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postheadericon The Eight (8) Best Ways to Cross Tucson

I’ve been asked multiple times about how best to get across Tucson. I’ve been meaning to write a piece about it and it looks like I am finally getting around to doing so.

 

The first things we have to do is establish what we mean by “best.” For the purposes of this article here are the criteria (in no particular order) I will be using to decide what “best” means when it comes to roadways in Tucson.

  1. Road Quality – A road where you have to dodge potholes or that is so rough you have to hang on with a death grip will not make the list.
  2. Length – There are some very nice road that only run for a couple of miles. For this article, roads considered must cross a significant portion of the city. As you will see, it is okay for the road to merge with another and change names, as long as it continues in the same direction.
  3. Amount of traffic – a good quality road that has extremely heavy traffic is going to be less safe, especially as far as scooters are concerned.
  4. Intersections – I checked some some Pima County and City of Tucson sources which listed the most dangerous intersections in the city based on numbers of cars and numbers of accidents. This was factored into my choices. The ideal route will not pass through any of the most dangerous interstions.
  5. Personal Opinion – After riding around most of the city for the past 4 and a half years, I have my own opinions on which roads are good or bad for scooters and their riders. Feel free to add a comments and vote for your favorite.
  6. Construction – I realize that construction comes and goes. For this piece, I considered major construction work that will continue for months. This article will, therefor, be accurate only until another major construction project comes along and either spoils one of the “best” roads, or converts one of the bad ones into a “best” one. Maybe I’ll review this and update it every year or so.

 

One thing I DID NOT take into consideration is scenery. I plan on writing a piece in the near future about Tucson’s most scenic rides. Stay tuned for that. I also plan on adding a “Worst Roads” piece soon as well.

I had originally planned on calling this the “10 Best Roads,” however, after doing a little bit of research and applying my criteria, only eight roads made the cut. I have chosen four roads running north/south and four running east/west. I will finish with a couple of honorable mentions.

 

NORTH/SOUTH

Silverbell/Mission – I am aware that these are separate roads and that have to travel about 3 blocks on Congress to fuse them together, but, hey, I claim writers’ prerogative. This is the only road on our list on the west side of I-10. Combined, Silverbell/Mission runs more than 20 miles, from Twin Peaks Road, in Continental Ranch, to Valencia where the road leaves Tucson and enters the reservation. With the exception of about 4 miles, from Ina to Camino del Carro, road quality is pretty good. Traffic can be heavy around St Mary’s at times. There are some “speed tables” and a couple of small traffic circles on Mission between Congress and 22nd St. as well. Silverbell/Mission also gets special dispensation because it’s really the only road that runs for any significant distance on the far west side. We have used this route on a number of different club rides. There are a fewer than average number of stoplights as well.

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Stone/6th Ave/Nogales Highway – Stone is one of the few streets that pass all the way through downtown and are 2-way. On the down side, Stone will only get you as far north as River Rd, however, it makes it up on the south side where it merges with 6th Ave at 5-points. Further south it becomes Old Nogales Highway and will take you as far as Green Valley. Yes, traffic will be heavy as you pass through downtown, but I have found it to less congested than some of the other downtown streets. Road quality is pretty good along most of the way.

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Craycroft – 5.5 miles to the east is Craycroft. Most of the streets between Stone and Craycroft suffer from congestion, construction of roughness. On the north end, Craycroft actually goes up into the foothills then does a big U-turn near Ventana Canyon Resort and comes back down as Kolb Rd. On the south end, it goes into the main gate of Davis-Monthan AFB. Immediately after Golf Links Rd. Road quality is good to very good along most of this road, with the exception of the short section just north of Sunrise which is just fair.

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Harrison – The eastern most road on my list is Harrison. The southern section of Harrison (It stops at Wrightstown then resumes again at Catalina Highway and runs north for 2 miles to Snyder.) is only 5.5 miles long, but crosses the east side from Wrightstown to Irvington. Road quality is good and, because it doesn’t run all the through, traffic is much less than Houghton, which also has poorer quality.

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EAST/WEST

Irvington – The southernmost road on this list is Irvington. Truth be told, I almost forgot about this road. Irvington runs for more than 15 miles across the southern part of the city and that is minus the 3 miles that are occupied by Davis-Monthan. The western section runs more than 11 miles between Sunset Blvd and Swan. Road quality is good and except for the section immediately around I-19, traffic isn’t too bad. The 4 mile long eastern section only has fair road quality, but is an excellent alternative route between Kolb and Houghton.

