~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Weekend Wanderings - Patagonia

I've been itching for a longer ride as the weather has warmed a bit.  This past Sunday I rolled up 340 miles to Patagonia and back, a distance the big ST makes happen with ease.

No, I didn't wander to Patagonia in Argentina this weekend -- it's Patagonia, Arizona, a charming little town in southern Arizona about an hour from Tucson. If you think all of Arizona is rocks, cactus, and rattlesnakes you'd be very wrong. The terrain of the state varies a good bit and Patagonia is in a lovely, rolling hill area at about 4,000 feet. It's not really lush and green there but it's very nice and definitely not the stereotypical idea of what Arizona is like.

I determined that the weather this weekend would be ideal for riding. Sadly, Saturday was lost to getting the 4,000 mile service done on the Honda and my 2005 taxes fettled by the tax accountant. I did manage to squeeze in a visit to a motorcycle dealership (Harley) while I was were up in the big city area. It was demo ride day. No, I wasn't planning on buying a Harley (been there, done that 20 years ago) but far be if from me to turn down an offer of a test ride.  I putted down the road a bit on a new Road Glide and it rode just as I remembered Harley's riding.  Not bad, just not what I want anymore.

So Sunday was the day for a ride and I was up and smoothly motoring down the road at the crack of 8:30 and headed southward towards Patagonia. The first stretch leaving our little town is unavoidable freeway. There are other ways to get there that are more interesting than the superslab but I didn't want to spend all day getting to were the good riding started.

Off of Interstate 10 south of Tucson you can pick up Highway 82. Judging by the number of motorcycles we saw on 82 and later 83, it's a popular road for southern Arizona riders. Mostly I saw H-D's on the road.  Harley riders are said to often pity those of us riding non-Harleys but I can assure you, from the seat of the ST1300, the view was reciprocal. My thought was that for all the Harley posers out there, there's still a whole bunch of H-D folks who get out and ride. Good on 'em as the Aussies say. (Secret confession: I enjoyed the Road Glide although the brakes and shifting were terrible.)

The roads to and from Patagonia are smooth, curvy, and run up and down the rolling hills. The pavement is smooth and well maintained, the sort of road that urges indiscretions with the throttle. There were more motorcycles than cars on them and I don't think I saw a patrol car all day. I didn't ride terribly fast though, it was too nice a day and the scenery too pleasant to miss it all by blitzing the curves.

Patagonia is a great place, I could even get interested in retiring there.  There is a growing art community in Patagonia and some very talented people therein. It would be a great place from an art and motorcycle perspective to spend my golden years while refusing to "go gently into that good night."

Often times artists tend to lean towards the liberal, touchy feely political-social direction. Patagonia seems to be attracting it's share. Picture a an old Volvo with a Kerry For President bumper sticker on the back parked outside an art gallery downtown. In Patagonia though, the other side of the spectrum appears to be proudly represented by the P.I.G.S.:

There's businessman not afraid to stand out in his community. I have to admire the spirit, if not the business plan. I should have checked to see if he was selling T-shirts for his business. I'd have bought one just to offend certain people I know.

I settled down to lunch in Patagonia at Santos Mexican Café. There were snazzier looking places in town like the Velvet Elvis Pizza parlor but Mexican food is a favorite in our little house and we thought I'd take a chance on Santos instead of Elvis:

As it turns out, my choice was well rewarded. The tortilla chips were dull and the salsa a bit too zippy for for my tastes but the burria tacos were excellent, amongst the best Mexican food I've had in Arizona.

Other places of interest around town: Church or nightclub, they've got you covered in the same building:

After visiting the art galleries in Patagonia and talking to exceptionally friendly people I motored off towards the towns of Elgin, Huachuca, and Sierra Vista. More wonderful roads and opportunities for photographs which may or may not get turned into watercolor paintings by the Mrs.

In the little town of Huachuca ("wah-choo-ka") there's a old auto junkyard that appears to be long closed. The place is for sale and to my surprise contained not the usual array of dull '70s and '80s Detroit boredom-boxes but all sorts of ecclectic things from a '41 Chrysler to Nash Metroplitans. Everything about the place says that someone very eccentric was the proprieter and was much better at collecting junk cars than selling them.

Peering through the chain link fence into the vast jumble of rusted fenders, car bodies, baskets of 1930's headlamps, vending machines and more, I spotted a motorcycle.  I wandered over and there wedged in the tangle of junk was the remains of an early '70s Suzuki T500 Titan (500cc 2 cylinder, 2-stroke engine). "Hey!" exclaimed to myself. "A Titan!" I used to own one of those. Bought it new about 1971.

