Part 2 – Tucson, Arizona to Los Angeles, California
Missed part one? Click here.
THE WILD WEST (Exploring southern Arizona)
|Tombstone. Tacky as hell. I loved it.
Photo: DEA Lisa
After four nights of motels and one of camping, I awoke in an altogether more opulent surrounding of the Westwood Look Resort, the launching point for the three-day Edelweiss Tour.
I’d managed to miss day one of the tour, but day two was to be a leisurely ride to the Olde West, with lunch in the charming town of Bisbee, followed by a stopover in the aptly named Tombstone on the return leg.
This is the place where Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday — and a few more, less well-known dead people — conducted the famous gunfight at the OK Corral. Unfortunately, now it’s a commercially sanitized tourist trap, full of oddball types who have seemingly found that their calling in life is to dress up in wild-west garb and walk around endlessly for the amusement of others.
However, believe it or not, this was not the cherry on the cake. That honour was taken by a local junior ‘talent’ contest held on mainstreet, which consisted of a troupe of girls aged between 5 and 15 years in various period-piece costumes.
|Prepubescent Can-Can. It’s just not right.|
No-one else except me seemed to be the slightest bit disturbed by the fact that children were not only dressed up like 19th Century harlots — including the exaggerated swagger — but could also not hit a right note if their college fund depended on it.
Things then went from bad to worse when a troupe of eight prepubescents broke into the Cancan – dress lifting and all. I felt like I was at the main entertainment of a pedophile convention – not helped at all when the next act involved three 6 year olds, mics in hand, strutting seductively into the audience and serenading unlucky onlookers.
Of course, I was targeted immediately, much to the amusement of the rest of the group, and felt so dirty that I suspect even a shower and a big scrub brush wouldn’t have left me feeling clean.
|Oh dear. Where’s the scrub-brush?|
Needless to say, Tombstone was a hit.
The next day’s weather forecast was betting on rain, but not until the afternoon. Since this was the final day of the scheduled tour, and everyone had to fly out that afternoon, it seemed that a quick jaunt up Mount Lemon — just northeast of the city — was a sound idea.
Although I was fully aware that on a weekend there’s a resident patrolman that drives up and down the road, enforcing the pitifully low 35mph speed limit on any weekend warriors, throttle control was proving torturous.
I honestly tried to respect this limit as much as possible, but after 30 seconds of gloriously tight sweeping bends my addiction to fun slowly took over and the throttle opened accordingly. The GT was in its element as I flipped it over from one side to the next, scrapping pegs, centre-stand and feet. It was glorious.
Ironically, just as heavy drizzle had set in, I decided that that was enough fun for the day and edged off the throttle just as I turned a corner to see said patrolman coming the other way.
|Helping out with the waterproof pants at the top of a snowy Mt. Lemon.
Photo: DEA Lisa
I grabbed a big handful of brake, held my breath and watched in the rear view mirror to see the familiar U-turn and lights routine.
Thankfully a combination of the rest of the group passing and laughing at my fate, along with my trusty English drivers licence, saw me off with a warning.
At the top I was greeted by a group of bemused comrades over a warm cup of hot chocolate, at a rather splendid lodge at the base of the Mount Lemon ski slopes. At over 9,000 feet the trip up the mountain goes from the sweaty desert below to a chill inducing snow covered forest at the top. I loved it, and all in thirty minutes – forty-five minutes, if you’re law-abiding.
Note – see end of story for details on the Edelweiss Tour.
OLDE WEST TO OLDE ENGLAND (Arizona to California)
|Edelweiss tour leader Dan poses with a saguaro cactus.|
With the Edelweiss group gone, Dan escorted me out of town via the Saguaro National Park – a great little road that twists through a couple of cactus covered hills, before flattening back out for a long trek across the desert courtesy of hwys 85/86.
I think the miles in the saddle were starting to take their toll, combined with my recent police scare, meant that the long straightish road was losing its entertainment value – my arse was also losing its tolerance and I was just getting tired.
The original plan for day’s end was Lake Havasu City – situated on the banks of the Colorado River. Lake Havasu’s claim to fame is its London Bridge – painstakingly dismantled from Jolly-Olde and then rebuilt in the middle of the Arizona desert, by the guy who is credited as establishing the city itself, Robert McCulloch.
British legend (and what I heard when I was growing up) has it that Mr. McCulloch thought that he was buying the altogether more spectacular Tower Bridge, only discovering his error as they started to reassemble the bits in Arizona.
Of course, this story is of great amusement to us Brits, but is probably untrue, unless this guy was a complete idiot and didn’t take a quick gander at his purchase first. However, judging by the tourist Mecca that has grown around this bridge, I would be inclined to believe that he knew what he was doing.
|London Bridge, Guvner.|
Actually, the only person who didn’t know what he was doing was myself. Not only did I know that there was a high probability that Spring Break was still in full swing, and that Havasu Lake City was a Mecca for the young and brainless. I also didn’t think it would be wise to phone ahead and check on motel availability and prices.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Excessive motel quotes and hoards of drunken youth, meant that I was forced to battle fatigue and forsake the chance of a warm pint of English beer, ploughing onwards to the next cheap motel.
Oh well, at least I ended the day in another State — California — and saved an hour by crossing into the Pacific Time Zone to boot.
CALIFORNIA DREAMING (California, duh!)
A short run west of Needles on Interstate 40 gets you to one of the few remaining sections of the famous Route 66 – created in 1926, to connect Chicago to L.A. Unfortunately it’s now been mostly replaced by Interstates, or merely left to turn into rough side roads. Still there’s a magic to the name, although in reality it’s a very, very straight road through a featureless desert, all posted at a unfeasibly measly 55 mph.
