Author Topic: A novice motorcyclist rides a mongrel Trail90 400 miles for cold Busch.  (Read 2664 times)


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I understand that you have many choices in entertainment as you sit on the toilet and read things with your phone,  so let me give you the summary in bold, right up front right away and you can stay to read the details or move on to those cat videos.

I bought a badly running old bike.  I slammed a Chinese motor in it and packed it with camping gear,  rode Phoenix to Flagstaff "the long way", drank cold beers with the legendary JBFP,  passed out and then rode home "the even longer way".

At first I was all set to make a Youtube video of the whole experience because videos can be fun to make, fun to watch... and hey in four years I've earned almost $38 in Youtube views!The video ended up not happening because this journey became a bit more of a challenge than I bargained for and the camera work takes up quite a lot of time.   

Y'all just get my long winded yarn and a few photos I managed to snap.

Thursday,  May 11th.   
I get the idea to rewire the bird nest disaster inside my headlight. Yes it's been "good enough" for more than 40 years but good enough ain't good enough. Nobody in town has a Euro style barrier strip. There's a Radio Shack in the process of going out of business and the proprietor invites me to "dig through boxes" ... I find a barrier strip. Yay! $1.29 later I head home and cut a lot of wires, tin a lot of ends and screw a lot of little bitty screws. This proves to be a trouble free modification on my journey.

My old friend insomnia strikes and I get no real sleep.

Friday, May 12th
Some other dudes, bros and ladybros have probably already headed up to the prescribed camping location near Flagstaff, North of Sedona. I head to work as I don't have the day off, work a full day, get home and pack a few things onto my bike.

About the bike:  it's a 1975 K6 CT90 titled as a '76 because at the time motorcycles were titled by year sold. It's gone around 13k miles and the original motor was pretty much just annoying me so I ordered a 120CC Chinese motor to swap in place of it last year and proceeded to take more than 6 months casually sort of throwing it together.

The pack list:
  • Alps Mountaineering Meramac 4 dome tent
  • Alps Mountaineering ShortMC Self Inflating Pad Doodad
  • Coleman 30F Sleeping Bag (big & comfy!)
  • IKEA soft cooler with frozen water bottles, Cokes, beers
  • Big Sack full of random stuff like camp stove, mess kit, butane, hatchet, knives, flashlights,  zip ties, gorilla tape, poncho, baby wipes, etc
  • Left "Ammo Box" pannier: spare innertube, tool roll full of random tools, tire patch kit, spare spokes, big first aid kit
  • Right "Ammo Box" pannier: cans of soup,  fruit snacks, granola, nuts
  • Poop Tube A: tire/tube changing tools
  • Poop Tube B: MSR gasloine can (14 oz)
  • 1 Gallon water jug (full)
  • Pillow Sack Thing w/ clothes (it's like.. a rugged nylon tube you can stuff with clothes,  then if you turn it inside out the inside is fleece-like, so you can stuff it with clothes inside out and have a sort of lumpy pillow)
  • Camelback water tank backpack thing also containing toothpaste/brush, kleenex, allergy pills, goody's powder, phone charging cable, small flashlight, action camera, Leatherman Micra, random bits of stuff

Friday after about 5:30 or so I kissed my wife and stepped out the door,  telling her "I'll see how it rides with all this weight.. and come back if it feels unsafe" - it rode OK really with most of the weight down low. Traffic sucked.

No freeways means I needed to keep to the surface streets and that took a very long time, just stoplight to stoplight. I took approximately this route:  Clicky

Around the time I was getting into Wittmann I suffered my first setback.   A stupid little thing really;  the ignition wire between the coil and spark plug is routed pretty much by serendipity between the engine cooling fins and the exhaust pipe,  there's enough room for it to sort of live there and it has no particular incentive to lean into either one of those heat sources. I guess it decided to lean into the engine cooling vanes anyway which melted through the outer jacket and caused the conductor in the middle to short against the engine. This resulted in slowing to a stop and pulling to the side of the road in dense traffic. Motorists were cool and didn't honk or laugh.

A bit of burned finger tips and some hopeful wire mending and some zip ties and gorilla tape made it so the sparky bits went zap again,  which proved to be a durable repair as it did not cause me any additional grief for the duration of the ride. 

Then the sun went down.  That was expected. The 12v generator on this Chinese motor is pretty rockin' really and the headlight's a lot steadier and brighter than the old 6v/25w sealed beam was.   

Until this point the speed limit was mostly surface streets,  40 and 45mph which this bike does with ease.    Speed limits opened up to 55 and as long as there's no real adversity in the form of wind or mountain grades I can do 55 as well,  very stable and the brakes are adequate to keep up with stopping from that speed.    The next segment has some 65mph sections but thankfully the road provides two lanes and traffic was mercifully light by now,  again no trouble from motorists and I don't believe I caused anybody else any problem either.

It did start to get comfortably cool..

I stopped in Wickenburg for my first fill of gasoline.   About 71 miles and about 1.02 gallons of gasoline.   Suck it, Prius!

