Monday, April 4, 2022

Tucson Folk Festival 2022 and a 650 Mile Moto Road Trip

My eyes are bleary and irritated from the riding miles I racked up yesterday. It's the constant focus on highway conditions, as well as the wind and debris that gets past the windscreen and face shield that triggers it. But well worth the effort. I think the motivation for the effort was to burn off some stressors I'd felt accumulating recently. I know, I have a pretty stress-free life, but in perspective, I do feel stress at times. And getting off on a little trip felt great. I left the dentist and spent the evening at home, getting a few road trip things together. On Saturday I walked down through the Farmer's Market, and over to the Warren Ballpark. I watched one of the Vintage Baseball games with the crowd of kids and parents. It was a bit of a circus, but there was also a bit of baseball. There was a woman calling the game on a PA loud enough to  be heard up in Old Bisbee, but I had a good time. As the afternoon wore on, I knew I still had time to make the headliner at the folk festival in Tucson. I packed up my tent, sleeping bag, and hammock. I didn't bring food, figuring on catching some festival fare and then watch The Watkins Family Hour. This is the brother and sister team and former Grammy winning bandmates of performer Chris Thile, that formed Nickel Creek of mid-2000s fame. I found parking 3 blocks from the stage and just followed the music to the crowd. There was a plate of good BBQ waiting for me, and I found a great spot to set up my little pack-chair. I was only 30 feet from the stage. Sean and Sara Watkins only did one old Nickel Creek song. Maybe just to keep the old Nickel Creek fans entertained, but they are quite far down the road with their own music. I was surprised to hear so much of the old sound in their new music. I bought their CDs and spoke to Sean, (guitar and vocals), after the show. I told him about my starting to flatpick bluegrass fiddle tunes after seeing the Nickel Creek show in Tampa back in 2006. (They couldn't have been more than 20 years old back then!). During the show they described their own process for coming through the bluegrass jam circles in Los Angeles and how they made it onstage as children. It's such a common story of how bluegrass artists come to fame. Nobody I've heard of just picks up bluegrass picking skills as an adult. It was a great show, and I was happy to have made the trip up there. The folkfest crowd is so relaxed and gracious, I don't think I'll ever skip that event again.

When it was over and I navigated my way up 77 to Oracle I peeled off onto the dirt road up the control road to Mt Lemmon. It's mostly paved, but as you get to Peppersauce Canyon it gets a little sandy. I rolled into the National Forrest CG at about midnight and set up my tent in the dark. I could hear my neighbors snoring in their tents and I tried to be as unobtrusive as I could. I slept well and was up at dawn, ready for a hearty breakfast in Mammoth, the next town up Hwy 77. I continued north to Winkelman and then to Globe, I saw great swaths of fire damage from last summer. There was a few patches of green, but many barren areas with scraggly, scorched mesquite trees. 
I started  wondering if I'd head off into the dirt again and around the back of Roosevelt Lake to Young. Young was near where I'd camped among the bears last year. I rolled the dice and decided to take a nice ride through Tonto National Forest and up to Hwy 260. I wasn't as happy in the dirt as I'd have been with knobby tires, but the loose terrain was manageable. I tipped the bike over in a gully trying to navigate a washed out trail at the Gila River. I managed to right the beast and get down to the river. It had wonderful flow and I found a spot to just sit and listen to the rapids gurgle. Ahhh...peace. When I got to HWY 260 I had to decide on either a campsite for the night, or possibly looping back toward home. It was already three o'clock and the GPS read a 5 hour back through Payson and down to the 202 through Phoenix. Phoenix was definitely not in the plan, but I did decide to head home. The trip east to Alpine and down 191 through Morenci was an option, but would have been a 10 hour trip through the twistys at night. I settled on riding west to Payson and back south to Globe, staying east of PHX and then back down 77, the route I'd come north on. This left me with an all-pavement route and maybe a 7 hour trip. It turned out to be a 500 mile day. The ride was uneventful, though I had a couple of food and fuel stops along the way. And of course I was witness to the grand desert countryside. The sun set as I was passing just north of Tucson. It's funny how traveling through areas with snow on the ground up on 260 transitioned into the decent of about 5,000 ft of elevation as I traveled toward Payson and then to Phoenix. I fall in elevation left me stripping away layer after layer of gear as the temps rose from 57F to 75 in about an hour. Watching how the terrain changes from Ponderosa Pine to Saguaro is a stunning. Nature is a marvel to witness. It was a great couple of days, and I hope to get summon the energy for a few longer loops through the mountains as the temps warm. I'm thinking that my commitment Thursdays in Tucson will keep me from taking a major roadtrip over the summer. We'll see how things go.

