Day 6
June 9th, 2003
Phoenix, Arizona

I had the usual sad good byes with PJ as I suited up.  It was still early, but I wanted to beat the heat and commuters out of valley.  Although I am not riding far today, I guessed it would take me most of the day to reach the Grand Canyon, and it did.

I will avoid most I-17, and take the much more scenic and slower route north through Jerome.

I backed the ST out of PJ's garage and circled out of the complex to I-17, which is easy because the back gate borders the interstate.

I ran counter commute north in bearable early morning temps.  The areas north of Phoenix are ever expanding, once one vital thing is in place development sky rockets- that being water.  

I did not go far when I decided to exit and make a few phone calls while I still had a good signal.   I turned right from a exit ramp I fail to remember, and rode a short distance to find the parking lot of some high tech company.  I pulled and parked under a small tree and started making calls.

I called home and checked in, then called Ron Epperly's cell phone.  A young lady answered the phone-"1st America Bank."  "Ron Epperly please."  "No one works in this office by that name."  "I know, he works for Disney, so you never heard of Ron Epperly?"  "Noooooooo".  "Well this is the number he gave me."

I picked up a few voice mails, and learned Dennis, Coop, and Uncle Phil were on schedule, and on their way to the south rim.

After scratching my head about Ron's cell phone number, I put my helmet back on.  I saw the company rent-a-cop making his way to my position, so figured it was time to head out.

I stopped for gas at mega mart thing in Cave Creek.  I bought a drink and crackers, and took a short break. 

I was soon back on I-17 north.  The temp was falling as I went up in elevation.   I came this way in 2001.  I saw a Az State Trooper writing a ticket near the Rock Springs exit.

At SR 69, I left I-17 for a positive scenery change.  The mountains surrounded me as I rode into Prescott Valley.  Being the savy Long Rider I am, I knew the correct pronunciation of Prescott. Prescuit like in biscuit.

After Fighting my way through the traffic of Prescott Valley and Prescott, I settled in for a relaxing ride on Alt. 89, and I was not disappointed.  Alt 89 into Jerome is velvet smooth with lots of elevation and twists.

The loaded ST leaned ok, and the smooth pavement made it easy to hold my line.  The smell of Ponderosa was stuck in my helmet, it was if someone cleaned my shield with Pinesol.  Traffic was thankfully low.  What a great ride this road is.  I was treated to valley views and high peaks.  The pines stuck close to the road, and I felt relaxed and content carving my way to Jerome.

Alt 89 is packed with tight 10 and 15 mph U curves and angles.  Use caution brothers.
​​Alt US 89, near Jerome, Arizona.  Awesome
I pulled to the gravel shoulder to take a pic.  I was straddling the bike, getting my camera out when my left foot slipped in the gravel, ever so slightly, but it was enough.  If you notice the pics throughout this web site, I am on my tip toes when stopped on the ST.  The ST was quickly at the point of no return and I realized it was going down.  Damn.  I gently layed the bike on the tip over wing, while the left mirror popped off.  A van I passed a mile back stopped to assist.  The driver was a nice guy, and together we quickly got the ST back upright.  I checked for damage and only found a small chip on the mirror housing.  I found the piece and figured I could Crazy Glue it back, saving myself 125 dollars. (price of new mirror housing).  I told the van driver as we were picking the bike back up, "look here, I ain't really this bad, I'm only dangerous when stopped."

It was the third time my bike has been on the ground, all my minor tip overs, but the second time my bike fell because of a picture.  I got back on the road, thankful it wasn't worse.

Entering Jerome, I was greeted by a house fire.  A pumper was working the scene from the highway, because they were unable to to get the truck down the narrow steep driveway.  The cop directing traffic scolded me for rubber necking.

Jerome, Arizona is neat place.  An old a mining town situated on a mountain hillside.  Houses and shops were carved right in the side. 

I saw a STX 1300 without the bags, outside a downtown cafe and whipped in.  Inside I met the pilot.  A man from Seattle on his way back from Florida, where he bought the bike.  We talked bikes at length.  He said the 1300 was a great bike, but it just didn't fit him, and was going to sell the bike when he got to Seattle.  His previous bikes were all cruisers, and he can't get use to the feet under position.  I advised him to try a Valkeryie Interstate
​Taking a break in Jerome, Arizona
He refused to allow a pic of him and bike, saying he was camera shy, now I wonder if wasn't a fugitive of some kind.