After Wickenburg I headed North to the Highway 89 cut off, toward Congress.  Traffic died which was nice.   My headlight died, which was somewhat less nice.      The headlight bulb socket is what might be considered a "cost engineered" piece of equipment and features very light gauge stranded wire crimped into little brass rivet things and one of them pulled out.    I tried to re-seat it, was not successful and decided I would take the opportunity to reconstruct it under a nice street lamp in the next town since the low beam still worked and was sufficient to ride really.  Here is the last photo of this lamp working, taken just outside Congress, AZ . The first major hill to climb is the grade up 89 toward Yarnell,  a beautiful separated highway that I'm sure is popular among the canyon carving sort of thrill seekers.   I held a respectable 40mph all the way up that hill, passing a VW Kombi that appeared to be mid-tire-change.   

Upon arrival at Yarnell, I noticed a lot of weird noise occurring behind me and for once that couldn't be blamed on my love of burritos.  I came to a stop on the street in front of an odd little roadside gift shop that was very much closed for the night (after 10pm by now) - fitted into what must have once been a Texaco gas station. - engine off,  trying to be as quiet as possible I got to work sorting out what had gone wrong on my bike.   Looks like the muffler heat shield was hanging on by one screw and as it's in a place that requires a bit of disassembly to properly see, let alone repair I did what anyone in my position might do and zipped it sort of in place with a lot of zip ties.    Not around the hot muffler of course but to the pannier and luggage rack it was protecting from heat. As I was finishing up I was startled almost to the point of soiling myself by the ninja-like approach of a lady from within the Texaco who suddenly asked me if I was OK, if I needed anything or if it would help at all if she turned on all the lights outside to help me see what I was working on.  Super nice of her!  I thanked her but observed that I was pretty much done at that point and ready to move along,  she saw me off and I continued down the hill through Kirkland Junction.  The VW Kombi from earlier passed by.

Approaching Prescott through the twisty hills around Copper Creek I started getting cold...  for anyone who hasn't ridden a motorcycle in cold weather you should know that moving through the air like that just pulls every bit of warmth out of a person...  it's like standing in 50+mph wind.  I've got two shirts, riding jacket, armored gloves, full helmet, dense weave pants,  boots but it's just frosty and I started getting concerned because there was still a lot more climbing to do. Thankfully this was one of the only truly cold sections; but I did stop and put on a second jacket that thankfully fit over my riding jacket.. helped a lot.    My headlight kept getting dim, bright, dimmer, bright,  off entirely.. smack the housing with my hand and it came back on..  then off.     Pulled to the side of the road, fiddled with the wires (they all looked OK other than the deliberately taped-off high beam wire) , re-socketed the bulb.. it all worked again for a while before going dim again and fluctuating some more.   Bleh.     

I arrived in Prescott early enough that the downtown scene was still hopping,  but I had a long way to go still.  Filled up with gas,  0.7 gallons for about 62 miles. 

From there I traveled up 89 to the 89A connection North of town,  got onto Pioneer Parkway which sure feels like a real freeway and thus sort of awkward on a 55mph bike..  traffic remained light as it was fairly late at night by now.     After a couple miles at WOT (eh, so far like 80% of my journey has been at WOT) 89A split off and as I passed the Yavapai fairgrounds I felt a sort of jiggling by my left foot and heard a bunch of noise followed by a bunch of parts rattling along the road..

This is unfortunate.

I stopped, the left side engine/generator cover and a couple parts under it had fallen off.  I walked back and found most of the parts,  kicked the hot ones onto the painted line by the road so they could cool off while I looked for more parts,  and spent probably a lot longer than I should have walking back along 89 at least a couple miles with a flashlight trying to find the last two bits that never turned up - one of the case screws and the big adjuster plug.     According to google maps that was about a 8 mile round trip of walking so that's my cardio for the day I guess. Felt pretty good to be off the jiggly 1-cylinder bike for a while and I wanted to give the engine ample time to cool off before I was working on it.

I gathered up everything and reassembled it minus the case cover screw and the plug thing,   it looked pretty complete and no source of failure was apparent.   Did not pack any anti-sieze or silicone so I put a piece of gorilla tape around the bit of threads extending out of the shaft and hoped it would be gummy enough to prevent a repeat performance,  and the one remaining case cover screw I just jammed really tight & hoped for the best. Surprisingly this all worked!

On my way up toward Mingus Mountain there was no traffic, which I found sort of surprising.  I pulled off the road half way up to enjoy the moon light and calm my sort of ragged nerves from worrying about the engine's health - good thing I did because several sports cars going considerably above the speed limit sped past a few minutes later on a late night thrillseeking mission.     Not my brand of adrenaline but I didn't see any wrecks as I proceeded later so I guess they got where they were going OK this time.    While I was waiting for any potential stragglers on the sportscar train I took the opportunity to answer nature's call and now for a little good old fashioned TMI to throw you off your game:  shrinkage unlike anything I've ever witnessed before.   No frozen lakes or visits to the convalescent hospital have delivered this level of reduction. It was sort of weird to do business in that condition.  On with the regularly scheduled motorcycle talk:  I made it the rest of the way up the hill easily able to sustain the 25mph speed limit with power to spare.

