Warm-up in the American Southwest: 48 Hours in Sedona, Arizona
There’s no better time than now to take advantage of cool temperatures before the return of extreme cold weather that winter presents to many of us. As Minnesotan, Gabe Jungroth, and the desert-dwelling Californian girlfriend-of, Sam Ray, we’ve always seen the fall season as an opportunity to get those last long-hauls in and out of our system before mother nature forces us to slow down and take a break from our two-wheeled counterparts. This year, we partnered with EagleRider and Harley-Davidson to find and explore the perfect place in-between. And perfect place, did we find! Imagine… Awe-inspiring, 360-degree views of red rock formations that span a land so rich with indigenous history, arts, and culture. There’s an abundance of outdoor activities available from camping, to hiking and even hot air-ballooning if you so wish. Not to mention, magical and mystical “vortexes” (i.e. energy centers) abound that make this place a known Mecca for self-exploration and alternative healing by way of meditation among many other holistic wellness practices.
Sedona, Arizona… While we didn’t sit with our eyes closed and legs crossed, we practiced our own kind of ritual and went on an introspective adventure and healing journey, but rather, on two wheels.
It was Mid-morning when we arrived at our EAGLERIDER SEDONA. As soon as we pulled up, we could see our bikes waiting for us. A 2021 Harley-Davidson Road King sitting alongside a 2021 Heritage Softail. We checked in quickly, got a run-down of our bikes’ features, and were handed the keys.
After we grabbed the gear that was necessary for our 2-day journey, we packed up our saddlebags, threw on our gear, and headed for the hills! Our first stop took us to the Main Street of Old Town Cottonwood for some good eats. The town provided an array of local and fresh farm-to-table restaurants to choose from. It was awesome to see that business was booming for late-week lunch. We left with tummies full but not before stopping at “Bings Burger Station” which originally served as a 1940s automobile service and later gas station before reopening in 2009 as a food joint. It sits alongside Old Town’s “Cottonwood” welcome sign and is worth stopping by for a photo opportunity and for memories sake.
Did we mention we were headed for the hills? Well, “hills” is somewhat of an understatement in the greater Sedona area. We were about to get quickly acquainted with our motorcycles on some serious mountain roads, Mingus mountain to be exact. But you can’t hit the twists, turns, and elevations gains of Mingus without stopping in Jerome.
Carve out an hour or two (at the very least) to explore this former mining boomtown which was once made popular by copper and ore mining but later became a ghost town. This unique layout of a half-abandoned mountainside town is perched up on steep hillsides overlooking the Verde Valley where you can see the Sedona Red Rocks in the distance. It’s a beautiful viewpoint of where we had started our journey. Hang around and shop art galleries, visit mining museums, the ancient hilltop pueblo, and apparently, you can take a ghost tour too. We chose to shuffle through second-hand western wear, art, accessories, and motorcycle apparel while taking in the scenery. We then capped it off with a cold (non-alcoholic of course) brew at the infamous “Spirit Room.” There’s something for everyone in this one-of-a-kind historic mining town.
It didn’t take long before the sun started making its way over the mountain peak and we knew it was time to make our ascent up Mingus mountain, somewhat promptly, as our plan for the day required us to get to our destination for the night before we lost daylight. The mountain views and road layout were a thrill, to say the least. Once we got to the peak we turned around and then continued back down, giving us a chance to enjoy the twists and turns all over again with even more views of the valley and distant red rock mesa views.
Our evening destination led us down a (mostly) hard-packed and well-maintained dirt road atop BLM (Bureau of Land Management) campgrounds nestled within Red Rock State Park. BLM sites provide wonderful and sometimes free resources for travelers and outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy dispersed, first come, first served camping. This also means whatever you pack in, you pack out. Respect the land and leave it better than you found it. Lucky for us, we were able to ride deep enough into the park and found a beautiful place to set up camp, enjoy a quick backpacker’s meal over our portable stove, forage for a fire, and stargaze into the night’s sky.
The golden gleam of dawn over the eastern horizon of the Sedona red rock buttes served as a welcoming reminder of present time and place. We woke up awe-struck by our surroundings all over again. Eager for the day ahead, it didn’t take long to fix some hot water for coffee, then sit again for one last moment to take in the crisp morning smell of Pinyon and Juniper in the air. We packed our belongings back into our saddlebags and hit the road. Fiber for breakfast… and by fiber, we mean dirt for about 20 minutes until we were back out onto the open highway 89A that led us back towards Uptown Sedona for a quick meal and a short walk around town. Itching to get on the road with a full itinerary ahead, we headed north and made our way towards Flagstaff.
In researching nearby routes, I found that a tourist guidebook mentioned Oak Creek Canyon as a ‘drive never to be forgotten and, well, it’s definitely a RIDE never to be forgotten. After passing by walls of red rock cliffside, we found ourselves under a cool shaded canopy of autumn-colored oak, sycamore, and poplar trees. The road began to curve more and more as we found ourselves weaving through a few switchbacks and pulled over at Oak Creek Vista where we got a chance to once again, look back to where we had started from. And we are so glad we did!
We took a quick ride through Flagstaff, stopping in the bustling downtown district and then the Visitor’s Center. We weren’t hungry, so we fueled up our bikes, hydrated ourselves, and carried on.
You can’t visit the southwest and pass up the opportunity to visit one of the seven natural wonders of the world. We took a long rip out to the south rim of the Grand Canyon just in time to hang for a while and be in the glow of sunset. It’s impossible to describe the magnitude and size of the massive display that is the Grand Canyon. Land erosion created this landscape over a span of years beyond reasonable comprehension of the human mind. We found ourselves humbled here, it’s hard not to. It just felt good… to feel so small.
The evening chill of dusk set in and with about an hour left of twilight we quickly threw on layers and headed to a hotel that we booked right on route 66 in the small town of Williams, AZ.
We got to Williams with plenty of time to check into our hotel/motel, shower off our grit and grime from camping the night before, and grab dinner at the local brewery and pizzeria. On our short jaunt back, we couldn’t resist popping into an obvious local favorite watering hole, The Canyon Club. There we sat in for a wild display that was none other than a karaoke night.