Overland Motorcycle Trip: The Southwest United States Part 2

Posted by Justin Lewis on Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Waking up early, we mounted our steads and headed towards Wire Pass on HWY 89 to continue our overland motorcycle trip. We were looking for House Rock Valley road. Should be easy, right? Nope, we blew past it! Hanging a u-turn in the middle of the road, our first long haul on dirt started off on hard packed gravel road and we proceeded quickly with confidence until we came around a corner to the sight of a big, deep, sandy, wash. Oh fuck! We stopped and assessed the situation geez there’s a lot of sand down there we thought. Do we go back and around the long way or just go for it? After some deliberation, Mitch said fuck it and got his throttle hand ready. Justin smartly walked across the wash to gain a good vantage point for some photos if/when some shit went down. Switching into 1st gear, Mitch gave El Tractor everything she had and was almost immediately off course! The front wheel gripped the sand and was pulled deeper and deeper into the grainy abyss. Before you could count to 3, Mitch was down and so was El Tractor!



Justin dropped the camera and ran over to help Mitch get the bike off his leg. Quickly approaching was a BLM fire ranger, he asked Mitch if he was ok and then standing up he quickly said “My bodies fine, but my pride just took a nasty woopin!” Damn, that was a close one! Of course, Justin casually dropped into and through the wash without a problem. Lesson of the Day: Going as FAST as you can through a sandy wash area probably isn’t the best approach!

Safely across the wash, the Boys drove a couple more miles to the Wire Pass trailhead. Stripping down to shorts and chacos, the Fellas were ready for some slot canyons! There was one particular 12 foot drop that gave hikers issues both coming and going. We took turns lowering and guiding each other down.


Along the trail, we met several interesting people. An accountant from Iowa and his girlfriend, and Tim from Tucson who was hiking with his son. After the hike, we had a lengthy conversation with Tim about how his cousin had done a very similar trip the prior year. The only difference was that they were in a Honda CRV (Destination South). We picked up several good pointers – 1) Language school in Mexico could be the most beneficial thing we do 2) If you have a disagreement with your tow truck driver don’t let them ANYWHERE NEAR your gas tank, or you may wind up with sugar in it 3) Peruvian women are seductive and will quite certainly have you yearning for a return trip 4) If you trigger your Delorme InReach in the Bolivian Salt Flats you’ll have 20 Federales surrounding you in no time. We exchanged information with Tim (which we subsequently lost – sorry Tim) and continued down the gravel road with a final destination of the North Rim Grand Canyon.


About 12 miles from the trailhead, we spotted a somewhat conspicuous truck and trailer hanging out in the middle of the road. As we got closer and closer we heard gunshots coming out of the truck and Justin was sure he saw a shotgun barrel coming out of the driver side window! Approaching the vehicle with caution, we came upon Buck Tooth Billy, PBR in hand, explaining that he was on his daily coyote hunt! You never know who/what you’re going to run across while out in the sticks!

After a total of 30 miles of dirt, we ran dead into HWY 89A before making a hard right hand turn steadily climbing in elevation towards the North Rim. As we ascended, the scenery changed from desert and red rock canyons to lush green forests and the temperatures plummeted with the setting sun. Once again, Justin busted out the second pair of gloves,while Mitch continued to be warmed by the lavish heated motorcycle grips. Running out of day light, we found a National Forest Service road about 6 miles outside the park entrance. We promptly set up camp, made a fire, and sat down to enjoy a nice hot meal of mac n’cheese and tuna, mmm mmm good!


Entering the park the following morning, we headed straight for the backcountry permit office after learning about some dirt road access from one of the lodge maintenance workers (he also told us it was a great place to take your lady, but that’s a WHOLE different story!). Steve, in the permit office, was equally, if not more, excited about the possibilities at our finger tips. Within the first 14 seconds he had printed out 3 maps for us that showed various dirt roads outside of the park leading directly to the canyon edge (all offering free rural camping). After a drive out to Point Imperial and being annoyed by the masses of people in the park, we left in search of some good backcountry riding and our free camping spot! Using Steve’s collection of maps as our guide, we thought navigating the labyrinth of roads should be no problem. NOPE! We ended up off course finding ourselves on the low side of a HUGE hill we should have been on top of…SHIT!


