Crown King, AZ (The back way from Lake Pleasant)

A great day trip from the Phoenix, AZ area.

We went up the back side of Crown King from Lake Pleasant yesterday. It was a beautiful, challenging ride. I’ve only been up that way once before. As I was riding the terrain got more challenging, I kept recalling the last ride. I was with a group of BMW 1200GS riders. Many of them were over their heads and the leader of the group had to shuttle bikes up all the challenging parts. That memory made me happy to be on a DR. It’s amazing how well she climbs anything I put in front of her. There were lots of loose rocks and bumpy, rutted climbs.

Shea on her Honda XR400

Shea on her Honda XR400

We had a great mix of riders on bikes like: DR650, KLR650 F800GS, XR400 and a Husky 449. The husky led the pack but everyone else held strong.

Motley Crew  of dual sport riders

Motley Crew of dual sport riders

It was a fast moving group so I have very few pictures. Sometimes I opt to enjoy the view more than I document it. Some of the best views were on a narrow, rocky two track with a wall on one side and a huge drop on the other. I missed a lot of those views because I was “white knuckling” it up the hill.

Martin on his Husqvarna TE449

Martin on his Husqvarna TE449

I’ve been riding dual sports for about four years. I got my first flat on this ride. It was much easier to fix than I expected. It was also surprisingly fun to work on the bike together on the side of the trail. I love the comradery in the MC world.

First flat tire on Suzuki DR650

First flat tire on Suzuki DR650

We arrived in Crown King for lunch and headed for the traditional CK Saloon. It was packed with quad and side by side traffic so we rode up the hill to another restaurant I have never seen. It was fantastic. I think I have a new eatery in CK.

It was a great day in the mountains. Thanks for the ride folks.

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Answer: Clean the Carb!

So two weeks ago I had a huge problem. My Suzuki DR350 wouldn’t start! I did a quick video, and tried a few things. I replaced the spark plug, but found out that the problem was…

a dirty, dirty carb!

Dirty Carb on the Suzuki DR350

So we opened up the carb and cleaned it out. Also, I found out that the jet, that should fall out so easily, was not easy to get out at all! There was some rust (green) on it, and it was completely stuck.  We pulled it out, cleaned it, and put it back in. Much easier this time, but I still ordered a new jet.

Cab jet Suzuki DR350

Thank goodness I did too, because over the weekend it got stuck again!  The new one was so slippery that it proved difficult to put in… Now that is how a carb jet is supposed to behave!

When she doesn’t get gas, Suzi is not happy!

I also invested in a good fuel filter for her. Now in the US I’m going to spend a little more and get more high quality fuel so this doesn’t happen in the future!

Love it that she starts right up. I think I will ride her tomorrow morning in fact 🙂


Categories: Motorcycles, Repairs, Suzuki DR 350 | Tags: , | 5 Comments

Suzuki DR 350 Won’t Start


I’m having trouble with my motorcycle, and asking for some help.

If you have any ideas, please leave a comment. You never know if it will help someone in the future.

I’m ready to ride and I’m bummed I can’t!

Categories: Maintenance, Repairs, Suzuki DR 350 | 3 Comments

Montana Mountain Loop near Phoenix

At the top
Montana Mountain Loop

Montana Mountain Loop near Phoenix, Arizona

It was about a month ago I left cold Montana to head to warm and sunny Phoenix, Arizona.  I never considered the mountain ranges or the riding possibilities here in Phoenix.  I knew that there was some great riding here, but I had no idea how great.

Not only that, but I had no clue what amazing riding friends I would find.  Riding buddies that actually were all about the dual sport (even more so than me, with my measly little Suzuki DR350 that can barely do freeway).

So far I’ve been out 3 weekends (only my first ride in Arizona recorded so far), and every single one has been a completely blast.

Before the mountains

This past weekend Mark (who took me on my first ride in the desert) took me to the Montana Mountain Loop.  Maybe he thought I was a bit homesick for Montana (I’m not). Maybe he just knew what a freaking amazing route it was. I vote for the latter.

Coming from the center of Phoenix, it took about an hour to get to the dirt roads. But once we were there, we were completely surrounded by desert, cacti, and the beauty of Arizona.

