Parker Dam to Phoenix, AZ is about 170 miles, but we took the back roads and that made it an 8 hour ride. I’m convinced that Arizona has the best highways on the planet. The asphalt is flawless, and the scenery is spectacular. That’s why a lot of people migrate south from the northern states during the winter months to bask in the sun and enjoy this beautiful state. The open roads and sunny skies of late were calling not only us, but many other motorcyclists to the road as I have never seen so many motorcyclists on as in I did in Arizona. There were motorcycle gangs and solo riders everywhere we looked. As long as you stay in the shade, the temperatures are actually not too bad but. No wonder you don’t even see bugs out in the heat of the day.
On our way to Phoenix we stopped at a cool little Western town called Wickenburg with hitching posts and statues of people in old-fashioned attire. The town almost looked deserted but it was clean and we found a great shady spot by some fenced off train cars next to the Chamber of Commerce. We were really dehydrated and some lady kindly gave us a cold bottle of water and filled up the rest of our bottles. A friendly local guy named Scott, who was a rider as well, came over to see the bike, and since my trusty Garmin GPS had just stopped working for some odd reason, he gave us some good directions to avoid the Phoenix rush-hour traffic.
We made it to Phoenix rather late at night with no place to stay. Cynthia convinced me that we should try to send out a last-minute request on couchsurfing.com to see if anyone would put us before we tried to find a cheap hotel. We’re on a rather strict budget and try to use hotels only as a last resort. Around 9:15 p.m. we got a call from Ryan who welcomed us to his home in a beautiful Mesa suburb. We were his first couch surfers ever, and Ryan turned out to be a first-class host. His home was immaculate and comfortable. Ryan helped us do our laundry and feel human again after riding in the desert for the past few days with no shower. After sleeping in, we woke up delighted to be on the receiving end of Ryan’s delicious cooking and enjoyed the gourmet breakfast that he had waiting for us before we went on our way. Thank you, Ryan, for opening up your home to us at the last minute.
We found shade and a place to work on the bike at the local Wal-Mart service bay where the employees helped us a lot with providing degreaser, rags, and washing container for me to clean the dusty clogged air filter that was making the bike choke and replace the windshield. My friend, Laura Blackwood, met up with us with a refreshing frappuccino in hand to cool us off and brought us our mail and the new windshield from National Cycle which had been shipped to her for us to pick up. National Cycle generously replaced the cracked windshield at no charge. National Cycle is one of the leaders in the motorcycle windshield market, and they make quality shields for a broad range of motorcycles. I’ve been very happy with their products and will continue to use them. Thanks to Steve at National Cycle for assisting me with taking care of this problem.
Laura is multi-faceted woman with many interests and talents. She has worked in radio and is a great story-teller thanks to her background in radio and education in English. After chatting for a while and reviewing maps with Laura, we said our good-byes and left Mesa for Northern Arizona’s high country. A big thank-you to Laura for her assistance in helping us out with bringing our mail and for the frappuccino. We gradually climbed higher into cooler climes and the cactus-covered land gradually gave way to full-fledged pine forests with rivers and creeks. We stopped in Payson, AZ to pick up some groceries and pushed on to find a place to camp in the woods with nightfall rapidly falling. We found a very nice campsite by the river amidst a stand of tall trees. Cynthia is petrified of the dark and was constantly shining her little bitty headlamp light in every direction for the boogeyman that is supposedly out there. I enjoyed scaring her to death by throwing rocks into the dark and pretending to hear something outside of the tent every once in a while. I hope she gets over her fear sometime soon as we will be camping in much more scary places than peaceful Payson, AZ. Stay tuned.