Rides & reports of motorcycle adventures..

7/15/11

Grand Canyon, June 2011

Kim, riding a Kawasaki klx250; Tom on a Honda 650 xrl, & I on a Yamaha 250wrx met near Sedona for our annual Grand Canyon ride.  It was June 1st, & we would be gone 4 days.  Tom rode over from Prescott & we were off at about 9am.  We would ride dirt up the old stoneman lake road, then go past Morman lake & connect to the winona ranch road & go north past Flagstaff.

Kim, checking out the honda.. wondering how they get all the bolts to stay on.



We got on the winona ranch road, & Tom & i got our helmet cams mounted for the rocky ride.. most of what we had been on to this point was fairly mild dirt.  Now it was going to get bumpy.



Here's a section along winona ranch road.



More along the pines.


Much of this road followed a seasonal creek.. lots of boulders to ride through.



We get out of the pines, & into more juniper & pinon vegetation.  We also see more cows.



Here we're getting out of the unimproved roads & on a maintained road.  Notice the horse & rider (and dog) as i turn onto the road.



This road ends near Flagstaff at I-40, which we cross but don't ride on.  Tom's rear brake was feeling limp, so we stopped to check on it.  Fortunately it just needed adjusted.



Our route took us across the Little Colorado river.. twice.  The first was by grand falls, which at this time is not grand at all.  ..no water flow.  But we still stop & admire the views, & imagine the roar of the water.





Still snow covered on the north sides, the san francisco peaks were a reference for us on the entire ride.



We rode through the rez & saw lots of wild horses galloping around.. Usually i've seen these guys further north.. up closer to the Grand Canyon.  but they were out running & got very close to us on occasion.



One group crossed the road, then followed along it for a while.  I took some one handed shots so i could keep up with them.  Many of my shots were just of my finger but i got a few in.



But they veered off & headed for higher ground.  We'd see more on the gray mt. truck trail later in the day.  Unfortunately i didn't have my helmet cam on.. it would have been very cool to have gotten some video of them galloping along beside me for a bit..



We crossed the little colorado river again at wupatki nat. monument.  Still no water this time of year.  We were following the little colorado up to the GC.

By now it was after 2pm.  We wanted to get to GC for dinner & Tom's long island iced teas (the only reason he goes up there, i think!).  So we just had a snack at gray mt.  A healthy candy bar, ice cream, & we're back on the road.. up the gray mt. truck trail.



Early on we saw another group of horses.. this herd has a small foal.  They kept their distance & hoofed it to rocky high ground.



There were some pretty tough sections on the GMTT.. but here is a nice open spot.



On the high ground, views were impressive from all directions.



We finally got to the switchbacks down to hwy 64.  There are some spectacular views along here.  The deep little colorado river gorge shows in sharp contrast





We were planning on going to the convergence of the Colorado & little colorado on Thursday.  But today, we just wanted to get to the GC village.



We got down to hwy 64 & took it for a few miles to another dirt road that we'd take to grandview road, near the overlook.  Last year, this was an unimproved dirt road, but not too rough.  It had long straight stretches where you could open it up.  But this year, they had gravelled it with a blue grey gravel.. pretty large rock, too.  It made the dust much worse, & traction was tougher in the curves with the loose gravel.  We couldn't figure out why they did it.. not much traffic on these roads.  We've never seen anyone else on them.  But this was in the national park & forest, so no doubt there was a good reason related to national security or perhaps it was part of the bank bailout.

We got to the Maswik lodge by 5pm, checked in & got Tom his tea.  We strolled along the rim for a bit, but it was quite chilly & the wind had a bite to it.  But it was nice inside the bright angel lodge.



But before we went to the lodge, we found mechanical problems with one of the bikes.. problems that would affect the rest of the ride.  The next day we would address those problems.  But this night we would get some rest.

End of day 1.

Day 2. Work on the Kawasaki.

I got up bright & early, as usual, & went for a stroll along the rim.  The air was chilly, & there was a hint of smoke in the air.. a fire had started near Williams, & the smoke drifted north to us.  It's been a  bad year for forest fires this year.. some of the biggest ever in eastern Az.

But i got a couple of pics of the sun peeking over the rim of the canyon.





I warm up in the bright angel lodge a bit, as the air is cool & the wind is starting to pick up.  Then i head back to see if my riding buddies are up & about.  They are, & they're hungry.  We make our way to the maswik lodge cafeteria for a hearty breakfast.

Before, during, and after breakfast, we discuss what we're going to do with Kim's bike.  When we arrived yesterday, we notice the sub frame at the back of the Kawasaki is broken.. on both sides.  The steel tubes are completely broken, & the back is flopping around, only held together by the fender & the muffler bolts.  We consider going into Tusayan for some parts.  But Tom & i had this problem a couple of years back trying to find just a bolt for his honda.  I suggested we go by the maintenance dept & ask for some wire & maybe a piece of rebar to jam into the holes & hold it together.  We walk right by it when we pass the mule corral.. always a highlight of the trip visiting the mules!



