GO AZ Motorcycles, Peoria, AZ – September 28-30, 2018
by El Chino Loco
It’s 7am on a gorgeous Friday morning and I am heading to GO AZ Motorcycles in Peoria AZ to meet up with the AZRATPack to ride the annual Route 66 motorcycle tour, this year called the 6’s Wild Grand Tour. The morning air is crisp and I am eager to get this bike on the road.
Victor Castañeda, President of the AZRATPack this year created a ride to take advantage of the many Route 66 historical and memorable routes in Arizona. This years: Day 1 routing, would take us from Peoria, AZ out US 60 to the Devils Highway, US 666 (renamed AZ 191) eventually arriving at the first nights stay in Holbrook, AZ on Route 66. The second day would take riders through the petrified forest and onward to ShipRock, New Mexico, Four Corners and eventually stopping in Chinle, AZ, Canyon de Chelley.
The ride started off with a sign-in and riders meeting at GO AZ Peoria. GO AZ provided coffee, bagels and great place gather before our ride. The riders meeting talked about road conditions and warnings about the Devils Hiway. Thirty Five riders saddled up and we were off, heading toward the 60 then up Salt River Canyon toward Globe/Miami. The weather was beautiful, clear, approx 80 degrees, couldn’t ask for more. Scenic Salt River Canyon is always a great ride.
Gassing in Globe we proceeded on AZ 70 through the San Carlos Indian reservation toward Safford. A little past Safford we met the 666 (Hiway 191) and turned north toward Clifton/Morenci. Shortly after making the turn you enter Clifton. It’s a small town that straddles the San Francisco River. It is quiet and seemingly fading away as many properties look damaged. Years ago the San Francisco River seriously flooded leaving Clifton pretty much underwater. After the flood the town erected huge steel doors along the rivers path to divert any future floods. The Clifton court house, up on the hilly part of town contains part of the original iron territorial prison, mostly in Yuma, AZ today.
The next town and our lunch stop is Morenci. Morenci is a company town. All the towns services are provided by Freeport-McMoran, Inc. The town is almost totally dedicated to the mining of the Morenci Open Pit Mine. The mine os one of the largest copper reserves in the United States producing 737 million pounds of copper in 2017. The mine employs 3000+ workers. Lunch was at the Single Jack Restaurant. The food was simple and the salad bar and soup were tasty. There was Green Pork Chile as part of the salad buffet. It was exceptionally tasty and HOT. Some of us decided to take it easy on the chile as it might have adverse effects after the thousands of turns ahead of us. There was mine memorabilia located in the restaurant showing the long history of mining copper in Arizona.
Now comes the Devils Hiway or the Coronado Scenic Highway. The most notable section of the Devils Highway is Clifton, AZ to Springerville, AZ , is thought to have 1100 turns in 95 miles. For most this section takes about 3 hrs. Maybe some did it faster? 666 was the SIXTH ROAD CONNECTING TO ROUTE 66. Obviously the Devils Hiway name came along from the 666 references. It was changed to 191, one of the reasons being people stole the highway signs at an alarming rate. All the riders were reminded that there are many precautions needed when riding the Devils Highway. Famous for animals of all types being on the road many motorcyclist experience big surprises when rounding a corner and finding a cow on the road. Riders were made aware of road issues, including construction near the mine and limited gasoline stops available.
We set off and soon found ourselves in a mile long section of the road under s construction near the mine. It was muddy for some and a little sketchy but everyone made it with few iffy moments. The ordeal begins, turn, turn, turn, turn. If you ride the Devils Highway enough you recognize three different sections. 1st: Many tight, tight, tight uphill turns (animals typically here), 2nd: a section of sweepers opening up to a straight section, 3rd: transitions back to twisty, twisty turns heading downhill toward the town of Alpine.
Arriving in Alpine we find a bunch of riders gassing up. We are finished with the Devils Highway. It was nice to be done as it was late afternoon and we still had 2+ hours to go on the road. Time to get moving!!
We are off to Holbrook, moving at a much steadier clip after negotiating all the turns just a little while ago. It feels good to just cruise and the roads are amazingly straight and the scenery has changed from Pine trees and mountainous terrain to the grass covered plains. We are fighting with sunset and the glare in our eyes is intense as we traverse a section heading northwest. The final turn towards Holbrook on 180 provides some relief from the glare of sunset.
We enter Holbrook, crossing the VERY busy train tracks on the south side of town. Here we run into Route 66. We are now just blocks away from the famous WigWam Hotel on Rte 66. As we approach we see the giant TeePee that will be our resting place tonight. The TeePees are definitely part of the whole Rte 66 lore, clearly visible as you pass through this area.
The TeePees are basically made of cement with one small window. Beds are basically centered in the room. The fully functional bathroom has steeply inclined walls with the shower nozzle very close to your head. A very quirky experience for sure. Remember the train tracks? I would guess a train passes the TeePees every 15 minutes, all day, all night. Nobody seemed to complain about train noise. I guess cement walls helped. The TeePees are worth experiencing if you’ve never done it.
