A Brunch on the Way to
Deryle & Wanda Mehrten
Part I: Getting to the Brunch.
This is the eighth year that BMW
Steve Cantrill has hosted his Ambassador Brunch at his home in
Payson, Arizona. This year it was hot dogs and hamburgers that
greeted the collection of BMW riders that made it to Steve’s annual
event on Sunday the 26th of August. Steve says he does the brunch
to give back to the folks who were gracious enough to nominate him
for MOA Ambassadorship. For quite a few years he was the Editor of
the monthly newsletter for the PITS BMW Motorcycle Club, now the
AZBeemers, and has volunteered many hours at past BMW MOA and RA
Wanda and I have been to most of Steve’s brunches. Last year quite
a few SEAT members [South East Arizona Touring Riders, BMW MOA #
213] stopped to enjoy a late breakfast after “The Guy Standin’ on
the Corner” SEAT Overnighter in Winslow, Arizona. This year Wanda
and I were the only out-of-town SEAT members there. Lots of folks
from the AZBeemers were the mainstay this year, the very guys and
gals that Steve rides with and who insured his many years as the
PITS Editor and MOA volunteer didn't go unnoticed. Local SEAT
members Dick and Sioux Prince were co-hosts this year as Barbara,
Steve’s significant other, was out of town. Needless to say the
brunch was a hoot, even if we didn’t get a hamburger [insert smiley
For us, Steve’s brunch would be the excuse for a two night, three
day ride across our favorite state - Arizona. We would spend
Saturday night in Payson, enjoying Steve’s brunch Sunday morning,
then spend the second night in Alpine at the Sportsman’s Lodge. Day
three would be down Highway 180 and home. The plan was to do a bit
of site seeing and to make sure we had the SEAT October Fest
Overnighter’s dinner all set up at the Alpine Grill. No problem -
our two night stay at the Sportsman’s Lodge is booked and the
Saturday night SEAT dinner is now on the Grill’s calendar. As far
as site seeing goes…read on.
To get to Payson we planned a nice ‘round about ride through Tucson
Saturday morning, taking Park Link Road, a “Shortcut, Long Cut and
Way Around”, to Highway 79 - The Pinal Pioneer Parkway. The Parkway
is a mellow back road to Florence and at about mile marker 115 is
the Tom Mix Memorial, an excellent rest stop and a photo op for
sure. A nice history of Tom Mix was taped onto the table just
behind the concrete and stone monument. The monument was erected to
memorialize one of the all-time great early motion picture cowboy
movie stars who tragically died near here. Seems he drove his Cord
off the road and died of multiple injuries, least of which was the
blow to the back of his head by his jewel and cash laden suitcase.
The wash that took the brunt of his Cord’s coffin shaped nose is now
named in his honor. Tough way to get something named after you.
It’s been a year or so since we rode through Florence. The city of
Florence has got to be the jail capital of Arizona. There are at
least four or five “correctional facilities” on the east side of
Highway 79 as you pass through town. Lots of barbed wire and
concertina wire-toped fences surrounding some serious looking
buildings. We stopped to get gas right across the street from one
of the more ominous looking facilities and got going post haste.
Not really the place to hang around very long.
At Florence Junction, only a few miles north where Highway 79 ends
at Highway 60, we headed east along a very scenic section of Highway
60 through the southern tip of the Tonto National Forest. The past
copper mining town of Superior was just up the road. After some
very lean years Superior appears to have gained a bit of vitality
back. Not too long ago it seemed like all the buildings lining the
sides of Highway 60 coming into town were boarded up. Now there’s a
gaggle of roadside tourist shops to capture the traveler’s fancy.
We elected to save our money and continued east to Miami, another
mining town that has seen better days.
About halfway between Superior and Miami is the Top-of-the-World
district. At one time supposedly the largest brothel in Arizona
operated here. The owners were so brazen back then they advertised
their services in a Phoenix newspaper. The Phoenix Sheriff decided
that was just too much and rode out and busted the whole operation.
