I have been racing and riding motorcycles for 46 years and am one of those who was twisting the throttle right out of the womb. Anything that has 2 wheels has always captured my attention and I haven’t stopped since. This passion lead into what would become my career in the Powersports Industry for the last 30 years and still going strong.
Over the years I have raced and explored all the tracks, trails, and deserts that are spread throughout California and Baja. Unfortunately because of population growth and the overwhelming construction in such a desired area, many of us riders have been forced to go elsewhere or resort to street legal dual sport and adventure bikes that will allow us to ride the few trails that still exist in the landscape of Southern California.
Dual Sports and Adventure bikes aren’t such a bad thing these days with modern technology and manufactures building works of art to explore the nooks and crannies of the earth. It has definitely sparked my interest and is why I own a KTM1190R adventure for the long distance journeys and a Husky 501 for the local trails. To me the adventure bike is an all in one package allowing one to leave right out of their garage, self-sustained with all the supplies and electronics needed to conquer just about any terrain and journey desired, including the ability to camp right off your bike.
A few of my good riding buddies have also recently purchased KTM1090r Adventure Bikes to add to their collection of off-road machines, so I have really been into exploring the outskirts of the San Diego area knowing I have others to help with hunting down the few trails that still exist due to the rapid growth of our demographics.
Recently, those friends and I were out exploring off road routes in the backyard of our home town San Diego. When we stopped for a break, our good friend Tommy said I’m doing the AzBDR (Arizona Backcountry Discovery Route) at the end of May before it gets too hot, so who’s in? Of course both Fred and I didn’t even hesitate to say, we’re both in.
Other than routing out my own routes and organizing Adventure rides right out of the dealer to different destinations, I have yet to go on a route that was already organized through an organization like Backcountry Discovery Routes. After researching the material with my friends for the Arizona BDR, I quickly became excited for the thought of exploring new terrain and sites in a state so nearby our home quarters.
Even though it was the end of May, the southern part of Arizona at the border of Mexico where the BDR route starts, can experience scorching hot weather and would be very undesirable on a 2 wheel machine without having AC, so we decided to start just out of Tucson Arizona connecting into the BDR right at the base of Pioneer Pass heading north to Utah. Lucky for us the day we headed out of California to our first destination ended up being overcast through the Arizona deserts, keeping the heat down below the 100’s.
Our plan was to get in the higher sections of the back country of Arizona so we wouldn’t experience the raging heat of the deserts. Though the Backcountry Discovery route is laid out in a way where food, gas and water can be found each day, we still prepared as though we would never see a hotel or any food during our ride across the Arizona landscape. Ensuring we had an adequate supply of dehydrated food and all the gear to camp anywhere we ended up for the evening, there was still the concern of having enough water each day due to the current fire restrictions that have been put in place throughout the majority of the forest that spreads across the entire northern region of Arizona. Many of the camp areas had bathroom facilities and sometimes dumpsters to dispose of trash, but no water or campfires. Despite these restrictions, and not being able to warm up next to a campfire, we still made due and enjoyed the outdoor camping only experiencing weather in the 30’s one of the evening’s and something that can’t be avoided when traveling at such elevations. Thankfully we all had tents, sleeping bags, & mats that capable of handling such conditions. Once we made it to Pioneer Pass we stayed in 4000-7500 Ft elevation for the remainder of our trip experiencing anywhere from 40-78 degree temps. Pioneer Pass leads into the Tonto National forest and Pinal Mountain range. These mountains were originally discovered by the Spanish and Mexican miners in the early 1800’s and rumors had spread from the Apache Indians that Gold exist throughout these mountain ranges. The miners were never successful in mining this area because of the suppression from the Apache Indians controlling the area in large numbers but eventually several U.S. miners and the U.S. Army went in and took control of the area to mine. These missions to find the Gold were unsuccessful in the beginning and is how the City Globe was formed, leaving behind a few straggling miners to stake their claim.
After our campout the first night, we packed up and headed down the other side of the pass into the town Globe, where we enjoyed a nice breakfast at a local café before heading north on the BDR. The old part of this town is left with all the old buildings that were established many years ago and gives the feel as though you rode right into an old western movie just waiting for a gunfight to go down. The Fire Station in town had an old Fire Engine from the 50’s that is still in use and looks like it rolled right off the showroom floor.
Heading out of Globe we soon clicked into the off road portion of the BDR heading for a town called Young for fuel and water. There are alternate routes along the BDR that are rated expert for Adventure Bikes, so we made sure to route ourselves on as many we could access as possible. Some of those sections started right out of Globe and the terrain to conquer was littered with boulders and 90 degree switch backs up and down the mountain ranges heading towards Theodore Roosevelt Lake.
