26 years later , almost to the day, after my ride to Arizona, I am starting on the return trip.
Adding to the good karma of Alan and Yolanda’s gracious welcome is a reassuring sighting. When I was a kid, my Dad used to rebuild wrecked Corvettes as a sideline when he was in the Army and there were always new shiny Corvettes around the house. My love of Corvettes was born and I eventually bonded with the 1972 Corvette with t tops – especially the red ones. It was always the car that I would some day have to own.
On my way out of an auto parts store picking up some additional straps for my luggage, sitting next to my new ride is the car of my dreams and its red. But sitting next to the BMW, it just didn’t dampen my excitement over the bike one bit. Things were coming together nicely.
A goodbye to Alan and Yolanda and I start cruising through Scottsdale. The sun is out and it is a pleasant 84 degrees. There are Ferraris and muscle cars everywhere. The beautiful weather has brought out all of the car people, bicyclists and motorcyclists and the streets have been turned into an impromptu car show.
I cruise a few streets and then head towards the 101 to head out of the city.
And that’s where the good karma and coincidence stopped like a bug hitting the windshield. Holy CRAP, this freeway is CROWDED. And they are hauling butt. The wind noise on the motorcycle makes it seem like I am running 100 miles an hour and the cars are still whizzing by. Some jackass is 2 feet in my lane, eating lunch and talking on the cell phone, but I have such a death grip on the handlebars that I cannot peal off a hand to give him the finger. My heart is racing and I am having a full blown panic attack on the freeway
I just focus straight ahead and ride on until I get to Highway 60 and hope that the insanity will calm itself with a little slower paced highway. As I swing on to the Highway 60 ramp, I glance a peak down the road and ITS WORSE. This is terrible. The cars are bumper to bumper, a gagillion lanes wide and they are flying. And they are just right there where you can reach out and touch them. I would catch an off ramp and see if Allen would give me part of my money back, fly home and just pretend it never happened, but I am too terrified to change lanes. This sucks
Somewhere between 26 and 52 freedom turned into vulnerability.
I white knuckled Highway 60 until the traffic thinned out and the freeway turned into a quiet little 4 lane back road. My screaming adrenalin level finally ramped down to a level of sheer panic and I started thinking that there may still be some potential in this ride. I start feeling comfortable enough to steal a glance at the mountain range to my east and take in a little scenery. The shear expanse of the Arizona countryside adds to my apprehension, but brings back some memories of my previous time here. Growing up surrounded by trees and country roads, I still remember my amazement at loneliness I felt in the wide open Arizona spaces, especially at night. That loneliness gradually turned into a comfort and the many nights I spent in the wide open desert are still a fond memory. I hope I get used to this freedom a little quicker this time, or it will be a very long ride home.
After easing down Highway 60, I turn south towards Florence, where I cruise through their quaint downtown looking for some lunch. All I see is some Mexican food restaurants and a chain burger joint. My stomach is still a nervous wreck, so I opt for the burger joint. Not exactly the adventuresome first meal of the trip I dreamed of, but right now eating anything is an adventure. – LOL.
After my lunch, I head south for Oro Valley and a visit with my cousin Mike and his family. They live just a couple of blocks off of Tangerine Road, so they were easy to find. Unfortunately, I was running behind from a slow start this morning and could only spend a little time visiting with Mike, Patrice and their daughter Alex. I hated to hurry through that visit, because they are all enjoyable to spend time with. Mike and his brother Bob were the older California cousins that I grew up admiring. They were always working on some exotic car or involved in something exciting that made my rural Alabama upbringing seem so mundane. Mike hasn’t changed a bit. When we were dropping giant cams into Chevy big blocks, he was fine tuning little 4 bangers with computers and turbo chargers to wring out 100+ horsepower a cylinder. He is still a hotrod techno geek, with a tricked out Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, his Mustang show car and he is still sticking it to the man with his yard full of solar panels. His wife Patrice is just the nicest lady you would ever want to meet and his daughter Alex is straight off of the TV show Big Bang Theory. Alex just finished a degree is some kind of political science and has returned home to kill some time taking some chemistry courses until she heads off for grad school.
After a much too quick visit, I am on the road through Tucson and already breaking one of my 2 rules for the ride. The first rule was to stay off of interstates and rule two was to find a place to crash shortly after watching the sunset. I broke rule one today by jumping on the interstate to get to Benson on the other side of Tucson. There is just not a convenient was around Tucson and the routes that I were familiar with just did not hold enough interest to get side tracked at this point. I would have to wait one more full day to break rule number two –
The interstate ride was still very uncomfortable. I am just not used to the wind and the noise, even with earplugs. Once I got off of the road in Benson, the ride to Tombstone was great. The sun was just beginning to set and the view was a great way to end the ride for the day.
I did not need to another stop in Tombstone to remind myself how badly I hated this place, but here I am again. A few years ago I brought my wife out to this part of the country to see where I worked and played and we traveled the whole state. The highlight of the trip was spending a few days in Bisbee, which is about 25 miles down the road from Tombstone. Bisbee is one of those magical places that just draws you in. I discovered this place on time off from the wilderness camp and spent a lot of nights in St. Elmo’s and the Stock Exchange Saloon and lots of days just tooling around the town. Once Marinette was introduced to Bisbee she had the same fondness for the town. So when I was heading south on this motorcycle ride, her only condition to the whole ride was that I could not go to Bisbee without her. While this killed my plans to stay at the Airstream Trailer Motel, it also had another consequence. The route to Elfrida, which was my old workplace went straight through Bisbee. The only way around was a dirt road through the ghost town of Gleeson. Now I am forced to really ride the back roads!!!
So now I am stuck in Tombstone and rediscovering how renaming a crap hole motel a bunkhouse turns a $30 room into a $80 room. In defense of the owner, they cut my rate to $60 and were the nicest inn keepers of the entire trip. Their friends were getting married and I was invited to the wedding and a bar downtown.
After cleaning up, I walked to the scene of the shootout and sure enough, the place is filled with pirates and city slickers decked out in their cowboy garb. It’s a heterosexual drag show at its finest. I guess after living on a wagon train for a few years, seeing people dressing up like cowboys and acting stupid just grates on my nerves. After a while I get off my high horse and accept the fact that if I can dress up like an adventure rider to swerve down 12 miles of dirt road, then maybe these folks aren’t so irritating after all. Maybe I will dress up like a doctor or lawyer on my next trip through just to feel a part of the Halloween atmosphere.
I had a decent supper of salmon and vegetables at the Crystal Palace and wandered down to the wedding party. It was at a pretty neat outdoor bar with fire pits and a live band. The wedding party was Harley themed, so it was hard to tell who was in costume for the party and who was just in costume, but it was a biker party. The bride and groom were going to take their vows on the same bar stools that they met on. I hung out for a while and listened to the lead guitarist rip up some Stevie Ray Vaughn until I got tired and wandered back to my abode.
The bunk house was a wreck. The light switch electrocuted the crap out me and both beds were barely standing. I took the one that didn’t squeak so loudly and spent most of the night pulling myself back to the uphill side of the bed and then slowly sliding back towards the floor.
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not a morning person. I have spent my whole life arranging things so that I do not have to wake up early and I planned on catching up on some sleep tonight.