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Thursday, 01 February 2018 16:30

Chapter 5 - Behind my handlebars

0216171255Off west to Lake Havasu City or somewhere along the Colorado. I find a hot spring to break the days drive in Tonopah.

I unload the FXD  and ride over to the hot springs. It’s old real old. Trip advisor told me it was rustic maybe rusty. They also said there was a chicken barn a half mile down the road and could get quite intense on any given day. It was good the day I was there so I take a chance.

The spring water has been flowing out of the ground for over a hundred years. It was a major stop for travellers since the 1800’s. Trip advisor also said there is a major chicken barn operation just down the road. On a windy day it could get pretty intense. Today was good it’s calm and about 80 f. The site looked like a scene from a western movie. Unpainted fence, time period pieces of machinery, was a little intimidating. As the afternoon unfolded it turned out to be all worth the chance. Anything that could hold water and a person were yours to experience. If the place looked old and run down, the water made up for it. There’s also a au natural area there if that turns your crank pin. Water was oh so good about 105f. I’m soaking away in what I would call a cattle trough apparatus, when a good looking blond lady came to join me. Turns out she is from Florida, she called herself a full time traveller. Out to see the west, she had been on the road for eight months or so. Shared some sights we had experienced.

Balloons over lake havasu

FullSizeR

She was in southern Utah about 3 weeks before I was there.She Had been through Palm Springs, was headed back to Tucson, so I filled her in on the site to see there. Here’s a plus she likes motorcycles. As fate would have it we did some travelling together after that meeting at El Dorado hot springs. Small world at times. Little did I know travelling with Anne would be a God send because cooler unsettled weather was about to come down from the north. Anne had been camping, so the coach went over pretty well with her. I have no where I have to be. We decide to head back to Buckeye. Anne had a BLM map [Bureau of Land management] her next stop was Maricopa wilderness area just east of Gila Bend. We park the coach at that great American institution Wal-Mart. Jump on the bike and head south to Gila Bend.

Gates pass tucson

 

London bridge

We stop at the Maricopa wilderness area, it was just that wilderness. I was impressed by all she knew about the desert she had learned. At 75 miles an hour it all looks the same to me. We go for a hike, she pointed out all the different desert plants that were abound. Quite an ecosystem the desert. Lots of life out there, you just have to know what to look for. On the way home we check out Buckeye mountain BLM area. WE are going to stay there a few days. We move out to Buckeye mountain the next day, quiet and lots of room. The only thing its not maintained, by that I mean the garbage cans were full and the washrooms with no plumbing; remote. A little unsightly. The next day the weather went south on us. Little did I know it would be this way for month or 5 weeks. No problem, Got a good looking Jeep to cruise around in, with an equally good looking Uber driver with GPS. We find Skyline drive regional park the next day. It’s a year old with paved pads for the motorhome, fire pits, showers. Time to move. It was to be where Santa Claus would find us Christmas morning. He also could have brought his sleigh within 75 miles north of Buckeye. Stormy weather, 14 inches of snow in Flagstaff; closed the interstate. The snow came south as far as Sedona.

old school sportster

 

All the ground I covered east of Flagstaff were now covered in snow. Cold, windy, rainy. Looks like the bike is going to have a rest. Still able to go for some scenic drives, and hikes, yes hikes. Change of venue biker turned hiker. It’s just 50f Christmas day with a cool wind from the north. Logistics meeting. Let’s move to where the weather is warmer; it was all the same Yuma, Palm Springs, Raining cats and dogs everywhere in Cali. We decide to head to LHC [Lake Havasu City]. Might be cold but at least scenic. The nights were some below 40f, furnace time. I know I used more propane than motorcycle gas in January. Stop in Quartzite for fresh water and you guessed it propane for the furnace. Along the Colorado river north of Parker there’s lots of people camped out just off AZ95 in the desert on BLM land.

