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Thursday, 02 February 2017 09:55

Behind my Handlebars - Part 3

behind my handlebarsGot everything secured, south 0n state 77 to Globe by 8 am. The roads are the same but the experience is different from behind a set of handlebars to driving the motorhome.

The 47 miles from Holbrook to Show Low, was that type of experience. Also the steep grades and 30 mph corners are a little more dramatic behind a steering wheel, hence the grade at the Salt river canyon. Beautiful drive; just no pull out big enough for the big rig; plus stopping on a 6 and 8% grades a little stressful. Through the eastern edge of Tonto National Forest Into Globe just before noon; the rest of the day; orientation. Off west on 60 the next morning to Superior. Coffee time at the circle K. A western type dude pulled in, had a glance at my licence plate. Just when you think nobody around here knows anything about your home; you get a life’s lesson. “I know exactly where you are from, I dated a nurse from Saskatchewan in Las Vegas”. Conversation on, some days my fuel or coffee stops get quite lengthy, this was one. We touched on a lot of subjects in a short time, an hour went by quickly.

Tonto nat monument


South on State 177 through Kearny to Winkelman. Passing by the Ray copper mine, The mine was originally opened in 1880, various owners throughout it’s history. In 1952 a open pit stripping began, by1955 all underground operations had ceased.The pit is now 6 miles long by 2 miles wide. From Kearny into Winkelman, back north on state 77 to Globe. A nice fresh new thick slab of asphalt greeted the Metzeler 888, a nice smooth ride back to Globe.

behind my handlebars3.4

The next morning found SAMCRO and I headed to Roosevelt Lake. I’m fueling up to get out of town. I hear a sound that’s distinct with my past. A shovelhead bobber pulls into to fuel up his 2 gallon tank. It’s a nice ride, I’m over to have a look straight away. Old school bobber, magneto, hardtail frame, and not much for exhaust, just wished I was young enough again to ride a hardtail.

Off on state 188 up to Roosevelt Lake. Not much lake this time of year. The lake relies on snow melt, October was bad timing. I did find the Tonto National Monument visitors center quite interesting, sometimes the secondary plan turns out to be the best attraction, this was the case today. The monument is located on the northeastern edge of the Sonoran desert in the Superstition mountains. The Salado culture, farmed in the Salt river valley, a year round source of water, hunted and gathered native plants on the slopes of the mountains. To protect themselves from the elements, lived in the side of cliffs, seems to be the norm around this part of the country 6 or 700 years ago.

I’ve got a few hours left of sunlight this afternoon. One problem, no pavement left. I’m told the pavement ends a few miles ahead, down to a 4X4 jeep trail. Got the wrong type of motorcycle to handle that environment.

Home early, to the laundromat for clean jeans and socks. Pointed east the next day, to Safford. I always pay attention to State parks, campgrounds with nice scenery and hopefully highway networks with four directions of the compass for riding. Riding east on State 70. San Carlos recreation area. I hang a right off 70. Rode into the camping area; rode out faster than I rode in. Sometimes you get burned; wrong place absolutely. Dirty, garbage, no lake left this time of year. See you later. Nice country, a better recycle program is needed, just an observation.

I’m riding through a Apache reservation. Stopped for fuel; met a member of the Geronimo riders. Native Americans proud of their heritage riding motor cycles. A gathering of about 400-500 riders hosted a rally there 3 weeks before. State 70 follows the Gila river valley to Safford; was my destination for lunch. Irrigated fields with cotton ready to be harvested. I never realized that cotton was still a viable crop with all of the synthetic fibres now a days. Plus a sight that would humble a farm boy so far from home; a John Deere combine.

I’m closing in on Safford a couple miles out; Safford Gin, I was thinking gin and tonic with a twist of lime. Wrong, the modern version of Eli Whitney’s cotton gin; to remove the seed from the cotton ball. No Beefeaters, no twist of lime. My options from here are up State 191 to Alpine back to Show Low, south to Globe. Nice ride did it before; I haven’t got enough daylight to cover a couple hundred miles. Back to Globe. Kick stands down, jacks on the coach up; south on state 77 to just north of Tucson in the Oro valley. I had been through here in ’06. It was just a night over in a motel in Tucson and off the next morning. The only plan I had when I left home was travel to some where scenic with lots of sights to see; this was it.

