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Vegas/Route66/Sedona

By Maggie Hicks and Joshua Parker

What better way to plan an early-winter trip than by inviting friends from the snowy north to come south and squeeze in another weekend of riding? Summer may be over, but with multiple Eagle Rider locations throughout the southwest, we don’t have to stop riding just yet. Typically, most riders don’t have the option to ride in the winter months so when we organized for Joshua Parker to come in from snowy Salt Lake City to meet up with our group of local hooligans in Las Vegas, he booked 3 days with Eagle Rider. He chose to ride a Harley Davidson Road Glide, having never toured on a bagger before, but wanting to experience the comfort and storage it provided. Local Las Vegas rider Maggie Hicks wasn't going to let him have all the fun so she booked one as well. They were joined by Justin Edelman and Nicole Rosano who rode their own Harleys, a Pan America and Softtail Streetbob respectively. Our trip, by design, was planned around the journey and enjoying each other’s company on the open road. We have always wanted to ride along historic Route 66 and knew we would have the roads to ourselves traveling in the cold temps that early December promises. Riding this route in the winter allowed us to avoid both the heat and the traffic that you would typically see in the warmer months. We unanimously agreed that Sedona was going to be the final destination. Due to Flagstaff getting some early season snow, we made the decision to reroute through Prescott and up and over the beautiful winding turns of highway 89A into the haunted ghost town of Jerome and finally ending up surrounded by the beautiful red rock and soul-cleansing vortexes that only Sedona can offer.

DAY 1 - Pickup - Ride to Seligman

Before we could gear up and ride out on the first day, we needed to secure the iron horses. The process at Las Vegas Eagle Rider was as smooth as butter. We would recommend checking in online prior to your arrival, which is a step that we haphazardly skipped. Thankfully the staff was extremely friendly and accommodating and after signing our lives away, we were quickly out the door and ready to load up. One of the best parts about renting a bike from EagleRider is how knowledgeable the staff are about local routes, and after a discussion about recent weather patterns, they provided us with an ideal alternative route to avoid potentially icy and snowy roads. Given the temps, we all donned our heated gear (a literal life-saver), loaded the bikes and hit the road towards our first gas stop in Kingman, AZ.

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Leaving the busy traffic of the Las Vegas Strip in our rear view mirrors, we began our cold journey with heated anticipation for what the open road would bring. One of our favorite sections of the trip was the initial stretch of highway that takes you up and over the historical Hoover Dam as it provides some of the most beautiful views of sweeping red rock mountains you can find in the southwest. Once the road leveled out, we all twisted the throttle a little harder with smiles on our faces to see if we could beat the setting afternoon sun to our destination. As any motorcyclist can attest, one of the best feelings you can experience is an open highway and a group of friends who have similar riding styles. You travel as a pack, know what moves each other will make before making them, communicate with nothing more than the nod of a head or the shuffling to the side of a lane to allow someone else to take the lead. True camaraderie. Appreciating the fact that all of us made the effort to be here in this moment, cold wind whipping through the desolate desert plains, sharing a stretch of road we had yet to explore on our way to Arizona, we moved as one, wild and free.

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As we paused for gas just outside of Kingman, we decided on the first stop of our Route 66 adventure. Hunger was setting in, and we knew that Mikes Route 66 Outpost & Saloon was waiting only 25 miles down the road. A true local gem on Route 66, Mikes is not to be skipped. As soon as we arrived we were causing a scene. Engines roaring and dust flying, 4 Harley Davidson’s pulling up gets the locals excited around these parts. Everyone was warm and welcoming as we asked for food recommendations and talked about the bikes with those already sitting at the bar. The decor of Mikes is something you’d imagine in a Hunter S Thompson novel. Dollar bills left behind by forlorn travelers were pinned to the ceiling and kitschy southwestern flair decorated the walls. The typical bar-style food was hot and fast and warmed both our stomachs and our souls. The garlic-covered cheese curds were a particular favorite of our famished group. We settled into a table in the corner and discussed where we would stop next. Route 66 is littered with little gems that are worth a look and we had to be selective with our time since daylight was fading quickly. With our belly’s satisfied, we hopped back on the bikes and continued rolling down the historical stretch of road.

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Peach Springs came highly recommended and we chose to check out the John Osterman Shell Gas Station, a historical marker. The rundown old gas station was a perfect spot to snap some photos as the light was reaching golden hour. Once again we had to get on the throttle, in an hurried effort to race the setting sun to our final destination for the night, Seligman, AZ.

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The Historic Route 66 Motel was a welcoming beacon in the quickly-dropping temps of the fastly-approaching night. With Route 66-themed rooms and plenty of parking, we were kindly greeted by the clerk and her family who live in the adjoining property attached to the lobby. At check-in, she recommended we head to the Roadkill Cafe before they closed for the evening. Patrons of the motel get a 10% discount by presenting their hotel keys to the server. As soon as we unloaded our gear into the clean and cozy rooms, we rushed over for a proper meal. As we cautiously approached the entrance, we didn’t know what to expect from a place called the Roadkill Cafe. However our worries quickly disappeared as the food was fantastic and the drinks were just what we needed to unwind for the night. Their pie selection had us drooling from the moment we walked in and even though we had no room, we had to get a piece of the chocolate cream pie to share before calling it quits. Their bar had a gift shop with all the Route 66 memorabilia you could imagine, so we perused a bit before enjoying a nightcap and heading back to the motel. As we settled into the comfy beds of our motel rooms, we dozed off with visions of the adventure to come racing through our heads.

