WanderlustBy Sam Lepore
(see all photos from this trip)
Subject: WanderBlast 3 - Globe, Arizona
Date: Thu, 30 Sep 1999 23:14:58 -0700

    "Try our delicious sticky buns. They're home made!"
    The Internet is everywhere, so why am I still surprised? When Rebecca and I were passing through Challis, Idaho while on a day ride from the Stanley Stomp, we saw the Cafe Dot Com coffee shop and internet cafe. Last night while out for dinner I saw the sticky bun sign attached to the front of Jeremy's Internet Cafe and Beer Haus . . . in Joshua Tree . . . a (literally) one traffic light, one gas station crossroad.
    Swill your suds and send your smtp. Pop a bun in the oven and download your pop mail. What a tangled web we weave (bad pun intended :).
    BUT they were out of sticky buns this morning. Grrrr.

    Joshua Tree National Park is a large expanse of ... nothing. Of all the parks I've seen coast to coast, this is the most disappointing. I can't figure out why this is an NP? There are plenty of Joshua Trees, but so are there plenty for 200 miles around. Joshua Trees (named by Mormon settlers because the limbs reminded of Joshua pointing the way across the desert) are not rare. Further, the JTNP is what I would call scenic only in the upper half of its 75 miles. The lower half is just scrub desert and there isn't even a single JT in the lower half of JTNP! Ok, so who wanted this area protected from development to raise the value of their property (in Palm Springs, perhaps, just over that hill ...?) ? Cynicism, thy name is Sam.
    Well, I resolved to enjoy as best I could, and a positive attitude on a motorcycle makes the ride fun no matter what. There was a beautiful morning moonscape with the still bright half moon just above the western horizon. I got a great picture. Then a few miles later I had a private chat with a coyote. He was resting in the shade of a tree right at the edge of the road. I stopped only a few feet away and although he watched warily he didn't move. So I slowly got off and sat in the shade of the next tree. We watched the desert for a while and thought our own thoughts. He declined to answer my questions.
    Resting with Wiley helped me see how silly our 'rules' are in the desert. $5 entry fee to enter from the north, but no gate at the south entry. 25 mph speed limit in the middle of frikken nowhere. There is even a Reserved Parking area at the top of the high view point. Reserved? Like there is a real crowd up there? Then there is that sign about the local law firm: Cholla, Ocotillo, and Saguaro - oh wait, those are cacti. The sun is getting to me. Time to roll.

    In almost every trip there is one part which is the Been There Done That, Just Do It, Enough Already! segment. Say the word "Interstate ?" as a question to most big event long distance riders (those who have done four corners or coast-coast or the Iron Butt), and the number TEN automatically comes to mind. I10 is anything but a ten on any scale. The surface condition is good, but is so uselessly methodical, it drives one to (look for) distraction. If BMWs didn't have the trait of drifting to the right, I could lock the throttle, point toward Phoenix, lay back, and wake up for the next gas stop.
    The sensory deprivation of straight-line riding leads one to introspection. The Introspection Station is somewhere between the Agricultural Inspection and Immigration Inspection. Why would I put myself in this place, to be locked unmoving on a high vibration perch (trucks do 80+ in AZ, you gotta keep up or get wooshed). Why would I sit in the 100+ sun for hours, sweating it out nearly as fast as I drink fluids in. Because like the saying "Virtue is its own reward", motorcycling gives me the sense of having accomplished something at the end of the day. If you don't feel the need for a metal steed, I can't make you understand, but if you do - even a bad day of riding is better than a good day of no ride.

    Among some, the nickname for Phoenix is Burning Bird. For a while I though it was going to be burning bike. Slowly rolling in 4pm traffic I watched the temperature gauge nudge the red. Running at low speed in second gear seems to generate an inordinate amount of engine heat on my K75. Even with the fan running constantly, (blowing waves of 'special' therms all over me on this lovely day), it looked like danger wasn't far off. I was about to take my chance with Arizona tolerances and lane split like I would in California, but instead I tried "aggressive lane changing". Very aggressive lane changes. It worked, although I did collect a few horn comments, and the temp came down just enough until the traffic thinned.
    Luckily, there were no enforcers to offer comments. In fact, I have seen very few patrols on this trip so far. Then after leaving Mesa toward Globe, I fell in behind an unmarked, white Arizona DPS car. I was quite content to go the 65 limit with him, but it was funny to see the others come zooming up in the passing lane, swallow their tongue, and take step in behind me (soon in behind a long line of 'us'). I could see the officer smile in his mirror.
    As we were going up the Queen Creek grade, he suddenly took the left lane and lit his light bar, and staying in the right lane I instinctively hit my emergency flashers. There were huge piles of shredded paper blowing about in the road. One of the piles came above the hood of the car. He pulled to the center to block traffic. I went to a safe pullout and walked back. Knowing better than to get in traffic with him, I watched as he pulled the piles to the side. When he was done he came over to question my interest. I pointed to several "small" (foot long?) streamers of paper about as thick as a drain pipe and said they would be enough to wedge in the wheel of a motorcycle. I wanted to be sure the road was safe for 'all vehicles'. He simply nodded and retrieved the rest. We rode together into Superior and he waved as I pulled off for gas.

383 miles, 6:39 hours
Joshua Tree (through the Park) I10 US60 Globe

Late addition: Is it an omen to the purpose of my trip? As I passed the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating plant west of Phoenix, the three containment domes were clearly visible and shimmering in the heat. I wondered if we - the world - really know what we are doing with nukes, or are we like kids who have found a gun. Then this evening I heard about a nuclear accident in Japan.
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

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