Chopper Charlie: Seasonal Itchy Feet

Part One

Article By: Chopper Charlie

Originally Published In The April 2017 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

Itchy feet syndrome, that’s what I had. No matter how hard I scratched, it just wouldn’t go away. I was desperate. I scoured WebMD for answers, the only cure was a motorcycle trip, an adventure of sorts. Thank goodness for WebMD. Furthermore, I have a brandnew motorcycle sitting in my garage desperately wanting to cross a state line or two, come hither, it would say to me, batting its headlight lashes. Come hither. Then, as if the Gods of Motorcycling were on my side, the blustery winds of winter blew away to make room for spring like temperatures and blue skies. Not just in Colorado, but for most of the western half of the United States. The Stars had aligned in a way I could not ignore. Forecasts all around me were calling for temperatures in the 40’s and 50’s, even approaching 80° in Phoenix. Perfectly adequate traveling Article By: Chopper Charlie Weisel temps. Blue skies and no snow on the radar, start packing. The next morning my motor reached a comfortable operating temperature of 185, cast me a look of appreciation, and would remain that way for the next eight hours. I didn’t know exactly where I was going other than a few key destinations. Madrid, New Mexico was one of them and first on my list. I need to start making more lists I reminded myself, maybe a bucket list. Lists are good, then I won’t forget all of these places I want to see. According to Google there are 19,354 towns. I chose Madrid for purely tourist reasons, this is the town that the movie Wild Hogs took place in. Not that I’m a huge fan of the movie or anything, I just remembered it looking like a quirky little town in the film. I love quirky little towns. They tend to be full of quirky people and quirky people have quirky things to say. I see no flaws in my logic. I was spot on. It wasn’t long after I rolled into town that an elderly gentleman, walking his elderly dog, directed me down to a restaurant called the Holler. He said it had amazing food and that a BMW guy wouldn’t be too out of place, after mending the bruise to my ego I hopped aboard by BMW and worked my way down to this establishment. A BMW guy, that stung more than he will ever know. Turns out the guy knew what he was talking about and I devoured my bacon cheeseburger as if it was the first thing I had eaten in a week. As soon as the dinner plate massacre ended, I worked my way to the opposite end of town where I was told would be a safe place to put up my tent for the night, this recommendation was also correct. Aside from being woken a few times for fear that the screaming coyotes were literally outside my tent door, I slept well enough.

This turned out to be a worthy stop and one I would not hesitate to make again. Unfortunately, my stay in Madrid was brief, my feet were starting to itch again. Next in my sights was Alpine, Arizona, another a little town I had never been to, or so I thought. I always try to ride new roads and visit towns new to me when I can and for the most part I do a pretty good job of it. This particular day would not be one of those days. The morning started out well, New Mexico highway 14 was certainly not a road I had been on and in fact, I stayed on new roads all the way to Reserve, New Mexico. As I rolled into town to check my map, I was staying on some pretty small roads and making quite a number of turns, I suddenly recognized it. Damn, I’ve been here before, I thought to myself. With no choice but to carry on I continued towards Highway 181 where I would find myself pulling over to take a picture in the Gila National Forest, duplicating a picture I had taken many years ago. The town of Luna would greet me with a welcome back sign as if mocking me and finally the town of Alpine, where I would stay for the night. All was good though, those certainly aren’t roads anyone would complain about riding a 100 times in a row. With the curves of a burlesque dancer the road begs you to keep pressing on, keep it on the pavement, out of the snow and out of the trees and all will be right in the world. 22.5°, that’s what the temperature read as I stared dry eyed out the door of the Sportsman Lodge, the little bed side wall furnace attempted to turn me into a piece of jerky while I was sleeping. 22.5°, it is barely February I told myself, don’t complain. At this stage in the game I had to make a decision. I really wanted to ride Hwy 191 south but the motel keep explained how there would most likely be icy stretches on parts of the road that never saw sun. This certainly presented a concern, especially as how I was by myself. I asked the gentleman if he would ride it, he had two BMW’s of his own sitting in his parking lot, he said no, and my decision was made. I turned right and headed north.

The night before I had been searching the inter webs for interesting Arizona towns, one of the ten towns on the list happened to be Greer, a place I would literally be driving by anyway. As I approached the turn off for Greer, a five-mile detour it turned out, I chuckled to myself as I read the signs proclaiming it to be a winter wonderland and at the snowmobile tracks along the road side. I wondered how many motorcycles they saw this time of year. Greer was yet another tiny village, much like Madrid or Alpine, even smaller though. From what I saw there was only one small diner, my stomach was grumbling and outside I spotted a sign for bread pudding. I had to stop. Stepping foot inside the one room diner was like taking a step back in time. Collectibles and curiosities adorned the walls in a haphazard fashion, the wood burning fireplace warmed the room, keeping myself and three older local fellas warm as the cold wind whipped against the windows. Perfect, I was in my element. The warm bread pudding was a welcome treat. Snow was feverishly lining the roads at this point, the numbers on the altimeter creeping up and over 8000. It was winter, without any question, it was winter. Warm temps would soon be upon me though, I wasn’t worried or quite honestly even uncomfortable, I was truly enjoying every minute of it. Something about putting myself into compromising situations warms my soul. I would be heading down hill soon enough, into the valley enveloping Phoenix, where I would find temperatures approaching 80°. Palm trees. My left turn at Hon-Dah, on my way towards US 60 and the Salt River Canyon took me into the Native American country, a reservation, the town of Whitefish. I can’t help but feel an overwhelming amount of shame for ourselves every time I ride through a reservation. These are people that were here long before us and are now left with nothing. The level of poverty is staggering, crime levels are outrageous and alcoholism is the norm. I went through a few reservations on this ride but this one hit me the hardest. I cautiously rode through town, my jaw laying on my handlebars as I weaved my way through herds of stray dogs wandering aimlessly, looking for scraps. Trash floats in front me like a tumble weed. Tension thick in the air. I’m a white man and I am not welcome here. I stopped at the first gas station I saw and just as quickly rolled out, I could feel 12 sets of eyes on me and they weren’t the happy eyes. The kind of eyes that cast you a look letting you know that you will most likely leave town with less then you came with if you stop here. I carried on. Sadly, I carried on. I let the heaviness in my heart propel me down the Salt River Canyon towards Globe, a short stint off the pavement and eventually into Scottsdale where I would spend a long overdue evening visiting with my sister, her husband and daughter. Visiting family is not something I excel at. From pine trees to palm trees, from freezing to sweating, all in one day. There is something magical in that, and Arizona is one of the few places that is possible. A lot of good came out of Arizona for me on this trip, but that will have to wait until next month.

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