To get around the lake we had to cross over the Salt River which feeds into the Lake. From here the next stop would be Young for fuel and water. We continued on enjoying the challenging ride of the scenic landscape with Rock Mountains, cliff formations, small stream crossings and pine forest scattered throughout the region. Once we arrived to Young we experienced our first mechanical issue. Tommy’s saddle bag strap got wound up in his rear wheel hub and sprocket during our ride in. We were forced to remove the rear wheel to clear it out otherwise we would’ve experienced bearing problems and that’s something you don’t want to happen in the vast desolate area we were in.
As we continued on out of Young riding more of the rocky expert terrain with Tommy leading, Fred at the tail end, and myself hanging out mid pack, we got plagued with our first flat of the trip. I became accustomed to checking my rear view mirror looking for Fred’s headlight making sure he was there, as we traveled long distances at a time without stopping or taking any breaks. I noticed I had not seen his headlight in a while because I was in the zone of riding and combing the landscape. I slowed down to a stop to check in the mirror and still no headlight.
I quickly realized something happened because Fred never drops off the pace unless something does happen. Because of the terrain we were just riding I thought he might have taken a spill, because of the square edged rocks everywhere. I finally back tracked to find that he had gotten a flat in his front tire. He took a nail or something as such right through the knobby of his tubeless set up. We tried to plug it with no success because it was right through the knobby, so we had to install a spare 21” tube in his tire in order to continue on. Tommy and Fred’s 1090’s do not come equipped with a center stand, so Tommy brought along a tool called the “Snap Jack”. It was a little tricky at first, but unbeknown to us we would soon become experts with this crafty little tool.
Once we repaired the flat we continued on to the mountains nearby Payson also known as the Coconino National Mountains where we hoped to connect a ridge trail called the 300 trail. Once we got to the ridge portion of the trail we noticed that the gate to cross through was closed due to fire restrictions. We were so tempted to go around the gate and continue on our route, but the area was highly populated with Forrest Rangers so we didn’t dare try, even though we knew we weren’t camping or making any campfires along the way to Winona.
We had to reroute and go east and around through the town Winslow, AZ having to slab it most of the way. We stopped in Winslow and took our picture at the infamous corner of the street. Being pressed for time before sunset, we decided to head towards Winona, fuel up and head into the town of Flagstaff. Once we arrived in Flagstaff we found a sports bar and grill to have a nice meal and a beer settling with camping on the outskirts of Flagstaff since dark was nearing. After dinner we headed towards a campground we had picked out browsing the net. When we arrived the gate was shut and the campgrounds were closed due to fire restrictions once again. It was too late to decide on anything else so we went around the gate and camped in one of the remote sites for the night. We woke up early to get out, so we wouldn’t have to deal with any fines or harassment as we only needed a place to sleep for the night.
After having breakfast in Flagstaff, we studied the tracks that continue on for the rest of our journey in an attempt to decide on a route for the day. We came up with the idea to back track on the west side of the route that we should have taken into Winona the day before, but ended up being unpassable due to the locked gate. We were unsure if we could reconnect on the other side of where that gate was locked out of Payson, but we took the chance anyway hoping to get back on expert trail. We passed along Rogers Lake in an attempt to reconnect and stopped at a view point that overlooked the lower lake and the upper area that no longer had water in it. There was a local woman at the stop that had told us she used to swim in that lake 20 years ago and was pointing to an area that was dry. This was when I truly realized how bad the drought is in Arizona. I know many might think Arizona is just desert, but I can say it is far from that especially in the northern area. The pine forests are endless and the wildlife is abundant. During our travels we saw Coyotes the size of wolves and herds of elk crossing our pathway numerous times along the way.
When we left the view point we immediately found the road and trail that connects the route we were looking for, and the gate was open. Off we went riding into Winona again, but on the BDR trail this time. We stopped to fuel up once we arrived and huddled up again to decide what the rest of our route would be before settling down to camp. We decided the South Rim of The Grand Canyon would be our target for the day. Even if we didn’t make it to the Canyon we knew we could disperse camp in the vast forest that lines the rim of the Canyon knowing we were behind schedule due to a flat.
