ADV Cherry Officially Popped - Part 2
As it turns out, despite a few less challenging sections, this is actual motocross and ATV area – I’m in well over my head, and kick myself for not investigating this route better – not like we’re the first guys to come this way. We get to the top, and things are levelling off, and we’re hopeful the worst is behind us. We get to one particular spot on the road just after a sand stretch that is an uphill left-then-right hand sort of double hairpin that’s had zero maintenance since I was born, and the corner appears flat – a real motocross guy would fly up in 2 seconds without batting an eye. I’m tired by now, 4 hours in @ about 3 miles an hour, and feeling kind of ‘screw it!’
I make it 90% up, and the front tire catches the edge of the rut and halts my forward momentum, I’m feet down and on the front brake but the flat spot is actually a huge rock covered in fine stuff churned up from ATVs and 4x4s, and I get zero traction. If KLR had a go-pro, I’m sure it would have been one for the ‘epic screw ups’ videos. I slide back down the rock about 6 feet, thinking “Oh ****, oh ****, oh ****….”. Thunk. I go down hard on the rocks sticking up out of the bits of soil left there, and tilting the wrong way down, again. This is drop #5 on the day. It takes both of us, tired and dehydrating rapidly, to get the V back up on the wheels, roll off back down off this rock, and time for a break. It’s not usually in the high 90s in late Oct in Phoenix, but the heat was on – at least 90 up on the hill in full sun, with full gear on. I put my helmet on the seat and the sweat makes a small stream off the seat onto the ground. We find a bit of shade under a bush and try to re-hydrate.
At this point, we’re having that go forward / go back discussion. The nearly 4 hrs it took to get here would be similar in reverse. We’ve got the maps out and the GPS – looks like about 7 miles to Seven Springs Road and graded bliss. A couple of hunters come by, everybody waves or stops to ask how you are out here, and confirms distance to SSR – advises this is the last of the “ugly stuff”, but the next 5 miles are still rough. Good enough – forward it is!!
We go and study the rock and pick a route through and a strategy to prevent more tip overs. KLR goes first, and makes it up just fine – except for the sphincter flex – gets up onto a flat bit and tries to pull off the road to make sure we’re clear of traffic, and down he goes. #4 for him on the day. We have one of those only-after-something-like-this laughs, pick up the KLR, and walk back to run the V up the crack.
In an act of hilarious foolishness, I follow up the track exactly as planned, perfect ride, perfect clutch, perfect balance (in my head, anyway) and get up on the flat beside the KLR and raise my hands up like a prize fighter, except I forgot I was on a slope, bike in neutral and turned off, so I promptly start to roll back, yet another “Oh, ****!” moment, and down I go. #6 if you’re keeping track – still nothing broken.
The next 4-5 miles are, as advertised, rough and washed out with several short rock gardens, sand pits, and lots of trenches to suck your tires in where you don’t want them to go. KLR tips over once more trying to navigate a really rutted downhill spot, though the V seems to have found a set of training wheels and I manage to keep upright.
Indeed, we clear the crappy stuff and find good dirt roads leading to graded gavel, and decide it’s time for a break, 6 hours into the ride. We’ve come about 25 miles in total at this point. We’re up at the top of the range and want to pull over on a crest. The grading looks curiously sharp at the edge of the road, but I hit the angle up the foot-high transition slightly off but make it up and over, then stall and do a repeat – roll back on the front brake in loose crap and thud!, lucky #7.
The rest of the ride is crash-free and fun, we can finally get into second and third gears and stop worrying about how we’re going to spend the night in the desert. The scenery is good, the breeze from real forward motion is keeping us from cooking in the sun, and the ride finishes on a high note. We’ve both got the bug – and with better planning, will do another trip soon.
Would I do that route again? Absent knobbies and a higher skill level, no. But I did discover that the learning curve is pretty quick and the key seems to be picking the right line through the terrain and not just going ‘gonzo!’ I also learned there is only so far the static information on these roads can take you – particularly in ADV routes, with things like rain changing otherwise ‘sane’ ADV roads into ‘expert’ overnight. And as for forest roads in this part of AZ, always worthwhile to ask how frequently the road is maintained – with many of the remote roads being ‘never’.