As we are finishing a preview of a typical Frank Lloyd Wright museum tour, our gracious guide, Kimberly Higgenbotham, tells us that when asked which of his projects was his favorite, Wright would invariably reply “the next one.” It occurs to me that this might be my own response to the question of which is my favorite road trip, but then it is becoming clear that my answer is invariably “this one.”
We had arrived in Phoenix the prior afternoon, and after checking into the lovely Westin Kierland Hotel, jumped into our gear and rode over to EagleRiders location to pick up our motorcycles. Two Harley-Davidsons were ready and waiting a Fat Boy for Christa, and a Dyna Low Rider for me. After hooking up the GPS to Christas bike, we headed to Old Scottsdale for dinner. As a long-time sportbike rider, I was to be continually impressed by the Dyna it took in stride roads of all shapes, sizes, and conditions, and my lower back felt as good at the end of a 12-hour riding day as it did before we left.
Somethings Coming, Something Good
Christa and I are both excited about our tour. Over breakfast, we share our anticipation of the next few days: we know we will see a diversity of natural splendor, sites and museums of importance to our national history, and exciting and challenging roads. What we will end up experiencing will surpass our expectations by far, and deliver a varied, interesting, and compelling chapter in our book of rides.
After a solid nights sleep in Westins Heavenly Beds, (not an exaggeration), we ride up to Taliesen West, Frank Lloyd Wrights home and museum campus, just minutes away. A pioneer in architecture, Wright designed to reflect the natural environment. The structures on this site follow the flow of vegetation, angles, and forms, and there is a sense of calm and serenity emanating from this harmony of man and nature. The views themselves are beautiful, and the concepts and ideas that Wright incorporated are fascinating.
We get gas and water, and take Route 87 toward Sedona. Through beautiful sweeping roads, I observe the quintessential Arizona vistas, a contrast to my usual landscapes of New York City skyscrapers, streets, and people. At one point I see out of the corner of my eye what seem to be hundreds of parked motorcycles I motion to Christa to pull over: its a large motorcycle junkyard, one bike piled next to one another. “All Bikes” in Rye, Arizona, has innumerable parts to address what ails a bike. The road itself is one of wide sweepers, with what is now my favorite road sign: the squiggle-plus-arrow denoting a curvy road ahead, with the incongruity suggesting speeds of 65 mph.
The day is waning and we chase the sunlight to Sedona. Just in time, we see the breathtaking red rock country at sunset. The rocks, of all shapes and sizes, seem on fire. Familiar shapes such as Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, and my favorite, Snoopy Rock, are sharply outlined against the deep blues and purples of the late afternoon sky. As we stroll along the now quiet downtown at 9 p.m., we find a few open restaurants and peer into the shop and gallery windows.
High Ride to Show Low
We begin the day by exploring a bit of Sedona and get a primer on the town, local popular attractions like a jeep tour in the hills, an understanding of the vortices that inspire the metaphysical community active here. An outline of the town ordinances control the height, color, and lighting of Sedona building thus minimizing the presence of humans and emphasizing the immutability of the multi-million-year-old rocks. The Visitor Center, right in town, provides lots of interesting and useful information about the area and related activities.
Before departing Sedona, we take a detour on the Red Rock Loop Road, which begins in the west end and rejoins Hwy 89A just west of the city, and is part of National Forest lands. Some of the road is unpaved, but in addition to the adventure of the road itself, we experience stunning views of Sedona and its surrounding red rock sentinels, as well as a few moments of tranquility. Just 10 minutes from Sedona, this road is worth taking more than once if you have the opportunity. We come out of it covered in red dust, and now fit in nicely with the town color ordinances.
The highlight of the day is the route up into Oak Creek Canyon. Windy, twisting with switchbacks through canyon and forest, its a technical stretch that is such fun I want to go back and do it again. But we press on, and at the top of the canyon visit the group of stands with jewelry and artifacts and crafts made by Native Americans. The Oak Creek Vista Overlook project, as it is known, is a cooperative established in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service in 1988 as an economic development program. For many of the vendors, this is their major source of income throughout the year. In harmony with the spectacular views, this scene offers a glimpse of history where not much changes over the years.
Just halfway through our day, we point in the direction of Flagstaff, only to veer off onto Lake Mary Road south. After our exciting ride, its great to have a quiet stretch with gorgeous scenery, including lakes, mountains, and a ski resort. Unexpected patches of snow lie on the lee sides of some of the hills, and while the temperature is warm, every once in a while I feel a draft of cold air as we reach elevations of 7,000 feet albeit, this will be far from our highest altitude.