Pulled into Jerome after pretty much everything had wound down for the evening,  putted quietly through town. The exhaust on this bike is quiet especially at low throttle, low RPM - coasting & engine braking down into Cottonwood was uneventful and I began toward Sedona  still on 89A, still with the headlight being a little jerk.   

Finally the headlight quit again and although the moon was out,  I still wanted to get the headlight running again so I'd be legal, be seen by others (it's the only forward illumination at all) and .. you know, not die. Sadly this time the headlight was really dead - the bulb had fallen out into the headlight housing and cracked the glass.    Just for the heck of it I put the bulb back in its socket and surprisingly it stayed lit sort of a weird yellower-than-normal color for almost 5 minutes despite having regular atmosphere inside the cracked bulb in contact with the filament.       I figured really there weren't THAT many more miles to go, so I Gorilla taped my 3 watt LED flashlight to the handlebars and set its adjustable focus to what looked like a decent throw,  and got back under way.  I rolled into Sedona to a basically dead quiet town.  24 hour gas station, 63 miles,  0.7 gallons of gas.  Sweet!

Once in Sedona I saw a few big orange DoT signs indicating that 89A from mile marker 390 to 396 was closed from 9pm to 6am and motorists must take alternate routes.    I did not have a map with me that indicated mile marker exact locations and when I checked the milepost map it wasn't high enough resolution to be 100% sure of where those mileposts were in relation to the dirt road I had to take (rt 535) so in the absence of any alternate routes.. I just figured I'd drive up and take my chances.   It was already very late at night and I was exhausted.  Oak Creek Canyon was frosty cold, much colder than anywhere else on the trip and I got a little worried about how cold it might be on top of the rim. My flashlight was still mostly doing its job and there was zero traffic on the road other than me, until I passed a lone bicylist, nice bike but no lights and not set up for distance travel.  I started getting my hopes up as I kept proceeding  up the canyon and seeing no closures (yet).. thinking maybe I'm in luck and it's open to past where my turn-off was!   

It was not. At the top of the fun ziggy-zaggy section of 89A there was a parked Ford Escape with a sleeping road crewman(woman) behind the wheel,  a bunch of road closed signs and cones,  and not much else going on. A quarter mile up the road was a generator with floodlights,  but nobody working under them.   A truck was parked up there too.   I stopped my bike and sat around a moment trying to figure out what to do next... find out how far exactly I was from the 535 turn-off,  if any alternate dirt roads from here existed,  (I was right at the top of the climb, it was plausible..) .. anything.  I walked up to the sleeping crew person but she didn't seem ready to wake up yet. I started walking up toward the parked truck by the lights, but it drove off before I got there so I just kept walking for a pretty good distance, hoping I would encounter the crew and maybe ask them for permission for little old me and my little old moped to sneak past. Tired,  I walked back to where I had parked my bike as I arrived I saw the bicyclist just hop off their bicycle and begin pushing it along through the construction zone.   The crewman who had been sleeping earlier woke up and greeted me, she was nice but couldn't offer me permission to go through - she did however volunteer that the crew would probably let me go, there wasn't really any good reason to deny my entry as the heavy work was being done far up the road.  At that time a couple dudebro trucks showed up and a dudebro guy hopped out and inquired with the crewman lady,   got told sorry it's just closed..   then he asked me if I was up there for the Overland expo. I said no, but I was headed the same place he was.    He lamented that his destination was only a half mile up the road (actually 1.2 miles) and that they should just make a blast for it.      He walked back over to confer with the other truck,  I started walking  up the road again because there didn't seem anything to do other than track down a crew supervisor and ask permission or choose option B and just blast the gate. 

Dudebros blasted the gate. They sped past me as I walked & when I got up to the turn-off for 535 it was apparent that they had cut the fence and driven off-trail a bit to get around some parked equipment.  In a way I can't blame them because it kind of sucks how that whole route was cut off.. but also the road was closed and they were warned before coming up there just like I was,  but unlike me they did have the option of taking the freeway around the closed area and coming in from another angle.  It would have been like 30 extra miles of driving for them.     Anyway I'm not here to judge that - they did what they did and I saw a road crew vehicle headed toward me so I hung out and waited. Tired looking lady popped her head out and even though she looked like she had a long day and really wanted a cigarette or ten,   she tried hard to not yell at me for being where I technically wasn't allowed to be.    I explained that I had a moped and couldn't freeway around, and where I was going. I mentioned the dudebros had just blasted through and cut the fence which prompted her to get seriously frustrated but she realized I wasn't with them, and I was being cool by asking permission - so she relented and apologized for flipping out and said yes I'm welcome to go through if I can make it.  I thanked her,  walked back to my bike and tried to get through the cut fence area behind the parked equipment.

This was when I became extremely glad that my fully loaded bike and camping gear is under 250 lbs.  That route was pretty gnarly rock crawling and loose dirt with my only option really being to get off the bike and try to shove it up while goosing the throttle in 1st gear and standing on very uneven slippery terrain...   and being a bit short on sleep and long on hours awake/busy..   

