THERE is something to be said for being lost and confused in the desert!
|Here I am again, wearing my 'lost and confused in the desert' look.|
Granted I have not traveled the Sahara, the Gobi or the Atacama, however I have ridden thousands of kilometers in the American Southwest, the Baja peninsula and even the Okanagan valley as far north as Kamloops which, laugh if you wish, is part of the Great Western desert system, or as Ronnie likes to put it... The Banana Belt!
The major difference between Baja and Arizona deserts, is of course being lost in Baja on some track that often leads to an abandoned rancho, you are never far from the sea! Even if you don't have a compass, heading east or west (sun rises in the east and sets in the west) will eventually drown you. Stop prior to that!
There is no ocean in Arizona, certainly not these days, but down there eventually you'll hit a road with an I number, in any direction of your compass. As I have said to interested parties in my Baja days, GPS will basically tell you that yes... you are in the middle of nowhere and yes... you could very well die out here.
This day, I didn't have anything to worry about. True I had found the Old Stagecoach Road and also true I'd seemingly very quickly lost it! There was no point in my staying put where I was... the stage wasn't running today or at all!
I knew something was amiss when I climbed up that hill and even though I could see in the distance a line of traffic on I-17 heading to points north, which included Prescott, Flagstaff, Lee's ferry and eventually Utah... I was now headed south when moments ago I was pointed north!
I actually backtracked a bit and came across a man walking his dog.
Now before you get the wrong idea, this is not code for someone taking a pee at the base of a cactus in the back country, in fact it was a man walking his scruffy and friendly off leash pooch! I don't know who was more surprised, him or I, after all there is rarely anyone around where I ride, but suffice to say that he was a local and had some answers to my questions.
As it turned out, they were the wrong answers and I wasted 90 minutes riding trails that came to NO motorized vehicle signs, Entry by permit only fences, residential dead ends neighbor hoods (no offence guys you have a lovely home and front yard I just rode into!) or otherwise wild goose chases. He did mention that "on my bike I could get there from here, no problem." Ultimately his best advice was to ride to the top of the hill, (finger pointing here) and from there I could see the trail that would take me to Table Mesa road East about 10 miles distant.
Yup once there turn left and keep going...
I thanked him... started the beast and rode up a steep washed out gulley to the top of the hill. The view was splendid I will add, I had a 360 degree hilltop from where I could see route 71 heading off into the haze, the aforementioned Interstate and about a gazillion trails! Parking was a bit of a problem as the wind at this point was very brisk threatening to blow my bike over. On the Atlantic we would call them "Gale force" ( I used to have a temperamental girlfriend in my early life named Gail and believe you me, it's aptly named!)
The trail I came up on, the one he had recommended, quickly dropped over the edge so steep I was afraid to get any closer than 6' and even then all I could see was loose rocks, over top of loose rocks. In the distance about 500 feet away I saw were it came up for air and traversed the next slightly lower hill. Trouble was, it and several other branches seemed to be going in the wrong direction. I checked my compass although with the Interstate in plain sight I knew where North was, and these trails seemed to be heading east and south!
|That thin line in the far distance is I 17... heading North while I seem to be heading away from it.|
Now, when I am riding country I do not know, I am always concerned with riding into a place that I may not be able to get out of. This can happen!
Even more puzzled than before, I decided that I would follow the access road I came in on which I was certain was the Old Stage Coach road and keep following it even though it seemingly went south. Imagine my surprise when just a half mile farther on I came to some houses and a road sign that proclaimed I was no on North Coyote Pass!
|GALE FORCE WIND.|
I did a 180 went back up the hill and had another look. Yup... I was lost!
Okay, friendly ? person had indeed suggested I could keep on the road and ride down to the village to a mail box pull out and turn left there, following the dry riverbed.
Of course what he failed to mention was the fence crossing the dry riverbed. Not having wire cutters or a left over Bangalore torpedo on hand, I continued on the North Coyote Pass road and intersected the New River road. I had come up the New River road about an hour ago from Phx and I knew I was only a mile or so from the Interstate which I could just take for 10 miles, and get off at Table Mesa. You know I deplore riding Interstates. My bike is light, the speed limits are generally 75 mph where traffic is considerable faster whilst I am significantly slower. I can do an uncomfortable 60 mph for 15 or 20 or even 30 miles if need be and I can even manage 65 for short stints... but it kinda hurts and goes against my principle of taking the road less traveled!
Suffice to say I'd rather not. However NR road does continue east so I turn left and ride until I find a north south road and take that, which I did. I found some very nice homes back there, gargantuan RV's parked in huge oversized driveways and lots of NO Trespassing Private Property signs.
Eventually on one of these I come across what I believe to be the same riverbed I'd crossed earlier. The paved road turns right but the riverbed is to my left.
WHEN in doubt, go west!
I pick up the riverbed and ride through it several times only to come up to a fence erected by the State declaring that I am on public land but need a permit to travel here, available in Tucson or some such place far from where I not sit overheating! Backtracking, I come back to the pavement and follow it east. Surely the fence will have an open gate and I can continue northward.
The fence is to my left only a hundred feet away and on the other side of that is wide open desert country, I am feeling confident. I'm riding comfortable at 40 mph until the road suddenly veers off to the right. having little choice I follow it once again pointed south, and shortly after it takes a left turn, you guessed it... into someone's front yard!
I said something like "Heck, heck, heck" under my breath and now have no option but to backtrack the 8 miles to the Interstate, which I grudgingly pick up and head north at 60 mph among the heavy Sunday traffic. Somehow or other as often happens, I've been had.