May 9, 2016 - 4.0
Don´t keep the bike parked inside all winter in Edmonton when you can have a beautiful ride to sunny Phoenix AZ and put it in storage there for the winter - and then got RIDE it at least once during the 7 months you normally wouldn´t even see it!
Yes, you could drive straight to Phoenix on the main highways in about 3 days, but it´s a bike - so take the scenic route. See BOTH sides of the amazing Grand Canyon, and lots more.
I spent a fair bit of time planning this route and it wound up great except for two places where after a long day of riding in warm sun I was unable to get a cold beer (ugh!).
Starting at my usual meeting point at the highway weigh scales just south of Leduc on the QE2. This is a great place to meet up with your buddies for any ride out of Edmonton going south. There´s a large open area that´s rarely used where you can wait for each other. If the scales are not busy, yes you ARE welcome to ride across them and weigh your bike. Those scales, as big as they are, are accurate to about 5 or 10 kg!
Stopping for gas in Red Deer, you can likely use the new east bypass around Calgary. It´s a very long perfect straight, but it gets you all the way past Calgary in about 25 minutes!
Stop in Nanton for a nice break with a tour of the Bomber Command Museum. It´s a small, excellent, very hands-on museum with tons of very cool things to see which are likely interesting even to those who are not that interested in war or airplanes.
When you cross the border into Montana, take the scenic route through St. Mary - one of the very best motorcycle rides in that part of the country.
The Holiday Inn Express in Browning is VERY motorcycle friendly. They even have a special bin of wash rags and bucket of soapy water right at the main entrance especially for their biker guests.
From Browning, take the gorgeous route through Glacier park. If you want to go to Whitefish, cool, otherwise, head straight down to Missoula via the smaller roads and you will be rewarded with awesome scenery.
Keep going south after Missoula to Salmon. Gorgeous town with a really nice fast running small river which is great to watch from your hotel balcony at the Stagecoach Inn.
Head south out of Salmon and be rewarded with about 2.5 hours of non-stop twisties on perfect roads.
Now the un-fun part - you pretty much have to take the interstate from Pocatello through Salt Lake City Riding through SLC is HORRIBLE. It is pretty much always bumper to bumper parking lot for a good hour or more, and there are very few reasonable detours to take. So, before entering SLC, make sure your tank is filled and your bladder drained, put on the tunes (if you have them) and relax as you putt through this mess.
A while after SLC is a little armpit called Nephi which offers a few fairly cheap hotels at the very south end. Warning! That awesome looking steakhouse beside the last motel is OK, but it is DRY (no alcohol). So if all you want is a cold beer after sitting in the SLC traffic jam for two hours, be warned.
Leaving Nephi, head east a bit to get onto the back roads down to Bryce Canyon. Gorgeous drive except for one bit shortly before Bryce park which has a ridiculously low speed limit (like about 30 mph where it should easily be 50 or more). Ride down into Bryce and check out the amazing views.
From Bryce my intention was to go to Kanab, a hidden gem of a city. Just check out the YouTube tourism video of it to see what I mean. However, ALL the hotels in Kanab were booked, even though it was off-season, so I found a good deal at the Cedar Breaks Lodge in Brian Head UT. Absolutely amazing ride through forests of twists to get there. Note, it´s about 9500 feet above sea level, so check the weather first. When I went it was perfect, but it did drop from about 26C at Bryce to 8C when I arrived in Brian Head in the early evening.
Leave Brian Head as soon as it´s warm enough to do so (I left about 08:00 and it was 9C in the sunshine), and have breakfast in Kanab. There´s a Mexican restaurant about half way through town that serves breakfast. They have an outside patio and in Kanab, it´s quite warm early in the morning (it was 25C at09:30).
From Kanab, enjoy a nice drive to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The North Rim is far less touristy than the South Rim, and it´s amazing how they let you walk right out onto the very edge and dangle your feet over! The South Rim is all railings and safety barriers.
From the North Rim, it´s quite a drive around to the South Rim. Stop at Marble Canyon for an opportunity to get a photo of your bike with amazing red cliffs behind it, then stop off at the crazy-ass tall bridge over the canyon.
I stopped for the night in Tuba City. It was a long day of hiking the North Rim and riding in the hot sun, so all I wanted when I checked into the nice, and very reasonably priced Moenkopi Legacy Inn was a cold beer. D´oh! I was informed that Tuba City is on ´dry indian lands´ and the nearest alcohol is about a 1.5 hour drive away. Never mind, I watched the amazing eclipse of 2015 from the totally dark field behind the hotel instead.
From Tuba City, it´s a couple hours of nice riding to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. What I found second most amazing, after the canyon itself, is that this is a HUGE tourist draw with large parking lots for tour busses and all, that has ONE crappy little washroom facility with a HUGE lineup to get in. It was mind boggling how they can spend so much money making a multi-building tourist facility with about 3 toilets per 1000 visitors.
From South Rim it´s a beautiful ride for about an hour to Flagstaff, then back on the Interstate to Phoenix. Top up your gas when you can because it´s surprisingly far between fuel stops.
In Phoenix, I stored the bike at CubeSmart Storage on E Washington St. It is literally adjacent to PHX airport, although it´s almost an hour walk all the way around the end of the runway to the terminal, so a cab is recommended. The lockers there are ALL drive-up, so parking the bike is a breeze. My FJR1300 slid right in. I don´t think a much wider bike like Goldwing or Harley would fit, better phone for door measurement first.