"Trip to the House of Stone and Light"
Phoenix to Flagstaff/Grand Canyon, AZ
And Back Again
7/29/06 - 7/31/06
Well, we started out of Phoenix Saturday morning on the Unamed Ultra
and my beloved Loki, heading
 North up the 17 to Camp Verde, then hung a left to Sedona
on a very lovely two lane road.  For those unfamiliar with the red
rock country (and what the rides look like):

Then on up through Sedona - red rocks, pink jeeps and trolley cars. A little 60's San Francisco meets New Age meets timeless rock. Out of town, congestion eases and the natural beauty of Oak Creek Canyon hits your senses. Tall trees cast cool green shade and the air is fresh evergreen. The rocks are red and high above us and Oak Creek falls from view as we climb the twisties to the rim...(ever notice how ya can't get pictures of the twisties cuz you're busy riding them????) along with a few other scoots ;^) . From there we skeedaddled up to Flagstaff, found our hotel and settled in for the night. OK, OK, for the Ride to Eat crowd, we had fish&chips and (wait for it...) sushi. Yes. and very good sushi. In Arizona (restaurant "Sakura" in the Radisson). Lots of lightening and thunder and rain in the night, we discovered Loki's hardbags are *not* waterproof. Fortunately I hadn't left much in them. We pack up and hit the road to the Big Hole... This is a beautiful ride on more blue line... lots of Bambi warning signs but fortunately no sight of them. We had a few bright puffy clouds and dry road, climbing to 8,046 feet, among the scrub forest and wildflowers (that's one of them in my teef, it's not blood... really, it's not.
We got closer and closer, and there is no clue that there's a canyon ahead. A bit of a line to pay admission ($12 per scoot, it all goes to the park service to maintain facilities) and one of the rangers commented to Pops - "Ya got one of them hybrid bikes. part gasoline and part feet." Heh. A mile or so through country that kind of reminds me of the Santa Cruz mountains- smaller trees, but that same rocky and dry beauty. The first parking lot was full, only clue of the canyon was the pedestrians streaming across the parking lot like lemmings to the sea. There was an SUV just loading up and the driver asked us if we wanted the spot. YES. SUV pulls out and parks behind other parked cars, Pops pulls in nose first but I can tell I'll not be able to back out with my nose downhill so while i'm pulling up and backing in, the tourists (Israeli, as it turns out) are chatting up the Popster. By the time I pull in, they're all over the Ultra, taking pictures. Joe mutters, "They wanted pictures!" I'm cracking up - " Hallo? Did you not use all your film on that big hole over there?" (which I still haven't seen!). Somewhere in Israel there is a photo album with pictures of smiling children and parents on a rented Ultra... Finally, we stroll across the lot and down a little stone pathway... and there is the House of Stone and Light:
There are no words to describe it. It's hard to throw your mind around the immensity - I kept wanting to believe it was a painting. We stood and stared. And walked along the edge and stared. We watched the beautiful white thunderheads gathering on the North Rim - far away and benign:
And then we turned around and saw what had been sneaking up behind us. Black and gray and wet and looming just over our heads. We hopped on the bikes and boogied, but there was no boogie that was fast enough to outrun it, it was crossing out path. We had to stop for gas and Pops put on the rainjacket. As we pulled out onto a shoulderless road that leads through a lot of nowhere, it hit. Hard. My leathers were holding up pretty good - lightening was flashing all around us (we're at 8000ft - height matters). I couldn't hear my pipes over the rain, wind and thunder. I couldn't see the road through the rain, mist and splash. I could see the yellow line and the white line and the pale red tail light on the Ultra. Then, the brake lights gleamed, the right turn signal came on and with a breath of relief I followed him off the road onto.... a deep gravel driveway. Gravel is not my favorite road topping and this was about 8" deep. No matter, there was shelter ahead. OK, sort of. It was an abandoned motel with a leaky overhang, but enough for Joe to pull on his rainpants as the wind whipped up a notch higher and hail started blowing in sideways. Then we notice that the little puddle out in front is rising and if we don't get our tails outta there, our pipes will be under water on the way out. We did a reasonably elegant job of riding out over 8" of gravel with 10" of water on top. My one thought on the way out was, "Gee, this would be a real bad time to drop a bike." So I refrained. 60 miles of blowing rain, hail and no viz whatsoever. At one point I was grateful that while my right side was soaked and running water into my boots, my left side was merely damp. Then the wind shifted. Naturally. A couple of miles out of Flag we outran it - imagine two black scoots and two riders, streaming steam... We pulled up to the first red light and looked at one another. The first words outta my mouth were, "What a GREAT RIDE!". I'd do it again. I'd wear a rainsuit, but I'd do it again today. Soaked to the skin, literally. Hot shower cured most ills. Warm bed and sound sleep cured the rest. The road back was without incident, we took Hwy 17 and stopped at Sunset overlook (so I could remove a couple of layers of clothes - the drop in altitude pushes the temps back up to where they should be - upper 90's, low 100's): and home. Somehow gettin' home just makes me crave the road more...

last modified 08/02/2006