The first light of dawn was gently breaking over Apache Junction as I approached my 2018 Honda Goldwing. The motorcycle, a marvel of engineering, gleamed in the soft light. The Goldwing, known for its unparalleled combination of power and luxury, is a touring bike that promises comfort and performance. Its sleek design, aerodynamic curves, and polished finish exude a sense of adventure and elegance. The plush seating, advanced electronic features, and powerful six-cylinder engine make it a favorite among long-distance riders.
Ensuring the motorcycle is in optimal condition is imperative before embarking on any journey, especially one spanning two days through varying terrains. A pre-trip inspection is not just a recommendation; it’s a necessity. Every ride should begin with this ritual, ensuring safety and a smooth journey.
Pre-Trip Inspection Steps:
- Tires and Wheels: I checked the tire pressure, ensuring it matched the manufacturer’s recommendation. A visual inspection for any signs of wear, cracks, or foreign objects lodged in the tread followed.
- Controls: I ensured the levers, pedals, and cables worked well. Smooth operation without any sticking or undue resistance is crucial.
- Lights and Electrics: I tested all the lights – headlights, tail lights, brake lights, and turn signals. Additionally, I ensured the horn and all electronic displays were functioning correctly.
- Oil and Fluids: I checked engine oil, brake fluid, and coolant levels. It’s essential to ensure no leaks and that all fluids are at their recommended levels.
- Chassis: This involved inspecting the frame, suspension, and fasteners. Everything needs to be tight and in good condition.
After completing the thorough pre-trip inspection and confirming that my Honda Goldwing was ready, I mounted the bike. With the wind beckoning and the open road ahead, my two-day adventure through Arizona’s scenic landscapes began.
The Majestic Bush Highway
My first stretch took me along the Bush Highway, a less-traveled road filled with nature’s wonders. The highway winds past the serene Saguaro Lake, a reservoir nestled amidst cacti and desert flora. The lake’s shimmering blue waters contrasted beautifully with the rugged desert landscape, offering a picturesque view that seemed straight from a postcard. With its gentle curves and smooth tarmac, the road was a biker’s dream.
A Blend of Nature and Neon at the Mazatzal Casino
As the morning sun climbed higher, I made my way to the Mazatzal Casino. Situated amidst the sprawling beauty of the Tonto National Forest, the casino stands as a beacon of modern entertainment juxtaposed against nature’s vast canvas. The building itself, with its contemporary architecture, shimmering lights, and vibrant signs, beckons visitors with the promise of excitement and thrill.
Inside, the casino is a hive of activity. The hum of slot machines, the soft murmur of conversations, and the occasional cheer from a winning table create an atmosphere of anticipation. The casino boasts a range of facilities, from a vast gaming floor filled with the latest slot machines and table games to a plush lounge where one can relax and enjoy live entertainment. The dedicated poker room offers tournaments and cash games for those with a penchant for poker. And if hunger strikes, there’s a gourmet restaurant and a casual cafe, ensuring that every palate is catered to.
Drawn to the blackjack tables, I decided to try my luck. With $40 in hand, I sat, feeling the chips’ weight and the cards’ smooth texture. The first few hands were a mix of wins and losses, but my strategy began to pay off as I got into the game’s rhythm. With each hand, my pile of chips grew, the thrill of the game amplified by the camaraderie at the table. A short time later, with a series of well-played hands and a bit of luck, I had turned my initial $40 into a neat sum of $150.
Feeling the rush of my blackjack success, I decided to try my hand at the Wheel of Fortune slot machine, its colorful display and promise of a jackpot too tempting to resist. I inserted a $20 bill and watched the wheels spin, the symbols dancing before my eyes. Despite the machine’s alluring lights and sounds, luck wasn’t on my side this time. The Wheel of Fortune had other plans, and I walked away $20 lighter.
With a mix of wins and losses, my time at the Mazatzal Casino was a memorable blend of excitement, strategy, and the unpredictable nature of luck. It was a reminder that in the gaming world, it’s not just about the winnings but the experience and memories created along the way.
Payson and the Mogollon Rim
The town of Payson, with its rich history and charming ambiance, was a brief yet memorable part of my journey. As I rode out of Payson, the landscape transformed, giving way to one of Arizona’s most iconic geological wonders: the Mogollon Rim.
The Mogollon Rim, often referred to as simply “The Rim,” is a vast escarpment defining the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau. Stretching across the central part of Arizona, it offers breathtaking views that are a testament to nature’s artistry. From my vantage point on the highway, I could see the Rim’s dramatic cliffs, which rise sharply, forming a stark contrast against the azure sky. The dense pine, juniper, and oak forests blanket its higher elevations, creating a verdant tapestry. At the same time, the deep canyons and rugged terrain below tell tales of the earth’s ancient past.