Arizona has a colorful past, to say the least.
As you come into Miami you can see the now out-of-business copper
mine’s smoke stack still standing up on a mountain of mine
tailings. It looks petty rickety and maybe even leaning a bit to
one side. One of these days they’ll drop it with explosives like
they did the two towers at the closed mine in San Manuel. The San
Manual demolition made the evening news. It’d be neat to see the
stack in Miami brought down the same way.
We ended up stopping in Miami for a most excellent hamburger and
fries at a local café appropriately named The Burger House. Several
locals were there when we came in and within a few minutes the place
was packed. Obviously we hit upon the best fast food place in
town. Our order was up in just a few minutes and we enjoyed
listening to the locals talk about their daily lives. It was a
really good lunch stop.
Highway 188, the turn off to Roosevelt Lake and Roosevelt Dam, is
just past Miami. It runs along the west side of Lake Roosevelt and
comes to a T at The Beeline Highway, Highway 89. In days gone by
the peak before the lake was a narrow two lane road that would scare
the crap out of you if a big RV came over the hill at the same
time. Even though it’s been widened and smoothed out over the
years, the speed limits are set pretty low through here. Hard to
keep from zooming right along.
Drought conditions these last few years have lowered the water level
of the lake dramatically from the last time we rode by. In years not
so long ago we’ve seen the water level way up on the dam and even
under many of the bridges/overpasses along the lake. Not so this
year, it was way down. Hopefully the rainy season we’re having, one
of the best in quite a few years, will be enough to raise the water
level a bit. We’ll see.
As usual the temperatures along the lake were right up there. The
GT’s dash showed a high of 98 degrees Fahrenheit just about the
entire length of the lake. Combined with a humidity rate of 70 to
80 percent and it was sticky hot. We stopped at the Vineyard
Picnic/Rest Stop, the only fee free area along the lake, to drink a
Gatorade and check out the water level close up. Never mind
checking out the water level “close up”, it was too far out to
walk! We did have the entire rest stop to ourselves and parked the
GT in the only shady spot around. Living in the Desert Southwest
we’re always on the lookout for shade.
Part of our site seeing plans during our ride-about was to veer off
Highway 89 and check out Gisela, a small town about five miles off
the highway. We were told by an area local that Gisela has a
waterfall that is spectacular when the monsoon rains are in full
swing. From the weather reports we’ve been following, the rain
along the Mogollon Rim has been pretty good. But…with the heat
still in the high 80’s and huge white, puffy clouds building up on
the horizon just where we were headed, we decided to put Gisela on
hold. Next time.
On up Highway 89 past the turn off to Gisela is the town of Rye.
You’ll find one of the biggest motorcycle junkyards around in Rye.
Think of a past old bike you’ve owned and you will probably find one
or two buried in the heap. The owner is a bit eccentric and a bit
long in the tooth. We’ve heard some interesting stories about him;
I believe he was on an episode of Arizona Highways. Unfortunately
the only restaurant in Rye, right next door to the pile of bikes,
has closed. We’ve stopped on more than one ride through Rye to
check out all the rusted iron and eat there and it was always good.
Although a big OPEN sign is still perched on top of the front door,
the weeds growing up through the asphalt parking lot tell a
From Rye it’s just a few miles to Payson and our stop for the
night. We decided to stay at the Days Inn right next to the Buffalo
Bar and Grill. Many moons ago we were coming into Payson not
expecting to spend the night when a monsoon downfall literally
blinded us, forcing us to pull into the first parking lot we came
to. Lo and behold it was the parking lot of the Days Inn. The
indoor pool and hot tub were a real bonus. Unfortunately the hot
tub was out of commission this stay, bummer.
After waiting for the usual afternoon monsoon rain to subside, it
was a short walk across a parking lot or two to the Buffalo Bar and
Grill. We enjoyed an excellent dinner of shrimp and fish with a
couple of brewskies, and retired to our room around 7:30. A nice
end to an excellent day’s ride.