The road was pretty cool though but obviously didn’t get much use and eventually turned to mud. DOUBLE SHIT!! Mitch, utilizing his “gun it till you make it tactics” was able to blast through while Justin’s “slow and steady wins the race” methodology found him in a messy situation (literally). He got stuck for a couple minutes, covering his pants in mud. Shortly after the mud pit, the road sharply turned right and up, straight up (TRIPLE SHIIITTTT!!!). The trail was loose, rocky and rutted enough to qualify as BLACK DIAMOND in any arena. The Team struggled, stalling multiple times, sliding backwards, and profusely sweating. Let me assure you, this isn’t easy when you have an additional 100 lbs of gear on your bike! By the time we’d reached 2/3rd of the way up both bikes had been dropped (only once). We eventually made it to the apex, exhausted and thirsty, finding our intended route. After a few smooth miles, we reached our campsite at North Timp. Sitting just 50 yards from the canyon rim, it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves! After we got camp setup, we grabbed the IPA’s we purchased from the local country store and walked to the edge to enjoy the sunset.

Long after dark, after filling our gullets with mac n’ cheese (sensing a theme yet?), pepperoni, and some local vegetables, we stepped out under the full moon (or damn close to it) and wandered back over to the rim. What we saw was something that could only be imagined, like a Vinny Van Gogh painting. The moon shined brightly above the canyon, casting its shadows deep into the various crags and crevasses.


We spent the next day off the bikes hiking the Rainbow Trail in hopes of catching some more polarizing views of the North Rim. Instead, what we found was a meandering trail that was not all too difficult yet held its own beauty. About 4 miles in, we reached another viewing point. We enjoyed a Lara Bar and then decided it was time to head back to camp.

The next morning, we awoke at 6 AM in order to catch the sunrise over the canyon. We were joined by the only two other campers, Susan and Doug. They graciously shared coffee with us as we all sat there in awe of the morning light painting the canyon. Susan and Doug are from Seattle and typically travel in their camper for a few months a year. They shared some incredible stories with us about living, working and traveling in the Middle East in the late 70s/early 80s and the genuine hospitality and friendship they received. THANKS AGAIN SUSAN AND DOUG!

Having been up since sunrise, we decided to pack up and head out of the canyon. The winds had been relentless and blowing at 30-40 MPH the entire 3 days we camped. It was time to head on to Flagstaff. We didn’t make it more than 40 miles before we stopped at The Jacob Lake Inn for a break. Justin immediately approached the baked goods and purchased two peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. If heaven were a cookie, we found it! After trying to coerce the front desk lady to cut us a deal on a room, and weighing our other options, we finally caved purchasing a room for the night. Our pleading must have paid off because the manager gave us a room with two bed…TWO BEDS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE! No words can properly define how we felt after taking a warm shower (separate), eating a delicious meal at the hotel restaurant, and getting a good nights rest (did we mention we got our OWN BEDS?!).

Thoroughly rested, we woke up early and headed back to the restaurant for some more home cooked deliciousness. Taking off, we quickly dissected HWY 89A and were in Flagstaff around lunch time. After a quick debate in the strip mall parking lot, we decided to keep riding to Phoenix. The views were spectacular and exceeded both Riders expectations. Who knew Northern Arizona had such varying landscapes?! The back roads were empty and weaved in and out and up and down out of forests and mountains. So neat it was. About 20 miles outside Phoenix, with the sun dipping beneath the horizon, the Boys pulled over to take off their sunglasses and determine their final route into the city. Within seconds, Mitch realized El Tractor was getting a little pissy. Why are you running so HOT, he asked? Does your tummy hurt? Usually, he would just give her some Sprite and chicken noodle soup and call it a night but something was different this time. After allowing the baby to settle down a bit, the Team limped into Phoenix eventually rolling into our friend Alex’s house. Just as El Tractor began spitting, steaming, and hissing all sorts of obscenities. Had the radiator taken a shit? Why was there no coolant left in the reservoir? Stay tuned to find out!