It’s 142 miles from Silver City to the Mexico border, or about two and a half hours riding. We left in the cold, about 48 degrees F with all of our warmest riding gear on. I felt like a wimp on my cushy new BMW when I flipped on the heated seat… geesh. Soft or what?Continue reading
We had one more day in Bisbee and decided to spend it going for a ride and hike. We heard about the Chiricahua National Monument, “A wonderland of Rocks.” According to the National Parks Service website. After a night at the Grand Saloon going for a hike seemed like a good idea. We started the day having coffee with Destiny, a motorcycle friend, who recently moved to Bisbee from the Seattle area. It was fun to take time to hang out and hear her take on living in Bisbee.
On our way back to the hotel Destiny suggested we try the breakfast burritos at a small restaurant on our way. We had noticed the place but it was only open Thursday – Sunday. The burrito was great and good fuel for the day.
The 73 mile ride to the National Monument was pretty but uneventful. Like a lot of the riding in the area there were long stretches of two lane road with little traffic. With no reason to go slow we made it there in record time.
We had a short briefing by the park ranger and headed out with our packs on a 4 mile loop.
The trail wound through a huge section of rock formations called hoodoos.
It’s tricky riding with all our gear and then having to change into hiking attire. We’re trying out leaving everything with the bikes and covering the bikes with our lightweight covers so nobody can see what is there. Not sure how that will work in Mexico but it seemed to work ok in Arizona.
It was awesome walking around and through the rock formations.
We hiked through an awesome slot canyon.
What’s this? Rocks on the trail?
I’m not very good at selfies…
According to my Gaia app, we hiked an astounding 3.6 miles in 2 and a half hours and gained 520 feet in elevation. It was a nice day and easy walk.
We decided to take the long way home to check out a place a couple of people recommended, Rattlesnake Ranch in Dragoon, AZ. The following is in Roadside America:
This appears to be someone’s home rather than an official attraction. Metal statues of dinosaurs line the driveway (arrived 2019). Outdoor displays of helmets and meat grinders. Be careful where you walk; remember what this place is named.
Yes it is someone’s home. There is a huge welcome sign by the gate so we rode in and parked near the house. A couple of big dogs barked a threatening greeting as we dismounted the bikes. Soon an older gentleman came out to call off the dogs and looked at us warily. He seemed nice enough after talking for a bit but I was cautious after noticing all the “Premises Protected by Smith and Wesson” signs.
We noticed the metal sculptures along the driveway and asked about them. He looked at us for a minute before continuing that he purchased them for his wife who he “lost to Alzheimer’s recently and had to put her in a home.” Amazing. A truly humble double wide in the middle of nowhere down a long dirt road and he acquired this huge collection of metal art for his wife.
It was a nice stop, not a typical tourist trap but interesting. The sculptures were very well done and fun to check out.
As we rode back to Bisbee the breakfast burritos were long since digested and we were wondering we would find any food. The Mexican restaurant was closed, the place with breakfast burritos was only open for breakfast, the pizza place never did open as far as we could tell. Hungry, we walked from the hotel once again towards the downtown section. We heard there was a dive bar that had one item, bratwurst. Hmm, we both did grow up in Wisconsin so that might work but Deby wasn’t too convinced.
We walked pas the scene of the crime the previous night, the Grand Saloon. I seemed to remember they had a kitchen but didn’t see anyone eating. I saw this sign in the window.
Then this next one….
Huh? We looked in and saw a table with what looked like the same crowd from the night before. Getting ready to make crafts? It seemed weird but normal in a Bisbee sort of way. We kept walking. Finally we came to Bisbee’s Table, online it says “comfort food and old school character.” Ok, burgers, we could do that. Yes, we could get a table if we could wait 45 minutes. Whatever, we waited for about 20 minutes and the squeezed us in for a rather decent meal. We splurged for some nice wine to really live it up.
