Posts Tagged ‘Coolidge’
I have different reasons to take rides to different places. Sometimes I read about about a certain road that is fun to ride. Sometimes I hear or read about a particular landmark. This time it was a bit different. I was scanning Google Maps around the Coolidge area and saw a peculiar design made by a couple of roads near someplace called 11 Mile Corner. The roads made a pair of “nesting” hexagons (i.e. one inside the other.) Weird, right?
This is what I saw.
I then went to satellite view and saw a couple of buildings, but couldn’t really make out what this place was. I tried street view and only half the streets were viewable (I know, “viewable” isn’t actually a real word, but you knew what I wanted to say.) and even then, I couldn’t see enough to tell me what is here. I could tell that it is currently inhabited, as there were quite a few cars around.
A couple a friends and I were planning on taking a ride on that Friday, but we hadn’t decided where to go. I sent John a text with a link to the map location and said “Let’s ride here.” He replied with an understandable “What is it?” I said that I had no idea, to which his response was “Okay, let’s go.” And so, it was settled.
Had it been later in the year, we probably would have left early and had breakfast somewhere on the road, but the low temp that night was in the high 30’s so we decided to meet for breakfast and ride out a bit later. We met at the venerable “Hungry Fox” for some tasty breakfast. If you like S.O.S. theirs is very good.
After eating the temperature has warmed up to the mid-40’s, so we donned our cooler weather gear and hit the road. There are 2 basic options to get to the Coolidge/Florence area from Tucson. One is to go north on Highway 77 (aka Oracle Rd) then take Highway 79 to Florence then Hwy 287 to Coolidge. Traffic on 77 and 79 tends to be a bit busy and fast on both roads, so we tend to avoid them. The other route is to take the I-10 access road (aka the Casa Grande Highway) through Tucson, all the way to Picacho, where we briefly hopped on to Highway 87, then a quick left on to the Casa Grande-Picacho Highway (aka Frontier St.) Three miles later we go to the tiny burg of Eloy, where we turned north on 11 Mile Corner Rd. Now all we had to do was to ride until we go to the mysterious hexagon.
Our Route to The Hex
I knew that there was a large skydiving complex somewhere around Eloy, but had never seen it. Well, no sooner did we make the turn on to 11 Mile Corner Rd, that the sky was filled with parachutes of many colors. We watched them float toward the ground as we rode along. We also saw a lot more houses than I expected to see in this rural area.
We continued north and I almost stopped at the 11 Mile store and Post Office, but decided to continue to the Hex. Oddly enough, we arrived at the hexagon approx 11 miles after turning on to 11 Mile Corner Rd. We turned on to Sheppard Dr and immediately saw the long, low building I had seen on the Google street view. They look as if they have been plucked from a Soviet block housing complex and dropped here.
We weren’t sure where to explore first but decided that since it was the hexagonal roads that brought us here, we should probably ride them. we made a left and started around the “loop.”
When we got to the end of the second section of the hexagon, we saw why some of the streets weren’t available on street view. There are no longer any buildings there and the road has been encroached by desert shrubs. The asphalt has degraded and is now little more than a trail. So, naturally, we rode through a gap in the brush and took off. We didn’t ride 65 miles for a hex ride and stop after 2 sides.
We dodged the open manholes and made it around all six sides. Just before finishing it, we got a good view of the front of that big building in the middle of the hex. This looks like it was the front.
As Sean said, “Curiouser and curiouser.” We really didn’t know what kind of place this originally was. There are no Historical Markers present, either. We decided to ride over to Yandell’s New Camp Store and Post Office and see what they could tell us.
We walked in to the Camp store and were impressed with the presence of the old post office in the front of the store. There were 2 ladies working the counter. We asked them to tell us a bit about 11 Mile Corner, the store and the weird hexagon. The were quite friendly and told us a lot of interesting stuff. The store has been in the same family for almost 50 years. The post office parts came to 11 Mile from Red Rock, AZ, but they were told that Red Rock had gotten it from Tombstone.
11 Mile Corner got its name because the nearby intersection is 11 miles north of Eloy, 11 miles east of Casa Grande and 11 miles southwest of Coolidge. It is now an unincorporated part of Casa Grande. We asked about the strange hexagonal road pattern. That, they said, was probably part of the 11 Mile Prisoner of War Camp from World War II. I did a bit of research when we got home and did confirm that there was, in fact, a German POW camp in 11 Mile Corner. It housed approximately 300 prisoners. I couldn’t find any pictures of it.
The ladies also told about the upcoming gourd festival. They said that if we wanted to get a taste of what it would be like, we could drop by Wuertz Farm. They raise gourds there and have a small gift shop / gallery containing some gourd art works. That sound interesting, so we said good-bye and headed southeast and prepared for “the Wuertz.”
We had a great time checking out the gourds. Mr Wuertz was a great host and showed us around. We didn’t have time to look around, but there are Burros and miniature horse there as well. Oh, if you are interested, you should go to the “13th Annual Running of the Gourds” coming up February 12-14.
