Continuing with my travel journal entries, this was from our first day of riding the motorcycles from Phoenix, AZ north to the Grand Canyon.
Originally written: September 29th, 2010
The Adventure Begins
El Mirage, AZ
I landed shortly before midnight last night at Sky Harbor airport. My dad picked me up and we headed back to his home as we talked and got caught up on current events. We went to bed around one o’clock and we were up at seven am.
Skipping breakfast (which I should not have done) I began the process of packing the motorcycle. It is not an easy task trying to decide what you may or may not need on a trip you have only imagined in your mind. I personally, think I did a good job of taking necessities and cutting out the excess. The Buell I am riding has two hard cased panniers mounted on either side and I have my backpack bungee netted to the back seat. My camera gear and electronics are in one pannier, my rain gear and cold weather riding clothes in the other, while the backpack is stuffed with clothes. Dad has one very large black bag tied onto the back seat and back rest. His Harley is a cruiser, while mine is built more for speed and less for comfort.
By the time we packed, checked everything and then checked it again, it was nine o’clock and we were ready to hit the road. We started off down the road, the Arizona sun felt nice, and we filled up at the nearest gas station to begin our journey. While we were still close to home, we began using our bike-to-bike Bluetooth helmet headsets. We were able to talk in a normal tone and hear everything each other decided to say. The headsets had two silver dollar sized speakers that velcro onto the interior helmet padding, as well as a microphone mouthpiece that was adjustable, so you could find the right spot where your voice became easier to hear than the rushing wind.
The red light
Roughly twenty-two miles into our grand adventure, the Buell I am riding began showing a red engine warning light. This is a common occurrence on this bike to which the cure is to simply pull off the road, stop and turn the ignition off, sit for a few moments and start the bike up again…and voila, no more red light. In theory this sounds great, but in reality, at least for today, this quick fix did not solve the red light issue. We pulled over twice, early on in the day’s journey, and both times the light went away, only to resume shortly after we began again. I was growing tired of the delays, so I did not say anything the next time the red light made an appearance, and proceeded to ride with it on for the next hundred miles.
Being in constant communication with dad, thanks to our scala rider Q2 helmet headsets, was a time saver today. I was able to let him know immediately when the red light showed up and when we needed to stop. We did not have to rely on hand signals or even have to be within sight of each other to know what was going on.
Riding north along Interstate 17, from Phoenix to Flagstaff, was like visiting an old friend. I had driven that same route many times when I lived in the Phoenix area and was comforted by familiar road signs for: Horse Thief Basin, Big Bug Road, Bloody Basin Road and the most ironic one…Coldwater River.
The scenery has not changed too much, but it is a completely different experience for your senses while on a motorcycle. It is a constant battle for comfort as the sun warms your body, while the rushing wind tries to cool your skin down. The heat from the engine you are riding nips at the inner part of your legs, making them warmer, but the wind bites back and will not allow you to overheat. The pungent smells of car exhaust and road kill are mixed with trees and fresh air. At one point during the ride we were behind a truck hauling lumber and the smell of the treated, pine tarred wood was wonderful.
We arrived in Flagstaff safely just before noon. We checked into the Hilton Garden Inn and unloaded the motorcycles and got a recommendation by Kelley, the front desk clerk, to try Bun Huggers for lunch. The burger place was not anything special and it reminded me a great deal of The Chuckbox, by Arizona State University. We finished our burgers and continued our journey north towards the Grand Canyon.
The enormity of the Grand Canyon is difficult to process within your mind. Even after my eyes have seen it, I find it hard to put into words. There are poems, songs and novels describing the canyon and I’m certain those who came before have done a better job than I can putting its beauty into words. I found the canyon’s expansiveness absolutely breathtaking. We visited the South Rim visitor’s center, Mather’s Point and Grandview Lookout before the sun started setting on us.
The ride from the south rim back to Flagstaff was exciting. As the sun dropped, so did the temperature (an amazingly consistent concept). As I rode the Buell hunched forward (as one must) the wind began to find its way down the back of my neck. I was in the lead and I found my headlight to be less than spectacular. I was using the high beam most of the way back, but still had a difficult time seeing 100 feet in front of me. The smell of fires burning somewhere in the distance gave me a cozy feeling as we made it back to Flagstaff for the night.