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Why Do I Ride A Motorcycle?

Riding a motorcycle satisfies my need for individual experience, but without excluding others.  It allows me to be an individual, but also part of a community of shared experiences.

Whether solo riding, part of a small group of close friends, or part of a large organized ride, the advice is always the same; “ride your own ride”.
I can choose to ride in silence, to listen to the music, sing, talk to others in my group through intercoms… I can do whatever makes it the best experience for me at that moment. My experience does not prevent others from doing the same, and my freedom is not an imposition on others.

It offers a means of recreation and self-expression that is unlike any other. The motorcyclist can experience travel without the confinement of an automobile, able to use all your senses to actually experience the world around you. By world, I don’t just mean the environment you ride through, but your place in it as a part of it.

More than just the “5 Senses”

Yes, you can hear, see, smell, touch, and taste the environment around you; sometimes a bad thing, but mostly a good thing. There are lots of articles on how riding effects the five senses, but there are other important ‘senses’ in play.

Motorcycling puts you in touch with your sense of balance, sense of direction, sense of adventure, sense of wonder, sense of accomplishment, and sense of community.

No roof-line limits your appreciation of the towering heights of cliffs, mountains or trees. No car A-pillars and B-pillars “frame” your view of nature’s majesty, everywhere you look you get the entire panorama.

4 wheel vehicles encourage passivity, just put in the minimum effort to not hit anything and everything will be fine. Modern autonomous vehicles are striving to eliminate even that little bit of participation in the journey.

But motorcycling is different. You have to be more “present” on a motorcycle. 2 wheel vehicles require you to be a vigilant participant in the entire journey. From pre-ride TCLOCS to making the simplest turn, you have to be “present” and using your body to successfully complete the journey. You see the sun and clouds, you feel the wind and the road. Your body controls the speed, shifting, leaning, lane position. A high-speed delayed apex turn in a car is a one-finger exercise, on a bike it a whole-body activity that leaves you exhilarated.

It’s all about the journey, not just about the ride.

On a motorcycle you stop more often, and are more likely to interact with others when you stop. This “community of the road” is part of the adventure, and you can participate as an equal.

Social class, race, gender, religion, and all of the other things that we let divide us in our daily lives melt away when huddled under shelter from a storm, refueling at a lonely gas station, gathered around a campfire or any of the myriad opportunities to interact.
When you pull in to a hotel, gas station or restaurant and see motorcycles in the parking lot, you know that there are people “like you” already there.

Half of the people you meet are probably coming from where you want to go, and the other half are going where you’ve already been.
They are almost always willing to share the latest information on weather, road conditions, and good (or bad) places to eat/sleep/visit. In return, you can provide them with the same. Equality at it’s best.

It doesn’t matter if your faith system relies on God creating the world for your enjoyment, or random organization of molecules aligning in complex and pleasing patterns, or something else entirely.

Are you not in awe when driving through giant sequoias?
Can you remain unmoved by the view of forested slopes stretching away from a snow-capped mountain peak? 
Do wild animals drinking from crystal clear water leave you numb?

I don’t think so.    You are there.    You are a part of it.

Motorcyclists may disagree about politics, religion and a host of other topics, but can we at least agree that this form of “wind therapy” puts us back in touch with our better selves?
That part of us that feels connected to the world at a deeper level, where we appreciate the beauty and mystery that surrounds us.

That’s why I ride a motorcycle.

Venturing Off-Road

For the last 6 years I have been exploring the Southwest, and Arizona in particular, from the asphalt. It has been tremendous fun and I love the places you can go and the things you can see.

But something has always been missing. I knew of cool places, from my 20+ years as a Scout leader, that I just couldn’t get to with my road bike. I wanted to revisit them and share them with others, but I didn’t have the right bike.

Until now.

I bought a 2017 Honda Africa Twin. And I am in awe of it. It is waaayy more capable than I am, but I plan to learn to ride off road while exploring this spectacular state.

