Exploring a “ghost ranch”


Today was the first day back on the road/dirt for my 2006 BMW F650GS, the first day after five months of it being in the shop. Last April 28 it experienced a catastrophic engine failure, and it has taken this long to get it back. It was worth the wait, though, and I found an interesting place to go today. I didn’t want a super-long day, but wanted to get some riding in, and also shoot some photos. So, Hal and I chose to ride 96 Ranch Rd. near Florence, AZ.

The day started with breakfast at Denny’s, not our usual one. Now I know why we go to the one in Fountain Hills – the Denny’s we went to today  (in Mesa) was madness and mayhem. When we walked in, there was a big line to be seated. A short, heavy woman, her body the shape of a comma, stood in the middle of the floor talking to some  guy who really didn’t want to talk to her, and she was taking up half of the room. Everyone was jostling for position, and the two goofs who were seating people were too busy giggling with each other to do their jobs properly. Breakfast was good, though, when we finally got seated, and soon after that we were headed east on the freeway.

The bike felt a little “off” to me at first, like something wasn’t quite right, but then I realized that this is the new “right.” After so much extensive engine work, things are bound to feel a little different. Later, things settled down, and everything felt much better to me. When we reached the dirt road that we wanted to take, we turned north. I stopped the bike and shut off the ABS. A few miles in, I also decided that I needed to air down the front tire. With the TKC-80 in back, riding through sand was like, “What sand???” but in front (Tourance) needed to be aired down a lot in order for it not to slide around so much in the sand. 96 Ranch Rd. is an easy road, but there are a few areas of deep sand, and a few areas of the talcum-like powdery dirt. Those areas of fine nearly white dust are what I call “white-out conditions” because all you see is glare, and it is almost impossible to see dips and holes in the road.

As we rode 96 Ranch Rd., we were riding along on flat roadbed covered in crushed granite. Then we began to climb, and the road started to twist. There were a couple of short steep climbs. Then, a water tank suddenly rose out of the desert, and we were there. 96 Ranch is a “ghost ranch” now. It is not a full town, but there is a group of dilapidated buildings. It has a long history, but the buildings have now been abandoned. These are some of the things I saw there:

Porch, crumbling:

Message in a bottle:

Cacti guarding, waiting:

Once this home welcomed visitors:

Stairway to subterranean smokehouse:

Hairy little tarantula (dead, unfortunately):

An inviting, verdant arch:

The mid-day sun shone down very warm, almost hot, and the only sound was the buzzing of bees, flies, and other winged insects. It almost made me feel drowsy, lulling me into a semi-sleepwalking state as I wafted among the deteriorating buildings. I thought about the people who once lived here, and wondered what their lives were like as they did. The windmill, mostly ruined, tried in vain to turn, but could only manage a faint creaking sound as the wind blew against it, a faraway echo of the metallic spinning sound it used to make when it was whole and the wind blew furiously:

I walked around the property, imagining what it was like as a working ranch, alive and functioning. In front of me was reality in the shapes of the deteriorating buildings.

The structure of this barn threw interesting patterns in shadows on the ground:

Odd patterns in the cracking walls:

Nothing much is left of this structure:

Shotgun art:

After shooting a few (or a hundred) photographs we got back on the bikes, rode the narrow road through a wash, more deep sand, and a few curves. We came out on one of the main roads in the area, Barkerville Rd., which was like a super highway in comparison. We rode the speed limit, which was 40 mph, easily, and soon we were back on pavement headed home.

It was a great day for riding, beautiful weather, and I am excited to stand at the threshold of our “real” riding season with what basically is a mechanically brand new bike!

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2 thoughts on “Exploring a “ghost ranch”

  1. Two things stood out when I read this blog post. The first was the excellent patterns made by the roof framework on the concrete slab of that old barn. I liked the way that felt. The second was your perfect choice of words about the old windmill, “… a faraway echo of the metallic spinning sound it used to make when it was whole ….” Oh yeah. That kind of imagery is impossible for me, so I always enjoy it when you totally blow me away with your word choices. Thanks.

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