Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Arizona Part 3

This post concludes the three Arizona Postings from my 2015 Fall Road Trip.

The Superstitions and the Apache Trail

The Apache Trail is an old Stagecoach Route that has become one of the key features of the Tonto National Forest just east of the Phoenix/Mesa Area. The other key feature is the Superstition Mountains, home of the Lost Dutchman Mine.

The overall loop is 125 miles starting in Apache Junction, Arizona. The Superstitions loop on the horizon as you roll down Main Street from Mesa into Apache Junction and then onto the Apache Trail. It's an amazing scene.

Of the 125 miles, the 44 miles of Route 88 North provided the best of the Tonto National Forest. This stretch is windy/curvy mountain road and includes 22 miles of extremely rough and very narrow dirt roads, as reflected in grey on the map above. The dirt stretch includes the infamous Fish Creek Hill, a 1,500 foot elevation drop at 15-17 degrees along the side of a seemingly bottomless cliff. More on that later.

Goldfield Mining Village is a replica mining town. It wasn't very active as I rolled in. Perhaps its out of season.

Much of the roadway circumnavigates the very scenic Canyon Lake.

Tortilla Flats is the last stop before the dirt patch. Restaurants, souvenir shops and even a rustic saloon.

The dirt road didn't start out too bad, but it back very rough...washboard like...and in some stretches it was very loose sand, enough to get your front end going wonky. This road isn't really a good road for street motorcycles. If you don't have dirt bike riding skills I wouldn't ride it.

By dirtbike riding I mean...

  • Air down at least your front tire (I aired down from 36 to 25). Airing down makes the tire surface-to-ground contact longer, not wider, thus making for more surface area.
  • Use only your rear brake and engine braking. Front braking is going to cause you to washout. 
  • Steer with your feet and knees in a standing position (my risers came in handy on this ride). It's sort of kicking the rear around.
  • Don't use traction controls if you have them. You want to fight the slipper surface and traction controls are going to work against you.
  • Finally, however counterintuitive it may seem, riding faster is easier than creeping along these kind of roads. Care in the tight corners is still warranted to avoid slipping and running into the front of an RV.

This is where Fish Creek Hill starts its decline. It's an elevation drop of 1,500 feet at a grade of 15-17 degrees. It took me about 8 to 10 minutes. Those are not guardrails on the left. They appeared to be made of thin plywood.

The bottom of the hill is in sight...

... and here I'm rolling up to the single-vehicle width Fish Creek Bridge.

This photo shows some of the Fish Creek Hill Road from the bottom. It's an amazing road.

Finally, the dirt stretch ends at Route 188. From there its all highways back to Apache Junction.

Amazing road. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to go to Arizona. Really wish I could have done the dirt section on my Yamaha Super Tenere.

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