By Koz Mraz & Christina Fior
Thousands of motorcyclists come to Arizona for fun in the sun, but many don’t realize that 33% of Arizona is forested and mountainous with Humphreys Peak reaching an elevation of 12,562 feet. From the snow-capped mountains and pine forests of Show Low to the stunning red rocks of Sedona, you can traverse extraordinarily diverse micro-climates in a single day.
Named after Sedona Schnebly in 1902, she and husband Theodore allowed visitors to stay at their home, which became Sedona’s first hotel. The surreal geological terrain of this sedimentary rock contains an iron oxide mineral called Hematite. The red color of the rocks is accumulated rust, yet ironically, it adds richness to the experience here. Riding through this rarefied air is truly electric.
It’s Sedona. The possibilities are endless: helicopter rides, vortex and medicine wheel tours, shamanic journeys, aura energy readings and healing massage…yet I just want breakfast.
PLANES: The Mesa Grill at the Sedona Airport is the best kept secret in town. Located atop a mesa right off Airport Road, the airport overlook offers one of the best views of Sedona. The mesa grill offers a wide selection of breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner options. Enjoying a cappuccino and the view, up rumbled a Gilroy Indian motorcycle piloted by a Cree Indian medicine man. Sedona local, R.J. Joseph heads the Native American Program at a resort called Enchantment located in the heart of Boynton Canyon. Considered one the most sacred places in all Sedona, its Apache holy ground and where the local Indian Elders conduct tribal ceremonies. R.J offered to take me there.
Enchantment is a private resort but if you eat at one of the restaurants you’ll have access to Boynton canyon. As we walked the canyon, R.J. spoke of the Sunagua-Indians and their ruins, some dating back to 8,000 BC. The Sunagua (ancient ones) also migrated here, but around 1,300 an unexplained occurrence caused everyone to leave; it seemed almost overnight. He trained my eye to spot the ruins hidden in the surrounding sandstone faces. He taught me how to discern dark spots that were actually charred areas created by ancient fires. These indicated entrances to caves which housed rooms and primitive petro glyphs. There are over 86 documented ruins in Boynton Canyon alone. Sacred places tourists will pass everyday and never see. This is not a place one should pass quickly, walk the canyons, touch the rose colored earth, breathe its rarefied air and bask in its rich history. (Spot the person in the photo below?)
TRAINS: Outside Sedona is the Verde Canyon Railroad in Clarkdale, built in 1912 for the purpose of bringing copper from the mines in Jerome. It continued to do so until 1988 when it was bought for tourists to enjoy. On your ride you’ll pass bridges, a tunnel, and multiple canyons.
Employees will point out rock formations that have been popular since the early years of the train. You can bring food with you. Otherwise water and snacks like chicken wings, fruit and cheese are all provided complimentary. Super comfortable seating, vintage décor and a full bar is all-aboard, even offering their own branded beer which is fantastic! Modern creature-comforts like climate control, comfortable seating and thoughtful décor make for a relaxing ride. Overall this is a great experience and they surely follow their motto “It’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey.”
From the moment you step foot on one of the meticulously refurbished train you’re transported to a simpler, more leisurely time before all the distractions of our modern world took root. Breathe deep, order a drink and enjoy a 20 mile journey through 100 years of history.
Only five miles from the Via Verde Railroad is Jerome “Americas Most Vertical City.” Something out of an M.C. Escher painting, it was founded in 1876, yet this his copper mining town slowly began sliding off the hillside. Due to the 30-degree incline, gravity pulled entire blocks down the slope. Today it’s full of interesting establishments from tattoo parlors, head shops, wineries, the Jerome Grand Hotel and Grand Theater to name a few. This is easily another several hour stop. The museum houses a 3-dimensional model of the several hundred miles of mine shafts below Jerome.
Back into Sedona for the night I found a promo for the Desert Quail Inn at Bell Rock for $105.00 room. They offer large clean rooms with a fridge and a community pool. Right next door to the Desert Quail Inn is Minami, (South) in Japanese. The very first sushi bar in Verdi Valley established in 1993 by Gina and her chef Yoshi. Any order over 12 bucks comes with complimentary edamame and miso soup, plus they have a full bar. After dinner, it’s a quick walk over to the Full Moon Saloon for a nightcap, live music and hanging with the locals.
SIDECARS: The next day we visited Thunder Sixty Six Sidecars. As a rider you never get to just relax, be the passenger and enjoy the scenery. The inception of Thunder Sixty Six came during a family vacation to the Grand Canyon in 2016. Jimmy Stilley was riding his sidecar which captivated crowds of tourists and inspired him to create this one-of-a-kind service. Sedona is the perfect place to do just that, it’s one of America’s most beautiful environments. Owner Jimmy and his family want to share the joys and freedom of riding in a sidecar with everyone, and now, he’s made that dream a reality.
They offer a variety of rides and excursions ranging from four-hour rides to Jerome to visit the shops and wineries, a three-hour Oak Creek Canyon run and several one or two-hour rides to Boynton Canyon or Red Rock State Park. The beauty of the Thunder Sixty Six is these rides are chauffeured. Riders get to enjoy the spectacular scenery of Sedona. With the option of two passengers at a time, each passenger can switch off to enjoy the sidecar experience. Thunder Sixty Six is a Hannigan Sidecar dealer, so if you’re considering a purchase, ride on up, take a trip and buy one from Jerry. Thunder Sixty Six can even install it for you. They currently have four sidecars in their fleet and can accommodate group rides.
BOGO ALERT. For a limited time use the special promo code Quick Throttle, pay for only one passenger, the second rides free! https://www.thundersixtysix.com/ 928-282-1872
BEST ARIZONA TWISTIES: We headed south on 89 down the back side of Mingus Mountains to Prescott. With 182 curves in 11.2 miles these are some serious twisties. Staggering views await, be sure to pull off at the lookouts and soak up the spectacular scenery.
Prescott, pronounced PRES-kit (like biscuit), at an altitude of 5,354 feet was Arizona’s capital twice! From 1864 to 1867, then again from 1877 to 1889 Prescott is a bustling town full of great restaurants and shops with a classic south western feel. The Prescott Brewing Company has been brewing beer since before prohibition. In fact, once this city hosted over 40 saloons, and South Montezuma Street has long been known as ‘Whiskey Row.’ There’s no gas available from here to Wickenburg so make sure you’re topped off.
Travelers from around the world come to experience this unique and amazing land. From the magnificent Grand Canyon to the mighty White Mountains or majestic red rocks of Sedona, Arizona has some of the most diverse terrain I have ever motorcycled. Truly the southwest at its best, it’s a place of history, mystery and dazzling vistas.
Hannigan Sidecars are Thunder Sixty Six’s sidecar of choice. Hannigan offers nine different unique sidecar options with “Heritage” being the perfect choice. Primarily because it has reclining, adjustable bucket seat with a side door and hatch opening for ease of entry and exit. Anyone who has ridden in any other manufacturer’s sidecar knows it requires yoga training to get in and out. The Hannigan Heritage door and hatch are a game changer. The other standard features are aerodynamic vintage style perfectly suited to a classic Indian or a Harley-Davidson. A tinted windshield, spacious carpeted cockpit with upholstered arm rests, Tonneau cover, progressive-suspension shocks with leading swing arm offers an optimal ride. You’ll also find a recessed head-light, side marker light and integrated multi-function tail light, chrome spoke wheels with white wall tires, a 2-inch powder-coated frame and struts with quick-disconnect hardware. Call Thunder Sixty Six for more information.