Grand Canyon – Weekender

A few weeks back the pachyderm was itching for another long trip… and so was I. As my friend Matt and I caught up at a favorite Mexican lunch place eating tostada grandes (Taco Salad) in San Diego, El Portal we hatched a plan for a weekender out to the Grand Canyon on the bikes. He recently bought another new Harley (since named the Dawg due to the wagging antenna) that is more comfortable for touring than the hot-rod’d ape hanger he calls the ‘Reaper’. Both are amazing machines built for very different purposes.

A front tire about to re-tire/retire….

Now pushing 60,000 miles … my R1150GS BMW (pachyderm) was in need of some maintenance before the trip so I worked a few nights to put a new front tire on, clean up squealing brakes, finally tracked down a fuel leak, and sealed up a seeping gasket. Matt had wanted to tighten up the bolts on some new exhaust, we installed a few nights earlier, before we hit the road. As he pulled into the garage he showed me that his mileage on the Dawg hit 1000 miles dead on the nose. Time to go do a real break-in trip. The chores done and bags packed we hit the road.

We booked East out of San Diego on I-8 with the knowledge that it was going to be hot in the desert. About 30 miles down the road my helmet was pressing on the side of my head. It became uncomfortable and was giving me a headache. I pulled over to remove a recent addition of ear pads which I hoped would cut down wind noise. *fail* Ripped those out and the helmet was again more comfortable. Back to the ear plugs….Someday I will get sponsored just for being me and be able to afford the quieter and more expensive helmets. 🙂


Across the desert to Phoenix with gas stops and a date shake.

I always try to stop for a shake; YUM!  The desert heat necessitates special gear (date shake included) but I like multipurpose gear so I do not end up with a garage full of shi—–stuff. My shemagh (which can keep you warm or cool, medical, or lashing) and my water bottle always help me on any trip but definitely thankful for them to survive extended exposure to blistering sun with 100+ degree heat while wearing full motorcycle gear. Dad always said, “Don’t dilly dally in the desert.” So we plow through Phoenix and turn North to Payson.

Payson is a little retirement / cowboy town where I happened to graduate High School. We came up the mountain in the dark. The air cooled quickly, as  much as 15 degrees, as we dipped through little valleys with streams in them.  Gradually the base temperature dropped comfortably into the 70’s. AHHH…..We checked into the hotel late. They had one room left, double queen, free breakfast, and right across the street from the pub. Perfect! The gal was even nice enough to give us a discount after chatting her up.

We got in a little late so we went straight to the pub (Buffalo Bar and Grill)for some dinner. Kitchen had just closed. Damn.  We had a few beers, meet some fun people that remembered my family or myself from High School, then shamelessly went to Denny’s across the street for late dinner.

Fancy now days…they recently swept up the sawdust, blood, and teeth.

With heavy heads Matt and I trooped to the lobby for coffee in our swim trunks. HOT TUB TIME! Soaking while drinking water and coffee fixed our fuzzy heads. Soreness from long the road the day before dissipated. Back on the road…

The cooler air at five and six thousand foot elevation is refreshing. Through the small towns we wind with ponderosa pines lining the road as we climbed up an over the Mogollon Rim (Mug-ee-on). Plateaus and valleys add texture to the horizon after we crest the mountains. Uneventful up to Flagstaff where the weather started to change on us. Clouds were building and threatening afternoon rain. We did get a few sprinkles just as we coasted into the Grand Canyon National Park.

We planned to be here a couple hours but in the end only spent about an hour and a half snapping pictures, short hike, snap a few more pictures.  Like most US National Parks there were quite a few visitors. Not all of them were respectful. We parked next to two chuckle-heads who had lounge chairs set up on the edge of the canyon and were playing crap-ass belly dancing music very loudly while trying to act cool for a video they were making. *sigh* People ruin everything. We quickly moved on to the next overlook for pictures… next trip I think we’ll get out on a trail away from the easy access places where the throngs of ‘special people’ hang out.

Up the road a few miles to a better (and quieter) vista.  The weather had caught up to us. We watched auroras and a thunderstorm roll into the canyon.  The clouds were at eye level and below us in some cases which made for a really neat effect.

