20th Anniversary Tour Recap

GO AZ Motorcycles Scottsdale

A great group of people came together to celebrate the RATPack 20th Anniversary Tour.  El Presidente assembled a route that took us to places we had enjoyed in the past. The tour ended up covering a significant number of miles visiting the states of New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Nevada. The planned trip was 5 days in length covering 2000+ miles for most (look for more comments later) by the time you returned home. A number of people came from Southern California from the Southern Calif. Motorcycle Association (SCMA).  The Chairman of the SCMA (an AZRATPACK member) rode in from Houston, TX to participate..

We typically have a ride summary produced by the ride chair. The 20th Anniversary Ride had a variety of riders and skill levels. At our request a few of the riders wrote their own summaries of the tour for your enjoyment. While the group of riders were together for some of the trip many broke into smaller groups taking a variety of routes. Please enjoy the other accounts of the AZRATPack 20th Anniversary Tour included after my review.

Day 1 – GOAZ Motorcycles of Scottsdale to Holbrook, AZ

We left  GoAZ as a group of about 10 riders. We proceeded out AZ60 towards Globe, AZ through Salt River Canyon..  It was a great morning to ride with the weather, a bit ominous but cooperating nicely. We made it through Superior to Globe and headed north toward Show Low. Riding North with us this day was Big John our favorite GOAZ Sales person. Big John would ride with us for the first day of the tour. The road through Salt River Canyon was in great shape and provided entertaining riding for all. From the bottom of the canyon we headed up toward Show Low. On the way we all started to see the dark skies building.  A few raindrops with  hopes we could skirt the rain but we rode right into a large cell about 15 miles outside of Show Low. We were all reminded that if you don’t want it to rain you should put on your rain gear, before it rains. Too late, as bolts of lightning coming down nearby, raining so hard you could not see. We found an Indian gas station, just up the road. The locals found it amusing we were riding through the rain. Eight of us pulled over here and put the rain gear on, joking about how we should have done it sooner. We got back on the road to find large rocks have littered the road. 

We roll into the House restaurant in Show Low.  The House has been a favorite AZRATPack stop for years. Everyone grabbed some food and warmed up after our dousing on the rd. Next Stop Holbrook, AZ, the end of road for Day 1. We also discovered another AZRATPACK person at the House. John Hilty has traveled up day 1 in his car. The 30 miles to Holbrook proceeds quickly. The majority of us arrive at Brads Inn and a few others goto the Holbrook Tee Pee motels.  Brads is a small courtyard hotel that was discovered on a previous AZRATPack ride. It has been a stop for us since then.  At Brads riders had beer and wine, chips and other snacks to be shared while they gathered all the chairs in the parking lot and had a nice get together.  An important part of the AZRATPack HOLBROOK experience is the SOUND of TRAINS, all types of trains, freight, passenger, etc etc. The trains pass through Holbrook 24 hours a day, approximately every 45 minutes. Staying at Brads or Tee Pees you might swear they come more often.. all night. (Something you get used to, hahaha)

Dinner was at Butterfield’s Steak House. One of the few places to have a group dinner in Holbrook. We enjoyed a nice group dinner and talked away the time about the ride so far, and the days to come. The owner of Brads, Jody and her friend Paul joined us for dinner.  After a great dinner we all went back to Brads for a few more beers and parking lot time.

Day 2 – Holbrook to Montrose, CO via Gallup,NM to Durango, CO, Hwy 550 – the Million Dollar Hwy – to Montrose, CO

It’s 6a-7:30a, I think the trains reminded us, as people said goodbye to Holbrook. As many looked at the routing for day 2 many remembered other RATPack trips through this area and decided on different directions to Montrose, CO. In short, many decided to take AZ 191 north to Four corners, some decided to intersect Indian 12 at the I-40 and proceed north to Indian 13 to Shiprock, some took the original rte NM491 off the I-40 to Durango. Along with these alternate routes north came other rtes to Montrose. Some would go through Durango, CO and the Million Dollar Hwy others would go through Cortez to Telluride, CO to Montrose.

Our group decided to ride Indian 12 to Indian 13.  Indian 12 crawls the AZ/NM border north of the I-40. The rd passes through amazing scenery through the forests and red rock formations. You pass through villages and tribal centers on this road. You cannot look in any direction without seeing amazing red rock scenery. We traversed Indian 12 to Indian 13, a most amazing road taking you east to the town of Shipwreck. Indian 13 is known for its tight hairpin 10mph corners along a river, At the top you start down the same variety of amazing turns to an amazing vista views of Shiprock. Shiprock is a volcano with all the dirt stripped away. It dominates the landscape for all directions. Our group stopped on the road to view a lava wall that connects to ShipRock. 