My next stop was in Cottonwood, where I stopped at a Kragen for glue to fix my mirror housing.  I placed the small chip back in, and stuck it down.  Good as new.  

I rode a few more blocks, and saw a tiny, local taco stand, so pulled in for some lunch.  The chili looked good so I ordered some with my taco.  I was sitting at a table under a tree when it hit me.  This chili is NOT like back home.  My mouth was burning up.  Sweat was popping off me.  I gulped down 32 ounces of Dew, and went back for some more to drink.  Good thing I only ordered a small cup.

Still smarting from hot chili, I cranked on up toward Sedona and Red Rock Park.  A recent article in USA Today Sunday magazine ranked it the number 1 scenic spot in America.  I'm sure its nice, but number 1??  Have to see this for myself.

A few miles later I was following the signs down into Red Rock Park.  The attendant at the gate said-

Red Rock ain't the kind of park you can see anything from the car, you have to hike the trails."

Do I look that bad out of shape?

"I can handle it if its not too far, I have to be at the Grand Canyon this afternoon."

"no problem"

I went to the visitor area and peeled off the Roadcrafter, to do a little hiking.  I have to say I'm glad I did.  The trails were dirt and some were hilly, but it was fun getting some exercise surrounded by such beauty.  I followed the trails and took in the Red Rocks.  They were very nice but number 1?  I don't think so.

I was the only joker on the trails.  It was hot, and not many folks are going to leave their AC cars to hike.  I bet the ranger at the gate scared most of the folks off when he told them you have to get out of the car.
I estimated a fun 3 mile hike in the woods and canyons.  I stopped a few times to rest on the rocks and to take in the scenery.
​I enjoyed this afternoon hike at Red Rock Park
It was time to go north so I loaded back up and proceeded to Flagstaff.

Alt 89 north out of Sedona is to be avoided.  It was bumper to bumper to Flagstaff.  Only a brief stop at Sliding Rock State Park to watch more then a few young ladies swimming made the trip worthwhile.  The water looked inviting, but I had a schedule to keep.  Aw, to be young again.

It only took a few minutes to reach Flagstaff after returning to I-17.  When I reached the city limits I slid into a Chevron to top of my gas tank, because I know how high gas is at the Grand Canyon.  In fact, the farther west I ride the more expensive the price.  It was 1.26 gallon when I left Alabama, and here in Flagstaff it was 1.50 something.

I called Ron's cell phone and again got the same young lady.  "America 1 Bank, miss so and so speaking."  "Look here, y'all sure Ron ain't there?" I heard giggling. "yessssssss no Ron works here."  "Well I found this number on a rest area wall on I-10."  She laughed, and said, "oh really?"  "well nah, but this IS the number he gave me."  I resigned myself to the fact I copied it down wrong from the email he sent me.

I followed US 180 through Flagstaff.  A tourist nightmare.  The place is jammed with mini vans, RVs, and SUVs.  I loathe cities near any big park or landmark.  They are sure to be tourists hangouts, with fast food, motels, and of course, goofy golf. 

Traffic heading north out of Flagstaff on 180 was thankfully sparse, with most taking the  more well known US 89, to this magnificent gem of God's hand.  After all, its quicker, and for them, its most important to GET THERE.
My route proved to be a good one, even though I had to pass a sedan from Mass. loaded down with passengers and cargo.  The mountain air felt refreshing, and the landscape was good.

I was looking forward to the get together at the Canyon.  Most folks think of me as a anti socia loner.  It is correct to say I'm a loner, but I'm not anti social.  When I planned this tour, I posted on the ST bbs the date I would be arriving at the Canyon, and would be happy to ride to the coast with company.

A number of riders from the Phoenix arrived at the Canyon a day earlier, and were waiting for our arrival.  Dennis, Coop, and Uncle Phil were coming in from Utah, and I didn't know, at the time what Ron's direction would be. (it was the valley).

I saw a large dead animal on the shoulder of 180.  At first I thought it was a horse then I realized it was a moose.  Damn, it would be real bad news to bump into one of those things.  (Ron saw the same moose when he came through about a hour later.)

