Thursday, March 26, 2015

Riding From Tucson to Scottsdale, AZ

AZ-79 "Pinal Pioneer Parkway" is lined with colorful daisies and lupine.
Left Tucson, AZ yesterday under warm weather and bright blue skies, and am now basking under hotter temperatures here in Scottsdale, along with worsening allergies. That's spring time in the Valley of the Sun.

After spending little over three weeks in Tucson, yesterday felt almost like leaving home. Not that Tucson ever was my home, but that I started to get used to the place.

I was finding some favorite watering holes that I revisited a couple of times, and I started to figure out my way around town. I had ventured out on some rides, and even got to meet some nice people. I suppose it means that I finally got to see The Old Pueblo, and can finally say that I know something about it.

Defining at what point one has visited a town, as opposed to just stopping over, is hard to figure out. I mean, I could ride down the Interstate, and then pull off the road in Tucson to fill up with gas, and then get back on the Interstate. To me, that short of time isn't enough to say that I visited. In fact, it seems like I'd have to stay longer than overnight.

But on the other hand, if it's possible to see some of Tucson's sights, eat at several of its restaurants, meet some of its people, and even get to know the layout of the city, all in one day, then I guess it's not necessary to stay more than a day.

I'm not, however, a busy tourist. I don't make a day-to-day plan of what I'm going to do. For the most part, I try to take care of business first, and then figure out what sounds good. And sometimes, the introvert in me wants to remain solitary, even if I'm just riding the bike, or sitting at the bar nursing a cold one. Either way, I don't like pushing myself to get to know a city better. I need to do it on "my" time.

If anything, the time I spent here in Arizona's second largest city has been rewarding. Getting to know Mike & Chris, a couple who rides Royal Enfields, has spread some new perspectives on me about the way I see life. Just being able to stay in a smaller town, smaller than San Diego that is, feels refreshing too.

It was also fun to meet up with Stephanie Yue again, the gal who rides her 250cc Vespa across the country. Our paths happened to cross once more, and we caught up on our mutual stories of adventure and sight seeing.

I got to try out a few taco shops, a few coffee shops, a handful of craft breweries, and even some good burgers. I got my leather jacket repaired too; the zipper tore, and I found a tailor to sew on a new one.

Meanwhile, the drier air in Southern Arizona, combined with the Spring blooming season, has my allergies at peak flare. I'm gobbling down Zyrtec by the day, and Benadryl by the night, and still it makes things bearable at best. The watering eyes and sniffling nose, I think, is what caused me to abandon my exercise regimen, and now all the beer drinking and Mexican food is catching up to me. I have a few t-shirts that have now become too unflattering.

When we left Tucson yesterday, Stephanie rode with us. She was headed to Phoenix. We took AZ-79 into Florence for lunch, and then along AZ-87 into the Phoenix area. We split off from there. We hope to hook up with her perhaps this weekend before going opposite directions across the USA.

As I type this blog post, Sash is running around trying to cram several appointments and committments into today, tomorrow, and Saturday. She's really focused on building our marketing business while we're in town for AZ Bike Week. I've managed to pick up some work designing PowerPoint presentations for a healthcare company in San Diego, so I'll be busy too.

Me drinking a brew at Barrio Brewing, in the
downtown area of Tucson
Sash posing for a shot inside Tucson Botanical
The Double Donkey Punch burger at Lindy's on 4th,
probably the best burger in Tucson
We visited Mission San Xavier Del Bac, a Jesuit
Mission established in the late 1600's
Me having coffee with Chris and Mike in
Patagonia, AZ
Sash and Chris at gas stop in Sonoita
Chris & Mike invited us to their house for some
killer goulash.
We met Margaret, who restored this little
Hondamatic CB400
Me working at Crave Coffee Bar in TucsonOne of my favorite breweries in Tucson turned
out to be 1055 Brewing.
Sash enjoying tacos and a margarita at Calle Tepa
Mexican Street & Grill and Bar
Stephanie and Sash downing margaritas together
My office set up for the afternoon at Savaya Coffee
One night, we stayed in the hotel all day and night,
and Sash made tacos
Another favorite brewery of mine, Sentinel Peak
, and their Overhaul Chili Beer.
Sash seated at the bar of Tap & Bottle, in
downtown Tucson.
Sash underwent a metamorphosis at Tucson
Botanical Gardens
Our bikes parked in downtown Tucson.
The Tom Mix Monument, where the famous
cowboy actor met his fate.
Sash's helmet with a new Hello Kitty decal
Riding north along AZ-87 between Coolidge
and Sacaton, Stephnie and Sash behind me.
Stopped for lunch at LB Cantina in Florence, AZ
We passed by this older couple going it slow
through the San Tan Valley
We finally made it to Scottsdale in time for
Arizona Bike Week