Our group decided to lunch in ShipRock. Some of us remember a trip to four corners years ago where we ate at local restaurant, Naatani Nez. Some of our group had a need for an Indian Fry Bread fix. We stopped and were reminded that this restaurant is a local favorite with a buffet and variety of local favorites for a most reasonable price. One of our group talked to a local native asked what roads we had traveled. When told Indian 12/Indian 13 he responded now you know our secret, we never drive the other roads. We took a nice break and got back on the road heading north towards Cortez, CO. Our route was going to take us through Telluride, CO. We watched the clouds all day hoping to avoid rain. We managed to maneuver through the mountains avoiding all the rain to Montrose. The roads through the mountains could be rough, potholes, etc. and cold as we approached the snow line.  We only got a few minutes of rain, not enough to get wet. The long road into Montrose was busy.  Other people experienced weather on the other routes. The group arrived at different times and ate at the Mexican restaurant across from the hotel. A side note the Mexican food was a local favorite, and quite good.  Riders discussed their plans for Day 3 and the routes through/around Salt Lake City. 

Other reported riding the Million Dollar Hiway experiencing snow and hail. Not bad enough to be dangerous but some difficult riding. All routes in this area provide amazing scenery.

Day 3 – Montrose, CO. to the Bonneville Salt Flats to West Wendover, NV.

Another early morning start. Some people leaving as early as 5a. Some decided to head north to Dinosaur ,UT then to Provo, UT. Another group decided to ride towards the I-15 and take the roads southwest of Salt Lake City(SLC) to meet I-80 west of SLC.  Our group followed the provided route to goto the  UT 6 from the I-70.  It was going to be a long day on the road.  Todd who was leading our group took us to the town of Helper, UT. Helper is a very cute town restored as it was in the 1920s. We stopped and had lunch there. The food was tasty and the restaurant provided a nice break. The traffic north on the I-15 was intense toward Salt. Lake. While it moved it was quite dense till we were able to head west on UT401 to I-80.

The group heading to Provo, UT had a great ride over the Rangely Rd then catching I-80. Another group wrapped around the I-15 south of Salt Lake to Eureka, UT, Toole, UT. They encountered mining operations and other interesting scenery. At one point they encountered a closed road situation involving the movement of a large mining equipment. They said it was cool to see the monsters coming down the road.

Once on the I-80 West it was obvious that the water levels of the Salt Lake were up. The separated Hiway had water very close to road level in some areas. The ride across the salt lake while interesting took a certain tediousness. As the miles passed you begged to see the Salt Lake rest stop on the west side of the lake. As the rest stop approached a certain anticipation began to rise. As we pulled into the rest stop you saw the flat white, somewhat soggy salt before you. You could park and walk out onto the salt, you also saw cars, three hundred yards out on the salt. Everybody ventured out to take a step on the salt. Mike and Todd contemplated taking their GSs on the salt. Mike rode down the shoreline and ventured into the salt. A high revving noise was heard and spinning rear wheel was seen. He sunk to the salt but managed to get out, giving his bike a nice coating of salt. No one was able to observe the route the cars took to the salt.  The group moved onto the scheduled stop at the gas station further west. It was very hot by this time. The gas station had drinks, souvenirs and a very pungent East Indian restaurant.  Five miles further down the road was the signage marking the salt flats. A warning sign identified the salt as very wet and potentially muddy.  Todd tried riding on the salt and described it as slippery like snow. 

We pulled into West. Wendover hoping the hotel would have a swimming pool. It didn’t LOL. Mike sent us a picture of his swimming pool at his motel. We decided to pass. The group found dinner places and talked about the ride to AREA 51 and beyond to Las Vegas.

Day 4 – West Wendover, Nevada to Ely, NV to Rachel (Area 51) to Las Vegas, NV.

Another early morning start to the longest day of the trip.  At the start of the trip a handout was made for all the riders to understand the trip to Rachel, NV. and the gas situation.  Many people asked if it was possible to approach Rachel from the West on NV375 (Extraterrestrial Highway). After looking at the gas situation it was basically determined that approaching from the west required you to have a fuel range of approximately 230 miles per tank. Anything else would require carrying extra fuel with a rider.  A rider with the proper range could travel from Ely to NV6 to the West side of NV375. Without the range you would follow the 318 on the west side to Nv375 on the west side. 