This Independence Day weekend I rode the Apache Trail, a 22 mile stretch of dirt from Tortilla Flats to the Roosevelt Dam.

This is due East of the Phoenix metroplex.

The temperature was over 112f (44c) and the traffic was light. Unfortunately it was apparently too hot for my GoPro, so no video or pictures are available. But it’s a start.. I got my bike dusty but no dings.

I will organize the off-road trails on their own page to make them easier to find.

I am excited about this new phase of AzKicker Touring. If you are ever in the neighborhood and want to go for a ride, feel free to contact me.

Vacation Planning: Is It Right For You?    Choosing A Trip    Planning A Trip   

How do I plan a motorcycle vacation?

I’m going to explain my process for planning, yours can be significantly less comprehensive and still be entirely satisfactory. I am the subject of many jokes about my planning spreadsheet.

I break it down to 4 major pieces:

  • Pick the Destination(s)
  • Choose the Route
  • Plan the Route
  • Stop planning, and DO IT!


  • Pick the Destination(s)
    Sounds easy, but this will sometimes dictate a lot of choices. My favorite destinations are National Parks, but there are relatively few hotel rooms available in/near the parks, so allow more drive time. You can camp, but that changes your packing, and so on.

    Choose the route
    Google Maps is my friend. I can spend hours looking at various routes, comparing distances and drive times. I also use StreetView to ‘preview’ the road sections to see if they are interesting; forest, vistas, water, etc. This is where you can decide to make your trip an Out-and-Back or a Loop, an Interstate Cruise or a backroads twister. In any case, make it interesting to you and the experience you want.

    Plan the route
    Wait, didn’t I just choose the route? What’s left to do?
    That depends – How many miles do you want to drive each day? More importantly, how long do you want to be riding, since interstate miles are much quicker than mountain twisties? Are there gas stations and restaurants at the required intervals? Do you have a Plan B in case of weather or other circumstances? Do you need reservations (tours, hotels) or just show up? I use a spreadsheet to do most of the planning, and I admit I get a little carried away.
    Trip_Plan

    Don’t sweat the plan
    I admit, this is where I struggle. My laminated, color-coded spreadsheet calls me to action, but I have to remember that the ride is what I’m here for, so once the ride starts we refer to the spreadsheet to understand the impact when we want to change plans.

    OK, you can stop laughing at my spreadsheet now.

    PCH, Idyllwild, and Big Bear — Oh My!

    A buddy and I took a 5 day, 1700+ mile trip to California to ride the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and explore some other mountain areas in southern California. Here are the maps for those five days if you are interested:

    Miles Day Summary
    477 Day 1 Phoenix to Santa Monica, then PCH to Ventura
    254 Day 2 Ventura to San Luis Obispo (SLO), Cayucos, Morro Bay, Montana de Oro, SLO
    417 Day 3 SLO to Monterey, then back down coast to Ventura
    195 Day 4 Ventura, Mulholland Highway, Big Bear vi CA-18
    444 Day 5 Big Bear to Idyllwild, Hemet, Indio, Phoenix

    Pacific Coast Highway (PCH)

    1311_0695_b 1311_0704_f
    1311_0726_b 1311_0765_a

    What can I say about Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, that hasn’t already been said more eloquently? It is a Bucket List ride, best ridden North to South so you are on the ocean (and scenic vista pullout) side.

    Mulholland Highway

    For those who enjoy a challenge, or simply like to people-watch, you should check out the stretch of Mulholland Highway (known locally as “The Snake”) between Topanga Canyon Road and Kanan Road (see Day 4 map for details). There are whole websites devoted to the spectacular crashes and amazing vehicles along this road. If you want to drive it, enter from Topanga. If you just want to people-watch, come in from Kanan. You must keep an eye on your rear-view mirrors, there are crazy drivers were illegally (over the double yellow line) passing us doing 70 MPH heading into a blind curve. A weekday may be better than a weekend to drive it, but the weekend is the best time to people-watch.