The first section on our way out of Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon took us through an area riddled with crater and volcanic mountains. This mountain range is known as the San Francisco Peaks where 600 volcanoes have been identified in a 2000 mile radius. One of these crater volcanoes called the Sunset Crater Volcano was one of the obstacles we had to navigate around to continue on. We stopped at the view point for this Volcano at the base looking up to the black and brown mountain crater top. The entire areas ground cover were these small black rocks and black sand that is the remanence of weathered lava and ash from these volcanoes erupting many years ago. The consistency was like a loose rock type of sand that made it really challenging on an Adventure bike with no way to ride it perfectly because it was almost like riding in deep sand. Even though it was super challenging, I quite enjoyed the scenery around us and in awe as to how all the plants and trees could grow so abundantly in lava and ash, but I guess the nutrients it possesses could be the key to why it does.
Continuing on through all of the volcanic area we soon found ourselves surrounded by pine forest again and the feeling as though we were climbing even though the terrain appeared flat around us. Indeed we were climbing, because we found a remote campground that was nearing the rim of the Grand Canyon and when I looked down at my GPS it was just over 7500ft elevation. Not knowing we were so close to the rim and the convenience of stores and restaurants to cater to our needs, we decided to ask other campers around us if they knew where we could get water. This is when we realized how close it was and decided to make the trek there to resupply, eat a meal, and resort to the State Campgrounds on the South Rim of the Canyon. When we came out of the forest dirt road to the paved road that circles around the South Rim we finally got our first glance of the Grand Canyon. I’m sure many have said “I can’t describe it in words,” well this is very true and to me almost looked fake or surreal because it is so massive and so hard to process with the human eye. So many colors, the endless gap across, and the fact the forest lead right up the edge was just unbelievable. It almost looked like one of the outdoor scenes displayed in the many rides at Disneyland, except I knew this was the real deal.
In an attempt to get a spot at the State Campgrounds we quickly got denied forgetting it was the Memorial Day weekend. No big deal because we were able to supply back up with water, snacks, & beer, then headed back to the dispersed campground we had found a few miles back. Once we settled into this campground our buddy Tommy decided to roll out the “shower in a bag” for our first shower in days. We used our Jetboils to heat up water to add to cooler water to make the perfect temperature. I had become so accustomed to being grungy, that I didn’t realize how nice this tree shower would be, but can say it made for a nice evening around our makeshift campfire. Tommy had a red neck cloth that we used to cover over a portable lantern I had and set it right in the middle of the fire pit giving the feel we were sitting around a campfire without the heat. It sounds funny, but let me tell you, it was quite enjoyable sitting around this makeshift campfire and sipping our beers we brought with us from the Canyon Store.
The next morning we packed up and headed out for our next gas stop and then on down into the Canyon, across the Colorado river, up to the North rim on the other side and then residing at the State Campground for the night that was the border for Utah & Arizona.
To see and learn about the different tribes and ruins that had once spread throughout this land was spectacular, the Apache, Pueblo, Navajo, & Havasupai are among those many different types of Indians we learned about. We got to experience the area, traditions, and ways in which they lived, including many who still do live the way their ancestors did thousands of years ago.
Navigating the South Rim was another one of those incredible moments in witnessing the massive canyons that lead around and down to the Colorado River bridge crossing. So many fingers of canyons to navigate around, that it was almost like going through a maze without being able to tell where there would be a dead end at the canyons edge. Some of these viewpoints would be hard to access by 4 wheel drive so it was nice to be on bikes and see many sites few ever get to see.
We came across this canyon that had an aqua blue river flowing at the bottom. Later I learned that this is called the Havasu Creek and leads into what is known as Havasu Falls occupied by the Havasupai Indian. This water reflects a crystal clear blue green color because of the limestone and calcium deposits that line the beds of the river leading 50 miles into the falls. This was definitely a highlight for me because I have never seen anything like this in my life. While going along the rims of the canyon we encountered some very rocky areas with square jagged edge rocks imbedded into the trail and soil making it hard to avoid. This is when we experienced our second flat, now on Tommy’s 1090R because he plowed one of those jagged edge rocks causing a gouge on one of his side walls of his front tire. Back out came the “Snap Jack” and my 21” spare tube because Tommy only brought an 18” even though I told him to bring a 21” because it can be used in the rear or front if you’re only going to carry one tube. Live and learn, but this also gave me a little bit of a concern because we were miles from any help and using our last tube we had amongst us. Everyone had only packed air compressors and plugs, but none of us had remembered to bring patches. We had to install my only spare tube in Tommy’s front wheel because the sidewall had too big of a gouge and couldn’t be repaired by a plug.