Once inside the gate and back on legally open route 535 I popped the bike into the highest gear I could cruise in up hill to make the exhaust as quiet as possible and minimally disturb the various camping people.. pretty late at night at this point. Cell phone service vanished and no GPS meant I had to navigate by memory and flashlight and moonlight which meant an awful lot of driving.. and this was my first time driving a motorcycle on terrain like that.     Gravel, rutted roads,  the ruts were the worst. This is no dirt bike it's little more than a moped so the suspension and tires don't exactly eat up rough terrain.  I crashed a bunch of times beating up my legs and luggage, clothes, pride..   ouch.  To its credit the luggage (made from old ammo boxes,  hardware store bits,  a milk crate, and bungees) held solid through all that. 

Finally I saw what looked like a Montero and knew I was home.  The sun was peeking over the horizon,  I cut my engine before pushing the bike into camp and set up my tent to get some sleep. 

The route up: here


« Last Edit: June 06, 2017, 04:34:00 PM by Shovel »


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Saturday, May 13th

After setting up my tent, throwing everything loosely into it,  inflating my camp pad and laying out sleeping bag I used some baby wipes to sop up some of my grossness so I wouldn't immediately wreck the sleeping bag.     I was asleep fast.   

Woke  up I guess around 9?  In time to greet the dudes and bros before they all ran off to the Overland Expo.    JBFP and I hung back to sit around,  gather firewood and engage in the entirely unnecessary act of making some kindling,  discover and comment on various forms of GakTM  and mostly figure out how to make JB's beer cooler less heavy for the ride home.      JBFP was a mighty lumberjack and brought many logs for the fire.   

Folks returned from the Expo and began setting about the evening activities.   The Executive Management staff of Adventure Driven Design awarded me Completely Unofficial And Non-Binding Best Ride Of Hashtag OverlandExpo and presented me with a kickass and very stylish shirt featuring their logo.  Nice!   I wanted to be cool and hang out but I realized I was pretty hammered as I'm not really built for day drinking and didn't want to make a complete ass of myself so I disappeared in shame to my bed.    I slept solid. 



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 Thanks for the story, had some laughs at your expense and kind of wish I was there with you at the same time.


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Sunday,  May 14th

Despite turning in early Saturday evening I slept in until after the sun was up - I thought it was way late but really it was only like 6:30.    I took my time brushing my teeth while hanging out one side of the two-door'ed tent,  baby wipe showering and changing into the clothes that would see me home,  rolling up my sleeping bag and camp pad,  getting schtuf sorted.     

Chatted a bit with whoever was up and about,  struck tent and loaded my bike up for the journey home.   I enjoyed a breakfast of fruit leather and took careful bites off a baseball sized blob of congealed granola.   A bottle of water and a can of green Coke sort of provided hydration.     Josh shared with me some insight he's learned from various bikes,  and I made several attempts to high five whoever was nearby - let's just say my bike was running on more cylinders than my brain was that morning.   

I knew the day would probably be long and I didn't really have a headlight so getting home before dark was crucial;  so I puttered off into the woods balancing badly and not really exhibiting good motorcycle skills.   Route finding proved a lot easier in the daytime with sunlight instead of a flashlight taped to the handlebars and I was well on my way out of the woods when I saw a Montero in my shaky rear view mirror.    Better let him pass!   

This is the part in my story where I feel a bit like a tool because I'm drawing a blank on this Montero owner's name, we had met at camp and he's cool and right now as I type this.. it's all tip of my tongue like I know after I go to bed I'll think of it..       

So Cool Montero Guy is in my mirror, I decided to let him pass and misjudged the whole braking-on-a-slanted-shoulder-covered-in-gravel thing and wrecked myself pretty good.   Bent stuff, spilled fuel,  all the good things in life.      It looked like the thing I damaged most was my pride and one of my legs so even though C.M.G. was being extra cool and helping me right my bike, making sure I'm OK and so did another guy behind him in a pickup,  I urged them to get on their way and I'd sort my stuff out.       

Nothing critical was damaged.   These bikes have no clutch lever on the left side since the clutch is automagic so the only real harm done was cosmetic and a little bit of premature wear on the mirror stalk.   

I continued down the hill, got to the (now open) 89A and merged with traffic for the ride down hill.    It was very beautiful and this is the part I regret more than anything else not putting on the action camera and recording it because then I'd have something decent to show people.     The bike was running well, kept up with traffic,  brought me into Sedona which was busy waking up.   Coffee smelled really good but I didn't want to risk coffee's famous effects plus the previous day's beer consumption in unknown territory.    I was kind of sore and dreading the day I had planned for myself,  and spent a bit of time sitting on a bench in Sedona trying to decide if I wanted to stay the course (the rough experimental route),  or return on the highway like I had come,  or ride around Sedona looking for a loading dock and then call my wife to come pick me up in shame with my pickup truck. 


Onward, motherf$$%er.