SPOILER ALERT: After reaching Rachel, NV from the West side it was discovered that a GAS STATION was opened in Rachel. Oh well everyone could have made it around the west side with out range problems.

Upon reaching Ely we were mostly prepared to approach Rachel from the West. While waiting at the gas station a group of our riders arrived stating that the NV318 was closed to a special event. The EVENT was the SILVER STATE CLASSIC, a high speed event where entered vehicles make top speed runs. The average speed being 225mph. WHAT? Memories of the prior Area 51 ride? The roads again would not allow a visit to Rachel. Well not knowing about the new gas station many re-routed to NV 93 and simply went south to Las Vegas. For the rest of us we headed down NV6 watching our speed to get the best gas mileage we could. The route into Rachel from the west Looks similar to the approach from the east – nothing but desert. Arriving Rachel everyone got something to drink and milled around and headed eastward to get to the 93 for the run into Las Vegas.

Las Vegas was a busy place with the multi-day EDC music festival and the NHL Hockey finals taking place. Fortunately the roads were clear to the south side of the city. For those arriving in Las Vegas ahead of those visiting Rachel the swimming pool at the South Point hotel was visited. The South Pointe provided a nice coupon package of free drinks and dining opportunities. Everybody met up at the hotel buffet or Mexican restaurant.  A good time was had by all reminiscing about the trip and talking about the next ride. 

Day 5 – Las Vegas, NV to home or your next destination

Most left early the next day for various places. A  few got stuck on the road north of Kingman AZ. A new battery seems to solve that problem. ElChinoloco and Todd decided to stay another day. They ended up at the Gordon Ramsey Pub at Caesars palace for dinner where a Ramsey favorite Beef Wellington was served. It was by luck a reservation could be had. 

Riders arriving home were surprised to see the total miles they rode for this tour. This tour was rated for advanced riders and placed riders in a variety road , weather and distance riding situations. Rider had to know their motorcycles and their limits to ride the tour. It was not unusual to see total miles around 1900+ miles with some riders above 2500+ total miles. Just for reference the SCMA Three Flags Classic is typically around 2100 miles one way. If you haven’t ridden that far before under those situations you should feel accomplished. It proves a well understood ride with specific goals and rider discipline can enjoy LONG DISTANCE rides without fear of difficulties.  

Thanks to all who came out to make the AZRATPACK 20TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR the great event it was. Special thanks to El Presidente, Victor Casteneda for planning this trip and the the routes provided. Additional thanks to AZRTAPack Board Members: Dean Saracco, Carlos Goodwin and ElChinoLoco for supporting the ride. 

I hope you enjoy all the pics that everyone shared, other ride reviews are from the perspective of other riders on the tour 

The Anniversary Tour is our last ride before summers sets in. Our next ride will be the Annual Sedona ride, August 26th. Our next overnighter will be the annual Route 66 ride on October 6th. Look for a variety breakfast and dinner gatherings in the meantime

Riders Account: Russ, Honda Goldwing

The first day was an easy ride up the Salt Canyon.  The thunderstorm meant a quick change into raingear, but arrived at Brad’s Desert Inn       early enough to enjoy a beverage of choice around a picknick table and meet new friends.  This was my first official ride with the AZRatpack. 

The second day was a little less organized as to who was going which route and when.  I ended up riding on my own, which has it’s pluses and minuses.  There was a large thunderstorm hanging over the mountains between the Million Dollar Highway, which I really wanted to do, and the easier Telluride route.  Making a quick check of radar weather, I saw that the storm would meet me at the MDH at just the wrong time, so I went the Telluride way and avoided most of the storm.

Saturday, Mark led Randy, Barry, and myself along Highway 6 into Provo.  What an awesome road!  Then we followed Mark around the Salt Lake City area, riding the back roads to the west and then north to connect with interstate 80, and avoided the heavy SLC traffic.  Another beautiful ride.  Then on to the Bonneville Salt Flats and Wendover. 

Now, Wendover is right on the time change border, and depending on your phone service, you had to constantly figure out what time it really was.  This was particularly critical when leaving with others the next morning.  Not without issue, I managed to meet up with Barry and Randy again, and we headed out ahead of everyone else.  

They say that if it goes as planned, it wasn’t an adventure.  After almost two hours, we thought we saw a sign that said road closed ahead as we got onto NV318 in Ely.  Not wanting to believe it to be true, we continued on…to the next sign reminding us the road was closed ahead.  A conversation with a local at a gas station confirmed the road was closed because of a road race that day.  By the time we retraced our tracks, about 30 miles, the rest of the group was parked at a gas station where we delivered the bad news.  Undaunted, we changed course and still arrived at the Southpoint hotel in time to relax before the dinner buffet.

