Sunday, October 26, 2008

End of Fall Break Ride

It is already Saturday and the one week of Fall Break is quickly coming to a close. I knew getting only one week would make it fly by and I have been spoiled with two weeks for the last several years. So, I took the opportunity to get back to two up riding. I have given a few people rides, but for the most part I have only ridden solo for the past nine years. My friend, Louise, has ridden in the past and she was willing to take the chance and ride with me.

Well, where to go? My first thought was to dinner up in Rock Springs. A short 80 mile round trip that offers a few curves and great scenery. This is a favorite ride for me and I make it regularly. But, then I thought, and asked, why not take the more scenic route up Highway 89, or Yarnell Hill, into Prescott. That made me think about adding Highway 89A and just going all the way to Jerome. Maybe a bit ambitious after not carrying a passenger in so long, but I've ridden this road many times and Louise had never been there before.

We were off at 10 Saturday morning in bright sunlight and pleasant temperatures. I anticipated, and warned, that it would probably get cold at the higher elevations, but it was great the entire day. These pictures are from Highway 89 a few miles south of Prescott. There was a haze in the air at the higher elevations that I don't remember ever being there.

Traveling through Prescott I took a wrong turn and accidentally found my way to the road I knew would take us to 89A. Rolling closer to Jerome I was aware of just how much damage the Bark Beetle has done to the forest.

These pictures were taken about a mile from Jerome. Just around the bend shown on the left. The right picture shows the old water pipes that supplied Jerome back when it was a mining town. We found a parking spot and went to the Mile High Grill for a late lunch. My daughter and son-in-law were there earlier in the week and gave it good reviews. But, I couldn't bring myself to have the creme cheese filled hamburger. After lunch we walked all around Jerome before heading back down the hill.

We went into Prescott Valley for gas and then over to I 17 to ride to Black Canyon City and make a stop at Rock Springs Cafe. Because of the late lunch we just opted for a slice of the Jack Daniels Pecan Pie. Leaving Rock Springs we did put on jackets for the ride back into Phoenix. A couple of areas we were thankful that we did as it got a bit nippy crossing the desert out by Lake Pleasant.

Back around 8 and an enjoyable 260 mile ride was over. Riding 2 up again wasn't as hard as I thought. I did ride a bit slower than I usually do, but that was a good thing. Louise was a great passenger and her riding skill was evident as she quickly became part of Petunia. Yep, today was a great day riding, having a passenger adds to the ride, and I look forward to the next trip.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Are You Always Nuts?

I had given my students a writing assignment about a time they were scared. They asked if I was going to write one also. Of course I was, I always demonstrate the writing process for my students. As usual they wanted me to read it to them after I was finished. At the conclusion of the reading a young fellow asked, “Mr. Malone are you always nuts?” Possibly, but sometimes a person gets a life lesson that changes them forever.

It was a cold February, Monday morning in Phoenix in 1982. When I woke up I was looking forward to the ride up to Snowflake, Arizona where I was working the graveyard shift at the paper mill. It had snowed in Northern Arizona over the weekend and my family suggested that I shouldn't ride the motorcycle up there this week. But, I was always looking for adventure, and I was about to find one.

As I left Phoenix it was brisk, the sun was shining brightly, the sky was a brilliant blue, and not a cloud was in sight. I was leaving two hours earlier than usual to allow for riding slower in case the roads were bad. It was a generic ride getting to Payson except for being cold and a little snow along the highway here and there, but the roads were dry and the sun was still bright.

As I turned onto Highway 260 to Heber I noticed there was no traffic and there was more snow along the road. Ten, twenty, thirty miles and the road began to get wet from the melting snow. This was fun and I started going faster and faster, leaning farther and farther until the pegs my feet rested on were dragging the asphalt. The unmistakable grinding noise of steel wearing on asphalt, a shower of sparks flying behind me as I pushed the limits of the motorcycle and elements. Dumping into the corners, left then right and feeling invincible as the speed increased to test the limit of my abilities.

