to be a really fun time.

Campfire was en route from Sacramento via Scottsdale and arrived at 9:30 or so. We'd already gone though "some" of Surly Will's brew!

So here's how I saw it...

Day 1: Saturday, March 23

It was a brisk 27 degrees the next morning, but it soon warmed up to freezing (32). Perfect riding weather!

We met the others at the Safeway in Chino Valley at 8:30 sharp and they were ready to roll!

Let's see…there was me, our fearless leader 19Willys51, Craig, Monstarz, Scrapper and Capt. Inappropraite, SurlyWill and Campfire…all on real purty KLRs.

We headed up the slab on 89 to the I-40 to a portion of old Route 66.

It was unbelievable what folks use to drive. My parents likely took me on that exact stretch back in '67.

After losing not one but TWO parts of my bike (center stand/right foot peg and headlight cover), we rode through some forest service roads over to a cool old railroad tunnel. Each of us rode into and through the tunnel and marveled at the scenery as our leader explained the history behind this site. Just amazing.

From there we went to Williams (gateway to the Grand Canyon) for gas/lunch.

I tell ya, eight KLRs parked along the road sure looked nice!

After filling our gullets, we were off to see an Indian cliff dwelling (1100-1400 AD) that was accessible via some rocky terrain (but nothing a Honda Passport couldn't handle). From the trailhead, there was a brief hike up to the ruins and a view of beautiful Arizona. Wow.

We stopped to visit an old mine (Sycamore) that some riders were bold enough to go into. The ride down and out of the area was tricky but a challenging dual sport kind of way.

We made it back to Chino Valley via a looooong gravel road (LOOK OUT FOR LONGHORN CATTLE!)

What did we find when we returned but a fine spread laid out for us? Ice cold brew, two kinds of brats, potato salad, pasta salad, all sorts of appetizers, and not one but two banana cream pies. Thanks, Kayla!

A really nice time was had by all recounting the day's events. No spills, no injuries, just lots of great riding. And we talked about the next day's riding schedule.

Note: Big thanks to "Cap’n I" for stopping to pick up assorted parts that fell from my bike and to Craig for having extra bolts to put back the parts that had fallen from aforementioned bike…

Day 2: Sunday, March 24

The deal was: No snow = Crown King; Snow = Jerome and Verde Valley. It was chilly but clear so we were off to Crown King.

19Willys51 had stated when setting up this soiree that, "This ride will encompass some of the most spectacular back country that Arizona has to offer." Boy, he wasn't kidding!

We planned to meet for breakfast in Prescott at 8:30 but were a little late due to some last-minute repairs. Monstarz and Craig were waiting for us patiently at Zeke's Eatin' Place, home of the Huge Portions. We all had coffee and lots of chow as we went over the day's schedule. It was during some spicy and provocative conversation with a waitress that Cap'n Inappropriate earned his moniker.

Leaving the restaurant, en route to gas up, I felt my right foot peg wobble where I had removed the center stand the day before. The bolts had apparently stripped. Gee, I sure wish I had a fabricator with a machine shop around the corner. I did! Craig lived just a few minutes away and fixed me up right away while the others enjoyed Prescott's "Whiskey Row."

For those of you unfamiliar with Whiskey Row, it's one block of Prescott's Courthouse Square and used to be nothing but saloons and brothels in the mining days. There are still a lot of bars with an old west flair, but tourists took the place of the working ladies.

Craig and I rejoined the group and we were back on the road in no time. 19Willys51 led us out of town and along some very neat fire roads. Up, up into the forest we went. There was a little leftover snow but nothing major. We must've forded 15 water crossings, none too deep or technical. Craig, who was riding sweep, displayed an effective and aptly-named method I can only call a "hello dolly!" crossing. In my mirror I watched in horror and amusement as both legs went to the sky as he flew through the water crossings. Interesting…

We encountered several jeeps laden with wild drivers, always meeting us head-on at unsafe speeds. We always came out OK, but a couple of meet-ups were iffy.

It was quite a long trail (mainly a gravel/dirt road) to Crown King, but the route offered some spectacular views. We pulled into Crown King in time for a late lunch. There were Razors and dirt bikes and dune buggies all around. The streets were full of people, and not tourists, either. Most everyone I saw appeared to be locals or regulars.

We parked in front of the church, directly in front of the "no parking or you'll be crucified" sign and walked over to the gift shop for some goodies. Fudge was on the menu and Kayla expected some (without nuts!). Afterward, we tried to belly up to the bar at a local saloon, but the waitresses wouldn't serve any non-BMW riders.

