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First ride: Phoenix to Minneapolis

I have been motorcycling since the mid 60’s. On one trip I stopped at a sidecar gathering. I don’t even remember where, but it was in the Midwest in the early 70’s. It started an itch for a rig. It went unscratched until the early 2000’s. I worked for Classic Motorworks ( where I did some test mounting of Cozy Sidecars to Royal Enfield Motorcycles. In 2010 I had planned a trip to Beijing and Xi’an China. It was also my chance to ride a sidecar rig any real distance for the first time. Big Bill’s Bikes ( rents and guides tours on Chang Jiang 750 rigs. I had his contact information from working in the industry.

I bought a Gold Wing/California Sidecar rig on the Phoenix Craig’s List site while my wife Barbara and I were wintering in Georgia, sight unseen in January. I had a friend, Nick broker the deal because he was local to the seller. I then waited 3 months for the weather to warm so I could finally ride it home.
March 14th I flew to Phoenix to finally lay eyes on what I had spent my hard saved money. Nick was, as always, a gracious host where I spent a couple of days sorting the rig, tightening bolts and checking it over. I noted that there were two 50# sand bags for ballast in the tub. Oh, and well one can’t go to the desert and not go 4x4 riding in the desert. So we did that for a day.

The planed ride home was to take one of two routes. The preferred route was to take US-191 up to Colorado to visit friends there. A snow storm in the mountains cured me of that idea. The other route was US-60 to US-54 at Santa Rosa, NM to US-283 near Liberal, KS to Dodge City, KS on to Sioux City, IA and home to Lakeville, MN. It is a less scenic, but it’s all in the prairie where I can see and avoid thunderstorms.
Thursday morning we had a leisurely morning and I left at 9:00.
The ride to the AZ- 79 and US-60 intersection at Florence Junction is through the desert. US-60 begins the rise into the mountains toward Superior and Globe. One area near Globe is strewn with boulders of unusual shapes. Gone are the cactus, but they are replaced the scrub brush. I’m beginning to get a little feel of the rigs handling. It’s like driving an aircraft carrier. Well, that is compared to the many miles I have on sport touring bikes.

Then US-60 drops into Salt River Canyon. It is a spectacular ride with switch-backs, hair pin turns and a long way down if one misses a turn. On that road I had my first terrifying experience feeling the tub’s wheel lift on a right hand, 25mph, off camber turn. I didn’t panic, held my line and it set back down after at least five long seconds.
Once you cross the river the road starts to climb again toward Show Low, AZ. This area is higher altitude and pine forested. Show Low is a good stop, plenty of choices for food and fuel. At 146 miles Show Low provided a good stop to check the mileage to figure out what I could expect from this machine. The first partial tank from riding stop and go around flat local desert roads was one thing at 30 mph, but guessing what I could expect from mountain riding at higher speeds was quite another matter. I was surprised that I was getting 34mpg.
I remained on US-60 through Springerville, Red Rock, Pie Town , and Datil, NM. I knew from past trips that Datil was a small town but had a great stop for food and fuel. The Eagle Guest Ranch in the “Y” junction of US-60 and NM-12 has some great home style food, the usual convenience store, and fuel. They offer the usual 87 octane regular, and 89 octane mid-grade. I guess I’ll see how the “Old Wing” runs on something less than 91 octane.

The next leg on this journey of ever changing geography is the drop down into the Plains of San Agustin. I said “down” because the road comes down from the mountains to the 7000’ level of the plain. In the center of the plain is an interesting stop to see the Very Large Array Telescope of the National Radio Astronomy Laboratory. A collection of radio dishes like satellite receivers lain out in a cross pattern.
The weather continued to be cool. It was also a good stop to put on some extra layers. I had a chat with two other riders doing the same layer adding. They were riding in the open wind on their cruisers. They are tougher men than I.
The next stop is Vaughn, NM for the night. I picked the Desert Motel, a classic 50’s motel. It was clean, simple, warm, and only $50.00. What it didn’t have was the breakfast, TV, Phone, Vanity, Pool, Exercise room, etc.. I didn’t miss them.
From here I planned to take US-54 to Santa Rosa, NM where I could have picked up Old Route 66. I chose instead to use the section of I-40 to Tucumcari, NM. This is a transit ride and truthfully, I had ridden the old route in 2013 on a bike, and it passes through some very sad looking small towns. The wind had picked up but was still behind me, on my six, as the pilots say. It was smooth riding. I had to stop in Tucumcari and photograph the Route 66 marker.