We overheard the couple in the table next to us say they were from Wisconsin, geesh, they’re everywhere! We didn’t say anything but on the way out we ran into them outside the restaurant and struck up a conversation. It turns out we both graduated from Milwaukee School of Engineering although he graduated some years earlier. We laughed about engineering and Milwaukee when he suddenly looked very serious and said, “It’s our 55th wedding anniversary and we need to get to the hotel!” The grin on his face told us what I didn’t want to suspect. Cheeseheads!
Ok, just one more stop before Mexico!
Friday morning we had another breakfast at the Bisbee Breakfast Club before detouring north to Silver City, New Mexico. Our memories of quirky Bisbee would be with us for awhile. Our tourist visas and motorcycle import permits wouldn’t valid until Monday so we needed to kill a few more days. We wanted to stop and visit a gallery in Silver City run by some friends of friends, Anamalia Gallery. We had been collecting some the art from the proprietors, Todd and Karen and wanted to pick up a couple more things to ship home. We had a great visit and it was nice to finally meet them in person.
We spent the weekend hanging out and took a day to ride up to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. The dwellings were cool but the road to get there was awesome. According to the NPS website:
You need time to drive to the Monument. The 44-mile trip from Silver City will take at least 1-1/2 hours and up to 2 hours due to the mountainous and winding nature of the road.
Perfect, we left early and had almost no traffic and made it there in an hour! The road twisted and turned with elevations between 6,000 and 7,000 feet and spectacular views.
Not the type of environment we expected in New Mexico.
I had never visited any of the cliff dwellings in the US before, it was pretty cool.
The approved trail took us inside some of the dwellings.
Soon we were heading back to Silver City making good time on the mountain road. Deby and I both had to remember to keep out toes lifted up on the pegs to keep them from scraping on the blacktop.
On June 8, 2013, approximately 2,500 volunteers from across the United States gathered on the National Mall to lay out 1,018,260 handcrafted bones as a visible petition against on-going genocide and mass atrocities. The installation of the bones was the highlight of a three-day event that included speakers from across the anti-genocide movement, a candlelight vigil, educational activities and an advocacy day.
The project is continuing on the property of the lodge. The bones were shipped to the property in boxes and now people are encouraged to take a bone and hike up a hill to place them in patterns in a designated open area.
We grabbed a couple of bones and started the hike up the hillside.
The path was lined with bones and was a sobering reminder of the project. We passed a couple walking a dog and it occurred to me that a dog might get rather excited being around so many bones. Nope, the owners told us that with just one sniff the dog knew they were ceramic and lost all interest. Probably a good thing.
At the top of the hill there was a HUGE area full of bone patterns. A million bones is really a lot. We made our small contribution of three bones by arranging them under a tree on a rock. Simple.
That’s it. We spent the next few days hiking and exploring a place called “The big ditch.” Hopefully the next post will be from Mexico! If they let us in….
Thanks for following,
Donn and Deby
Ahhh Bisbee. I hardly know where to start or what to say about the place but I’ll give it a try. It is a truly unique place on this earth and I’m glad we got to spend a few days exploring and getting to know it. But first… let’s catch up on the trip there.
We left the Palm Springs area relatively early Monday morning for the long trek to Tucson, AZ. There was no easy way to transverse the 379 miles of mostly empty desert so we programmed Google maps for the fastest route and were soon cruising at 80 mph down Interstate 10. It was hot, long straight and boring. For the first time I got to try out the cruise control on the new BMW. Wow, never rode a bike with one before and it took some getting used to. Our reward for the day was an overnight at the JW Marriot Starr Pass Resort in the hills just east of town.
Usually that place would be above my price range but I checked my Marriot rewards points and I had enough for a free night, oh yea. We’ve stayed there a few times before and it’s always a nice treat after a hard day of riding.
Our favorite seat was available next to the fireplace. We didn’t move for the evening while the wait staff brought us drinks and food. We soon forgot the long days ride.
After the sun set we decided to go for a walkabout. The hotel has a small convention space and that evening they were hosting an event for the dealers of Doosan heavy construction equipment. Deby and I crashed their outdoor banquet and took a few pictures with the big machines. I suppose with the US ramping up infrastructure building this type of equipment will be in big demand.
Deby really wanted one of these for moving rocks at home!
