WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: WanderSouth 3 - Tucson and Douglas, Arizona
Date: Wed, 20 Feb 2002 22:43:07 -0800

    I can't write about the desert any more. I just can't.
    It is big. It is dry. It is pretty. It is desolate. It is there. That's all. It is there.

    Sometimes a comfortable bike can be a pain. After about an hour of droning down straight-as-a-broken-arrow US93, I moved my left foot and found it was numb. My bike is so comfortable, if I don't do regular isometric stretching exercises, I can get serious fatigue from not moving. Back in Death Valley, Lou was asking me about long riding days. (Admittedly, these trips are not long days by LDRider standards, but when I ride 800+ miles a day, I don't have time to write, and it is usually all freeway anyway.) What is the one thing that makes it possible to ride long distance? Immediate and simple answer: Russell seat. Try all you want and you will find none better. Next question, what is the first part of the body that gets tired? He stumped me. I had no answer. There is nothing that tires first because my complete riding posture is comfortable, upright, and relaxed. The question has been nagging me for two days, and now I have his answer: left knee.
    I blame my parents for that. I grew up with a turned out left foot, which I understand was a correctable condition during formative years. Way back in the previous century, Darwinian Parenting was the popular trend - and money wasn't wasted on such unnecessary cures. But the BMW fairing was designed for straight feet. So my left foot is held twisted inward, which puts torsion on the knee. Again, simple fix - exercise. If you want to ride a long time, get used to doing a complete routine of stretching and repositioning at least every hour.

    The sign said "desert honey", and while my first thought was "Is it dry?", it occurred to me to watch out for swarms. Last April near Needles I ran into a thin dark cloud about 6 feet above the freeway. Splat splat splaaaaaat. Let me tell you, desert honey on the wing is icky sticky on a bike! And woe is you if you wear an open face helmet. Seeing that once was enough to convince me to keep *my* lid shut.
    So I'm tooling along this relatively innocuous road somewhere in central Arizona, about 50 miles after leaving the Interstate. And there is a road sign: Begin Scenic Route. Why HERE? There is NOTHING right here that wasn't here a mile ago, or ten miles later. Why here? Our society has developed to the point where we have rules for just about everything, so there must be a rule why that specific spot was "scenic", but beats me if I can see it. I keep saying to myself there is NOTHING here. Just then, at the top of the rise is another sign: Welcome to Nothing, AZ. This is the most aptly named town I've ever had the pleasure of leaving. ("Town" is a generous description. I saw only one building.) But think of the fun you could have promoting this place.
    "Satisfying every underachiever's dreams - You want Nothing? We got it!"
    "Ask for Nothing and we'll show you the way"
    "Why, thank you. It was Nothing at all"    (BTW, there really is a Why, AZ too.)

    Avoiding the Interstate again, I took an old state highway toward Oracle. Just when I was convinced there would be little of interest in this route I saw and stopped at the Tom Mix Monument. The plaque said his "spirit left the body on this spot". How strange that he would die right next to Tom Mix Wash. :) But it surprised me to read he was born in 1880. He played cowboys in early movies, yet he came from the time when "real cowboys" were current genre. Maybe he wasn't acting at all. (Beatles: they're gonna put me in the movies and all I have to do is act naturally ...)

314 miles
Kingman US93 US60 AZ101 I10 US60 AZ87 AZ287 AZ79 AZ77 Tucson

    Speaking of movies, another loss to too much popularity in the last 20 years is Old Tucson. A lovely ride through the Saguaro National Park took me to Old Tucson Studios, a movie filming location that used to be built around the original adobe buildings. I remember it as being open and accessible. Again, like Hoover, it has been packaged for the tourist for whom a "long walk" is from the third row of the parking lot. Bah, and Pish, I say.
    Instead I shot cross town to ride up Mount Lemmon. Arizona landscape is deceiving. The mountain behind the city doesn't look like it is over 9,000 feet, but sure enough the 25 miles of twisty road went nearly straight up in the 6 miles my straight-line GPS said I had to go. The cafe at the top in Summerhaven looked good to my trained eye, but I couldn't spare the time. (Notice the contrast of "Summerhaven" in Arizona compared to "Winterhaven" in Florida. How about that ... I'll cover both seasons this trip.)

    Stopped for gas in Sonorita, it came to me. Uh oh, looks like I forgot another hard learned lesson. Seems I let Street Atlas choose the route without double checking a state paper map. Street Atlas does not indicate paved versus unpaved roads. The locals tell me not only is AZ83 unpaved to Parker Lake, it becomes rough track to Bisbee. I swear someone is gonna get hurt using these "auto routing" programs if they aren't careful. I dearly wish one of the vendors would at least mark known paved roads.
    Well, no big deal. I'll just revisit Tombstone and see if it has succumbed to tourist packaging disease. I am pleased to report it has not. Tombstone is still about as undeveloped as one might hope, yet as kitschy as one might expect. It does, however, now have an EspressoInternetEmail cafe a block from the OK Corral.

    Do you ever really appreciate your motorcycle? I mean do you admire it and offer it thanks? Perhaps I'm weird (no reply necessary, thank you), but sometimes I just stand and look at it thinking what a wonderful job it does year after year, mile after thousand mile. I depend on it because it is dependable (kill switch not withstanding). I believe a machine can take on the spirit of the way it is treated. I tell it my appreciation.

254 miles
Tucson - Old Tucson - Mt. Lemmon I10 AZ83 AZ82 AZ80 Douglas
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

Previous Index Next
© 1997-2002