The Backcountry Discovery Routes (BDRs) are a network of off-road oriented trails that travel through some states in the United States. At the time of this trip, there were were trails in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.
The trails are designed so that a heavy adventure bike can ride through them and experience a multi-day adventure that is often full of history, backroad challenges, beautiful scenery, and an opportunity to get away from the crowds for a little while.
It’s our time to do the Arizona route – known as the AZBDR. We’ve got two weeks.
AZBDR Trip – Preparation
Let’s put this out there… We are NOOBS. Motorcycle noobs. Just last year, we purchased our first motorcycles – a pair of used BMW G650GSs. We affectionately call them our “mules” because they pack us and our junk around and don’t complain about it.
The GS name refers to Gelände/Straße (German for off-road/road). Basically these bikes are the result of what would happen if a papa dirt bike impregnated a momma touring motorcycle. They are tough bikes designed for traveling around the world but are also a bit on the heavy side. More on this later… the deep sand later…
Our motorcycle training consisted of completing the initial and intermediate MSF motorcycle safety classes and a day-long course designed to get you familiar with riding off-road, on uneven terrain, and a little taste of sand. Sand, ugh.
After weeks of looking at different option we finally went with renting a trailer for getting the mules and our stuff to my Sister-in-Law’s home at Coolidge, AZ. Riding the bikes there would have been an option but we also needed to get our 17-year-old son and his school stuff to AZ. Poor dude, he had the ‘joy’ of doing home-school while his parents toured Arizona via adventure bikes. There is a lesson in responsibility in there somewhere. 😂
The mules all loaded, strapped down, and ready for transit from San Diego, California.
Saw this guy on the I-8. This guy knows how to pack a truck! Well done my friend 👍. Not sure if I would follow him though, especially on a motorcycle 😬!
We arrived that evening in Coolidge, AZ and had a good time with family. I forced myself to get some sleep even though I was a bit excited and nervous about the next couple weeks. I hoped all the planning and preparing had paid off. Did we forget anything?
AZBDR – Day 1 of 11
🗓: 23 Apr | 🌍: Coolidge to Sonoita, Arizona
Map of Day 1: 195 miles paves + 45 miles dirt = 240 miles total
The bikes were unloaded and all the luggage was separated and organized
How is ALL this stuff going to fit on two bikes?
All packed up! The mules are rearing to go.
We left Coolidge, with the incredible send-off and support of our family, and made our way to Tombstone via the I-10 and SR80.
The Wild West Town of Tombstone, Arizona
Tombstone was fun but it really is a tourist destination. There are shops, restaurants, shows, and carriages all competing for your money. Not that this is a problem normally, but when it’s all contained within a small town like Tombstone it was a bit too much. We found a quite restaurant called Café Margarita where we enjoyed some delicious fish tacos. Highly recommended.
Just hanging around Tombstone.
Our mules look better and eat less!
Beautiful horses and carriages.
Old prospector character in faded hat and pink shirt.
Arizona Backcountry Discovery Route
After lunch it was time to hit the road and make progress for our reason for visiting Arizona – the BDR. We took East Charleston Road to SR92 and then entered the official start of the AZBDR at Coronado National Memorial.
Welcome to the AZBDR! The official start of the long and exciting road ahead. Within a short period you are in the dirt and making the climb to the overlook.
The mules look much better on the dirt.
The views from the top are good ones. Looking East…
…and looking West.
A little detour from the main trail takes you to the border of Mexico. Although this section is only about a mile, it was one of the highlights of the day.
As I was descending a steep hill near the border I remember thinking how great it would be to do the whole 750ish miles without dumping the bike. As I contemplating my awesomeness and skill I grabbed to much front brake, skidded the front tire, and dumped it. It was my first of many times I dumped the mule. Sorry Apache (name of my bike)!
The mule and the US/Mexico border.
A fence designed to keep Mexican cows from coming and eating USA grass.
The prairie land that we passed though was beautiful and remote. We didn’t come across a single soul until just before reaching Sonoita.
We stopped for some chow (New York Steak and potatoes) at The Steak Out in Sonoita.
Old school motorcycle rider. Those old school motorcycles used A LOT of hay and water!
We continued up the trail north to East Yucca Farm Road where we found a nice quite spot among some antelope and set up camp for the night. If only we had a guitar… and someone who knew how to play it.
Sunset over the prairie. Makes me want to sing “Home on the Range”.
AZBDR – Day 2 of 11
🗓: 24 Apr | 🌍: Coolidge to Redington, Arizona
Map of Day 2: 45 miles paved + 36 miles dirt = 81 miles total
We woke to the sounds of a bunch of whelping coyotes. As we were folding up our tent a truck and horse trailer drove by and we exchanged friendly waves. We were on the road by 7:00 and had planned for this to be a light day of no more than 80 miles. It turned out to be anything but a light day…
Apache roaming the plains of Arizona.
GoPro fun on the trail.
In general the first part of today’s trail was easy going but rutted. But then we came to a section where the map offered a bypass to those not wanting to brave the deep sand.
I figured I offer this choice up to my mule Apache. We placed him on the center stand and asked him to blink in the direction he wanted go…
As you can see from the turn signal, the answer was to the right. Right into the sand. Apache, what were you thinking?
Along the way, we ran into EJ’s Summer Home. It looks like EJ likes to shoot shotguns into his summer home and it definitely improves the ventilation.
It was full of holes but made for a cool picture of our bikes parked outside.
Once we hit the sand, the real work began. I can’t remember how many times we dumped those mules. It was a lot. I was getting quite frustrated with the sand. In my frustration I missed a turn-off to the left that climbed a steep hill. This mistake made us both endure another 1/3 miles of sand.
A still of the video documenting the many times I dropped Apache in the sand. Chantil had an equally hard time.
Even though it was a tough day, we still took time to smell the desert flowers
We came across these huge water tanks that were being pumped by the windmill. I was almost hot enough that I considered taking a swim in the tank but decided against it out of respect for the owners that were letting us travel through their property.
After the sandy section the road was much easier traveling.
After reaching pavement, we made a quick check of the mules before hitting the fast pace of the freeway towards Benson.
The 650s are adequate on the freeway but not fast. Here we are getting dusted by a large tractor trailer.
In Benson, we gassed up at Love’s Truck Stop and then rode across the street to the Taco Bell where we had some early dinner at one of the outside tables under the shade.
Now this is the Arizona I expected.
We found the perfect camp site – protected from the view of the road by a large rock formation. That evening we enjoyed a bit of the surrounding beauty before dark set in and we fell asleep under the vastness of a billion stars.
Continued on PAGE 2…