It was a beautiful day, in the 80s (20s C), and so warm that I was able to take off my jacket and just ride in my armour. Starting out, the road was not rough. It was nice dirt, and we stopped many times just to take in the beautiful scenery.  As we started to climb up the mountain, the terrain got a little harder. But it was nothing that I couldn’t handle or hadn’t seen before.

Arizona Cliffs

When we reached the top of the mountain, the view was to die for, and unfortunately, pictures do not do it justice.  The mountains weren’t like the mountains of Montana, but you know what, close enough. And if they were just like the mountains of Montana, they would have been covered in snow. Which is no good.

As we made our way down the side of the mountain, where the sun did not shine as hard and there was still snow on the ground, the road seemed much rougher.

We had gotten a late start and now the sun was going down. Less time for pictures and drooling over the view than on the way up. With the downhill and the rocks, and my throttle getting stuck on “GO”, it was a rough road.

At the top

The turns were the killer ones.  There were huge rocks, and a cliff you did not want to go off of.  I was taking many of them too fast, and I started falling left and right.  Luckily Mark was quick to jump off his bike and help me up.  He helped me slow down on the turns to experience less falls, and I was impressed by his calmness.

But with each fall, I became more and more tired. There was very little time to rest, so it was back on and continue.  I’ve been stuck riding in the dark before, and it is not a fun task. I wasn’t about to let it happen again.

First fallOne fall the bike landed on my foot. Thank goodness for my Alpinestar off road riding boots, because my ankle would have been snapped for sure. Instead, it was left throbbing and even four days later it hurts and is black and blue. But you know what? That is all part of the adventure!

Onward we went, and once we were off of the mountain, the trail eased up.  We road in some amazing river beds and even some rivers filled with water that seemed to be part of the road, which reminded me again of Albania, my first true off road adventure.

We made it back to base camp just as it was turning dark. It was another amazing adventure in the Arizona desert.  I look forward to the many more that will come in the future.

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My First Adventure in the Arizona Desert


It’s February.  Usually this time of year I spend wishing I was riding, waiting for spring, waiting for the snow to melt. Stuck inside, fixing up my beautiful bike, dreaming of finer weather.

Roosevelt Lake, Arizona

Not this February.  This February, I packed up everything I owned in my car (half of it being for my Suzuki), put my bike on a trailer, and headed down to Arizona.

Arizona has wonderful spring weather (80F/20C) now, and I’ve been dying to ride. But my first weekend was getting settled, my second weekend I ended up sick. I was also missing a riding partner. I found great friends in Bozeman, Montana; I explored the Bridger’s with Paul, I camped in the crazies with Benton.  I had amazing adventures in Montana.

Now it was Arizona’s turn.

It didn’t take me too long to find a rider here who fit my style. I was actually lucky, we have been in the same class for awhile, and had no idea we were both adventure riders. So many people in the US ride a Harley, and when you say motorcycle, they assume you ride a Harley as well. You do find dirt riders here and there, but even my roommates & friends who don’t ride think I do motocross. I don’t enjoy riding around in circles!

Mark RidingSo when I met Mark and found out he had a BMW 650GS, I forced him to take me for a ride. Luckily he is just that nice of a guy.  He planned a trip, an hour away from my house, a half day adventure. My roommates (two retired ladies who didn’t think I would make it) made me feel a bit worried. But then I realised something… I’ve been to Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro and other countries. Much different than Arizona. I think I could handle it.

So on Saturday I woke up at 6:30, hopped on my prepped bike and started my journey to meet Mark at a gas station at the edge of town. I ended up being a little late (I’m still misjudging the traffic of this gigantic city), and while he was waiting he met two other riders headed to the same area as us. Roosevelt Lake. So off we headed, the four of us.  There was a little highway, but it wasn’t long before we reached the recreational area.

Hilary on top of the world

I must say, I was surprised at how many people were on the road.  There were tons of people on quads and bikes.  We stopped at the parking lot (yes, this area had a parking lot!) to take off some layers, and our gas station friends went off ahead.  When we started off finally, we quickly got caught behind a group of quads and some other weird four wheeled machine.  I have to say, it was fun passing them and getting away from the people!  There is a certain aggressive skill needed to pass quickly and without harm to either party. I enjoyed it, but was happy when they were in my side  mirror.

Soon, we had pure open road.  It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining but not too hot, and we made our way on an easy off road trail through the mountains.