We finally turned around and rode back to Tucson. The trip back was uneventful, but riding is good. Riding with friends is better. I noticed when we got home, that I had ridden 10 miles of mostly straight, mostly flat roads and still had an absolute blast.
I have mentioned in the past that I like loops, vs going to a place, then turning around and coming back home the same way. There are at least two ways in/out of Young so we left to the north via Forest Service Road 512. This would take us to Route 260. from there we would turn west and go to Payson.
From Young it is about 25 miles to Route 260. The first 8 miles of FR-512 are paved. The rest of the way is dirt/gravel. I believe this is the main route in and out of Young, so it is well maintained. Be advised, because of deforestation from the recent fires, a lot of debris had washed into the roadway even on the paved section. The worst problem with the dirt section was stretches of some serious “washboards.” Make sure your gear is well secured. One additional note: about one mile outside of Young, there were a pair of signs pointing toward Highway 260. One pointed left, toward a road called Chamberlain Trail; the other point straight ahead at FR-512. In looking at Google Maps, Chamberlain Trail will get you to 260 and it’s about the same distance, but I don’t think it’s as well maintained. There are also several intersections to navigate and I wouldn’t gamble that they are well marked. Your choice, but maybe someone familiar with both roads will read this and leave a comment.
The other issue we had was the occasional car or truck barreling down at us at 40-50mph. (I have nightmares of people sliding into me while they are out playing “Rally Car Racer.”) We would have to pull over a bit until the dust had cleared.
As you go north out of Young, you will climb about 2000 feet, up onto the Mogollon (muggy-own) Rim, one of Arizona’s defining, though lesser known, geographic features. This escarpment separates the lowers, hotter, desert from the high country. The rim is about 200 miles long and there are campgrounds and hiking trails all along it’s length. If you’re lucky, you may even seen Rim Country’s own version of Bigfoot, the Mogollon Monster.
As with the southern approach into Young, there were more pull-outs for camping along the side of the road. There were some burned out areas from last year’s forest fires, but there are still many beautiful places to camp, hike and take pictures. One of the many things I love about riding through forest, is the smell. The pine trees always smell so good.
About 2 miles from the FR-512 junction on Route 260, there is a beautiful parking area where you can look over the edge of the Mogollon Rim and get a real appreciation of what is called “Rim Country.”
Is is about 30 miles to Payson from FR-512. This includes one rather steep descent. Road quality is, however, as of this writing, the road is under construction and there are places of force lane changes and active construction. Again, there may be snow and/or ice present in winter months.
Payson is a wonderful little town with a population of about 15,000 people. Is has numerous restaurants, services and places for lodging. If you need any services or supplies, you should be able to find them here. On this particular trip, there were some serious looking thunder storms approaching Payson, so we chose to get fuel and head south ASAP.
We had two main choices from AZ-87, to return to Tucson. The first was to take 87 until we hit Route 188 and take that around Roosevelt Lake, back to Globe and back to Tucson via Route 77. The other was to follow 87 until we hit the Phoenix metro area and take one of many roads south. I had looked at this prior to departure and thought Gilbert Road looked like a possibility.
I talked it over with Stan and we decided to let the weather be our guide. We finished gassing up and headed south on Highway 87 (aka the Beeline highway). As we reached the Route 188 junction and looked toward Roosevelt Lake, all we could see was a huge thunderstorm parked a few miles east of us. Gilbert Road it was, then. We continued south.
If you ever have to cross the eastern side of the Phoenix metro area and hate busy, crowded, highways as I do, I recommend Gilbert, Power or Ellsworth Roads. Power and Ellsworth both connect with Bush Highway, which connects to the Beeline Highway about 50 miles south of Payson. Both roads continue all the way through the suburbs and terminate at Hunt highway, which takes you to the north side of Florence and allows you to return to Tucson via Route 77. Bush Highway has some nice, twisty sections and road quality is good, however, we were still running ahead of the storm, so I chose to continue to Gilbert Rd.
Gilbert Road is less than 20 miles from the Bush Highway intersection but it is still on the edge of the city, so there is only light traffic. It runs due south and 25 miles later, it dumps you out onto AZ-87. That’s right, the Beeline highway. Yes, you could have stayed on 87. It become Country Club Dr at McDowell in Mesa, then becomes Arizona Ave in Gilbert then turns back to the southeast where it, again, crosses Gilbert Rd before going into Coolidge.
The skies weren’t as dark as we got close to finishing our crossing of the Phoenix metro-plex. I did see as dust storm (aka Haboob) to our west as we were leaving the south end of Gilbert. I was glad we were going southeast.
We made the turn onto Highway 87 and ran smack into . . . . the dust storm. I have been in one dust storm worse than this one, but it was still an adventure. The wind picked up at the same rate that visibility decreased. I was debating on pulling off to the side of the road and waiting it out, but had images of a dust-blind car careening into us. We kept going.
We wanted to pull over just to get pictures of what we were experiencing. It was difficult, for the same reason as just mentioned. As we reached to tail end of the storm, I did manage to find a place to get off the road. We took a few pics and resumed our trip.
