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postheadericon You Decided to Ride Where?

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.

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This closed up building sets in the middle of the hexagon. I wonder what it was.

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.”

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Section 8 Housing in 11 Mile Corner

      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.

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Riding Through the Gap

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We found that the sewer system is still there, but the manhole covers aren’t. Watch out!

     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.

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The front of the center building. There are a lot of concrete pads to the right of this photo.

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.

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Yandell’s. John is on the left of the pic on his Vespa.

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Sean and his Kymco with a shot of the mural on the side of the building. We aren’t sure why the last 2 digits of the zip code are missing.

    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.

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Beautiful Old Post Office

We were told that these post office boxes may have come from Tombstone and they date from the 1880's.

We were told that these post office boxes may have come from Tombstone and they date from the 1880’s.

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.”

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Admiring the Gourds

 

Some people get too close when admiring the gourds.

Some people get too close when admiring the gourds.

Some gourds are serious art

Some gourds are serious art

Some are whimsical

Some are whimsical

Some are funny

Some are funny

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There are even musical gourds

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.

Cairne General Hospital, 11 Mile Corner, AZ. Circa 1950's

Cairne General Hospital, 11 Mile Corner, AZ. Circa 1950’s

 

 

 

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postheadericon Rally Report – Great Southwest Scooter Fiesta IV

Rally Report – Great Southwest Scooter Fiesta IV (GSSF)

11/30 – 12/2/2012

The Sky Island Riders have now been present at all four of GSSF’s. This is my second rally report on attending this rally and, although there are many similarities between the events of this year’s rally and last, there are also some interesting differences. As it would turn out, getting there and back would wind up being the most memorable parts of the rally.

 

We initially had 12-15 SIR’s that were planning on going to Phoenix to the rally, but life happens and as we approached the end of November, we were down to 9. Because of work schedules and the like, we weren’t going to be able to all ride in as a group. As a matter of fact, were would go to Phoenix in three groups: I would like the first group, leaving Friday afternoon, that would arrive in time for the first ride of the rally. Sean would lead a late Friday group that would arrive later Friday evening and, because not everyone could spend one or two nights in Phoenix, Warren was to lead a group that would leave early Saturday morning and return to Tucson that evening.

Here are Lee (with his back to the camera) Craig, Warren and Kat enjoying the Fiesta

The first group ran in to trouble early on in our trip. First, we found out that Randy had a flat tire on his Burgman and wouldn’t be able to make it at all unless he could find a tire somewhere. That left just 3 of us riding: me, on my Stella, Craig, on his vintage Vespa and Lee, a Buddy 170i. Outside of Marana, the Buddy developed mechanical problems and quit. Lee still has roadside assistance, so once he was in touch with them, he urged Craig and I to get on the road, so we did. The rest of the ride was uneventful.

 

One group of riders passed another

We pulled into Chandler Vespa and began visiting with old friends and making some new acquaintances. We then had a group ride over to Joe’s Real BBQ where eating was added to the visiting. As with last year, the rally had a large section reserved outside for us.

Joe’s serving line closed at 9:00 pm and the second contingent of four SIR’s arrived at about 8:50 pm. The great thing about this second group was that Lee (of the Buddy 170) was with them. I talked before about how cool scooter people are. Well, when Sean had found out the Lee’s scooter wasn’t working, he loaned him one of his for the duration of the rally! Now Sean, John, Annie and Lee were added to our ranks.

We talked and joked with the Phoenix folks until late, then headed to our hotel. During the evening, we had mentioned that, like last year, we were going to do a ride early Saturday morning. Last year one non-SIR joined us, this year there were several.

 

A fun thing about twisty roads is being able to turn around and takes pics of your friends on the road behind you.

Here we are, crossing one of the many one-lane bridges around the lakes.

Saturday morning, we got up early and rode to Hacker’s Cafe‘. 9 of us had breakfast, then we rode out to Tortilla Flat. Last year we turned around at Canyon Lake , so this year we decided to ride all the way to Tortilla Flat. It made us late getting back to the rally, but it was worth it. Apache Trail (aka AZ-Route 88) is a great riding road. The road quality of Apache Trail is only fair because of the many potholes, but the scenery and many tight curves still make it worth the ride.

 

That’s Lee behind me with the rest of the Saturday morning group behind him.

