Being a single mother means that I need to pull some pretty big strings to be able to get away for a solitary week-long ride. Moving Heaven and Earth is worth it, though, to free me from those squeezing daily demands. It is a quest for reinvention that sends me on a trip from Los Angeles to one of the most awe-inspiring places in the world. What better way to taste autonomy than by way of a Suzuki DR-Z400S to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon … alone. Now, this is my idea of bliss.
The Round Boulder Faces of Indian Cove, Joshua Tree National Park, CA
I’m off, yielding to the whims of the road and whatever quest unfolds beneath me. Camping gear and a seven-day supply of dehydrated food give me a real sense of independence on this fall day in October. Self-reliance quickly explodes into sheer explorative excitement as I round the curved road that delivers me to the rock climbers’ paradise known as Indian Cove in Joshua Tree National Park, CA. On this late Sunday afternoon amid the dramatic and contrasting boulder piles that almost seem to speak of their exciting history, I have my pick of campsites.
After a quick setup, I start my JetBoil stove and enjoy a dinner of rehydrated ground beef, pan-fried grated cauliflower, roasted red peppers, garlic, onions, and a jar of homemade tangy BBQ sauce. As dusk turns into night, T-shirt weather has me venturing off with my headlamp to discover a flat-topped boulder where I sit and soak in the silence of the evening underneath a sea of brilliant stars and dense Milky Way. This magical moment helps wash away any lingering pre-ride stress before I float back to camp and dive into the comfort of my Big Agnes Roxy Ann sleeping bag. The voyage begins.
An Intersection Called Earl
This second day really has me noticing an exaggerated bike problem. My lowered DRZ has the stock sidestand pushing my motorcycle up to an almost perpendicular angle. Parking it on any uneven ground with this load is cause for my bike to take a dirt nap. Luckily, a gas station attendant and dual sport aficionado directs me straight to my new friends at Desert Cycle Works in the neighboring town of Twentynine Palms. Dawn Benton, owner and welding torch artisan, slips my loaded DRZ up on the rack before tackling his next job. In no time at all, he slices through my stand and welds the foot back on, minus 1 1/2 inches. After we all admire Dawn’s reconstructed perfect angle, my new buddies send me off to the next leg of desolate road, CA Highway 62 east toward Parker.
Motorcycle & Gear
2007 Suzuki DR-Z400S (with custom adventure modifications)
Helmet: Arai XD-3 Adventure
Jacket: BMW Santiago
Pants: One Industries Defcon
Boots: Sidi On Road
Gloves: Shift Fury (summer), MSRXC ColdPro (winter)
Luggage: Wolfman Rainier Tankbag, Wolfman Expedition Dry Duffle, SealLine Dry Bags
The hypnotizing, straight stretch of pavement out of Twentynine Palms transports my mind to thoughts of self reflection as I slowly make my way to the intersection of Highway 95, the road to Lake Havasu at the California and Arizona border. As dusk descends at an intersection known as Earl, the idea of keeping the roadside critters, and me, alive encourages me to pull over and look for my home for the night.
Rolling quietly into Ramblin’ Roads RV Resort, I settle into their only tent site. Instantly, I attract chatty campground neighbors who are just as excited talking to a gal on her bike in the middle of a grand exploration as they are to share their own stories. This is one of the great by-products of journeying alone. I open myself up to all encounters, no matter how small. Whether it’s a shared smile with a driver on the road or a 45 minute chat with a bicyclist who is considering buying a dual sport motorcycle, we all walk away touched by the exchange.
Twisty Heaven on the Way to Sedona, AZ
Up before dawn, I down freshly brewed tea and a CLIF Bar to get me going quickly. Stopping at a mini mart down the road, the curious owner’s face lights up when I tell her that I am on a lone motorcycle ride with the cargo rack that I designed. She turns to her partner and tells him to cover the store while she follows me outside. We share a moment of mutual admiration as female business owners before I bid farewell. Soon after, I am in cycle heaven as Highway 71 turns into the famed scenic 89 towards Yarnell Hill. This stretch takes on the persona of a sidewinder as it snakes through mountain curves that make a rider want to run it twice.
Leaving Yarnell, I roll into quaint downtown Prescott, dubbed “Everybody’s Home-town,” for a quick lunch in the lush Courthouse Plaza. This nice break recharges me as I look for AZ Highway 89A and push toward Sedona. Right outside Prescott, there is one more road for the books as I climb up Mingus Mountain and have fun with ten glorious miles of twisting curves that slice through amazing scenery. Once at the top, I discover the cliff-side town of Jerome. The renowned ghost town features some great attractions. Although the Jerome Historical Society Mine Museum is definitely worth a park and walk, I opt for a slow crawl through the municipality, and then I scoot in a beeline fashion to Sedona.
From miles outside Sedona, my eyes lock with the magical burnt orange rocks. Arriving close to sunset, I enjoy some of the most dramatic lighting of the day on the various plateaus and spires that surround the city. I cruise slowly through downtown, and about six miles past the city, I slide in to Oak Creek Valley, which is beautifully sandwiched between grandiose red cliffs. After relishing some sweeping curves through the valley, I quickly happen upon Manzanita Campground.
I park my bike in front of Site 14 and quickly unpack before hiking down to Oak Creek for a toe dip. Enough bushes afford me the privacy I need to distance myself from a large family who includes their TV (run on a generator) in their weekend nature escape. After eating, I dive into my tent to escape with a good book by headlamp before being lulled to sleep by the sound of the rolling brook echoing off the valley walls.