Arizona Rain

There are days, like yesterday where I wonder why I ride a motorcycle.  But then there are moments, like yesterday, that make it all worthwhile.
In a car, the occupants are aware of the weather, but in a detached sort of way, like trying not to park your car over a puddle and get your feet wet.  But on a bike it becomes a part of the ride.  It becomes something that affects your thoughts and actions and movements.
As I left Prescott heading east along 260 the temperature started to drop, and the elevation climbed.  I passed a sign on a bank that read 1:22 and 55 degrees.  I stopped and put on more clothing, and then stopped again and put on more clothing.
My bike then started with an intermittent misfire.  I would be riding along, and it would cough a few times, and then ride fine.  It got worse as we climbed in altitude, and as it got colder.  It was the altitude that was making my bike cough.  It was set up for the beach, and the thin air changed the mixture so much, it misfires.
There is the usual loss of power at altitude with the carburetors, and it was exacerbated with the luggage on the back.  But it was only happening every once in a while, and only at certain throttle openings.  So I put the worry at the back of my mind and smiled at the thought that I could tell at what altitude I was traveling with the coughing of the bike.
When it is cold, my body tenses.  I hold the grips a little stronger, my knees grip the tank, and my shoulders bunch up.  This is a problem after a while because the muscle in my right shoulder becomes tense and sore.  It is the muscle that holds the throttle open.  Sometimes from long rides, it gets sore enough where it hurts to turn my head to the left.
A long shower in the evening is the best cure.
But I have been wandering from the subject.
From 260 at Show Low the 60/77 heads south, into the clouds.
In a car the clouds do not matter.  I do not mean that you do not notice them, or that you do not change your driving habits.  But what I do mean, is that clouds and rain mean cold and wet and slippery conditions for your motorcycle-balancing act.
Up to that point I had been through intermittent white clouds during the day, they covered the sun, and sometimes the ground was wet, but there was no rain.
There were dark clouds in front of me now, black menacing clouds with darkness underneath which meant rain.  I considered turning around and skipping this road, but I was on my way, and if it got bad, I would stop and relax under a tree.
The sun was out, but not for long, it dipped and bobbed behind the clouds, until it was gone for good and the chill came with the missing sun.
Then there is the dreaded first drop of rain, I hope that it is just a bug, but then there is another, and another and another.  The road goes from sticky asphalt to slick track, and the speeding drops sting against my exposed neck.
The thoughts start to follow through my brain as the oil slicked center of the lane shows intermittent rainbows and I wonder why I am doing this, and there is just darkness up ahead and not knowing if this will last for ten minutes or ten hours, and wondering how long it will take to dry out my boots and socks and gloves and jacket.
I start to look for somewhere to pull over and wait for this to stop, but there is nothing, no trees, no benches with awnings, no civilization.   There is no choice but to head on, and head on I do.
Is that?  Up ahead?  Yes it looks like a break in the clouds.  I can see white clouds beyond the darkness, and the rain pelting the visor goes from heavy caliber machine gun to small arms fire.  And there is blue up ahead and finally the drops become a few lone shots, and I am clear.   That was not so bad, only ten miles in the rain.
A sign on my right says “Steep Grade Next Seven Miles”   “Trucks Use Low Gear”  and then “You are entering Salt River Canyon”.   The road drops from the high altitude plateau down through cliff walls, and the sun is completely out now, and the road is dry and the drops on the visor are disappearing, and my bike is running strong in the lowering altitude.
Around a bend, and the canyon opens up, suddenly the wall to your left is a sheer drop to the river a thousand feet below.  On the opposite side of the canyon, the red rocks create cliff walls towering above the road and river with green patches of trees clumped to the sides.
Behind me I can still see the dark clouds, but now, up ahead, are just blue sky and little white puffy clouds.
The warmth is good on my face, and all of that fear and depression that comes with the rain has been wiped away as the road switchbacks into the distance.

2 Responses to “Arizona Rain”

  1. Ron S. says:

    Ben – If you need a place to stay in Tucson, drop by… somehow… miraculously… SRSLY!

  2. Mom & Dad says:

    Dear Ben,
    Wonderful imagary & feelings. Lovely to follow you. Wish we were there – but there again… we’re more the hot showers/flush toilets brigade.
    As you ride – we sleep and wake up wondering what you’re seeing. Thinking of you.
    Mom & Dad