Ah, yes, speaking of BMWs….While we were waiting for service, a fine looking fellow dressed in shiny, clean BMW garb rolled up on a shiny, clean 800GS. He said it was brand new and walked in for a brew. We raised our eyebrows and commented on the fine machine. We ended up leaving after it became apparent that if you didn't have a swastika on the side of your 4-wheeler, you prolly wouldn't be served. OK, that was a cheap shot, but still…

On our way out of town, that sharp-dressed BMW rider passed us at a high rate of speed and almost lost it going into a tight corner. I'm going to say right now that I am glad he made it through OK. I'm going to say that…

We split off a couple at a time. First Campfire went off in one direction (but not before telling an intriguing and disturbing medical story) and then we lost Craig. Eventually, Monstarz rode off on another route and the rest of us delivered the Holy Fudge to an eagerly awaiting Kayla.

I'd decided that I would head to lake Havasu, a short 3 hours away, instead of staying in Chino Valley another night. Once we arrived to 19Willys51's place, I packed the bike, said my goodbyes, and headed off into the sunset.

What a really fantastic ride that was!

What a really fantastic ride that was!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Alaska ride planning. June 2014

Alaska ride planning. June 2014

In a previous post, Alaska, you call to me like a mentally unstable lover... (July 2011) (, I spelled out my attraction to the USA's newest and largest state. Maybe not an attraction, more like an obsession.

I received my hot-off-the-presses 2013 copy of The Milepost: Alaska Travel Planner, and have been reading through it even since.

I have put aside late May and all of June of 2014 (14 months away!) for a dual sport ride to "somewhere up north." I plan to visit the Arctic Circle--but why stop there?

The Milepost lays out so many route options that my head is spinning. I want to leave tomorrow!

I have pretty much decided on seeing Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay at the end of the Dalton--Alaska's famous Haul Road--where the Arctic Ocean washes up on oil company property.

But then again, Inuvik is tempting, as well. It sits waaaaaaay up there at the end of Canada's Dempster Highway.

Now, after poring over the Milepost, I'm thinking, "Hey, I have a 2011 KLR 650 and over a month to play---why not both?"  Ah, and therein lies the challenge...

So, planning continues.

Some ideas.

Riding solo or with others: A couple, three riders have expressed interest in riding with me. And I enjoy riding solo, too, so that's something to think about.  This decision will affect all other aspects of this ride.

Route: Which of the myriad routes to take? Criss-crossing several? There is SO much to see. Priorities...

When: No dates have been selected, though May/June 2014 is the target time.

Lodging: Camping, hotels, a combo of both? I would lean toward 2-3 days camping for every night at a hotel, but weather conditions and other considerations often dictate differently. I'll be prepared for either.

Contingencies: Illness, mechanical difficulties, change of plans/change of heart, etc. When to call it a day and alter plans. I'm an extent. Other riders often have different definitions of flexibility so I want to address this beforehand.

Riding schedule: I'm an Iron Butt guy. Not everyone enjoys 350-850 mile days. I like to ride, eat/break, ride and stop, with fuel stops in between. 300-mile days would be nice but I wouldn't cover much ground. 600-mile days are more my style but what would I miss seeing?

Ride/trailer/ferry: Riding from San Diego to Inuvik and/or Deadhorse is not a big deal for a KLR. The tires, maybe, but those are easily replaced. Trailering is so "Harley/Sturgis" but it sure would be nice to start the ride in Seattle! Likewise, taking the ferry back from Anchorage to Bellingham would be a neat experience and would cut 1,700 miles off the return route.  At this stage, I plan to ride up there and back on my trusty KLR.

Firearms: Decisions, decisions. Handguns are prohibited in Canada. A shotgun is OK but may not be worth the hassle. I guess it depends on how much camping (and where) I end up doing. Bottom line: mosquito repellant will likely come in handier than bear repellant or a shotgun.

Trip logging: I plan to take my trusty Garmin Zumo GPS and SPOT satellite tracking device so family and friends can follow my progress in real time.  Will have to ensure updated maps of Canada and Alaska are loaded.

Bike prep: Lots of it needed. I want to go over my bike thoroughly before I start out. I travel fairly light and carry more tools and spare parts than I'll probably need, but that's fine.


·         I will check with my insurance company about coverage in Canada. As well, I may opt for the Medevac coverage that SPOT offers....just in case.
·         I'll verify my allowances for towing, repairs and trip interruption insurance with AMA. Just in case.
·         I haven't decided if I'll provide blog updates and upload photos along the way. I may just complete a ride report at the end of my journey from notes and memory. Speaking of ride reports, I am reading as many as I can on ADV Rider and other MC sites, trying to learn as much as I can from the experience of others.
·         I am considering a crash course on small engine/motorcycle repair.  Just something to make me more confident of roadside repairs and minor adjustments on the road.

That's about it for now. Ideas, comments or suggestions? Outright angry criticism?