Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Further west than I'd imagined

Silver City, N. Mex. was already further west than I'd planned to venture on this ride, but Jerry from Vancouver, B.C. had warned me not to get to the snowbound mountain passes of Colorado any sooner than necessary. That's what brought me to Silver City, but what got me out of town was nice people and a lot of good luck.

On Sunday morning, after Jay Hemhill had brought me a bicycle brake cable to jury rig my clutch, I secured the new wire a little better with a wire rope clamp I found at Walmart.

Not what the engineers at Kawasaki had in mind, but it worked.

After a couple of hours on Google and my phone, it was clear that I wasn't likely to find a replacement KLR clutch cable before Tuesday at the earliest if I stayed in Silver City, but there was a Kawasaki shop in Tucson, Ariz. -- about 175 miles to the west -- that was open on Sunday! I figured with an early start I might get there around noon.

I couldn't untie all the knots I put in the end of the cable and I was worried with the extra kinks under the clamp it might break, so on my way out of town I stopped at Jay's bike shop, which also kept Sunday hours, and picked up another bicycle brake cable just in case.

They call it Silver City, but just outside of town there's a big copper mine.

After a pleasant start on a two-lane road through rolling hills and past a large copper mine, my path to Tucson was mostly I-10. The wind had died down further and I made good time. At a truck stop, I had a bite to eat and called the Tucson Kawasaki dealer.

"We don't have one in stock. The earliest I could get one in for you would be Thursday or Friday," the parts department guy said. A five day wait for a part that eventually wears out and breaks on every KLR they've ever sold between 1987 and 2010.

There was no point in turning around. Tucson had far more dealers -- one of which might have what I needed. So, I kept going.

Stopping at Saguaro National Park to the southeast of the city, I discovered all their campsites were "primitive" -- so primitive that campers had to backpack to them. No wi-fi, no food, no electricity, but they did have a nice map showing other places to camp in the area.

I called Catalina State Park, about 14 miles north of downtown Tucson. Yes, they had plenty of sites, electricity and showers. There was no wi-fi, but they had good cell phone service and restaurants -- even a Walmart -- right across the street from the entrance.

A pair of 15-foot saguaros greet visitors to Catalina State Park.

I pitched the tent. It was much warmer here in the valley than what I'd gotten used to in the high desert and mountains, and there ws no shade to speak of, but there was a pleasant breeze.

Not much shade in Catalina State Park, but a very nice facility nonetheless.

That afternoon, I took a ride into downtown Tucson. Despite its vast suburban sprawl, it's a small town, with a few relics of its Mexican heritage, a few museums and a government center. The old cemetery on the main north-south road had huge, beautiful shade trees. The living get scortched, but the dead stay cool in the shade.

At dusk, the mountains above the campground glowed in the sunset.

After dinner at a nearby Chilis, I booted up my Blackberry mobile broadband connection with the phone tethered to my laptop. Just as the connection came up, Mary came online from Honolulu and we had a long video chat on Skype while the twilight faded into darkness. I got out a little flashlight so she could see me.

Before I left home, Mary said I should stop and see her cousin Lana Hock in Phoenix if I got out that far. I'd forgotten about it, figuring there was no way I'd get that far west -- but there I was in Tucson, 125 miles away. And I needed an address for a new clutch cable to be sent. Mary agreed to contact Lana and see if she'd be up for a visit.

Morning in the campground was equally beautiful.

So, I was up early Monday morning and got in touch with Lana, who was willing to have me ship the brake cable and even stay for a few days. Armed with her home address, I got on the phone to Motorcycle Superstore and they agreed to have a cable there by Wednesday.

Jim Hansen, president of South Dakota's Black Hills BMW Riders, stopped by for a chat as I was packing up for Phoenix.

The phone ran. "Hi, this is Mike," a voice said. "I have an old KLR at home and I'll drive it into the shop this morning and we can take the clutch cable off it and get you on your way."

"That's great. Where are you Mike?"

"Silver City."

I told him I was in Tucson already. I'd called the "we fix all brands" motorcycle shop Saturday evening and left a message just in case somebody came in on their day off and got it -- the yellow-pages listing said they were close Sunday and Monday. Mike came in on his day off.

Like I say, there are plenty of nice people in Silver City.

As I was packing, Jim Hansen from Rapid City, S. Dak. coasted into the campsite on a bicycle to check out the KLR. Jim is a pathologist and a BMW adventure and touring bike rider with lots of experience, including trips to Alaska. We swapped stories and he admired my cobbled-up clutch repair and invited me to give him a call if I ever made the trip to Sturgis. "I avoid that place, actually," he said. "500,000 people and at least half that many motorcycles."

We discovered we'd both read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, loved the first half and struggled to finish it.

Beautiful Arizona scenery, left, enormous, ugly copper mine, right.

I avoided the freeway to Phoenix and headed up into the hills instead, looping around through Winkelman, Kelvin and Superior on AZ 177, which threads it's way between the Mescal and Tortilla Mountains. Near Superior, I found the Ray Mine, an excavation so big that it eventually ate up the old Mexican mining town of Sonora. The mine company tore Sonora down and built a new town at Kelvin to house the miners.

Photographs don't show the gigantic scale of the Ray Mine.

These huge Terex Titan trucks are dwarfed by the mine's size.

The tiny specks in the center of this photo are the trucks pictured above.

"If you stay here, I have to be in the blog," Lana told me. She's a financial planner based in Scottsdale, where she has a spectacular condo near the center of town. She also has a Suzuki Boulevard S83, a 1,400cc V-twin cruiser, with only 100 miles on it.

Lana Hock and her sleek Suzuki.

I took the opportunity of being at Lana's for a few days to get to work on the monthly newsletter I put together for a Hawaii nonprofit, but Tuesday afternoon we saddled up to see a few sights and put a few more miles on Lana's bike. We rode over to Camelback Mountain, Scottsdale's scenic landmark, where she snapped my picture on her cell phone.

Flanman on Camelback.

Wednesday evening, Mary Skyped me. "Are you going to California?"

I said I didn't know. I'd been working on the newsletter and web site for two days straight and my mind hadn't had space to weigh the options. Being only a few hundred miles away, going to the Golden State was a real temptation, though.

Doing a transcontinental ride wasn't the original plan. It was: Ride south, stay off the Interstate as much aspossible, meet Jim and Angie in Austin, circle around through western Colorado, meet Mary in Nebraska for her family reunion by Memorial Day weekend and see some National Parks along the way.

But I'm much further west than I'd planned.

1 comment:

  1. Oh! You should have stuck your toes in the Atlantic before you set out so you could truly say you traveled coast to coast. Stick your toes in the Pacific anyway, just because you can. :^)