Part II: On to Alpine.
Sunday morning was clear and sunny and by the time we left for
Steve’s Ambassador Brunch about 10 am it was already in the 70’s. I
don’t believe Steve has had his annual brunch in the same house
twice in a row and this year was no different, he’d moved since his
last brunch. To find his new abode we used one of those real estate
maps you find in every hotel lobby in the world. By the time we got
to his house, parking along the street was already filled with
motorcycles and several bikes were parked up on the driveway. We
must have been the last bike to ride up. Fellow SEAT members Dick
and Sioux Prince greeted us as we walked up the driveway to the
front of the house. We haven’t seen Dick and Sioux for a month or
twelve. They had a very bad accident several years back. It was
good to see they were healthy and still riding.
Brunch was being served on the back patio where close to 30 folks
were enjoying the hamburgers and hot dogs coming off the grill. The
burgers went fast and the hot dogs were going just as fast. One of
the couples making the brunch brought a salmon plate with veggie
trimmings for the late comers to enjoy. We wandered around the
house for a while chatting with folks, some we knew, more we
didn’t. After I’d taken the requisite number of pictures and
annoyed the requisite number of folks, we said our good byes and
slipped out about 11:15. With some site seeing planned for the day,
we had a 190 plus mile ride over to Alpine. We didn’t want to get
started too late.
Our route for the day would be the Zane Grey Highway, Highway 260.
We’ve ridden Highway 260 several times on five different motorcycles
and were looking forward to the scenic ride through the Tonto,
Sitgreaves and Apache National Forests. This is the Mogollon Rim, a
natural stretch of high country and pine forest that runs all the
way to New Mexico. How the road has changed over the years. What
was once a winding two lane highway right out of Payson is now a
four lane divided highway. Wide open stretches with big sweeping
curves made it way to easy to get to trucking along at more than the
local LEOs would allow. Had to keep my right wrist under control.
At about 20 miles from Payson there’s some serious construction
going on. Two new bridges or overpasses are being built or rebuilt,
not sure which. The four lanes of divided highway come down to two
for several miles. An Arizona Highway Patrol was parked at the
constriction insuring we would all obey the reduced speed limit.
Thankfully the detour was paved and was no problem. Per the notices
posted along the way the construction will continue into late 2013.
Not too much further east we stopped at the Mogollon Rim Visitors
Center. The sign above the entrance proclaimed we were at 7,500
feet. Around the back of the center there’s a wooden deck with an
expansive view of the forest below. Inside the center you’ll find
the standard selection of books, maps and trinkets for sale. After
chatting with one of the Rangers for a few minutes, we stuffed a few
dollars in the donation jar and geared up to continue east.
Before coming into Heber the highway narrows down to two lanes and
you begin to see the devastation caused by the Rodeo-Chediski Fire
that swept through here some ten years ago. Per the local rangers
it will be another 20 to 30 years before the forest recovers. The
town of Heber right in the middle of the flames really dodged a
bullet; it could have been gone in minutes. After our experience
with the Monument Fire in our neighborhood we have a very different
view of forest fires. Really scary stuff.
It was getting to be mid-afternoon as we came into Show Low and the
afternoon monsoon cloud build up was in full force. Dark, black
skies were slowly surrounding us. It was definitely going to rain
on us this leg, hopefully not like the deluge we suffered through in
New Orleans this past May. We donned our Frogg Toggs and prepared
for the worst. Before Pinetop-Lakeside the sprinkles started. As
we rode past the Hon-Dah Indian Casino and entered the White
Mountain Apache Indian Reservation, the sky opened up. We followed
a small sedan for a few miles. The tracks the car made - or didn’t
make - gave us a good indication of how wet the road was. There
were several stretches of no tracks. Lots of water coming down.