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Monday, March 16, 2015

In the Desert, You Can't Remember Your Name

Nothing else seems more of an example of contradiction than the desert. Something so empty and featureless is yet so teeming with life. A place so hot and dry, and yet still snows and floods.

I don't know if I've become attracted to the desert just because I've lived in Southern California for so long, or if there's just something about it that I identify with.

The past couple of weeks, Sash and I have managed to mix business with pleasure here in the desert city of Tucson, AZ. At 520,000 people, it's effectively a "large" city, but yet it feels smaller. By contrast, the city of Phoenix to the north, along with its surrounding towns, commands 4 million.

riding a motorcycle on the interstate
Eastbound along Interstate 8, Arizona

But Tucsonians don't seem to see themselves as playing second fiddle. They're not really trying to be influential in the Grand Canyon State. They instead prefer to let the crazies remain up north, while they enjoy their own brand of insanity down here.

Since arriving here, we've had the opportunity to meet Mike & Chris, a couple of Royal Enfield riders. Chris had been following Sash on social media for the past couple of years, and when she heard we were headed to Tucson, she and Sash had arranged to meet at a nearby restaurant.

Later in the week, Chris and her husband invited us to their home for dinner.

The couple live on the west side of Tucson. Tucson is split between west and east by Interstate 10. The west side tends to embrace the desert landscape, with roads that curve and twist, whereas the east side is the older part of town that still embraces the traditional grid pattern of downtown and suburb.

Their home is very much nestled within the desert landscape, almost as if the structure itself was just dropped right in the middle of ocotillo, creosote, saguaro, and palo verde trees. They have an up-close view of the Tucson Mountains and the spectacular sunsets over Gates Pass.

"I just really love the desert", Mike said in his native German accent, as he was showing me his backyard patio and desert garden. "I don't know what it is, but I just feel at home here."

I had to agree with him. But for me, it's more like empathy, and thereby, compassion. There's something solitary about it, lonely yet still teeming with life, deadly yet still sensitive. I feel a fondness for it, which somehow attracts me back to it.

The desert is almost like a child holding on to its emotional scars. It can take a decade or more for sets of tire tracks to completely smooth over. Meanwhile in coastal areas, plains, and lush forested hills, plant life grows so quickly that the ravages of mankind are easily overcome. At the same time, the desert kills dozens of wanderers who come unprepared.

"There is no shortage of water in the desert, only exactly the right amount." wrote Edward Abbey, an author who died here in Tucson. Yet mankind continues to tame it, and change it into something that it's not.

Sash and I still have another week to spend here in "The Old Pueblo". We hope to see Mike & Chris once more, and hopefully meet some other riders too.

Me riding east along Interstate 8, ArizonaSash riding along AZ-83
Saguaro Cactus add the signature visual that
makes Arizona's desert landscape unique.
A tiny plant rises through the delicate, pebble
top soil of Arizona's Sonoran Desert
An indian reservation near Tucson doesn't want
outsiders poking around.
My bike parked in downtown Tucson, along the
4th Avenue shopping district
Chris & Mike, and myself, hanging out over
coffee in Patagonia, AZ
Chris and Sash getting friendly ouside the local
Royal Enfield dealer.

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About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)