Six miles north of Kohls Ranch in a left hand sweeper, in the shadows of the pine trees, it happened. ICE! The rear end of the bike started to slide out from under me. As I let off the throttle and sat up straight, it snapped back to the right and I ran off the asphalt onto the gravel shoulder. There was a guardrail coming straight me at 60 miles an hour. On the other side a 150 foot drop. In a heartbeat I leaned as far left as I could, downshifted, and cranked as hard as I could on the throttle, while praying I wouldn’t go flying over the edge. I got lucky for an instant as the bike responded and slid around parallel to the guardrail. I let off the throttle, started to apply the brakes, and than saw it. The mountain was directly in front of me and closing at 55 miles an hour. BAM! I slammed into it and was thrown over the bars into the mountain. The mountain spit me out onto the highway where I tumbled, rolled, and kept bouncing for what seemed like forever. When I stopped I hurt and couldn't move. I was worried about the motorcycle landing on me, but couldn’t turn to see where it was. I laid there, not moving, trying to decide if I was OK. Hoping a car wouldn’t come around the corner and run over me. Hoping, though, that someone would come and stop to see if I was alive.

After a few minutes I started to move my arms. They were sore, but didn’t feel broken. Next I moved my legs and they seemed to be alright. I tried to move my head, but the pain was too great. I thought I must have broken my neck. I laid there, in the middle of the highway, for what seemed like an hour. I finally unbuckled the helmet and with that done I could move my head a little. It hurt, but I tried to sit up anyway. I had to hold the helmet in both hands, roll to the right, and push up with my arms to finally be sitting up. A few minutes later I wanted the helmet off. I slowly lifted up and the pain was terrible, but I continued until the helmet popped off. I couldn’t turn my head or look up or down. My neck was in awful pain, but I was alive and didn’t go over the cliff. It was another half an hour before a car came by. After checking me they returned to Kohls Ranch to call the Highway Patrol and a wrecker.

The motorcycle was destroyed. It was bent, twisted, and several pieces were torn off. The bags and my cloths were scattered all along the highway. By the time the Highway Patrol arrived I knew I would be OK. It turned out that I wouldn’t be able to turn my head for over three weeks. The helmet did its job and kept my brains inside my head.

I was really lucky that day and it was the scariest thing that ever happened to me. That was also the last time I have crashed on a motorcycle. It is also when I started to believe in motorcycle rider training. I started riding like an adult after this incident, but the funny thing is I still like to dump Petunia into corners and spray sparks as the floorboards scrape the asphalt.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

400 Mile Saturday

Saturday dawned to a cool 68 degrees here in the Phoenix area. A quick check of the computer showed that several groups had cancelled their rides today because of a wind advisory. The group I was going to ride with was down to three riders willing to go. A half hour before departure time and it looked like they were still up for the trip, so I was off to gas up.

The wind advisory was because of Hurricane Norbert. At 5AM Saturday it was a Category 3 Hurricane, 90 miles off of the Baja coast down in Mexico. Our forecast called for winds in the 20 - 30 mph range with gusts as high as 60 mph. It is amazing that something so far away can have that much impact here in Arizona.

I arrived at MS Hogs Pen to find that Ms Hog, Patty, and I would be joined by Gary for the first leg of our trip. The wind was already blowing and it was cool, but when you ride a motorcycle, I reasoned, you are already in 70 - 80 mph wind. We were off to meet up with Gary on the Beeline Highway.

The ride to Payson was perfect. Very little traffic for a Saturday morning and the wind wasn't noticeable. As we increased our elevation it did begin to cool off. It was at this point that I started to wonder if I still had my jacket liner in Petunia. A gas stop in Payson, a check, and no jacket liner. Well, a guy can't remember everything. We continued our assent into the high country. At 7000 feet it was down right nippy. The warmth of a nice little restaurant and hot coffee wasn't much farther up the road and would make it all better. We arrived at the Long Valley Cafe with 20 minutes to spare to still get breakfast. This place has pancakes that have to be 14 inches in diameter. When they show up at the table peoples eyes just about pop out of their heads.

The temperature in Long Valley was a brisk 56 degrees. Walking outside after breakfast it was noticeable how hard the wind was blowing. Gary was heading back to the Valley and said he wasn't sorry he wasn't going North with us. We continued with our original plan.

Heading toward Flagstaff through the Coconino National Forest we hit the 7,571 foot elevation while crossing Buck Mountain. The cross winds here felt like they would rip the helmet right off of my head. A couple of blasts pushed Petunia to the other side of the lane I was riding in. Passing Lake Mary the white caps were very noticeable and Ms Hog remarked later that she had never seen white caps on this lake.