    CA-18 Highway from San Bernardino to Big Bear

    This is another great ride with lots of twisties. There are lots of places where the road is actually hanging off the side of the mountain on cantilevered supports. As you ride up from San Bernardino you can see the underside of the road above you. Big Bear is above 8000 ft in elevation, so there is a big change in temperature, and frequent storms. It was spectacular weather for us and well worth the trip.

    Idyllwild

    On Day 5 we took CA-38 (a very nice ride) from Big Bear down to Redlands, to Banning, where we turned off to ride through Idyllwild. A beautiful ride up from desert to forest with big vistas. We took a side trip to Hemet, a nice ride to a mediocre destination, then turned around and went back over the mountain and down to Indio. We had dinner and waited for sunset before making the 4 hour trip home.

    Conclusions

    Driving across the desert in July/August is HOT and not to be undertaken lightly. We have extensive hot-weather riding experience and special cooling gear, and it was still uncomfortably warm at times. We also moved this trip by 2 days to avoid storms in the Big Bear and Idyllwild destinations. I would recommend this ride for Spring and Fall rather than Summer if you have to cross much desert. If you are starting in the LA region, it’s merely uncomfortable.

    I don’t normally give Google much credit, but I have to give them credit for keeping their map application up to date. We were going to ride CA-2, the Angeles Crest Highway (one of our favorites) but Google Maps wouldn’t let us cross a certain location no matter how many waypoints I used. It turns out that there had been a mudslide across the highway and it was closed.

    Choosing A Vacation Trip

    Vacation Planning: Is It Right For You?    Choosing A Trip    Planning A Trip   

    What You’re Looking For Depends On What You’re Used To

    When many people plan a big vacation get-away, the first thing they think of is something that they’ve heard someone brag about… a trip to Bora-Bora, climbing a mountain… whatever!

    Then they realize that they don’t have the funds, skills, interest or time to make that plan work, so they settle for a stay-cation.

    In a previous post I discuss whether to choose a motorcycle vacation, now let’s talk about HOW to choose the right trip for YOU!

    I see 3 approaches for choosing where to go. The first is to simply pick some place you’ve never been and head out. No planning, no worrying.. just go with the flow.  This is great for the type of person for whom facing the unknown is the fun part, but that is not the kind of trip I’m talking about here.

    The second approach is to choose a destination where you will spend most of your time, and the motorcycle is simply your transportation there and back.Your planning will be limited to logistics, like hotels, gas, mileage, and possibly weather. Again, not the kind of trip I’m discussing here.

    The third approach is to plan the trip, as opposed to just the destination, to do and see the things you enjoy.  A motorcycle vacation adventure can be a weekend, or a week (or more) long and give you the sense of adventure and accomplishment you are seeking.

    I suggest that you start with an inventory of what you ‘have’ and what you ‘want’. If you live in the pine-forested mountains, the desert vistas of the Southwest may get your juices flowing. Or maybe the swamps of the Southeast. If you live in a crowded big city, maybe the wide open plains (with no people) are just the ticket.  Start with an inventory of what you  already have, then develop a list of what you want to experience.

      Here is my list from the Phoenix Valley of the Sun area:

    • desert plants on a flat desert floor
    • small but steep hills we call mountains
      What I love to experience:

    • cliffs & canyons (from the top) with big vistas, and canyons (from the bottom) with rivers I can ride next to
    • colorful, interesting rock formations
    • big vistas of undulating forested mountains and meadows
    • jagged coastline
    • twisty mountain roads and broad, and sweeping turns with great vistas
    • historical sites

    You may have a different list if you live in a different location (or like different things), but the point is to go ahead and create your own list. Once you know what you are looking for, you may be surprised how easily you can plan a great adventure vacation, maybe in your own state!