So we find our little piece of AZ just south of LHC. If your bored in LHC it’s your own fault. Timing was bad on the weather side of things. Inside things; museums, the LHC aquatic center for a good swim and hot tub. Flea markets, and of course the ladies like the shopping. Lake Havasu City, was developed by the McCulloch family, yes the chainsaw people. Here’s where American ingenuity gets good. He moved London bridge to LHC. Dredged a channel to re-install the bridge brick by brick. So now there is an island in LHC. Along the river under the bridge there’s room for shops, souvenirs, restaurants, scenic walking path along the river; it’s a site to experience. Every Thursday night is hot rod night along McCulloch boulevard. Rods, customs, stock restorations are all there for everyone to enjoy.

 

Old hot rodders smoking cigars and drinking beer, I’m in. Plus the many outdoor patios with people from all over our two countries, sharing stories, and talking shop. Toy town I call LHC. A drive through the residential area proves my point. Old cars, motorcycles and boats are to be found in a lot of the private garages and driveways. A drive down to the channel would remind you of a dragstrip as high powered boats make their way out to the lake. They sell 100 octane boat fuel at most gas stations to accommodate the high horsepower boats. Balloon festival, boat races, pyrotechnic festival, music, Vintage VW rally, there is always something going on here. Anne and I are going to ring in the new year at historic Oatman. Cloudy, cool; I’ll let my Uber driver take us up there in her Jeep.

Oatman is on the original route 66. North to I-40 west on the interstate exit off at Topock, follow along the mother road to Golden Shores. Head north, where as you drive along the landscape rises up from the desert floor to rocky chasms. It’s an enjoyable and scenic drive with lots of curves and vistas. Today the clouds are low hanging over the  red cliffs as we drive into Oatman. The historic mining town was transformed to a tourist attraction after  most of the claims had run out. Complete with a gang of almost tame burros.

oatman hotel

They seem to know that the tourists will feed them, they are never far from mainstreet, Just watch where you step! It starts to shower, rain. I thought this was the desert. Good call to be Ubered this day. I will ride up here on a sunnier day. Its only like 40 miles or from LHC. It’s always busy here in Oatman; Iwas here before but Anne hasn’t. The historic Oatman hotel, souvenir shops selling anything you would ever want as a momento of your visit. We continue on north on 66 towards Kingman through the Sitgreaves pass where you will drive right through the center of a operating gold mine. Ten mile an hour corners scenic views it just could be a little nicer weather, Canadians huh always talking about the weather. We arrive at Cool Springs. The original Cool Springs gas station had cabins there. AS we check out the small museum there, a local lady is giving a talk on the area, sharing some of the goings on there in years past. Travellers in days gone by, would arrive get a cabin to rest on the hot summer days. Once evening settled over the desert. They would hire a local driver to back their Model A or T up and through the Sitgreaves pass. As the early cars never had any fuel pumps in them, they were gravity fed from the fuel tank. Can’t imagine going through the pass backwards, with someone you hardly know driving your car in reverse around the hairpin corners. Across the highway there was a hiking trail up a tall butte. I realize today  would be a change of venue for me. Biker turned hiker, It was all good; the company was the same. I think Anne knew every desert plant and rock formation, it was a learning experience for me. It was a short climb; twenty minutes or so and WOW what a view of the desert below. Seemed you could see 50 miles as the clouds lifted later in the afternoon but still only around 50f. We go back through the Sitgreaves pass the other way. Lots of memorial crosses just beside the road where people enjoy the peaceful setting in eternity.  Stopped for Mexican food at the Silver Dollar along 66 in Golden Shores. Back to just south of LHC to camp. Happy New year. The days are cool, short, all the rain in Cali brought wind to Az. Glad we have the use of Anne’s jeep for touring. Bill Williams wildlife refuge, LHC aquatic center. Even if the weather wasn’t that great we still found things to do. One day we tried to get to Swansea. Just south of Parker you turn east onto a secondary highway. The pavement runs out 12-15 miles back in there, We had to turn around 8 miles before the old mining town of Swansea, the road was bad. A wash too deep for a vehicle with no suspension lift. Hung out at Parker the rest of the afternoon. There’s a railroad museum with a few other tourist attractions. Parker is located on a  native reserve so of course there’s a casino. A good Mexican restaurant for chile rolleno. You can travel by boat up from LHC, dock your boat on the lake side of the casino, I thought that was pretty cool. Parker Dam holds water for all the farmers to irrigate their crops, yes it’s actually green in that valley just south of Parker.  A nice scenic ride is to Black Meadow Landing. Across Parker dam, follow along the river take a right at the sign. It’s 10-15 miles down that road. It’s really slow going it’s a windy narrow road, so close to the red rocks you can almost reach out and touch them. This is a developed BLM site with a store, marina, fish cleaning house. It’s full of rv’s, tells me it’s quality. As we drive back, more wild burros hanging around looking for a handout. Watch around the curves, that street gang of burros could show up anywhere. Anne is getting traveling “bones”. She is off to the Organ Pipe national monument, Tucson, Tubac, Catalina state park. All the places I’ve already been.