Another of our site seeing plans was not going to happen thanks to
the monsoonal dump. Highway 273 south off of Highway 260 has seen
new pavement down to the Highway 261 junction. It is now part of a
nice loop down to Big Lake through some of Arizona’s prime ski
areas. The road from Big Lake back to Highway 260 is an awesome
piece of motorcycle friendly road. Just too much rain and it didn’t
look like it was going to stop any time soon. Like Gisela - next
From Springerville down past the Nelson Reservoir the rain varied
from heavy to outreageous. There are several sections through here
where the rain comes down off the side of the mountains and rips
across the road. The last ride we took on our past 2000 Moto Guzzi
Quota was through here under similar conditions. I remember feeling
the Quota hydroplane a couple of times on that trip. Best to keep
the pace way down and be smooth - very, very smooth. A mile or so
from Alpine the rain slowed to a sprinkle. As we pulled into the
Sportsman’s Lodge parking lot the rain quit all together. Fitting
Frank Barnes, who along with his lovely wife Phyllis own and operate
the lodge, was pushing the cleaning cart along the walkway in front
of the rooms and immediately greeted us with his always there
friendly smile. Frank and the rest of Alpine were evacuated last
year thanks to the Bear Wallow fire that blossomed into one of the
largest forest fires ever. The floods that came after the fire
threatened to wipe him out as well. His parking lot was three to
four feet deep in mud and debris. He has pictures that will blow
After checking into our room and laying out our Toggs to dry, we
were ready to head over to the Alpine Grill and the Lollipop Shop
for dinner and some sugar free candy. On the way it didn’t hurt to
stop at Ye Olde Tavern for a Bourbon and beer chaser - I’d drink the
bourbon and we’d share the beer. The only foreigners there, we
joined about ten locals sitting at the bar talking local talk. This
is where the annual Alpine Worm Race is held. Fitting it would be
held in a bar, doncha think.
After polishing off our drinks, it was off to the Alpine Grill.
This is where we are planning to have the Saturday night dinner at
the SEAT October Fest Overnighter on the third weekend in October.
We called the restaurant a month or two back, but it pays to visit
and make sure everything is copasetic. The young lady who took our
order also took one of our SEAT Club Cards and insured us we were on
the calendar and the card was in the register so the owners would
see it. We tipped her accordingly.
While we were waiting for dinner to be served, a visit to the
Lollipop Shop was in order. If you’re into taffy, they got it; like
some of the older candy bars that are getting hard to find, they got
‘em; looking for sugar free candy to help keep your diabetes under
control, they got a bunch. My share of the pig-out was a quarter
pound lump of rum soaked fudge - decadent and soooo good. Most of
the candy would make it home; some would be consumed as soon as we
got back to our table and our glasses of wine.
Dinner was excellent and so was the service. We headed back to the
lodge about 6 pm, filled to the brim and feeling pretty good about
surviving the monsoonal rains. Feeling good enough to stop for
another round at Yea Olde Tavern. Like before dinner we were the
only non-locals there. By this time in the evening it was easy to
start up a conversation and we got to meet Carol Ann. She and her
father worked and played with John Wayne when he came out to oversee
and manage his cattle ranches in this corner of Arizona. She told a
few stories of days past that held our attention. It was our
privilege talking to Carol Ann and we look forward to seeing her
again this October.
That was enough for the night. Lights out and TV off by 8 pm - we
were pooped. Another great day!
Part III: Homeward Bound.
At 6 am our alarm (actually our
do-just-about-everything-you-could-imagine phone) made that weird
sound digital things make. Getting up at 6 would give us plenty of
time to shower and pack everything up so we could have breakfast at
the Bear Wallow Café and be on the road about 7:30. The Bear Wallow
does good food – breakfast, lunch and dinner – a good place. The
locals tend to eat breakfast here as evidenced by just about
everyone who came in saying hello to the waitresses, calling each
other by their first names. We did the standard eggs, bacon and
toast thing. Good.