It was funny that nobody really seemed to care that we were there, then again, we didn’t try to snag any food or drinks. We joked about making lanyards out of our plastic encased vaccination cards so we fit in better.
Tuesday morning the BMW motorcycle dealer in Tucson opened at 9:00 and we were there at 9:30 to have them take a look at the oil leak on Deby’s bike. We walked into Iron Horse BMW with no appointment and talked to the service manager. He came right out and looked at the bike and saw oil over the top of the engine. Within 5 minutes they had Deby’s bike on the lift.
This is one really nice thing about riding BMW motorcycles, their dealerships give special priority to travelers and go out of their way to accommodate them. I never had the same luck with Honda, Yamaha or KTM dealers. I will say Harley dealers give their riders the same priority service. Nice.
The prognoses was good. It seems like oil found it’s way into the air box that sits above the engine. Somehow all at once it drained from a vent in the bottom of the airbox onto the top of the engine. Maybe heat? Hard riding? Both? How did the oil get into the airbox? There can be a number of reasons for that, none very serious. The “fix” was to clean out the airbox, replace the air filter and wipe the oil from the top of the engine. We were on our way towards Bisbee by noon with smiles on our faces. Big thanks to everyone at Iron Horse BMW!
As is my custom from time to time I programmed Google Maps to “avoid highways” on our way to Bisbee. This is dangerous because Google maps is not always that smart and sometimes routes us on non-existent roads. We had time and took a chance. After an hour of great riding on twisty and hilly back roads we came to a locked gate. Mr. Google said we could pass through, the security warnings for the Fort Huachuca said otherwise. It was an unmanned military post and we could gain access by holding our military IDs up to a camera. Hmmm, would my laminated vaccination card work? I didn’t try, so we backtracked about 50 miles to the main highway to Bisbee.
It was mid afternoon when we arrived at the Jonquil hotel on the main drag of Bisbee within an easy walk to downtown.
The owners are a couple that are “friends of friends” Sterling and Eva. We parked right in front next to Eva’s BMW F850GS. So in a row we had BMWs F750, F850 and my 1250, all close to the same color scheme. Before we left another guest arrived on a grey and black F650. It seemed like a BMW motorcycle dealership. The hotel has a “telepoem booth” near the office.
You dial a number and get to listen to a poem on an old-fashioned telephone. Maybe the younger generation wouldn’t know what to do with the dial thing…
I managed a nice picture with the sunset capturing the mural on the side of the hotel and the neon sign. Hmmm, not bad for an iPhone.
We had a brief few minutes to chat with Sterling and Eva. Sterling is a filmmaker well known in the adventure motorcycle world. He lived in Seattle before moving to Bisbee. I highly recommend spending time viewing his videos ,you can learn more here: https://www.norenfilms.com/
Before dark Deby and I set out on foot to explore this quirky town. Bisbee is wedged in the crook of a mountainous area almost like debris that fell from a different era. There is no flat area and the houses climb up each side of the main street hanging on to steep hills connected by a myriad of stairways. Closer to downtown the stairways are decorated with local art.
It soon became clear that either most of the restaurants didn’t survive the pandemic or were working on reduced hours. We found a Mexican restaurant near the hotel that was open with a 45 minute wait. Could we wait in the bar? No. We would have to wait outside in the now cool evening. We walked some more in the dark and circled around a nearby church where there was more art on display.
So, you would think that being only a few miles from the Mexican border there would be good Mexican food. Well, not the case at this place. Nobody working there even seemed Mexican. It was starting to sink in what a really quirky place Bisbee was. I mean, not even a taco truck nearby? According to the menu the specialty of the house was stuffed potatoes. Deby wisely deferred but since I never saw a stuffed potato in Mexico I thought I would try something new.
The presentation was authentic Bisbee, foil shaped like a bird of some sort. Hmmm. It was stuffed with chorizo that was not really very impressive. That was Tuesday night, the rest of the week the restaurant was closed. Not sure what was up with that. Next door was a pizza place that we were told to try…. it wasn’t open all week either.