Quick sandwich break at the local canteen with the other tourists where we get the requisite stares that come anytime we go int establishments with gear on. I had an awesome little guy, maybe 6 years old, come up to me and ask if I was a sky diver. HAHAHA! I told him yes… because it is popular to sky dive into The Grand Canyon. 😉

Back on the road towards Lake Havasu. All freeway this time as we needed to make up some time. We dropped into a small pack of bikers from Canada and rode with them for about an hour. Rain and hail pelted us periodically keeping things interesting. The sting of hail reaches easily through jackets and gloves at 60mph. One of the Canadian tour bikes riding 2 up, guy with his lady on the back, were in front of us. We painfully watched for about 20 minutes as she was the worst passenger ever….she wiggled around, unzipped her jacket which became a parachute, then pulled out some tissues which proceeded to go flying away onto the road…they pulled over to pick up their littler and caught up to the pack later. I think it is safe to say she won’t be on the next trip.

We stopped along route 66 for gas and bumped into an older gent who wanted to talk at the pump. Turns out he was the largest manufacture of ‘gremlin bells‘ (used to ward off evil spirits and keep the rubber side of the bike down –I need a new one since mine came off after the Mild Hogs Trip –hint hint use the link), roach clips, and collectable pins in the US. Turns out he has been selling them since the 70’s and is kind of a big deal. We trade a couple of stories and he give us some Route 66 pins. I guess he though we were pretty cool.

Excellent freebie from a cool guy with an amazing story.

Huge elevation drop as we wind down out of the high plains/mountains into the desert. At this point the wind started to really beat us up. Helmet shaking and big blows to the noggin from the gusts of wind. Within an hour both of us were getting frustrated and my neck was getting really sore. We took a longer break in Kingman to rest and look at the weekend roadshow of classic cars that were out cruising old Route 66. This also gave the wind some time to settle down.

The rest in Kingman worked! Our last hour and a half into Havasu City was not that bad. The temperature dropped to high 90’s and we caught the sun set over the desert mountains just as we rolled into town.

…Don’t you love her madly?….

Again we chat up the gal behind the desk at the motel and again receive a discount plus an upgrade to the room, and a free drink coupon! (* with purchase of one entree, not valid in all states, some restrictions may apply)  The bar has an old guy wailing out old songs like The Doors and Johnny Cash.

The restaurant is run by a bunch of old ladies that surely got stuck in Havasu many years ago. They are sweet but deaf… so I did not get a salad after saying, “No dressing for me please.” This was instantly corrected though and we all got a good laugh out of it.  The restaurant was only marginally better than a school cafeteria but hit the spot anyway.

Back to the bar to hear the cool old man croak out some tunes and get a whiskey.  We were accosted by a gal who was much too inebriated. “Arf yous here ta fissshhhh?!” as she head bobbed and body wobbled. An older gent who obviously knew her told her to leave us alone which prompted a small rebuttal from her. “I’ma jusk assskinnnnnn’ if they arrre fissshking!” Looking back to me, “He has peeeerfehhkkttt teef…” to which the old man says, “That’s because he has good hygiene… now leave them alone.”…then what I assume was her boyfriend dragged her away long enough for us to make our escape. Our interactions with the locals noted as successful, fun, and thankfully complete we headed to the pool to float and enjoy our whiskey.

Free breakfast should always come with the understanding that ‘you get what you pay for’. Hotel lobby breakfasts are the worst, but free, and form a turd. We bolt down some free ‘food’ and hit the road. Quick stop to see The London Bridge. The bridge was taken down and reconstructed in Arizona the 1970s by a oil tycoon who wanted to develop Havasu City into a tourist destination.

Then – London (1870)
Now – Havasu City, AZ (2016)

Rather than take the freeways we zig zag out of town on smaller roads then through farm land that roughly parallels the Colorado River till we get to Glamis (dunes where Star Wars was filmed). In a fit of 16 year old excitement I did try the pachyderm in the sand. Did not go so well with the 80% road / 20% dirt tires…but still fun and so worth it! 🙂

After Glamis we were pointed back towards San Diego onto the I-8 where the wind picked back up in the mountains. I was only comfortable at 50 mph as the wind pushed me from lane to lane. Miserable riding. Again, pulled into home with no fan fare.

Later, I remembered to ask Matt how many miles on the Dawg now…. 2212 total so 1212 miles on this quick weekend trip. That(!), ladies and gentlemen, is the right way to break in a new bike!






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