As we turned toward Sedona the wind was blocked and while it was still chilly the riding was better. Of course the twisties of Highway 89A always make riding better. Traffic in Sedona was bad as usual and it was bursting with people. Once we got through it we had a great ride into Jerome where we had to make a candy stop for Ms Hog. Leaving Jerome our elevation was dropping and it was starting to get a little warmer. A little, not much. We headed toward Prescott, to Skull Valley, to Kirkland, to Yarnell, to Wickenburg, and into the Phoenix area.

Even when I got home I was still cold. A check of TV showed me all of the upsets in college football that I missed and that ASU died against Southern Cal. I thought Dennis Erickson's second season was the National Championship year, but I guess not at ASU. There are no pictures from this ride because all we did was ride. I did make a couple of videos, but they didn't turn out very well. I still need to work on the editing portion before I can post them.

Wind and cold included it was a terrific 400 mile Saturday. This morning in Phoenix it is 53 degrees and I hear the wind chimes on my back patio, so there will be more wind today. I need to go get that jacket liner and put it back into my jacket just in case the road calls me after while.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hamburger Review

I have been hearing about this hamburger joint called The Heart Attack Grill located at 6185 West Chandler Boulevard or the Southwest corner of Chandler Blvd and Kyrene Road. So, I went to check it out.

The menu is so simple it is painted on the wall. You can get a hamburger in any of four ways. A single, a double, a triple, or a quadruple. Each patty is a half pound of choice beef cooked to perfection and layered with American cheese. This hamburger reminds me exactly of the kind of burger my Granny fried up in a skillet back in Louisiana. Piling on the condiments of your choice completes this monster burger. But, wait, there are also the unlimited fries to accompany this meal in itself burger.

Here is a double, bad boy all dressed up with red onion, pickles, mustard, and resting on a golden toasted bun. This burger is a ten napkin, juicy, carnivores delight. You have never been to any restaurant that had a greasier burger and that is written in the good sense of the meaning. While the fries are just fries and I wouldn't eat more than a few, this burger is one of the best I have ever eaten.

I would recommend a trip to Chandler to get a burger at The Heart Attack Grill because it is that good. But, if a great burger isn't enough reason to travel across town maybe the Nurses will catch your attention. In the name of safety, real (wink, wink) nurses staff this establishment to take care of you during your stay. They were attentive, helpful, friendly, and not bad to look at.

If you're ever in the Phoenix area and find youeself hungry, tired, and needing refreshment and a bit of fun remember the Heart Attack Grill. It is worth the trip.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Not Just Another Weekend

Friday night and I was wondering what I should do. I decided to go to my daughter's house to visit my granddaughter Keegan. We chased ducks in the park, played chase, went for mac and noodles at Burger King, played in the play room, and she had a bath. Then it was the best of times as she brought out her books and sat in my lap as I read to her. But, there was more that made this Friday special. You see, Keegan is practicing to be a big sister. My daughter, Elizabeth, gave me the great news that they are expecting a wonderful new addition.

Saturday morning found me getting some much needed chores done around the house. I also changed out the broken brake lever from last week. That project required me to go buy a set of mini snap ring pliers. Other than that it was a snap. I also swapped out the mufflers on Petunia because she seems to be running really hot and sluggish.

Needing to find out if the muffler change would do anything I set out about 2:30 to ride to the Arizona Joshua Parkway also known as the Joshua Forest Scenic Road. This is Highway 93 leading to Kingman and the fastest way to Las Vegas from Phoenix.

This is a Joshua Tree. The American Heritage Dictionary defines the Joshua Tree as - A tree like plant (Yucca brevifolia) of the southwest United States, having sword-shaped leaves and greenish-white flowers grouped in large panicles.

This was supposed to be a day when a really big storm hit Arizona. It was overcast, temperatures in the high 80's and dropping into the 70's during the ride. The really big storm produced about seven drops of rain during the 280 miles I traveled. It was perfect riding weather. I was surprised that there weren't more motorcycles out today. Even in Wickenburg, a favorite destination for bikers, there were only three going and one coming back. Maybe the threat of rain kept them in the garage. Hopefully fall will finally be upon us and the real riding will start back up.

Today I am going to change mufflers again. I'm going back to the Python slash cuts that make a bit of noise. While the bike ran cooler yesterday the gas milage wasn't very good. After this change I might have to go and let the professionals tune the Power Commander to Petunia. I just might have outsmarted myself trying to tune it on my own.