    Living in the Southwest gives me an unfair advantage, as almost everything I want is within 2 days ride, but their is nothing to prevent you from hopping on a plane and getting close to your destination to rent a motorcycle. Once you are on the motorcycle, your adventure awaits. Whether you want to ride the Pacific Coast Highway, tour the Grand Canyon, ride the Million Dollar Highway, Freedom Trail, or Tail of the Dragon… or make up your own dream ride… you can do it with a little preparation.

    In a future post, I will discuss my methods for finding routes that optimize the things I like to do.

    There are great rides in almost every state. The secret is to create your route by choosing things you love to experience (from your list) and go DO IT!

    Choosing to Vacation on a Motorcycle – Is It Right For You?

    Vacation Planning: Is It Right For You?    Choosing A Trip    Planning A Trip   

    “Oh, I could never do that!”

    How many of us give up our dreams because of that phrase?

    Maybe you’ve heard it’s dangerous, or expensive, or time consuming, or …, or …

    It does not have to be expensive, and the only special skills you need are the ability to ride a motorcycle and, most importantly, the right attitude!

    Everyone knows that riding keeps you in touch with the changing environments you glide through; temperatures, smells, and increased visual range. Riding also establishes an immediate bond between total strangers at a restaurant, gas station, or hotel. When you ask someone about their bike it almost always turns into a great discussion. Whether it is about equipment, road conditions, places to eat (or not), things to see. Take an adventurous attitude and talk to the people you meet along the way!

    The right attitude can also mitigate the ‘dangers’ you face along the way. There are real dangers to motorcycle touring, but approaching it thoughtfully should avoid the worst of the problems. There are environmental dangers, like weather (storms, heat & humidity, cold) and areas without services (hotel, gas, restaurants). There are personal dangers, like medical (conditions, medication refrigeration) and safety (traveling alone).

    Environmental dangers can frequently be avoided with timing. Don’t motorcycle through Tornado Alley during tornado season. Don’t drive in the desert Southwest during summer. Motorcycle around the desert in Arizona in February and you will have a spectacular time! If you feel the need to go at risky times, reach out to locals who can help you plan your risk mitigation.

    Personal safety is frequently the biggest issue holding people (especially women) back from motorcycle touring, but our aging population is pushing medical concerns ever higher.

    Medical concerns might be as simple as keeping medications refrigerated, to availability of medical facilities, to health conditions that may limit mobility/endurance.  All of these can be addressed with a little planning and research on the internet. Keep your medical information on your phone with you by using a phone app that gives GPS-tagged messages to your emergency contact list.

    Traveling alone can be a wonderful way to disconnect from a hectic day-to-day noise, but it is scary to some folks. “What if…” can keep people from taking that step into adventure, but it doesn’t need to. Anybody on social media knows someone who knows someone in virtually any area of the country.

    One of the best social media applications for this particular purpose is Meetup.com. Join some motorcycle rider groups in your destination area and ask for help. You will be innundated with suggestions, and maybe people willing to ride with you.

    As your mother told you, strangers are friends you haven’t met yet. With the right adventurous attitude you can visit amazing places, make new friends and memories that will last a lifetime.

    So, which attitudes should NOT try motorcycle vacations?

    • Ugly American syndrome – if you feel the need to tell everyone why their location/lifestyles are inferior to your home location, please stay home
    • if facing some adversity (weather, road construction, schedule changes) along the way throws you into an emotional tailspin, please stay home
    • if you expect to be pampered, please check into a spa

    The Proper attitude for a motorcycle vacation

    • you want to see something different, and meet interesting people along the way
    • you can accept that adversity is part of the adventure
    • you can be like a Boy Scout: be prepared, friendly, and cheerful…

    Yosemite Day 5

    Yosemite Trip: Day 1    Day 2    Days 3-4    Day 5   

    We left Yosemite yesterday afternoon and drove all the way down to Bakersfield (200+ miles) to set ourselves up for CA-2, the Angeles Crest Scenic Highway. We left Bakersfield and drove to La Canada Flintridge, where we got gas for the trip. We then started up the most beautifully paved road I have ever been on. It’s flawless pavement, light traffic, and lots of twisties with great scenery.

