A Sublime Loop Around the Southwestern States
Wheeling up to the U.S. border from the Mexican side at Tecate was more of a drive-through experience than the usual cacophony of queues and chaos surrounding the more southern fronteras. The two-year familiarity of my old, comforting Latin American life was about to leave me for a convenient First World one. A U.S. immigration official greeted us formally at the barrier. Plenty of instructional “pleases” and “thank yous” followed, but few of the warm pleasantries to which I’d become accustomed.
Upon inquiring where we might find the Mexican aduana to relinquish our temporary motorcycle permits, the U.S. officer looked at me square in the eye and in a reassuring tone remarked: “Don’t worry Ma’am, you’re safe now.” Having experienced months of color and contrast, we had emerged unscathed and unintimidated through the length and breadth of Mexico, right from the southernmost tip of Argentina. In fact, it was curious to fathom the context behind such a statement.
On we wended to savor a short but sweet taste of California. It was wonderful, thanks to the hospitality of a San Diego-based family, whose social circle comprised a couple of medicinal marijuana dealers, a female windsurfing Olympic gold medalist, and a well-traveled Frenchman. It exploded the ordinary order of things and showed me the endless possibilities through an eclectic mix of people who had been there all along. We departed, grateful for our Californian hosts who had warmly facilitated our assimilation back into the western world.
Pressing On to Prescott
Ahead of us lay yellowish-brown, open country, studded with cacti. Arizona was the first place I’d been to in a while that turned out to look exactly as I’d pictured it. As we rode along a ribbon of rocky desert, slanting sunlight gleamed off an endless pile of white, fluffy clouds extending as far as the eye could see. The ingredients of the ride charmed me.
Without hesitation, I became immersed in the local offerings, including plopping ourselves in the stony Sonoran Desert not far from Gold Nugget Rd, just outside Quartzsite. The place is a magnet for rock hounds and the RV boondocking capital of the world. Leaving the local snowbirds to their business, we parked our bikes and bottoms a respectful distance away to watch the sun commence its colorful descent in glorious seclusion. It was a gem of La Paz County, which got under my skin as much as the rock dust.
Prescott became our next go-to base. Nestled at an elevation of nearly 4,000 feet, backed by mountains covered with ponderosa pine forests, it was an uncomplicated landscape—wide open, with no underlayer of menace. Usually boasting perfect weather at around room temperature, we rode among granite mountains and all the worthy accomplices of lakes, streams, and rolling meadows. Perforated with historical landmarks, you’re hit by the rich history of the Old West. With cowboy-style saloons dotted along Whiskey Row, fused with the more modern aspects of the traditional town, there’s nothing not to like.
Prescott became the nucleus for a spider web of dynamic folks, all happy to spin us a silken tale or two. One week unsurprisingly stretched into two. Alas, the time came to leave our friends’ world of gutsy adventure and do some gritty traveling of our own. A fortnight is ample time to establish a comfortable routine and set our stall out while getting increasingly settled—making it a wrench to leave. And this occasion was no exception. Fast friendships had forged into something else, they had evolved into something deeper, more intimate. Had it not been for my partner in life and travel Jason putting his metaphorical foot down, I think I’d be an honorary Prescottonian by now. Still, our farewells were as fleeting as our departure—we’d be back.