Twenty-Nine Palms — it’s a town — served well as a lunch stop, although I couldn’t help but notice that there were considerably more than 29 palms in the town.
Twenty-nine (plus) Palms is also at the entrance to the Joshua Tree National Park. Named by some lost Mormons who thought that the weird trees, with their limbs raised, resembled the prophet Joshua – waving them on to the Promised Land beyond. Which, if said Mormons happened to be motorcyclist, would not be too far from the truth.
The Park not only offers a whole load of Joshua Trees, but a whole load of curvy pavement to boot. Unfortunately it’s posted at 35 mph and peppered with tourists traveling considerably slower.
|Taking a break at Joshua Tree NP. There’s a Joshua tree just to my right … just.|
In fact it was the demon speed that led to the high-point of the day. Just out of JTNP, there’s a road to Mecca — no, not that Mecca — that winds its way down a narrow and shallow, but curvaceous, canyon. The road initially seems to beg for a touch of speed, but is really a series of decreasing radius bends that quickly let you know who’s in charge. I learned quickly and slowed it down in time to round a corner to find a car, spun-out with its arse-end in the ditch.
The Mexican occupants — two guys and two girls — appeared unharmed, although the driver seemed to be suffering from a severe bruising of the ego. As seemed appropriate for the area, the only other guy to stop and help was a fellow Canadian and between us, a jack, some rocks under the rear wheels and a tow, the car was freed from the grasp of its roadside prison.
|Freeing the Mexicans from the ditch (while the gals check out the BMW).|
It was all quite a pleasant experience of teamwork overcoming adversity, two cultures bonding … Canadians being the only ones trusting enough to pull over to help four stranded Mexicans.
Although all the affluence of Palm Springs was wasted in the dark, all I cared about was finding the Promised Land of the local Motel 6, professed to me by my mate Joshua.
I awoke the next day to a sunny Palm Springs, only to realize that it was also the last day of the trip.
Since I had to be at BMW’s California centre before day’s end I decided to keep the route simple and the distances down – opting to backtrack through Palm Springs and hit the surrounding hills.
|Californian roads gain enough altitude for snow. The Gerbing electric vest proved to be an invaluable asset.|
These hills are the southern end of the Coast Mountains – thanks to the high populace of southern California they also abound with well-maintained and gloriously twisty roads. It doesn’t really get any better than this.
Then I came across possibly one of the most bizarre points in the trip — the Rim of the World (ROTW) highway — running along the edge of the hills, overlooking a distinctly yellow looking LA
The bizarre bit was the ROTW when it deviated off the rim and down into the bowl of LA At this point it turns into a four laner, switchbacks and all, carved into the steep sides of the hill. It was also the scariest part of the whole trip.
Imagine – 60 mph, passing a truck on the outside that’s doing 50 mph, in the middle of a switchback. My footpegs were grinding out, the truck’s wheels were squealing and I became painfully aware that at any moment it would either run wide into me or flip over on top of me. Mid-corner with pegs scrapping gives you little choice but to hope that said truck driver knows his — and his vehicles — limitations.
|Back at BMW California headquarters, the trusty GT just became one of many.|
With adrenal gland empty and pick-up trucks duly put in their place I took one last gasp of clean air and became consumed by the chaos and smog of the big smoke.
Thankfully, I just had to cope for a night, dropping off the K1200GT at it’s new hazy home and finding my way to the shelter of the Motel 6, killing time till my triumphant return to Montreal the next day.
Then it hit me – the dream was over. My new way of life had only lasted for 10 days, but I had embraced it and experienced it to the full.
Twelve hours a day with an ever changing and unique landscape is a long time to be alone in a helmet, but this one trip not only put me in touch with myself, but also gave me a previously lost appreciation of just taking time-out. I had not only lived and enjoyed the American Dream; I had rediscovered serenity in the process.
I knew that it would be short lived once I returned to the chaos of CMG, but even five minutes of this is more than most people get in a year.
I’d had 10 days over 4000 miles and it was glorious.
Thanks to BMW for making this slice of Americana possible and to Werner at Edelweiss Tours for the three day Arizona experience.
EDELWEISS TOUR ARIZONA
Although the tour for me proved a bit short – not helped by my late arrival, having spent a week in the area a few years prior I can safely say that they’ve got all the area’s main sights covered.
The tour was run very professionally with care taken to accommodate all riding styles, whilst ensuring that safety was not compromised (unless you like to run off ahead and take yer chances with the law, ehum).
If I’d paid to get there I think I’d take them up on the two-day extension option which would allow for some additional exploration of one of my favorite areas of the US.
Edelweiss lists this as a four day vacation, although actual riding time works out to about two and half days but comes with the possibility to extend your trip by two days (recommended!).
All bikes are BMWs and almost all the North American models to choose from.
Prices vary depending on whether you are willing to share a room and which BMW you’d prefer.
Cheapest option (F650CS/GS, sharing a room, riding two-up) is US$940.00.
Most expensive option (K1200RS/LT/GT, single room, solo riding, with 2-day extension and high season surcharge) is US$2,360.00
Prices do not include taxes, airfare, some meals and gas.
Tours run from October through November and February through April.
Details can be found online at www.edelweissbiketravel.com
Note – Intestates were avoided whenever possible. Daytime mileages could be significantly increased if using Interstates, although you’d be missing out a whole load of nice roads (except for in the southeast).
|Day’s Start (880 miles on ODO @ start)||Day’s End||Odometer||Distance|
|Palm Springs||Los Angeles||4660*||110*|
TOTAL MILEAGE COVERED
|* Approximations, as I forgot to note the exact figures down.|
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