Long overdue ride report. I’ve been meaning to write this for the past 6 months, but life gets busy. Since the next big ride is on the calendar my enthusiasm is back and thus it’s time to recall the fond memories of the AZBDR trip I undertook in May 2019. Dates: Departed Sierra Vista, AZ Saturday May 25, 2019 9AM Arrived Marble Canyon, AZ Wednesday May 29, 2019 5PM Total mi. 800 4 nights on the trail, 5 days riding Equipment: I was riding my 2012 KTM 350 XC-F with a 4.1 gal Acerbis Fuel Tank and a Giant Loop Coyote Bag. I mounted a new set of Dunlop D606s prior to the ride. My KTM is my single-track bike, its plated, has lights, is (not really) street legal. But whatever, it had a plate, a tail light and was registered. Good Enough. My buddy Regan, who didn’t need convincing to join me, was riding a Yamaha XT250 with stiffened suspension and some soft bags from Dirt Bags. We packed light. Brought a few hand tools and spare tubes, and a quart of oil. We are both experienced riders and back packers, but this would be our first moto camping trip. Day 1. Sierra Vista to (just south of Mammoth) We left the official AZBDR start point and started out climbing up past Coronado National monument. The road is wide and smooth. The best part was riding along the border fence through cattle herds. We popped out of the forest roads onto a fun twisty stretch of pavement into Sonoita. We took on fuel in Sonoita, got a snack and refilled our waters and were on our way. The ride to Benson was unremarkable. It was more barren ranch land and cattle herds. Riding past Cienega Creek was pretty. We by-passed the sand at empire ranch, not wanted to tackle that as we figured that part of the route was not value added. We arrived Benson around 2 pm. Had a good lunch at a little Mexican place, stashed a few tall boys in my bag and continued. The route to Mammoth was mostly wide smooth gravel road. Pretty views of the rising mountains and grassy meadows abound. It was getting near 5pm, our designated stop time so we elected to camp in sandy wash near the road side. It was cool and tree covered. We enjoyed a pleasant, warm evening. Day 2. Mammoth to (north of Globe) We got a later than expected start on day 2 owing to my partner who took his sweet ass time to get packed up. The road to mammoth was easy. Riding out of Mammoth we turned onto the forest roads and encountered some true double track. There was some sandy bits and a few wash outs, but nothing challenging on the light bikes we were riding. I dialed my pace back as I could only go as fast as my buddy could go. But that was no issue. I was just enjoying the ride. We stopped in Winkelman for gas and a snack. We had about 40 miles of pavement before entering the forest road that would take us up over pioneer pass. The route up past pioneer pass was more challenging. It was double track or wider but with larger loose rocks. Really no issue on the KTM, but my buddy kept a slow and steady pace on his XT250 and made it just fine. He’s in his mid-40’s, perhaps not as athletic as myself. I’m in my early 30’s and I compete in just about every 2 wheeled discipline there is so my fitness level and ability is a bit higher. But again, we were just cruising. Pioneer pass was very pretty, and it started to cool off. We dropped down into Globe for fuel and had a mediocre hamburger at the diner for lunch. The ride from globe up passed Roosevelt lake was all paved. Views of the lake were great. Near the lake we started our climb up the mountains towards Young. The climbs were nearly endless, the trail narrowed to two track that was rocky. We were on the ridge line late in the day. We passed a camp spot that was windswept and had a lot of exposure and opted to see if a better spot presented itself. Another 20 minutes down the trail and we were rewarded with a nice spot complete with fire ring that was exposed but offered a great view. The nearby ridge blocked most of the wind. We enjoyed a comfortable night around the fire. It was cooler, but I was not cold in my budget mil-surplus sleeping bag. Day 3: Young to Lake Mary Day 3 dawned clear and bright. The trail was the same as the previous day. We by-passed Young as we didn’t need fuel. At the constant throttle I was running for long stretches, I was getting nearly 60 MPG on the KTM. Reagan was averaging almost 70 on his XT. Before long we were on the Mogollon Rim. The sky had turned overcast and it was cold. I was riding in my MX gear and I stopped to put on my puff coat and rain shell over my chest protector. That kept my core warm, but my fingers were freezing in my MX gloves. Regan faired a bit better in his 2-piece rain suit. We stopped at the Woods Canyon Lake store for a hot cup of coffee and a snack and carried on. The views from the rim looking south were partially obscured by the overcast but it was still beautiful. The riding on the rim was fast and smooth. Our only issue was the dust kicked up the hoard of Labor Day Weekenders leaving. (It was Labor Day). Once we were off the 300 it opened into smooth packed dirt two track. We even saw some snow. We popped out on the 87 about 12 miles north of clints well. We back tracked down to Clints Well for fuel and a hot meal, but we were only able to secure the