The history of the Mogollon Rim is as captivating as its views. It was formed millions of years ago through volcanic activity, sedimentary deposition, and erosion. Over time, the forces of nature sculpted this magnificent landmark, which now stands as a testament to the dynamic processes that shape our planet. The Rim also holds cultural significance, having been home to the ancient Mogollon people, from whom it gets its name.
The panoramic views of dense forests and majestic mountains were a sight as I continued alongside the Mogollon Rim. The road led me to Heber, a town with its own unique charm. Nestled in the heart of Arizona, Heber is known for its close-knit community and serene landscapes, making it a perfect pitstop for travelers seeking tranquility.
Lunchtime found me in Heber’s renowned Red Onion Lounge. With its rustic charm and welcoming atmosphere, the eatery is a favorite among locals and travelers alike. Its wooden interiors, vintage decor, and warm lighting create a cozy ambiance, perfect for enjoying a hearty meal. The menu at the Red Onion Lounge is diverse, offering everything from classic American dishes to local specialties. The aroma of freshly cooked food wafted through the air, promising a culinary experience that would satiate both hunger and the soul.
With a full stomach and a heart filled with the beauty of the Mogollon Rim, I continued my journey, eager to discover what other wonders Arizona had in store.
Journey Into the White Mountains
As I ventured further, the desert landscapes began to give way to the lush greenery of the White Mountains. My journey led me to Show Low, a city with a name as intriguing as its history. Legend has it that the city’s unique name was derived from a marathon poker game between two early settlers, Corydon E. Cooley and Marion Clark. The game, which lasted hours, ended when Clark told Cooley, “Show low, and you win.” Cooley turned up the deuce of clubs, the lowest possible card, and won the 100,000-acre ranch on which they played. Today, Show Low’s main street is named “Deuce of Clubs” in honor of that legendary game.
Show Low’s rich tapestry of history doesn’t end there. Continuing, I reached Pinetop-Lakeside, a gem nestled at the heart of the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world. The towering pines, with their distinct aroma and rustling canopies, created a serene ambiance, making it easy to see why this area is a haven for nature enthusiasts. The community of Pinetop-lakeside, located nearby, played a significant role in the region’s logging and railroad industries. The rhythmic chug of steam engines and the buzz of sawmills once echoed through the pines as Pinetop became a hub for transporting timber. The remnants of this bygone era and the tales of the hardworking folks who once called Pinetop home add depth to the region’s narrative.
A brief detour took me to the Hondah Casino, just outside Pinetop. Owned and operated by the White Mountain Apache Tribe, the casino is more than just a gaming center; it symbolizes the tribe’s resilience and entrepreneurial spirit. The vibrant atmosphere inside was infectious, with the soft hum of slot machines and the murmur of excited conversations. Recalling my earlier misadventure with the Wheel of Fortune slot machine, I decided to try my luck once more. Alas, the machine had other plans, and I found myself $20 lighter yet again.
With a mix of wins and losses and the rich history of Show Low and Pinetop fresh in my mind, I prepared for the next leg of my journey. The road ahead would take me across the vast expanse of the White Mountain Apache Reservation, promising more adventures and scenic wonders. On the route, I passed by several scenic lakes and the best ski resort in Arizona, Sunrise Ski Resort which is also operated by the White Mountain Apache Tribe.
The Lost Resorts: A Night by the River in Greer
With its pristine landscapes and the gentle flow of the Little Colorado River, Greer is a hidden gem in the heart of Arizona. Often described as the ‘Most Beautiful in the White Mountains,’ Greer boasts a tranquil ambiance with its lush meadows, dense forests, and myriad wildlife. The town, with its modest population, exudes a sense of timelessness, making it a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Nestled in this serene backdrop is The Lost Resorts, a haven of tranquility that promises an immersive experience with nature. The resort, spread across a vast expanse, seamlessly blends rustic charm with modern comforts. The grounds are meticulously maintained, with pathways meandering through manicured gardens, leading to cozy sitting areas by the river. The gentle murmur of the Little Colorado River, combined with the chirping of birds, creates a symphony that soothes the soul.
My accommodation was one of the resort’s signature collection cabins. The cabin, crafted with attention to detail, boasted wooden interiors, a plush bed, and large windows that offered panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes. Modern amenities, combined with thoughtful touches like a fireplace and a private patio, ensured a comfortable stay. As night fell, the fireplace’s soft glow and the river’s distant sound lulled me into a peaceful slumber.
