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Old 11-26-2012, 05:25 PM   #1
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Stubbornness and Stupidity

A few weeks ago I hatched a plan to go for a little ride through Arizona over the Thanksgiving holiday. Usually I'm all about planning, but I figured this time I would just lay down a rough route, attempting to hit some “out-of-the-way” roads. “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Day 1:



I headed south for Silver City, hoping it would be a little warmer crossing the divide further south. It had rained overnight, and it was still overcast and a bit humid. And cold. No photos on the interstate, because who wants to see those? Plus I don't do rolling shots, as you'll find out I have enough trouble keeping the rubber on the bottom side. Got off the slab for some great twisties into the mountains.





I got to Silver with just a whiff of fumes in the tank, and filled up bike and body with more fuel. Did I mention my meticulous lack of planning and preparation? It was still a bit overcast, but I could see further west that it was clear skies. I hit some dirt just to make it a little more interesting.



Crossing into Arizona I jumped on a pipeline road, which besides a few gates to go through was suh-weeet. Can't pass up stuff like this:









I stopped in Safford for some more gas. The attendant asked me where I was headed, and I explained how I was just riding around Arizona to take in some scenery. Her reply: “Well get the hell out of here!”

I'm not much of a car guy, but this thing caught my eye on the way out of town.



I hear you get better traction in sand if you lower your tire pressure.



I made a little detour to go see the Coolidge Dam. It's pretty neat, if you have 40 miles of gas to burn and a little patience on a road that exists in some limbo between paved and unpaved. I got sight of some Saguaro cacti on the way in.





And finally got to the dam itself as the sun was getting low.





Say what you will, Calvin Coolidge was a classy guy. Just look at this thing!



Pulled into Globe just as dark was settling in, and grabbed a cheap room. Nothing too scary today, other than testing the accuracy of the bike's gas mileage estimator (which it turns out is pretty good).

That would soon change...
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Old 11-29-2012, 01:24 AM   #2
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Great ride!Nice pics too!
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Old 11-29-2012, 02:13 AM   #3
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Awesome!

Looks like you had a great ride and great time!

Thanks for sharing!
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Old 11-29-2012, 04:11 AM   #4
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Excellent! Stubborn and Stupid Bring it Pomo!!
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Old 11-30-2012, 08:10 PM   #5
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Day 2

I left Globe and first backtracked a bit on yesterday's route to check out a small airport were some derelict planes were hanging out. When I passed them the previous evening it was too dark to get any good photos. One of these things is not like the other:



After that it was back to Globe for some fresh tracks. I headed south and climbed Pinal Mountain. It was cold at the top, barely above freezing. My bike's thermometer helpfully starts blinking below about 37 degrees Fahrenheit, as if to say “What kind of idiot rides in this sort of weather?”

I checked out the radio towers at the top before deciding yes, my hands are freezing off. Time to boogey.



To the south, where I would soon be riding:



The ride down the other side proved a little more wild. I ran into several rock slides, which had been tamped down and clearly traversed by vehicles many times. I was getting into this-makes-me-nervous territory, but I persevered. There's always the Free Helicopter Ride button on the SPOT.



The grade got steeper as I went down. Like, really steep. I was again getting a little worried that if I hit an impassible rock slide, I would have a lot of trouble going back up. Luckily, I wouldn't have to, I hit the basin and did a little riding through it until I hit a junction. To my left was Pioneer Pass, and what looked like a well traveled road. To my right was what could barely be described as a 4-wheeler trail, heading towards Pioneer Basin. My GPS naturally routed me to the right, but in fairness I was the one who laid out these tracks in the first place.

I began heading down again on the narrow path. I was beyond any chance of turning around at this point. Even if I could have, I didn't want to go up what I was going down. Loose, rutted, sandy mixed with big rocks. Amazingly I got down without dropping the bike. Check out 5:45 for a little WTF.



Note: Right after I turned off the camera is when it got hairy. The brush on both sides closed in and it more or less because singletrack, with a ton of big loose rocks. And I caught a 90 pound fish!