If you try to map a route that travels from Sedona-ish to Phoenix-ish but isn't on I17, it doesn't happen.    Google, Bing,  Garmin all will try to send your ass over to Jerome and back to Wickenburg like how I came or they'll put you on I17.     There's just no legal route open to road vehicles that parallels I17 between Bumble Bee and New River and while trails exist..  who knows what they're like?    I had never attempted this kind of route in a 4x4 before and had never really done any kind of serious not-just-a-dirt-road type driving on a motorbike before so this was all new and dangerous and stupid.    Cool I'm one of those things!

The easy part was taking a right turn at Beaverhead Flats Rd. off rte 179 South of Sedona.   I can't believe I've never turned there before,  it's kind of a pretty highway that deposits a traveller on Cornville rd, East of Cornville itself.    Some dirt roads extend South from here to the Verde river but I couldn't count on being able to cross it so I opted to highway through Cornville and ultimately back to Cottonwood and good ol 89A where a bridge exists.       I stopped in Cornville Market, an extension of Crazy Tony's where I installed a tasty sub sandwich from SmashHits Sandwiches which is inside Hot Stuff Pizza which is inside Cornville Market which is inside Crazy Tony's.     Look they don't just call him Crazy, mental illness is a real thing and affects a lot of people. 

The sandwich was good and I took a few minutes to inspect the bike more thoroughly than I had in the morning,  ensuring that nothing seemed just on the verge of catastrophe.    I added a couple zip ties to the precarious heat shield that had come loose on Friday,  and worked out a way to charge my phone while riding that I hadn't really put enough consideration into previously.    I also set my phone to report my location in real time to my wife just for the heck of it.

« Last Edit: May 15, 2017, 11:05:51 PM by Shovel »


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Thanks for sharing Eric! Youre too legit to quit.


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Sunday, May 14th (conclusion)

Cornville disappeared shakily in my mirrors.  Gonna have to make an excuse to get through there again some day.

I crossed the Verde in Cottonwood and again had the choice to return over through Jerome on 89A or cut across the unknown dirt roads roughly parallel to I17,  or even ride 260 over to Payson.. which wouldn't have been that bad an option. 

The map indicated that FR361 would take me to the town of Cherry and then meet up with rte 169 that I could take to rte 69 and fuel up in Mayer.     I turned off 260 at FR361,  got a mile down the road and realized all I wanted to do was stand around not being on a bike for a while.    The sun was hot, the wind was comfortably cool.   I sat around on a rock for a while among some trashy campers' trashy trash.     Glow stick bracelets thrown everywhere,  various litter and debris.    A full bag of marshmallows and a box of graham crackers left by the fire pit.     Thanks for leaving all your shit, folks...   

FR361 proved to be the first of a new experience for me in motorcycling,  it's the kind of road that a stock 4wd vehicle with some balls could accomplish if it had decent enough ground clearance and real 4wd but there were some pretty serious sections that would definitely stop a rig that wasn't built with off road in its dna.      The smoother sections gave me the opportunity to learn how to control a motorcycle on dirt better..   I think my dirt motorcycle skills multiplied by 2000% on this road as my muscles started to learn about having some, but not much traction and relying on that randomly variable traction to stay upright.       It's a little bit like trying to walk on a frozen sidewalk.       

The route is really beautiful too.    These panorama shots are weird and make the straight road look bent.

After some time I came across a flat and shady spot to park and eat the rest of my almonds.. 


The tougher parts of this route meant I had to get off the bike and push it in 1st gear because I didn't want it to fall on me;  there were also a lot of parts that were very steep and kept threatening to lift the front tire - the bike climbs readily in 1st gear with all this weight on it and was never short on torque.    I crashed my legs into the rocks a lot and probably came close to breaking my foot several times while trying to maintain balance.     

Down some of the steeper hills was tough too,  it's necessary to use the rear brake to keep the bike from just sliding and falling over and that meant I had to stay on the bike even if walking beside it would have been a bit less frightening.    The rear brake is foot operated.     The strategy I took was basically to go as slow as possible... really, really slowly in first gear with my foot on the rear brake and a delicate touch on the front brake lever.  The road seemed to be deteriorating as I went along and I got a little concerned - still the road appears that it would be 100% passable in any reasonable 4x4 vehicle with a careful driver.      Full size trucks like my Ram always risk rocker panel and bumper damage because they're obese,  and anything with open differentials will struggle a bit.   Foresters and Escapes should probably avoid FR361 even with a skilled operator behind the wheel.

Eventually FR361 intersects with Cherry Creek Rd. which is a graded dirt highway.   I encountered no traffic until I got near the town of Cherry itself and nearly collided with a Wrangler coming around a corner.  Bad on both of us,  we were both on the wrong side of the road from our relative direction.  I learn from my mistakes (but make a lot of new ones) so I became considerably more careful of corners from there out.   

