Searching for the Sun: Cedar City to Bullhead, AZ (the long way)

Screen Shot 2014-02-21 at 8.54.10 PMWe left Cedar about 9:00 am after breakfast and pointed our bikes south. The gorge between St. George and Mesquite was experiencing a lot of construction (and the associated slowdowns) so we opted to take the old highway through Santa Clara and bypass the Interstate in favor of highway 91. Just thinking about it, it seemed like the right thing to do.

It was a great ride. Both Kelly and I agreed; unless we were in a hurry, we would avoid the gorge altogether any time we were riding down here.

We were compelled back onto I-15 at Littlefield, so we pushed on toward Las Vegas. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before we could abandon the Interstate again for Highway 169 through the Moapa Valley headed for Boulder City. The ride on 91 was great, and so was this road though the desert and along the lake to Boulder and Hoover Dam.

KellyThe beautiful asphalt highway gently rocked back and forth as the temperature rose and we shed a layer at every stop. Kelly pointed to the sky in the southwest as the crisscross of contrails almost made a white and blue checkerboard of busy travelers jetting to their various destinations. I couldn’t help but appreciate the fact that I didn’t even know where were going to end up at days end. I was too busy enjoying the sun on my face, the sound of my machine, and the 60+ degree temperature. I’d almost forgotten what sun on my face feels like when it isn’t associated with the bitter cold.

This was shaping up to be a perfect day.

After crossing the Colorado River at Hoover Dam, we continued south to Kingman, AZ where we stopped for a burger, shed more layers, and mounted up to ride some of what’s left of Route 66 to Oatman, AZ. It should go without saying that traveling the road to Oatman requires a patient approach to being on the road. “We have the longest intact stretch of the old Route 66,” she said as I bought my T-shirt with artwork created by one of the inmates at the local Arizona State Prison in Kingman. Kelly thought it fitting since Sue and I volunteer at the Utah State Prison.

“There’s 111 curves on that old road,” said one of the guys who probably wished he was on his bike riding with us as we chatted at Mother Road Harley.

I can’t believe Kelly and I are the only guys who enjoy blasting down these old narrow roads. It surprised me the road was in such a state of disrepair. We spend a lot of time on old roads that don’t share anywhere near the history of Route 66 that are in much better shape, but I had a blast. When I called Sue after I settled into my hotel room, she asked, “Were you singing about getting your kicks on Route 66?”

“More than once,” I had to admit.

IMG_3137_1I didn’t count the curves, but there were a lot of them. It was a blast. The most fun you can have at 10-20 mph.

Dropping into Oatman, the street was filled with burros chill’n in the middle of the street. Kelly suggested I wasn’t the only jackass on the road that day, but I think he must have been looking in the mirror.

I can’t imagine there’s much industry out in the middle of nowhere other than nostalgic tourists driving by who stop to buy a handful of alfalfa to feed the burros or stop at one of the shops to buy a T-shirt or other souvenir of the famous old highway.

IMG_3140_1The friendly clerk in the gift shop was jamming to some old rock-a-billy like she probably has for the last 50 or 60 years. Other than get older, I don’t think this little shop has changed much. I couldn’t help but wonder if the half-dozen old bikes upstairs in the “museum” found their home in Oatman after giving up the ghost somewhere out here—along one of the country’s most famous roads.

IMG_3143_1The pace of life when Route 66 was the way to get from Chicago to LA was definitely a little bit slower than it is today. We experienced some of it along highway 169 as a dozen or so guys on bullet bikes blew past us doing what must have been 100 or so miles per hour on a road designed for 65 or so. I expected to see a bike or two off the road in a heap—they were going that fast, but they must have been better riders (albeit incredibly reckless) than I gave them credit for. It’s not hard to understand why so many motorists wag their fingers at motorcycles when reckless riders pass on double lines and blind corners going better than twice the speed limit.

Maybe they should take a side trip down 66 and stop in Oatman.

The sun was going down as we found a place to stay the night. It couldn’t have been a better day to be on the road. Beautiful blue skies, the wind in your face, and miles peeling off underneath you. I think we did something like 400 or so miles today.

I can’t wait for tomorrow.

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