The hotel had a list of things to do in Bisbee and on the list was a mine tour. I went online and made reservations for Wednesday afternoon. Deby didn’t really want to go as she thought it would be too touristy. Me, I’m a big sucker for all of that stuff. I would have gone on the golf cart tour of the city but Deby drew the line there.
Our usual morning routine is to drink coffee first thing while reading the paper and then go for a walk before breakfast. The Jonquil had an instant hot water maker and they supplied with Starbucks Via instant coffee. No problem because we actually like Via’s and it was good prep for all the instant coffee we would be drinking in Mexico.
I assumed our morning walk would take us by somewhere that served food… not. We walked the town end to end and couldn’t find anywhere that served breakfast. Interesting. Bisbee is basically a tourist town with a lot of locals who are artists. There are art galleries in every other shop and what seemed like a lot of hotel choices. We learned that the community is in an uproar about all the Airbnb’s in the town so there must be some demand for beds. I get the impression (just me) that Bisbee wants tourists to support the galleries but then go stay somewhere else. An odd vibe for sure.
We learned about a place called the Bisbee Breakfast Club just outside of town in Lowell. Ok, Lowell is technically a ghost town as told in this entry in Atlas Obscura. Click HERE to read the very interesting story.
VISITING ERIE STREET IS LIKE WALKING into a 1950s post-apocalyptic landscape. From all that is immediately apparent, it could have been abandoned in a hurry and forgotten for half a century. Rusting cars, trucks, and an old Greyhound bus sit deserted along the street as if their passengers had suddenly vanished (or worse).
It was too far to walk so we rode a couple of miles and had a pretty good breakfast. Back at the hotel I caught up on my last blog post before walking to the Queen Mine tour.
You can’t miss the ginormous open pit copper mine that bumps right up to the edge of downtown Bisbee. Technically it name is the Lavender Pit but the locals somewhat affectionally just call it “The Pit.” As far as open pit copper mining goes, this is small but it’s still impressive. There is a sign coming into town for a “Scenic Overlook” with a viewing area for the pit. I suppose the meaning of “scenic” is in the mind of the beholder but it’s an impressive place to stop.
Before open pit mining was viable they mined copper in tunnels, that is what we were going to explore. The 2:00 tour was sold out like most of the tours for the day but with reservations in hand we were soon suited up in protective gear and ready to get into the mine.
We loaded up on a 100 year old electric trolley that was used to take miners down in the day. We had a super interesting tour guide that had worked for mine company all his career. He really knew his stuff.
We’ve been on mine tours before but this one seemed better than most, maybe it was our guide or the awesome fact that it was a copper mine. We made the obligatory stop where they explain the modern drilling machines that eventually replaced using sledge hammers and iron rods.
Soon we were back on the surface and I had to wait around while Deby searched around the back of the giftshop building for any interesting rocks that were in the tailing pile. Sure enough as we walked back she showed me some treasures she found and shoved in her pockets.
We made the long trek back to the hotel looking for open restaurants, and didn’t see much. Close to the hotel was a Vietnamese Noodle place that was open so we ducked in for some Pho. It was good and filling, that would be our last meal for the day before a very eventful evening.
It was starting to get dark when we left the Jonquil for our evening walkabout. We wandered for awhile when we came across a Bisbee landmark, The Grand Hotel. We read somewhere that is was worthwhile to stop in and have a beer so we wandered in only half paying attention to a younger crowd milling around the door smoking some high octane stuff recently made legal (I think).
(Ok… time out….. as you may have noticed I like to include links for places we’ve been. Just now as I’m writing this clicked on the link for the hotel. You have to check it out… true Bisbee. https://www.bisbeegrandhotel.com/ hey, I’m just the messenger).
We ordered a couple of local IPAs and found a seat along a short bar that faces a stage. There was band equipment setup and a guy who looked like he might be with the band looking at a clipboard. I went over to ask when the band was supposed to start. He said they were supposed to start at 6:00 but it was now 6:30 and nobody was around. He asked if I was there to jam. What? A jam? Really? Umm, sure I said. Just then the crowd that had been imbibing outside the door came in and asked what I played… ummm, bass. Ok, your on! I glanced at Deby and before I knew it I was up on stage strapping on a very old and neglected Fender bass.