I turned off the freeway and back onto US-54, the wind was still in my favor. The next stop is Dalhart, TX. Things had been going smoothly until here. For some reason, old age probably, I saw US-385 and in my mind I thought: “US-283”. I was only 110 miles short of that turn. By the time I put my brain back in gear I was in Lamar, CO. It is well West and North of Dodge City, KS. Which was to be one of my planned stops. OK, so the sky to the East of Dalhart was somewhat grey. I was avoiding weather. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I decided to skip Dodge City, KS in favor of not back tracking.
The ride north put me in strong cross winds. The rig now was pulling heavily to the right as the wind blew from the west. One post advised using a bungie cord to tension the bar and relieve the strain. I really was hesitant to try the cord trick. The rig was a handful as it was. I didn’t want competition for my concentration.
Now it was time to make a new plan. And, it was time for lunch. The restaurant proprietor in Lamar, CO pointed out another customer “John” who was a trucker. They were all willing to help out the crazy on the sidecar. He knew these roads like his own name. He recommended US-385 to Cheyenne Wells, CO, US-40 to Oakley, KS, Then US-83 to McCook, and US-6/US-34 to the North East. I stopped at Hastings, KS for the night at the Quality Inn. I enjoyed the amenities. I was exhausted from the wind. It was too dark to see the condition of the tires. So, I shelved it for the morning.
Of course, It was raining in the morning. I didn’t look at the tires. I did look at a map. I decided that US-30 would allow me to go around Omaha, and avoid the interstate. I chose well. US-30 was good road, but there was a lot of truck traffic. The wind still was buffeting me, and in the rain the rig was dancing and skidding a little. By this time I was anxious to get home.
US-30 met I-35 at Ames, IA where I ran over my first curb with the tub wheel. You know those tapered ones they put on roundabouts for idiots like me. Just a small wake up call, that’s all. From Ames it’s a simple shot straight North to home. OH. And of course, the wind was still blasting me around and the rig pulling to the right. My arms were about to fall off. I think I’ll skip the health club on Monday.
The neighborhood turned out to look at the newest member of my stable. The most frequently asked question was: “how was the ride.” Machismo prevented me from telling the whole truth. But honestly, I should have spent more like a week riding around locally to get better accustomed to the handling. I could have planned more days to make the ride more leisurely; stopped at a few more places to see. It was a steep learning curve doing it all in one cross country ride. What of the tires? The rear is bald! I went through a rear tire in seventeen hundred miles.

I suspect the strong winds. When the road was level and the wind not crossing, the rig tracked straight. I was hesitant to make adjustments for fear of making things worse. My inexperience was showing. The bottom line? Will I do it again?
See you at the rally!

Attached files

2014 CB1100 Std, 2000 ST1100 with DMC Classic, 1981 CB650C

I've made that trip from Mesa AZ to Minneapolis twice on my 1982 GL1100 Goldwing /Watsonian Monaco twice in the last 6 years . Not exatly same route as yours but close. Last year was the second time . I went to the MN BMW Rally in Money Creek near Houston and then spent a couple more weeks with friends and family. Coming home the Wing turned 120000 miles and never had a problem. I felt pretty good as I was 76 years old, my wife thought I was way too old to make such a trip but I proved her wrong. Been a member of the USCA for 35 years, where did the time go ? Doug Hasert

That was a somewhat familiar trip as I had ridden my ST1100 Phoenix to Mpls once and driven the approximate route in the cage twice before. It is an interesting trip as the scenery seems to change every few hours.
PS: Not far behind you at 67 years.

2014 CB1100 Std, 2000 ST1100 with DMC Classic, 1981 CB650C

At 67 you would be considered a "Youth" in our Mobile Home Park. 🙂 I'd made it several times in our motorhome when we full timed but the last trip in 2008 it cost about $1000 from Minneapolis to Mesa in gas and camping. Sold it the next year. I am thinking of taking my Honda Helix to Mpls next summer, if I do it will be an interesting trip. Doug

The Helix is a pretty bulletproof ride. I just cringe to think of mixing with the truck traffic on US-54. If you do get to Minneapolis, PM me we can meet for 'coffee, conversation, and cookies'.

2014 CB1100 Std, 2000 ST1100 with DMC Classic, 1981 CB650C