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Glenn – We have to go almost 6 miles north before we come to the next road on our list. I think Glenn is my favorite way to cross town east to west. It runs almost 8 miles from Sahuara Ave, east of Craycroft, to Flowing Wells, which is right at I-10. Glenn has a 35 mph speed limit, which keeps those people in a big hurry off of it. There are also as many 4-way stops as there are stoplights. It is my opinion that 4-way stops are considerably safer for those of us on 2 wheels. Road quality is good and traffic is generally light.

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El Camino del Cerro/Ruthrauff/Wetmore – I know, another one of those combination streets. Well, Ruthrauff and Camino de Cerro are the same road, but separated by I-10. Thanks to some creative roadwork, Ruthrauff and Wetmore merge at Romero and Wetmore continues all the way to 1st Ave. Other than the intersection with Oracle,which gets congested at rush hours, I have found this to be a pretty decent road to travel. Road quality just east of I-10 is only fair, but otherwise it’s pretty good.

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Orange Grove – If you have to travel east/west a little further north, I recommend Orange Grove over Ina. Orange Grove runs almost 7 miles from I-10 to Skyline. I was tempted to add Skyline and Sunrise as part of this but traffic is just too heavy to give that part “best” status. Road quality is good and traffic is moderate. Except around La Cholla and Northwest Medical Center at change of shift times.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

North/South – The Park/Euclid/1st Ave combo runs almost 15 miles across mid-town. The southern terminus is at Valencia and the northern end is at Ina. It doesn’t make “best” status because road quality between Broadway and Speedway is abysmal. Also, the intersection with Grant can be difficult. Road quality from River to Ina is very good, but it has a 45mph speed limit and is uphill, so this can be a little dicey for small displacement scooters to stay with traffic.

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East/West – It is probably because I ride it almost everyday or because it is where Scoot Over can be found, but I really like Broadway. It is very wide and has that wonderful bus lane and bus pullouts that keep traffic from suddenly jumping in your lane to get away from a slowing bus. Other than the section from Camino Seco to Houghton, road quality is good. Of the “Big Three (Speedway, Broadway and 22nd St) Broadway is probably the safest. It does, however, have one of the most dangerous intersections, which is at Wilmot. I recommend avoiding it if you can.

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I will follow this entry with one about the “Worst Roads in Tucson” soon. Do you have a road youy think should have made this list, please make a comment.

 

Safe Riding Everyone

 

Howard

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postheadericon A Ride to Roswell & back Part II (To Tucson via the Scenic Route)

In Part  I, we took the most expeditious route between Tucson and Roswell. I have been back and forth to Roswell many times over the years (I have family in Roswell.) but have only travelled on the routes described in Part I. I decided that it was high time for me to try something a bit different. A friend had told me about NM Route 152 and how amazing it was (Thanks, Sean) so I plotted a route that would get there.  Route 152 intersects I-25 at least 60 miles north of Las Cruces, so it made no sense to go that far south, then back back to the north, so I began looking for roads north of Alamogordo and Ruidoso. That was when I discovered NM-380.

NM-380 actually goes through Roswell and I remember seeing the junction for it along US-70 and had always wondered where it went. Let’s find out. It required almost 50 miles of backtracking along US-70 to get to the 380 junction. This was awesome because it involved going back along the Hondo River Valley. I did this early in the morning and it was absolutely gorgeous. Again I got to pass through the tiny little hamlets along the valley floor.

At the junction of US-70 and NM-380 is this informational sign about the Hondo area as well as Lincoln

As soon as you merge on to NM-380, there is a historical monument. There is an informational sign there telling about the Hondo River Valley, on one side, and Lincoln County and the connection between the Lincoln Country War and Billy the Kid, on the other. This was a great stop for me, because I have a lot of family history in Lincoln County.

This is Lincoln’s torreon. It is where the men-folk would take fighting positions to defend the town.

This tells you about the torreon

NM-380 tracks mostly northwest and along the Bonito River Vally. It is almost as pretty as the Hondo. 10 beautiful miles later, you arrive in the historic town of Lincoln. Lincoln is the old stomping grounds of Billy the Kid. Lincoln is where Billy escaped from jail, then shot and killed a deputy and Marshall Bob Ollinger. There are quite a few historic structures here including the torreon as well as the Wortley Hotel (Please click the link and read their homepage. It is hysterical.)

There is a small fee to walk around the park.

About 12 miles further along NM-380 is the little town of Capitan, best known as the home and final resting place of Smokey Bear. (See you learned something here, today.) Capitan is about 70 miles from Roswell and is a great stopping place. The Smokey Bear Park is very pretty and I couldn’t resist stopping in at the Smokey Bear Restaurant for breakfast. With a population of only about 1500, it doesn’t take too long to look around town.