So… some of you might not know I’ve played professionally for years and semi-professionally for decades and know my way around the instrument but I really didn’t know what to expect. I played a whole set while different guitar players, harmonica players and a vocalist alternated between playing on stage and going outside for a smoke. It was a very eclectic set of music that tended towards being a Jerry Garcia stream of coconscious drifting jam. Clearly I was at a disadvantage having not joined the outside crowd, silly me. I thought I would be important for everyone to play following the same chord progressions or have in tune instruments. But, I was having a total blast. This was the Bisbee music scene at it’s finest. Towards the end of the set the outside door next to the stage opened and a woman walked in followed by a billow of smoke. They immediately invited her onstage and asked here to sing a song that I didn’t hear the name of. The guitar player turned to me and simply said “Pink Floyd.” He started playing “Us and Them” without calling out any key or chords but since I was familiar with the song jumped in with no problem. After a few measures the song morphed into “The Great Gig in the Sky.” What?? The girl did a respectable job on the vocals. I couldn’t believe I was part of the Pink Floyd stoner jam band at the Grand Saloon. Deby managed to take a rather blurry photographic proof. Quite appropriate.
Too soon the set came to an end and the other musicians bee lined it out the door for a smoke while I went back to Deby and my warm beer that was only down by one sip. We stayed the rest of the night and watched a stream of locals come and go on the stage. The Pink Floyd girl went up with an acoustic guitar and did a pretty respective version of “The Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin.
This morning I came across this meme that seemed to sum it up nicely.
I suppose I should wrap up this post, but not before I tell one more story. A man and a dog walk into a bar…..
The dog curls up under the chair against the wall not sure about the bar or the people. The guy walks up on stage…. all the musicians clear out while the man opens a case and pulls out a violin. He briefly says something to the crowd that was somewhat inaudible because of the background noise. I caught that he was down from the ranch after a hard day with the cattle.
He starts to play and the bar gets quiet… you guessed it, he’s good and everyone knows it.
He played a few songs, some ballads and a few foot stompin’ tunes that got everyone up dancing. By 10:00 it was time for the music to end and everyone filtered out for the night. We had a good walk uphill back to the Jonquil in the brisk air. A night we will not soon forget.
More to come,
Donn and Deby
Ok, that’s it. We’re spending the winter in Mexico! On motorcycles, of course. We decided to make this a slightly different type of motorcycle trip. Instead of blasting through the country we are going to slow down and explore things at a slower pace, get to know the places we visit and work more on my Spanish speaking skills. We’ll see how that goes..
The plan was to leave on the bikes in early November 2021. It’s usually tricky riding from Seattle in that time of year because of rain and the potential for snow. This year was no exception. The day we choose to leave was sunny and relatively warm but the forecast further south was rain, wind and snow at higher elevations. Deby wanted to ride, I opted for some creature comforts so we loaded the bikes on the trailer and started the first part of the ride in the truck.
Not much to say about driving a truck south on I-5, lots of traffic and boring sections. We got as far as Medford, OR for the night and checked into a chain hotel. Day two was more exciting as we crossed the Siskiyou mountains. The forecast was correct, we had cold, rain and snow at times. It would have been no fun on the bikes and slightly dangerous.
By mid day we arrived at our friend’s Airbnb near Ahwahnee, CA. CLICK HERE to see the listing. Kim and her husband are motorcycle riding friends of ours and it’s always a blast to have an evening hanging out together. They graciously let us park the truck at their house. You will hear more about them later in the blog since we will be meeting in Puerto Vallarta for the Christmas holidays.
Wednesday morning was cool but clear with a warming sun. After rearranging our gear from the truck onto the bikes we were soon saying our goodbyes and eager to start the motorcycle riding in earnest. Kris helped us plan a great route to our destination of Kernville, CA for the night.
Ahh, great to be back on the road.
We suddenly hit some fog in the higher elevations which would be gone as we descended into the next valley.
We stopped for a photo op at an overlook. You may notice I’m no longer on the Africa Twin. I finally upgraded to a BMW R1250GSA, wow what a bike.