former. I had a burnt cup of coffee, but the lady was kind enough to let us fill out waters from the faucet in the back. Back up the road and off onto the forest roads that would take us all the way into Winona. This section near Lake Mary would prove to be the slowest. We encountered mile after mile of rock gardens. The terrain was flat and the trail wide, but it was slow going over the rocks that just seemed to go on for miles. I was worried about taco’ing a rim and getting a flat. I was a little bit better off on my KTM as I could just stand up and glide over most everything, but Regan really struggles as he bottomed out over every rock. Finally, we got passed Long Lake and Kinnikinick Lake and we were close to what we hoped would be a camp spot (as indicated on the official Butler’s AZBDR map) About 2 miles before the intersection of FR125 we found a nice spot in the woods. It had rained the preceding day and the wide, smooth dirt road was slick. On my KTM with the D606s I had no issue, but Regan was on Bridgestone Trail Wings that keep getting fouled with mud. We got to camp at about 4:15. I knew that we weren’t far from lake Mary. I knew there was a lodge with a bar and restaurant in Lake Mary. I was hungry for a hot meal and a beer. Regan was not interested in trying to keep his bike upright in the mud for any longer. So, I left him at camp and blasted off to the lodge. 12 miles later I arrived at the lodge only to be told the kitchen was closed. The kind waitress said that she could throw some wings in the fryer for me. I took her up on that. I walked to the crowded bar area to have a beer while I waited and I was summarily ignored, despite the entreaties of a few patrons at the bar. So, I said fuck that. I don’t need your beer. I probably looked a sight. I was dirty, smelly, a little muddy. Somebody asked where I was riding from and I said that I just rode my dirt bike here from the Mexican border. They looked a bit puzzled and didn’t press any more questions. My wings came out in a to-go box. I was told I couldn’t eat in the closed dining room, even though people were still sitting down finishing their meals. I ate my wings on the bench out front under the porch and washed my hands in a puddle in the gutter. I blasted back to camp and settled in. It ended up being a cold night. I slept fit fully. Day 3 had been our longest day. Fortunately, we had packed enough backpacking meals and snacks to make the trip without stopping for additional provisions. Day 4. Lake Mary to North of Flagstaff The morning was cold, and I was eager to get moving. In my head I had planned for 4 nights and 5 days despite being prepared for an additional night. The ride north toward Winona was smooth until we turned off to follow the route off the dirt road. Quickly we were on rocky two track that was nearly flat, but the terrain was obscured by vegetation. It became very difficult to find the route as a myriad of trails intersected and went off in different directions. Fortunately, I was navigating by following the GPS tracks that I had uploaded to my Trail Tech Voyager Dash. The Voyager is basic, as it presents no context, just the track to follow. By zooming in close you could see your position relative to the track and navigate to it. Most forest roads and Indian roads are poorly marked or not marked at all. It would have been very difficult to find the route and find your way out of some sections if you are not following the GPS tracks. We made it to the gas station in Winona by mid-morning where we enjoyed another mediocre cup of coffee. Heading north we encountered smooth double track as we started hooking north westward around Flagstaff. As we entered the trail towards sunset crater, we were turned back by forest fire fighting crews who had closed the area due to a growing fire. We were a bit relieved as it looked like we were heading right towards the fire. We ended up back tracking to Flagstaff proper where we started up the 89 to intersect the BDR route. 30 mi north of Flag we turned westward into Coconino national forest. The trail was mostly two track that was moderately rocky. We rode across some plains that seemed to go on forever. It was big sky country and I was able to just loose myself in riding, not really thinking, just moving through space. As we climbed in elevation, we entered the pine forests. It had rained previously and now we were encountering mud. I was able to lean back on the KTM as blast through most of it, but Regan started to struggle as his tires were caked and would not shed the mud. We got to some higher ground and found a nice camp spot nestled in the pines. This would be our fourth and final night on the trail. Day 5. Coconino National Forest to Little Colorado Overlook to Marble Canyon I was hopeful of an early start, knowing that we had to cover 280 mi to make it to Marble Canyon. We were off early and were immediately beset by mud. Regan and I almost took a few diggers as we encountered what looked like smooth hard pack but was actually 6” deep mud. Consulting the map and GPS track we saw a point where we could bail out and intersect the 64. We made our way through the pine forest across moderately rocky two track. As we left the forest the terrain