I didn’t try the food, but I don’t know if there is another restaurant in Carrizozo, but bikers are welcome here.

Continuing west on NM-380 takes you down out of the mountains to the high desert of the Tularosa Basin. 20 miles down the road brings you to the tiny crossroads village of Carrizoza (pop 1000). This where NM-380 intersects with US-54. A left turn here will take you back to Alamogordo. There is food and fuel available here, including a drive-in that welcomes bikers.

This is a close up of some of the former lava.

Just after leaving Carrizozo, you will begin seeing signs for a state park called Valley of Fires. I was thinking it had something to do with large gatherings of native Americans or some such thing and was quite astonished when we came over a little hill and saw the black, formerly molten lava flow that extends for 45 miles down this valley. I did not stop at the park, but hope to the next time I pass this way.

The staff at the San Antonio general Store were very nice. They make fudge and other candy there, too.

The next 65 miles take up, down and through rolling hills and small valleys, skirting the northern border of the White Sands Missile Range. As you  reach the end of this section of NM-380, you, again, cross the Rio Grande (as we did in Las Cruces) and into San Antonio, NM. There isn’t much change that you will mistake this San Antonio for the one in Texas, but there is one tiny Fina gas station, aka the San Antonio General Store, a pretty church and at least one bar.

My route turned south from here, but if you have any needs that cannot be met in San Antonio, Socorro is less than 10 miles north, along I-25. With a population of almost 10k, there are several hotels, quite a few restaurants and other retail establishments to meet your needs. Socorro, is also where you can find the junction with US-60. It also home to the NM Institute of Mining & Technology, best know for one of the places where the “Myth Busters” love to go to blow stuff up.

This shows that quality of NM Highway #1. It’s is good shape. You can also see the northern end of Elephant Butte Lake in the distance.

Back to San Antonio. I-25 is the fastest way to our next stop, but that is way too easy and way too bland for me. NM Highway #1 (aka old US-85) runs parallel to the interstate. It is about 65 very scenic miles to Truth or Consequences on Hwy 1. There are no towns, but there is a wildlife refuge, a slower pace, no traffic and some great views of Elephant Butte Lake. I was surprised, but road quality of Hwy 1 is very good. Another advantage over I-25, especially if you are on 2 wheels, is that there no “High Wind Advisory” bridge crossings. Hwy 1 crosses the washes and valley much nearer the bottom than I-25 so you don’t get the high winds.

You do, eventually have to join I-25, but it is only 8 miles until you can exit on Rt 181 and go into Truth or Consequences (aka TorC.) TorC was called Hot Springs until 1950, when the city fathers took up a TV hosts wagers to rename a city after his game show. With a population of about 7000, you should have no problems finding food, fuel, lodging or services. If you like water-related activities, Elephant Butte State Park is next door and has plenty to offer. there is also a very nice veteran’s memorial park with a museum.

The signs remind you that CR152 is a “road less traveled.”

If you are thinking of making this ride back to Tucson a 2-day trip, Truth or Consequence with the lake and hot springs nearby, is a good choice. You are about 220 miles into the trip. If it’s a little too soon to stop, Silver City, NM, another 90 miles, is your other best option. After some of the most amazing road I’ve ever ridden, Silver City is our next stop, but first County Rd 152.

A friend had told me about this amazing road out east of Silver City. After scanning through Google Maps, I found County Rd 152 (hereafter referred to as CR152.) Again, the quickest way to CR152 from TorC is 17.5 miles south on I-25, but why do that when you can take County Road 187 out of Tor C. It is less than 2 miles longer and certainly a prettier drive.

Hillsboro is just a mile or two up that canyon.

The first 13 miles or so of CR152 are mostly flat with mountains visible on every horizon, especially in front of you as you’re headed east. This is also open range for cattle, a concept which was pressed home when i popped over a hill and the was a large heifer standing in my half of the road. Around the 13 or 14 mile point, you  drop into a lovely little canyon, then start to climb the mountains known as the Black Range or the Devil’s Mountains.

I love the architecture of churches.

A mile or two after dropping into the canyon, you pass through the village of Hillsboro, which is listed as a “semi-ghost town.” There is no fuel here, but there is at least one little cafe’ a church and a hotel. I didn’t get the chance to spend anytime here, but I will next time.

I caught site of this sign and barely had time to get the camera up and snap the pic. Pardon the quality.

9 miles later, you pass by Kingston, NM. Take a bit and visit. There is a beautiful lodge here, called the Black Range Lodge. I’ve never been there, but after doing the research for this post, I am seriously considering it. Kingston is also home to the Spit & Whittle Club. (What a great name for a social club.)

Final resting place of James McNally, winner of the MOH. I hope you can read the plaque.

