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Old 12-03-2012, 05:40 PM   #19
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Joined: Apr 2009
Location: El Desierto, NM
Oddometer: 611
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...
Stubborn and Stupid

"It's supposed to be a challenge, that's why they call it a shortcut. If it was easy it would just be the way." ~ Rubin, Road Trip

Pomo screwed with this post 12-03-2012 at 07:49 PM
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