Motorcycle Rides In Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area

Let’s get the obvious out of the way right now so we can enjoy the rest of the story, “There are more great Motorcycle Rides in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains than anywhere else”. You knew it was coming, and now being said, we can move on.

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We had a nice view from our room at the posh 4 Seasons Resort in Scottsdale, AZ.

We flew into Phoenix, stayed in Scottsdale. 

While many riders fantasize about riding cross-country to reach those far-off destinations, I’m so over that. Droning along on the interstates through days of monotonous and uninteresting landscape is a waste of time and tires to me. With just 6 days of travel on my calendar, it would have taken 8 just getting there and back on the bikes. Once again, we flew in and rented a motorcycle to maximize our quality riding time.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - A balloon ride

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - A balloon ride really helps you appreciate the harshness of the desert and the general landscape.

Phoenix is a city of 1.5 million people who choose to live in a scalding moonscape unfit for sensible human habitation. Endless months of triple-digit temperatures preserve the volcanic origins of the region as if it was a recent event in geologic time. The rocky remnants of those ash-spewing calderas rise on the horizons like mountainous islands peeking above a deep, deep, rolling sea of gray-brown boulders, rocks, and dust. The entire region is one big blast and fallout zone.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Spines, thorns, prickles, barbs

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Spines, thorns, prickles, barbs, horns, needles, spikes, everything wants to hurt you!

5% humidity deprives most living things any chance of thriving.  Oxymoronic “river” signs mark parched sandy gulches where runoff collects for a few short minutes before re-vaporizing for the next few weeks – or months. Most every living thing is so bent on survival it threatens all others with spines and needles, fangs and venom to keep them at a distance. Nature has obviously posted the “Do Not Enter” sign.

A long motorcycle ride looping north from Scottsdale

We stuck to local sights the first day, visiting Cave Creek for lunch, and Natural Bridge to the north. The next day, we followed 74 northwest to US 60, then veered north on 89 near Wikenburg. The ride to Wikenburg was pretty miserable, just dry empty desert, highway traffic, vast open spaces.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale - Natural Bridge, AZ

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale - Natural Bridge, AZ, one of the side trips worth taking.

Route 89 soon climbs through a nice section of switchbacks to gain some elevation. The terrain gets a little more green and hospitable and the riding improves as the road seeks the better passage between the rolling hills. Riding along you are taunted by the “No trucks over 50 ft length X miles ahead on 89”, and when you finally pass through Wilhoit the ride gets nice and curvy and fun.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - A break near Prescott.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - A break near Prescott. Returning the phone calls that come in while I'm riding.

89 then passes through the town of Prescott which so interested us, we discussed the potential for basing there for a future trip. It seems to have a lot to offer. North of Prescott, we veered east on 89A for the best section of road I found this trip – the mountainous portion known as the Mingus Highway.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Jackie gets ready to descend from the Mingus Highway

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Jackie gets ready to descend from the Mingus Highway through Jerome, the best section of road this trip. Really put the softail through it's paces here!

The Mingus Highway twists and carves through the elevations much like the roads I so enjoy at home in the Smoky Mountains, though the arid scenery could easily convince you it’s a canyon ride in California. Exiting north, the roads plunges down from 6000 foot heights passing through the tiny hamlet of Jerome, clinging to the edge of the slopes nearly a mile above the valley below. A popular stop, we could not afford the delay, though next time it’s worth exploring.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - How pretty is Sedona?

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - How pretty is Sedona? Approaching from the west, this is the least scenic of the 3 routes into town.

We passed through Clarkesdale and Cottonwood, to reach the apex of our days ride – Sedona. As beautiful as it was, Sedona was just our lunch stop today, a first visit for me. Surrounded by the red rock monuments, the destination town is a vortex for tourists and caters to the crowds who flock there.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Cruising through Sedona

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Cruising through Sedona, the town is surrounded by the red rock formations on every horizon.