She was great company. Pretty cool for camping, if it didn’t freeze at night it got awful close, brrrr. I’m going to hang out in LHC  cause I can’t find anywhere nicer. The first week of the new year brought more and more Canadians, down to the desert after Christmas. LHC gets a half as more larger in the winter from all the tourists. Dirty motor homes and fifth wheels,tells me it wasn’t an enjoyable trip down. One rv’er stated he got snowed on in St. George Utah. That’s pretty far south. I get new neighbors, Sandy and Bruce from Washington state. He had a story to tell. He was an ex-sailor who did his duty on a nuclear submarine, spying on Russia in the 70’s. After his service he was in the construction industry for 30 years. We talk everyday comparing our lives he’s cool. Nice people I meet along the way. What do rv people do when the weathers bad? They keep their rv’s clean. I find myself polishing wheels, shampooing carpets, reading a couple good books. Finally a day where it’s going to be in the low 60’s. First one for awhile. I need a motorcycle ride terribly. Off south to Parker across the dam, west to Cali 95. I make a stop at the Vidal junction. Talk to a vendor selling flags, knives, anything else he could pack, from Colorado. South on Cali 95 to Vidal. The Earp cabin is located there. It’s the only residence Josephine and Wyatt ever owned. From 1925-1928 he had a stake in his “Happy Days” mine in the nearby Whipple mountains. More western history in the strangest of places. The weekend coming up was the annual hot air balloon festival in LHC. I read about the Albuquerque festival in an article in a magazine I was reading in some office back home. Here’s a perfect chance to experience some of the same thing. I dress up warm, head to town before sunrise I’m glad it’s only 6 miles. Find a good spot across London bridge, out on the island. Here comes our untimely friend the wind. No launch this morning, Wind all day, actually rained in the afternoon. Same plan for Sunday. I was not to be denied this day.

Patagonia lake state park

The roar of the propane burners was loud, I was close to some balloons ready to launch. As the balloons rose from the ground the loudness turned to quiet, all you could see was the flame of the burners intermittently. I suspect there were 75-100 at its peak. Cool things in LHC. As they floated across the island, over LHC was a sight to behold. Came home with a great memory, also some good pics. A few more quiet days due to weather. It was a 62f day. Best I’ve had for awhile. Up to Laughlin Nevada. It’s windy, stopped in Fort Mojave, to get out of the wind, warm my fingers up. A short hours ride will get  you to Laughlin from LHC. North through Bullhead City across the Colorado, Laughlin Nevada. It’s a helmet state, so take your lid. A miniature Vegas awaits.

