I must admit that I am a spoiled biker when it comes to be able to do good motorcycle rides. Living in the Southern California presents me with opportunities to do some of the best local motorcycle riding in the world without having to travel too far. Nonetheless, there are times when you just want to get on your motorcycle and take off on a long distance run.
My fiancé and I love to take off on out of town motorcycle trips whenever possible. She is a free spirit and will literally be packed up and suited up for a ride on a moments notice. She loves to ride shotgun on the back of my motorcycle and has literally ridden over 100k miles with me over the years. Not to brag, but my friends and brothers only wish that they had old ladies that wanted to ride like my old lady.
One Thursday during the summer, at around 5:00pm, I asked her if she had ever been to the Grand Canyon; she said no. I asked her if she wanted to take off that night on a little motorcycle run to the Grand Canyon. Her eyes lit up, she gave me that smile of hers, and I already knew the answer. (YES OF COURSE) I told her that to beat the heat in the California Mohave Desert, and the Arizona Desert, it would be better if we took off around midnight or 1:00am.
Before I get into the story of this particular motorcycle run to the Grand Canyon, I wanted to mention briefly that there are basically 3 types of motorcycle runs at least for me. One type of run is where I just take off on my motorcycle alone, and ride wherever I want. The second type of run is where I ride with my old lady (fiancée) on the back (shotgun) of my motorcycle and we take off on a run to wherever. (It is not the destination that counts; it’s the ride that matters!) The third type of run is where I roll on my motorcycle with my friends or brothers who also have their own motorcycles. (Group run)
Not that I do not love rolling in a pack with my friends and brothers, or even alone, however, my favorite runs of all are when my old lady and I just take off and do our own thing! There is no pressure and we can do what we want without having to accommodate a group of motorcycle riders. The best part of all is that can find those little spots off of the highway or road for a little extra curricular activity if you know what I mean :). Anyway getting back to this particular ride report…………..
After we both decided to do the run, I promptly inspected my motorcycle for anything loose; checked the air pressure in the tires; and checked the oil, while she packed the T-Bag for the run. The good thing about being together for so long is that she knows just what to pack for a run like this.
We planned the run for 4 days which was not set in stone. We could do an extra day or two if we wanted. I hate doing runs like this on a deadline. The best runs for me are spur of the moment with no time constraints. I will write more about this later.
I strapped the T-Bag onto the luggage rack on the back of the motorcycle and did some other prep work to get ready for the run, i.e. getting someone to cover for me at the office while I was away, notifying family and friends of where I was going, etc.
At around 1:00am, we took off from Chatsworth, California for another motorcycle adventure; this time to the Grand Canyon. We were both excited as always to just take off!
Our basic plan was to take the California 118 freeway east from Chatsworth, to the 405 north, which merges to the 5 north, to the 14 northeast, to the Pearblossom Highway east, to the 15 northeast, to the 40 east, and get a motel in one of my favorite little towns in Kingman Arizona. Click Here to see the map of our ride plan to the Grand Canyon.
The Pearblossom Highway which runs through the Mohave Desert is also known as the Highway of death. It is a very dangerous 2 lane, 60 or 70 mile stretch of desert road. It is dangerous in a cage or on a motorcycle. This is the same road that the famous comedian Sam Kinison was killed on. There are crosses everywhere on this road which mark the spot where someone has been killed.
When we left Chatsworth, it was still around 75 degrees out even at 1:00am. We were not in any kind of a rush to get to our destination, but I do love to open up the motorcycle on the highway and in the desert, so we made some good time to Victorville, California, where we stopped to have some breakfast. It was still dark and around 3:00am.
We left Victorville and proceeded northeast up the 15 to the 40 east. The weather was still warm in the desert even at this time, and so far it was a great run. We stopped every 100 miles or so to coffee up and to gas up. (Pit Stops) You do not want to take chances in the desert. It is better to stop every 100 miles or so and gas up rather than to risk running out of gas somewhere in the middle of the desert in the middle of the night. During our pit stops I checked the motorcycle and enjoyed a couple of Marlboro Lights. (I will try to quit soon!)