Turned off state 77 into Catalina state park. One of the best state parks I’ve stayed at. Super clean, kept that way by local volunteers. Whatever your mode of transportation is, they have a spot for you. Tenting to big rig pull throughs, to an equestrian area if that’s what you are into. Walking and horse riding trails, A small amphitheatre; once a month there’s live entertainment. I become a resident for the 14 days; the length of time you can stay in a state park. The weather is good, about 80f most days, plus Tucson has lots to offer for sight seeing. Sunsets are beautiful, as the sun shines its last rays of the day on the Catalina mountains. I’m awakened the first night by a conversation of the local coyote population. I hang out for a few days, read a book, a good book. Carlos Santana’s autobiography. My thoughts, one of the most under rated rock icons. Maybe its because he was never a vocalist. He can make his guitar become an extension of his body, that’s my opinion. Went to a Santana concert in Reno in ’10. It was part of the Street Vibrations motorcycle rally. A shootout in a Sparks casino, kind of quelled the weekend, with a lot of FBI, ATF, State and local police in quite abundant numbers after Friday night. I remember thinking, “ maybe I’m somewhere I shouldn’t be”. Santana’s concert was all and more what I expected; made up for everything else going on.

Romero Ruin TrailBack to Tucson. I’m off in sneakers on a beautiful morning, check out the park. I notice a sign for a 1/3 mile hiking trail up to Romero ruins. The Hohokam were the original occupants of this area, dating back to somewhere in the 750 and 1000 B.C. Some 300 of Hohokam’s occupied this ridge; archaeologists have done extensive investigation of the 15 acre area. A six foot wall enclosed the settlement, with two oval depressions, its believed they were for some type of ball game competition, played with a ball made of guayule sap. Interpretive signs coach the novice archaeologist to interpret all what they have uncovered up on that ridge. Francisco Romero, built a small stone house on the original site of the Hohokam village, in the late 1800’s. From the ranch site it was a days ride into Tucson, for supplies. Quite a contrast, I’m in downtown Tucson in twenty minutes. The ranching there was tough, not for geographical reasons, The Sutherland wash flowed year round. For an abundant supply of water and lush vegetation kept the valley green throughout the year. It was the Apache that created the problems. Before they surrendered to the US government. They rustled Francisco’s cattle and horses; he also built stone buildings to prevent being burnt out in the many confrontations. Brave people settled the west. November 9th US election day; the only political comment I have on that is; the closer Trump got to victory the harder the wind blew.


New neighbors the next morning. Retired state trooper Bill and his wife from Colorado. He’s a history nut too. We talked about everything from Kit Carson to prohibition; and why I take off on the FXD with no helmet. It’s your choice in Arizona. Some days I where it, some days I don’t. I plan for a ride up to the Saguaro National Park, and old Tucson studios for the next day. Nice twisty ride through the National Park. Road construction kept me off the scenic loop past the visitors center. The Saguaro’s grow to quite a height here 25 or 30 feet. Makes you feel you are in an old western movie. That experience was just down the road at Old Tucson studios. Had to get a rain check there, it’s only open on weekends this time of year.

I need something to see for the rest of the afternoon. Got it. San Xavier del Bac mission. The White Dove of the desert. It was founded by Jesuits in 1692. Today’s mission started it’s construction in 1783. The original; burnt down in an Apache raid. Charles III of Spain distrusted the Jesuits. In 1767, the Franciscans were sent to San Xavier. The mission has had renovations to preserve it. Modern stucco was used in the renovation. It trapped moisture and leeched into the paintings on the walls and ceiling of the mission; the paintings started to deteriorate. The solution to the stucco failure; the original mud plaster was made from the prickly pear cactus. After the cement stucco was replaced with the cactus plaster; artists come from Italy to repair the paintings once a year in November. Tell you what; even if you don’t like history or old architecture. They make an excellent fried bread taco in the Plaza in front of the mission, all prepared outside by locals under thatch roofs to provide shade when the summer days reach over 100f. Next few days, I’m checking out how the people live in Tucson.

behind my handlebars3.3

Never did make it up Mt. Lemmon, by the time I got back to Tucson it was winter up there; I know what snow looks like thanks. Visit to Tucson Harley Davidson, pick up the local rider news paper for rider happenings. Lots of Toy runs this time of year. Good cause; we were all kids once. Some of us longer ago than others lol. Have to start thinking about my next stop in my itinerary. The days go by somewhat faster than I would like. Another birthday has come and gone. Can’t seem to slow that process down.

