Day 16 distance: 308 miles
Temperatures never reached triple digits but instead peaked at 95 degrees. My route would take me to a road that I’ve been interested in riding on previous trips to Arizona, Hwy 191 north of Morenci.
Leaving Tucson about 8:30am, I headed east on I-8. This stretch of interstate was full of semi-trucks traveling at 75mph. A close call with one truck entering my lane unexpectedly reminded me to give them a wide berth and assume at all times that they do not see me.
Once I turned north on Hwy 191, a road with far less traffic, I was able to relax a bit again.
I soon reached the town of Morenci at the southern end of what is nicknamed ‘The Devil’s Highway’, billed as one of the top motorcycling roads in the continental US, according to Butler Maps.
What I wasn’t prepared for, and was initially thrown off by, was the copper mine I had to go through to get there. The town of Morenci is named after the copper mine found there. This was the biggest strip mining operation I have ever seen and the workers and trucks used in the operations of the mine are the primary users of this part of the road.
When I stopped to take the photo below, one helpful miner told me there was a better vista point a couple miles up the road.
On my arrival at the Vista Point, I was disappointed to find not a view of the road but of the giant open wounds to the earth that result from this type of mining. 🙁 I have to admit I freaked out a little, thinking the guys that called this a great motorcycle road were off their collective rockers.
Continuing on about 5 miles more, I started to understand what they were talking about.
With the mining operations behind me, beautiful and diverse Arizona landscapes opened up to me.
Speed limits were posted at 25mph for much of the nearly 90 miles. Sometimes they were warranted, sometimes not.
I needed several breaks as this was a long, unbroken stretch of intense riding that took about three hours to get through.
Cattle and deer were seen crossing the road, but I encountered very little on-coming traffic and only passed one camper (who pulled over as soon as they saw me).
The road surface was in good shape along the entire mountain ride, once leaving the mining operations. I would highly recommend this ride to anyone interested.
I planned to camp and landed at Lyman Lake just after 5pm. This pretty state park had maybe a dozen other campers staying there.
The lake looked inviting and “beach” camping was allowed, but I chose a tent spot closer to the showers and bathrooms.
I was tired and hungry and ended up falling asleep shortly after sundown with a belly full of dinner.
Day 17 distance: 344 miles
Waking up at 5:30, I got the bike packed up and ate trail mix and an apple for breakfast. Coffee would have to wait a while as the first few towns I passed through were too small for any type of restaurant.
Heading north on Hwy 191 afforded some amazing vistas.
From Hwy 191, I turned east on I-40 briefly before entering Navaho tribal lands using Hwy 12, just west of the New Mexico border. This was not a challenging road technically, but I was blown away by the vistas.
After a late breakfast at a Denny’s in St. Michael, I continued to Canyon de Chelly.
Also on Indian lands, this road took me east towards the red rock plateau in the distance. I was a little disappointed not getting any vistas of the Canyon itself, which seemed to lay to the south out of view.
Of course, disappointment is relative and didn’t last long. 🙂
Soon enough, I was crossing through Red Rock and the landscape that gave the town its name.
This was technically challenging and beautiful. This road reminded me of parts of Hwy 12 in southern Utah.
The top of the plateau was forested …
and one vista point offered a view into New Mexico.
The temperatures at the top were in the mid 70s and I wasn’t looking forward to the higher temperatures I would find in the valley below.
I arrived at my motel in downtown Durango about 5pm. I chose a spot downtown so I could walk to dinner at Steamworks, the restaurant I ate at last time I stayed here. And guess what? I ordered the Cajun Boil again. 🙂
Shrimp, lobster, sausage, potatoes, corn mixed in a spicy sauce. Yummier than I remembered. I sat at the bar and talked with two people for the next couple hours while enjoying some craft beers. A great evening!
Tomorrow is a ride along the Million Dollar Highway and some other scenic roads here in Colorado. I can’t wait!