The ride turned south out of Sedona onto one of the most scenic rides you’ll find as Route 179 winds between the colorful rock formations to Oak Creek. Once you pass the casino at the edge of town, the road runs through unremarkable desert to intersect Interstate 17 and we continued south on the highway for a distance.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Some of the best and easiest views are right along Route 197 south of Sedona.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Some of the best and easiest views are right along Route 197 south of Sedona.

We turned east when we reached Route 260 and started climbing into the higher elevations and more interesting and scenic riding. Temperatures dropped as we climbed to 7000 feet and entered the high pine forests. Route 260 became Route 87 as we continued south through the small towns of Strawberry and Pine, and the larger sprawling town of Payson.

Motorcycle rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Sedona is a popular destination for motorcycle riders for obvious reasons.

Motorcycle rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Sedona is a popular destination for motorcycle riders for obvious reasons.

Progressing south from Payson on Route 87 the road gains another lane then gradually leads you down from the heights and back out into the Sonoran Desert returning to the city. We covered a little more than 400 miles on this loop ride, the longest of the trip.

 A nice loop ride east of Phoenix / Scottsdale

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale - Riding 188 south is a nice cruiser

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale - Riding 188 south is a nice cruiser ride that includes sections along Theodore Roosevelt Lake

I saw this ride described as a great “cruiser” road and I’ll concur with the assessment. It’s easy riding with nice scenery and relatively little traffic. Route 87 north led us through the gentle sweeping curves that climb to the high desert. We made up names like “boulder city” and “the cactus jungle” to describe distinct areas along the route, and rolled through the essentially treeless national forest to reach Route 188 and turn southeast.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Turning on to Route 188

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Turning on to Route 188. When you're from the Smoky Mountains, a straight road is a rare sight deserving of a photo!

Route 188 formed the long side of the triangle we rode on this loop. More gentle flowing two lane curves through the dry hills lead to a long ride aside cobalt blue Theodore Roosevelt Lake. It’s pleasant and relaxing riding with the nice contrast of scenery and color.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Very pleasant ride along Theodore Roosevelt Lake.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Very pleasant ride along Theodore Roosevelt Lake. Jackie and I pause for a cool drink and to admire the bridge.

Along the way, we stopped at Tonto National Monument to see the historic cliff dwellings. It’s a steep walk up the trail and I wouldn’t wan’t to do it on a hot day, but we enjoyed our visit and the sights.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Tonto National Monument has historic cliff dwellings

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Tonto National Monument has historic cliff dwellings with a steep hike, but it's a great stop along Roosevelt Lake.

We turned onto the third leg of the triangle, Route 60 in Claypool, and started west toward Phoenix. We passed through miles and miles of massive mining operations and the mountains of tailings, then entered a wonderfully scenic canyon near Top-of-the-world. The steep drop through the spectacular rocky cliffs dumped us at the edge of a vast flat desert basin and a long arrow-straight drone back to the city. We covered about 250 miles on this day.

Sedona Highlights – what to see on a short visit

Sedona is one of the most scenic towns you’ll visit in the southwest, surrounded by towering red rock monuments on every horizon. We spent a day exploring the area and here are my suggestions on how to get the most out of a short visit.

Route 89A approaches town from the west, then exits north. Route 179 junctions with Route 89 in the heart of town leading south.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Looking west on Route 89A from Sedona

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - Looking west on Route 89A from Sedona

Approaching town from the west on 89A, to get one of the best views ride to the top of Airport Road. The view from atop the mesa overlooks the entire town and panorama of breathtaking geography.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - one of the best overlooks of Sedona

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - For one of the best overlooks of Sedona, ride up to the top of the mesa on Airport Road. Wow!

North of town, 89A follows Oak Creek Canyon along the river. The deep canyon is forested with tall pine trees that partially obscure the views of the towering cliff walls and you wind you way north. The road gets tighter and tighter than makes a dramatically step climb through a series of switchbacks to top the rim at over 6000 feet. it’s worth the ride to see and experience. Once atop the canyon, 89A continues to Flagstaff and connects to Route 66.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - View from the rim of Oak Creek Canyon north of Sedona.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - View from the rim of Oak Creek Canyon north of Sedona. Follow it into Flagstaff and connect to Route 66.