The scooter posse takes over Tortilla Flats. This is a great ride.

As mentioned, we were late returning to the rally and missed the chance to ride in the slow drags, but we were in time to enter our bikes in the scooter show. Sean entered his vintage Vespa P-200 in the “Ugly But Still Runs” category and won! That’s the second year a SIR has taken that particular award. We also met up with the Warren and Penny.

 

Here is Sean claiming his “Ugly But Runs” trophy.

Like last year, the next rally event was a ride out to Saguaro Lake. The road isn’t as twisty as Apache Trail, but it’s still fun. Once there, we spent the entire time out in the parking lot talking scooters. There was a lot of mutual admiration of scooters and eventually, the admiration turned into people taking test rides on each others’ scoots. I got to ride a new Vespa 300 Super. Wow! That is a great bike.

 

I was feeling a strange vibration in my Stella, so that is Sean, in front of me, test riding her on the way to Saguaro Lake. Craig is on the right.

Like last year, the SIR’s had planned an evening ride around central Phoenix as well as dessert at the Sugar Bowl. Guy, from VespaAZ, suggested we meet him for dinner at a place called Carlsbad Tavern. We rode back to town via the Beeline Highway and had dinner. I think we all loved Carlsbad Tavern. The next time you’re in Scottsdale around lunch or dinner time, you should go there.

 

This is at Carlsbad Tavern.

We finished dinner, then rode to GR Herzberger Park (aka Arizona Falls) walked around and shot some pics, then took an adventurous ride along the steep, narrow roads of Camelback Mountain. From there, we rode into Old Town Scottsdale, to the Sugar Bowl. We had a great time there then returned to our hotel.

 

The owners of PCroissant and Crepe Bar were very welcoming

Sunday morning was a nice change from the earlier rallies. We went on a tour of four noteworthy coffee shops. At the second one, we got a very nice class on several different brewing methods. After the four coffee shops, the next event was to ride up South Mountain. Since we SIR’s were riding back to Tucson after South Mountain, we hijacked the rally and made them stop for lunch prior to the ride.

 

Stopped at the top of the South Mountain road.

We went to Matt’s Big Breakfast, enjoyed that, then continued the rally and went up South Mountain. Last year, we stopped at nice scenic overlook, but this year we road all the way to the top. Like Apache Trail, South Mountain is very twisty and scenic. Road quality is good, although it is well traveled by law enforcement, so keep your speed down.

 

It was mid-afternoon when Sean, Craig, John and I said our goodbyes to the Phoenix group and headed toward Tucson. We didn’t want to ride back through town, so we rode west until we hit 51st Ave, then turned toward Maricopa and would return home via Maricopa, Casa Grande, Eloy and Picacho.

 

Riding as the sun sets. I wish I had a slightly better angle on the camera but I still like this pic.

The sun was setting as we left Maricopa. That’s when Sean tells me “Things just got a bit more interesting. My headlight quit working.” Oh boy! Stella’s headlight is fair. Craig’s Vespa’s is anemic at best and it gets very dark out in the desert. Fortunately, John was on his Big Ruckus which also has big headlights. We positioned him at the back of the formation and he lit the way for all of us.

 

Sean took apart the headset then diagnosed, then repaired the problem.

We stopped at Auto Zone in Casa Grande, where Sean bought a soldering iron, found the short in his wiring and repaired the headlight. I took the opportunity to replace the brake light bulb that had burned out on Stella on Friday. We then continued our cold, dark ride home. Everything seemed to be going okay until Craig’s Vespa lost spark and died between Picacho and Marana.

 

The problem was quickly diagnosed and we started making repairs when an ambulance stopped to see if we were okay. We said we were fine and the driver asked if we needed some additional lighting. We said “sure” so he went back to the ambulance, turned their spot light and bright lights on so we had had plenty of light to work in. They also turned on their flashers so cars would see us. Big thanks go out from us to Southwest Ambulance.

 

Here is our Saturday night group cutting up at AZ Falls.

The Great Southwest Scooter Fiesta IV was a memorable one. We got to see riders helping each other and sharing their expertise and even their bikes. We met some new friends and also took the opportunity to pass out flyers for our own rally, For A Few CC’s More III, which will be held in the spring of 2013

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