I wake to a beautiful fall morning, and standing on the terrace of my room at the Matterhorn Inn, I am afforded a spectacular panoramic view of the red rock formations that characterize this city. I wanted to explore Sedona and the surrounding area by motorbike since I first passed through in 2006 on a family trip. To say I am quite excited is an understatement. In the next few days I’ll explore the city center, the towns of Winslow, Prescott, and Jerome as well as the Grand Canyon and much more.
With the kickstand up on my Suzuki V-Strom DL650, I am off northbound via SR-89A through the incredibly beautiful Oak Creek Canyon. I am at once enveloped by both majestic rock cliffs and towering pine. The two-lane blacktop follows the creek for a handful of miles before it begins to ascend from the canyon by way of countless hairpin turns and switchbacks. The roadway is in impeccable condition and traffic is light, making the ride even more gratifying. Once I reach elevation, I stop at the Oak Creek Vista overlook, and I am treated to a one-of-a-kind view of the serpentine road below.
Standing on a Corner
I make my way to Winslow via super slab that has replaced much of the original Route 66 (aka the Mother Road), reaching the small town just in time for lunch. Winslow stands as a reminder of the “good old days” before high-speed interstate travel and when a cross-country road trip was as much about the journey as it was the destination. Made famous by the Eagles song Take it Easy, it’s not hard to see how the town’s residents are doing their best to keep the city alive. Tourist dollars are a hot commodity all along the old road, and these towns are surviving thanks to the efforts of residents and visitors dedicated to keeping the past in the present.
Lunch at the Casa Blanca Cafe proves to be a good bet as I indulge in a satisfying meal and small talk with the town’s folk and vacationers alike.
Motorcycle & Gear
Traversing south via SR-87 just a few miles out of town, I am taken in by the wide-open spaces. I can truly “see for miles and miles.” As I press on, the road becomes increasingly interesting as long, slow sweepers lead me into Arizona’s high country where giant conifers begin to immure the roadway. For about 50 miles I have the road mainly to myself, with the only exceptions being other two-wheeled travelers that I cross paths with. Stopping to refuel in the little town of Happy Jack, bikers as well as those dressed in hunting garb are gathered in front of an adjacent watering hole. I am informed by the clerk in the gas station that hunting season is in full swing, giving me even more reason to mind the roadside signs warning of elk and deer.
Closing the loop I turn west, gradually descending some 3,000 feet into the Verde Valley. The landscape morphs from dense forest to desert as cacti replace pine and the temperature climbs from the upper 60s to the mid-80s. Well-sorted riding gear with removable liners and venting comes in quite handy. Passing Camp Verde and Cottonwood, the red rock comes back into view as I approach home base in Sedona. With day one under my belt, I am more than excited to get out and see more of what the Sedona area has to offer.
The Wild, Wild West
Anticipating a shorter day in terms of miles and saddle time, I take time to relish a sit down breakfast before charting my course on the open road. There are places within walking distance from my hotel, and I opt for the HP Cafe. One well-prepared “Hitching Post Omelet” later and I am ready to roll. Once astride my Suzuki DL650, I motor south under clear blue skies, passing Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock, two of the more notable landmarks and popular hiking areas. Glowing in the morning sun, the majestic red rock buttes are truly awe-inspiring. After a brief sprint on super slab (aka I-17), I make my way west while appreciating the national forest before entering the Prescott Valley and reaching Prescott.
With its familiar downtown area centered around a community park, grand older trees, and craftsman-style homes, the town is reminiscent of many small town mid-western city centers. Perhaps this is the reason for Prescott’s motto: “Everyone’s Hometown.” Founded in 1864 as the territorial capital of Arizona, Prescott has a rich history steeped in mining and old west folklore. Whiskey Row (Montezuma Street) is home to historic watering holes, the Palace Bar being possibly the most well known. The walls display images of Wyatt Earp, Virgil Earp, Doc Holliday, and others. No false advertising here as the Palace makes the claim that it is “Arizona’s oldest frontier bar.” Although the original building went up in flames in 1900 in what is known as the “Whiskey Row Fire;” one year later it was back in business. Because of its history, the Palace is a terrific place to reminisce about the Wild West.