Cherry is an interesting site I never suspected existing..   all over the country there are little collections of people living in the backwoods in various shacks and huts but Cherry seems unusually classy and well kept.     Probably some retirees with comfortable money have decided to make it their hideaway so while it doesn't ooze affluence, things are better kept in Cherry than your usual BFE communities.    There are even random benches along the road that seem to be placed by individuals rather than The City,  though there probably isn't as much a distinction between those two as there is in larger cities. 

I did not avail myself of the benches and just continued through Cherry enjoying a little shade and the smooth dirt roads.  Something I didn't expect to see just past Cherry along Cherry Creek rd was pavement - really nice black smooth pavement!       The dirt was fun and all but I needed to make some time and rest my arms and legs from all the work that off-pavement motorcycling can be so the pavement was very welcome.   I stopped momentarily at the turn-off for Powell Springs and decided I should camp there someday.    Not today.

Upon reaching Rte 169 I checked my fuel - had plenty and considered heading down the dirt road to Orme and continuing into Spring Valley;   but I noticed one of my bungee straps (a sort of important one) had derelicted its duties somewhere and that made my expensive tent and sleeping pad just one small failure away from being lost - I also felt like I'd make better time on the slightly longer highway route.   Rolled into Dewey,  turned left on 69 and headed to Mayer for fuel - 0.9 gallons for about 67 miles and a $2.89 bag of bungees at the only general store in that town,  Dollar General.   I hate those places,  endlessly draining people of their modest money by selling cheap garbage that doesn't last.     Instead of buying a $20 broom that lasts 10+ years people buy a $8.99 crappy broom every year,  spending $90 over the same time frame and making more pollution and garbage in the process.  So the only bungees they have are those disposable ones with the wire ends that dry rot in the sun over a period of about two days and then turn to dangerous garbage.  Bleh.   

Mayer to (near) Cleator along Antelope Creek Rd. is a familiar route,  easy graded dirt that's in excellent condition and can be ridden fast.     I stopped to take photos of a couple houses that Mayer features...   

Evil Lair
More Evil Lair In Bad Repair

For the record those houses are bad ass and I would love to live in something with that kind of presence... just maybe not located there exactly.   

Not long after leaving Mayer I descended toward Cleator and what would have been Banana Ranch Mining And Beer Drinking Company  -  the siren song of Cleator Bar & Yacht Club was calling me but I had a long way to go and a finite amount of daylight.      Pretty views though..

As I descended this hill I passed several pedal bicyclists heading up it.   It wasn't HOT hot, but it was hot enough and they were all working hard.     Kind of looks like it would be a fun ride though..  now I want to do that but probably have to wait until next fall for it to be not-deadly-hot again.   

The road from Cleator to I17 is also the road to Crown King and sadly is completely overrun by yahoos who have no class and think the only way to have a good time is to tear as much ass as possible.  I don't mean this in the sense of "anyone who drives faster than me is a maniac" ..  I mean deliberately fishtailing and kicking up dust because driving in a straight line isn't MONSTER ENERGY enough, brah! and presumably none of these folks have enough attention span to consider traffic on this busy road at all.      I guess they're free to do their thing but it really is annoying to hear them endlessly back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.     How much excitement can one really get from crossing the same stretch of road dozens of times?    Maybe I'm jealous because my dopamine dispenser has a crypotgraphic authentication scheme and those guys just have a big red PRESS HERE FOR PLEASURE button. 

My left-side rear view mirror fell unceremoniously to the ground as I passed through Bumble Bee, so I turned around to pick it up and stow it in my luggage.

After getting to the paved road where all the Monster Energy crowd had parked their brodozers & toyhaulers I turned South onto Maggie Mine Rd.  That's the dirt road you can see sort of parallel to I17 as you ascend from Black Canyon City to Sunset Point on 17..  it's rough but in a drive really slow sort of sense,  any AWD vehicle with good ground clearance and a cautious driver can successfully navigate it.    Nothing but maybe a side-by-side or baja truck can navigate it quickly.   

There are a few steep sustained climbs but as before, first gear on this bike pulls adequately hard with my butt on it and I only fell over and burned my leg on the exhaust like 3, maybe 4 times. 

Getting down into Black Canyon City is where things get more serious.  There's no actual route from here to Phoenix that isn't I17,  not a legal road because legally for something to be a road it has to meet certain criteria involving environmental survey,  runoff and clearing width from the center of the roadway, etc.  .  Rubicon Trailis by legal definition a road - actually it has to be, it's illegal to drive off road in California's public lands.      There's no such road from Black Canyon City. 

I had cell service, being that close to town so I started looking at satellite maps for unlisted-but-real routes.   Sure enough a route does exist,  no information on its name or condition.. but it's obviously traveled enough to have vegetation (such as exists in AZ) cleared off it.     I even saw a sign or two designating it I think OHV route 9662?  I could be remembering the number wrong.     It's a pretty tough route and I had to stop many times to re-check the satellite imagery and make sure I was still making progress.    It's also got a lot of very steep climbs and narrow sections - this route is really ideal for side-by-sides and small, short wheelbase 4x4's like TJ's and Monteros and XJ's, etc..  provided they're built and have a cool headed driver behind the wheel.   I don't think I could get my fullsize pickup through there without taking on some body damage.. and it was definitely scary as hell on a CT90 where every climb, every descent was one little mistake or accident away from serious injury and really not a lot of options for help or recovery.        There was no traffic, no other people out there - I encountered zero vehicles anywhere along this route.     

