I parked my car at an RV resort for $4 a day, paid up through Sunday, and at about 10:30 I think began to roll on pavement, passing the slag heaps of the Ajo copper mine and onto Darby Well road which soon turned into Bates Well road. This first part was great riding, a few rollers, pretty well graded, a couple of campers off in the arroyos to the side and then pretty soon I was all alone.
Several miles later I see the first Border Patrol truck, who pulls off the road and sits in his truck and I continue on. I pass the first Emergency Beacon and take some pictures. They are numbered, each one with instructions in English, Spanish and Tohono O'odham. After all, this is the land of I'itoi, the Elder Brother, Ho'ok the witch and Ban the coyote-spirit. The signs tell you to stay where you are and help will come. I have 9 liters of water and I hope I do not need help. At least not today.
|Emergency Beacon ... they have saved lives|
A few more miles and I am at Growler Pass and the Bates Ranch. It is quiet, and I take some pictures of the ranch house and the corral fencing. The windmill no longer works and perhaps there is water further back in the mesquite at a little shed, but I am ok. I am hot, it being unseasonably warm for November.
|Bates Well Ranch windmill|
|yeah, that's what they call it|
Time to move on. Papago Well is someplace up the road. Another emergency beacon appears and I pass it by. And then as I exit Organ Pipe National Monument, I encounter a government installation. Four or five trailers bolted together with a fence with barbed wire on top. It's a Border Patrol forward base. I take a photo, eat a GU and look at a sign for Organ Pipe as a BP agent drives up and wants to know if I am ok and need anything. I am good. Still good.
There is a mesquite covered wash further up the road and the sand gets deeper. I ride a lot. I walk some. It gets done. It's getting towards 4 pm I think and I make Papago Well. The water is great, as I take my cap and helmet off and soak my head and wash some. I was told the water was fine, but filter it anyways and I spend perhaps 20 or more minutes there. I finish the last of a breakfast burrito I bought in Ajo, tossing a little bit of it into the bushes for the ravens or who ever comes by next.
More sand. More riding, getting darker. The sun goes down quickly in November. It's still warm and I pass what I think is the Pima County - Yuma County line. I drove for 2 hours this morning to get to Ajo from Tucson at 65 miles an hour and now have ridden for 6 hours and am just now exiting Pima County ... bigger than a bunch of States and several countries.
Camp Grip shows up. It doesn't have as mean of a fence around it as the other BP Camp did. I pass it by, more sand and then pass the grave of O'Neil. He died in 1916 I think. I pour some water on it for good luck and look at the glasses, the 50 cal shell, the coins and the other things. The guidebook says when he was buried by his buddies they left and then remembered he had a chaw of tobacco in his pocket and came back and uncovered him to get it. Said it was "as good in his pocket as it would've been in mine". Yes, this is the place we are in.
|Day 1 Sunset|
Up in the morning at sunrise, build a fire of dead cresote to heat some water for a pasta/sausage backpacking meal. Worked pretty well, a little soupy, but calories are all good.
A big playa comes next and the road starts to meander. It is good this is the dry season, you can see big ruts and I certainly don't have the horsepower to push peanut butter mud. And then soon I am at the Pinacate Lava Flow. Black volcanic rocks all over the place. Much better riding. I think some day I must go to Parque National El Pinacate in Sonora and see the big craters. But not today.
|Edge of the Pinacate Lava flow looking towards Tule desert|
A short downhill and we are back to sand. The Tule Desert is here. The road has been dragged and dragged and dragged to cut it deeply into the desert two and three feet below the surface. It is sandy. I take the bike out and ride on the sides some. I ride. I walk. I sweat. I repeat.
Tule Well water is more mineralized. It has a sulfur taste to it. I fill everything. Am doing ok on water, but once I leave this place there is none other. Fast miles after leaving Tule Well. A footprint in the sand of a man's low-healed loafer. No other corroborating footprints. Keep riding.
|Tinajas Atlas Mountains to the west|
|Sand and Darkness|
I am now in the Lechuguilla Desert. Sand and cresote. Rinse and repeat. I can see Tinajas Atlas mountains in the west. I know of this place from Charles Bowdin and others. and as I arrive there it is getting dark again. I stop. It is dark. Headlights appear on Camino Diablo Oeste, and I watch and they begin to come closer. He brakes and I see the characteristic tail lights of a BP truck and he moves on. I turn and a few minutes after he leaves I see a campfire flare a few hundred yards south of me. I don't know who they are and so I move. Off into the dark, slowly pedaling with dimmed headlight and find a spot. I can't see them any longer and this is good. The wind blows the clouds away and the stars pop out.
At 6:00 in the morning I hear a noise and a truck is pulling up. The BP agent asks if I'am ok and wants to know which direction I am going. I wanted to go West, but signs at Cabeza Prieta said the Marines were doing artillery drills on the Goldwater West and that way would be closed, and so I tell him I am going North, to Wellton.
I get up and I look for the lowest of the tanks at Tinajas Atlas and I find it. It is a tricky little climb in bike shoes, but I get there. The water is murky, but if you really needed it, it would sustain you. The sun is rising and the rocks are spectacular. I am lucky to be here.
|tiny little thing|
I ride off and run into another cyclist ! Dave is out there. He had ridden from Yuma the day before. We chat and depart, he east and me north. BP has dragged the road and the coyote tracks go on forever. Then it gets messy and cresote becomes the only plant. There are miles and miles to go to Wellton, but I get there about 1 or so. I get a burger and then roll on Old Highway 80 towards Mohawk where it joins I-8. I take I-8 to Dateland and stop for the night.
|Hi Dave !|
|BP smooths the road leaving a perfect canvas for the critters|
|It's hard, but it's pretty|
|My bike leaning against stuff|
|Rolling to Dateland on I-8|
The next day yields about 90 miles on I-8 and Arizona 85 to get back to Ajo where my car was parked. Rode fairly well, some headwind, some tailwind. It is what it is. A beautiful section at about mile 30 with welded tuff just like in the Tucson Mountains around Gates Pass. This would have been an interesting place to live when the volcanoes were active !
|Mile 30 outside Ajo|
So, about 261 miles, about 130 of it on pretty sandy conditions. Seem to have recovered after my TD debacle back in June. And Peppersauce was good again this year, but that's a one day only thing ... completely different than getting up and putting up some miles each day. Off to Mexico in January.