Far from as big as Vegas. It still has quality shows. Biker history today. I cruise the strip up Harrah’s. It was in this hotel, where two outlaw motorcycle clubs shot it out at the 2002 Laughlin river run. Locked the whole town down, ruined a lot of weekends that year. Uncomfortably windy as I left town back south through Fort Mojave straight south into the historic town of Needles Cali. Pretty quiet in Needles these days. It was a booming town when route 66 was the only road west to the Cali coast. Needles was the first stop in Cali as thousands move west out of the dust bowl in the 30’s. It was also mentioned briefly in the classic film the Grapes of Wrath, as Carty’s camp as the Joad family finally made it to the promised land; Cali. Eastbound ramp on I-40 to Az 95, south to LHC. A few more memories to pack away from today.

By the 26th of January, I’m getting enough of poor weather and intermittent days to ride,I’m getting “traveling bones”. I pack up, head south to Quartzite. The historic mining town has been transformed into a tourism run community with over a million visitors annually. Quartzite RV show was on when I drove into town. The latest trends in the RV world are on display for all to examine, there’s quite a mosaic of the people who enjoy their RV’s. There’s 3 BLM sites within close proximity to the town. BLM charges vary on the site you chose. Some have RV dumps and water while others are completely remote, “boondocking”.

For 180 US you can purchase a six month permit in the Long term visitors Area. I find my little piece of ground just south of the I-10 overpass, purchase a 14 day permit, I’m in. Anne and I have talked throughout her absence, she has had enough of camping at Catalina State in a tent. She is headed back west to Quartzite in a couple days. I just hope the weather gets a little warmer. Quartzites history,

I find to be like a lot of other desert towns, Fort Tyson was built in 1856, which provided protection to the miner’s that followed. By 1866 the town developed into a booming mining town of the era. Tyson wells stage stop was built in 1866 providing transportation from Ehrenburg to Wickenburg, Before the civil war the American government experimented with camels to haul freight through the desert. No one knew about camels; they needed a camel “wrangler”. Hadji Ali or “ High Jolly” he was named came to Quartzite to take charge of the camel herd. The camels and the burros never got along that great, then the civil war started which cancelled the venture. High Jolly died in 1902 and a monument still stands to his memory.

old school sportster

My long term traveller is on her way back to quartzite to join me at the BLM site cool. Anne has a passion for Chile Rolleno. We try one Mexican restaurant; it wasn’t that Mexican. Taco Mio is the one for great Mexican food. Over the next 10 days we make multiple visits there. We “hang out” at the BLM site. Plenty of people to visit from everywhere. Compare everything from lifestyles to RV’s. The next 10 days fly by, taking what Quartzite has to offer. Visiting, reading, evening campfires. Just plain old relaxing, enjoying each others company.

February has a full dance card for me. My sister is coming down to see some sights. She has never been here before; looking forward to experiencing the “old west”. The weather has finally warmed up, its finally at normal temps for this time of year. The days are stretching out too with more sunlight. February 6, my 14 day permit had expired. Said goodbye to Anne for a couple weeks. Headed up towards Searchlight Nevada to meet my brother and sister there. Overnight in Laughlin, with a late day ride around Laughlin and Bullhead City Az.

sitegraves

 

sitegraves

Considerably warmer since the last time I was through town. Up to Searchlight Nevada to meet up with my brother and sister. At the end of the day who do you have but family who’s always there for you. I will be the tour guide for the next 9 days. We head back east to Tucson. Pick up a rental car, my sister is not much for motorcycles. Tucson, Tombstone, Kartchner caverns, Nogales Mexico, old Tucson, Patagonia State Park, Bisbee, Sierra Vista. There wasn’t a day where we didn’t go and experience something new to her. Plus all the shopping she could handle. Tried to get my sister a real good desert experience. Before we realized, it was off to the Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix and good byes till I see her at home. Next installment, Anne comes to Tucson, my wing man from back home comes to the desert. A memorable road trip up to Bakersfield to the March Meet.It’s Warmer and sunnier behind my handlebars. Take care

      

 

Last modified on Saturday, 03 February 2018 07:27

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