Monday, December 13, 2021

4 Day Off-road Adventure

 This adventure started out with fairly low expectations. The goal was to pair down my luggage from 80 lb to 50 or 60 lbs. If I was only heading out for 2 or 3 days then I wouldn't need a change of clothes for each day. Just extra socks and shorts. I knew I could get by with less and save some weight. Managing the motorcycle off-road it depends on being able to overcome the top heavy bias of the luggage.

The North Face duffel was too much. Gone now are the camping pillow  some cookware, and winter clothing.

I set out east from Bisbee and in Douglas I chose to go east on 15th Street which eventually turns into The Geronimo Trail. It's a combination of dirt and rocks and gravel that runs along the US border with Mexico and then veers North somewhat to intersect with Highway 11. That's more dirt road that takes you to a town called Animus, New Mexico. It's about 70 miles at approximately 20 miles per hour.
In Animas, I headed east on paved State road 9. This road runs parallel with I-10 40 miles to the north. I stopped in a cheetah New Mexico at a small filling station that had homemade burritos from Irma's Restaurant 40 miles E in Columbus New Mexico. The most unique thing about this fuel stop was meeting others on their own adventures. Two young emergency room MDs were bicycling south from Silver City on the Continental Divide road. There was another gentleman I met there who'd been hiking for 6 years, he said. He was young and told me that his new shoes were troubling him, and he was seeking a ride to Lordsburg to pick up a different pair. The doctors described the Continental Divide road as navigable by motorcycle as well as bicycle, and having done a little research about this trail, I noted the waypoints they relayed, and decided that would be my adventure for the next couple of days.
That night I traveled out to the state park in columbus, spent the night and then had a breakfast at Irma's restaurant. Her burritos from the night before were delicious, but I was paying the price of the hot spices. I headed for the first waypoint I noted from the night before and found myself on a wonderfully meandering dirt road headed north toward silver city.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Bear Scare!

 I've had a couple of mini adventure campouts last week and this. Last night got a little scary. After camping Monday night a bit north of Morenci, I'd continued north and then east on 260 from 191 near Springerville. 260 runs west through Show Low out to Payson. Getting closer to Payson,  I turned south on a dirt/paved road that runs about 60 miles on a wonderfully scenic route through Tonto NF to Roosevelt Lake. Still up in the mountains, I found a campsite with a fire ring and level ground. I made a little dinner right away, and cleaned up all of the food. I set up my tent, built a fire, and after the sun set, I was just sitting quietly next to the fire. 

I turned on the weather radio and almost simultaneously, I heard some twigs breaking in the forest. I turned down the radio and all was silent. When I turned the radio back on, I could hear the crunching through the leaves and pine needles again. Hmm...I thought. While searching for firewood earlier, I'd seen some fairly fresh bear scat. So with this movement in the woods I was now on high alert. I pulled out my flashlight and started to scan the trees. And sure enough, there were four glowing little eyes sort of weaving and bobbing, watching me. My blood started pumping. I was somewhat alarmed as these two sets of eyes, about 25 yards away, each seemed to be about a foot apart. And I thought bears eyes were generally pretty close together. So unless it was actually a cow or something, (which it definitely was not), they were pretty large bears. I stood up and grabbed the thickest stick I could find in my stack of wood and banged it against a thick log. It made quite a loud crack again and again as I yelled, "No! Bad bear! Bad bear!" And eventually the glowing little eyes disappeared. I was trembling for a while, and kept doing 360° scans of the area for the next hour. I feel silly, but I certainly considered which direction my motorcycle was pointed and how quickly I could jump on and take off. Unfortunately I'd have had to leave the tent and other equipment until I could come back the next day. But it turns out that wasn't necessary and I had a moderately restful sleep inside the tent, wearing my boots, riding suit, and helmet! I had to keep telling myself, "Jeff, they've gone away." And truly they had. It was about 4:00 a.m. this morning when it started to get light, and at 32°, I headed back south towards Roosevelt Lake and Globe, all gear safely packed. Isn't that wild! I guess one additional precaution I could take in the future is to try to camp near other people. It pays to be aware of your surroundings.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