    Angeles Crest Highway

    Angeles Crest Highway

    We had lunch at Newcombs Ranch Restaurant and Bar, a hangout for bikers and sports car enthusiasts.

    Newcombs Ranch Restaurant and Bar

    Newcombs Ranch Restaurant and Bar

    There were a couple areas with rocks on the road, so caution should be exercised. When you emerge from the tunnel, more beautiful vistas await. My sports camera does not do it justice.

    View from East of the tunnel

    View from East of the tunnel

    We spent so much time enjoying Highway 2 it was now time to get some miles on. Our goal was to make Blythe (about 200 miles) so we would have a short run home. We got there about 9pm, then decided to just push for home to get across I-10 before the sun came up. This made for a 540 mile last day ending at 1:30am. The next day we met at our favorite restaurant to celebrate a great ride.

    Yosemite Day 3-4 — Yosemite National Park

    Yosemite Trip: Day 1    Day 2    Days 3-4    Day 5   

    Adjectives fail me… I think Yosemite is one of the most amazing places on earth.

    We rode 2 hours from Fresno to catch this first glimpse of Yosemite Valley just before we went through the tunnel.

    First Glimpse of Yosemite Valley

    First Glimpse of Yosemite Valley

    Everywhere you look, it’s AMAZING!  This video is from the meadow at the entrance. There was a crowd of people watching El Capitan climbers through telescopes and binoculars.

    My nephew joined us for the ride into Yosemite, here we are standing in front of Bridal Veil Falls. Not much water this time of year, but still a beautiful place!

    Bridal Veil Falls

    The Crew In Front Of Bridal Veil Falls

    After checking into our cabin tent and a meal, we decided to go up to Glacier Point to watch the sunset and full moon rise.

    Half Dome from Glacier Point

    Half Dome from Glacier Point

    Sunset is spectacular, bathing the stone with first a yellow light, then a pink light. You can just barely see the moon rising in the notch to the right of Half Dome in the second picture.

    yellow light on Half Dome

    First comes the yellow light on Half Dome

    Pimk Light

    Then the pink light.

    It gets very cold at 7200ft elevation when the sun goes down, so we hustled down to the valley floor to get warm. The granite cliffs are very reflective, so the bright moonlight makes you feel like you are in a black & white movie. We visited the Ansel Adams gallery and the meadow before bidding adieu to Yosemite.

    Yosemite Trip was a Blast – Day 1

    Yosemite Trip: Day 1    Day 2    Days 3-4    Day 5   

    We did it! And it was a BLAST!!

    We changed the route a little while we were underway, but we drove 1650 miles in 5 days. We spent Wednesday night in Yosemite as planned, but when we got to Blythe at 9pm on Friday night, we decided to make the 3.5 hour run for home in the cool of the night rather than wait for the following day to drive into the rising sun.

    The first day was pretty brutal, we drove almost 600 miles, the first 6 hours in temperatures up to 110F.  The LD Comfort cool gear we used was fine when it was wet, but it dries out more often than we wanted to stop. We made it to San Bernadino, where we were able to escape the heat by taking a scenic route up into the mountains past Silverwood Lake.

    CA-18 - Twisties

    CA-18 – Twisties

    Silverwood Lake

    Silverwood Lake

    Twisties and cooler temps… we needed that!  We finished up the day by driving to Bakersfield.

    Planning For Yosemite

    After our last big ride, we decided that we were up for a bigger adventure: a week-long ride through Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks in California.   About a 2000 mile ride in 6 days, so some big ride days (> 350 miles/day) and some easy ride days.

    We are trying to apply some of the lessons we learned from our Grand Canyon trip. We are “camping” for 1 night in Yosemite, but it is a tent cabin that is essentially like a hotel room, including beds and linens. This gives us the ability to stay in Yosemite Valley for 2 days, but to travel light. The rest of the time we will just stay in motels.

