Sunday, January 27, 2013

Final Drive: Geronimo, Tom Horn and the Apache Trail

Arizona was one of the last territories to gain statehood, which it did on Valentine's Day, 1912 and celebrated the centennial last year. Alaska and then Hawaii followed next  in 1959. While Arizona is a latecomer to the game, it has a storied past that involves native americans, miners, ranchers and a host of bad guys all trying to make a living or just survive in this unforgiving land. While unforgiving might seem harsh in judgement to people that have never been here, I can tell you that Arizona is as rugged as anyplace on earth and in some ways resembles Mars, except temperatures here often exceed 100 degrees 5 months out of the year. It really is a testament to the native peoples and early settlers that survived if not flourished here. In some ways, I wish I could say the same about myself.

Since moving Arizona, I have been pretty much on my own as far as riding and even socializing. I have a handful of online friends that live in the Phoenix area, but we pretty much keep to ourselves. Last week I emailed a friend, who I'll call "Irish" (I changed the names to protect the innocent), to find out if he would like to take a ride out to Globe for lunch. Another friend of ours, known as "Cactus Jack" has been bragging up a  Mexican place called Irene's for quite some time and with the improving weather, I thought that last Thursday would be a good day to check it out. Irish arrived at my house at 9 AM, riding his black 2006 Kawasaki Nomad. Good thing it was 9 AM as the pipes were loud and although not wake up the dead loud, they definitely get one's attention. So off we went, Frick and Frack, on our trip to Globe, aided by Irish's GPS, a Tom Tom, which was used on the maiden voyage of the space shuttle Discovery. While advanced for its day, it had issues with roads built after the state's founding. This is ok for the most part as most roads here are just paved horse trails anyway. After making a few corrections, we found our selves out by AZ 88, also known as the Apache Trail. Irish had to stop for gas as the Nomad's range is slightly farther than a Chevy Volt on electricity only, which is to say not very far. During this stop, he said lets go by the Apache Trail to 188, which will bring us into Globe. Being of the adventurous kind, I said sure...

Map of the Apache Trail
AZ 88 is a picturesque road for sure, with gold mining camps and a ghost town along the way. It reminded me of Calico Ghost town out on I 15 going to Las Vegas. Soon afterward, the road got windy, narrow and poorer in quality. Some of the blacktop looked like it hadn't been repaved since Checkers bailed out tricky dick. With expansion crack heaves every 10 feet or so, I just couldn't get the right rhythm. Part of it is that I run higher than average pressure in my tires as I am larger than average. The side affect is a bumpy ride on not so nice roads, but the roads were twisty and not for the faint of heart. The scenery was top notch, just keep clear of the post life facilitating drop offs as there are very few guard rails here. Anyway, we made it to Tortilla Flats, which is sort of a rest stop sized town with a saloon and curio store. Irish had to go inside to walk the dog while I made acquaintances with the Lost Dutchman.

The Lost Dutchman of Tortilla Flats
After Irish's pit stop, we conversed with some canucks who has stopped at the shop and were headed back out. That should have been my warning. The Canadians were looking over my BMW, commenting how they'd love to have the new K1600. Sure, for another $8K in the US, who knows how much in Albertastan. Anyway, Irish asks me if I mind riding on dirt roads. I told him I do it occasionally. He then asks if we should continue on 88 as he thinks some of it is dirt. Since the gauntlet was thrown down and from a cruiser rider, I couldn't say no, so we proceeded onward.

Around the Bend On the Apache Trail

Not long after Tortilla Flats the road did indeed turn to dirt, with plenty of washboard surface with what I would describe as talcum powder on top of it. The road looked like it hadn't been maintained in awhile and there were alluvial ruts that I didn't want to track in as it usually leads to a bad end. The real shocker was to find out that I had 22 miles of this and more before I got back on pavement. At that point, I was in all the way. The road continued on with a combination of relatively short straights, uphill and downhill switch backs with some downhill grades that were interesting with vistas of scrub brush, saguaro cactus and rugged rocky mountains that make Mt Rushmore seem like a cornfield in Iowa. It was the longest 22 miles I've ridden in my life and while it did take an hour and a little more, during the ride, I ruminated over the name, Apache Trail and wondered if Geronimo had taken his people over this trail to get to better weather than the summer heat in the valley or to escape the wrath of the Mexican or US Armies. In surveying the scenery I also wondered if the land here certainly bears a resemblance to the ruggedness seen in Geronimo's face, I think it does. At the same time I don't think Irish and I would fair well in those times. We resemble Tom and George Custer more than I'd like, Irish especially. Speaking of Tom, George and Geronimo, I also couldn't help thinking if Tom Horn, the indian scout, deputy sheriff, Pinkerton Detective, Rough Rider and stock detective cum convicted murderer had graced these same trails as well. I am pretty certain both did, I just hoped my fate would be better than theirs.

More of the Apache Trail
The plain truth is, the ride wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, just slow and with a bike not meant to ride on that kind of terrain. I did learn a couple lessons though. One, going too slow makes the ride rougher. So rough at times I thought the bike would shake apart and anecdotally, it seems my 49L topcase might be a little looser. Two, don't hold the grips tight or too tight. This wore out my forearms and made the trip back home a pain because my hands were cramping, which has happened before, on a trip to the west coast. It's not a good feeling. Three, getting off the seat at times made the ride better. Thing is, I haven't ridden much dirt, except on a friends YZ250 and a KLR 25 years ago, but taking that short cut as it were has given me some ideas for the future, which would be getting a dirt ready street bike as a second bike or to replace the RT and I've always loved the R1200GSA. Adding insult to stupidity was when two people whizzed by Irish and me like were standing still. It looked like they were riding Honda CRF250L's. Later on we caught up with them at Roosevelt Dam and they looked to be a couple closer to 60 than I was. Ouch.

The Apache Trail next to Apache Lake
In the end it was a successful trip and we had lunch at Irene's in Globe before heading back to the valley. Next time, I will take the paved way to Globe, unless I have a dirt ready bike, which I doubt. Not unless I win the lottery. :)

Thank you for reading this blog.

The Bikes, Rear View

The Bikes, Front View

Tom Horn

Heading out of Tortilla Flats

My Friend, Irish



Trobairitz said...

Now that looked like a fun day filled with unexpected adventure. Always excitement with riding.

So, how dirty were the bikes by the time you found pavement again? A bet a bike bath was in order.

Jim L said...

It wasn't wet, so there was no mud. It was dusty however and I am always surprised how much dust sticks the wheels, brake dust or dirt. I took it to a self-serve car wash and cleaned the bike down well. That dust will get into everything.

Anonymous said...

The notion that the Apache Trail was a trail used by Apache Indians is a romantic notion, but in truth there was no trail until the Dam was built. I hope this link works -- it is very interesting and you will see who built the Apache Trail. Oh, one other thing, the name "Apache Trail" was an advertising ploy to try to get tourists to come to the area.

Ken said...

A proper moto-adventure! Well done.

Jim L said...

Anonymous: I'd love you to use your name, may be I';; buy you a drink dome day. In all boys, there is what the Germans call Romantischer Krieger. Even if there was no trail before the dam was built, from what I know of Tom Horn, it's very possible he could have been in that area. Geronimo too. A boy can dream, can't he?

Thanks. I wish I had a GSA with me on that one. It would have been a lot more fun. Thanks for the comments.