got rockier and drier. We finally started to descend toward route 64 and were met with beautiful vistas of the south rim of the Grand Canyon. We encountered our first technical problem as we turned on to the 64. Regan’s bike would not shift out of second gear. Upon inspection we found that the bike would shift fine, it was just that the shifter would not return to the neutral position. We hypothesized that the shifter return spring had broken. Undeterred I told Regan he would just have to tap the shifter back to neutral with his toe so that the shifter pawl could grab the next gear, a technique I used to good effect at a flat track race on my Bultaco many years ago when the shifter spring had in fact broken. (right hand shift BTW) We rode the 64 to Cameron where we obtained the requisite permits from the Navajo nation to enter their tribal lands. We had lunch and refueled in Cameron. It was 30 miles up the 89 to the BDR turn off onto the Navajo Nation. Neither Regan nor I felt comfortable on our laden dirt bikes over 60 mph on the pavement. That section of 89 is highly trafficked so we took to the shoulder to allow faster traffic by. That was probably the most dangerous part of the trip. We entered the Navajo lands and followed the route to the Grand Canyon overlook on the little Colorado River. The view was certainly a highlight. From the high plains you see the immensity of the Canyon completely unencumbered by railings or really anything or anybody else. Continuing, the Indian roads were in good condition, wide, smooth, fast. The sky was big, but the terrain was familiar by now and the ride was uninteresting. Without a GPS track to follow you would be lost out there as there are no land marks and roads intersect and go off in different directions. I let Regan ride ahead of me for a bit on an infinitely appearing stretch of road. From about a mile back I rolled on the throttle. I passed Regan at 85 mph, standing on the pegs giving my best salute and the KTM was still pulling. I rolled out of it, not wanting to know how fast the thing would go on the dirt (fully loaded, on knobbies, etc.). We plodded along the rest of the way until we finally popped out on the 89 about 30 miles from Marble Canyon. The finish line was in sight. It was near 430 and we made quick work of this paved section. Crossing the bridge south of Lee’s ferry felt like crossing the finish line. A few more miles up the road we pulled into the parking lot at the Marble Canyon Inn where Regan and I were met by my girl friend’s dad who would drive us and the bikes back in the bed of the truck. We arrived to a cooler of cold beers. Which we quickly started to down. A relaxing few moments, quick phone calls to our significant others, a shower and a good dinner followed. We spent the night and returned home to Phoenix the following day. 5 full days of riding and 800 miles. Post Script I wouldn’t consider the AZBDR to be particularly difficult if you are a competent rider. I wouldn’t have wanted a bigger bike. A big bike like a GS would have really struggled in the rocky bits. I believe you want to ride the smallest most capable bike you can so that you can easily ride any difficult part. A small bike can ride all the easy parts, maybe just not as fast. We tried to follow the route as accurately as possible. We did not take any of the ‘easy’ by pass routes (except as explained above). As I stated earlier, a GPS with the GPS track is needed. Way finding would have taken a long time if we didn’t have a track to follow. Our bikes performed flawlessly. Regan’s gear shift issue turned out to be mud that had gotten hard packed and wouldn’t allow the shifter to return. I think D606s are the best tire for the route as they have the knobbies for the rocks and mud and hold up acceptably on the pavement. I brought very little with me, and I still brought too much. I carried a quart of oil with me for 800 miles that neither of us needed. But I guess its better to be prepared. Most of my food was freeze dried back packing fare. Not the best but ok. My favorite part was just being in the moment. By about half way through the second day I started feeling disconnected from the rest of the world. We did not have our cellphones powered on for the entire trip and we did not have any type of communication between us. I rode the entire time in silence with just ear plugs. I loved it. I enjoyed being disconnected completely out in the middle of nowhere. It was just the 2 of us. I was responsible for navigating. I had the GPS. Regan had the Map. Between the GPS and the map, we could figure out exactly where we were. Regan just followed and relied on me to find the route. On more than one occasion we had to double back because I missed a turn. Likewise, immersed in his own thoughts, Regan did not see me make a turn, or see me waiting for him and just kept on going, requiring me to chase him down. Occasionally we would come across closed gates out on the ranches. I would open the gate, allow Regan to ride through, close the gate and continue. The one-time Regan tried to be proactive, he rode his bike trough the gate, and then closed the gate, leaving himself on the wrong side. That was good for a laugh. Overall it was a good experience.