I can’t speak for others(except for Barry, who crossed my path just outside of Wickenburg), but other than a 20 minute roadwork delay, the trip home was uneventful.  I left at 5:30 a.m. and was home by 11:30a.m.  Beautiful countryside on every leg of the journey. It was a great first time trip with the AZRatpack. 

Riders Account: Mike P., BMW GS

Million Dollar Highway: Heading out of Durango, I looked up and saw snowy peaks ahead. “I’m sure glad I’m not going up there,” I thought, but soon, the road wound around bringing me in close contact with the cold white stuff.  When I reached the top of the first mountain pass, rain and fog had moved in, and I cursed myself for leaving so late that morning. I paused for a picture at the side of the road and realized I was being pelted by small balls of hail. I resumed the ride downward and noticed that the asphalt had a slick sheen to it. Even though it seemed slightly too warm for ice, my careful paranoia had me occasionally dragging my feet along the surface just to make sure I still had grip. At the top of the next mountain, it had cleared up, so I stopped again to take more pictures and send texts in case it was the last time I was heard from. The lack of guard rails on the Million Dollar Highway was disconcerting and I tried my best not to look down. Not only did the road’s edge ride along my vision’s periphery, it remained a weight that tingled the back of my neck; a warning not to screw up and to stay calm. A couple of riders including a sport bike went past me in the opposite direction and I felt bad for them, however, little did I know it was going to get worse ahead before it got better.

I passed through Silverton, and it was raining hard again. I wanted to stop, but was behind schedule, so kept on trucking. The last thing I wanted was to get stuck out there in the dark. As I left town, a couple of vehicles had stopped on the other side of the road. I thought perhaps there was an accident but followed their gaze to my right and saw two big moose standing on the shoulder near me. I would have loved to stop but didn’t want to risk dealing with the possibilities of ill-tempered wildlife in bad weather. Eventually, the rain stopped, the sun came out, and I was blessed with gorgeous views at Bear Creek Falls just a couple miles south of Ouray. There was a small, fenced overhang for those unafraid of heights to step out onto to get the best view of several waterfalls. I took a moment to listen to the rush of water falling down the cliff walls to the rocks below, shaking my head at the vehicles passing by without a second glance. 

Riders Account: Carlos G., Harley Softtail

There are many parts of this trip I will remember fondly.  Just 16 miles from Kingman, my engine stopped running. Lucky for me it was just a dead battery.  Then 50 miles outside Wickenburg I hit a pothole so big that my left muffler separated, and caused a serious exhaust leak. But the most memorable, above all else, was when a few of us followed “Hammer” through some of the most scenic roads of eastern Arizona: the views, the colors, the difference in the elevations, and the friendly people. This is what made the ride that more enjoyable and unforgettable.

Riders Account: Sledge Hammer, BMW GSA

One of the most pleasant surprises with the 20th Anniversary ride occurred on Day Two, Holbrook to Montrose.  With this being an open ride day our very own ChinoLoco suggested a route to a few of us through the Navajo Nation via two gorgeous Indian Service Routes, 12 and 13.  Route 12 started 10 miles or so from the New Mexico border off of I40.  This route meandered north along the New Mexico border through stunningly beautiful red rock cliffs and high plateau pines crossing through several small villages along the way.  The road was fairly well maintained, a few potholes here and there to avoid, but for the most part not straight so as to require some attention while enjoying the scenery.  Eventually, towards the top of the state, you arrive at the small town of Lukachukai nestled up against red rock cliffs that gives areas of Sedona a run for its money.  Here we started Route 13 which immediately gets your attention with slow, tight, and short switchbacks that climb the red rock cliffs behind the small town, a knee draggers dream and big bike challenge.  A few of us would have had even more fun on this road had it not been wet at the time.  Climbing, you eventually cross over the top in the pines and arrive at a point where there are stunning views of the red rock country of New Mexico and a fantastic view of ShipRock.  The road eventually drops down again and brings you right to the foot of ShipRock for great up close views of the formation and the remnants of a lava tube leading from the extinct volcano.

This route literally made the second day of the Anniversary ride even as we traveled through the Rockies to arrive at the destination in Montrose which also had its own stunning views.

Randy S., BMW RT

There is not much I can add to the accounts already posted, but I must say the route and the camaraderie made the trip very memorable.  Thanks to all the members planned the route.