So as not to overwhelm the maintenance guys, Tom stays at the room, & Kim & i walk over to engineering.  We first go in where a guy is behind a desk in what looks like the parts & ordering dept.  We tearfully describe our dilimma, & the heartless guy behind the desk turns us down flat.  No, we don't have a piece of wire in the whole grand canyon village.  No, we don't have a bit of rebar or all thread, either.  Ok, we get it. We leave discouraged, but before we go all the way back to the room, i approach some guys heading out to work by their trucks.  Sure, we've got some wire & all thread we'd be glad to give you.  Come on by the shop down the road & we'll fix you up.  Our discouragement turns to elation!  We float back to the room & tell Tom the happy news.  We gather up our meager tools, & head over to the shop.

The guys here are very nice.. they're real working guys, not some bureaucrat behind a desk, parroting policy.  It probably does violate some kind of insurance regulations, but they take a chance on us that we're not conspirators looking for an insurance fraud scheme.  They look in the scrap bin & pull out some hanging wire for suspended ceilings.. perfect!  very stiff, but will twist & hold.  Then we look for some rebar or all thread we can jam in the tubes to hold them together.  Some 3/8 all thread is a bit small, but we wrap some diamond lath around it & it fits tight.  We have the whole back of the Kawi apart to get the broken frame so the all thread & wire can hold it back together.  It feels very solid.. we also add a bolt in the muffler, & wrap some tie wires around it, too.  We worked 1-2 hrs on it, & are very happy with the result.  Kim is very happy to have his bike back functioning, & gives the guys $50 to buy donuts or pizza.. the boss would get it for them that afternoon.

No pictures of the bike surgery.. too bad, it was a very elegant fix.  We ride back to the room, & decide to just hang out along the rim for the rest of the day.. too late to get out for a ride.  Plus Tom was going to have shoulder surgery soon, & was riding with a bad wing.. so it would be better to pace ourselves.  Big league pitchers get tommy john surgery when they tear a rotator cuff, & this was Tom's issue as well.  Too many 90 mph fastballs on his playstation.



We stroll along the rim, admiring the awesome views.  We get an ice cream, argue politics, & generally kill time while waiting for the NBA finals.







There is a pizza place at the maswik lodge, with big screen tv's.  We get there a little early to secure a good seat.  Tom & I were in a packed house last year when the world cup was on, & it was standing room only.  But even with Nowitski playing, & all the german visitors, basketball was no match for the drawing power of the world cup.  Sobbing germans left the place last year.. too depressed to enjoy the grand canyon as Espana dashed Deutchland's hopes of world domination.  But the Mavericks win didn't seem to inspire them.. though Kim cleaned up with his choice of Nowitski's scoring.  I picked Lebron, & Tom went with a long shot.. Berea.  But with the game nearly over, & miami with a comfortable lead, Tom decided to double down & went call the mavs victory.  Kim took that bet, already counting all the cool mods he could buy for his bike, now.  But the mavs came through, & i was the only loser..

end of day 3.

Day 4.  Good vibrations, hybrid horses, cape solitude.



Today we're going on a real ride!  ..down past desert view, across the wild navajo nation expanse, & to cape solitude.. one of the most breathtaking views in the GC.. & the least visited.

I get up early again, & go out to explore the area.. mostly to visit the mules.. they always understand me & nod sympathetically as i pour out my heart.  I saw some deer also visiting the mules.. lost woodland creatures seem to know instinctively where to go.


I don't know why Kim & Tom rolled their eyes every time i suggested we visit the mules.. I hung out with them a lot, & can't really tell the difference.. except the mules are better listeners..





Tom was so excited to go on a real offroad ride that he spent the night on the bike.  Kim & i just had to wake him up & away we went!


We had our usual maswik cafeteria breakfast, then hit the road.  It's about 25 miles to desert view, where we fill up out tanks & start off road.

The first few miles are pretty steep, have lots of loose switchbacks, & views to die for.  We stopped a couple of times, but had a long ride ahead, so didn't want to dawdle too much.

This is longer than my usual videos, but has most of the ride down the switchbacks.


Kim took this of me with the tiny desert view tower in the upper left distance.



We continued our way along the winding trail to the outskirts of the Navajo reservation.



This is a very rocky, bumpy road with lots of twists & turns.  We make a few turns, & not even halfway to our destination we notice a problem.  Kims rear end is flopping around again.