Dinner was at the renowned Molly Butler Lodge, just a short walk from the resort. Established in 1910, the lodge holds the distinction of being one of Arizona’s oldest restaurants. But it’s not just its age that makes the Molly Butler Lodge special. The lodge’s walls are steeped in history, with tales of pioneers, miners, and loggers who once frequented this establishment. The menu, a blend of traditional favorites and modern delicacies, is a testament to the lodge’s commitment to preserving its rich legacy while catering to contemporary tastes. Dining here, amidst the vintage decor and under the soft glow of antique chandeliers, was like taking a step back in time.
With a heart full of gratitude for the beauty of Greer and the comforts of The Lost Resorts, I retired for the night, eagerly awaiting the adventures the next day would bring.
Hiking and Enjoying Greer’s Natural Beauty
The morning in Greer greeted me with a crisp, fresh air that carried the subtle scent of pine. Eager to explore the natural beauty surrounding me, I embarked on a hike along the Amberian Loop trail. The path, with its gentle inclines and well-trodden tracks, meandered through dense forests and open meadows, offering a kaleidoscope of sights and sounds.
As I ventured deeper into the trail, the region’s rich biodiversity began to unfold. The towering ponderosa pines, with their distinctive bark and towering stature, stood as sentinels of the forest. Beneath their canopy, I spotted wildflowers like the vibrant Indian paintbrush and delicate columbines, their colors adding a splash of brightness to the woodland floor. The soft rustling of leaves alerted me to the presence of wildlife. I was fortunate to catch glimpses of mule deer grazing in the distance and a curious squirrel darting up a tree trunk. The melodious calls of mountain bluebirds and the distant hoot of an owl created a symphony that resonated with the rhythm of nature.
After the invigorating hike, my appetite was piqued, and breakfast at the Rendezvous restaurant awaited. The meal presented before me was a culinary masterpiece. The eggs, cooked to a soft, velvety consistency, were a rich, golden yellow canvas, hinting at their origin’s freshness. The sausage, with its perfect blend of spices, offered a burst of flavor with each bite, its juicy interior complemented by a slightly crispy exterior. The bacon was a symphony of textures – crisp edges giving way to tender, smoky layers that melted in the mouth. And the toast, golden brown and lightly buttered, provided the perfect crunch, a delightful contrast to the softness of the eggs. Each bite was a testament to the chef’s prowess, turning simple ingredients into a breakfast that was both comforting and gourmet.
With a satisfied palate and a heart full of nature’s wonders, I was ready to continue my journey, carrying the memories of Greer’s unparalleled beauty.
Springerville, Alpine, and The Devil’s Highway
As the landscapes of Greer faded in my rearview mirror, the road ahead beckoned me toward Springerville. Often referred to as the ‘Gateway to the White Mountains,’ Springerville is a town that seamlessly blends its rich history with modern charm. Its streets, lined with historic buildings and local boutiques, echo tales of pioneers and settlers who once called this place home. The town’s vibrant community, combined with its cultural landmarks, makes it a must-visit for any traveler journeying through Arizona.
From Springerville, the road led me to Alpine, a picturesque town nestled at an elevation of over 8,000 feet. Alpine, with its crisp mountain air and panoramic views, is a haven for those seeking tranquility amidst nature. The town’s name, ‘Alpine,’ is a testament to its lofty location and the surrounding meadows. The streets of Alpine, with their quaint cottages and rustic charm, exude a sense of timelessness, making one feel as if they’ve stepped into a bygone era.
The journey between these towns was nothing short of spectacular, especially the stretch on Highway 191. Riding a motorcycle on this section of the highway is an experience unto itself. With its winding curves and undulating terrain, the road offers a thrilling ride, challenging one’s skills while providing breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes. The sensation of the wind against my face, combined with the roar of the engine and the open road, was exhilarating.
A pitstop in Alpine at The Tackle Shop was both necessary and delightful. While it’s primarily known for its fishing gear, The Tackle Shop also serves as a convenient refueling point. As I filled the tank, the aroma of freshly made jerky inside the shop was too tempting to resist. Along with a refreshing Coke, I treated myself to some of this homemade delicacy, its rich flavors and perfect texture making it an ideal snack for the road.
With the memories of Springerville and Alpine etched in my heart and the thrill of Highway 191 still fresh in my mind, I continued on my journey, eager to explore the wonders ahead.
