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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Arizona Moto-Camping Adventure - Day 1

This winter has been dragging on way too long and I couldn't take it any longer.  I booked a 6 day, 5-night trip to Arizona to get out of the snow and into the wind.  I chose Arizona because:
  • It's a hell of a lot warmer than Minnesota (usually)
  • I had never been there
  • The Grand Canyon is there
  • Southwest flies direct from Minneapolis to Phoenix
  • Lots of options to rent bikes
My original plan was to fly into Phoenix and ride a loop around the Grand Canyon while camping most nights and getting a hotel the last 1-2 nights.  I booked the flight first (arrive Wednesday 3/6 and depart Monday 3/11).

As the trip got closer, the weather forecast was looking like it would be awfully cold (20s-30s F for lows) and possibly snowy north of the Canyon so I modified my plan a few times, settling on a path that would keep me south of the Canyon.  I would fly into Phoenix, ride west and camp in Joshua Tree National Park for 3 nights, ride north through the Mojave Desert and then east through Oatman, AZ and get a hotel just south of the Canyon, and on my last full day I would see the Canyon and ride south through Sedona, AZ to Phoenix.  I booked the campground and 2 hotels (Williams, AZ & Phoenix).  Up to the day of my flight, the weather looked decent, not nearly as warm as I had hoped, but dry except for a 30% chance of rain on Friday.

My wife and daughter dropped me at the airport early on Wednesday.  I had enough time to play a long game of Galaga in the airport game room, racking up just over 235,000 points (not even close to my best, but a really good score nonetheless) which I thought was a good sign of things to come.

In spite of Southwest's annoying no-assigned-seats policy, I got a window seat and just had to wait for them to de-ice the plane before takeoff.

3 1/2 hours later, I was in sunny and warm Phoenix, AZ.  After grabbing my luggage, I took a cab to Buddy Stubbs Arizona Harley-Davidson.  I chose them over other dealers due their fair prices and hours of operation.  I had a great experience with them and the bike and would highly recommend them to anyone.  I rented a 2013 Harley-Davidson Road Glide.

I brought 4 pieces of luggage.  The first was a large bag with my sleeping bag, helmet, glasses & goggles (tucked safely inside my helmet), overpants, leather jacket, and bungee cords in it.  The second was a duffle bag with my tent, tarp, air mattress, clothing, assorted camping equipment and tools in it (of course, the TSA left a note in that one saying they searched it).  The last two were a backpack with electronics, contact lenses, and reservation info and my soft-sided Harley-Davidson cooler containing ground coffee, instant oatmeal, and some freeze-dried meals.  I carried both of them onto the plane.  I test-fit everything to my Road King before I left.  I left the large piece of luggage at Buddy Stubb's since I wore most of the contents but the rest went into my rental bike's saddlebags or got bungeed to the the back of the bike.

I headed west towards California on I-10 but I had to stop for lunch at Carl's Jr., something we don't have in Minnesota.

They drive fast on I-10 where the speed limit is 75 mph and traffic moves quite a bit faster than that.  The scenery was awesome having never been to the southwest.  While I-10 was efficient, I wanted to stick to smaller, more scenic roads as much as possible so I took 95 north from Quartzsite, AZ to 62 west and followed 62 all the way to Twentynine Palms, CA, which is where Indian Cove Campground in Joshua Tree National Park is.

I picked the campground because it looked like another planet.  I had a large campsite all to myself and set up my tent and unloaded the bike.

Then I headed back into town for supplies including firewood, beer, ice, a gallon of water, hot dogs, bread, mustard, newspaper (for kindling), and a lighter.

Back at camp, I made my very first campfire. I've camped off a motorcycle quite a bit but never had a fire before. I struggled a bit to keep my fire lit (the wind kept blowing it out) but I made it happen.  I roasted a few hot dogs and boiled some water to make red beans & rice.  I also had a couple of beers under the stars.  The night sky was clear and the stars were beautiful.  I slept with the rainfly off the tent so I could enjoy them.  It got chilly that night (around 40 F) but it was a fantastic start to the trip.

Map of Day 1's ride (295 miles, 4h 45m of riding)

View Larger Map

Come back for lots more stories and pics from the trip.

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