    We have planned a route that gives us some twisties every day except the last day, which is just a fast run across the desert, hopefully before it gets too hot.

    We have used Google Maps to find roads that look interesting wherever possible. This also allows us to calculate mileage ranges and times. We have a spreadsheet that summarizes the route, mileage, start & stop times, weather.

    Should be fun!

    We recently organized our own “supported” camping trip. We left Chandler (Phoenix area) bright and early (for us) and drove to Payson, then up onto the Mogollon Rim, off the Rim down to Camp Verde, up through Jerome, then through Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon to Flagstaff. That’s about a 250 mile “warm up” ride so that we could rendevous with the support truck and another rider.

    We then set out for the Grand Canyon (South Rim) — about 80 miles through pouring rain and hail — to go camping!  (map)

    The weather actually cleared before we set camp and we spent a beautiful night under a spectacularly star-studded sky. Although some of our gear had gotten wet in the bed of the truck, we had enough extras for everyone and were ready for day 2.

    East End

    Grand Canyon at East end

    We struck camp and headed for the North Rim for another night of camping. Now you have to understand that the Grand Canyon is only about 10 miles across, so our camping destination is about 13 miles away as the Evel Knievel jumps… That translates to about 211 miles of driving, 160 miles through the desert.  In July.  In storm season. Wow!

    Once we got up on the Kaibab Plateau it was spectacular — forest and meadow at 8500 ft elevation. Buffalo roaming (OK, about 20 of them) within the national park.

    Buffalo Roam

    Buffalo roam on the North Rim

    Another beautiful night under an even brighter sky (higher altitude, less pollution) and we were ready to head home to Chandler.  The transition from forest to desert happens even quicker on the way down than the way up because of the vistas.

    Forest

    Forest on Kaibab Plateau

    Desert

    Less than 2 minutes later.. Desert!

    375 (mostly desert) miles later we were home.  What did we learn after about 1000 miles in 3 days?

    Camping is an activity in and of itself. Even with my Eagle Scout son driving the support vehicle and helping the novice campers,it still takes a lot of time and is really not as time-effective as staying in a motel for a single night. We camped SO that we could stay inside the parks to increase sightseeing time, but gave up some time for camping setup and take-down. This may have been exacerbated by the fact that 2 of the 3 riders had not camped in 30+ years…

    Sag wagons do NOT travel as fast as motorcycles. They DO, however, carry lots of water and a trailer makes a great rest area on a road where the next services are 100 miles away.

    Hot weather riding gear is a great advantage. Our LD Comfort sleeves worked marvelously on the big open stretches of desert highway. Having all that water easily accessible on the trailer meant that a 10 minutes stop gave us 30-45 minutes of comfortable cruising, even wearing full gear!

    Communications gear helps the miles fly by. Our Cardo G9 systems allowed us to coordinate and act as blockers for the truck pulling the trailer. The lead could let the sweep know when it was safe to pass, then the sweep could wave other drivers around.  We could also discuss where we wanted to stop or even just listen to music. Very nice!

    What would I do differently next time? I would plan 2 nights of camping at each location to give us the time to really enjoy the sightseeing. If I don’t want to camp, I would need to call 6-12 months in advance for a hotel or cabin in those primo locations.

    Hello Arizona!

    AzKicker.com is dedicated to sharing the beauty of experiencing Arizona from the seat of a motorcycle. I love twisties with spectacular views, and Arizona has plenty. If you are looking for great places to ride in AZ, please drop us a note and we can help with suggestions.

    In addition, we will start posting some of our favorite rides as we film them.  We will try to include a map of where the video is shot so that you can plan your ride around specific places.

    This site is just starting up, so feel free to let us know if there is something that would make this site easier to use or more helpful!

    Kickin’ Around AZ..

    Mark.