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Adventures in Arizona

I felt in need of a holiday. Not a week lying on a Spanish beach and drinking myself into oblivion every night but a real adventure. What I really wanted to do was ride a motorcycle across a desert…an ‘Easy Rider’ style adventure. And mores to the point, I WANTED TO DO IT ON MY OWN!
So on a more practical level I thought it fool hardy to just bugger off and hire a bike, lone woman, strange country n all that…so reached a happy medium of signing up with ‘Adventures in Arizona’ for a weeks tour around Arizona with the security of a British couple to show me around. Everything organised for me, bike, hotels, etc. I had a husband and son to return to after all!
A 10 hour flight is a dull thing… but the heat when you actually get out into the Arizona air is truly something to be experienced! After a fit-full sleep in an cool hotel, Saturday morning indicated it was time to collect my bike. The guys at Eagle Rider Phoenix could not do enough for us! We were collected in an air conditioned stretch limo from our hotel and delivered to the Harley Mega store where they gave me the keys to a 1584cc, 6 gear, fuel injected ‘Dyna Street Bobber’. The low seat position was reminiscent of my Indian but after that the similarities ended. Between us we were issued with an expensive collection of Heritage, Electra glide, Road King & Street Glide Harleys! A few wobbles while we got the hang of riding on the right and off we went. The front end seemed a little heavy for me at first, but the controls were easy to access, the clutch light and the seating position & bars comfortable, but the gear noise when you drop it into first…CLANK! (Think ring spanner in a metal bucket!)
I was one of a party of 13…all the others were couples, I was the only solo riding woman apart from Lynne one of the organisers. Felt like a pork chop at a Jewish wedding but W.D.F!
Sunday: drive up to Flagstaff, a ride that took me through classic cactus (as seen on cowboy movies) desert to pine forest. The altitude catches you out here, I started riding in a light cotton top and ended up wishing I’d not removed the winter liner from my leather tassel jacket! A journey of 140 miles. On that note my Junior Scout has a comfortable top speed of about 50mph, the Harley… well…I exceeded the limit a little as it had a tidy little power band that cut in at 73mph…and suddenly I realised that over 60mph my tassels whipped my face cruelly, over 67 the flagellation stopped! Dennis Hopper never had this problem!
Monday: From Flagstaff we rode up to the Grand Canyon, with a stop at the Trading Post. It was full of every kind of Indian culture from Navajo jewellery to animal skins, you can haggle on prices too. I did think of you all…honest! (NB: 38% of all Native American tribal lands are in Arizona).
But our main objective was to get to our helicopter ride for our first view of the Grand Canyon. I won’t try and describe the experience, but is the one occasion you can use the word ‘awesome’ without fear of contradiction. Do it before you die!
We stayed in the National Park that evening after a jeep trail ride hosted by a real character called ‘Bear’. He was drafted to Vietnam the year I was born and was a real woodsman, tracker, wrangler type. He also had the job of tracking the tourists that go missing after walking down the canyon and getting lost, as well as collecting up the bits of those that had experienced a ‘grand canyon divorce’. (The trick is to scrape up the big bits and leave the rest to the wild life!) I could have talked to him for ages.
Tuesday took us from the Canyon through the Painted Desert (its all about different mineral deposits) and to Monument Valley. A chance to really see what the Harley was about. It didn’t let me down! That bike in that terrain…just perfect. I can see the appeal. Sun burned and slightly saddle sore after the 380 mile journey across vast expanses of America we returned to Flagstaff. And with petrol only $2.75 for a U.S. gallon … they don’t know they’re born!

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Wednesday brought a trip to a Meteor crater, all very interesting, not the sort of thing I would have visited if I were making my own decisions, but it’s the compromise you make for doing a package deal. The ride and views were pretty spectacular though. In the evening we had dinner in the town of Williams on route 66. There is no mining in this area anymore since the price of copper dropped so it’s basically a tourist town now. All rather Kitch! But fun. The ride back to Flagstaff that evening was surprisingly cold, even by British standards.
Thursday bought a chance to see how the Harley managed bends. Boy! Did we do bends! Climbing and descending from Oak Creek Canyon through to Sedona (for a Bi-plane ride) dispersed my illusion that American bikes only do straight lines! This journey is rated as one of the top ten rides in America, and it truly was excellent twisty fun! I found the handling well balanced and easy to control despite the bikes weight.
Friday was even better as we covered 3 mountain ranges on our 250 mile ride back to Phoenix via Jerome, Prescott & Wickenburg. The plan was to go Drag racing when we got back, but to be honest we were all so shattered we gave it a miss preferring to park up the bikes and go to the local biker bar for a few cool ones just walking distance from the hotel. Pull up a stool, order a beer and wait for the amazing custom show to come to you! I can highly recommend the Billet Bar in Old Town Scottsdale, even if you are not a ‘custom’ fan. All VERY bling.
Saturday bought the opportunity to experience a local shooting-range, I was really looking forward to it until I walked into the gun shop. This is one part of American culture I just could not get my head around. The casual availability of high-tech weaponry at easily affordable prices came as a total shock and I decided to back out.
So, slightly shaken, it was time to return the Harley with an extra 1169.8 miles on the clock!
So would I do it again you ask? I would love to return with some close mates in the future and maybe take more time to absorb in more detail what Arizona has to offer. Doing a tour in this way meant I got to see and experience much more that I would have if I had been going at my own pace but it was pretty fast n furious. A tantalizing taster of American bike culture. The roads were generally excellent, the views un-believable, the people fantastic, as for the steak dinners…. Yumm….but you would need at least couple of months off work to truly do this part of the world justice. If you are going to give it a go I would suggest you get a bike with cruise-control mode, it makes the long distances a little less tiring.

Will I chop in the Indian to buy a Harley?…now that’s a different matter… watch this space!

I wonder if they need Tech. Teachers in Arizona?
They also do a Southern tour based in Tucson.

Kate Hatton  

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