The Devil’s Highway

We had a top tip from a good friend before we left home, cheers, Marie. In fairness, Ed would have found this road. Guaranteed. It just looks so tempting on a Michelin Map!

Arizona 191, which was the old 666, The Devil’s Highway.

The whole route is 1,623.97 miles in length. It goes through Arizona, Utah, Wyoming and Montana. We were homing in on the best bit, realistically for us, in Arizona. The first part of our day was to ride from Globe to Clifton.

Now, I’ve not been very well and I had a wee half day before we ventured to Route 666. The antibiotics I’d been taking had been doing their job. As I put my feet up in our hotel in Globe, and Ed went on his own little loop. I snoozed. It was the charging of my batteries that I needed.

On our way to Clifton, there was a memorable moment. On checking my mirror, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing: a colossal big blue truck making ground on us. Now, being overtaken going down a mountain pass by a peddle cyclist in my ‘learning years’ was mortifying at the time, however I got over it pretty quickly.

Ed and I spotted the truck at the same moment. Both of us thought the same thing at the same time: ‘Really? I don’t bloody think so!’ If there had ever been a moment to have comms between us, this was it. However, who needs comms…. our body language said everything! Now, generally, people over here, drive at the posted speed +10mph. We were doing about 70 and this truck was bearing down on us like an out of control steam train. We both reckon that it was doing over 80 miles an hour. Neither of us were going to be passed by that! We hoofed on and only started putting ground between us and the truck at 85.

We stopped to get a photo of the

Clifton sign. Why not? After all, I live across the river from our very own Clifton which has some similarities, both are mining communities. Albeit, the Tyndrum / Clifton original fame was lead mining and more recently, gold.

Back to Route 666. In Clifton, we had an early lunch. Well worth it. There’s only one lodge / stopping place on the route, which (we know now) was 70 miles away. Also, make sure you fuel up. The next fuel is in Alpine, 90 miles away. If you run out…. the only way of getting your fuel-starved bike out of those mountains is to lasso a black bear and cross your fingers. Alpine was our intended destination. Make sure you layer up. It’s over 9,000 ft in places and can get gripple nipping, believe me. And, it’s likely to snow. It did exactly that.

As you head out, the ground surrounding Clifton is being mined like crazy. It’s known for copper mining, which is no surprise considering the colour of the rocks. The road to start with was under construction – sand and gravel as they remade part of the road. I wouldn’t recommend it, had it had been raining!

Before you know it though, the twisties and curves begin. And they don’t stop. For 90 miles.

It was 90 miles of grins.
90 miles of pure concentration.
90 miles of no Armco barriers.
90 miles of watching the limit point of vision.
That’s hard on the brain. To give your brain a rest though, there were a few straights. Only a few though. It was as very much a ‘don’t-look-down road’!

Now, had I been on a Harley, there’s no way I would have had as much fun as I did. Had I been on my Scout, I would definitely had a blast, however, the Tigger-Tiger was spot on for the job. The only other option was Smoggy, however, he’s tucked up at home and in fairness would have involved a LOT more gear changing than the Tiger. The triple was well suited to the job.

Now, as per previous blogs about USA speeds and speed recommendations that they give corners, it all seems ridiculous to us. Well, maybe not totally ridiculous, there are one or two corners at home that have a recommended speed….. they tend to be coming off a motorway, and, not on your life would I adhere to those recommendations, unless, of course the conditions are such that you may have to go even slower!

There’s corners and there’s curves. And there’s mountain curves. Apparently, the route we were on were ‘mountain curves’. There were speed recommendations varying from 50mph down to 10mph. 10? Ya think?

Now, in Europe, the Alpine curves are what they are, and can be pretty savage. Anyone who has ridden the Stelvio Pass may feel delighted to get up and down in one piece. I can assure you, there’s nothing more satisfying, however, on occasions, there’s nothing more petrifying when the visibility is about 10 yards and there are rivers crossing the road. That’s the conditions I had to contend with on my first Stelvio visit and I was pretty nervous! Any (European) Alpine mountain pass can be hard work at times, however, none as satisfying as the Devil’s Highway was for me. It’s difficult at times to get in the groove in the Alps, just when you think that all’s going well, some knob spoils it for you. So how on earth was this road better?

Ed and I reckon we saw about 11 cars and one bike in 90 miles. Yes! 12 vehicles in about 2.5 hours. That was the difference! It was just a joy, especially if you are focused on what the corner has in store. Yes, it was technically challenging; no, not great views or great road surface, just a marvellous cornering masterclass.

I got totally engrossed in the corners. I stopped to take a photo only once, and at that, I didn’t hang around as it was very, very cold! When we reached the only place for a cuppa, we chose to keep riding the next 22 miles instead of stopping. The decision was easy to make; it was snowing.

it was a relief to reach Alpine. For two reasons, the weather and we were knackered! There, at the side of the road was Bear Wallow Café. A quirky wee place. A total ban on mobile phones, which I basically ignored, given my mobile was being used as a camera and there was no signal anyway! The coffee was hot and the welcome warm. The next thing we knew, Shannon, the waitress had brought us two steaming hot bowls of beef and vegetable soup. On the house.

 

 

With a welcome like that, we got chatting and she recommended local lodges as the place to stay. Before we knew it, the other waitress had called along and booked our room.

Stunning was an understatement. Our accommodation was beautiful. It was a shrine to black bears, in the bathroom alone there were 20 black bears of varying sizes. Shower curtain bears, light switch cover bears, toilet roll holder bears….. just in case you thought they were real, living breathing ones!

The studio lodge was really homely and comfortable. We got unpacked & settled then headed back to Bear Wallow for supper. We took one bike; not only was it bitterly cold, however, it was also about 9000 feet high in the village. It was worth it, although we had to chip the ice off the seat before we rode up the hill to our cosy cabin.

What a truly satisfying day. Awesome twisty roads and superb hospitality in Alpine, a wee village in the middle of the mountains.

Now we’ve met the locals, we now know that the pay no attention to the double yellow central lines on the road. They pretty much dominate the whole route – alert from the few straights. So, take care, a local might just be on your side of the road!

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