A friend, Dan Burtt, suggested a ride through Monument Valley last year and it sounded great. We completed the ride recently in a group of six and I strongly recommend the experience – especially in October. A complete PDF of the ride was published on the South Coast BMW Riders Club website and I have it at this URL:http://www.landofmayo.com/Northern%20Arizona.pdf
Dan and his son Allen
The ride started on the 91 freeway at Green River, a popular meeting place. We headed east on the 91 to the 60 and took highway 62 to 29 palms. It had rained for two days in Southern California and that weather was fortunately hours ahead of us for the entire trip. The clean air and cooler conditions were a great relief from the hot summer trips I have had with Dan this year. We completed the SCMA California Adventure Tour of all 21 California Missions and a Seven Passes Ride through the Eastern Sierras in substantial heat. One of our group was not familiar with highway 62 and took the wide transition from the 60 to the 62 accelerating rapidly to pass a truck and then… the wind hit him. It was not pretty to see his bike and body react, but no harm - no foul. This stretch is known for a substantial crosswind that moves from left to right as you head toward Morongo Valley, take care. We picked up our sixth rider in 29 Palms and were off in the direction of Sedona. I noticed that the new rider had silvery stripes on his rear tire and never thought about it again as I rode in front of him.
We had a mix of BMW’s (2 RTs, a Montauk and a GS), a Ducati Monster and a Yamaha Z8. The mix of bikes was fine except for the gas capacity of the Ducati and probably the Yamaha – later on this.
The group in Arizona with a friendly volcano in the background
Luckily, Dan had a route that took us through some great twisties and speedy wide sweepers. The rider with the silvery center stripe on his rear wheel elected to get a new tire after a couple hundred miles of sparks. A second rider (his dad) went with him to get new rubber and the rest of us headed out. Dan’s route took us through Jerome in the late afternoon and that was a very odd town. A bit touristy, by my quick look, but worth at least one trip through. We arrived in Sedona at sunset and quickly went up the hill toward the airport before checking in. Our mileage was just shy of 500 miles for the day. The viewing area was worth the detour and sunset is the right time to view the color of Sedona.
After some post-riding beers, clean riders in clean clothes ventured out for dinner. The Cowboy Club provided great food, additional microbrews and items with buffalo for the meat. I liked my buffalo meatloaf a lot.
Two lane fun
Nice sky = clean air
Day two was a chilly ride that started at 48 degrees and fell to 38 on my bike’s thermometer. I used my Gerbing and was completely comfortable and I saw some riders with with similar heated gear or layers to make them happy. The altitude, mountainous twisty roads and the group of skilled riders made this a fun ride. The scenery changed constantly from Painted Desert to pine forest and back again. Our trip was to head to Kayenta and stop at several trading posts.
We removed layers of shed the “heat” as the day continued, but it was always some flavor of cool. I guess I like riding more than shopping, but I did look around and buy a few post cards in case my photos were inadequate. To extend the ride we opted to travel a longer route through Utah to see more of Monument Valley. I had never ridden through Utah so when I saw the “Welcome to Utah” sign my brake lights flared to get the photo.
The Mexican Hat region was amazing and I fully expected other life forms or the Mars rover to be seen on the roadside.
I became more adept at looking at more stuff while speeding forward rapidly. The roads were all two-lanes wide with few cars and wide sweeping vistas. The geology was a combination of buttes eroded by water and extinct volcanoes, but the color of all of it was spectacular.
The remnants of storm clouds and clear blue sky added contrast. Kayenta is a dry town and I now know what that means – buy beer in Mexican Hat before heading to your motel in Kayenta. Day two ended with another 400 miles on our odometers. We learned that not all bikes can travel equal distances on this day as the Ducati ran out of gas 2-5 miles from a gas stop. Luckily, the rider had spare gas as did the GS rider with the huge gastank. With this lesson in mind we proceeded without further incident.
Day three was all about getting to the Grand Canyon through Monument Valley and it was an eyeful.
The ride was not very challenging, but we enjoyed easy riding and relatively no traffic for most of the day. The massive buttes and red sand made everywhere interesting to view. I had not seen the Grand Canyon before (in person) so Dan kindly stopped at all of the viewing areas for photos. A mile deep canyon that took three hundred million years of erosion to make is quite a site. There were people for sure, though the crowds were light and easy going.
Most non-riders liked to look at the GS first and then looked at the Montauk. The trip had a choice of I40 (boring freeway) or Route 66 and we chose the later. Two lanes of vintage highway with few cars worked for me. We ended the day in Kingman after another 400 mile day.
Before this ride I thought 2-4 riders was the maximum for a ride. I learned that I can like a group of six riders when we all cooperated and we did this a lot. Passing trucks or groups of cars traveling closely is a challenge, but not a deal-breaker. We improved riding together each day. I also noticed that a natural order of bikes set in and was continued throughout the ride. It worked!
Try this ride of another ride through the same area some time. Bring plenty of batteries for your camera and expect to stop often to take pictures if you are like me. The cool temps added to my enjoyment as did the clean air after the rain. I ended up with close to 1600 happy miles by the time I drove in my driveway.