A mile or so east of Kingston, on CR152, is their cemetery. I love visiting old cemeteries and this one did not disappoint. It is where I got to “meet” my first Medal of honor winner. You’ll see it on the north side of the road outside of Kingston.

Even 15mph is a little much on a few of these turns. God help you if you’re towing a trailer.

CR152 road quality is good, as you can see here. Beware of the 90 degree turns without guardrails.

It is soon after passing Kingston, that you begin my favorite part of this trip; the climb to Emory Pass. In just 8 miles, the road climbs from 6000 feet elevation at Kingston, to 8900 feet at Emory Pass. This 8 miles is amazing. You climb from a pinion/juniper forest at Kingston, to Ponderosa pines as you near the top of the pass. There are numerous switchbacks and tight S-curves. The speed limit is 25mph and this is too fast at times.

Taken near Emery Pass, this pics shows a few of the twists and turns that CR152 makes.

ADVISORY: CR152 can be exceedingly dangerous in the winter. It routinely gets snow and regular signs will tell you that it is NOT plowed at night or on weekends. Please plan your trip accordingly. Also, watch for debris in the roads. I came across numerous areas of sand and rocks in the road.

This is a small part of the El Chino open pit mine near Silver City.

There is a nice little rest stop at the top of the pass with great photo opportunities. The road down the other side is more of those fun switch backs and S-curves. About 18 miles later, now out of the twisty parts, you meet the junction with CR61 at San Lorenzo. Going south here would take you to Deming. Continue on CR152 toward Silver City. 10 miles later, you’ll come to the El Chino aka Santa Rita copper mine, once the largest open pit mine in the world. There is a nice viewing area with a lot of informational/historical signs and pictures on the south side of the road.

The incredibly scenic CR152 ends 6 miles later when you merge with NM-180 at the town of Santa Clara, which actually known as Central, until 1996 when they changed their name. (What is it with towns in NM changing their names?) The thing I most remember about riding through Santa Clara was their sign for the “Bataan Death March Recreational Park.” That name struck me as a bit, uh, odd, macabre and slightly disturbing, but memorable. Too bad, I didn’t get a pic.

A guy in TorC said that one can see Elephant Butte from Emery Pass. Well, it’s out there somewhere.

from here, it is only 8 miles to downtown Silver City. There is a wonderful main street area which makes you feel like you’re in an old movie. At this point you have travelled about 300 miles from Roswell. If you did not spend the night in TorC, you might want to consider staying in Silver City. With a population of 10k, and a great mountain location, there is plenty to see and do here.

From Silver City, there are 2 primary ways to get back to Tucson. the one I most recommend is taking NM-180 to CR-78. This, too, is another amazing road. I wrote about this in September, 2011 (SIR’s to NM and Back Again.) The other way is to take CR-90 out of the south side of town. This takes you through some beautiful pinyon forest, across the Burro Mountains and through the Gila National Forest.

There is some much history out here and many never get to see it because so much of New Mexico is fairly remote.

Approximately 45 miles, you’ll reach the junction with US-70 then you come in to the north side of Lordsburg. Since I already covered I-10 from Tucson to Lordsburg, I will end this lengthy post here. Although, I did not spend a lot of space writing about it, CR152, is one of the most beautiful and exciting roads on which I have ever ridden. I hope you get a chance to go there in one kind of vehicle or another.

I am hoping to put together a two or even three day ride to this area in the spring of next year. I hope some of my scooter brethren will be able to accompany me.

 

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postheadericon A Ride to Roswell & Back (Pt I)

The San Andres Mountains near Las Cruces, NM. (As seen from San Augustine Pass.)

Have you been thinking that you would like to try a bit of a road trip? Whether you are driving, riding a motorcycle or a scooter, I highly recommend a trip to Roswell. I recently rode this and will describe the routes taken, towns passed and sights along the way. Following the route described, it is a trip of approximately 500 miles there and approx 600 miles on the return. I did the trip in two travel days. If you are doing this on 2 wheels and want to take in the incredible scenery, I recommend taking your time and using 4 travel days. Part I will describe the trip from Tucson to Roswell and part II will discuss the return trip.

I-10 eastbound approaching Willcox, AZ.

I know I have disparaged the use of the interstate in the past. I will continue to use it as little as possible. However, when taking long trips out of Tucson, it can cost you a lot of extra miles and even more extra time if you chose not to use interstate at all. For example, compare the shortest route, which is the one I will describe in Part I, to the first route suggested when you use Google’s “Avoid Highways” option. Avoiding highways is 100 miles and 4 hours longer. As you have probably figured out, if you have read many of my posts,  if it means cool roads, I don’t care too much how much further it is, nor how much longer it will take.