3-day Roadtrip through Southeast Arizona

15 miles north of Tucson is the town of Oracle. Oracle is about half the size of Bisbee, Az, with only 3500 residents. The elevation is 2000 ft higher than the city of Tucson at 2500 ft, and closer to the elevation of Bisbee. The Willow Springs Ranch is made up partly of a State Land Use Area, west of Oracle. With a Land Use pass, the area is open to free camping, but has no facilities. There are no natural water sources, although there is water for the cattle that roam the area. The sunsets are majestic, and there are normally no people for miles. There is little vehicular traffic, and that mostly on weekends. I saw several RVs pulling trailers carrying 4x4 off-road vehicles. All vehicles generate large quantities of dust as they pass, given the lack of moisture available. This trip was my first multi-night camping trip with my new pick-up truck camper. The accommodations were basic but adequate. I spent the one night and then headed SW back through Tucson to the Buenos Aries National Wildlife Refuge. 

Located 8 miles north of the border town of Sasabe, Az, BANWR, (Buenos Aries National Wildlife Refuge), is a 100,000 acre semi-aquatic refuge for animals and birds during migration. Though not often sighted, pronghorn are present as part of a wildlife rehabilitation project. There are many bird species wintering here and it makes for grand birding walks. On this trip I again only spent the one night, but got to sharpen my pick-up truck camping skills. Using devices that use the small 1 lb. canisters of propane allowed me to adequately heat and light the camp area. I did manage to use tarps to secure a small indoor space for heating, with due concern for appropriate ventilation. Although some public areas have restrictions for campfires, none were in place for BANWR this night.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Animas, NM

This sign outside a church in Animas, NM, caught my attention. It's something about the cowboy, the horse and the cross. It's conjures for me the western theme well. I've no other pictures of Animas, it was just a crossroad town in the middle of the ranchland in extreme southwest New Mexico. It's a harsh land. Hot and dry and lots of bright sun. But the desert flourishes with it's bit of seasonal rain. And the flora, though most of it seems out to kill you, has grown on me. I took awhile for the Florida scrub to get into my heart, but I think that the desert southwest is finding a spot as well.

As of this writing, I'm home in Bisbee, Az. The summer heat will drive me north again. So there's another adventure awaiting.  More to follow...

Buckhorn Ranch, Buckhorn area north of Silver City, NM

Buckhorn Ranch was a solid off-road adventure for the Twin. Fully loaded I'm weighing in with about 100 lbs. of luggage. At 185 lbs. the total gross vehicle weight with a full tank of fuel and rider, I'm at about 800 lbs. The extra 120 lbs of luggage rides fairly high on the motorcycle, making for a tall center of gravity, and worthy of consideration in selecting off-road routes. A highly technical route with either deep sand, or large rocks is absolutely out of the question. But usually a county-maintained road is manageable for me. With one year of off-road adventure riding behind me, I consider myself an amateur. Knobby tires have helped a great deal, but the more difficult terrain of some areas are still way beyond my skill level. Plus, I'm riding alone. A tip-over even at standstill is something I can handle, but a crash in desert terrain could be a real issue. I'm often out on rarely traveled routes. On a positive note, between cell-phone and ham radio communications, I'm rarely out of touch with civilization.

So Buckhorn Ranch took me on a 25 mile ride that ran relatively parallel to Hwy 180 south. I came to a familiar spot on 180 and headed down into the city. Silver hasn't changed much since I'd moved away in 2015. But the lockdown is more restrictive than in Arizona. Masks are to be worn in public, and the restaurants are only serving to-go meals.