DAY 2 - Ride through Jerome to Sedona

When we awoke the following morning we were greeted by a thick layer of frost on our bikes, a solemn reminder of how cold it was outside. We typically move pretty slow in the mornings and while the bikes thawed out, we headed back to the Roadkill Cafe for a stellar breakfast at the bar with an extremely friendly bartender named Larry. The people you meet in these smaller towns always have the best stories to tell and if you take the time to listen, you might learn a thing or two. He confirmed that our route plans to head south around Flagstaff were a good idea to avoid the snow and ice. Route 66 ends pretty quickly after Seligman so we only planned one stop for the day on our way to Sedona. Jerome is a sleepy ghost town built into the side of a mountain pass and has as much history as it does character. It was a small detour but one we didn’t want to miss. Warm and full, we geared up and wiped the remaining moisture off our bikes. The sun was shining and it was a good day to be on the road! We stopped once for gas outside Prescott and we were all set to ride gorgeous 89A up and over Mingus Summit to Jerome.

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We had a slight concern about the road conditions of the mountain pass and as we climbed, it became obvious that we had just missed the snow. While the roads had thawed, the shadows of the forest-lined mountains still contained glistening remnants of the storm. Mingus boasts 127 turns in a little over 12 miles. If ripping through the twisties gets your motor revving, you’re going to have fun here. Josh and Justin decided to attack the mountain turns while Maggie and Nicole approached it more cautiously. It’s always important to ride your own ride, especially in group trips like this. At the bottom of the pass we regrouped at a beautiful turnout just as the road descended into Jerome. We stopped to marvel at the view of Verde Valley and the red rocks of Sedona in the distance.

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As we rolled into Jerome, we passed many places we would have loved to explore, including the Haunted Burger, some ghost tours, and some unique crystal shops. You could easily spend a whole day wandering the streets of this mountainside town. However we bypassed it all as we had our hearts set on visiting the Gold King Mine & Ghost Town. As we ascended to the mine we passed a plethora of animals including donkeys and goats, parked our bikes next to an old shed full of motorcycles, and headed into the gift shop. They had an amazing collection of damascus steel knives forged by a local blacksmith and souvenirs were purchased as everlasting reminders of this amazing journey. We didn’t have time to attend one of the famous ghost tours but they did come highly recommended. If we had more time, we definitely would have explored longer.

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The last slivers of daylight dissipated as we rode into the beautiful town of Sedona. We all agreed on where we wanted to crash for the night, a hotel conveniently located within walking distance of several great restaurants. The Andante Inn had a fantastic view as the setting sun illuminated the bright multicolored rock formations that surround the city. We were able to watch the light fade in all its glory from our 3rd floor balcony.

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After unpacking our bikes and much-needed showers, we went 100 yards out our door and right into Thai Spices Natural Restaurant to celebrate our last night of the adventure and revel in the highs of that beautiful mountain pass we had just ridden through. We finished the night at Vino Di Sedona with some bottles of wine while being serenaded by a talented local live musician.

DAY 3 - Hike, Ride back to Vegas

Sedona is known for a multitude of things including spiritual wellness, off-road adventures, world class spas, and some of the most amazing hikes in the southwest. Knowing we didn’t have a lot of time, we woke up early to check out the Devil’s Bridge hike which was a 10 minute ride outside of town. At just under 4 miles, this short hike packs in a lot of quintessential Sedona beauty and is capped by an amazing natural bridge with sweeping views of the valley below. Cars need to get there early as the parking lot fills up quickly, but the beauty of showing up on a bike is you can always find a place to squeeze in. Having explored Sedona and feeling physically and spiritually refreshed, we geared up and loaded up the bikes for our final trek back to Las Vegas. We had a limited amount of time to explore as we needed to get our Road Glides back to Eagle Rider so we planned one more stop on the way back. We had our sights set on another Route 66 cafe called Westside Lilo’s. [I need to edit photos] In order to avoid the unsafe riding conditions through Flagstaff, we again headed back through the winding stretch of 89A through Mingus Pass. Even though we had ridden it the previous day, those turns and 11 degree grade roads felt completely different heading in the reverse direction. It can be as thrilling or as therapeutic as you want to make it. Again, ride your own ride. As we came out the other side and headed back towards Prescott there was a feeling in the air, we weren’t the same people as we were when we first went through. We had explored new places, experienced new roads and made new friends. Trips like these are as much about personal growth as they are about riding. We learned more about each other, our riding skills and experienced the accomplishment of reaching our final destination with everyone safe and sound. That’s the nice thing about returning to a familiar place, it reminds you what has transpired since your last visit.

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Justin had to break off and take a different route to get back to San Diego, and three remaining riders continued back onto Route 66 to our lunch destination. Westside Lilo’s did not disappoint, and we were back on the road full and ready for the last bit of highway before returning the bikes to EagleRider. Seligman is now on the map for all of us to visit when we are in the area. With Route 66 in the rear view, we blasted back to Vegas. We were lucky enough to hit the Hoover Dam, right at golden hour for a most memorable return. Words can’t express the view we were treated to as we crested the pass just before descending towards the Lake Mead area. One of those moments where you soak it all in, silently nod to one another, and twist the throttle a little harder in appreciation for the beauty that laid before us. After we got bikes unloaded, we went back to EagleRider and returned our two wheeled steeds. Although we were sad to bring them back, because it meant the adventure had come to a close, we were grateful for the adventure, the good company and the memories made.

In Summary

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It’s adventures like these that make you truly feel alive. Without booking the ticket and taking the ride, life will just pass you by. This trip was the perfect example of realizing that the journey can often outweigh the destination if you bring together the right group of adventurous souls with wanderlust in their hearts. Let’s not let winter keep us from the things that make us feel most alive. Grab your buddies, book a trip to warmer places, and hit the open road with a wild sense of adventure. This was our first EagleRider experience, and we are beyond excited for the doors it opens up to ride with our friends all over this great nation. Now we are left wondering…where to next?

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