Normally, we don't worry about Kim's rear end.. it can flop about all it wants. But we're heading to cape solitude, & there's no place on that road for a floppy rear end.  We consult the experts..  the muffler bolt has fallen out again.. & one of our 'fixes' has unfixed itself.


One of the holding rods we put in the broken subframe has slid forward & no longer is holding the pipes together. At least 2 bolts have vibrated out.. one is the main bolt for the muffler.  Fortunately the tie wire that we put on as insurance has held.  After vigorous debate & an indian leg wresling match, we decide to return.  Perhap we'll find the bolt, I suggest optimistically.  We return with our eyes on the trail, & sure enough, a few miles back, we find the offending bolt lying passively on a steep grade.  A few feet away is the spacer.  We tighten it back on, & Tom finds a spare bolt in his tool bag for the other missing bolt for the seat.  We still think we should head back.. more vibration will not improve things, & there are miles & miles of rough, rugged roads ahead.

We stop every few miles to check things.. just to make sure noting else has vibrated out of Kim's bolt spitting machine.  We then come to the switch backs.. very steep, rocky, & of course, bumpy.  At the top we stop to catch our breath & wait for our hearts to start back up.  What do we notice but the bolt is out again of Kim's bike!  The main muffler bolt has again vibrated out.. even with us watching & checking on it.  Kim vetos going back to look for it.  We were lucky once, but lightning usually does not strike twice in the same place.  The worst of the bumpy trail is nearing an end, & we can get on hwy 64 to head back to the lodge.  So we make sure the rest of the bike is functional, then head for pavement.  I was wanting to try a road that cuts back into the blue gray gravel road we came up on a few days before, so when we made to highway, Kim took it back to the village, with Tom following for backup.  I crossed the highway & continued along some nice dirt roads until tying back into the blue gravel road.

I get back just a little after Tom & Kim.  They ran into a traffic jam coming into GC from desert view.  So we decide to walk along the rim a bit & enjoy the views.  They are pretty spectacular.. it is not one of the seven wonders of the world for nothing.





We finally get tired of walking around & head to the bright angel bar, where Tom can get his usual long island iced teas.  After boring each other with the same stories, lies, & exagerations, we leave near dusk & head back to the rooms.



End of day 3.

Day 4.  The long ride home.

Kim decided to take the pavement back home.. he was wanting to minimize vibration.  The route we were planning to take was near williams, & was the site of a forest fire, so we wanted to avoid that.  Tom thought he'd go back on the west side, following the railroad tracks & coming out near ash fork.  And I've been wanting to take the grandview road all the way past flagstaff.  It looks like a better dirt road on the maps (you can tell that by looking at a map?).  So we decide to dissolve the fellowship of the bolts, & each of us goes our seperate way.

We have our final meal together.. another maswik cafeteria fare, load up & bid farewell.  We all ride out through tusayan.. Kim continues down hwy 64, Tom turns west toward the grand canyon railroad tracks, & i go east from tusayan toward grandview road.  I make a couple of wrong turns at some forks, & have to backtrack a bit to keep on the right road.. i started to go down the way that Tom & i took last year that turned into a mountain bike trail.  There were a few connecting roads that had some texture to them, but most of the main roads were fairly well maintained.. dirt, but easy riding.



I finally got on the open road.. the original stage road to the GC.  There were several ruins of old stage stops. It made it interesting thinking about people coming along here to see the GC riding in a stage coach.



It wasn't long before a major point of reference came into view.. the san francisco peaks.  The tallest mountains in Az, with snow still on the north face.



I liked this road.. it had a few challenging spots, but nothing too gnarly.  It had great views all along, with a few gates for cattle.  I did see quite a few cows, but they were uninterested in me.  There was no other traffic.. no cars, bikes, pedestrians.. After this open spot, i came upon some antelope.  One loner got on the wrong side of me, & had to run past me to get to the high ground.  I didn't get any pictures, but he was running very fast.. i don't think i'd seen them run that fast before.



After this section, there were a few wash crossings.. some were pretty rough, with some rugged, rocky climbs out.  I tried to imagine how the stage coaches came through here, with only a few horsepower.  Some of the trail was lined with big rocks.. i suppose the early road crews went through to mark the way, & clear some of the rocks from the road.

There were a few long sandy stretches along fence rows, then it began to go down the northern foothills to hwy 89a.  Once on the pavement, i took the short route home, through flagstaff & down oak creek canyon.

It was a shorter ride than usual, our grand canyon ride, but it was still eventful & fun.  I always look forward to this ride, & even though we didn't get out to cape solitude, the rest of the ride, & the views along the way, were more than enough to make the ride worthwhile.

End of Day 4.

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Sedona, Arizona, United States
Semi-retired home builder. Musician. wr250x adventure rider. Amateur philosopher. Innovator. Tech & gadget freak, genealogist.