After the junkyard fun I headed towards home, retracing my route on highway 82 rather than jumping onto the freeway north of So. Along the way we took a few more pictures of the bucolic sort, landscape stuff mostly for future art reference but one of some cows relaxing by a windmill and old water tank. I suppose when you're a cow life isn’t too stressful, at least not until you realize too late that you're not going to ever make it to retirement age. Final photo for today: bossy relaxes and gets more tender in the "ja-cow-zi":


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

More On Motorcycle Art

I've always enjoyed art. By that I mean the real stuff like original paintings, drawings, and sculpture done by people with actual talent. I took a lot of art classes in school, enough to know that my future did not lay in commercial art and certainly not in fine art. Sadly, I have little talent for such things which is probably why I enjoy so much looking at art, visiting galleries, and talking to artists. I view the works unencumbered by the notion that somehow I could do better, knowing that genuine creativity as with riding a motorcycle well, is more difficult than it looks.

To me creating a work of art like a painting or drawing seems almost magical; the ability to see and then translate the visual through the mental and back to the visual again via the hands a gift to be treasured and respected. To be able to create motorcycle art must surely be a double pleasure, you get to ride and then re-tell in visible way what you saw and felt or even only imagined.   My participation in art has been pretty much limited to simple admiration and the acquisition of a few interesting posters signed by famous racers. No, none of the posters are biker babe posters or the well-known "Mikuni Calendar."

I do love take pictures with my camera and shoot a great many but I don't consider myself good enough to call myself a photographer. There are too many really fine photographers out there to put myself in their league. Professional quality photography takes more work and knowledge than most people suspect. Great motorcycle racers make going fast look easy, great photographers make shooting great pictures look easy. If it was easy we'd all be Valentino Rossi or Ansel Adams.
I've commented a time or two in the past on the excellent art of Jason Watt. Jason continues to turn out impressive drawings legendary riders new and old and for increasingly high profile clients. A recent work:

original art by Jason Watt
In the past, for the most part motorcycle art seemed to consist of either old racing posters or cheesy, over done paintings of choppers roaring into the sunset. There may have been more or better stuff but the chance to see it was fairly limited. I happened to see Harry Miller's excellent work and one or two others at the Del Mar Concours many years ago and that was pretty much it for nice motorcycle art as far as I could tell. Most of the story of motorcycling has been documented with a camera and words rather immortalized with a paintbrush.

The bikes of today are the best ever, the safety gear the best ever, and the brotherhood of the road as good as ever so it's nice then that in the area of art that motorcycling no longer has to ride pillion in the art world except perhaps in the mind of art snobs. Even those are fewer in number since the Guggenheim Museum with it's "Art of the Motorcycle" exhibition elevated bike design itself to the level of art in the public mind. With the current generation of riders more well fixed financially than ever before, working artists have a more of a reason to create fine motorcycle art. It's truly satisfying to see another area of motorcycling being expanded and brought to a higher level.

So in my web ramblings I've run across many, many artists now doing motorcycle subjects and one I ran across today is Don Greytak. Up in Montana Don has been busy drawing scenes of farm life in a way somewhat reminiscent of Norman Rockwell but in black and white. If you grew up on a farm or spent any real time on a farm you're bound to have some memories stirred by his work.

Often part and parcel with farm life in days gone by were motorcycles. Greytak captures this nicely as part of rual life alone with the tractors, animals, and other more obvious elements. The reason old Indians and Harleys were so often reputed to be found in barns was because motorcycles in days of yore provided a good alternative transportation (and fun) for a farmer or his sons. In fact, my first ride ever on a motorcycle was on my Uncle Harold's farm back about 1962 or '63 on a little Honda 50. Uncle Harold's son Jerry had a Triumph 650 that frightened me with it's sheer size (I got over that).

Don Greytak's drawings (lead image in this entry) are evocative and really capture wonderful slices of motorcycling's past. They truly tell a story and despite the fact that the stories told would pre-date my own era of riding by a good bit, the feelings and moments seen are still occurring, just with different machines and a bit less innocence. It's not hard to look at the people rolling away on their big, '40 or '50s era machines and imagine yourself doing just that. The only difference now is the bike. The smiles and the feeling of adventure are still the same.

If you want to decorate your home or apartment think about dropping some bucks on something nicer than the Castrol race poster you got for free last year at the races or bike show. You'll find that good artwork is a joy to own and brings out those good ride feelings even when it's too cold or wet to ride. Your wife or girlfriend might even be impressed that you are developing artistic tastes beyond "Dogs Playing Poker."

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"When my mood gets too hot and I find myself wandering beyond control I pull out my motor-bike and hurl it top-speed through these unfit roads for hour after hour." - T.E. Lawrence

An Important reminder from the past:
"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." - James Madison