The tour started (for me) on Thursday evening with a ride down to The Thumb in Scottsdale with my friend George. We met up in Pine, AZ and did the 2 hour ride down to arriveÂ right on time. It was a beautiful evening Â and I immediately felt welcome even though this was only the 2nd or 3rd time I had met any of these folks; the earlier events being their monthly breakfast. While everyone else dived into the yummy looking, and fantastic smelling, BBQ offered by The Thumb, George and I elected to gas up and head to our hotel where I knew there was some outstanding seared salmon waiting (and had talked George into trying it). Luckily for me, he thought it was great too.
The next morning we grabbed breakfast and headed for Go AZ Motorcycles in Scottsdale where, to my surprise, almost 40 riders showed up to sign-in and get the daily briefing. The plan had changed slightly (as plans on long rides usually do) and we found out we would be having lunch at the Cameron Trading post in Cameron, AZ (just north of the turn-off to the Grand Canyon) rather than in Tuba City as had earlier been planned. This was probably a good thing as it took quite awhile to get there and it was the second gas stop of the day. (Tuba city was about another half hour or more up the road). Everyone signed the required document showing proof of insurance and license, grabbed some water and bagels, secured their alien to their bike (mine is named Marvin) and received their official Alien Abduction Tour Sticker (really great design – see the image at the top of this article). Then there was the obligatory group photo (which was the last time I saw some of these folks). While this was a group ride, most did not actually ride in a group as that tends to get sketchy on Arizona freeways, especially I-17. Instead it was either individuals or small groups of 2 or 3 or 4 riders (mostly). I did pass one group with about a dozen or so who seemed to be comfortable keeping it tight so I assumed they have ridden together on past journeys. But since we were all headed in the same direction and it was very straightforward to get there, it wasn’t really an issue. In fact, I felt more at ease cruising to my own beat knowing there were riders just up in front and more right behind me should anything happen.
The first gas stop was a quickie in Camp Verde. Gas, hydrate, and get getting. The ride up not too bad (weekend traffic can be bad but it was relatively early on Friday so no issues). The temperature dropped to a very pleasant coolness coming into Flagstaff and the snow on the San Francisco peaks was gorgeous. Passing Flagstaff we hopped onto State Route 89 and across the Painted Desert. I have been there many times but never have the colors been more vibrant. (Sorry, no photos while riding. Maybe next year.)
Stopping in Cameron for a “quick” lunch didn’t exactly go as planned, although I really had no plan. I had lost track of George right at the start so just walked in the restaurant to see what was what. There I was immediately invited to join some folks I had never met before at their table. These folks were with the SCMA (Southern California Motorcycle Association) and had done this trip before. In fact, they had to ride several hundred miles just to get to Scottsdale so they were well into the trip at this point.Â I was almost overwhelmed by how friendly everyone was. I had been to many, many rides in the past where no one even bothered to say hello unless you did first. So at this point I was really starting to enjoy the trip.
I ended up riding to Page, AZ, our destination for the evening, with these folks and I’m glad I wasn’t alone as I might have fallen off my bike due to being distracted by the gorgeous scenery from Cameron into Page. I have been though here several times in the past, but never at this time of day and the colors and clear air made the whole thing incredible to behold.
Lunch had taken awhile so we arrived later than Â we wanted, but still in time to do a boat tour (Thanks Patricia for holding the boat for me. I would not have made it if you hadn’t done that).
The boat ride was well worth the cost as the views were stunning and accompanied by an audio tour that explained the history and geology of the places we were seeing. Next time I plan to tour the slot canyon at the OTHER end of Antelope Canyon. Photos I saw from there were amazing. Check out the photos from the boat tour in the Photo Gallery.
We returned from the boat tour with just about an hour before our planned dinner, meeting at 7:15 PM (Arizona Time) at the Rainbow Room in the Lake Powell Resort where we were staying. Dinner was very good, if a bit pricey and the company, once again the luck of the draw, was delightful. It is amazing to me how varied the backgrounds of motorcyclists can be, with thisÂ one shared passion for motorcycles overcoming everything else to define friendships that can last decades. It makes me think that if we just got to know each other better in other walks of life, society would be much better off. … But I digress.
Day 1 ended after 300+ miles and some fantastic weather. The trip was going great and looked like it would get even better.
The second day started early. Kick stands up at 7 am for 500 miles through more beautiful country, lunch next to Area 51 in Rachel Nevada, then on to Las Vegas. Personally I could have skipped Las Vegas as I don’t really like the place, but I did want to get a couple of photos there and it was on the way so … what the hey!
It was quite a bit cooler Saturday, but one extra sweater and a pair of heavier gloves and I was good to go. This part of the ride passed through just as many variations of scenery as the day before. From sweeping vistas and mountains to deep canyons and twisty curves. One member of the tour (no names please) was pulled over approaching Kanab, Utah. However I later learned the officer let him off with a warning so, thank you to the Utah police. I assure you everyone was better behaved for the rest Â of the time we were in Utah.. Of course that is fairly easy to do when you pull onto Interstate 15 and the speed limit it 80! (I bet they have some spectacular crashes in Utah.) Anyway, this was a windy section but nonetheless beautiful. I could easily live in Utah if it wasn’t a tad too cool for me.