I’ve ridden the Salt Canyon route many times and this time did not disappoint.  In Holbrook,  I opted to say at the Wigwam  Hotel along with Manny S.  We could have paid for our rooms by charging the tourists that continually drove through the compound a fee for the privilege.  As for the rooms, the teepees are made out of concrete, were clean,  neat and defiantly had a 1950’s vibe.   Look for the AZ RatPack 20 anniversary sticker in the window of the main build the next you are in Holbrook.

The last day of the ride brought fond memories  of the days when I rode with CMA as a member of  mechanical team.  That team would verify  that a rider stopped along the road was okay;   I don’t recall seeing  any of the riders that passed Carlos  even pause to check out situation. 

Mark B., BMW GSA

All experienced riders who do long distance touring spend significant time planning and preparing for their adventures.  This includes route planning, overnight stays, packing lists and bike preparation.  The AzRatPack 20th Anniversary Tour was no exception and all items on the checklist were checked.  Bike and rider was locked and loaded early Wednesday morning for start to a long, one day ride from Houston to Scottsdale.  Plans were to meet fellow members at the GoAZ dealership on Thursday morning and ride to Holbrook for the 1st overnight stay.

Good plans go haywire.  At 4:30am CT 45 miles west of Houston on I-10 my brand new rear tire goes from 42lb to 18lb in 3 blocks.  Surrounded by 18 wheelers going 75mph, I find a gap in the concrete construction walls to a gap that I can pull into for inspection and safety.  No amount of air from my compressor can fill the finger sized hole in my tire that can’t be plugged.  Flatbed wrecker dispatched and dropped me off back at my Wild West dealership at 8:30am.  Their fantastic Service team rushes me in when they open at 9am and I’m reloading the bike at 9:45am after installation of a new rear tire.  

Best plans dashed.  No way I can make the 1200 mile ride to Scottsdale when leaving Houston at 10am so I hop on the scooter and start reworking the plan.  Ok, overnight in El Paso and meet folks at 1st overnight in Holbrook.   That means no Scottsdale but a nice plan “B”.  El Paso to Lordsburg, 191 to Morenci, “bear cave”, Alpine, St. Johns, then 180 to Holbrook.   All in all a great route.  The whole way I saw black storm clouds on my left but never got a drop of rain.

Arrived at the classic Brad’s motel in Holbrook, AZ. tired but dry, to cold beer, chips and the welcome of my rider friends I haven’t seen since last year’s AZRatPack tours.  While I was lucky to see and dodge the black clouds coming up, my friends experienced them up close and personal.  I was lucky for the rest of the tour to be able to dodge the hail and rain others endured.

Food and adult beverages are always better when consumed with friends and fellow riders combined with colorful tales of the day’s ride and this trip was no exception.  Some days you ride alone and some days you ride with others.  I rarely lead rides but feel at home in the pack or tail gunning.   I rode alone up from Durango to Montrose warm and dry in heated gear while a good friend was a couple of miles ahead on 151 getting pelted with rain and hail!   

The next day I lead a few of my friends on the next leg of the tour from Montrose, Co to West Wendover, NV.  It was a fun day as we had great weather and little traffic. We all had similar riding styles so AFAIK no one felt like they were riding too slow or panicked because they were riding beyond their skill level. We decided to avoid the interstate riding thru Salt Lake City and took a “road less traveled’ west and north to  meet back up to I-80 for the run to the Salt Flats.  In our case, due to lots of rain before we got there, it was more like Salt-mud flats. 

The last day I was back solo due to the long route I took to grab a burger at the Little A’le’Inn.  Not much gas along the way but my big 8 gallon BMW R1250 GS Adventure was up to the challenge.  There were no Mormon crickets on the road and no cars or trucks on this portion of the trip.  After leaving the Inn with a full belly and a couple of ice cold beers (a rarity for me) I headed to Las Vegas.  Typical decent into H*ll back to LV – heavy traffic and high, high, temperatures.  I was wiped out when I got to the hotel and schlepped all my gear to the room. 

I made it to the buffet and ate great food, drank cold adult beverages, and most importantly,  with my wonderful riding friends, crowed about how taxing the ride into the finish was.

I left for Pasadena, CA the following morning for a week of work then a 1,500 mile two day sprint on the scenic I-10 back to Houston.

Touring is an adventure that is never the same even if you ride the same route as you’ve done before.  When you ride it with friends you don’t get to see frequently, it is even more meaningful.  I can’t wait for my next opportunity to tour with my fellow members of the AzRatPack.