Finally back on the trail we soon came out on the 89 Highway so we could cross over the Colorado River and head for our final destination of the trip for overnight camping at the State Line of Utah/Az. After stopping to fuel up and take pictures at the Colorado bridge crossing we encountered a tourist group of older people that had just stepped off a bus to take pictures as well. One of the gentlemen came up to us out of curiosity and asked us what our journey was all about on our motorcycles. As we were telling him our story he asked if we flew out there and rented the motorcycles were on. I held back from being rude, but was thinking in my head “Do we look like guys who would fly out here and rent bikes?” especially with our grungy gear and our beards we had developed from the start of our trip, how would someone think that? Sorry to say, but people who don’t ride motorcycles just don’t get it and could never understand what us riders experience when we do.
After fueling and watering back up, we set off to our final destination. On our way we came across an area called Marble Canyon that had old ruins that still existed at the base of the cliffs. We pulled in to check it out and as we did here comes Fred with a frown on his face that could be recognized behind his helmet. I looked down to notice he had gotten another flat in his front tire. We had no tubes or patches so what were we going to do, plus we didn’t even know the severity of the blowout and if it could even be repaired? Nearing dark we contemplated whether we would just camp there or try to repair the flat somehow and move on.
Deciding to try and repair it, we sent Tommy off to the gas station where we last filled up, because we hadn’t gone that far yet before getting the flat. On his way back he ran into a repair truck repairing a flat on a truck and trailer. Tommy asked him for a tube and he said he didn’t have a tube, but he might have a patch, so he dug down in his tool box to find one patch to offer us. By the time Tommy had got back, Fred and I already had the tire and tube out. Lucky for us it was just a pin hole, but it took us 3 attempts to get the patch to finally hold. Even though it was almost dark we decided to journey on to the campgrounds at the State Line.
Continuing on the BDR route led us into dirt trails to the campgrounds so we were all pleased to know we all had aftermarket lights that would light up the trail like day. It was actually really fun to ride at night since we hadn’t experienced that yet on our trip. When we arrived at the campground there was a sigh of relief in finally getting there and lucky for us we occupied the last campsite left. It had an awning with a cement floor. The weather was so nice outside that we set up our mats and sleeping bags sleeping under the stars and full moon for the night. Every night of our journey displayed a full moon providing us Mother Nature’s flashlight allowing us to see whenever the sun went down, never having any other light that would typically shine from cities nearby.
The end of our trip had neared and it was time to pack up and make the trek back home heading through the southern part of Utah to the 15 Freeway, and on home to California through the middle of Vegas. We got a small glimpses of Utah’s Bryce Canyon and Zion. Wow! What a site from a distance, we all felt like continuing on the BDR through the state of Utah, but we had run out of time and had to head back to the real world.
On our way through Vegas we ran into heat in the 100’s that was only bearable if we kept moving. Once we got right into Las Vegas rolling down the 15, Fred’s patch on his tube decided to let go due to the heat. Luckily this happened right as we rolled into Vegas otherwise I’m not sure what we would’ve done being stranded in the middle of the desert in 100 degree temperatures and nothing to repair a flat. We found a small motorcycle repair shop in the old town of Vegas. They were able to repair the flat, but they didn’t have a 21” tube in stock. What motorcycle repair shop doesn’t have a 21” tube? The most common size tube on the planet for a motorcycle.
I had to go to a Cycle Gear to buy the tube and bring it back to the small shop to repair. By this time Fred and the crew already had the wheel off and ready to receive the tube. We got it wrapped up and back on the road in no time and stopped at a gas station to top off before heading home. When both Tommy and I pulled in the gas station we pulled in opposite sides from each other. I stepped off my bike opened my fuel cap and the geyser of gas spouted out of the top like somebody had just turned on the fire hydrant. I immediately slammed my cap closed and locked it, just as I did this, I looked over at Tommy sitting on his bike, and watched him have the same thing happen. He finally closed his cap and stopped his geyser. Luckily we were able to clean up and prevent ourselves from exploding. Apparently the heat and very little fuel used since the last stop created our tanks to become pressurized. How nothing happened still boggles me to this day, especially being in that kind of heat and the blazing hot motors of our bikes.
Finally we continued our journey successfully making it home without anything else happening that would hold us back. Every time I do these trips I know why they call our bikes Adventure Bikes, because it’s always been an adventure for me, and one I always like look back on with no regrets and the feeling of satisfaction in making it to the end and being able to explore sites many never will see.
The three of us were such a team and enjoyed each other’s company so much that our next trip is the Utah BDR that we will also conquer before years end. I’m sure the trips will continue to line up for us and look forward to what the future has to hold. “It’s Time to Ride”