Today I awoke, tired, but with a sense of adventure and excitement on my mind. I covered the burn on my hand (received when uncharacteristically ironing a blouse!) with Neosporin and a band-aid, thinking of the burning that was going on near where I was going. The Wallow fire has consumed an unthinkably large area of what was one of the most beautiful areas in the White Mountains, between Hannagan Meadow and Alpine, AZ, among other places. The fire, uncontained, marches northward toward Eagar and Springerville.
It is because of the road closures due to this inferno, at last count the third largest in recent Arizona history, that we had to take the southern route to our destination, Glenwood, NM. So, we started out, traveling east on US 60 toward Superior, then Globe, where we fueled up again. Hal, suffering slightly on his DRZ, must stop at least every 100 miles due to the small gas tank on his bike. In Globe we met a man on a KLR, dressed and packed much as I was on my 650GS, who was on his way home to Silver City, NM. Ironically, we were en route to Glenwood, which is only about 65 miles north of Silver City. As we left Globe, I knew I was in for the worst part of the journey.
The sky was a white dome, the sun was a burning white-hot object hanging directly overhead. As I left the house this morning, my husband wondered why I was wearing sunglasses when my helmet has a flip-down sun visor on the inside of it. “Because I need both,” I explained. “Trust me, the glare is unbelievable.” This is summer riding in Arizona. Not pleasant in the desert areas.
It was in the upper 90s already as we rode across the ugly expanse that is the 70 from Globe to Safford. In between is the worst town in the world – Bylas. It is, from the viewpoint of someone passing through town on the highway, the most poverty-stricken place anywhere outside of a third world country. I hate to look at it. It makes me feel embarrassed to think of the injustice of making the “Indians,” who are Native Americans, live on a reservation, on crappy land at that. People, no matter who they are, should not have to live in one-room corrugated tin shacks with a hole cut in the wall in which to fit a tiny air conditioner. I can’t even relate to the mentality that made some (white) people think they are better than another group of human beings to make them live in conditions like that.
As we traveled through, I realized I still had about 32 more miles to Safford. In the distance, I thought I saw Mt. Graham, rising apparition-like in the distance, enshrouded by haze. I remembered when I rode the GS to the top of Mt. Graham a few years ago, another beautiful place, and was glad that the road to Mt. Graham is now closed due to fire danger. The haze was from the smoke generated by the Wallow fire that had settled in the area.
I was getting hotter and thirstier as I went. Then there were signs, one after the other, advertising a place in Pima called “Taylor Freeze.” Ice cream, freezes, cold things, all enticingly described, made me want something cold more than anything else in the world. Alas, after all the promises of root beer floats and other delights, we found Taylor Freeze closed when we got to Pima. What a disappointment.
Finally, we got to Safford where we pulled into one of my least favorite gas stations, on the corner of the 70 and 191. It’s convoluted and small, cramped, and usually crowded. We got gas there, but this time no one crowded in, or hurried us away from the pumps. A group of H-D riders pulled in, their bike radios blaring, their pipes loud. Ugh. No wonder they give anyone who rides a motorcycle a bad name.
While there, we watched the KLR rider we’d met in Globe ride by, taking the same route we would be toward New Mexico. Outside of town, we turned on 191 north and the scenery changed dramatically for the better as we began to climb into the mountains toward Clifton-Morenci. I saw some dirt roads that intrigued me, especially the Black Hills Backcountry Byway. I saw from the map that it was not too bad at either end, but the middle looked like it might be challenging on a fully-loaded bike. It rejoins 191 farther up, near Clifton, but long before we reached Clifton, we took 78 where the two highways intersected. Luckily, there was a small gas station there at that intersection so Hal could fuel up yet again. We’d only gone about 33 miles, but that 33 miles might make a difference later.
The 78 is a fun curving road, and I recalled last October when I’d ridden it and had to stop mid-way to put on rain gear. It was funny, the sky today looked almost as it did that day eight months ago, but I was sure this time we would not be running into rain. And, if we did, it would be a cooling welcome relief from the heat, although as we rode along it seemed to get cooler. We passed the road to the Mule Creek post office, which leads, apparently, to Brushy Mountain, another place where amethyst can be found. The purple gem seems to be harmonious with my life as it is one of my favorites, and seems always to be in close proximity. I would like, someday, to find a geode of my own.
Before I knew it, we were turning onto 180, the northern part of which is closed by the fire, hence our route today. The part of the 180 that we did ride today ranks right up there as one of the best roads ever, as far as I am concerned, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Then, 20 miles later, we reached our destination in Glenwood.
At dinner this evening, we met a most interesting man, Bucky A. We met him at the Blue Front restaurant in Glenwood, a place where we’d had a great dinner on a previous trip. After a nice dinner of beef brisket, he sat down with us and went over the New Mexico Atlas and Gazetteer map book, telling us wonderful tales of interesting roads as yet unexplored by us. I saw in my future many more trips to Glenwood, bringing my Yamaha TTR225 so we can experience all the less-traveled, rough roads that I really long to discover. Once again, though, I felt like this trip was going to be yet another trip that sets things up for a future trip. I keep thinking that, and wonder when will I get to the real trips? I hope soon. I am fearless on the 225, and that’s the bike I want to ride in the deep backcountry. The GS is fine for fire roads, but when I want to get down and dirty serious, the 225 is the right tool for the job.
After dinner, we sat outside in the cool air, marveling at the star-filled sky, an “outhouse” moon hanging overhead for the brief time before she went to bed early. We sat drinking coffee on the porch where we were staying, enjoying the sweet cooling air, listening to the sounds of birds chirping, burros snuffling in hay, horses’ hooves clicking on stones in a nearby corral, and later, the silence. Soon, tired from a day’s riding, I went to bed too.