Naturally the only photo I took was of a flat and easy section where I came to a stop to rest,  hindsight I probably should have photographed the hard parts so anyone considering that route could get an idea of what they're in for. 

After some time I came in view of I17 again..  judging by traffic this must have been  before the wreck that turned 17 into a parking lot party.   

Eventually this OHV route emptied onto something that's apparently called Moore Gulch,  which is accessible to regular pickup trucks and is therefore absolutely and completely covered in trash from careless shooters.  C'mon man you have a pickup truck at least try to haul your stuff back out so this place doesn't all get closed...  there were a lot of people out shooting which is cool I just wish they'd work on keeping access open by not trashing the place. They make shooters look bad  :(

Moore Gulch road is well maintained and deposits travelers at Table Mesa Rd - where I've spent almost 0% of my life despite being a lifelong outdoorsman because  it just never seemed that interesting out there.  Options were to take El Paso gas pipeline road down toward New River or cross the freeway at Table Mesa,  magically teleport past a brief state trust land segment and then continue down Old Stagecoach Road to 35th Ave and head into New River.   

Since I had never tried teleportation before I opted for the teleportation.      Teleporting proved to be exceedingly similar to crossing a sandy riverbed,  but that is entirely coincidental to the sandy riverbed one would have to cross on state trust land to get from Table Mesa Rd. to Old Stagecoach Rd.. This style of travel, slogging a loaded CT90 on skinny tires across bottomless beach sand was an awful lot of work.  Hot and slow and a lot of good old fashioned physical exertion - I stopped midway to rest and a tattooed gentleman in a side-by-side teleported past, stopping to ask if I was OK.    See?  Not all side-by-side bros are jackwagons some of them are cool dudes who teleport responsibly and care about their fellow man.     I thanked him and continued the teleportation slog.   Route finding was kind of difficult as the circuits of space and time are a little bit braided here and since they closely resemble a riverbottom they are apparently subject to seasonal changes that may not be reflected in satellite imagery.     Finally I emerged from that wormhole - really it wasn't much distance just felt like it,  and entered the mystical lands of the New River Nature Reserve on 35th Avenue.     

Inside Phoenix,  35th Avenue looks a little bit like this but up around that part of the world 35th Avenue is more like this and this and this.. this time the sand was on real Earth not just the circuits of space and time so it was extra sloggy.  My CT90 doesn't use the original intake snorkel assembly so I have an exposed air filter just above the engine, which made this part also a little more dramatic than it would be in a regular four wheeled vehicle.    Note to self:  implement that snorkus idea I had for future water crossing situations.

This would prove to be the end of the dirt road segments for me.    It was after 4pm at this point and things were looking pretty good for getting home before sunset.  As I turned from Black Canyon Highway onto New River Rd I passed the jumpin' Roadrunner bar which was blasting music and packed with customers,  and I noticed something was not quite right with the bike that had been doing really quite well so far today:   it was clanking a lot and felt... jiggly. 

I stopped on the bridge to assess the situation,  turns out the long bolt which holds the rear swing arm in place was backed out almost to failure and so the back half of the bike wasn't exactly solidly connected with the front half.  Boo.     Out came the tools by the side of the road and I got that tightened, thankful I had packed an assortment of wrenches that included a 17mm for this job. The exhaust heat shield was looser than ever, now held on by apparently one screw and two zip ties..  I probably should have looked closer at it.

New River Rd was an easy ride,  plenty of traffic in the form of old people in oldsmobiles and people of all ages in side-by-sides but I was able to keep up the speed limit.   My exhaust seemed louder than I remembered it but I figured that was just fatigue from hearing it all day. I also kept feeling like my leg was hot...     

Yeah maybe you're putting those things together but I wasn't yet. 
I continued along New River road,  past a sort of strange set of houses that look like they were expensive and well cared for,  but in a kind of nasty irredeemable desert hellscape that I can't imagine why anyone with money would choose to live there.      I passed by Shangri La Ranch,  which I've never visited despite having been to numerous other naturist/clothing optional places... Shangri La just never interested me and it still doesn't...  kinda always struck me like being nude is done for comfort (swimming in the ocean nude and hiking nude are really, really comfortable) but at Shangri La people are nude for the social nudeness itself..  not my jam.     Rock out with your socks off though!!     Maybe one day I'll show up there and change my opinion.

New River Rd. gives way to 7th St, which arrives at Carefree Highway.    Uneventful, other than my leg kept being hot, I kept hearing weird rattles and not really knowing what the problem was.  I took Carefree Hwy to Cave Creek Rd,  filled up on fuel - it wasn't much but I don't remember the miles/gallons.       Turning South on Cave Creek I was officially on familiar territory for this motorcycle, having taken this route to and from Bike Week a few weeks ago.      Lot of motorcyclists riding Cave Creek Road.

