3.22.2010

Making Arizona or, Foolishness Across America, Day 16

   After breakfast we ran the old highway to Gage, where we broke off into public lands. We parked down a gravel road and loaded the revolver for some target practice. A white and green truck swept around the turn and skidded to a stop before us. Border Patrol. Border Patrol are nothing to worry about, an increasingly conspicuous fact of life in this stretch of America. We told him that we'd be firing off some rounds and he went along. "Just as long as you're not shooting at me," he said, "and watch out for that ricochet."

   We blasted a few cans and a dead yucca stalk before returning to the highway outside of Separ. There was no longer enough time for Tucson, by the time we'd arrive Jayko would be leaving for work in the forests up north. I'd been told about some good riding roads by a Harley biker in Las Cruces and I picked them out on the map. We rode north and west along the western edge of New Mexico, following 70. Pajaro followed behind me in his truck and I was glad to have the company after so many miles riding alone. We crossed grasslands and emptied towns of the west. The wet winter had left the hills green and speckled with yellow wildflowers. We could see snow on the mountains as we approached the Arizona line.

   The grasslands rose and became hills and suddenly we were in Arizona. I stood on the bike and shouted as we crossed the state line, Pajaro laid on the horn behind me. With the day's riding, I had clocked over 3000 miles on the trip. I could hardly believe that I'd made Arizona on this lunatic machine.

   We rode over tall hills and broken rocks, past ramshackle towns and wideswept valleys. We stopped for coffees and Reuben sandwiches in Globe. The town was sequestered away in the mountains east of Phoenix and the strangeness of the people reflected the geography. A bizarre busboy at the diner cornered us, enthusiastically showing off his collection of Lost in Space DVDs. We declined the offer to watch any with him and made off to the corner store. I waited outside while Pajaro bought shaving cream and other sundries. An elderly woman stopped and laid into me for parking on the sidewalk. I put my helmet on, drowning her argument, and rode back to the highway.

   We continued west, down and down towards Phoenix. The road became suddenly interesting, twisting around the sharp precipices and through tunnels in rock. The bike swept along the road like a slick phantom and I remembered the leaf-strewn Pennsylvania roads of home, the roads that had taught me how to ride. Climbers sat on the roadside, decorated in ropes and harnesses, eying up tall spindles of sandstone. I was exhausted by the time we reached the sprawl of Phoenix. We laid up in a cheap room for a night of comfort before Havasu City. It was almost unbelievable, how close I was to the last stop of the trip. The travel had been exhilarating beyond expectation, but I was road weary and ready for work to begin.

   I called WhiteCarrot and made plans to meet for dinner at a nearby Thai joint. Pajaro took a breather in the room and I stripped down for a jump in the motel pool. The water was cold, at first taking my breath away. I dove under and spread my arms against the water. There are only so many ways to sit on a Honda Shadow and the long ride had crimped my neck and shoulders. The swimming enlivened my muscles and woke me from the meditation of the road. One day from Havasu City.

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