The easiest way to see the red rocks in all their splendor is to ride down Route 179 south from Sedona. I wouldn’t bother with the Red Rock Loop Road, it’s not as scenic as touted and there is an unpaved section near the middle – more effort than reward. Use the pullouts at the monuments for the nice views and don’t miss a ride up to the Chapel of the Holy Cross for some great views and photos.

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - View from the Chapel of the Holy Cross

Motorcycle Rides in Arizona: Sedona, Scottsdale area - View from the Chapel of the Holy Cross just outside Sedona. A short drive with a nice view.

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

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– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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Hurricane Weekend in Maggie Valley on my Motorcycle

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A little cloudy and rainy was as bad as it got atop Mt. Mitchell

While curiousity got the best of me and I did cruise up to Mt. Mitchell to get a close look at the hurricane, the Smoky Mountain weather was beautiful for motorcycle rides and I took advantage of it with a bunch of local favorites. Judging from all the other bikes out on the road, a lot of coastal folks hopped on the hog and ran for the hills. It was a good decision.

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Thunderhawg Motorcycle Rentals, Maggie Valley

Friday found me visiting my friends at ThunderHawg motorcycle rental which just opened at the corner of US 276 and US 19 after my ride north on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mt. Mitchell. Peggy and Mark rent Harleys and it’s nice to have a local rental place again in Maggie Valley. They’ve got tons of info, maps, and they love to meet and greet motorcycle vacationers to the Smoky Mountains. Stop in and see them when you pass through.

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A Holiday Motel - Saturday night

Saturday, I rode the Blue Ridge Parkway the other way to Cherokee and Bryson City to stop in at The Gear Head Inn, then hopped on some of the great roads south of there. I ended up at A Holiday Motel in Maggie Valley to pass the time while my wife ran in the 8K Maggie Valley Moonlight race.  Always popular with motorcycle vacationers, the A Holiday Motel was full of bikers who came to enjoy the splendid weather. The bonfire was going out front and I was able to cheer Jackie on and spend a little time with the riders. Dale from Wheels Through Time Motorcycle Museum came by with a couple of Australian visitors who had borrowed a couple of his antique Harleys.

The view from Riders Roost Restaurant is awesome

The view from Riders Roost Restaurant is awesome

Sunday, I cruised NC 215 and US 276, then followed the Blue Ridge Parkway back to Maggie Valley to stop in at Riders Roost Restaurant in before we headed back up on the Blue Ridge Parkway to enjoy the crystal clear evening skies that came in after the storm.

No matter which way you point your wheels from Maggie Valley, you’ll find outstanding riding. The Best section of the Blue Ridge Parkway is right up the hill. It’s a great place to base out of for your motorcycle trip to the Smoky Mountains as so many great rides are within easy reach.

Check out AllRoadsLeadToMaggie.com when planning your visit. Maggie Valley is the heart of good motorcycle riding in the Smoky Mountains.

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

Total Rider Tech Logo

Learn Total Control

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. It’s time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely, it will change your mountain riding experience. It worked so well for me I became an instructor! Total Rider Tech

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SportBikes4Hire.com – I Spend A Day With a Customer. What fun!

Wayne – had an absolute blast riding with you today. Your knowledge and these roads add up to a experience that should be had by all that like freespirited riding. I’m glad that I rented the Aprilla from Greg @SportBikes4hire.com and that he told me about you. I will tell all my riding buddies back in PA about my excellent experience and I highly recomend your maps or you as a tour guide or both. WOW I had fun. Thanks much  – Jim M.,Riegelsville,PA

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SportBikes4Hire.com offers one of the best experiences you can find on a motorcycle.