We eventually made it to Kingman, Arizona. Kingman is a very small little town in the Arizona Desert. I came to know and love the small town back in the early 1990’s during my days as an Engineer before I became a lawyer. I always make a point to stop in or stay in Kingman, Arizona whenever I can. Kingman is a true old west town. I always stay at the same Motel 6 in Kingman, because there is a great old fashioned restaurant right next door, a couple of little stores nearby to get necessities as needed.
I like to stay at a Motel 6 when I am on motorcycle runs because in most cases you can park your motorcycle right in front of your room. When I am on an overnight motorcycle run I will not stay at a hotel/motel where I cannot park my motorcycle in front of my room! I like to be able to peek outside and check on the bike, and it is easier to unpack and pack the motorcycle if it is parked outside of the room!
Once we got to the Motel 6, and unpacked the motorcycle. We then proceeded to (censored by me due to the fact that there are just some things that are private ), and then get some shut eye.
When we awoke Friday at around noon, it was only around 116 degrees or so, not too bad for the Arizona Desert in the middle of summer. We then walked over to the restaurant I mentioned above and enjoyed a great meal. After the meal we hopped on the bike, and went on a short run to one of the little local markets I mentioned above, to get some refreshments for the rest of our run, and for the room. We then went back to the room and proceeded to (censored by me due to the fact that there are just some things that are private ).
The private parts of this motorcycle run that I will not discuss are in fact some of the best parts of this run and other long distance runs! There is nothing better for a relationship between a man and a woman, than a motorcycle run. If you do not know what I am talking about than you better buy a motorcycle and find out! Oh what fun it is to be a biker. The only reason the private parts are even mentioned is so that you can get a prospective on why this run took so long :).
At around 7:00pm or so, we eventually dragged ourselves out of the room again to take a motorcycle run in and around Kingman. We went to a famous steakhouse in town for dinner. After dinner we did some more riding in and around Kingman, and then went back to the room.
Our improvised plan was to leave early Saturday morning for the next leg of the run to the Grand Canyon. I knew that it would start to get hot in Kingman very early, but as we rode east on the 40 that it would start to get cooler as we headed towards the Alpine forest in Flagstaff.
On Saturday morning, we had breakfast, packed up the motorcycle, checked out of the room, and we were off by 10:00am. So much for the early morning start plan :). It was a great ride up the 40 towards the Grand Canyon. I ditched my helmet (yes, I admit that I sometimes do not follow my own safety advice) for the rest of the ride in Arizona. There is nothing like the freedom of having the wind in your hair and face. Anyway……
The run up the 40 towards Flagstaff, Arizona is a great run. It is all open highway with Desert vistas as far as the eye can see, until you start getting close to Flagstaff. The weather was perfect. We took our time and stopped every 100 miles or so as usual for pit stops. We eventually got to the 64 north which would lead us directly into the Grand Canyon National Park. There is nothing like the smell of Pine trees while on a motorcycle run.
The run from 64 to the Grand Canyon is mostly a straight shot through alpine forest. We stopped in a town off of the 64 for a pit stop. In this particular town they put on old west shows for tourist. While I was putting gas into my bike I noticed my old lady talking to a bunch of guys dressed up as cowboys, guns and all. There is no doubt that they were trying to hit on her because she was looking hot as usual. They followed her to my bike! The guns these cowboys were wearing were real Colt 6 shooters. Obviously the first thing I asked these guys was if the guns had blanks or real rounds in them :). Hey, you never know! They were blanks for the cowboy show, and one of the cowboys gave me a spent casing as a souvenir.
I ended up having a great conversation with these guys, which ended up delaying our ride for about ½ of an hour, but what the hell, we were in no rush. That is part of the enjoyment of a long distance motorcycle run is taking your time, meeting new people, and enjoying the run without being in a rush. I always say that the destination will always be there when you get there!
After our cowboy encounter we got back on the motorcycle and rode the last stretch to the Grand Canyon. When we got to the front gate, we paid the fee to enter the National Park, and we headed in. One of the advantages of being on a motorcycle is that you can basically park where no car can park, which is exactly what I did.