I, of course, had to stop multiple times for photos.  When you realize that there are not many places in the world like Arizona, you start to appreciate its beauty.  The trail on the way up was fun, simple, and open.  Single tracks make me nervous that I’m going to hit a tree, so I slow down. This road, I just had to look out for cars (YES, CARS!) around the bend. Otherwise, I could go full force. I am thankful for my time in Sweden and learning to hit those open roads with full throttle!

As we started to climb the mountain, I noticed little white patches. Snow! Wow, there is snow in Arizona! We made our way up, we saw more and more on the side of the road, but none on the road itself.

Snow up top

Near the top, we ran into our gas station buddies.  One was on a Suzuki DRZ and the other on a BMW 800GS.  The GS had a little tip over on the turn. I thought they wanted me to pull over to see the fantastic view. It wasn’t until I got to the viewing spot did I see the GS.  Luckily it was easy for them to get up (I didn’t even have a chance to get off my bike to help!)

Once we were settled, and took a few pictures, we talked to our gas station friends about the trail.

“Be careful!” the Suzuki rider warned.  “There is a sheet of ice on the road. You will need to walk the bikes through to get passed, it is just way too slippery.”  At that point, after the tip over, they decided to go back down.

Hilary rules

I looked at Mark. “You want to give it a shot?” he asked.

“You do realize I lived in Sweden. And Bozeman, Montana.  Riding in snow is not an issue.”  So off we went.

When we got to the “sheet of ice on the road” I had to laugh. It was barely ice, broken up pieces, and mostly mud.  This is the snow that Phoenicians are afraid of?  Bring it on.

We made it to the top of the summit, passing a lot of snow-mud along the way.  I did loose my back end a few times, because I was applying the brakes.  The key with ice and snow is no extra throttle, no braking.  Just keep at your current speed and you will pass it without a problem.

So glad I had experienced winter in Sweden and Bozeman to know how to ride in snow! This was child’s play. Yet it was still fun 🙂

At the top of the mountain we could see Lake Roosevelt in all its beauty. More time for photos!  We decided if we could make it to the top of the mountain, we could make it down the shadow side of the mountain too. While there was some snow here and there, it wasn’t bad at all! I noticed, there were a lot less cars and other vehicles on this path as well.


Riding downhill is a lot scarier for me than riding up. Also, this was my first ride of the season, and I was out of shape! I could feel myself not having confidence in the curves, but I gave myself a break. Easing back into riding after being out for months takes time.

When I reached the bottom, I noticed Mark talking to another rider. Another Suzuki DRZ. Mark actually happen to know this guy, Larry.  Small world! And he happened to be waiting for our gas station buddies who decided to turn around.

I have to say, I was very proud of myself because I hadn’t yet had a tip over, fumble or fall.  I had a loose back wheel here and there, but I managed to keep control. Until I pulled up near the guys, and lost my footing. Doh! Bike down again!

I was so mad that I didn’t reach my goal of not tipping that I picked up my DR in an instant. Because if she isn’t down for 10 seconds long then it doesn’t count, right? Mark and Larry didn’t even have a chance to get off their bikes to help me. So some of my pride was saved 🙂


We headed to lunch, at a little dive at a gas station by Roosevelt lake.  We ordered greasy food, drank some ice tea, and talked about riding adventures. It was a blast!

It was now around 1.  The day was done, and it was time to head home. Larry was camping by the lake, but both Mark and I needed to get back into town.

Larry suggested we take the Apache trail. Another fun dirt road, and it would get us where we needed to go .  It was on the way to his camping ground. I had nothing else planned that evening except for a party later. I looked at Mark. Game. Continue our adventure we would!

Mark and Hilary

This trail was beautiful and followed the river. But I started to feel the heat of the desert. It was hot, dusty, and I didn’t yet own sun screen (still don’t).  The beauty of the desert, the river, the cacti, was worth every second. While there were people around here and there, mostly cars and RVs we had to pass, it was beautiful. I see why that road was so popular.

Another few hours of dirt riding, and then back to pavement. But beautiful twist and turns (I really have to practice my turns) made it entertaining.  There was even a water stream we shouldn’t have passed. I tend to ignore signs though 🙂

In the end, it was an amazing day and an amazing introduction to the Arizona desert.  Even with all the cars and people, I couldn’t imagine it any better.

It is amazing the people you meet who do dual sport. Cheers to new friends and many more dirty motorcycle adventures!

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