In case one misses the Welcome to Arizona sign coming out of Monument Valley toward Kayenta, this giant monolith of seemingly misplaced stone will let you know you are in Arizona. This is not to be confused with Shiprock in New Mexico. Similar in shape, very different in size. Sarah Palin can see Shiprock from Alaska!
From Kayenta I flew down to Sunset Crater and the Wupatki Ruins. I really wanted to try and catch some of that late day sun on the ruins.
As I approached, things looked good. There was a big storm to the west, but the sun was still shining. Hmmmm. Should I go straight down the highway and get a campsite first, then hope for some light? Or should I risk the 30+ mile NPS road on the chance that you get spectacular setting light on the ruins. Well of course I went for the latter. I made that left turn onto a dark, thin, black, asphalt road. The dry tall grass was glowing a luminescent yellow as I zipped along this ebony roller coaster. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the first ruins the sun was blocked by that damn storm. Sun or not, they are still beautiful.
I am fascinated everytime I encounter one I have not seen before. These are America’s castles.
If these storms are not on top of me they are screwing up my shots. But just before the sun dropped it found a little sliver to shine through and blast an orange glow on the citadel ruins.
Then it got dark fast. Frighteningly dark! I was on a twisty, hilly, unlit, unmarked, National Park road still about 20 miles from the campsite. To add to the scare, my face shield is a bit tinted and there were dozens of little bunnies and large Jackrabbits darting across the road. Each one scaring the shit out of me! I would only see movement at first. Could have been an elk for all I knew? I have had some close calls and I have to admit at times like these I get a bit jittery. To add to the drama it was cold and I had no food for dinner. Ha!
Oh! Did I mention the bats? At least I knew to look for bunny movement on the ground. Those bats can come out of anywhere! Once I finally found the campsite, I went to look for food before setting up. First I snapped off that tinted bubble shield and put on a pair of clear goggles. Whoa! What a difference. But it still sucked. My memory told me to make a right turn out of the park for food. Oh those bats!. They’ve got moves. But then one had a bad move, right into my chest. Ahhhhhh! I felt it flap a couple times before flopping off to my right. Aw Shit! Gross!
By now I realized the town I was thinking of for some food, was not where I remembered it to be. It was in the other direction. I turned around, totally freaked out by the dark and the bat thing of course. And still I had no food. And still I had not even set up my tent yet! But that’s the way it goes on the road. Sometimes everything falls into place. Sometimes it’s a disaster. I eventually found a gas station and got a crappy sandwich and headed for camp.
In the morning everything was fine and I woke up early to see the ruins. I didn’t know what the weather would bring. I only knew at this moment things looked good. So I hopped on Bonnie and had a look at that crazy bunny hopping road from the night before. Now that I think about it. I think my headlight sucks. I am having halogens put on her when I get home and my foot pegs welded to the frame.
Now I could see what I passed in the dark the night before. I rode by the lava stuff quickly.
I was eager to get to the ruins. I first went to the Wukoki Ruins.
I saw a sign for them the night before but it was too dark to visit them or the larger Wupatki Ruins. But today, they would be magnificent!
Out popped one of those damn bunnies that was shooting across the road last night here to say good morning.
Then on to the Wupatki Pueblo down the road a bit. This place is phenomenal and because I was so early I had the place to myself.
From hunter-gatherers to farmers, herders, ranchers, and caretakers, many people have called Wupatki home. (I ripped that from the NPS website).
By the time I got back to the campsite it was cloudy and beginning to drizzle. I quickly packed everything up and hit the road. That drizzle got progressively stronger as I rode into it. I pulled over for gas and to get some coffee. I was now at the place I had searched for the night before.
I sat outside under the overhang when Boom! Lighting was popping everywhere, but this one took out the town’s power.
Turns out pulling over here was somewhat fortuitous. This dude pulls in from San Diego on a Harley. He was here to sit out the storm for a bit. At first no words were exchanged. He probably felt the same way as me. Tired and fed up with the weather. Eventually we started talking, that’s how I knew he was from San Diego. He was on his way home from Seattle, where he was visiting his nephew before he goes off for college. He seemed to know his way around a bike too. I mentioned my chain was loose. I knew something had to be done, but I hadn’t made the move. He said, “Hell, as long as you are stuck here, why don’t you make some calls to Flagstaff.” That is just what I did. The first shop didn’t have my fit, but they recommended Mike’s Bikes! Score!
Mike’s Bikes is an old school bike shop with Mike and his two serious and conscientious mechanics. They hooked me up. The mechanic pulled one bike off the lift and rolled Bonnie on. He replaced the chain, tightened some other parts up and lubed her all around. Fortunately my sprockets were still in good shape and I was good to go! Thank you! That chain had been bugging me. I was spraying the shit out of it but it was stretched out and shot.