We then got off of the bike and walked to the rim of the Grand Canyon. Now there is no way to truly explain in words for those of you who have never been to the Grand Canyon, what the experience of walking up to the rim is like other than to say that when you first see the Grand Canyon live and in person, you know that there is a God. It is as though the hand of God touched this place, and opened up the most beautiful canyon you will ever see in the world. I have been to the Grand Canyon many times; this was the first time for my fiancé; she literally had tears in her eyes when she first saw it from the rim.
We spent the entire day and into the evening hours trolling around the Grand Canyon. What was unusual to me was that we were the only bikers in the park that day. I did not see any other motorcycles anywhere in the park. So my old lady and I kind of became tourist attractions for the other tourist. We had all kinds of people from Asia, Europe, and even America requesting to have their pictures taken with us. No biggie, I have kind of gotten used to it. (This maybe a subject for another future article)
I posed for a few pictures for my own personal album, while standing inches away from a straight 1 mile drop to the Canyon floor. Don’t ask me why!
The best part of the day was sundown at the Grand Canyon. All of the tourist staked out spots on the rocks and ground to watch the sundown, and so did we. There were literally hundred of human beings all over the park that day. At around 5 minutes before sundown, you could not hear a word. Everyone magically just stopped talking. If you could just imagine the most awe inspiring and beautiful site that you have ever seen in your life, you would understand why. There is just no reason to talk. You are witnessing the hand of god before you. The pictures I took do not do justice to the site of sundown at the Grand Canyon.
After sundown, everyone applauded like they were at the movies or something. My old lady and I shared one hell of a kiss. I could see that the Grand Canyon experience truly touched her soul. It made me happy to see her so happy.
We lingered in the park after dark acting like teenagers. (Another private moment ) By the time we got on the bike it was around 9:30pm. By this time we were starving because we had not eaten. We found some local restaurant that was about to close. They told us that they could not serve us food but that we could have a piece of pie. That was one hell of a good piece of apple pie.
We then got back on the motorcycle knowing that we had a long ride ahead of us to get back to Kingman. While I was on the 64 I noticed Moose and Deer warning signs. I did give a second second thought to the signs until I saw a deer standing by the side of the road on the edge of my spot lights. At that moment I realized that there was a real danger that one of those animals could run out into the road and ruin our whole trip. I slowed down, way down. I could swear that I saw glowing eyes on the side of the road during the ride back up to the 40. It started getting cold too, so we put our leathers on for the long trip back to Kingman. Due to the fact that I slowed down for the Deer and Moose warnings, we were significantly delayed, but it did not matter because we were in no rush anyway.
Riding through Arizona at night is a trip because it is pitch dark and there is very little traffic on the highway. We owned the 64 to the 40 except for a few cars that were heading in the opposite direction to the Grand Canyon. The ever present scent of Pine trees was in the air.
Once we got onto the 40, I was bone tired. We could have headed up to Flagstaff and got a room which would have been much quicker and much colder, or we could just ride through to Kingman. I decided to spare my old lady the cold and to ride through to Kingman. Once we were out of the twisting part of the 40 west, and back down to flat level road on the desert floor, I decided to take a pit stop to coffee up and get some gas. This is when the scariest part of the run happened.
I saw an off ramp to one of those gas stations that are lit up in the middle of nowhere. Just the kind of place I like to stop at 1:00am or so for a pit stop. When we took the off ramp and proceeded to turn left, we hit a patch of gravel and almost went down. I was very tired when this happened and to this day do not know how I managed to hold the bike up through the gravel patch. I say it was by the grace of god that we did not go down. I could not see the gravel, and there was no warning. The road was full of gravel all the way to the gas station. I could see it in my headlights and spotlights.
When we got to the gas station my heart was racing. My old lady was freaked out too. She had ridden with me long enough to know the feel of the motorcycle even from the back. She also knew that we had almost gone down. Suffice is to say we took our time at this pit stop and enjoyed some hot coffee.
We eventually got back on the 40 towards Kingman. By the time we got to the Motel 6, it was between 3:30am and 4:00am. We unpacked the motorcycle and proceeded to ride straight to an all night Denny’s up the street to get a real meal. I never had a grand slam breakfast that tasted so good. It was one hell of a day!