We rolled into the touristy town of Kernville late afternoon and settled into the Riverview Lodge for the evening.
A quaint little family run hotel, although we never talked to anyone who worked there. Covid protocols dictated a “touchless check-in”, which meant the door was left open when we arrived and just leave the key on the bed when we left. The town seemed pretty quiet so we went for a walkabout before it got dark at 5:00 and then found a restaurant with not very good food. Back in our cozy room we worked on route planning for the next day and got a good nights sleep.
Thursday we rode into the heat…. Our plan was to ride to Palm Springs, CA and meet our friends Michael and Dee Dee for a few days of relaxing around the pool. You may remember Michael from the 2012 trip to South America and again in Patagonia. I’m re-posting what has become famously known as “The Dee Dee Dance.” Deby and I do this dance almost every day in the morning to loosen our bones and get ready for the day’s ride. It’s fun!
We checked into the Indian Wells Resort Hotel in Indian Wells, CA. From their website:
A BOUTIQUE HOTEL WITH A STORIED HISTORY
Founded by Hollywood legends Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in 1957, the Indian Wells Resort Hotel is filled with Hollywood history and has a generous touch of old school glamour. You might call it a hotel for the retro set… or perhaps the value seekers. This boutique desert oasis is a labor of love to Palm Spring’s golden age of stars and style while delivering modern luxuries at a reasonable rate
Of course, pictures of Lucy were everywhere.
But we choose to finally warm up at the pool. Remember, ride slower / take time to get to know the locals / enjoy the sights? Ha!
I felt bad when I got this notice on my phone while at the pool.
We got out of Seattle just in time as a series of “atmospheric rivers” slammed into the area causing flooding, mudslides and general misery for days. All we had to contend with was riding in 95 degree heat…. we managed.
I get slightly stir crazy spending too much time poolside so I talked Deby into letting me use her motorcycle so Michael and I could go for a day ride in the area.
I had a blast riding Deby’s F750GS and Michael was test riding my 1250 as he is thinking about getting one. All in all we rode 183 fantastic miles at elevations from near sea level to over 600 feet.
The first stop was a lookout up highway 74 just out of town. The road climbs to nearly 5,000 feet in the first thirty miles. Certainly one of the best rides in the area. You can see the road in this picture from the lookout.
For lunch we stopped at the Motodoffo winery. Click on the link to learn more.
It’s an awesome place with a very nice collection of over 100 vintage motorcycle on display.
Really a nice place to visit with beautiful views.
There was even a Norton! Although, it was not restored and relegated to the outdoor display. Still, it was fun to see.
Reluctantly, Michael and I both skipped the wine tasting. On the way back we stopped in the touristy town of Idyllwild for a break and a beverage. This must have been on the Harley tourbook because the town was full of Harleys on what must have been a weekend club ride. No worries, we parked next to the cruisers and followed them into the best spot in town, this time we each had a well deserved brew.
Here’s a helmet cam shot of me on Deby’s bike.
Michael and I returned to the hotel with our fill of riding for the day. What a great ride through twisty roads with some fantastic stops. As we parked the bikes I looked down at my right boot and it was spotted with oil…. that is never a good sign.
It was Saturday evening and it looked like an engine oil leak on Deby’s relatively new 2020 BMW. How could that be? Sure enough, oil was covering the upper engine. Valve cover gasket? Head gasket? Hmmm, no way to know without having a shop look at it.
We had one more day in Indian Wells and then we would ride to Tucson, AZ for a day. There is a BMW dealer there and I hoped they could sneak us in and give the bike a look over. Hopefully this wouldn’t derail our trip but it would be better to have it checked out in the US than in Mexico.
I tried to put the oil leak out of my mind when we spent the last night with our friends where we celebrated milestone decade birthdays they were both having (no more details there…)
So — yahoo, the first post in a long while and the start of a new adventure south. Thanks to everyone who has been encouraging me to continue with this blog. It means a lot to me. Thanks for comments and well wishes even though I can’t always respond due to time and bandwidth issues. I hope everyone enjoys the ride!
Donn and Deby