On to the journey.  I have written about the Arizona section of I-10 in the past and there are some nice places and some interesting sites along the way.This route is best taken mid-week to avoid the many other travelers who use this road. Road quality is good UNTIL you hit San Simon. Suddenly there are pot holes and sections that are very rough, especially if you are on 2 wheels. Fortunately, the rough section only lasts until you reach the states line (about 12 miles) then it become good again.

As mentioned in Riding SoAZ, Part VIII, you pass the  ghost town of Steins on the north side of I-10 about 3 miles after crossing the state line. If you have a few minutes, I recommend a quick stop there. 25 miles after crossing into New Mexico, you pass the town of Lordsburg. I enjoy getting off the interstate and actually going through town. Lordsburg has less than 5000 residents, but there is enough here to meet most of your needs. There are several hotels and a few restaurants. I ate at Kranberry’s the last 2 times I stopped for food in Lordsburg and found it to be pretty good.

If you’re not in the need of food or rest, you can continue another 60, mostly flat, mostly straight, miles to the town of Deming, which is another great example of small town America. There are 15k or so residents here, so there are more options in the way of food, fuel and services. As with many other towns bypassed because of “progress,” I recommend taking the Business I-10 route through town and checking out the “real Deming” and maybe stopping by a local restaurant of gift shop and helping out their economy. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, take NM Route 549 (Old Las Cruces Highway) going east. It parallels I-10 for about 35 miles before rejoining the interstate about 25 miles outside of downtown Las Cruces. Road conditions of Rt 549 are average to good.

That’s the Picacho Rd bridge crossing the Rio Grande. In the foreground is a beautiful park that runs along side the river.

If you are planning on continuing to Roswell, I suggest taking exit #135, W. Picacho Ave/US-80. Picacho Ave takes across the Rio Grande (There’s a nice little park along the river here as well.) and in to the older downtown area. For those choosing to make this a two-day ride, I would recommend Las Cruces as an excellent stopping point. Las Cruces is the 2nd largest city in NM and has a lot of history and culture. There are numerous hotels and restaurants from which to chose, plus it is a college town, so there is night life to be experienced.

San Augustine Pass is just to the right of the center of this pic.

This is looking east, down toward Ft Bliss Proving Grounds from San Augustine Pass.

When you’re ready to be on your way, turn north on Main St and follow the signs toward Alamogordo. Main St becomes US-70. As you leave Las Cruces, you can see the highway climbing straight up the side of the San Andres Mountain range. You climb approximately 2000 ft until you reach San Augustine Pass. Pull over and enjoy the view down into the valley. Much of what you can see from here is either part of Fort Bliss or part of White Sands Missile Range. US-70 is divided highway all the way to Alamogordo and road quality is good. Alamogordo’s claim to fame is their proximity to the Trinity Site, home of the world’s first nuclear bomb blast.

You can see the white sand peeking outaround the side of this building near the visitors’ center.

It is approximately 35 miles from the top of the pass to the White Sands visitor center. For $3 you drive through this most unique park. If you have a parks pass, it is free, of course. From the park entrance, it is only about 15 miles to Alamogordo.

With a population of almost 40k, Alamogordo is big enough to have a lot going on and plenty of things to see, but still small enough to have a great “small town feel.”The town sits at the foot of the Sacramento Mountains. From here, there are two main routes to cross and get to Roswell on the other side.  As you near the north end of town, turn east on Route 82. Road quality is fair to good, but can be treacherous in winter. This takes you 110 miles on a lovely, two-lane mountain road that takes you through the ski village of Cloudcroft, then down to other side to Artesia. Once there, turn north and follow either Highway 285 or Route 2 and Roswell is only another 40 miles. Be advised, Cloudcroft is over 8000 feet in elevation. Snow is common in winter months and temps, even in summer, are considerably coolers than in the valleys below so dress accordingly.

The more common route to Roswell, from Alamogordo, is via US-70, through Ruidoso. It’s only 40 miles to Ruidoso and the road is 4 lane highway and is in very good condition. Prior to getting to Ruidoso, you enter the Mescalero Apache Reservation and pass through the tiny village of Mescalero. Mescalero is situated at about 6600 feet elevation. You’ll climb just a bit more before gradually starting down and into Ruidoso. Be advised, most of the food lodging and retail in Ruidoso is NOT on US-70. Turn west on Sudderth Dr once in town to find a lot more stuff. Ruidoso’s claim to fame is that their horse racing track is home to the Worlds Richest Quarter Horse Race.