We woke up around 1:00pm on Sunday, and proceeded to (censored by me due to the fact that there are just some things that are private ). Oh well right? We then went to the same old fashioned restaurant mentioned above for a late breakfast/lunch; whatever you want to call it. The temperature was around 110 degrees or so but I was not too concerned; I should have been.
During our meal we decided that we were going to ride straight home from Kingman, because we were informed by cell phone from a neighbor that was taking care of our dogs while we were gone, that John (one of our Siberian Huskies) had gotten out of our property and had run away.
After the meal I foolishly mounted the bike with no helmet and a sleeveless shirt to do the ride home. When we left Kingman it was around 110 degrees. While riding towards Needles, California, I noticed that my skin felt like it was burning hot. It felt like a very hot blow dryer was cooking me. It was so hot that I felt like I was going to pass out. In all of my years of riding I have never felt this kind of sensation before. I knew that if I did not pull over that I was going to pass out as we were crossing the Colorado River.
We found a Denny’s and went in. We found out that the temperature outside at this time in Needles was around 126 degrees or even higher. I was having what I later found out to be a heat stroke.
It did not affect my old lady like it affected me because I was blocking the wind for her, she had a leather jacket on which prevented the hot wind from hitting her skin, and she had a full face helmet on.
To make a long story short, I immediately asked for a glass of ice and lemonade. I put the ice on my face, head, and skin. When I went into the bathroom to rinse my face and wet my hair I noticed that I had red blotches all over my skin. I was literally being cooked as I rode from Kingman to Needles. In all of my years of riding, I had never to this point had an experience like this. It was so hot, and doing 80 miles per hour in that heat almost wiped me out. My heart was racing, I felt sick to my stomach. It was a very bad experience.
We ended up staying in that Denny’s for about 3 hours so that I could recover, and so that it would hopefully cool down. I must have drunk no less than 10 glasses of lemonade while we were there. I put ice on my head the entire time. The locals told us that once we got out of the Needles area that it would cool down as we went more west. They told me that I was crazy for riding in the heat. Let me just say this, just going out into the parking lot to have a smoke was unbearable; that is how hot it was!
When we eventually left Needles the temperature was down to around 115 degrees, and it was around 4:00pm on Sunday. The only reason why we decided to ride it out and not just get a room in Laughlin, Nevada, was because our dog John was on the loose and we wanted to get back to find him.
Once back on the road, I got back into my grove and really enjoyed the run home. While on the 40 headed towards the 15, we encountered a massive dust storm in the desert. We made a pit stop and I met this really nice older guy who was riding a Honda VTX. We had a smoke and shot the shit for a while before we got back on the road.
When we hit the 15, we encountered bumper to bumper traffic from all of the people headed back to Los Angeles from Las Vegas. The traffic was due to road construction and an accident. The traffic was so bad that it was virtually stopped. There really was no room for lane splitting, but I went for it anyway. It eventually got too dangerous to lane split because there was no room in between the cars. I decided to take an off ramp that lead to no where to have a smoke. We took some pictures and just looked at the line of lights that represented the traffic we would have to go though to get home.
We eventually got back on the 15 and finally made it back to Pearblossom Highway for the last couple of legs home. There was a massive brush fire eating up the San Bernardino Mountains and the Angeles National Forest. It was very bizarre riding on the Pearblossom Highway on the way home watching the fire to our left up in the hills. The smoke from the fire blanketed the Desert Floor and kind of just stayed there because there was no breeze. It was an interesting ride home to say the least.
When we finally pulled into our property at around 2:00am we were both tired and spent. Guess who was waiting for us at the front gate of our property; John, our Siberian Husky that ran away while we were gone. If it had not been for that damm dog we would have spent a couple of days in Laughlin Nevada. However, he was a sight for sore eyes.
We have since taken precautions to prevent our dogs from getting off of our property while we are on runs.
I thought I would share a detailed experience of one of my motorcycle runs to the Grand Canyon. I cannot wait to do it again!
By Norman Gregory Fernandez, Esq., © 2007