Just got back home last night from a five-day road trip through Arizona, Utah, and Nevada.
I'm still kinda tired from the whole thing.
The point of the ride was two-fold, one to do a long ride out of California and see lots of the countryside, and two to ride the Coronado Trail.
The Coronado Trail, US 191, which I described in an earlier post (link), has been described by many as being the most twistiest highway in the entire USA. It runs for 123 miles between the towns of Clifton and Springerville, AZ, and features about 500 switchbacks and sweepers, with a 3,500 ft elevation gain to about as high as 8,500 feet.
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A lot has been said of the "Tail of the Dragon", US 129, in North Carolina, as being the most challenging road to ride, with 318 curves in only 11 miles. While the Coronado Trail runs 123 miles, it's technically less twisty. But if you ask me, I'd rather ride 123 miles of twisties, than just 11.
I've read some forum posts from people who have ridden the Coronado Trail and said that it was so twisty, that by half-way through they wished it for it end soon. I kept this thought in the back of my mind as I rode along the highway. Yet, no where did I ever feel like wanting it to end. Quite the opposite, I wanted it to keep on going.
What also makes the Coronado Trail so fun to ride, is that it has very little traffic. Albeit, we rode this on a Monday afternoon. We encountered only one car in front of us, and we blew past him easily. Otherwise, for the 123 mile stretch, no other road blocks. How often can you ride such a great road for that long without any obstructions?
We started the ride at the southern end, by approaching US 191 from Interstate 8, east of Willcox, AZ. Much of US 191 at this point is easy to ride, with great views of grassy hills. Once you get into Clifton, the scene switches to steep canyon walls and mining operations. Once you get past the town of Morenci, the fun begins.
The first 10 miles of the Coronado Trail are probably the most tightest of twisties. Nearly every curve is a 10-15mph switchback. And you're quickly gaining in elevation too. The road actually runs through the Morenci Mine, the largest copper mine in the USA. The road here is red with the dust from the mine.
There was quite a bit of dirt and sand on the road in this first section, requiring us to ride it more carefully. Too bad. This was probably the most challenging part of the road. I suppose the dirt and sand makes it a challenge. My buddy Brian, who tends to ride it a lot harder than I, mentioned his rear tire slipping on many occasions.
Somewhere, about halfway through the ride, we hit upon a series of sweepers, about 15-20 in all, each of which was seemingly the same length and radius. I could get the bike going about 55mph through each one, and was leaning all the way to the right, and then switch quickly all the way to the left. I kept doing this 15-20 times in rhythm, as the road demanded, and felt the G forces pulling me down into my seat.
There are also some really great viewpoints along the Coronado Trail. Since the road takes you up to as high as 8,500 feet, you can see a lot of countrside. Some of this is just breathtaking.
Once you get to Hannagan Meadow, the road becomes less twisty, and is very easy to ride, but is no less scenic.
Perhaps what struck me the most about the Coronado Trail is that the road is so lonely. We saw very few cars, even in going the opposite direction. Considering what an enjoyable road it is, it would be absolute gem if I could only ride it more often.
After the ride, Brian asked me if this road was everything I thought it would be. I said "yes" only because I had a lot of fun riding it. In the back of mind, however, I was kinda disappointed. That is, I kept thinking about what some other people said, that it was SO twisty, that they couldn't wait for it to be over. In that sense, I expected something excrutiatingly twisty. But it wasn't like that at all.
So now, I want to ride The Tail of the Dragon, just to see how twisty it is, and how it compares to the Coronado Trail. Either way, I'm sure it won't compare. How can 11 miles of twisties be any better than 123 miles of twisties?