Leaving Ruidoso, it is 70 only miles to Roswell. The road continues to be four lane and is in very good condition. US-70 follows the Hondo River and the scenery through here is nothing short of spectacular. I don’t recall and gas stations but there are several tiny villages (Glencoe, San Patricio, Hondo, Arabella, Tinnie and Picacho) and quite a few little fruit stands (open seasonally) and gift shops along the way. Slow down and enjoy this amazing drive. One of my favorite places to stop along here is the Ruidoso Trading Post, best known and “Fox Cave.”

These are some of the rolling hills west of Roswell.

Once you leave the mountains, you come into some wide-open, rolling ranch land. One can frequently see small herds of antelope along the side of the road. You come into Roswell on 2nd St. Most of the food and lodging is located to the north of 2nd St. When you come to Main St, the “world famous” UFO Museum and Research Center will bbbe on yuuur right. (Sorry, I can’t even type that without laughing.)

This “museum” is located at the corner of Main St and 2nd St.

Roswell is a neat little town, even without all the UFO stuff. It home home to the NM Military Institute with many notable alumni like Dallas CowboyRoger Staubach, actor Owen Wilson and ABC Newsman Sam Donaldson. The Pecos River flows along the east side of town. There are still many family farms in the area and Roswell still has that small town America feel.

According to Google Maps, it is 466 miles between Tucson and Roswell, but if you got off the road at all to sight-see you’re have probably logged in 500 miles. This is a great ride/drive with lots of sights and even more American history. In Part II, I will cover different route back to Tucson.

Sunset over the farm, or is that the Mothership landing to take us away?

 

 

 

 

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postheadericon Patrolling Picacho

My apologies for not posting something sooner. It’s been 2 months since my last post, but life gets in the way of blog posts sometimes. Now we’ve got the High Roller rally coming soon, plus our own For A Few CC’s More II” coming up soon, so I don’t know that I’ll be any better about more frequent posts, but I’ll try.

On January 26, last month, I went for a ride. My original plan was to ride out to Coolidge, AZ, to verify ride times and route for our February 4th club ride to meet the Phoenix Scooter Club for lunch, but the road called for something a bit different.

Along the frontage road, north of Marana

I rode across town to the I-10 Frontage/Access (Is there a difference, or are these terms synonymous?) road. This is a great way to cross Tucson, is you need to do so on the west side. The big issue now is that there is construction being done at and around the Prince Road area. The frontage road is nice because there is little traffic and few stoplights. Once you get past Marana, there is virtually no traffic. Road quality is above average.

I rode out of town, enjoying the sites and sounds. 22 miles from Ina Road is the Red Rock exit and overpass. Red Rock is an unincorporated village which, according to Wikipedia, had a population in 2010 of a little over 2000 people. The only functioning business that I have seen there is the “Red Rock Bar.” There are a lot of homes being built there and I suspect that some additional retail will be there before too long.

That’s one BIG puddle!

In September of 2008, my son and I rode out this way, in an attempt to explore what’s left of Sasco, AZ. We came this same direction, and were confounded by a huge puddle (at least 100 feet across) blocking the road. We couldn’t tell how deep it might be and didn’t want to risk crossing it. As I was riding along the frontage road, I recalled our trip and decided to change paths and see if I could find another ghost town. After all, a puddle that was there two and a half years previously would be there now, plus there hadn’t been any rain recently.

From the frontage road, go across the overpass and turn left onto Sasco Road. This will take you through the middle of the tract housing, past the skate park, the pool and the elementary school. 4.3 miles after passing the school you will see and smell a large cattle “feed lot” to the right. Coachway Rd branches off to the right here as well. From this fork in the road, it is another 7.5 miles to the Sasco Cemetery. Off I went to do some exploring, glad that I wouldn’t be blocked by a water hazard.

Well, I was wrong. That “puddle” isn’t a rain puddle. It is actually the Santa Cruz River and at this point, and it flows directly across the road! It wasn’t as wide as on my previous visit and I could see recent evidence of cars or trucks crossing, but I still couldn’t tell if there were any “sippy holes” or other hidden obstacles. I debated on scooting across but I was alone and if I dumped the bike, it would be a long, cold ride home.

“Now what should I do?” I thought.

I remembered that Coachway Rd was paved and went in the same general direction as Sasco. I thought that Coachway might have a bridge across the Santa Cruz or that the river may have gone back under ground a bit further north. Either way, I still might be able to find a ghost town.

Wrong again.

Coachway took me on a nice ride, but it never got me back to Sasco. Coachway runs due west along the southernmost border of Picacho Peak State Park. The road becomes well-maintained dirt after a half mile. Another mile and the road turns north and becomes and Cripple Creek Rd. About two miles later, the road turns west again and is then called Baumgartner.