Our smart phone told us it would be in the high 50s to low 60s when
we started down Highway 180. That’s cool enough to warrant long
sleeved shirts and our Forgg Toggs tops. Highway 180 drops in
elevation pretty quickly as it comes into New Mexico and heads south
to Glenwood. This is another one of those great motorcycle roads we
all talk about, swoopy turns with little to no traffic. Even the
recent chip seal didn’t dampen the fun. We barely made it 30 miles
to a scenic overlook before we had to stop and take off the Frogg
Toggs tops, too hot. The day was warming up faster than we
About 60 miles south of Alpine the small town of Glenwood has been a
favorite gas and food stop on many of our rides up and down Highway
180. The only station in town use to be a Chevron station and we
carry a Chevron credit card making it a convenient gas stop. The
best place for breakfast is The Golden Girls Café located in an
older home converted into a cafe. They advertise 25 cent coffee and
open at the crack of dawn. We’ve breakfasted there several times
and it’s always been good. For lunch or dinner it’s the Blue Front
Bar and Café owned and operated by Bucky Allred. The burgers there
are huge and the beer is always cold. Nice laid back atmosphere as
Due to the fire and the potential flood hazard the Catwalk is
closed. When we came through Glenwood this past June there was a
sign explaining that the Catwalk picnic area was closed so that all
the fixtures, including the benches, tables, signs, everything that
could be moved was being moved out. The Whitewater Creek that comes
down from the Gila National Forest and cuts right through Glenwood
was expected to flood and anything not moved would be destroyed.
Through town the creek has been heavily fortified in anticipation of
flooding. Considering the amount of damage the Whitewater-Baldy
fire did to the Gila National Forest, the potential for flooding is
off the scale.
Our next stop would be the Leopold Vista about 12 miles south of
Glenwood for coffee and cookies. The Vista offers a panoramic view
of the Gila Mountains where the Whitewater-Baldy fire ripped
through. On our way back from the SEAT Overnighter in June we could
see the rapidly growing fire from the road. We stopped at the
Leopold Vista and took pictures of the fire as it flared up in the
morning winds. Two firefighters on bulldozer duty pulled into the
Vista while we were there and gave us some firsthand information
about the devastation the fire had caused. We stopped again this
ride-about and took several pictures from the same location and
angle we did back in June. A lot of burned out trees are easily
visible. Forest fires are really scary.
Another three miles or so farther south we turned south on Highway
78 and rode past the Mule Creek Post Office. Highway 78 starts the
decent into Arizona and there are at least three washes that cross
the highway before the Arizona border that could be flowing this
time of year. We’ve seen them as high as two feet deep in mud and
water. Monsoon rains can move a lot of dirt and rocks onto the
road. Just about every wash and low point showed signs of water
recently flowing through, but they were all dry and clear.
It’s fifteen miles from Highway 180 to the Arizona border. From
there the drop down into Arizona gets really steep with some low
gear sweepers and a couple of first gear switchbacks coming down
into the valley. The view just before the drop is awesome and
explains the popularity of this route with motorcyclists. You can
just see the old drive-in movie screen from one of the overlooks
that has marked the junction of Highways 70, 78 and 191 for over
twenty years that we are aware of. The small general store on one
corner and the gas pumps on the other corner must have been here
forever and make up Three Way. This is where we pick up Highway 191
Once across the new bridge over the Gila River it’s about 30 miles
from Three Way to the junction of Highway 191 and Highway 70 – The
Old West Highway. The road is wide open sparsely traveled through
here and it doesn’t take much to get into a bit of high speed sports
touring. A year or so back we got a Wasting Finite Resources ticket
for doing 72 in a 55 zone along here, so we know Law Enforcement
Officers can be on the lurk. I kept the GT down to cough, cough,
mumble, mumble miles per hour as we headed toward Safford.
Safford would be our last gas stop. There’s a Chevron gas station
right at the junction where Highway 191 heads south to I-10, and
Highway 70 continues west through the San Carlos Apache Indian
Reservation to Globe. While I was gassing the GT, Wanda went into
the convenience store and filled the Camelback with ice. Once down
from the high country it gets warm pretty fast. Carrying a
Camelback that we can both easily drink from as we ride along really
helps fight the heat and we feel better at the end of the ride.