After the long day on the road and a lot of physical exertion navigating the turns it was time for dinner. Victor made arrangements with the owners of Romos restaurant on Hopi Blvd. The owners treated us all to some nice treats and a good dinner. All appreciated after a long day on the road. We all head to the TeePees for our nights rest.
Rise and shine, Saturday, day two starts with a short jaunt to the El Rancho for breakfast. Again Victor contacted people that arranged for the restaurant to open early for us. Breakfast was fun and gift shop was loaded with large pieces of Petrified Wood (Holbrook borders the Petrified Wood National Forest and the Painted Desert National Monument).
We are off heading northward toward four corners. First we pass through the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert. The landscape could be best described as moonlike. The parks come and go fairly quickly. We are now on I-40 headed for Gallup. We are rolling 75+ mph now and the scenery passes quickly. We are now in New Mexico, passing Fort Courage, the place the TV series F-Troop was filmed. Now we head north on 491 to ShipRock our lunch stop. On the way north you see many large monoliths on the horizon.
The monoliths are the remnants of ancient volcanoes where all the material has eroded to expose the core of the volcano. There are 8+ monoliths of various sizes in this region, the largest being ShipRock. Alongside these monoliths are walls that seems to mysteriously stick out of the ground, The walls are amazing as they are 2ft think in some areas and 30-50ft tall. These walls are wobbly to the touch in some areas yet withstand the winds that have been blowing this region for thousands? millions of years? The walls are the remains of the lava tubes that fed the volcano. The monoliths are considered sacred landmarks to the Navajos tribes in this region.
Lunch is at the Naatani Nez restaurant serving Indian comfort food. This region of the New Mexico is famous for Indian Fry Bread. Victor had a Indian Fry Bread Burger. It looked to be the size of a Frisbee, HUGE HUGE. The stop and the food were welcome. We all watched to see if he could eat the whole thing. You need to ask him how he did!
The next scheduled stop was Four Corners Monument where you can stand in 4 different US States at once. Finishing lunch some were tired and the final destination for the day was Chinle, AZ. After some deliberation and time calculations most riders decided to go straight to Chinle. The most direct route to Chinle is Indian Rte 13. Rte 13 is an interesting scenic, twisty road. As you start on the route you encounter the largest wall in the region. The wall connects to ShipRock, approx 2.5 miles from the road. A great sight if you’ve never seen it. A few of us stop on the dirt pull out. Luis puts his GS in off-road mode and rides to the bottom of the monolith. Later we find out Allen Kelley rode his K1600 on the dirt road to Shiprock with some OH S**T moments. Fortunately nothing met with the ground.
Progressing west you encounter a few smaller monoliths before you head into a pine forest with a twisty mountain road. Indian 13 is very entertaining with VERY VERY tight turns for a number of miles. Eventually you are heading toward Canyon de Chelley, you are on the road on the north side of the canyon. We arrive approximately 6pm at the Best Western in Chinle. The hotel is just cross the street from the entrance to Canyon de Chelley National Monument. This is also Navajo reservation land.
The Best Western provides very comfortable dwellings for the night. While waiting to meet for dinner at the hotel a few of us made the journey to the Spider Rock overlook at Canyon de Chelley. The canyon cannot be accessed from the bottom. It is private Indian land. Guided tours are allowed in and are all four-wheel drive trips as there is much deep sand terrain in the canyon. On the rim of the canyon are overlooks accessible for the north and south sides. Nine miles from the hotel is the Spyder Rock overlook. Spyder Rock is 200ft tall monolith that stands up from the bottom of the canyon.
Dinner was tasty and filling. Some of the riders had to be reminded they were on the reservation, NO ALCOHOL !!!! But, they had ice cream, yaay. It’s understandable, fire water not the best thing for the tribal folk.
Sunday is the ride home, another rise and shine. It always seems like a long way the but the GPS says 5ish hours at normal speed. A group of us rolled out a 6am and head for home. Aiming for the Bee-Line into the Valley of the Sun. A few of us stop in Payson for breakfast at the 89 Cafe. A great stop… We are all home by noon.
It was another great trip for the AZRATPack. Everyone enjoyed the ride and the fellowship of riding. Special thanks to Victor for putting this trip together. Thanks to our sponsor GO AZ Motorcycles for supporting our club and these ride events. Thanks to the AZRATPack board for supporting the ride. Thanks to EVERYONE for coming out to share in the fun of this event. Route 66 is an evolving event where we hope to provide entertaining riding experiences and fun for our riders. We hope to see you all again for another AZRATPack memorable journey!
El Presidente’s Note:
The festivities kicked off the night before with a Meet & Greet at our General Membership Meeting & Dinner at Famous Dave’s BBQ in Peoria near GO AZ Motorcycles. Thanks to everyone that participated and made this such a memorable ride! Thanks to our Board of Directors for helping make this event happen and special thanks to Rodney for such a great synopsis of the 6’s Wild Grand Tour! Enjoy the photos below!