Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tales From The Road --Long and Overdue

I landed in Flagstaff, Arizona this morning and have good/great internet connectivity. This is rather long but contains mostly photos.

The lovely missus flew in Friday evening and we headed out Saturday morning to explore Arizona, south of Tucson. First stop was back at Kitt Peak, which was open this time. We walked around gawking at the views and poking around the various telescopes that are there.

As I mentioned before, this is the largest collection on earth.

The largest solar telescope. The sun's light is shot 75 feet into the mountain.

Lots of telescopes of various sizes.

From there, we headed south into Coronado National Forest to explore some of the dirt roads that run parallel to the Mexican border. Despite very warm days, there is still snow above 5000 feet.

The roads are designated for 4 wheel drive vehicles but the Element has AWD and upgraded off road tires so we though we'd try our luck.

Lots of small creek crossings.

We poked around some of the side roads and found a great camp site along a creek.

The road in.

The missus relaxing in camp.

I managed to get out for a short ride up Bear Canyon that involved more than one creek crossing and boulder hopping. That night, it was just us and the coyotes.

The next morning, we continued east, following the road through various canyons and across one beautiful grass land valley.

The dirt road ended at the top of the pass at Coronado National Monument which is a very short distance from the border,

We looked for a good camping spot all afternoon but the only side roads led south almost directly to the border. The only other vehicles we saw all afternoon were Border Patrol trucks so the area is a hotbed for human and drug smuggling. One of their vehicles was pulling a large sled to smooth out the road surface so they could see foot and tire prints later. At Coronado Pass, they had a radar unit operating.

At this point, we opted for safety and headed to Bisbee, a really fun town in the mountains. The bike trip I just finished over nighted here so we stayed at the Jonquil Motel, in business since 1936.

After a great breakfast and poking around a few antique shops, we headed back to Tucson and stopped by the Saguaro National Monument, hoping the flowers were blooming. They were in a few spots but still have a few days to go.

I dropped the missus off at the airport Tuesday morning and headed north east towards the White Mountain town of Show Low, hoping to get in some mountain biking. My first stop was the Chamber of Commerce where a very nice lady told me that all the trails were open and the Mogollon Rim road was perfectly fine to drive. Hmm. My second stop was at the local bike shop where the owner informed me that local trails were either buried under multiple feet of snow or so muddy, they's suck the tires off your rims. Strike one.

My next stop was at the local 4X4 store to see whether the Mogollon Rim Road was indeed drivable. The man behind the counter was named Joey and here is roughly how the exchange went.

Me -- "Joey, is it possible to drive the Mogollon Rim road from here to Payson"?

Joey, laughing. -- "Come with me". We walk through the shop and out into the rear lot. No kidding, if I was a few inches shorter, I could walk under most of the trucks back there.

Joey -- "See that truck over there"?, pointing to the largest one in the lot. "That's mine and I had to have it towed out of that road a few days ago. Would have cost me $500 but I own the wrecker company here too."

Me -- "Well, that answers that. Thanks for the advice".

Joey -- "What kind of truck are you driving?"

At this point, I am trying to avoid the laughter that will ensue after he sees the Element. After he does see it and I explain about the camper on top, Joey places his rather large hand on my shoulder, looks me in the eye and says " if you tried to drive that thing up there, I'd have to come pull you out. Chances are, the whole drive train would get left behind but you could sure use that camper thing as a small guest room in your yard back in Minneapolis." Nuff said!!

I headed towards Payson, hoping to find a camping spot in the National Forest. This is what I ran into.

I continued into Payson and found a cheap motel run by a Japanese guy who spoke little English. I am pretty sure there was a Twilight Zone episode with the same theme.

The next day, I headed towards Sedona, passing through Snake River Canyon.

Arriving in Sedona, I discovered it was peak tourist season and the place was jammed. I stopped by a bike shop, got a trail map, and headed into Coconino National Forest, both to camp and ride. The recommended route was great with just enough technical stuff to make it interesting.

The trails are well marked, and the scenery spectacular.

I did fall and landed in a nice soft cactus. 14 thorns in me; 0 in the tubes. Trail side surgery was in order but fortunately, I am a trained professional.

After the ride I headed into the forest, looking for a remote area for the night. Tons of roads to choose from.

Not a bad view.


1 comment:

  1. Looks like a great time. Back in 1997 I was in Mesa for a wedding. I had a day to kill and took the rental car for a loooong drive. A drive that included the Mogollon Rim Road. I beat the crap out of that Buick Skylark. But the views were worth it. At the time I remember thinking how much I wished I had my 4-wheel drive Toyota pickup for that drive.