I also found out I should avoid the road to Sedona. An old timer hanging out at the bike shop told me it’s a mess down there. I took the Interstate south instead from where you could see and smell the Sedona fires.
I headed down to Montezuma’s Well. The well was formed by the collapse of a limestone cavern. Over a million gallons of water a day flow into the well making it a prime location for warm fresh water.
Along the rim of the well are some cliff dwellings. 11 miles away is a place called Montezuma’s Castle, a most impressive, multi-storied cliff dwelling that I visited a few years ago.
As I continued south toward Phoenix it got real hot and I began to notice giant cactus growing all around. I hopped off the interstate when I saw a sign that said Bumble Bee. I remembered reading about a ghost town by that name. This off ramp quickly turned into a wicked switchback and then to dirt with a sign that said 6 or so more miles of dirt to get to Bumble Bee. I turned around, so all I got from that excursion was this big ass cactus photo.
People in the Phoenix area drive fast. Real fast. The speed limit was 75. I was doing 85, and I was being passed by folks on my right and left. What a hot, brutal ride! I finally got past Phoenix and was looking for a place to camp out for the night. A guy at a gas station told me of a couple of places. One was along Route 88, which is where I had planned on riding. He told me that road is unkept and dangerous. He also told me about the Lost Dutchman State Park. It was closer. That’s where I stayed on this night.
This campsite in the hot desert east of Phoenix was like no place I have ever stayed before. It’s called The Lost Dutchman State Park. Apparently there is much lore in these parts about the Lost Dutchman, some crazy old miner. Also, it sits below the Superstition Mountains.
It’s a big park and apparently I was the only one on this Earth who even thought of this desert campground as a viable option in August. Because I had no electricity at my site, I went to the bathroom area and set up shop there for a while. They had an outdoor outlet so I set up on a ledge and checked out some photos and whatnot. If you camp throughout the states you will learn that there are different sounds for different places. The Lost Dutchman exposed me to a sound I had not yet heard. The coyotes howling in the background were a commonplace sound out west, but then I heard some rustling. I could tell there was more than one of these critters. And I could tell they were not small. Then I thought I saw something go by. Then another. Then the sound! It was a snort. The sort of snort I’ve only heard at farms. Like a Big Hog Snort! Wild Boar? What were they? Jillian sometimes does a little research on the places I am headed and she let me know they were what you call Javelina. Never heard of ’em. Apparently they are much like wild boar. The wild boar of the west. Nothing good could come of this. I held my place. They seemed to linger for a while on the periphery of the brush before me. Eventually I didn’t hear them anymore and my next distraction awaited me. Whatever that would be, there’s always something.
The next morning I got up fairly early. Different bird sounds here in the morning too. The desert is an intriguing place, but it’s too damn hot! On the way into the state park the day before I noticed a tourist type of ghost town. Of course they can’t be taken seriously, but they certainly have their own kitchy charm.
It was early and like my time at Wupatki, I was the only guest there.
A couple shops were open including the cafe. I went in as I hadn’t had breakfast yet. No one was inside at first. Then an older tattooed woman with a British accent walked in and asked what I would like. I asked what the difference was between a regular lemonade and a prickly pear lemonade. She said she made the prickly pear lemonade this morning and it’s good. I’ll have one. The grill wasn’t open, but she gave great descriptions of some pastries that were freshly made. I had some apple strudley thing, with whip cream on the side. She said she took it with the whip cream. She was right. It was good. We talked about all sorts of things and then I asked about that Route 88 I talked about at the gas station the day before. She said, “No, no, no, you don’t want to be taking that road. So many sad stories.” She proceeded to tell me one about 3 (what she called) lovely European folks who had breakfast and chatted with her. The three left and about 20 minutes later only one returned in a complete panic. The others were dead. The other two spent their last day on Route 88. Two local warnings is enough for me.
Here you can see the Superstitious Mountains in the background.
I opted for Route 60 instead of the forewarned 88. Still a scenic route that ended up in the same location not that far east of here.
These two gentlemen came roaring past me side by side. They kept this side by side formation as I stayed behind them for many a mile.
Miami, Arizona is a copper mining town. If you time lapsed this shot, after a while you could watch this mountain slowly disappear.
As you enter Miami, there is this shrine on the side of the road. I’m not sure why it’s here, and it didn’t say why.
Welcome to Miami.
More storms in the background. After last night’s scorcher perhaps a bed tonight.
I got a room at a place called Reeds Lodge in Springerville, Arizona.
With the storm coming it was nice to give Bonnie some shelter as well.