Hog-wild in Arizona: Escaping the snow for a two-wheeled detour in the desert | VailDaily.com

Hog-wild in Arizona: Escaping the snow for a two-wheeled detour in the desert

Renting a Harley is a good way to catch some rays

Prescott was the territorial capitol of Arizona. The place is rich in history, and you can get a good chili cheeseburger at Prescott Brewing Company.
Scott N. Miller smiller@vaildaily.com

Somewhere east of Prescott, the helmet-mounted video camera had to go. The wind was either going to rip the camera from the helmet, or tear the helmet off with my head still in it.

But before that …

On a recent trip to Phoenix, I rented a motorcycle, a sinister black Harley-Davidson Road Glide from Buddy Stubbs Harley-Davidson.

The dealership does a brisk rental business, especially in the months before Phoenix gets surface-of-the-sun hot.

Kris Kirk at the rental desk said in addition to daily rentals, the dealership gets a good bit of “snowbird” business in the winter months.

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“We always get a bunch (of customers) from Canada (the Netherlands) and Germany,” Kirk said. “There’s a club from Sweden that comes every year. They get a bunch of bikes and ride around the Southwest.”

Saguaros are real — and spectacular

The trip that day was my first long ride of the season — Phoenix through Wickenberg and Prescott to Sedona and back — more than 300 miles and one of the most popular rides.

Kirk said that route offers a number of points for riders to get back to the interstate and a straight shot back to Phoenix.

Kirk was off the day I picked up the Road Glide, so Dwight Smith provided a good look at the map, and a brief overview of the bike’s navigation system and other controls.

Between the howling wind, a backside not yet hardened to full days in the saddle and a desire to be back at Buddy’s before 5:30 p.m., the route from Prescott to I-17 was a good idea at the time.

Even with the wind, the first part of the ride was a treat. Quickly out of Phoenix and off Interstate 17, the Road Glide rumbled through the desert, past giant Saguaro cactus and desert flora, toward Wickenberg.

A good day in Arizona: A rented Harley-Davidson and an open road between Wickenberg and Prescott.
Scott N. Miller smiller@vaildaily.com

From there came a remarkably scenic ride over the mountains on the way to Prescott, Arizona’s territorial capitol.

The road from Wickenberg to Prescott twists in spots like a snake that’s been hit by a stun gun. It’s a challenging ride, especially if you aren’t fully used to the bike you’ve rented.

Kirk said the size of big Harleys can be intimidating to some riders, especially those who usually ride smaller machines. But you get used to the size after a while. Even if you’re used to big bikes, different bikes are, well, different. A more casual pace gives you a chance to take in the scenery.

Harley makes — and Buddy Stubbs rents — more nimble Sportster models, but a bigger bike can be more comfortable on a day-long ride.

Gliding down the road

The Road Glide had Harley’s newish 114-cubic-inch motor. That’s 1,868 cubic centimeters, but the venerable Milwaukee firm started out measuring engine displacement in cubic inches, so that’s how it’s measured on the big machines.

That motor is a sweetheart, with plenty of punch at street-riding speeds. A good-running sportbike will still run away and hide if you’re riding hard, but that’s not why you rented a big cruiser bike, is it?

You rent a big cruiser to take in the scenery, stop for lunch and meander your way around the Grand Canyon state.

The Road Glide is a dedicated touring machine, meaning it’s built for long-distance work. The machine was nimble enough in the mountains, and stable on the interstate ride back to Phoenix.

Even on a shortened ride — 230-some miles, Smith said — there’s plenty to see. And, while riding in a big city can be a challenge, Phoenix’s traffic wasn’t bad on this trip. An average day in Denver leads to far more swearing.

Renting a motorcycle isn’t cheap — neither is a round of golf at many courses. But if you’ve spent a winter waiting for our weather to warm, and crews to get at least a bit of sand off the roads, renting a bike is a fine way to see a different part of the world, and get some two-wheeled jollies in the bargain.

If you go

• You need a current motocycle endorsement on your driver’s license to rent a bike.

• You can rent a helmet, but your own gear will be more comfortable.

• Be prepared to have a $2,000 hold put on your credit card. You’re responsible for that much of any damage the bike sustains while it’s in your hands.

• Try the chili cheeseburger at the Prescott Brewing Company.

• To learn more, go to http://www.buddystubbshd.com.

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