The last miles to Show Low offer another series of large, wide-angle, ascending curves, and the quick detour at Sitgreaves National Forest Park takes us along the short paved section of Rim Road to the edge of the cliff. We approach the precipice and admire the immense view, the big road we were just on appearing so small in the distance.
As dusk approaches, the shadows are so long that the tip of my helmet reaches Christas bike as she rides several yards in front.
Wuthering Heights, All Right
We have a great breakfast at the Show Low Paint Pony Best Western with the hotel manager and chat with other motorcyclists. In the parking lot, as I check in with Christa on the days route, she says, “OK, yes, here we go, swish, swish, some curvy roads,” and makes turning signs with her hands.
Our first stop is the famed Fort Apache, which, growing up overseas, I had only known through the eponymous Western. The museum has displays of lodging, weapons, pottery, clothing, and a charming gift shop, and I am fascinated by the “Sunrise Dance” exhibit, a ceremony celebrating the coming of age of girls at 14 years old. Wanting to buy a memento of Native American jewelry, I ask the museum clerk and she directs us to an open air market at the local mall. Here we find a stand where Earl strings and sells his own wares.
Today is Route 191 day, and wow, are there “swish, swish curvy roads” to come! The signs promise, “Curves ahead, mountain grades,” a huge understatement of the next 95 miles of up and down, left and right, switchbacks, tight curves, tight cliffs, and heights, heights, heights. Known as The Coronado Trail, it takes us from Alpine to Morenci. I feel like Orpheus, told by Hades that his beloved Eurydice was following him out of the underworld, but warned to look only directly ahead, and to not turn around lest she be pulled back and lost to him forever. Unfortunately, he did not heed the warning and looked where he shouldnt have. I remember the legend and focus.
Christa says this part of Route 191 is a must for any motorcyclist, and I agree completely, noting that there are many technical parts, and long and wild swings in altitude and attitude. We make sure, though, that we have a full tank as there is no gas for 95 miles and almost no cell service. We reach the Blue Vista viewpoint at some 9,000 feet, with the mountains dropping away on all sides, and contemplate the world below, unchanged over the millennia. What I think is the sound of an airplane is actually the song of the wind through the trees. Other than that, there is only quiet. A hawk circles silently, and when the wind stills, all we hear is the sound of no sound at all.
It is hard to leave such a private place, and we spend at least an hour taking pictures, sharing an orange with the iguana who lives alone inside a hollow post, and just being peaceful.
We start down the mountain and suddenly emerge into a wide, open plain. With the light and shadows created by the setting sun behind us, the gray-blue clouds in the distance, and the dark green trees among endless fields of yellow grass, I am vividly reminded of Van Gogh’s “”Wheat Field with Cypresses.”” Again, we feel the need to pull over and notice. Several more series of mountain rises and curves later, we reach Morenci, one of the largest open-pit copper-producing mines in the U.S.
The descent into the town of Morenci is a series of rapid and tight switchbacks through a manmade mini-Grand Canyon of terrace upon terrace, mined since the late 1800s with as much copper still there as has been produced so far. We pull into the Morenci Motel and are greeted with wonderful hospitality by the manager, Rodrigo Yanez. After a hot shower and a warm dinner, the receptionist, Tanya, tells us stories about the mine, where she worked previously driving ore trucks. As she explains, “”It’s like driving a two-story house,”” and recommends the guided tour.
A Quieter Day
Per Tanya’s recommendation, we show up in the lobby at about 7:15 a.m. and ask the tour guide, Bob Draper, for a synopsis of the usually 2-hour tour of the copper mine. Obligingly, he takes us in a van to the site where the behemoth trucks are kept and repaired. Tanya wasn’t exaggerating about the two-story house. The wheels alone are 12 feet high. Bob, who has been at Morenci since 1953, gives us a history of the mine and town and a layperson’s explanation of the process. I highly recommend taking the full tour.
We head south and west, with Globe as our evening destination. I continue to be amazed at the scenery. Just on one side, from the foreground to the far distances, there are flat lands, mesa formations with perfectly flat/level surfaces, and jagged peaks serving as a backdrop. We have a more leisurely ride today, and on our way pass the Apache Gold Casino and Resort, where one can stop for a lunch or entertainment break, if so inclined. We have an early evening in Globe, although still keep up our tradition of arriving just at dusk; and after dinner, we take the long way around back to the motel to stretch our legs.
