Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Left turn to nowhere.

Arising at 4:30 AM I was mired in odd jobs I had to accomplish before I would actually get out the door. The front wheel needed truing on my dapple(my 17 year old mountain bike). I needed lots of water/drink. I also needed to get a doughnut for breakfast. All told I was out the door and on the road at about 20 after 5. Since I am riding my new dirt road permanent in a few weeks (Dirty Mogollon Mormon Madness, it is 200k of backroad fun in Northern Arizona) I have been looking for dirt road routes to ride in the meantime for training. Today I would be looking to make a loop of Queen Valley to Ajax Mine Road to Hewlitt Station road. Not all was as expected though. I headed out to the highway from the start of Hewlitt Station road with my trusty GPS logging away. Soon I was out to US60 and riding along until I would take a right out into the desert to head over to Ajax mine road. One of the construction workers inquired what I was doing on their brand new road and told me there were big trucks up ahead but when I told him I was turning soon he was cool about it.

The road heading south had a warning on it saying their would be artillery fire in this area ending today. Hmmm, that's a little unsettling, yet still I pressed on. The road was a little bumpier than I expected (especially seeing as I was using slicks on the tires since I am training for a long ride on dirt roads and not harder stuff). I kept climbing up into the foothills, up and up. After awhile of climbing through the desert and passing a few turns to the west I figured I had to be getting close. I didn't know for sure as I had forgotten to download the route into my GPS. After climbing up into a few hills I found a road I thought would take me up to Ajax mine and then into Superior.

The road quickly descended into the river bed and worked it's way up the canyon. Occasionally a bird would fly away frightened but other than that it was dead silent. On I pressed, up the non-descript desert wash pedalling through sand, gravel, and rocks. Just when I thought the road would never leave the wash I saw a road turn off to the right and climb out of the wash. Tire tracks continued up the wash but in my desperation to get out of the wash I turned right and climbed up the road and into the ghost town of Reymert. I saw the remains of what I now know to be an old processing kiln up ahead. Small roads headed off in all directions but the main one headed off to the right. I had not gone more than 30 feet when a dog started barking and I noticed an old beat up blue pickup ahead with it's hood up. Could it be a ghost? A loony desert dweller? A smuggler? Judging by the honda generator next to the truck I eliminated the ghost. When a rather oldish and weatherbeaten lady came out and called the dog off. I asked her about the way to Superior and she made a comment about nothing in here leading out of the valley and the BLM closing all the roads down.

I thought perhaps of all these roads leading up around the hills one must at least go somehwere. The first one I tried went up to a mine. The second one ended around the corner of the hill. Another leading straight up the hill had small paths branching out off of it which all came back around to the same path. At the top I found a road cut through the side of the hill and knew that this had to be it but it dead ended a hundred yards away. I have no idea why anyone would cut a road through solid rock and then end it. Anyway, I had just blown 40 minutes wandering around what I now know to be the remains of the mining town of Reymert, which had about 75 people living in it in the 1890's, and was bulldozed in the 1970's. I dropped back down into the creek.

At this point I knew I wouldn' have enough time to get up to Superior even if this was the right road. Heading up the creek further I slowly reached the conclusion that I shouldn't have used slicks for this little expedition today. I also decided that if this was the right road I would likely not ride this again as this sand was a major pain in the kiester to pedal through. I finally turned around when it was pretty clear this road would not leave the wash until it hit the end of the canyon and I barely would have time to get back if I did turn around now.

Descending the canyon hammered my hands pretty hard even despite my new ergo grips. I have to admit sometimes I wish I had suspension on the front. I had climbed a bit more than I thought as I emerged from the canyon and headed down the main road to US60. By the time I got back to the car I had 22 miles logged and I was back into civilisation 25 minutes later. What ghosts await me on my next ride to call me into the middle of nowhere?

My ride may have been a bust but if you have to wander into the middle of nowhere, wandering into a ghost town is pretty cool you have to admit. What did the people that live there do? It is hard to believe that all that barren rock and roads had tents and buildings all over it and even a post office. Then one day they all left and the only thing left of all their thoughts, hopes, and dreams was a burnt out old building and a mine shaft up the hill in the middle of nowhere, sitting forlorn through the years and waiting for people who don't want to be found, and the lost souls of misguided randonneurs wandering in the desert.

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