Eventually I made it to the bottom of the basin, and an actual dirt road. I got out to the pavement and headed on to my next section of dirt. I was stymied by some private property and a mine before I found a turn I could actually take. It may be said that I can't take a hint. I passed under a train trestle and worked my way to the top of one side of a massive arroyo. You can see the road going up the other side.



Once again this was a little hairy compared to what I normally do on solo trips, but I could literally see the nearby town from my vantage point. I dropped the bike on the way down into the wash, as the picture completely misses just how steep, twisty, and sandy the descent was. I paused for a few moments in the wash to collect myself, then nailed the gas up the other side. No drama!

I then ran into a fence (well, not literally ), marking off yet another mining area. I followed a pipeline road hoping to get back out to the main road, or at least around the mine. I ran into a locked gate on private property, so I followed the only other option, a power line road that wove over a series of ridges and arroyos. It was getting a little tough on some of the climbs due to lots of ruts and large loose rocks.

Well, it's all fun. Right up to the point that it isn't. I finally found that point. (Fast forward to around 6:00 if you don't want to watch me flounder through the desert).



My ankle was hurting pretty good, even despite the adrenaline. I didn't feel any grinding so I figured nothing was broken, but I was ready to be done with this crap right about now.

The powerline ran straight into a paved road, which I happy took back into town. All in all I had probably spent 40 minutes to “shortcut” about 10 miles of pavement. That's why they call it a shortcut, if it were easy it would just “the way”.

My ankle was really starting to hurt as the adrenaline wore off. I stopped on the side of the road to pull off my boot and really check that yes, all my bones were still inside my leg. It was swelling just enough to make my boot fit tightly, but there wasn't any visible bruising. There wasn't much to do about it but carry on and try not to drop any more motorcycle shaped anvils on it.

I scaled the “back” of Mount Lemmon. Saw this horse along the way... may have been wild? There are cattle guards but not really a whole lot else out there.



The road seemed to go up forever. In reality it was probably only a few thousand feet, but they decided to add a ton of switchbacks lest someone feel shorted. If you look really close you can spy the road weaving up the mountain.



Riding down the other side of Mount Lemmon into Tucscon was amazing. I could have spent an entire day just taking pictures of the rock formations and vistas. What I ended up with simply doesn't do the road and the scenery justice.





I passed right by Agua Caliente, a natural oasis. It's pretty wild to be riding through a mostly barren desert and suddenly come upon a bunch of palm trees. A little too surburban-ized for my taste, but it was interesting nonetheless.



A woodpecker was going to town on one of them. Looking for water? Building a home? Waking up the neighbors?



I was about to make a quick pitstop before I left, when...



Uh, waiter, there's a lizard in my... soup? When I first approached, he played it cool. “Sup man. Yeah I do this all the time. Fuhgeddaboutit.” I was trying to figure out how he managed to get in there to begin with. I grabbed a stick and freed him from his urinal of oppression.

One more pic of this sign, filed under "You Don't Say!"



The early sunset forced me to abandon the rest of what I had planned and I just headed into Tucson for the night. My ankle was really killing me by this point. As I unloaded the bike I kept my boot on for extra support, I could barely maintain a geriatric limp to the room. I was starting to think this trip may already be over, and I hadn't even gotten to the good part!
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Old 12-01-2012, 05:02 AM   #6
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Looks awesome Pomo! Can't wait to see the rest.

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Old 12-01-2012, 05:03 AM   #7
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Great story Pomo! Hope that ankle is OK!

Mt Lemmon is one of my favorite places in the US.

When I tell folks that there is a Ski resort in Tucson, they look at me like I said I saw Mother Mary's image in a potato chip.
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Old 12-01-2012, 08:46 AM   #8
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Mt Lemmon is one of my favorite places in the US.
Yeah it was one of those places where ALL the scenery is just gorgeous. And the road is just twisty enough that you gotta make sure you're not staring at the hoodoos or you'll be seeing them up close. I really wish I'd had more time to putz around up there. I was a little too aggressive in my planning, I kinda forgot that the sun set at 5PM instead of 8.
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Old 12-01-2012, 05:49 AM   #9
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Hi Pomo. . Sweet RR so far. I was wincing in pain as I watched you drag your bike around in order to be able to stand it back up; been there, done that, and will probably be there again many times! . Nice form on picking up the bike though!

