Ride West: Day 14 to Eagar, AZ

Today had its highs and lows.  High of 9,200 feet in the White Mountains.  Low of 2,100 feet at Roosevelt Lake.  High of 100+ degrees in the desert.  Low of 60 degrees during the morning mountain ride.  High of about 90 mph passing some law abiding citizens dutifully observing the speed limit.  Low of  zero mph sitting peacefully on my bike staring at the endlessly beautiful scenery.

Yes,  it was another great day.  Although I had ridden before on many of the roads I’ve been writing about, today’s ride, which included the 4,000th mile since I left home, was on all new roads to me.

We started by taking the Mary Lake Road south out of  Flagstaff through the Coconino National Forest.  What a way to start the day.  Towering pines, cool temps, and gently twisting roads to get you going in this verdant, high-elevation forest.  Continuing south on AZ 187,  our route wound through the mountains and Tonto National Forest at elevations from about 8, 000 to 6,000 feet.

Just south of Payson, however, the road was all down hill, taking us into the desert, domain of saguaro cacti and potentially punishing conditions.  In an hour, we went from temperatures in the mid 70s to over 100 degrees.  But even from the desert we could always see mountains nearby and knew that we would be back into them eventually.

We stopped at the Roosevelt Lake Visitor’s Center (assuming correctly that it was air conditioned) and went through the interpretive exhibit.  I love to learn new stuff.  I learned that the Roosevelt Dam had been constructed in the first decade of the 20th century and was the first major project of the newly created federal Bureau of Reclamation.  The dam impounds water from the Salt River and provides irrigation and hydroelectric power for much of central and Arizona.  Currently the water level is at 50% percent capacity because of the growing drought.   It took six years to build and was finished one year before Arizona entered the Union as a state.  The project resulted in the creation of a small town where there had only been rocks, cacti and native Apaches before.  This 450 foot high dam was constructed in the middle of the desert with labor largely imported from outside Arizona.  Not that you’ll ever need to know this stuff but I learned it so I thought I’d share it.

Salt River Canyon in the background

Today’s ride was in the form of a “V,” with the point of the V at Globe.  After a good, authentic Mexican lunch we went north up the other side of the V, climbing again into the mountains.  Once there we came on an unexpected treat:  The Salt River Canyon.  Although not nearly as impressive as the Grand Canyon, the Salt River Canyon does have a road that goes down one side and up the other.  It provided great views of the canyon and, of course, twists and turns down the declivity and up the acclivity on the other side.  The canyon depth was probably about 1500 feet, compared to the 5,000 feet of the Grand Canyon, but still pretty spectacular and a great ride.

We broke out our rain gear at one point as we rode through the Fort Apache Indian Reservation and the Apache National Forest.   But the shower was brief and probably didn’t warrant suiting up.  It was hard to tell how big the storm was and we wanted to make sure we didn’t get caught in the rain and then ride for several hours with wet, cold clothes.

We arrived in Eagar, AZ, after about 9 hours on the road.  Since both bikes are Ultra Classics and it’s hard to tell them apart when they’re both brown, we washed them to return them to their original red and blue colors.

Tomorrow: A loop ride through the forest-fire scarred White Mountains in Arizona and New Mexico.

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