Saturday, May 19, 2007

Trip to Great Southwest - Williams AZ and Montezuma

Can you say pie? How about more than 45 different pies to choose from? That was what tempted us after dinner last night at the Pine Country Restaurant in Williams, AZ. We had a good turnout, approximately 20 women, and about half of those with their spouses. Our motorcycles pretty much filled the hotel parking lot and while we were standing around outside after dinner, a policeman pulled in, cruised through slowly, then exited...two different times within an hour. Remember, I said that the Hell's Angels are in town, right??

When I finally got moving this morning, I went outside to the parking lot to see was hanging around. One of the women joined me in walking over to the McDonalds for breakfast, and about the time we were finishing, we started seeing some of our gals leaving in small groups. Some headed to Jerome, some to Walnut Canyon after my review last night over dinner. Another group headed to Flagstaff, and two ladies opted to go up to Grand Canyon despite an unfavorable review of the crowd and the cost by two people who went the day before. I opted to ride down to Verde Valley, about 50 miles south of Flagstaff, to visit Montezuma Castle National Monument, and add another stamp to my NPS passport.

I was the last bike out of the hotel parking lot, and it was only 9:30 AM! Oh well, I'm a retiree now, I'm permitted to dilly dally some. It was cool but not unpleasant as I headed east on I-40 to Flagstaff. Here I'd pick up I-17 south, which would take me down to Montezuma. The elevation in Flagstaff is just at 7,000 feet. In fact, just west of Flagstaff is the Arizona Divide, at 7,335 feet. As I rode south, I could feel that I was losing altitude. Shortly, the signage indicated 6% grade and curves ahead, and trucks were warned to start checking their brakes, and that there was a runaway truck ramp 10 miles ahead. Okay.

The descend was rapid: 4,000 foot change in altitude in less than 10 miles! The temperature changed dramatically, as well, and I was sweltering by the time I exited the interstate. Montezuma Castle is only a few short miles off the interstate, but I was anxious to get there so that I could strip off the pull-over fleece and riding jacket.

When I pulled into the parking lot, which had a downhill slant to it, the posted speed was 15 mph. bike, which normally has excellent compression braking effect in first gear in this situation was charging ahead, and I had to apply the brake to keep my speed down. When I finally found a parking spot with the right slant and camber (you short folks know what I mean), I noticed my motorcycle was idling at 2,000 rpm. No wonder!

Okay, I'll deal with it later. For now, I want to see this cliff dwelling. Off with the boots, on with running shoes, hat, camera, binoculars, sunglasses, NPS passport. Check! The visitor center was small and already crowded. I got my stamps, used my National Park Pass to pay my admission, and walked out the back door to the path that would take me to the site.

It's a very well-preserved cliff dwelling high up on the side of a limestone cliff. further along, there were canyon floor-level dwellings that were pretty much in ruins. But still, it was a worthwhile ride through beautiful Ponderosa Pine forest to see this.

Back on the bike, starting her up, I notice that the rpm was still high. I thought to myself that it may be an ECU re-calculation problem due to the rapid change in altitude. I thought that perhaps when I got back to 7,000 feet, it would be okay. The round-trip today was 183 miles, so when I returned to Williams I stopped for gas and noticed that the idle was down around 1600 rpm, still high, but not as high as it was earlier. Returning to the hotel, I pulled out my MOA Anonymous book and phone the nearest BMW dealer, which is in Scottsdale. I got a technician on the phone, named Jason or Justin, and explained the phenomenon. I also told him that the bike had been running flawlessly up to the fast idle at Montezuma, and that it had just had the 42,000 mile service, including throttle-body sync before I left for the trip. He said it was, indeed, most likely due to the altitude change. The ECU needs awhile to recalculate the air-gas mix when there's a change in barometric pressure. He said that it could take a couple of hours, or up to 200 miles for that to happen. But, should it not sort itself out, I should get it in to a dealer. He didn't think 1,600 rpm was that far off spec for the bike. And subscribing to a variation of the "bread crumb" theory, I also put a call in to Mike and described what happened and what the mechanic said. Just in case. I am, afterall, heading to some desolate areas tomorrow morning, as I ride from Flagstaff up to Page, Kanab, through Zion, and down to St. George for the night.

I walked to the center of Williams this afternoon, to check out Historic Route 66 area, and was "treated" to a Hell's Angels "parade." About 30 bikes roared through this tiny town, every one of them tweaking their throttles and racking their pipes as they each came through the stop sign at the center of town. I stood on the corner and watched. Not something I'm apt to see again, so why not gawk?

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