Watermelon Ginger Keifer. Served up fresh from a fellow biker in Prescott, Arizona, it told me this trip was definitely not the Old West. This trip was formally and exclusively a 21st century creation. In this Fuck-No-It’s-Not-a-Depression Recession, people are getting simpler. There are pleasures to be had on the road. So just say, “Screw it,” and make it happen.
The trip started out on flat and boring Interstate 10, by design. It was August, I live in Los Angeles, and there’s a desert between New Mexico and me. Highs were about 110 degrees, so a quick trip through the desert was key to actually enjoying the trip. While a possible alternative might have been traveling at night, that didn’t work for me for two reasons. A) It’s not that much better. I’ve crossed the Mojave at night traveling to Sturgis and it was still 100 past midnight. The danger of night riding (I have crappy night vision) didn’t justify a 10-degree difference. B) I was couch surfing in Prescott the first night and didn’t want to inconvenience my host too badly with a 2 a.m. arrival.
I did a series here in Baggers a couple of years ago about couch surfing the West Coast. Well, back then I chose the tour and the destinations based on where I had friends, family, and acquaintances that would put me up, for the most part, and improvised when that wasn’t possible. I pointed readers to a site I’d just discovered called couchsurfing.org, in which people willingly give up their couch space to fellow travelers in the hopes of getting someone to do the same for them at some future date. This trip to New Mexico was actually made possible by Couchsurfing.
Near Sedona, Arizona.
Of the 46 states I’ve been to, New Mexico is one of the ones I’ve explored least. An invitation to a spare bedroom in Albuquerque was all it took for me to start planning a trip. Looking at a map, and recent experience on my way to Bike Week, showed me Prescott is a relatively easy ride from either LA or Albuquerque. Being in the mountains, surrounded by fun roads and cool-ish temperatures, Prescott is where I stared my search. And it didn’t take long. My first message through Couchsurfing netted me a fellow rider’s couch, just outside downtown Prescott. And for free, I wasn’t about to inconvenience her by showing up in the middle of the night.
Though I rode through the afternoon heat, at least I didn’t prolong the misery by taking the sort of “interesting” road I’d usually take (two lane and beautiful, not a lot of that between LA and AZ anyway), opting for the expediency of the Interstate. Two-hundred fifty miles of hell passes pretty quickly when you’re going 80.
It’s here I need to drop a little knowledge on you. People, including my host in Arizona, trip out when I show up in a jacket (and a helmet and boots and long pants) on a very hot day. Though I’d never ride without these things, in extremely hot weather it’s an even better idea. The problem is that you’ll dehydrate and actually heat up more if you have too much ventilation. Riding in a T-shirt (or less), or a mesh or perforated jacket is only a good idea (ventilationally speaking) between about 75-95. If it’s higher than body temperature, how is your ventilation helping? Answer: it’s not. Drink plenty of water, and zip your vents up so that only a little breeze comes through to dry you off and actually keep you cooler. Hot wind on dry skin is just asking for heatstroke.
So I-10 was the endurance portion of the trip, not for distance or time, but just the price of getting to a ride I actually wanted to have. That ride started when I turned off of the 10, and onto US-60, just east of Quartzsite, Arizona. Though it was still about 105 degrees, and the two-lane is arrow-straight for most of its length, seeing the little ribbon of asphalt stretch to the desert horizon at least felt like an adventure more than a commute. And if that felt good, the day got even better when turning onto AZ-89 and heading out of the Valley of the Sun as the sun fell toward the horizon.
AZ-89a is a twisted slice of heaven.
The sun dipped low and an increase in elevation dropped the mercury swiftly; but that wasn’t the best part—it was the road itself, which winds its way up into the mountains with breathtaking views of the northwestern edge of the Phoenix Metro area. The road is fun and challenging, but far less fun at night than it would have been in the day. If I had it to do over again, I’d have left about half an hour earlier.
So … Prescott, Old West capital of the Arizona Territory, and where I gratefully scored a couple glasses of fresh Watermelon Ginger Kiefer from a wonderful hostess. Don’t knock it ’til you try it. I had a comfortable couch, a meal, and good conversation for not much more work than booking an overpriced hotel online. Seeing as I’m not one to strike up a conversation with strangers very often, this was not only cheaper, it was an improvement.
Our initial plan was to ride a bit together the following day, but her work hours got in the way, so I was off on my own.