Highway 87 gives you two main options to get back to Tucson. You can continue east at Coolidge and go on into Florence and take Route 77 or you can continue on 87 into Coolidge and on to Picacho. As I believe I have mentioned before, I hate coming into Tucson on 77, aka Oracle Road. Likewise, I really enjoy riding into Tucson on the I-10 access road between Picacho and Tucson. It is in good condition and has very little traffic until you hit Marana.
Edit: Here is a link to a map of the exact route we took from Young back to Tucson.
This brings this two part post to an end. I hope you enjoyed it and that this prompts you to get out and explore a bit.
When we ended Part I, we Sky Island Riders had made it to the main event at Joe’s Farm Grill on Ray Road. We had been scoping out the bikes and talking. All three of us really enjoyed talking to the AZ Ruck-Stars, the local Honda Ruckus club. They had some really sweet bikes, several of which had been stretched and now had 125 – 150cc motors.
A little after 2:00pm, we left out for the South Mountain Ride. The first two years of Scooter Fiesta this ride was done on Sunday morning. We had opted to skip the Sunday ride and had ridden home, so we were glad we finally got a chance to ride South Mountain.
This is another excellent, though short ride. Central Ave, heading south from downtown Phoenix, goes straight into South Mountain Park. From the gate, to Dobbins Point scenic view point, is just under 6 miles. This isn’t as twisty as Route 88, but it is still a pretty sweet little ride. The reward is when you get to Dobbins Point. The view of the Phoenix metro area is amazing. You are high enough to see a long ways, but low enough that you can still make out a lot of detail.
Sean and I took off ahead of the group for this ride back, so we could get some action photos. I’m no photographer, but I think a couple of them came out okay.
Since it takes so long to move around Phoenix via surface street, it was just about dinner time by the time we got back into town from South Mountain. Dinner was at La Famiglia Italian Restaurant in Chandler. This another good venue. There was plenty of outdoor seating and the service and food were wonderful. They let us park out scooters right on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant.
When dinner was winding down, the Sky Island Riders, again, felt the night for more riding. “How about a dessert ride?” we asked the group. There were no takers, but that didn’t stop us. My brand new, November, issue of Arizona Highways (I just love this magazine.) has an article entitled “Retro Arizona.” In it, the 40+ year old ice cream joint called The Sugar Bowl, is mentioned. Ice cream? After a hot, sunny day AND it’s recommended by AZ Highways? Say no more!
It was a simple route from La Familia: Straight north on Alma School Road, west on Indian School Rd, left on Scottsdale Rd and “presto!” there it is. This worked mostly according to plan until I missed the turn onto Indian School and took us a few extra miles into the reservation.
This downtown part of Scottsdale is quite lovely. There are many sculptures in and around the road. The ice cream at the Sugar Bowl was superb. We decided to make a slight detour to GR Herberger Park, aka Arizona Falls. John and I had gone here earlier this year for the Scarabs “Rapture Ride” and really liked it, so we came back.
It was getting late, so we took the easy way back to the hotel. We went south on 52nd St (with Billy Joel songs in my head) then east on Van Buren and kept following that as it turned into Mill St. From there, we retraced our steps from the previous night, through the Mill st District and back along the amazing Apache Blvd.
This year, we decided not to skip the Sunday ride. The ride was to Saguaro Lake. We had ridden this on Saturday the two previous years, so we new it was a good ride. Breakfast was to be held at the lake, so we met up Vespa of Chandler, drooled over some new Vespa’s and some BMW’s, and hit the road. Tyler, the manager there, is very nice and is a good host as well.
There was a rumor the Ellsworth Rd/Usery Pass was under construction, so we went in via Power Road which goes all the way to the lake. I had never been this way before, so it was a treat. I always love riding a road on which I’ve never been.
The Lakeshore Restaurant at Saguaro Lake is just what you would expect from the only restaurant located in a popular recreation area. It is pricey and the food is mediocre. The location and view from the patio almost compensate for those shortcomings. The company, though, made it worth it though. We had more great conversation with scooter people. That makes any dive into a 5-Star Bistro.
We still had over 120 miles to ride before our rally was over, so we said our “Good-byes” and our “See you at the Fall Classics,” jumped on the bikes and headed south. We initially thought about gong home via US-60 to Globe and down, but we had ridden the bikes pretty hard for 2 days, so we selected something a little more sedate.
From Saguaro Lake, we went to Usery Pass and turned south. Usery Pass becomes Ellsworth and we were able to take this all the way to Hunt Highway, south of Queen Creek. Road quality was good and there aren’t too many stop light that far east. Still wanting to avoid Route 77 and Oracle Road, we turned south onto Attaway Rd outside of Florence then west onto Route 287 and from there we back-tracked our Friday route back through Coolidge, to Picacho and back to Tucson.
Here is the Google Map detailing Part II. Click on the icons to see what they are.
View Scooter Fiesta Part II – The Anatomy of a Rally in a larger map
Scooter rallies are different things to different people. We chose to make this a time of food, exploring, making/renewing friendships and, of course, riding. I think rallies are important part of attracting new scooter riders and networking between various individuals and organizations in the scooter community. I hope you check out the Sky Island Riders’ Calendar and make plans to attend an upcoming rally. You will be glad you did.