First birthday I was able to go for a motorcycle ride with some good Mexican food to complete the day. Have a couple more attractions to check out in Tucson; for now down to Sierra Vista [Mountain View]. The elevation is a little higher down here, cooler days and nights. Still very acceptable to ride. KSU [kickstands up] early, nice day. South of Sierra Vista on state 90 through the Mule Pass tunnel into Bisbee. The Queen of the copper camps. Today, old Bisbee is for the tourist. Artisan shops, museums, Queen mine tour; just south of Bisbee is the Lavender pit. It’s big and deep. Can’t imagine how much copper was processed out of there.

The city was incorporated in 1902. By 1910 over 9000 people worked the mines and called Bisbee home. Working conditions were brutal. The miners tried to organize. Phelps Dodge Corporation hired private police. One thousand miners were escorted out of town at gun point, the wild west.

Mining started to decline after world war II. By 1950, less than 6000 people lived here. 1975, Phelps Dodge ceased mining operations. Now, a million visitors a year visit Bisbee to enjoy the Victorian architecture, the narrow streets, artisan shops, the old Bisbee four story school, it has a ground level entrance for every story. Cool place to visit. East on state 80 towards Douglas. The landscape opens up to flat desert from the scenic views at Bisbee. Just before Douglas I turn north on state 191. Just about an hour north; I turn east on state 181. Narrow and quiet road, real quiet except for a few ranches off in the distance. Destination, Chiricahua national monument. The miles seem to go by slow when there’s no landmarks along the way. I arrive at my destination, shut the bike off. It’s absolutely quiet. I’m the only one around. Hope the starter button works when I go to leave. After the open desert on the road here. I find myself at over 5000 feet in elevation in the Chiricahua mountains. After the surrender of Geronimo, settlers arrived to put down roots in the area. In 1887 two Swedish immigrants settled in Bonita canyon, which became the Erickson homestead. By 1917 it became the Erickson ranch. Acquiring more land from the settlers that left for greener pastures so to speak. In 1917 the senior Ericksons left the ranch; Niel Erickson started with the national forest service. The ranch was left to Lillian, who managed operations, also turning the property to a guest ranch. Tourists could come visit the ranch. Go for guided horseback rides into the mountains. The guest operations lasted until the mid 60’s. The National Parks service acquired the property with all the documents and past pictures; restored the property of the period of the late 1800’s. It’s a wonderful restoration. It appears like the cowboys left yesterday. It’s a walk back through time.


behind my handlebars3.5

After riding through open barren desert; this site completely caught me with a pleasant surprise. The starter button worked when I went to leave. Right on. Back out of the site to state180, through Dos Cabezas to Wilcox. A tank of fresh fuel, a hot dog; quick smoke; onto the big road; I-40 up to Bowie. I was going to have a look at Fort Bowie; national historic site. What I thought was the site of the fort; was just a trailhead. It’s a two mile hike one way. Sometimes maps and GPS can be close but not exact.

I’m riding today, not outfitted for a 4 mile hike. Back to I-40 to Benson, south on state 90 to Sierra Vista. Home for now.

TombstoneI’m off to historic Tombstone the next day. North on state90 to Benson, south on state 80 to Tombstone. I found this an interesting fact. Cochise county, the largest silver producer in Arizona. Tombstone grew to a population of 14000 in less than seven years. The Bird Cage theater had a 24 hour poker held in the cellar that lasted some years. Miners were summoned from work to have their chance at lady luck at the Bird Cage. The famous shoot out at the O.K. corral took place October 26, 1881. The cause, location, have had numerous interpretations over the years. Historians are people, the same facts of the same event will have a little different perspective. Here’s what’s consistent, Virgil, Morgan, and Wyatt Earp, along with John Henry [Doc] Holliday, faced Tom and Frank McLaury, Billy and Ike Clanton, Billy Claiborne. Billy Clanton and both McClaury brothers were killed. Every afternoon at 2 p.m. down at the O.K. corral, four men in black dusters enter the corral; facing the five cowboys for the re-enactment. Whatever you believe happened is your personal memory of the event. Stagecoach rides, gunslingers, saloon girls, shops of western apparel enable the modern day tourist to take a step back in time. Crystal Palace, Bird Cage theater, Big Nose Kate’s saloon, Tombstone courthouse, Fly’s photography gallery. Lots of stops to make along the wooden sidewalks of Allen street. After my day in Tombstone; I’m shopping for an oil change for SAMCRO, a laundromat, a few items for the coach. Once I get that accomplished, its back to Tucson for a rain check on a few events and stops I missed the first stop, and that’s what’s goin’ on behind my handlebars.





Last modified on Sunday, 05 February 2017 05:33

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