Friday, June 22, 2012

Final Drive: The Eagle Has Landed

In my last post, I alluded to some exciting changes in my life and those changes have come to pass. I have since and just moved from Iowa to Arizona. My wife accepted a position within the company she works in Scottsdale and we've moved to a nearby town of Fountain Hills. To that end I will be looking for employment, but that is another story for another day.

I rode the bike from Des Moines Iowa to Fountain Hills Arizona, but I have to admit I didn't take any pictures. I was leading/following my family, so I didn't have all the opportunities and really time to take many photos. I did however have some impressions of the trip.

Kansas/Oklahoma/Texas Panhandle has some serious wind. It knocked my normal 45 mpg down to 33 mpg on the highway. For the most part there were head winds pushing against me. There's not much to say about those parts of the country and I will leave it at that. I was glad to be through it and on to New Mexico where I felt I could make some headway. The scenery in New Mexico is a lot prettier than the previous states, but the temps did heat up a bit and gas mileage improved a little, although the wind wasn't quite as bad, I expected better. I suspect the quality of the fuel might have something to do with it. I ended up in Gallup New Mexico for the evening and it's what I would call a Native American run tourist trap. Expensive, somewhat kitschy, and lots of turquoise jewelry that's probably made in Mexico or China. Did I mention check cashing establishments, store front churches and pawn shops? I was glad to get on the road the next day.

I could feel the anticipation traveling on I40 in Arizona with not much more than 200 miles to go to my destination, while the RT hummed along at 80 mph with occasional passing car going into triple digits effortlessly. I stopped off in Holbrook to top off with fuel and met Gary and Di Vitacca from Buckeye who were headed back home after a long trip. Gary is a retired carpenter and rides a beautiful Harley Davidson Ultra Classic. We talked for awhile, with Gary giving me pointers on where to get good Italian food in Phoenix and what roads to ride, admonishing me on my choice for getting to Fountain Hills, as he called it "boring". That's ok, as every road in Arizona is a new one to me and I like learning for myself. After handshakes and bidding farewell,  I hit the road down AZ77 to AZ377 to AZ260 then AZ87 to Fountain Hills, passing through Payson and Heber. The high altitude was a nice respite with ponderosa pines and cooler air.  It reminded me of riding through Oregon from Bend to Crater Lake. The most challenging part of the ride was the downhill descent after Payson, with 6+% grades and some turns. I did much better with this than I did last year, but a reminder was a Chrysler Minivan that was pulling a trailer turn over on it's side. Going around a downhill turn, the trailer turned the van over like a tail wagging a dog. The drive got out through the windshield by kicking through it. It was a total vehicle loss for that family, but at least no one was hurt bad.

Descending into the valley brought along with it heat. I am not talking about 85, 90 or 95 degree heat. I am talking about 107˚F spite. Coming into Fountain Hills, I felt like someone set my thighs on fire. Understand that a R1200RT doesn't really throw off much if any discernible engine heat. It's the best bike in that regard. If you don't want engine heat on you, buy a BMW boxer bike. Anyway, with leathers, gloves, full face helmet and calf high boots, I felt like I was one of those roaster chickens you see in the supermarket, rotating on a spit. I fully expected to see Satan on the East End Peak of the McDowell Mountains standing there laughing his ass off at me while banging his pitchfork on the mountain to the music of AC/DC's Hells Bells. Even Sam Kinison crept into my mind with his bit about living in a desert. Well, Sam was wrong. People in America do live in a desert. The difference is that we have air conditioning and food. Speaking of deserts, I don't think this place has gotten rain since Goldwater lost in 1964. Holy smokes is it hot, but it's a dry heat, just remember that.

So, the adventure begins after 1500 miles on the RT and I look forward to exploring the area and finding all the great roads I have heard about. I expect to put a lot more miles on the bike out here than I would have in Iowa. That is a good thing. I will be writing a lot more too. Welcome back.