Monday, 27 September 2010

The Choice.... 14,000 Miles.... Jack Arrives.....

I had a choice to make.

My travel over the next two days would take me to Phoenix.

The choice I needed to make was do I take a rest day and then travel in one day to Phoenix on the direct route down the interstate from Flagstaff, or do I go the long way around and ride a road that a guy called Gary suggested to me when I was in Manila in Utah. The road that he suggested I should ride was US 191 in eastern Arizona that had 1000 bends in 90 miles. I liked the sound of that but it was a long way – the journey to Phoenix was about 600 miles this way, so it meant a couple of hard days riding.

I took the long way around.

The first part of the journey was going to be dull. I left early, music on, cranked the throttle open and got going for 113 miles eastbound on I-40 riding right into the sun! Soon I reached the exit I would take and I rode through the Petrified Forest National Park which also takes in part of the Painted Desert.

The Painted Desert gets its name from the vibrant colours of the rock which contains iron and manganese compounds which give the rocks their characteristic red and brown colours. Almost no topsoil exists here so the rocks are exposed....




















The National Park also contains ancient petroglyphs – simple pictures carved or cut into rock surfaces. These images were made in the rocks between 650 and 2,000 years ago. You are not allowed near these, but you can see them from a distance....







































The Petrified Forest part of the park is interesting. The area was once a wet grassland where many tall conifer trees grew. Over time, these fell and were washed into the nearby floodplains where they were quickly covered by mud, silt and volcanic ash. This sediment prevented oxygen reaching the trunks and thus prevented decay. Over years, the trunks became saturated with water containing silica and the silica replaced the natural wood tissue, turning into quartz and preserving the wood into its petrified condition we see today. As the climate changed and the soil disappeared, this exposed the petrified trunks....


























































I left the Petrified Forest a little wiser, but with a long ride still ahead of me.

Keeping a close eye on my fuel gauge and not relying on the low fuel warning light, my journey took the Leading Ladies and I along some straight roads....




















In the afternoon I reached the small town of Alpine. It didn’t register with me beforehand, but the name Alpine reflects the terrain in this area of eastern Arizona – there are mountain ranges here that I simply didn’t know existed and Alpine sits in the San Francisco Mountains right on the border with New Mexico. The road I had gone out of my way to ride is US 191 and the interesting part runs from Alpine to Clifton through the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. I rode back up to 9200 feet on this road.

I stopped at a small restaurant for coffee. I sat on a comfortable sofa on the front porch and nearly fell asleep, it was so comfy....




















While I didn’t count to check if there was actually 1,000 bends on this road as claimed, it certainly seemed that way. The road was almost totally void of cars and trucks are not allowed to use this highway. Being a Saturday, I did see some bikes, but not as many as the road deserves. I think that is because US 191 is a long way from anywhere, with now large cities nearby. I felt as if I almost had the road to myself.

Despite being in a mountain range, it is difficult to take photos of the views because of the trees (it is a forest after all) so I just relaxed and enjoyed the road. At one point I did ride passed this sign which I thought was so wonderful, I had to go back and photograph it....




















There was one place when I was afforded a view.... click on the picture to enlarge it to see part of this road winding through a valley....




















I tried to capture a view across the mountains. The haze and a point and shoot camera that I think is playing up didn’t help, so this is the best I snapped....








Near the town of Morenci is a huge hole in the ground. Well, to be more precise, it is the largest copper mine in North America. It is truly vast. Here is just a part of it....




















I reached the 14,000 mile point of my tour so far. This was just west of Clifton, near the Gila River, on US 191....




















I found a hotel to stay at in a town called Thatcher. I had ridden 493 miles today and I was tired. I decided not to venture far to find dinner tonight and there was a Denny’s right next door!......

My regulars readers will remember that a good friend, Paul, joined me for the first part of this tour in the New England States. This is Paul....


























Well, Paul’s wife Sarah gave birth to a 6lb 12oz baby boy a few days ago. Here is their son, Jack.....


























Congratulations to both Sarah and Paul – they have a special son!

7 comments:

iansolley said...

hey I have been to the painted desert and petrified forest too - on part of Route 66 - great place. Looking forwards to my trip out there this weekend - and again if you are anywhere near Vegas on Oct 3rd let me know and I will ride out and say hello!

Charlie6 said...

Nice pictures as usual Gary....I liked the medley of "blues" in that far off mountain range shot....so hard to find sometimes around here and even harder to shoot due to the haze.....

dom

Redleg'sRides

mq01 said...

welcome jack! what a fabulous day riding gary. for now, i can only imagine how comfy that couch must have been :) just fabulous!

FLHX_Dave said...

Welcome Jack! Have not reached the painted desert yet. That one has been on my list for awhile now...along with the Grand Canyon which continues to elude me.

I might as well comment on the rocks in the previous post while I'm here. I'm in love! You are giving me tons of crap to throw into the bucket list sir. My bucket runeth over now. Thanks alot!

Inspiring as usual. You make me feel pretty good about being where I'm at. Funny how you don't appreciate what is all around you until you can see it through someone else's eyes. I feel like a blind man suddenly.

Paul said...

Gary as usual great blog. Jack says hi and want's to know how i am going to get his baby seat on the back of my Harley! Best

bobskoot said...

Gary:

I love your photos of Arizona and Utah. It brings back memories of our trip to Moab, Arches, Canyonlands the Grand Canyon and Route 66.

Safe travels
bob
Wet Coast Scootin

Gary France said...

Ian – We will be close! On 3rd October Jackie and I will ride from near Kingman to Lake Havasu, then stay there overnight and on the 4th we ride back to Flagstaff. How would that fit for you?

Charlie6 – Thanks Dom. I liked the mountains medley, but the rest of the photo was poor, so I cropped that out. I nearly junked the whole picture, but just before I hit the delete key, I noticed the blue mountains....

mq01 – During a 493 mile ride, that couch was REALLY comfy!

Dave – I have to say the painted desert would be on any future list of mine, just nowhere near the top. Jackie and I go to the Grand Canyon next week! Those rocks at Antelope Canyon were truly spectacular. I feel the same way about London – there is so much to see there that I have ignored for too long.

Paul – Can you bungy-cord him and the baby seat on the back? Don’t tell Sarah I suggested this!

Bob – I am finding it quite hard to take photos of Arizona – it is just so bright and the sun has bleached the land that everything merges together. I need to work harder at doing this!