When the Destination is a Journey: Riding to the Rails

Mar 16, 2015 View Comments by

When the Destination is a Journey: Riding to the RailsYes, the title is a flip on the motorcycling truism, “It’s the journey not the destination.” However, if you’re like me, you want the time spent off the bike to hold some adventure as well. Punctuating a day’s ride with an intriguing endgame is part of planning a memorable tour.

When the Destination is a Journey: Riding to the RailsI recently took a ride on the Verde Canyon Railroad in north central Arizona. The rail adventure is situated in a location that makes it a nice addition to a tour of one of the nation’s most attractive motorcycling regions. The historic rail excursion is about 20 miles from the red rocks of Sedona and a stone’s throw from the hillside mining town of Jerome. The railroad depot is in the quaint town of Clarkdale from which great roads emanate in all directions.

While my trip to the railroad was a solo ride with my wife (it’s practically in my backyard), it is a popular destination for motorcycle touring groups. The day after our visit, there was a Gold Wing group from Pasadena, CA scheduled. In fact, the train’s engineer told me that he is an avid touring motorcyclist and Gold Wing rider. On our day, there were several motorcycles and trikes in the parking lot.

The railroad is quite motorcyclist friendly. VCRR Marketing Director, Teresa Propeck, told me that special parking areas are regularly corded off for motorcycle groups. She said, “Other passengers get a kick out of seeing the bikes as the train pulls out of the depot.” She also said that with enough notice, an entire motorcycle tour group can be placed in the same rail car.

When the Destination is a Journey: Riding to the RailsThe rail ride itself is a relaxing, visceral tour through some of the Southwest’s most beautiful scenery. The tracks follow the Verde River through high desert vistas and red rock canyons. Along the route, ancient Indian ruins cling to the canyon walls and bald eagles are a common sight. The four-hour, out and back trip is made in a historic train over tracks that were first laid over 100 years ago. The route boasts 186 curves on the short 26-mile narrow gauge stretch, contributing to its label as the “crookedest line in the world.” It’s the railroad version of the Tail of the Dragon!

Every railroad staffer with whom we came in contact was pleasant and accommodating. Our designated tour guide, Don, was a wealth of information and a genuinely good guy. Passengers are assigned to a rail car—either coach or first class—and all cars have easy and direct access to open air viewing cars.

Yes, it is the journey not the destination. However, when the destination is a journey, it’s a real bonus.

Verde Canyon Rail Road: www.verdecanyonrr.com

Text and photography by Tim Kessel

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