At this point, I was directly south of Picacho Peak. The view was great and I should have snapped a couple of pics, but, alas, I didn’t. I was actually considering what I would do if I broke down. The RV-250 was running great, but after breaking down in the middle of nowhere in the not so distant past, I was having those terrible “what if” scenarios running through my head. Mostly, I was trying to figure out how to give someone directions to my location and who that “someone” might be.

I continued along Baumgartner. Even though it remained dirt, road quality was remarkably good. I think it’s because they are doing construction on the canals but the road is very wide, smooth and free of significant sand patches. A little more than 4 miles in, I reached a “T” intersection. If I kept straight, the road would become Wheeler Rd. Baumgartner went left and I could see asphalt. I went left.

What community is this? The “store” is on the right.

There were a number of houses at this intersection. There were no signs indicating a town, nor is there any indication on Google or any of the maps I’ve got. The reason I thought it may have been a town or village is that across from a large house on the north side of the road, is what appears to have been a store. There is even an old gas pump in front of it.

I like the way the farmer used this old bridge to hold up his irrigation pipe.

A quarter mile west of the house and the “store” is an old bridge next to the current road. It is in poor repair and is clearly unsafe, but I did snag a couple of photos.

Two miles later, I reached the intersection with Picacho Highway. Although I had never been this way on Picacho Highway, I knew exactly where I was and how to get home from here.

A good photographer could have made something out of this.

It’s only about 9 miles from Baumgartner Rd to I-10 and our favorite frontage road. Even though this is a straight piece of road, there are still some points of interest along the way, As may recall from earlier posts, I not enjoy ghost towns, but any old, ruined buildings. About a mile north, I saw a burned out hulk of a building at Curtis Road. I pulled over and snapped a few photos.

Rest in Peace.

A quarter of a mile further, was a roadside marker. The friends or family of this person had built a small building as a memorial. I stopped and took a few more pics.

Guess Your Weight?

A littler further were the ruins of an old weight station. I think it was probably part of  a cotton gin. It doesn’t seem so interesting now, but there was a swarm of bees nesting in one of the walls.

Three miles further north, is the Picacho branch of the Florence States Prison. I didn’t take any pictures in fear of them thinking I was going to help with a breakout, but it is an interesting looking place.

A mile further, I saw what looked like one of those Border Patrol observation towers in the desert a half mile off the road or so. A little while later, I saw the following sign:

A pilot friend told me this is used for national Guard helicopter pilots.

I was intrigued, so I pulled off the road and followed the dirt road. I came up to a gate and could see at least one runway. There were no aircraft, but there were 2 cars and a neat little control tower.

Three and a half miles further, I passed the campground where my parents used to live, turned east on the frontage road and was astonished. If you haven’t driven past the town of Picacho lately, you’ll be surprised. It seems a large portion of the town was razed to the ground sometime in December or January. Remember those vacant, dilapidated hotels? They are gone now. There is only dirt remaining. Several of the remaining buildings have notices posted on them indicating that more demolition is imminent. I would have taken a picture, but an empty field of fresh dirt doesn’t make for good photography.

I stopped at the Dairy Queen at the Picacho Peak exit and checked in at home. I then had an uneventful ride back to Tucson.

Ride Map: http://g.co/maps/5ydqd If you’re interested in doing this ride, it is about 85 miles in length, from Ina Road, to Picacho, via the back way, and back. The dirt portion accounts for about 8 miles and it is in good shape, but remember, it is dirt. Take your time and ride within your ability and you should be fine. I rate the difficulty of this ride as moderate.

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postheadericon Arizona Highways – From Article to Actuality

I have subscribed to Arizona Highways magazine for years. The pictures are phenomenal. One of the parts I most enjoy is the “Scenic Drive” segment located near the back of the magazine. I get some great ideas for rides from it. This month (October, 2011) there is a full piece entitled “One for the Roads.” It details ten scenic drives located in various areas around the state. Number 5 is Mescal Road.

Any road deemed “scenic” by the staff of Arizona Highways is one I want to ride, especially if it is fairly close to home. So, I decided to give it a go. The Accessibility part states “A high-clearance vehicle is recommended” so, naturally, I knew I would be fine. (I know, Ron, these scooters weren’t made for this, but I can’t help myself.)

Mescal Road starts at Exit #297 off of Interstate 10, approximately 40 miles east of Tucson. Anyone who has read more than a couple of blog entries here, knows how I feel about travelling via interstate, so my first planning act was to plot a route to Mescal Rd that used little or no interstate. Doing this, also helped me find another great road.

