Story and photos by Rusty Childress
Arizona is typically a devil of a place to ride in the summer due to the threat of dehydration and excessive heat. It’s a beastly hot mess for riders unless you ride the desert at night or are lucky enough to get up into the mountains of the Mogollon Rim or Flagstaff.
By far the best cool weather alternative is to head for the White Mountains of north eastern Arizona to ride the old Route 666, better known as the “Devils Highway,” a reference to the Number of the Beast.
If your superstitious about the number 666, have no fear. Arizona changed the name in 1993 to the Coronado Trail Scenic Byway Route 191 to remove the stigma, as it approximated the path of the Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado.
If you still don’t like the number 666, then the numbers you will love are the ones that describe the ride. There is a 6000 foot elevation change from beginning to end with 1000 mountainous curves squeezed into a 100 mile length. Because of these kinds of favorable riding digits the Coronado Trail made honorable mention on the American Motorcycle Association list of “Best Motorcycle Roads in America.”
Still sound too spooky for you to ride alone? AZRide.com does this ride every year and would love to have you along. This year’s 8th Annual Devil’s Highway Poker Run was a five stop 265 mile loop from Springerville to Alpine then east on US 180 through New Mexico south to Clifton, returning north on US 191.
AZRide event organizer Gaylen Brotherson said “we are proud to put on one of America’s best rides with motorcyclists from all over the Southwest.” I was pleasantly surprised to spot a variety of non-Arizona license plates from California, Texas, Oklahoma, and even Massachusetts.
The ride also offered the opportunity to support www.teamcaseyaz.org, honoring child cancer patient Casey Axford. Donations went directly to support young oncology patients with books, toys, games, movies, bicycles, birthday cakes and for pediatric blood and marrow transplantation programs.
The Coronado Trail has been described by many as the twistiest highway in the entire USA, so add this one to your bucket list, especially if you plan to ride in Arizona during the hot summer months.
If you like the thrill of sweepers, hairpins, breathtaking viewpoints, shear cliffs, diversity in landscapes, and riding in the cool pines of Arizona at 9000 feet then you will find yourself in absolute riding heaven on the Devils Highway.