Monday, September 21, 2020

8th Annual AZ KLR Ride (Sept2020)

It’s late September so I must be in Paulden, Arizona for the annual KLR ride.  This is the 8th year my friend and fellow KLR rider Jon has hosted this event.  I’ve only missed two of these rides over the years and every ride is different than the next.  

It sure was good seeing everyone again.  We had many of the usual suspects—Campfire, Senior, Sal, Ray Ray, Charlie, Craig, Darrel, Dave and Dennis.  We had some new faces, too.  As a matter of fact, we had our first female rider, Vanessa, very capably riding her Suzuki it’s not a purely KLR affair.  

And this time we had some special guests: Chuck B. with his wife and son, as well as Eagle Mike and Thumper Bob...all three are considered KLR legends.  

And, as always, the riding was spectacular.  The weather remained in the mid-80’s unless you were above 6k’—which we were a lot of the time—then it was in the brisk 70’s.

Jon usually puts on a special ride for the early birds, and since a handful of us had arrived on Thursday evening, we headed to Bagdad via Camp Wood Road on Friday —67 glorious miles of dirt through rocky hills and tall pines. We stopped at the diner there for giant burgers before heading back through Kirkland, Skull Valley and Prescott via scenic twisty roads.  

The bulk of the 26 riders arrived to the Gun Site compound on Friday afternoon and we commenced to catching up.  Most people had set up tents or hammocks next to their bikes.  

We spoke about riding gear, new bikes and old bikes and upcoming ride adventures around the campfire.  Actually, since fire restrictions prohibited campfires, we sat in a large circle of camp chairs, shouting and laughing and drinking.  Jon said this ride was all about the camaraderie and he was right.  It was basically a fellowship meeting occasionally interrupted by riding.  

Jon provided a briefing for the next day’s ride options, and it sounded like some good routes.  Jon’s wife Kayla put together a taco bar so everyone ate well and by 10pm, the riders started shuffling off to bed. 

The next day, everyone met in the town of Mayer, about 45 minutes away.  There were three groups: The large group—led by Jon, with Chuck B. riding sweep in his RZR—would head into the mountains and visit the DeSoto and Bodie mines on their way to Crown King—about 180 miles total.  They ended up riding the Senator Highway but didn’t stop at the Bodie Mine due to time constraints. They also did the Tower Mountain loop with Justin from PHX on his KTM 1090 ADV leading that portion.  And that boy could ride! 

Darrel Berte led a less spirited ride up into the hills and along the Senator Highway—a 30 mile rocky, dirt road. Lastly, a group headed over to Bagdad the back way, following our Friday route.

The bikes and riders couldn’t have been more different, but everyone was smiling, eager to get out and ride.  I saw many KLRs, some old, some new.  There were a couple DRZ 400s, a  few KTMs—including Jon on his 950 Adventure and DSM8 on his 525.  I also saw a new Yamaha T700, a Triumph Tiger, an Africa Twin, the aforementioned DR650 and an XR650.  The riders’ ages spanned from the early 20’s to mid-70’s...and we all had the same thing in mind—getting some helmet therapy while exploring the trails in the Prescott-area mountains.  

The rides varied but the weather was good for all three; a bit hot in some places and cool with a breeze up in the pines.  Crown King draws a lot of folks in Jeeps and on Side by Side (SxS) vehicles, so negotiating some of those dusty trails was a challenge.  We stopped at some of the vistas that overlooked Prescott and Skull Valley. Truly spectacular views.  Though we had a few riders drop their bikes in silty or rocky areas, no damage was done.  The larger group didn’t stop to eat in Crown King so they were hungry when they finished that 8-hour ride!

Most riders were back by 2 or 3, with the main group rolling in at 5:30...dusty, tired and happy. There were no major biffs or injuries—just a few low-speed drops to keep things interesting. 

After everyone had put their bikes away and cleaned up, Kayla arrived with a huge dinner comprised of brisket, pasta salad and beans.  So delicious.  Everyone commenced to eating and discussing the day’s events. I heard laughter as one rider described another’s unintentional wheelie.  Sand, water crossings, rocks, drops and near drops, dust (lots of dust) and the many, many side by sides.  

Eagle Mike and Thumper Bob mingled with the group a riders.  Though almost every KLR had heard of and installed parts made by Eagle Mike, not everyone had met him, so that was a very special time.  

At 8pm, Jon gathered everyone around for the awards ceremony.  He stated that although the prestigious annual award, given to the rider who showed the most spirit, should rightfully go to Eagle Mike—a guy who’d given so much to the KLR community—he called up Vanessa, a rider who just learned to ride in March of this year and had held her own against much more experienced riders. The trophy, added to by previous winners, is a compilation of the different riders who’d won it.  Garrett, last year’s winner, had added a bent wrench to the mix. 

Afterward, Charlie—quite a character and one of the most entertaining members of the group—was presented the award for having ridden the most miles to get to this year’s ride.  

After miles of world-class riding, tired people started wandering back to their campsites and by midnight, all was quiet.  

So I enjoyed three wonderful days of great riding, food and camaraderie with some people I really, really like.  What could be better than that? Already looking forward to doing it again next year.