I knew that I could take the access road near Vail to the Route 83/Sonoita Highway Exit. That would get me 15 miles from Exit 297. I looked closer and saw that the access road become Marsh Station Road continues all the way to the Marsh Station Exit (#291) of I-10. That got me just 6 miles from Mescal Rd, with the added bonus of riding a stretch of road I had never ridden before. Excellent!

I packed up my camera and the Go-Pro and headed out on a recent day off. I rode out to Vail, fueled up and bought an extra large gatorade. (I forgot my hydration pack at home and wanted to have SOMETHING in the scoot in case I broke down in the middle of nowhere again.

great Bridge on Marsh Station Rd

Marsh Station Road is a hidden treasure. Road quality is fair. There are lots of cracks and a few potholes, quite a few of which were recently repaired. Marsh Station is a winding road with a lot of rollers. It also takes you over a beautiful old bridge, where you get a view of the railroad. I was fortunate to catch a train going past, just as I got there.

Agua Verde Castle

A little further along Marsh Station, you get a pretty good view of Agua Verde (aka DuPont) Castle. I have seen the castle from I-10 and have wanted to get a closer view, so this was a treat.

The Marsh Station overpass is brand new, so about a half mile from the bridge, I was riding on brand new asphalt. I hopped on I-10 and cruised the 6 miles to Mescal Road. By the way, the road quality of I-10 in this segment is appalling. It has many potholes and it is generally rough riding.

This is the movie set “town” of Mescal

Closed to the public, bah!

The community of Mescal is located at Exit 297/ I think it is unincorporated. there is gas and food available here if you need it. The name, Mescal, can be misleading though, because it is also the name of the old west movie set three miles north of I-10 on Mescal Road. The set is owned by Old Tucson Studios and has been used in quite a few western movies including The Quick and the Dead, with Gene Hackman. This is another place that I have seen from I-10 and always wanted to get a closer look. Mescal Road gets you within about a half mile from the set. There was a big sign stating “Closed to the Public” the day I was there, so I took a few pics and continued my adventure.

That is sand piled up on the side of the road, and it’s still deep on the roadway.

The pavement on Mescal Road, ends at the road to Mescal, the movie set. For the first mile or so, the dirt road is wide, smooth and well maintained. That quickly changed. I crossed a couple of very large patches of deep sand. Road width fluctuates drastically and quickly. I started thinking that this ride would take a very long time since there were place where I was going less than 10mph and was dodging large rocks.

Some Riparian area for your enjoyment

About 8 miles along, I pulled off to the side of the road and attached the Go-Pro to the front of the bike. I figured dodging big rocks and “swimming” through deep sand would make for decent video. As luck would have it, road quality improved quite a bit as I rode along. I was still dirt road, but the large sandy areas were gone, as were big rocks in the road. The scenery was very nice, though. The road climbs about 2000 feet, to a max elevation of about 4500 feet.

Once I entered the Coronado National Forest boundary, I began seeing tents and campers. Most of the people I saw were dressed in camouflage, so I assume it was hunting season for some kind of critter or another.

Desert or Prairie?

The road follows a couple of stream beds (none of which were flowing) which create some nice riparian areas with unique flora and fauna. There were entrances to a couple of ranches as well along with some horse and cows.

I followed the road for about 20 miles and enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells of this high desert area. The road began getting more and more narrow. Eventually I came to a gate and turned around. The gate had a sign that read “Please close the gate behind you” so I could have kept going, but the road beyond the gate looked more like trail than road.

I was more confident in my riding on the way out, so I pickedup my speed a bit and tried to get up “on top” of the washboards. I did smooth out the ride a bit, but slowing down to make the sharper corners was interesting. so I kept my speed around 25mph. I took the exact same route back home as I had used on the way out.\

I got a little too confident, however. I was zipping along around 30mph, hit the bottom of a little hill and the Go-Pro popped off the bike and into the dirt. I quickly turned around to survey the damage. The camera had come out of the protective case, the back cover came off and the battery flew out. It took me a couple of minutes, but I found everything. I was afraid the camera was damaged, but it worked fine when I got it home.

Here is the edited video and some pics that I shot during this ride. You may have seen this before. It’s the same video I posted about a week ago.

This was an enjoyable ride. I don’t know that I would “highly” recommend it though. I seen prettier scenery in quite a few places. If I’m going to punish myself and my bike, I can think of better dirt roads to ride as well. Marsh Station is a pretty cool little ride, but it goes nowhere and it’s not very long.

Here is the ride map of this little ride.

Info from My Tracks:

  • Total Distance: 75 miles
  • Avg Speed: 31 mph
  • Max Elev: 4,470 ft
  • Min Grade: 8.5%
  • Max grade: 19.8%
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