Our first fill-up of the day was in Cedar City. We took a few minutes to catch our breath and make sure everything was ship shape and headed west toward Caliente, NV. I have been here in August and believe me that name has been earned! We actually filled up just outside Caliente and then continued on to Rachel, NV just outside Area 51, where we had delicious Alien Burgers, bought souvenirs, and took many, many photos. Someone in a group that had arrived ahead of us did not have enough fuel to get back to the next gas station (A real problem in these parts. Plan you fuel stops VERY carefully.) So this poor fellow bought some gas from a local that had some 5 gallons cans ready to help out unsuspecting tourists. Unfortunately, the gas was not in good shape. I’m not sure if it was old, or had oil in it or what exactly was the issue, but the bike immediately started running rough and dumping jet black smoke out the exhaust. So, siphon all that fuel back out, wait until someone came up with some good fuel to replace it, put in the good fuel, run it until it stopped acting up, then off they went.
I saw some photos later where some riders took the long dirt road up into the hills to the Area 51 gate. I felt no need to do so as I have seen plenty of Air Force restricted area signs in my life. Plus, I was hoping to get to Las Vegas in time to take a couple of photos before whatever we were doing at 7 PM (the designated meeting time for some group event).
Riding into Las Vegas the temperature jumped considerably and for the first time all day I was uncomfortable in the saddle with really no place to pull over safely to get rid of some leather. So after toughing it out in heavy, hot traffic for 30 minutes, by the time we checked in to our room at Hooters Hotel and Casino, most of us were fairly ripe. That put the idea of getting those photos I wanted on the back burner for a well deserved shower before we all met in the lobby at the designated 7 pm hour. Oh well, I’ll get up 30 minutes early and grab them in the morning.
At 7 pm most of us met in the hotel lobby and found out that the group dinner would be across the street at the MGM Dinner Buffet. It was a bit pricey, but this is Las Vegas. Everything is stupidly expensive. So we all hoofed it down and across the street to find the buffet.
The casinos in Las Vegas are big. I mean, immensely, hugely big. I once was lost in the Venetian for over an hour, just trying to get from one side to the other so I could get to my room. The MGM is no different. Luckily, someone in our group knew where the buffet was. But once in line, George and I decided we would see if we could find something a bit less expensive. After walking around for about 30 minutes, we found the Food Court. Las Vegas prices still, but much more reasonable.
After dinner, George and I walked back to the hotel. It took awhile, but I discovered that Google maps can actually help you navigate inside the hotel! Who knew!
Back at our hotel we met up with a friend of George’s and grabbed a pint at the bar. We decided the 3 of us would get out of Las Vegas at 7 am and find breakfast on the way home. Sounded like a good plan and by now it was getting late so off to bed.
First things first. I wanted that photo damn it. So I got up at 5:30 am, showered, dressed for the morning ride, grabbed my packed bag and headed for my bike. On the way to the garage I met a security person who was obviously some sort of supervisor and he did not look happy. Upon entering the garage I found out why. HORRORS! Someone had fairly obviously kicked over aÂ motorcycle. I thought I might know who it belonged to so I dropped my stuff next to my bike and went over to see what was what. The bike was not leaking gas and the kick stand was still down, now standing in the air like a raised fist to whomever decided this would be fun to do. I grabbed a photo but was prohibited from touching the bike in any way by the security personnel who were surveying the scene for clues and toÂ write it up for their insurance company.
I wasn’t going to say anything about Hooters Hotel and Casino because the bed was comfortable and clean and the staff polite and friendly, but after this I decided I’d mention that I have been in nicer “No-Tell” Motels. Don’t stay here.
On our way out of town, just before we got to Hoover Dam, we stopped for breakfast at the newly remodeledÂ HooverÂ Dam Lodge Hotel and Casino (mostly hotel/museum). The place was gorgeous and immaculate. I don’t know what the rooms are like but saw a family come out and go by and they were quite happy. Breakfast was inexpensive and delicious and our waitress was a hoot.The next time I’m in the area, this is where I am staying.
The ride for day 3 was meant to head back to Scottsdale. Not being from Scottsdale it didn’t seem to make sense when going home was already further than that. BUT, it DID make sense to take a short detour following Route 66 from Kingman to Seligman, so we did that.
The ride was great with no traffic to speak of. However, it started to get windy and by the time we got back to Strawberry I was glad to be out of it.
Oh, and that photo I wanted to get so badly was me in front of the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign. Enjoy!
All in all, this was one of the most interesting rides I have ever done. In fact, it was the first long distance ride, 1,242 miles by the time I pulled up at the house, that I had ever done with a group. As it stands now, I can’t wait to ride with these people again, maybe on the 5th annual Alien Abduction Tour!
Thanks so much to all my new friends. You made a badly needed vacation fun.