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Tropicana Express - Laughlin, NV

“High on a mountain, wind blowing free
Thinking of the days that used to be”

Riding from Las Vegas to Laughlin reminded me of that Stan Ridgway song of “Mexican Radio” fame.  We felt the hot wind on our shoulders as the group rode through the Mojave Desert, and this number is stuck in my head, perfectly fitting the experience.

We arrived at the Laughlin River Run prior to the rally hitting full speed.  The streets were eerily absent of motorcycles and the few open vendor booths didn’t have a large parade of people yet.  It could have been mistaken for just any other day along Casino Drive.  Our plans didn’t have us staying but one night in Laughlin as we had a lot of far reaching scenery in Arizona to cover.

A quick scan after returning indicated that attendance was around 35,000 people who showed up to take in the festivities which was slightly up from last year.  The economy did make an impact as there were about half the normal number of vendors in the casino parking lots.  And other than four DUI arrests and a new 2010 H-D motorcycle catching fire due to an oil leak it was largely an uneventful weekend.  Certainly different from the 90+ arrests back in 2007.

THE GRAND CANYON
I like to try and think up biker quotes.  You know the type.  A journey of a thousand miles begins with a dead battery.  But I don’t have anything for thirty degrees and snow which is what we hit!  On Thursday we were only on the South Rim for a couple hours.  Deployed at the Bright Angel Lodge and the weather made it down right uncomfortable.

Grand Canyon

Someone in the posse stated they hadn’t been there since the ‘70s.  Needless to say, the Grand Canyon hadn’t changed.  It’s vast!  Far larger than you can imagine, almost too big to comprehend.  A huge hole with giant mountains amidst the vast valleys.

After taking in the frigid panorama scene, our plan was to limit the viewpoints and return to warmth.  Fog prevented any visibility for the first 30 minutes, but then the views turned awesome with the sheer walls nearby emblazoned red.  One could get out on the edge and look straight down.  And that’s what it is, straight down.  A cliff.  The sides of the Grand Canyon don’t slope they are vertical.  You’re just feet away from an abyss.

Posse At Grand Canyon

Then suddenly there is a realization that you’re standing in snow and could slip.  And did you really want to go this way?  This isn’t how it’s supposed to be in America.  The land of helmets, seatbelts and airbags, where we release our children into society in bubble wrap, worried they might get bruised by the slightest of contact.  America is safe, we’re protected.  Clearly they didn’t get the memo at the Canyon.  Angled and uneven paths meant that a stumble or a slight slip and you’re a goner!  We stepped away from the cliff and made our way to the restaurant to warm up. In route we stopped to talk with some riders who traveled from Germany and couldn’t believe the snow.  We overnighted outside the canyon park in Tusayan and watched the snow fall during dinner.

Skull Valley Arizona

RIDING SKULL VALLEY
On Friday we were looking to ride in some warmer weather and wasted no time in making our way south.  We had a chili dog lunch at the famous Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner in Kingman then it was off to Lake Havasu.  We arrived to witness a large number of people and performance boats in town for the Desert Storm races.  Complete with stereo and shoot out contests for the fastest boat in the west.  On Saturday morning based on some local feedback the night before we decided to back track to Highway 93 and head south toward Phoenix then take SR97 and SR96 through Skull Valley.  There we were amidst the lonely cacti and occasional sage brush riding through sweeping canyons on highway 93.

There is a captivating beauty on this road along with solitude as few cagers venture out this way.  Then we turned onto SR97 which provided plenty of curves and twisty tarmac.  With quick elevation changes it was a great escape as the broad sweepers brought us face-to-face with the so-called “Arizona motorcycle experience.”

We got a taste of history in the small town of Skull Valley.  It’s home to the Prescott Pandemonium Motorcycle Rally and we grabbed burgers at the local diner which as luck would have it opened only a couple days earlier.  We were rewarded with some good food and great service!

We continued riding up to Prescott on AZ 89A and then through the Prescott National Forest.  The small town of Jerome reminded of Virginia City, NV as it has a very similar mining history.  Our view of the town was from the motorcycle seat and I hope to visit again when I have more time to take in the scene.  We continued on 89A to Sedona hoping to find a motel.  Unfortunately with Sedona being the second most popular tourist destination after the Grand Canyon we had to push on to Flagstaff because rooms were full.  The 45 minute ride up through Oak Creek Canyon was a cool sub-50 degrees, but the sun setting provided spectacular photo’s of the red sandstone formations.  We roared right past the Mogollon Rim rest area and view the valley, rather headed directly to a Best Western on Route 66 and jumped into a hot shower!

Sedona, Arizona

On our final day of travel we had to ride back to Las Vegas and drop the motorcycles.  Heading out of Flagstaff on I-40 becomes a little “boring” with about a 2000 feet drop in less than an hour and nothing but scrubland as far as eye can see.  The 75MPH speed limit kept us alert especially trying to dodge the numerous ruts and pot holes made from so many semi-trucks.  This is the worst interstate road I’ve traveled and maybe the worst highway in Arizona?  At Kingman, we rolled onto highway 93 toward Hoover Dam and the scrubland became most flat from Grasshopper Junction until we got within 10 miles of the dam.  We rolled across the dam and made our way into Las Vegas for the motorcycle drop with KGM Motorcycle Transport who did a great job and a shout out to Mike!

With bikes loaded and temperatures nearing 90 degrees the snow in the canyon was a distant memory as refreshments in the Hard Rock came to our minds.

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