After the Overland Expo Dave and I headed into the northern sections of the Arizona Backcountry Discovery Route (AZBDR). If you complete the AZBDR, you’ll have ridden 750 miles (1200 km) south to north from the Mexico to Utah borders. The route takes you through the, “Mogollon Rim, Sunset Crater National Monument, Grand Canyon and the Navajo Nation, as well as the historic mining towns of Tombstone and Globe, AZ.”
Dave and I completed the northern part from sections 7 through 9. Check out the interpretive map on the site.
The miles surrounding Sunset Crater were sporty. I dropped my bike four times in the volcanic ash-like sand that just seemed to get more attitude as we went along. I was tired and wanted to bail out. There was an opportunity when we traversed a section of pavement but I decided to continue on, wanting to ride as much of the AZBDR as possible. If the first half mile was as bad as what we’d come through I could always turn around and grab the highway out. I’m glad I opted to tuck into this section as it was not only gorgeous but the riding became easier. Also we may have missed the opportunity timed to meet Peter Weiss. He had turned off the highway on his 650 V-Strom Twin and was heading up the road we’d just come from, which also happened to be part of his driveway to the 40 acre home and property shared with his wife, Judy.
Dave and he were chatting when I pulled up a few (only a few!) minutes later. After he’d learned we were hoping to travel around the world and part of our trip was going right through his backyard, Peter invited us to stay with them. It was pretty early in the day and we wanted to cover more miles so we declined regretfully but when we mentioned where we were headed next, Peter said he was going there the next day to scout the area. He wanted to take his wife there for their anniversary. Dave asked if Peter would like to ride with us and camp overnight. Peter took five seconds to accept. We rode together to his house so he could run it by his wife and get supplies. Judy was so sweet and welcoming with her plates of homemade zucchini bread and ice cold water, I almost told Peter we’d decided not to camp in favour of staying there to take in their hospitality.
As Peter packed his bike for the overnight trip, Dave and I followed Judy around the property. I was impressed by the water-collection system they had rigged up that saved enough rain water every year to supply their huge greenhouse, the horses and other landscaping around the property.
Within the hour the three of us took off to continue riding and spent the next 40 miles (64 km) enjoying the Northern Arizona scenery before finding a nice place to wild camp in the middle of nowhere. We enjoyed listening to Peter telling us about the area. I learned he and I had something in common. We’d both been whitewater river guides in the past, he on the Colorado River for something close to 30 years.
We rode together the next day for several miles through some of my favourite scenery. With the sun breaking in through the pine forest it smelled like the warmth of Old Spice cologne. I wanted to bottle it so I could whip it out to snort when we got back to parts of the world where people burn their garbage on the streets and drivers consider vehicle maintenance to be a waste of money.
In the afternoon, Peter turned off to head back home. I marvelled at his spontaneity to drop everything he’d planned for two days and join us. We love meeting people like this.
Dave and I continued and the riding got rougher with rocky-shelf drops and boulders to steer through. We were loving it. Normally I find doing steep downhill sections to be intimidating as gravity works against you. But here it was much easier to ride down than up. The rock drops were easy to roll over but meeting them head-on going uphill was a lot more work. For some reason my riding seemed to have improved leaps and bounds while we were away riding in the Southern Hemisphere even though we didn’t do much if any technical riding there. My fear of falling off and breaking another bone was dissipating. It was a great discovery.
Peter had told us about a cool place on Navajo land where we could overlook the Grand Canyon tourist-free. We headed there the next day after a stop in Cameron for a huge Navajo taco and a $12 permit so we could ride through the reserve. At the end of the sage-fragrant road we found the edge of the rim overlooking the Little Colorado and the Colorado Rivers far below. The converging waters looked like someone had squeezed Crest toothpaste on half a snake; the pale turquoise colour was milky with silt but only a few metres upstream it was a deep, clear green. We were completely alone with no one around for miles. It seemed a great spot to camp but it was only 4:00 p.m. and the wind was intense. We spent some time hiking around taking photos then decided to ride on and find a more sheltered place to pop the tent for the night. In the wide open desert we found nothing for many miles and in the end settled for a drainage off the side of the dirt road. It was no Grand Canyon but by then the only view I was interested in was the inside of my eyelids.
On the night of May 25 we were in Monument Valley. It was late, dark and impossible to find camping because of the reserve bordering Monument Valley. Earlier we’d stopped at a gorgeous wild camping spot in the red and purple-stained desert. We’d even found a friendly neighbour we were looking forward to having a beer with. In the 90 F (32 C) heat I’d peeled off my riding gear as fast as I was hoping to open a can of tepid beer we’d bought at a gas station a few miles down the road. I’d gotten quite comfortable in the shade of a tree ready to start sipping my adult beverage when Dave asked to look at the Inreach. Delorme had just come out with a new weather app for the device and we were looking at some dark clouds brewing in the distance. Although it was sunny at the moment the storm seemed to be spreading its tentacles in our direction. We’d climbed a rutted backroad to get in there with the bikes and had nine miles of dirt before pavement the next day. The roads would turn to gush if it rained. The app confirmed an approaching storm in our exact location and it wouldn’t clear up for a few days. I gave a great sigh and heaved myself back into the hot sun to put on my riding gear, gloves and helmet, stowing the beer back in my pannier.
Now, five hours later, we were searching for place to camp up a dirt road on the Navajo Tribal Land reserve near Monument Valley, plenty tired from riding over 375 m (600 km) that day. Luckily a local native woman who seemed in her early 30s stopped to ask us if we were lost. I asked if there was a place to camp in the area and she offered us a piece of land where we could set up the tent next to an abandoned trailer. After telling us no one would bother us there she and her male companion left. We watched the lights from her car until they disappeared and then sat for a moment in the darkness letting our eyes adjust to the scene, commenting on how things just seem to fall into place when we need it most. Although it was dark, we could detect the famous silhouettes of the sandstone buttes of Monument Valley where many a Western had been filmed. I couldn’t wait to wake up in the morning to see the valley floor from our raised perch up on the reserve.
The end of this post takes us to May 26. We’re still a month behind on posting. There is much to write about our time back in North America travelling along the country’s Backcountry Discovery Routes (BDR). I’ll be posting in sections so the Utah BDR is up next. We have some downtime for the next week at his dad’s house in Washington state while Dave works on modifications and repairs on our bikes to have them ready for our next leg up north. While he slaves away in the garage, my chores will be to get the posts up to date on our website and supply him with cold beer.