When I first heard about SportBikes4hire.com I, and others, were skeptical. Turn loose someone you barely know one of these “crotch rockets” on some of the most challenging roads in the world?  It sounds like Julia Child’s favorite Halloween recipe for death, carnage, and mayhem.  Thoughts quickly conjure up grisly scenes and visions of bikes in pieces. After more than a year in operation, it turns at such is not the case. Quite the contrary, the clients of SportBikes4hire.com end up with the experience of a lifetime.

Photo - Sportbikes4hire

I met Jimmy and his rented Aprilla Mille in Brevard on a beautiful Smoky Mountain Saturday morning.

It all came about quite suddenly. Friday evening I got a call from Greg asking how one of his customers could get a hold of some of my maps. Evidently the guy had no clue about any of the local roads and needed help. He was making a short visit to family south of Asheville, saw the add for SportBikes4hire.com and couldn’t resist the opportunity. I asked Greg to give him my cell phone number so I could suggest some roads. Jimmy called me later that evening.

We talked for a little while, and I gave him a list of roads. As I ticked them off I kept thinking to myself, “I can lead him to the major roads, but he’s never going to find the real gems without getting hopelessly lost, and without knowing something about the roads he could quickly get in trouble.” While he’d have a GPS, it wouldn’t do the job and he’d end up missing out.

Photo - on the ride

Jimmy quickly adapted to the bike and the warmup ride went well.

I asked him to give me a call in the morning when he was ready to head out. Maybe, just maybe, I’d run down and bring him some maps. I even hinted I might ride along with him. I had my concerns. What if he was a bumbly and had no business on a bike like this on these roads? What if I took him out, pushed too hard, and he got hurt or worse? I needed to sleep on it.

Saturday morning was one of those early fall days in the Smoky Mountains that postcards feature. Still warm, skies blue and clear of morning fog that so often blankets the valleys, I was sipping coffee on the porch when the cell phone tweeted. What the heck. If nothing else I’d have a nice ride over and back to meet him and give him the maps if he didn’t size up. I threw on my gear and headed for the high ground.

Photo - Stopped in Rosman for the first break

By the time we reached the first break in Rosman, it was obvious Jimmy knew what he was doing. Time to bump it up.

We met in a shopping center parking lot in Brevard. Time for the quick assessment. He had the right gear – good. The bike, a 1000cc Aprilla Mille was impeccable and fitted with top equipment (save the GPS which had been zip tied on in a decent jury rig). Jimmy was used to riding a BMW K bike so he was accustomed to handling the power. He was honest and humble in describing his abilities and experience – all good. When I asked for next-of-kin contact info he didn’t flinch. And he’d admitted never ridden a full on sport bike. Let’s go.

Photo - out on the ride

Approaching the Blue Ridge Parkway and enjoying the fresh pavement on the climb.

I led him out south of Brevard on some roads to let him get his bearings where I could watch in my mirrors to see how he was adapting. No problems. Turning south I bypassed one side road at the last minute thinking it was a bit much to throw at him this soon. We turned west and started on another great road that would start to put him to the test. He did well. Cautious where he needed to be, but willing and able to use the bike where he was comfortable. I stopped in Rosman to see how he was doing.

He was having fun and getting comfortable with the bike. It was a good choice for these roads. I was having fun. Time to kick it up a notch.

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Look Ma, no Hands! Pitching through the curves while snapping photos.

We spent another few hours zipping through some of my favorite roads, old and new, with a little bit of everything thrown in. Spanking fresh new asphalt, crumbly bumpy back roads, first gear hairpins and high speed sweepers, one lane bridges, a break on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Jimmy soaked it up and rode with a controlled enthusiasm that showed he was aware of his comfort zone yet able to enjoy what the bike had to offer.

Photo - motorcycles at Devil's Courthouse

We made only one brief visit to the Blue Ridge Parkway for a break at Devil's Courthouse. Everything else was on more challenging roads.

