Thanks!!! Even after rolling off the bed all night, I still slept good. BUT, I was awake at the crack of dawn. And I was excited about my day. This is a first!
After a convenience store breakfast of a coke and a rice crispy snack that evidently shocked one of the granola locals, I was off on my ride
About a half mile from the motel, I hung a left onto Gleeson Road and rode a mile or two until the pavement ended.
OK, I will admit that it wasn’t the Road of Bones, but it was an adventure for me. The whole ride was a terrible wash board and had a couple of sandy and hard packed sections covered with loose rocks that made me tense up a bit. I made a quick visit to the Gleeson Jail and poked around a few minutes. There was a GSA in a driveway on the way, but I thought folks might not be crazy about me taking pictures of their yard. Getting shot wasn’t on today’s itinerary
From the Gleeson Jail, the road had been recently paved all the way to Elfrida, so it was a smooth ride all the way to Vision Quest Lodge that I used to call home.
In the late 1980’s, when we arrived at the Lodge with the wagon trains for the winter, the place was packed to the seams. There were two wagon trains that each had around 100 kids and 40 staff each. There was an orientation camp with probably 40 or 50 kids, the main camp with close to another 100 kids, a quest camp with about 40 kids, a total of another 50 or 60 staff and a Cuban camp, where there were probably 20 or 30 of the Cuban adults with serious criminal and mental problems that Castro sent us as a present, along with the staff that looked after them.
Today the wilderness camp is essentially empty, except for Butch who is shoeing some mules in the barn.
Butch gives me the run down on the place. The wagon trains have stopped the cross country trips and are limited to short runs around Arizona that we would have considered a quest back in the day. The good news is that Harold is running the Lodge and he was one of the good guys. He was truly a stand up guy and I hate I missed a chance to tell him hello.
In the 1980’s, Rand McNally did a pretty thorough study and found Vision Quest to be the most successful juvenile delinquent rehabilitation program in the country. In my last bit of time there, the social workers started showing up and complaining about the little angels having to sleep on the ground in teepees, so they built platforms for them. They complained about the cursing (OK, I will give them that one), they complained about the no nonsense physical limits that made the program actually work, and they complained about anything and everything. They finally complained until they got their way and now the little angels have air conditioned barracks, they have no physical limits and the program has become watered down. Really a shame.
One bright spot on the Vision Quest tour was Butch’s truck. If I ever decide to don some assless chaps and start hauling my bike in a truck, this is the truck I want to haul the GSA:
From the Lodge, I make a quick stop at the Elfrida corner store, where the owner asked me about my ride. I told him I was heading to the Coronado Trail and he warned me to dress warm. The 84 degree day wouldn’t last long up there. He had a place in Alpine and told me of a great place to eat in Springerville at the end of the trail.
On the road to Wilcox on Highway 191 (which used to be Highway 666 until the locals complained about the superstitious numbers), the Border Patrol set up a road block for all of us heading north. In a low point of the day, they just waved me through. That would have never happened 20 years ago. There would have been a 30 minute search and interrogation. Getting old sucks. Another thing I rediscovered on the road to Wilcox is how riding 50 miles in a straight line while you just stare at your destination for almost an hour isn’t really exciting
Through Wilcox, lunch in Safford and then on to the fun. Clifford is an old mining town like Bisbee, but without the hippies and the artists. Made a loop through a great little downtown that is just waiting for someone with a vision. This place has character.
On to Morenci where the road goes straight through the mining operation and up a twisty road to start the 130 mile Coronado Trail. The road rides through a little tunnel and right under the augers and mining equipment. On several views there are huge dump trucks hauling dirt out of the mines.
The next 30 miles are just climbs, switchbacks and sheer drop offs. Everywhere you turn your head the view is suitable for a postcard.
After 30 miles of twisties, the road stretches out to beautiful rolling hills and grass covered fields interrupted regularly by shorter sections of twisty mountain climbs.
I took my time traveling the trail and time started getting away from me. About two thirds the way into the trail, it started getting dark around Hannagan Meadow. I stopped at a lodge and restaurant to don some more clothes and the lady told me that I had about 45 miles to go, but the tough part of the trail was over. I put on a couple of layers under my First Gear jacket, stepped into my new Bilt pants and tore the tags off of my new Bilt gloves. My hands were already freezing and I was really looking forward to the heavy Bilt gloves. These things looked like they were made to make the Eskimos jealous. Big heavy fake fur lined mitts. Once I was rolling with my gear I found the first bad side of the Bilt gloves. They are so thick that I cannot feel the controls through them or the heated grips. Once I got up to speed I found one thing that you could feel through the mitts – THE COLD. These things are crap. I stop and put on my bicycle gloves and just tough it out
Once its dark and cold, I really start slowing down and just tip toeing out of the mountains. The 84 degrees of the afternoon quickly turned into the mid 30’s and the BMW even started flashing a snowflake on the dash just to let me know it was cold (note to BMW - I figured it out on my own
). I was going so slow at one point I was passed by a truck pulling an RV trailer. By the time I got to the Safire Restaurant and Lounge in Springerville, I was freezing, tired and there was no ego or pride left. A quick enchilada supper and I was next door and sleeping in no time. I might have been beaten, but I was still smiling.