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Old 06-01-2010, 10:13 PM   #1
azcycle OP
Chihuahua Wrangler
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Joined: Apr 2010
Location: Tucson, AZ
Oddometer: 703
My Mini-Adventure Around Mt Lemmon

I know this is a pretty measly adventure for most of you here. But I'm a new member on a new (but old) bike and thought this might be a fun "first" adventure ride for me and the bike. Considering my r65 is a street bike and almost 30 years old, with tired suspension, this was a good start.

A bit of history: This was my father-in-law John's beloved BMW r65. With his sudden death back in November, my fiance (we're to get married in September) being his only child, inherited the BMW. She basically handed it over to me to enjoy, and enjoy it I have. John was a character, known to take this bike where it shouldn't go, and even went so far as to put some fairly aggressive knobby tires on it. Knowing my father-in-law John would've said "go for it!" well, I went for it.

So, for those who don't know, Mt. Lemmon is the highest peak in Tucson's northern mountain range, the Catalina Mountains. Tucson's elevation is roughly 2,300 feet, and in comparison, Mt. Lemmon's Ski Valley is about 8,500 feet. The 27-mile drive up Catalina Highway to Ski Valley (the United State's southernmost ski area) is a scenic, wonderful, fun, twisty experience that I've enjoyed more and more as I get to know the old bike's characteristics. However, there is another way up the mountain via the Old Mt Lemmon Road, which winds it's way up the Northern side of the Catalinas. I've sat at the top entrance/exit a few times, gazing at the CAUTION: STEEP SINGLE LANE MOUNTAIN ROAD. NOT MAINTAINED. sign, wondering if the old r65 could make it.

I decided to make good use of my monthly furlough day and try it. With it's recent fluid re-freshening, new plugs, and valves adjusted, the old r65 was running pretty well. Despite a leaky fork seal and a valve cover that was stubbornly not sealing and dripping oil, I prepped for the ride. Stocking up on water, tools, and anything else I could think of that might come in handy, I didn't get as early of a start as I wanted. The Tucson heat was already building at 86 degrees F when I rolled out of the driveway at 10:30 a.m.

My destination, the top of the Catalina Mountains

Not many exciting photos through the traffic of Tucson! As I started to leave Tucson behind, I smiled as I was able to open the bike up a bit along AZ Route 77. With little local traffic, the two-lane road was almost deserted, and she hummed along comfortably. What speed? I don't know... I don't have a speedometer. ;)

First stop, about 6 miles south of Oracle, AZ... the (in)famous Biosphere 2. Notice how clean the bike is. It won't stay this way.

Just a few miles on, I roll into Oracle, Arizona. A small but scenic little town that has quite a bit of old mining equipment scattered here and there. Stopping at the local convenience store, I down a bottle of Vitamin Water and a snack bag of Doritos.

Entering Oracle, Arizona

Jumping back on the bike, I rumble through town, find the Old Catalina Road over rolling, scenic two-lane roads, until I come to my first Mt Lemmon sign. The bike is idling high and I pause here, pulling out a screwdriver and adjusting the idle screws on the carbs. Perfecto! I roll on...

Mt. Lemmon - 26 miles of dirt road in ? condition.

I begin climbing very gently. The road is wide and smooth, with only a little washboard. I occasionally give her a burst of throttle and test the old knobby tires. Grip is surprisingly good, though the suspension is already feeling it.

Very scenic and green, with hidden ranches here and there.

I see a young deer crossing the road in front of me, and roll to a stop, trying not to startle her. I manage to get my camera out and pointed, just as a local redneck yahoo comes roaring around the corner in his lifted pickup, scaring her off. Dangit!

My destination, looking south at the northern side of the Catalinas. You can actually see the road just left of center, slashing up to the right.

The Ocotillos were blooming and just spectacular.

Really starting to gain some altitude. Looking back North.

The road is getting progressively worse, but still pretty darned good. I'm finding I have to start to pick my lines and coerce the bike where I want her to go. About this time, I start to hear a new rattle, and I pull over.

Taking a break to find out the source of the new rattle.

As soon as I remove my helmet, I am surprised to hear the sound of running water. Grabbing my camera, I venture over the nearest edge and at the bottom of the gully, find a hidden oasis.

The temperature was much cooler here!

Clambering back up the steep slope, I finish off my Doritos and find the source of the rattle. One of the tail light lens mounts had broken, leaving the right side of the tail light assembly loose. It was cracked before, and my patch of super-glue obviously didn't work. Oh well.

Bungee Cords to the rescue! They helped keep the lens assembly from rattling the other mount apart.

Working my way through a rocky, sandy wash crossing which is being worked on by a guy in a little skid-steer tractor, I come across a sign stating the next 9 miles are steep and narrow... beware! I'm finding my mountain bike experience is coming in handy. The bike may be 400lbs heavier but the principles still apply: Pick my line, look where I want to go, not where I don't, momentum is my friend (but not too much!) I'm standing on the pegs quite a bit, throwing the bike's weight around, and a grin from ear to ear.

This picture doesn't show how steep and loose this section was. Over the next 7 miles or so, I begin to wonder if I bit off more than I could chew. This is probably laughably easy for most Adv-riders on their dual-sport bikes. But for a 30-year old cow, this was rough.

I begin to climb into cooler temperatures and start seeing pine trees. The damage from the 2003 fire that ravaged the mountain begins to make it's appearance.