A butt break was in order so I took one at a place called Buffalo Jacks.  A lonesome outpost in the valley.  They had a sign out front reading for a few bucks you could see baby buffalo.  I pulled a Dew out of the cooler and asked a young female clerk-

"so, you're Bufflao Jack?"

"noooooooo he's somewhere in New Mexico, I'm just the clerk."

" I was just kiddin"

I sat on a chair and watched 2 workers struggle with a huge sign out front.  They were having trouble getting the bucket on the truck lined up where they wanted.  You'd have a hard time getting me in the bucket with that guy at the controls.

The intersection of US 180 and SR 64 is 30 miles from the south rim.  I knocked the miles down quickly, and got lucky when I passed 3 lumbering RVs without a even a blip on the throttle.

The Grand Canyon Airport was a busy place when I came by.

The entrance fee was a stiff 10 bucks, but I was in.  They gave me the obligatory map and info pamphlet.  I guess I should be saving these things, but they are so much trouble to keep up with.  They have lots of good information.

I kept my speed down as I made my way to the visitor center.  I don't trust Rangers with radar guns.
I was early, and I wanted to catch a glimpse of the canyon in the afternoon sun, so rode to the first vista area I could find.

Nothing can prepare you for the first time you look out over THE Grand Canyon.  It is almost overwhelming.  It has to be the most beautiful place on earth.  I took my helmet off and sat on the brick wall gazing out at the vast walls, almost a mile high.  The far north rim is 18 miles away but it doesn't look it.  The sky was perfect and the afternoon colors on the walls were prism like.  Every time I come to this spot I feel insignificant.
​Enjoying the beauty of the Grand Canyon
I thought about Johnny, and how he can see the Canyon anytime he wants. (Click here for that story).  What I would not give to build a home here with a large front window where I could gaze at the canyon all day.  NO amount of money could buy such a place.  

The Colorado is a mighty river, but from high above the canyon walls, it looks tame and docile.  I did not fully appreciate the Grand Canyon till I became a Long Rider.  I was first here in my 20s, but now at middle age, I have a better grasp at what this land means.   For eons the Colorado River has carved the Canyon, and it will continue to do so, long after we are gone.  Time moves so slow here, we can never see the change, but everyday the canyon differs from the day before.

I said a short prayer, thanking the Lord, for letting me be here at this time.

The campground was a short ride away.  I pulled into the gate and the attendant gave me the number of the site reservation.  Unlike the policy at Yellowstone.  I pointed the ST to the sites and soon I saw several folks waving for me to come over.  I found them.  The STs out front were easy to spot.

I was warmly greeted by the Phoenix crowd.  A great bunch of people.  I stripped my riding gear off and set up camp.  A short while later, Ron pulled in. I chided him about the bogus cell number he gave me.

We were laughing and talking with the group when the other boys pulled in.  Another round of introductions took place.  It was fun.  When things settled down, I took a short walk to the showers.

After 2000 miles I was with my brother riders.  Guys who understood my need to ride, who know what it means to battle Texas thunderstorms, and fend off stupid cage drivers.  

We jumped in back of a pick up and took a short ride to the visitor center cafeteria for supper.  Some preferred to walk.

A young lady with her name and with her home country of Brazil on her tag, was serving.  Dennis was several guys down the line and I told her-

"see that joker right yonder?" as I pointed.


"when he gets here ask him what he wants in Portuguese."

She did, and she looked shocked when Dennis responded in perfect Portuguese.  They went on to have a short conversation.

I had the spaghetti and meatballs.  Just like Yellowstone last year.  It tasted the same too, not bad.

After supper I decided to walk back instead of ride.  I needed to move some air after the big meal.  I had a good signal at the cafeteria, and called home while I waited for the group to gather.

It was a fun time, but shortly after arriving back at the camp site I went to bed.  I said good night and went in my tent. 

A group of Boy Scouts were in the site next to us.  A tall boy with a constant, dry, hacky cough was concerning me.  What in the world is he doing on a camping trip with a cough like that?  He hacked on and on, I thought he might have TB. 

His coughing was keeping up so I gave up and decided to watch the James Bond movie.  I fired up the DVD player and used the Moto Fizz bag as a TV stand.  I got sleepy about half way through the movie and switched the unit off.  The night was cool at this elevation and I slept good.