SR-89A continues down into and through the Verde Valley, passing through Cottonwood (usually the cheapest place around here for a room), and on up the far side of the valley to the quirky little mining town of Jerome, Arizona. If ever there were a perfect biker destination, Jerome is it. It’s a compact town perched on the side of a mountain, overlooking the whole Valley to the north. We’d arrived right near sunset, and the place was gorgeous. With its extreme topography, the blocks of the place are built right on top of each other, stacked like a wedding cake. We stopped to look around a bit at the old 19th century buildings, but wanted to not have to do much riding in the twisties in the dark, so got out quick. We did spare a minute to check out Maynard James Keenan’s (Tool’s lead singer) Caduceus Cellars tasting room, but since we were riding on, didn’t imbibe.
We were looking to get to Prescott for the evening so that the final day’s ride back to LA wasn’t too strenuous. As it happened, we had just enough light to get into Prescott, Arizona, as the streetlights came on. The first half of 89A between Jerome and Prescott is not to be missed, winding through the hills, with clear sightlines and killer views.
Prescott is an old town from the beginning of Arizona’s American settlementthe first capital of the territory. Due to its age, and an early fashion in the area for Victorian homes, it’s been called the most Midwestern-looking city in the West. Bottom line is that it looks very different from most towns in this part of the world.
We stayed right on the town square at the Hotel St. Michael. I might tell you that we chose this beautiful old joint for the history or for the view of Courthouse Square, or because we could park out front and watch our bikes. But the real reason is that it’s stumbling distance from the historic bar zone Whiskey Row, and they had a double-sized room (four beds and huge) with a view of the square for about $100. Our cheapest night of the trip happened to be in the coolest old hotel. The old bartender at the downstairs bar was a hoot as well, telling stories and serving up some mean appetizers from the kitchen.
Most of us awoke on the final morning of our trip not looking forward to getting back. Or to the long slog down Interstate 10 to finish things off. So we spent a goodly amount of time nursing our coffees at the caf out front of the hotel, staring off at the tree-lined square, or mesmerized by our high-powered cell phones.
It had been a good trip. It’s not a bad thing that nothing too challenging happened. No rain, no killer winds, heck, no extreme temperatures, one way or the other. These were all good things, since I (as is my habit) was the only one with Gore Tex and heated unterthings, while one of my brothers (who shall remain nameless) was rockin’ tennis shoes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Sometimes, home is the road, and family is who you live with. This time, I got to have a little of both.
We did have one final treat in store before turning up the iPods for a long run through the dez. SR-89 South out of Prescott is as good a road as I’ve ridden, twisting down from the high-altitude plateau of Prescott down to the Valley of the Sun. It starts in the trees, but then drops into the high desert. The final miles before hitting the flat, sandy plain are split north and southbound, so there are no worries about a car crossing the double yellow and taking you out. I highly recommend the viewpoint turnout to the left, which has a commanding view of the desert for hundreds of miles.