Sunday, June 26, 2011

More Than Tired

Many of the small towns that dot the high plains east of Palm Springs and the deserts of Nevada and Arizona have long since passed their heyday. These lonely roads are lined with dilapidated buildings, most of them boarded up, and create an image that I imagine as being similar to the Dust Bowl of the Dirty 30s. There are shopkeepers with insincere smiles and looks of desperation in their eyes, anxious to make any sale they can, even two bottles of water for thirsty bikers. These are the kinds of communities, if they can still be called that, which we passed through on the secondary roads that we chose to travel today. Of course, there is the mandatory reduced speed through the tiny villages, but this rarely encourages anyone to stop. There is a sense of hopelessness being mixed with the stale, hot desert air hanging over the homes and businesses we pass.
We left Palm Desert at 8:30 AM, the sun already high enough in the sky to have superheated chrome on our freshly washed motorcycles as they waited for another day's adventures. As we headed east towards the Arizona border, we traveled on Interstate 10, taking notice of several virtually unused off-ramps that appeared to empty onto dusty unpaved roads leading nowhere in particular. Turning onto Highway 60, we began to see tired settlements that may have had rich histories, but have no apparent reason for remaining where they are. Places with names like Salome and Wenden.
But as we continued to climb in altitude, we began to breathe easier as the temperature dropped to 34°C (88 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time today. Farms appeared to be utilizing irrigation, and looked like formal green tablecloths in stark comparison to the desolate terrain that surrounded them. There seem to be two types of towns here. The small ones, haphazardly hanging on to some reason to exist, and the medium-sized and larger ones that, despite numerous signs of economic hardship, seem to be making a go of it. But my perspective for the day was about to be shaken on a couple of fronts.
Jim knew of an excellent motorcycle road, Highway 89A, which went up from the Prescott Valley, across Mingus Mountain to Sedona, the upscale artsy Mecca of Arizona. We took what some say is the best motorcycle road in Arizona with eagerness, having spent much of the last several days in the desert landscapes with little in the way of exhilarating motorcycle riding. One of my favorite rides ever, with many, many corners ranging from 10 mph to 35 mph (89A has 158 curves in the space of 12 miles). Surprisingly, there was very little traffic and superb road surface conditions, which allowed the two of us to push our bikes just a little harder than normal (foot pegs may show a little more wear). We were ecstatic.
But Jim had not prepared me for the town of Jerome, found partway along Highway 89A. Once a bustling copper mining city with a population of 15,000 people, the community had been built on site, "a mile high" up Mingus Mountain, with stunning views. But it shrank to less than 50 people in the 1950s after the copper ran out. Somehow in the 1970s, by utilizing the town’s unique location, Jerome's town council rejuvenated the dying community, turning it into a thriving destination vacation and day trip center that today was filled with visitors climbing up and down the steep streets to explore the heritage buildings and shops. Just seeing it flourish was encouraging after the bleak pictures of the small suffering desert towns we had passed through.
Napping on  Prescott AZ Square During Pioneer Days Celebration 
Arriving in Flagstaff, Arizona, at about 5 PM, we were exhausted. Too little sleep last night, too much heat today, the demanding Mingus Mountain ride, and making more miles than we were used to (620 km or 400) all probably contributed to the fatigue we felt. For me, as someone with Parkinson's disease, fatigue is always a factor on these trips, requiring naps whenever I can get them. When I get tired I lose not only some physical control over the tremor caused by the disease, but can also lose some of my perspective, and sometimes, momentarily, even hope. Just being tired can have devastating consequences. But tonight I am encouraged by hand thankful for places like Jerome, which used its unique location, circumstances and history to come back from the brink of giving up. It is a strategy I will consider implementing in the constant battle with my PD.

1 comment:

  1. I'm enjoying reading your posts about the trip. Enjoy the rest of the adventure!