Hope your ankle's OK; looking forward to seeing more. You can thank Jax for pointing out your thread to us back here on the east coast.
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Old 12-01-2012, 06:12 AM   #10
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Old 12-01-2012, 06:13 AM   #11
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That catcus ia giving the ADV salute!!!






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Old 12-01-2012, 06:56 AM   #12
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Nice rr Patrick. For safety reasons u shouldn't ride alone..........so invite me out for six months
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Old 12-01-2012, 08:47 AM   #13
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Nice rr Patrick. For safety reasons u shouldn't ride alone..........so invite me out for six months
This RR is really just an east-coaster honey pot.
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Old 12-01-2012, 09:15 AM   #14
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I may have over-braked a little which caused the front wheel to wash out. It was also really loose though, so maybe I won the lottery with my line "choice". I was really winded by that point too, I might have just given up and let the bike go. I'd been fighting my way through stuff like what was shown on the video for almost half an hour.

I forgot to mention that I "discovered" some Cholla a little before I turned the camera on. That shit is vicious! I smacked into a branch with my handguard and got a nice little bulb stuck right below the knuckle protection on my gloves. It hurt like hell so I immediately tried to grab it and pull it out. Bad move! Now I know why they call it "jumping" cholla... you'll be jumping around trying to grab it where there are no needles.
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Old 12-03-2012, 06:40 PM   #15
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Day 3

Thankfully when I woke up this morning my ankle was feeling much better. A little stiff, but I could more or less walk on it, and articulate enough to shift. Still no swelling, so my best guess was that I sprained it. I headed out of Tucson before dawn to avoid the rush hour traffic. Though even at 6:30AM there was quite a few cars on the interstate. I've been spoiled living in the middle of nowhere for so long, to me “modest traffic” is countable on one hand.

I headed south to (if nothing else) get off the slab for a while. I headed down 86, looking for another “shortcut” to get further west. It was bitter cold, dropping down to the low 20s in little pockets. It was odd, with no elevation or other visible terrain changes, one minute it would be below freezing and the next it would be almost 50F.

I stopped for a finger-warming session just as the sun was starting to rise.



Desert church:



Saguaro cacti are just too cool. They look really cuddly until you get within a few feet of them.



I passed by Kitt Peak, but I didn't visit the top because the road was closed for a while yet. The observatory at the peak is optical so they obviously don't want people flashing headlights anywhere nearby. Bonus points if you can spot the radio antenna part of the VLBA.



Along the way there was a Border Patrol checkpoint. Since I was heading south/west I just rolled through, they were only stopping north/east-bound. I was at least 60 miles from anything Mexico, and 86 doesn't even touch the border. Kinda ridiculous if you ask me, but who am I to judge. I live more like 200+ miles from the border.

I turned off onto my “shortcut” road, and spotted some horses. I killed the engine and coasted to a stop to take a picture.



Not sure if these were wild, but they seemed very pack-ish. One of them was keeping a very keen eye on me while the rest escorted the small ones away from the road. I respectfully cruised on to leave them to their business.

Arizona never lets up with the scenery. Just when you think you'll vomit if you see another cactus, you come upon something that makes you see the desert in a whole new way.



So here is where it gets a little more interesting. This road I was on was very good condition pavement for probably 8-10 miles. Then it suddenly turned into dirt. Then it ended in a little cul-de-sac of sorts. No, wait, there it is, behind that bush.

I'm not sure what sort of demon possessed me (actually I do know: it's stupidity, thus the title of this RR) but I decided that continuing on this kinda-sorta-road-but-not-really was the right choice. Well. It was a road for about another mile or so. Then it turned into a double track. Then it turned into a single track. Then it ended in a cactus patch. I stopped, double checked that I was still on my GPS track. Yup. I walked around the patch of cacti and saw that the trail continued. For a few hundred feet, then ended in another pile of sagebrush. I decided to keep at it just to see if it got better, hell if I can say why in any way that makes sense to someone who isn't crazy (thankfully I'm in good company). [In reality, I had looked ahead on the GPS and saw that only a few miles ahead several “roads” converged. I was hoping that it would be a farm road or something slightly more passable.]

