Road Dips and Turns Next 32 Miles
by Brian Nichols
When I read an article about motorcycle travel I always think “Yeah? But what did that cost?” so I’m including all of it here. If you put aside 25 bucks a week you will be able to do the following in a year. My girlfriend and I thought it would be fun to go ride in the desert for a few days. Fortunately, there are a couple of crazy foreigners in Phoenix at a place called MCTours who will trade small pieces of paper for large pieces of plastic in the form of almost-new BMW R1200RTs or assorted Road Warrior-looking, off-road Beemers. You can find them at www.AZride.com.
We found a great airfare and hotel deal on the web. We paid five hundred apiece to fly to Phoenix via Sun Country and stay at the Windom Buttes Resort in Tempe for five days. After sorting out the availability on the RT’s, and coming up with a plan which turned out to be one bike for four days and a second bike for two days, we figured the cost would be a grand on the wheels. No brainier; press the appropriate buttons on the keyboard and it’s done.
We decided to upgrade to first class when we checked in at the airport for $75 on the way down. You skip the security lines, sit in a big seat, eat a hot meal, and drink whatever. The Windom Buttes turned out to be a swanky, former Hilton hotel and includes a spa way up in the rocks that we had to ourselves every night. Very nice.
We went to pick up our bikes the next morning. Monica, our motorcycle travel agent, set us up with customized detailed routes for our four days. We requested no fake gunfights or fiberglass dinosaurs. Next, Gabor, the Beemer bike dude supreme, filled us in on the RTs: heated seats, heated grips, electrically-adjustable windscreen and cruise control. Sweet! We both have cruisers, but getting used to the slightly different controls and higher center of gravity on a different type of bike was worth it. I was curious about the attraction of complete protection from the wind and the sport touring posture required on these bikes, but now I get it. You can spin along at 80 mph all day in complete comfort and control.
Southern Arizona is mostly flat, with mountains sticking up out of nowhere at random. The terrain, coupled with dry, sunny weather and highs in the 70’s, make this an ideal place to ride in December. Gabor has scoped out all the twisties for you so you don’t have to. Monica routed us to cool places like Kit Peak Observatory, Taliesin West, Biosphere 2 and the Ray Mine Lookout. The cruise control on the BMWs made the flat deserts easier to deal with and their sure-footedness made truly exceptional twisty rides like the 5,000 foot climb to the top of Kitt Peak a surreal experience.
On the first two days of our trip, we both had our own bikes and did one loop east of Phoenix and one loop west. We set up our trip about a month in advance, so there was only one bike available for the second two days. We rode two up down to Arivaca, near the Mexican border, and stayed overnight at a bed and breakfast, coming back the next day. There were a lot of interesting things about these legs of the trip but the most important thing to know is that signs saying “Free Range” mean that cattle just wander wherever they want. The ranchers just brand them and let them go. I pointed out a pretty bull on the side of the road on the way into Arivaca for dinner. As we left the bar an old cowboy with his dog was walking down the road and said to us, “I wouldn’t go that way. The road is full of glass. I just hit a cow”. Be careful, folks.
Any time you have a passenger (an excellent rider herself) who is back there singing and squealing like a school girl, all the planets are aligned. You are in the right place, at the right time, with the right partner, on the right bike.
The total on the trip: airfare, hotel, bikes, food, drinks, cabs and fuel was about $1,300 each. But I will remember it the rest of my life. Don’t think. Go — go now. And say hello to Monica and Gabor for me.