Construction on Highway 191 to widen the road to four-lane divided
has been going on for years. We’ve put up with it for just as many
years. About three or four years ago we discovered the Bonita/Fort
Grant Road had been paved all the way from Willcox to the junction
of the Bonita/Fort Grand Road and Highway 266. This is the way to
go. It’s a enjoyable, winding back road through the tail end of the
Coronado National Forest. As you crest the high point at about mile
marker 115 the temperature can be as much as 15 degrees cooler than
Safford. The difference between 107 and 92 is significant.
There’s a small pull off at the junction of Highway 266 and The
Bonita/Fort Grant Road with a big oak tree that provides a nice
patch of shade. A chain link fence keeps folks out of the old
Bonita General Store, long out of business. This is one of our
favorite stops for coffee and a snack. You can see the Mount Graham
Observatory on the top of the mountains to the north, and Fort
Grant, now a prison, about three miles away on the side of the
mountain. We rode up to the Prison Administration Building a year
or ten back as we’d heard there was a small museum there. The
Administration Building was closed and we felt a bit conspicuous.
Factoid: Bill the Kid committed his first murder in Bonita.
From Bonita to Willcox it’s a pleasant ride through Arizona’s
version of rural American farm land. There are corn crops and
orchards on both sides of the road. Signs advertise farm products
and try to get travelers to stop and enjoy farm fresh fruits and
vegetables. Apple Annie’s Farm advertises in Tucson and a few
schools do field trips to Annie’s. Euro Fresh has a crop of huge
green houses along the route. There’s a meat packer on Meat Packer
Road. The Crop Circle Winery though didn’t make it this year. Like
the Rye Restaurant the sign on the door says Open, the real estate
For Sale sign and the weeds filling the parking lot say Closed.
Coming up to Willcox it was time to make our decision on the final
leg home. the preferred route, cutting through Willcox and down
Kansas Settlement Road with a stop for a latte in Bisbee, would add
close to 50 miles and about an hour and a half. Taking a bit of
I-10 to Benson then south through Saint David to Tombstone and
Charleston Road would add about 10 miles. If we stopped for a cold
one at the Crystal Palace it would add about an hour and a half.
Straight down I-10 to Highway 90 then south to home is the quickest
route, about an hour. The afternoon monsoon clouds building up
south of the freeway and the winds picking up to 20-30 miles per
hour made our decision easy. Time to hustle home.
The monsoon rains weren’t quite done with us though. In the gap
between Huachuca City and Sierra Vista huge rain drops the size of
tennis balls began to fall. Only five miles from home…to hell with
it…we rode the last few miles in the rain. Of course it stopped
raining just as we pulled into our driveway.
Home - safe and sound.
Epilogue: Some Details.
This trip Wanda was the onboard camera lady. She shot something
like 400 pictures from the back seat. I could feel the wind
pressure change when she would stick the camera out to the side.
When she put it over my head, it felt like she was pushing down on
my helmet. She got some great shots of Highway 260 right up to when
the rains hit. She had to put the camera away, we wouldn’t have
seen anything but water on the lens anyway.
The trip was just shy of 750 miles with about 90 miles on the I-10
Freeway, 55 going and 35 returning. Amazingly we averaged 47.1
miles per gallon [the GT’s dashboard had us averaging 50.5]. Total
cost of the trip (gas, food and lodging) was about $350, not bad
Our Metzeler Z8 Interacts held the road well and gave me no issues
in any of the rain stints. We run a 120/70ZR17 (58W) front and a
180/55ZR17 (73W)(C) rear. The morning we left I put 41 psi in the
front and 43 psi in the rear. They didn’t need filling or deflating
on the trip, and now have 5,700 miles and are still looking good.
The bike used no oil that I can tell. With 72,124 miles on the
odometer at trip’s end, the ’08 K1200GT ran beautifully all the way.
An excellent Arizona ride-about!