We were both smiling when I left him 30 miles or so from where we started with directions to follow US 276 back to our meeting place. It was a good day riding. I’d do it again. I hope he comes back.

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The Aprilla is one of many choices. For today's ride, it was one of the best.

SportBikes4hire.com offers a great service. Fly in and they meet you at the airport. They’ll bring the bike to you all ready to go. It’s an experience that you’ll treasure and a chance to ride a great bike on the best of roads. When you consider all the time and expense of hauling or riding your bike here, it’s a superb option – heck you can make it a quick weekend trip. Find a cheap airfare and come on. Spending some time in the mountains and want a day to get away from the family and do something exhilarating? This is it.

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

 

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

 

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I Get Paid To Do This!

Jeez, that was fun! I’d just completed the reconnaisance to verify the directions for the upcoming Make-A-Wish Foundation charity ride April 4th (see earlier blog) and stopped in to gloat a bit with my buddy Ken at Gryphon Bikes and Choppers. For those who make their living in the motorcycle industry, the reality that it involves far less time in the saddle than an outsider fantasizes is a bitter pill to swallow. Time on the bike in the line of work is precious and I’d had my first good “work” ride of spring.

Few would appreciate the act more than Ken who manages a Harley-Davidson rental business. It’s got to be heartbreaking to watch his immaculate fleet of showroom maintained motorcycles roll in and out the doors each week while he is tied to the shop. Watching those well loved babies leave then living vicariously through the tales of fabulous mountain rides on their return is tough. To own a fleet of perfectly great motorcycles and have so little opportunity to enjoy them is a cross I doubt I could bear. Nice guy that I am, I had to rub it in.

I can justify the work expense as I located a few road signs which had changed over the winter. I’ve got a couple hours of work ahead updating the maps affected. There are a few improvements to be made to the original draft of the route description. I can be guilt free for the work time spent in such an enjoyable pursuit.

I revisited roads I knew well and enjoyed them. Though the hillsides are still mostly brown, the Bradford pear trees are white with blooms, the crocus and daffodills sprinkle the roadsides with the first of the color, the yellow forsythia lend brillance to an awakening landscape. The willows are greening and the redbuds adorn the crowns of their trees. Even the time I spent on the four lane necessitated to reach the various stops where riders will build their poker hands on the circuit were more enjoyable than usual.

It was the two lane that made the ride. One section I had not ridden for quite some time made it all worthhwile. I’d forgotten how good it was. Yeah, the 28 mile run over Wayah Bald with the sparkling blue waters of alpine Nantahala Lake and the frequent roadside waterfalls fresh from a recent rain were a distraction from the hairpin curves on the climb and descent. But it was the gradual climb back up and over Cullowhee Mountain that made the day.

From the time I entered the 15.8 mile stretch of road to it’s end near Western Carolina University I saw no other vehicles. Not one car. The road was all mine, and I took advantage of the freedom to put the fresh rubber on my wheels to it’s first real test. It was surprisingly clean of winter gravel, a good thing considering the severity of the curves and nonstop flow from one edge of the rubber to the other as I carved my way up the gradual climb. I was quickly satisfied I’d made the right choice of tires, solid anchors which did everything I asked without a single slip or drift. They surprised me more than once when I exploded out turns to find the front wheel no longer in contact with the pavement, occasionally in third gear. These babies hooked up!

Had it been a fun ride, I would have followed this section with another 50 miles or so of the same to arrive at home, but today I was at work and I took the more pedantic route back to stay on the course of the ride and tick off the last few stops on the loop more casually on the four lane. I’ll gladly pay for this treat with the hours at the keyboard which follow. It’s re-awakened my recognition the new season is upon us and before long I’ll be hundreds of miles from home on challenging new roads as I explore the secret mountain roads of Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky and expand the stock of maps I produce. After all, sometimes it is a fantansy job. That’s what keeps me going.

Wayne@americaridesmaps.com

>> Go to America Rides Maps.com http://americaridesmaps.com/

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