Motorcyclists have their own "Jeep Wave" - the left hand is for steering and clutching so it's not really that busy during normal riding between stops (and when there isn't a lot of wind) - so we tend to wave to each other most of the time unless it's in such extreme concentration at a bike event where we'd be literally waving 100% of the time.     Presently popular is the low scissor/peace/whatever thing...  drop the left hand below the handlebars and extend it with two fingers out.      I don't know if it has any significant meaning but it's about the most popular wave I see and I return it since it would be rude not to.    Nobody along Cave Creek rd. waves to each other or waved back when I waved.    Maybe it's just such a common bike route that everyone has agreed to just keep their hands on the bars but since I'm an immigrant to the motorcycle world I didn't get on that mailing list.     

Eventually I got down into the city and decided to stop in a parking lot near Greenway to figure out once and for all why my leg is so hot...

Oh, yeah that would do it.  - it turns out that I simply hadn't inspected the exhaust heat shield failure very well and all four of the threaded inserts that hold it to the muffler case had just fractured out of there, leaving all four screws (ok this one is a bolt) threaded into their respective insert,  but the whole assembly held on by nothing more than the zip ties in back and kind of being mechanically wedged between the muffler and the saddlebag.      Hot exhaust was shooting straight out of the hole onto my leg,  which was responsible for both the nagging heat and the added loudness from the bike that I had been wondering about for hours at this point.       Of all possible mechanical failures to have this one isn't so bad,  just a nuisance for a little bit longer until I can get home and disassemble a few things and practice my shitty welding "skills".

Cave Creek continued down to 7th street,  where I began to notice a lot of people looking out of their cars at me - I had spent a lot of my day around nobody so I guess the sight of a little bike like this, crusty from the road and laden with camping gear was something new for them to see.     Well, let them look.  I was almost home. 
I cut across on Missouri Ave to 16th Street because I wanted to see if Flavors of India was open on a Sunday evening,   it was sadly not to be   :( . I saluted in the general direction of the 14th St. Crew as I passed their 'hood,  and motored on the last half dozen miles to my home near South Mountain.   Mission completed,  somewhere over 400 miles total with some brutal trail work and bona fide danger times... I now know a lot more than I did last week and I can't wait to dig in on the post-ride maintenance work this bike now needs.   

Approximate route home

« Last Edit: May 16, 2017, 12:56:31 PM by Shovel »


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 God damn! That was an adventure, makes me want a little bike meow.

 Driggs, Add this one to the collection.


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  makes me want a little bike meow.

Nooooooo!!!  don't divide up your time like that mang you have too much else going on.      Multitasking is multifailing!!

Here's some follow up notes on the jammy jam above:

  • Bike seems pretty much like it should just sort of clean up and be ready to rock again.    I have to weld up those muffler holes,  fix the headlight,  track down a couple bolts for the clutch cover thing, replace left side mirror.  Minor stuff.   Engine didn't even consume a lot of oil.   Shocks still feel.. about as good as ever
  • My truck on progressive rate coils and Bilsteins feels like sleeping on an acre of boobs now,  compared to riding the motorcycle.    It already felt smooth compared to my little run-about Escape on whatever ancient struts it's wearing... but damn after a bunch of hundreds of miles on a CT90 I was blown away by how smooth that truck really is
  • I couldn't get out of town in any 4x4 on as little gas as that whole trip took with the bike.. actually the entire journey including repairing the leftover damage after returning home cost less than gas would have cost to get up there in my truck.
  • CIBO pizza downtown is pretty romantic for dinner on a Sunday night but I gotta be honest the pizza's like.. a not-quite-as-good knock off of Fired Pie.  It's like going to a fancy sandwicherie and getting served a Subway sub.  But they have wine and good service so that's cool.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2017, 10:22:22 AM by Shovel »


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I just thought to look at this section of the forum today and saw your write-up. I laughed out loud at some of your descriptions of the events. Fantastic writing skills, my friend, and way to have a sense of humor about it all. I think you should cast off the CT90/120 and go for a real challenge next time aboard a vintage Z-50 or maybe a CT-70. Those both have real comfortable seats, but the early Z's had no rear suspension, for increased "road feel." At least they have balloon-type tires that have knobs on them for off road action!

Had a good time hanging out with you. Let's go somewhere else again soon.

John B.
AZ Crew/East Sider/Former 14th St Crew
95 SR, 35x12.5-15 on 8" steelies, 2" BL, stuff cut off, stuff welded on, lights, sound, front ARB pending
87 Raider, There's a turbo 2.6 under its hood, really
83 "Dodge" Power Ram 50, a bit lifted, way slow and gets more comments from random people than the other two put together
'95 Montero SR. Pretty much stock, Trail Gear Sliders, ADD skid plates, Stereo by Shovel, Timing maintenance by Pa_Jero


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Definitely a good read.  Thanks
1990 LS, 2" Body Lift, 33's, Dual LSD
1995 SR, 1.5 Body Lift, 33's
1999 Winter Package