Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Three C's

I LOVE riding this country.  If I get too old, I will probably get myself another Jeep and continue driving.  From the very first westerns I saw on the old black and white tube box, to the stories I'd read in Cycle magazine, to the first rides I did in the South West... there is something just mystical, magical, awe inspiring and dangerous about traveling back there.

I first rode this trail in 1998, after returning from Baja.

Greater Phoenix is a city of 4.5 million mas o menos, but once you have ridden beyond the final stop light, once the last of the ever expanding housing tracts is cleared, once you are over the final ring road... out there you could be on another planet closer to the Sun.

It's hard to believe but just 20 miles from the city limits, you are in wilderness country, where rattlesnakes, tarantula's, scorpions and jack rabbits rule.  At 40 miles, you are in country where only the lonely live.  At 41 miles, there's nobody!
Perfect!!!  Just what the Dr. ordered...

Sure you may come across abandoned homesteads, a run down ranch, a broken down windmill, but out there, where you would be hard pressed to find water above ground, amid mountains and dry arroyo's and cacti, and rock-beds, where you can actually "hear" the silence, you forget that in our everyday lives, included my own home in Spring Valley, you never really hear silence.  Think about it?

Castle Hot Springs Once the playground of the rich and famous, now private.

Everyday and pretty much every minute of every day, there is some noise going on in our lives, we live with it and sometimes don't even 'hear' it, but believe me... its there.  When I park my bike in the desert under some decrepit shade tree,  and walk twenty feet away, it is utter and complete silence only broken by the odd F 15 overhead or maybe... maybe a cricket or two chirping blissfully.  There have been rides I have done where I sit down on a convenient rock and just, listen.  To nothing at all.  No cars, horns, kids, cats or dogs, nada... goose egg.  It's not hard to see why we as humans, crave noise.  It makes us feel like we are not alone, even though you can be part of a huge city and yet truly be more alone than sitting out there in the desert on that rock. 

When I am doing just that, I feel more a part of myself more a part of the planet and solar system and universe than packed into an elevator headed to the 15th floor!

Old equipment found along the road.

I was out for a short (in miles) ride Monday on the 350.  It's familiar turf the Bradshaw's and its also my stand by.  In 30 minutes after fueling up, I am taking the left fork of the Castle Hot Springs, Cow creek roads.  I have NO plan.  I decide en-route where I go and as long as I have fuel to spare I just ride.  The XT has a 12 liter tank, just over 3 gallons US and just under 3 gallons Imperial.  I have a safe range of 180 miles, with about 30 in reserve.  180 miles out in the mountains is a hell of a lot of riding.  Keep in mind I am standing much of the way, in lower gears climbing in and out of ravines and dry run-offs, riding through sand, gravel a foot deep, hard packed bare earth or exposed rock.  A hundred miles out here is a lot of work.  For each day I do a hundred miles, I need  two to recover.  This was the point of making it a point to ride these places beginning many years ago.

Wouldn't come any closer than this!

I'm pushing 60 now, and even though I feel pretty strong and fit, like I say... it takes a bit of recovery time after a trip through the outback.

Dry riverbed, but don't camp here!

The very first time I rode CHS road, in the late 90's I thought it was pretty tough, and it is definitely not a beginner ride.  The numerous river beds, filled with sand or rock or gravel are very challenging and tiring.  Monday, when heading back, I thought to myself; "Man this is a piece of cake!"  hahaha... 15 years ago it was tough, now its a Sunday, or in my case... a Monday ride.  The places I have ridden since have been progressively more difficult and challenging, sometimes stretching my skill and resourcefulness and mental and physical toughness to the breaking point, but I've done them anyway and here I am today, thinking, this is easy.

No kidding Sherlock!
Easy was good Monday.  The local temperature was in the high 80's even at 2500 feet, and what air there was, was hot.  Shade is pretty much nonexistent here so you are always absorbing the heat and trying to shed it from your pores as fast as you can.  I drink lots of water.  Ummm, let me rephrase that, lot's of water!  You can't afford to get heatstroke out here, no siree, not when you're by yourself. 

Over the years, many people that I know well, ask me why I do this... "Frank, why go out there by yourself and punish yourself doing this?"

I look at it differently than that, after all... I really have nothing to atone for, I haven't killed anyone, stolen fortunes as a financial adviser, nor cheated on my wife.  I do this, because it takes me to a place I like to go at times, and challenges me while getting there.  Like the first time I rode Castle Hot Springs road, it was tough, I thought it would never end, but by the time I got to, Wickenburg probably having a burger and Coke... I decided to ride it in reverse, as the sun was going down.

That's the beauty of taking on any challenge, you defeat it and get better at it.  Some people take them on, others do not.  The choice is yours :)

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