Don't go off the road here... steep drops! Only one scare when a guy in a Jeep goes wide around a blind hairpin turn, right at me. We both corrected, waved and went on our respective ways.

Mmmmm love the smell of pine trees. Reminds me of my hometown of Flagstaff, AZ.

The road, while still loose and steep in some areas, has mostly smoothed out, and I can tell I'm nearing the top.

The top comes unexpectedly, and I roll over the last cattle-grate and see pavement ahead. I officially made it up the Mt. Lemmon Control Road! I jump on the pavement, and ride the remaining few miles up to Ski Valley, which is a cool 70 degrees F. The weather is just gorgeous here.

Success! Take THAT rarely maintained control road!

Showing off in Ski Valley.

Looking back down the mountain through the fire damage. You can faintly see Oracle, AZ in the center if you follow the ridge line down from the right of the picture.

Photos start to get scarce here, because the twisties on the way down are OH so much fun... From Ski Valley to the base of Mt Lemmon on the south (Tucson) side is roughly 26-miles. Now I get to blow off all that accumulated dust.

More fire damage, looking south toward Tucson proper.

That's a steep drop on the left!

Just above Windy Point, the rough halfway mark down the mountain.

More twisties, looking toward Tucson. Thankfully, not much traffic so the road is extra fun without getting hung up behind pokey cagers.

At the base, looking back up the mountain. You can see Catalina Highway slashing from left to right, about the level of the stop sign.

And that was my mini-adventure! No pictures taken on my ride home through Tucson traffic... Boring, with moments of sheer panic induced by unaware cagers. I started at 10:30am, and rolled back into the driveway at exactly 2:45pm.... 4 hours and 15 minutes. Total mileage: 125 miles. No spills, no mechanicals, and a great day.

1981 BMW r65 - Photos
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Old 06-02-2010, 04:28 AM   #2
Joined: Nov 2009
Oddometer: 20
I've been down the backside a few times in my truck(s) and have seen it in some pretty good and bad conditions. Your ride has brought back some great memories and got the itch going to check it out on my KLR. Reddington Pass is a great ride also.
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Old 06-02-2010, 05:23 AM   #3
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Joined: May 2010
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Originally Posted by azcycle

First stop, about 6 miles south of Oracle, AZ... the (in)famous Biosphere 2. Notice how clean the bike is. It won't stay this way.
nice pics!
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Old 06-02-2010, 06:17 AM   #4
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I like these pictures
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Old 06-02-2010, 06:26 AM   #5
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Go BaBy Go...
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Old 06-02-2010, 06:46 AM   #6
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Respect Great ride too, and lovely airhead!
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Old 06-02-2010, 08:20 AM   #7
KLR > Pee-wee's Bike
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Location: Dayton, OH
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I bet your father-in-law is very proud of your ADVenture. Thanks for sharing it with us.
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."

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Old 06-02-2010, 08:45 AM   #8
This way...
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Act surprised. Show concern. Deny everything.
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Old 06-02-2010, 09:08 AM   #9
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Location: Huntsville, AL
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Great scenery. Looks like a real fun ride. Makes me want to come back out west. Thanks for posting
I ride, Therefore I Am.

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Old 06-02-2010, 10:56 AM   #10
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Joined: Sep 2008
Location: San Diego, CA
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Thanks for the trip. I don't know how many times I've flown over and
driven through Tucson. Each and every trip I've looked at those beautiful
mountains wishing I was going through them. And that old R65 sure reminds
me of my R60/2 with /5 forks on her that I gifted to the 14th SgtMaj USMC.
May those old airheads live forever.
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Old 06-08-2010, 03:16 PM   #11
azcycle OP
Chihuahua Wrangler
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Joined: Apr 2010
Location: Tucson, AZ
Oddometer: 703
Thanks all! Already starting to think about my next trip. ;)
1981 BMW r65 - Photos
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Old 06-08-2010, 04:33 PM   #12
Joined: Jan 2008
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Originally Posted by azcycle
Thanks all! Already starting to think about my next trip. ;)
Beautiful country, great pics and nice report.

I wonder, are any of us ever NOT thinking about the next trip?
Ken Phenix
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Old 07-23-2010, 02:42 PM   #13
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Nice Ride

I did the reverse of that for my first ride on dirt since I was a teenager.

I didn't have pics but I made friends on this site and now when we ride, I sometimes have pics

Here is me at the end of one of the rides up the backside of Lemmon:

2007 Husqvarna TE250 (Athena 300 kit)
2010 Triumph Scrambler
2010 H-D XR1200

Originally Posted by 685
The best accessory for a KLR is another bike for riding offroad.
Originally Posted by AZ-Twin
I need to start riding my bicycle more so I can justify a cool new one.
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Old 07-23-2010, 07:46 PM   #14
What am I doing out here!
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me too!
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Old 07-23-2010, 08:35 PM   #15
johnny mac
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Very nice. I had a similar problem of lack of pictures when I rode Mt. Lemon last April. I wish I had known about the control road when I was there. Well, it now gives me an excuse to ride back down there again.

Cool bike and keep ADVenturing.

Riding a big bike makes all the stuff that was easy hard again. It's great for keeping things interesting as you age and your body falls apart around you. YMMV.

Thanks for sharing.
"I am learning, as I make my way through my first continent, that it is remarkably easy to do things, and much more frightening to contemplate them."

~ Ted Simon, Jupiter's Travels ~
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