Morenci, Safford, and the Mining Legacy of Arizona
The road to Morenci was a visual symphony of nature’s raw beauty intertwined with the marks of human ingenuity. The landscapes, characterized by vast canyons and deep gorges, hinted at the mineral treasures beneath. As I approached, Morenci’s vast terraced mines, emblematic of its status as one of North America’s largest copper producers, stood out against the rugged backdrop, a testament to human endeavor.
Morenci’s mining legacy is as rich as its copper deposits. Dating back to the late 19th century, prospectors were lured by the region’s mineral wealth. Over the years, the town has witnessed the evolution of mining, transitioning from underground operations to the expansive open-pit mines we see today. With its innovative extraction methods, the Morenci mine stands as a beacon of the town’s adaptability and resilience.
Lunchtime in Morenci led me to Michelle’s Bar and Grill, a local favorite known for its hearty meals and welcoming ambiance. The interiors exude a sense of nostalgia with their rustic decor and vintage memorabilia. My choice for the day was a cheeseburger, and it was nothing short of perfection. The patty, juicy and cooked to perfection, was complemented by fresh lettuce, ripe tomatoes, and a tangy sauce, all encased in a soft, toasted bun. Each bite was a delightful mix of flavors and textures, making it a meal to remember.
After soaking in Morenci’s rich history, my journey ushered me to Safford. While its origins are deeply rooted in agriculture, Safford’s growth and prosperity have been significantly influenced by mining. Located close to the mineral-rich regions of Dos Pobres and San Juan, the town has reaped the benefits of the mining boom, with many of its residents finding employment in the neighboring mines.
The stretch from Winkelman to Kearny and then into Superior was a ride through scenic beauty and a journey through Arizona’s mining heartland. With its serene confluence of the Gila and San Pedro rivers, Winkelman has also been touched by the mining activities of the nearby Ray mines. Kearny, birthed as a planned community in the 1950s, was designed to house the workforce of the expanding Ray mines, making its existence inextricably linked to the mining industry.
Superior, my subsequent stop, is a town whose pulse beats in rhythm with mining. Its historic downtown, echoing tales of a bustling mining era, and the nearby Magma mine have shaped Superior’s cultural and economic landscape. The town’s streets, lined with historic buildings and local boutiques, whisper stories of miners, entrepreneurs, and the dance between man and mineral.
A culinary pause at Los Hermanos in Superior was about satiating hunger and connecting with the town’s community. The restaurant’s traditional decor and authentic flavors stand as a testament to the town’s rich heritage. Many establishments, including Los Hermanos, have been witness to locals sharing tales of their day, creating a bond between the town’s culinary and local narratives.
With a heart enriched by tales of Arizona’s legacy, the diverse flavors of its towns, and the breathtaking beauty of its landscapes, I continued my journey, the open road echoing with stories of resilience, endeavor, and the timeless interplay between man and nature.
Homeward Bound Alongside the Shadow of the Superstitions
As I set course from Superior to Apache Junction, the horizon was dominated by the imposing silhouette of the Superstition Mountains. These iconic ranges, with their rugged peaks and deep canyons, have been the backdrop to countless tales and legends, casting a mystical aura over the landscape.
The entire journey home was under the watchful gaze of these mountains, their ever-changing hues reflecting the passage of time. As the sun’s rays danced on their slopes, the mountains seemed to shimmer, their beauty both awe-inspiring and humbling.
But beyond their visual splendor, the Superstitions hold a secret that has captivated the imaginations of many: the legend of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. As the tale goes, in the 19th century, a German immigrant named Jacob Waltz discovered a rich gold mine within these mountains. However, its location remained a mystery as Waltz took that secret to his grave. Over the years, many have ventured into the heart of the Superstitions, lured by tales of untold riches, only to be thwarted by the mountain’s treacherous terrain and the elusive nature of the mine.
Riding alongside the Superstitions, with the legend of the Lost Dutchman echoing in my mind, I felt a deep connection to Arizona’s rich tapestry of natural beauty and folklore. The journey, which began as a simple motorcycle ride, had transformed into an odyssey through time, landscapes, and tales of yore.
As the familiar sights of Apache Junction came into view, marking the end of my two-day adventure, I was filled with a profound sense of gratitude. The road had been both a teacher and a companion, revealing the multifaceted beauty of Arizona. With memories of winding streets, historic towns, majestic mountains, and legends that would stand the test of time, I knew this journey would forever hold a special place in my heart.
*Justin Cannon, a native of Arizona, has been immersed in the world of motorcycles since childhood. With a passion for pavement and off-road adventure riding, Justin’s diverse experience with motorcycles shapes his unique perspective as an author.