Desert Adventure, Day Two: Needles, CA to Phoenix, AZ

January 30 2012 by Jason Fogelson
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_MG_8463.jpgBreakfast is my thing. There's nothing better than waking up in the morning and knowing that a good breakfast is on the agenda. Breakfast at Juicy's River Cafe is included with our night's stay at the BEST WESTERN Colorado River Inn. Good, stick-to-your-ribs eggs and bacon starts our day the right way.

We check out of the hotel, load up the bike and get back on the Mother Road. We'll be tracking along a short section of the original Route 66 today, and we're excited to explore a piece of travel history.

_MG_8457.jpgRoute 66 was the first all-weather highway to connect the Midwest and the West Coast. The route was established in 1926, and was decommissioned from the US Highway System in 1985, having been supplanted and replaced by the Interstate Highway System. For many years, Route 66 was the physical and emotional link between Chicago and Los Angeles, and represented the freedom of the American spirit. It was a great manifestation of our love with cars, trucks and motorcycles. Today, sections of the road remain intact, preserved by Route 66 Associations across the country.

_MG_8461.jpgWe're riding on a stretch of Route 66 between the California border and Kingman, Arizona. The ride starts out with great promise, and just gets better and better with each passing mile. As soon as we get into Arizona, we're on a two-lane road in the desert. The weather is perfect -- clear blue skies, temperatures in the mid-60s, a light breeze -- and there's almost no traffic. The road is technically called CR-153 or Oatman Highway, not Route 66 anymore, though signs along the way remind us that we're riding the old road.

The town of Oatman is a wide spot in the road, nestled into some foothills about 22 miles into Arizona. The former gold mining village is now a tourist attraction, famous for its antique, gift and craft stores, the Ghost Riders Gunfighters' Wild West Shootouts and for the wild burros that wander the streets. The burros even wander in and out of the shops along Oatman's main street. We cruise through Oatman without stopping -- it's a little too early in our day, and the riding is just too good to stop.

The road outside of Oatman rewards our persistence. Tight switchbacks, constant changes of elevation and tilts in camber make for great low-speed motorcycling. We're surrounded by glorious desert scenery, with beautiful rock formations, cacti and other flora. As we crest the hills, we're greeted with a classic Arizona desertscape, as vivid and amazing as any photograph or film I've ever seen of the area. I feel like we've been transported back in time, and I once again marvel at the vastness that unfolds around me. This road that we travel was once the primary route across the USA, and it now seems so primitive and so remote that I can only imagine how significant the journey across it must have been. Here we are today, scooting across the terrain on a sophisticated motorcycle without a care in the world, relatively speaking. Robin and I are both struck speechless as we ride along.

The spell is broken when we rejoin the Interstate Highway System for a blast along I-40. We stop for gas, then depart the superslab for US-93 and begin the 100-mile trek south toward Phoenix. I might tire of describing the landscape, but I will never tire of the magnificent desert. Eventually, human habitation overcomes the desert habitat, and we're passing the familiar landmarks of civilization, leaping ahead in time, back to the present day.

_MG_8468.jpgWe cruise into Phoenix, Arizona's capital and the sixth largest city in the United States, and home to the corporate headquarters of Best Western Hotels, the World's Biggest Hotel Family. We find our hotel for the night, the BEST WESTERN PLUS InnSuites Phoenix Hotel & Suites, and check in. The hotel is lovely, with grounds that are landscaped with native plantings, featuring a few magnificent Saguaro cactus specimens. Everything is clean and crisp, with that distinctive Southwestern style that fits so perfectly into the surroundings.

We check in, unpack our bike and freshen up in our room. We hop back on the bike for a quick ride to Rokerij Restaurant to meet up with a few Best Western friends. Rokerij is a very cozy, relaxed restaurant, serving modern American classics. There's a fun quirk to the place that works to cement the place in my mind: They have two menus -- one for Rokerij, and one for Richardson's. Apparently, Richardson's was the flagship restaurant for a small local chain, and it burned down a few years ago. Rather than let its menu fade into memory, the owners brought it to Rokerij, and continue to prepare and serve the Richardson's specialties alongside the Rokerij menu. The result is a wide, yet distinctly personal menu. The delicious food served as a great catalyst for conversation, as Robin met my Best Western friends for the first time.

After dinner, Robin and I show off the Electra Glide in the parking lot before jumping back on the bike and heading back to the BEST WESTERN PLUS InnSuites Phoenix Hotel & Suites for the night. We have a short day of riding tomorrow, but a lot to see on the way to our next destination, Tucson. Sleep comes easily on our first real night in Arizona.

Distance traveled: 264 miles

NEXT: Desert Adventure, Day Three: Phoenix, AZ to Tucson, AZ

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    By okierebel on February 18, 2012 4:48 PM

    I live in the middle of RT 66. In Tulsa Ok and have traveled from St Louis all the way to pacific ocean. Lots of developement in OK we are getting things opened and refubished to make to make the historic trip like it was yrs ago..

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