Needless to say it did not get better. A few miles later, the convergence of the tracks merely led me into a very wide wash filled with the most devilishly loose mixture of sand and rocks I've ever encountered. I nearly buried the bike the first time I stopped to try and scout a line. The GPS track I had drawn roughly followed this wash (when it felt like it, which wasn't very often). For a while I just cruised down the wash. I figured out that going faster helped a ton when I could, but I inevitably kept running into squeezes or rock gardens that I had to slow down to scout or sight a line through, lest I end up with a nice view of the sky.

This is the only picture I had the presence of mind to take, along with a little video.



I was actually happy when I saw something like this because it meant I actually had traction. Here's a little video of me being lost in the wash.



It is rare (for me) to have moments of clarity when doing stupid shit like this. “I very well may get stuck out here, and (less the SPOT) die. And not a soul would ever find me but some lost cattle.” It is a scary feeling, but at the same time gives one a real sense of how tough it must have been to cross stuff like this in the old days. Even cheating with the GPS it also gave me an appreciation for how hard navigation must be in events like the Dakar. If there aren't any tracks to follow, you have to pay attention!

So, spoiler alert, I did make it out eventually. I got myself out of the wash and wove across the raw desert terrain with a few reroutes around more impenetrable walls of greenery. And then spotted a road, but most of it was severely washed out with a 3+ foot drop into the crevasse. And then that road intersected with another road, with actual vehicle tracks! I was good to go as long as there weren't any locked gates. Then I hit pavement. I nearly got off and kissed it. I got back to a primary road and took this picture. A memory of triumph for sure! I wasn't really keeping score but it looks like I was sans road for about 10 miles, plus really bad roads about 2 miles on each side. I think I was out there for around 1.5 hours.



I hit another Border Patrol checkpoint, and this time had to stop since I was heading north. The guys seemed nice enough, but being surrounded by 5 guys all packing heat was a little nerve wracking despite my relatively innocent motives. I definitely wasn't smuggling Mexicans in my saddlebags, so after they checked my ID and asked where I was headed, they let me go on my way.

I didn't realize how much cotton was grown in Arizona. It was everywhere! This tuft and many others were just sitting in the road, apparently refuse blown from the field just off the road.



I rejoined I-8 for a short while before getting off to skirt the east side of the Sonoran Desert. The roads had some deep sand and the occasional pockets of silt, but anything that was actually a road seemed pretty good to me by this point. The only difficulty was seeing where the hell I was going! Front-lit sand is hard to read. Compare backlit (facing south) to front-lit (facing north):





An old building of some kind.



Really just an excuse for a bike glamor shot, of which there are many.



Out to Maricopa Road, a name I remember only because I constantly read in the news about the insanity of Maricopa County (and its illustrious Sheriff). A train was parked in the siding with a build-your-own-windfarm kit.



I had planned to hit a pipeline road, but it was signed as closed for reclamation. I'm pretty much fine with avoiding a potentially hard bit of deep sandy terrain, the road is offering plenty of views as it is. You got yer solar plants, complete with legal disclaimers.





You got yer fields of green. (Wait isn't this the desert?)



You got yer dams. It has probably seen better days, though. Gillespie Dam, or what's left of it.



The restored original roller bearing for the bridge. I'm not a civil engineer, so I don't know where a roller bearing belongs on a bridge, but the center pin on this thing was bigger than my fist. That's some serious metal.



A look behind the curtains of the glamorous life we ADVers lead when we do extended trips. Late lunch: Butterfinger and Gatorade. Oh yeah.



Looking for appliances? I know a place.



It even had all the shelves, and the freezer only smelled a little funny.

I hit Parker and sacked in for the night. I had some killer beer and cordon bleu at the Crossroads something-or-other. I was asleep in a matter of minutes when I went back to my room...
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