Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Gila Monster Lives!



SEVERAL years back, during a late November ride, I had mapped a route that would get me out to some Jeep trails and also allow me a shake down cruise of a couple hundred miles (or more).  From my home in Glendale in the early morning, before traffic begins in earnest... I would ride directly across greater Phx on surface streets to Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd and then head out on the Beeline highway.

Entering the Superstitions

Self explanatory

If you have never been to Phx or most any large urban city in the US of A, my experience riding in Arizona or Southern California generally includes riding on various freeways, which of course is not what the XT 350 was designed for.  Street legal yes, but also basically a TT 350 off road play bike.

Because of the need to ride so much urban area to get me off road, I bought the used XT for just this purpose, a dual purpose you might say:)  I had owned a TT 350 some years ago during the early 90's and found it to be a remarkable trail bike.  Lot's of grunt, easy to start (automatic de-compressor helps)

Famous Tortilla flats and the end of pavement
The only disadvantage was the rather tall seat height which typically required me to find a rut/rock/curb or other such obstacle that would assist me when at a standstill especially when starting the engine.  I liked the decent suspension, the plastic fuel tank of the TT and the 6 speed transmission not to mention for it's day, a thoroughly modern DOHC 4V engine.



For my late November ride, I chose a route that would take me out of Phoenix central, up through the mountains into the Mogollon Rim and the city of Payson.



As it turned out with the jetting problems I was having and the low gearing supplied by the last owner of the bike being a hindrance, I made a mid route decision in fact literally at the last minute, engine bucking with the ahem... modified features of the bike attributed to the previous owners obsession with lean burning engines to pass emission  testing. and turned off State route 87 onto route 188.

The significance of this over the last few years being that I absolutely loved this area which included the Tonto National Forest, Roosevelt Dam, a spectacular bridge and of course the Apache Trail... leading me back unexpectedly, into the city of Apache Junction and home on the bed of a trailer when I suffered a puncture.  (I wrote that story in CB issue 290 "Karma on the Apache Trail" April 2013)

That trip was only an appetizer if you can call a road that, given that it was almost completely on paved roads with the occasional detour on a FSR* into the hinterland.  Only a chance meeting with a helpful KLR rider, who I just happened on packing his camera as I was shutting down on a gravel pull out ultimately contributed to my desire to explore this area in depth. He pointed out that my rear tire was looking flat and sure enough, it was.  With his help and a bottle of Slime and an air pump, I was able to continue homeward.

Overlooking an arm of Apache Lake

My planned ride to Payson, changed by circumstance into a detour onto 188 from where I heading in the direction of Globe until I was forced into a further detour onto the 23 mile gravel section known as the Apache Trail from where I was, through the Apache river valley bisecting this area of the famous Superstition mountains.

Fast forward.

Since that fateful trip, I have covered much of the back country in the vicinity, several times traversing the Superstitions to such places as Payson, Young, Tortilla Flats and of course the Mogollon Rim.  This... was real Out West Country up until fairly recently not much more than 50 years ago.  Even in modern day Arizona, residents are still independent and although F 150's have replaced "Old Paint", modern day Arizonan's are still packing heat!  This is a state that has very liberal gun laws and you will often be greeting by signage indicating that "Guns are not allowed" in restaurants, stores and some public buildings.  There is so much gun activity out there that if you could somehow collect all the millions of brass casing from spent cartridges... you'd probably retire as a millionaire!

Fish Creek valley floor

I had ridden the Apache Trail from east to west and back now, several times.  If I rode this route a dozen more times, I wouldn't tire of it.

Roosevelt Lake part of the Salt River system

From the deep blue of the reservoir of Roosevelt Lake, the winding river valleys that alternate from road level to high up in the mountains where the Lost Dutchman found his Eldorado and then lost it for all history, to the absolutely amazing canyon of Fish Creek.  In perpetual shade, the thousand foot high sheer cliff face provides a cool departure from the typical Arizona heat which can easily get into 120F temperatures. Caves abound and the dry riverbed is not far from the relative lushness of the river and the various lakes that are part of the Salt River project.

Down into Fish Creek

Over the years I have ridden on highway 87, 188, 288 down the Mogollon Rim, but had never completed the circumnavigation of the largest Lake in the State nor have I been to Globe.  After moving back into my place this April, and having the benefit of my friendly neighbor Judy's brother's truck, I was determined to link up a few more paved roads via the unpaved back roads and trails.

I don't know how much longer I will be coming the thousands of miles from my northern home to my southern home, so covering ground is a priority for me in what little time I may have left to do such exploring.  I maintain that even if we had 10 lifetimes, you would never see all the wonders the planet has for us mere humans.

... to be continued



The desert calls to me!


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