Most of my rides for the last couple of years have been short ones, 60 - 100 miles, once in a great while I'll do 200 miles, but the 500 - 900 mile days of my youth seem to be well behind me. I did do 430 miles on the Gold Wing a few years ago but the Kaw 900 is no Gold Wing.
So Friday I set off to ride 200 miles and see how I felt, thinking that in the next week or two I might head over to eastern AZ and make a multi-day ride of Highway 191, a 550 miles loop east from the vast 40on2 estate. If Tennessee has "The Tail of Dragon" then Arizona must have the rest of the beast in Highway 191. Ninety or so miles of smooth, lightly patrolled road through the middle of no where with around 900 curves pretty much says it all. There's even a road sign warning motorists that the road isn't patrolled on weekends.
With no particular destination in mind at the moment, I set off from the house for a day ride with the new Sony NEX-3 camera in the saddle bag. Testing me a little and the camera a little was the basic plan. 200 miles should do it.
A stop in downtown Florence to play with the panorama mode of the Sony garnered the lead photo above but also showed once again that the Sony's panorama mode is flawed as it randomly chops off the right end of the scene for no apparent reason. See below. Panorama mode is a neat feature if it works right, most often it doesn't.
Very sad. I'm losing faith in the Sony.
Thirty or so miles out the first decision needed to be made: Turn north towards US60 and Globe, AZ or south towards Tucson? I knew the old copper mining town of Globe held some good photo prospects so I turned north.
Some miles down the road I got to thinking about the familiar road ahead between me and Globe; the freeway section and the traffic did not beckon me. I decided to turn around and explore my way down Highway 79 (also known as The Pioneer Parkway) which is the old back road between Phoenix and Tucson and less traveled than US 60. I'd wasted time but the miles still counted.
South of Florence I opted to turn east on Pisano Road and ride out to St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery.
Why the good monks decided to build in the Arizona desert is anybody's guess but there they are, an oasis in the desert with a bright white, Greek style chapel topped by a stunning blue domed roof. Elsewhere on the site a Mediterranean bell tower that stands above another chapel. The road in to the monastery is lined with pine trees and the occasional cactus. Arizona has lots of pine tress but not in this part of the State. Maybe lining the road with pine trees is a Greek thing? Usually in Arizona you find the small roads lined with little white crosses, remembrances of Saturday nights gone wrong.
I snapped a couple of photos but didn't take the time to tour the monastery grounds, something you can do for free if you can behave yourself. Women must be dressed modestly and men must wear long sleeve shirts. I wonder, would wanton women, dressed immodestly, and men wearing rakish short sleeve shirts, be beaten with sticks and made to leave the holy ground? That's probably some other religion's gig.
The monks have built a charming and peaceful looking place and while I don't subscribe to their version of Christianity I appreciate their devotion and the grounds that they have created and to which they welcome others, believers or not.
Further south towards Tucson I turned and headed northward on Highway 77 knowing that it would take me the long back route to Globe. As I started along I decided to detour through the town of Oracle and see what I might see there. I followed a couple of signs towards a large state park only to find myself trapped on a narrow, two lane road, behind two smokey school buses that stopped every 100 yards. Very unsatisfying. So rather and eat diesel fumes for some unknown distance I did u-turn and headed southward again. Oracle wasn't a worthwhile detour but the miles counted.
South of Oracle is the 20th Century's monument to eco-ego, Biosphere II. This grand experiment dating back a decade or more, and originally financed by various grants from institutions, was designed to create a "self-sustaining space-colonization technology."
Apparently someone with more money than good sense got caught up in the notions of the old Bruce Dern SciFi movie "Silent Running." Never the less, several scientists in spiffy jumpsuits locked themselves inside Biosphere II hoping to simulate a long range space mission. Had they actually been in space they'd have been pushing up cosmic daisies in fairly short order. Turned out that replicating earth's ecosystem is something on an order of complexity maybe only the aforementioned monks would really grasp.
|Biosphere II substation|
It was getting late in the day so the I looped back to the Pioneer Parkway, seeing no pioneers at all nor feeling like one myself, and headed home. One last interesting side road showing fresh pavement beckoned me to take one last detour so I took a chance. It led to a landfill. Sigh. Moving along...
A quick stop in the woebegone farming town of Coolidge yielded this photo of the peeling paint facade of the former "Popular Department Store." Goodness only knows why it was ever painted with a garish color pattern some 20 years ago, maybe they got a grant from the same folks that the Biosphere people did.
I arrive home utterly beat. 204 miles on the trip meter. I hadn't actually ridden much of anywhere or done much of anything. I don't know why I was so exhausted, the weather was perfect, shirt sleeves all day, and the bike ran well. Usually it's more fun to wander about. Maybe I should have hung out with the monks for a while and called it good? At least they didn't want $20 up front to see their digs. I guess I need to ride someplace further away soon, ride to someplace worth the effort of getting there. Whether I really can do so on the stiff suspenders of the Kawasaki is something of which I'm not sure.