Copyright © 2013 by Ralph F. Couey
Arizona Mountains and CanyonsRoute 89/89A
Start: Congress, AZ
End: Flagstaff, AZ
People who think of Arizona as being the exclusive home to sandy desert are woefully uninformed. This route, first ridden by me on a 5000-mile sojourn through the Southwest, starts in the desert northwest of Phoenix. The first challenge is a collection of twisties known locally as the Yarnell Hill. Unfortunately, riders aren’t the only ones who know about this. Law enforcement, undoubtedly drawn by the high number of motorcycle accidents, patrol this stretch heavily. It’s still twisty enough, however, to have fun at the legal limit. The road flattens and straightens until just past Wilhoit. You begin to ascend, bending and twisting as you go. Things get interesting as you cross Copper Creek. The turns get tighter as you get into the mountains. Then things ease off as you coast into Prescott (pronounced “Prescutt”). Continuing north, you take Route 89A as it splits off towards the east. After a few miles of flat desert, you begin to ascend again towards Jerome. The road, following the mountains, begins to twist and coil again. This gets a bit hairy, since there are places where guardrails should be, but aren’t. Shoulders are narrow, if they exist at all, and prone to patches of gravel and chunks of rock.
You enter the historic mining town of Jerome on Clark Street, which narrows down considerably. The street descends into the downtown area via a number of tight hairpins. This area is reminiscent of San Francisco’s Lombard Street. The town is interesting and worth a short visit. Leaving Jerome, the road gives you one more good switchback before straightening out as you descend into Cottonwood. After some more time in the desert, you glide into Sedona, the jewel of Arizona. Dramatic buttes jut into the skyline going into town. This is a tourist area, so watch for traffic not watching you. Sedona is filled with art galleries and energy vortices (no, I don’t know what they are) and is an interesting and entertaining place to spend some time.
North of Sedona, you enter a mountain and valley area, which eases you into probably the most beautiful areas of Arizona, Oak Creek Canyon. The road is initially pretty straight, but then begins to twist, including this intriguing stretch…
Once you leave the canyon, you knife through an area of pine forests, the aroma freshly invigorating. Your journey ends in the mountain town of Flagstaff. One additional treat, though. As you run out of Route 89A, you bisect a signed segment of historic Route 66, which goes through town above I-40.
This is going to be a good three-hour ride, but when it's all said and done, you'll feel like Lightning McQeen.