Before we leave Globe, we visit Besh ba Gowah, the ruins of a 700-year-old Salado Indian settlement. Much like Pompeii, this archeological site has been preserved with partial and intact stone walls, pottery, and artifacts, and a reconstructed dwelling. Entrances were through the roofs, and floors were connected internally through ladders. We climb in and out of the house and marvel at the longevity of these structures, pre-dating the European discovery of America. Christa joins me on a bench and we find ourselves strangely drawn to linger. Especially because our country is so young, to walk where people lived centuries ago is both humbling and inspiring.
In a meditative state of mind, we turn towards Phoenix, via Roosevelt Lake and the Apache Trail, a historic Arizona route. I see the sign “”27 miles, rough road”” in the direction of Apache Junction and settle in to enjoy the ride. As it turns out, this is another of Christa’s surprises. Not for the fainthearted, it’s a fantastic ride following canyon and mountain in tight curves, on unpaved surface. At the bottom of the canyon and level with the blue, blue lake, we find peace and quiet. Around Fish Creek, the road hugs the sheer walls of the canyon, alternating cliff and precipice. As we climb again, there is a guard rail along some of the steepest, tightest, and most gravel-happy bends, often at 10-degree grades, which tempts a few extra glimpses of the amazing views.
This is the highlight of the day and, for me, possibly of the trip, as it combines rugged terrain with American history and awe-inspiring formations. We end the ride at Goldfield, a commercial ghost town active with visitors. We have a restorative break of fudge and lemonade and then take the highway for the last miles of our trip, delivering the bikes to EagleRider’s new rental location in North Scottsdale. Manager Kameron Amstutz welcomes us and calls a taxi to take us back to the Westin.
After a swim and Jacuzzi session, we have dinner on the outdoor patio at sunset. As we retrace our trip, Christa and I marvel at how much we saw over these five days. The big distances and vistas slowed down my pace, and the concentration required by the exciting roads cleared my mind and allowed me to meditate on a greater purpose, and the infiniteness of the universe. Natural, man-made, historic — we saw it all, and if you ask me today which is my favorite road trip, I would have to say “”this one,”” which means, “”whichever one I am on.””
Published with the permission of RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel Magazine for Women Riders Now only. Not for sale or distribution.
About the Author
Armanda Squadrilli, an SVP of a global real estate firm, is also a motorcycle enthusiast who has been riding for nearly 10 years. Combining her passion for real estate and motorcycling, Armanda owns a motorcycle friendly B&B, the historic Glen Falls Inn, in Glen Falls, New York, and enjoys writing about her touring experiences on two wheels as a travel journalist.
About the Photographer
Christa Neuhauser, a professional photographer and the publisher of RoadRUNNER Magazine, has been a motorcycle enthusiast since her early days. Motorcycling is not only her passion, but also her profession. Relocating from Austria in 1999, she and her husband founded RoadRUNNER, the perfect platform to share their love for riding and traveling with the motorcycling world at large.
6 thoughts on Touring Southeastern Arizona
Beautiful photos and so timely. My hubby and I are planning our May trip and hope to get from Roanoke, Virginia, to Arizona, through some of the towns you mentioned. Thanks so much for the preview!
One quibble: the tour described isn't Southeastern AZ–a more correct one would be central to northern AZ.
Bear Down, Arizona!
Wow! Thanks for conjuring up some fantastic memories for me ladies! I was born and raised and currently live in New York, but I did call Arizona home for a couple of years, Globe, AZ, to be exact. Quaint little place high above the city. I remember the curves coming down Superstition Mountain into Phoenix –absolutely thrilling on the motorcycle! At the time I was a passenger, and how I'd love to go back now that I pilot my own.
Sedona, into and out of the city, amazing. We also lived in Kingman for a time, not far from a small town called Oatman, the old Rt 66. Talk about switchbacks and elevation! And riding over the Hoover Dam…yeah, baby! Come to think of it, the entire state was a motorcyclist's fantasy come true, oh how I miss it! (…as we're digging out from under 2 feet of snow in NY!)
Thanks again for the memories.
Thanks for “taking us along” for the ride! I'm one of the lucky ducks that gets to actually live here and ride year round! For all you gals out there reading this, only tell your very best biking buddies about the Coronado Trail. It is quiet, pristine, and an incredible ride! So far the masses of bikers haven't made it a destination and I think it is better left that way. For only the lucky few to discover. Truly a treasure!
Now you went and did it. Yet another place I want to ride! What time of year did you take this ride? Thanks so much for the story and the ideas.
You go girls! What an awesome trip this must have been, and wonderful article that you shared with all of us! Surely it would be phenomenal to follow in your tracks as it's also been a dream of mine to ride cross-country one day and see many of the same sites out west and the best way to do it of all is on two wheels. May also have to get up to Glen Falls next time in New York and check out the B&B.