Arizona Backcountry Discovery Route: American Walkabout

Arizona Backcountry Discovery Route: American Walkabout
What am I doing with my life? Where am I headed? We all reach a point when we question ourselves and the meaning of life. Maybe you’re stuck in a dead-end job, maybe you’re not getting along with your spouse, or maybe the ever-increasing demand for your attention and time weighs you down. The best way to figure it all out is usually in connection with solitude and nature. Time to think. Time to reflect. Drown out all outside noise so you can listen to yourself. A walkabout if you will.

As much as we all need more time alone, the realities of family and work can’t be ignored entirely. It wouldn’t be right leaving loved ones behind for months to struggle while you go find yourself. But there’s a solution: The American walkabout. Eight adventure- and action-packed days on a dual sport through Arizona, camping along the way, will expedite the process. And if that experience doesn’t shed light on the existential questions, then you might as well sell your motorcycle and start collecting stamps.

In April 2013, the non-profit Backcountry Discovery Routes (BDR) organization put together an orchestrated crossing of Arizona from the Mexican boundary north to the Utah border. Our eight-man, one-woman strong team meets at the Go AZ Motorcycles dealership in Scottsdale to ready our expedition fleet. Among the bunch are two KTM 990 Adventures, one R 1200 GSA, three F 800 GSs, a Yamaha WR450F, and two liquid-cooled R 1200 GSs, one of which I’m testing at the same time. All of the motorcycles are outfitted with luggage and crash protection from Touratech. Trailmaster Adventure Gear provided one of the most useful items, however—a stainless steel shot glass. Good for espresso in the morning and whiskey in the evening. It’s the little things in life that matter.


We leave Tombstone early in the morning. It will be the last time we see a bed, or a shower, until we get to Utah. My brand-spanking-new Beemer is fully loaded. My body is filled with adrenaline as I’m just waiting to ditch the asphalt.

The first point of order is to ride southeast to the Mexican border, so we can officially head due north from there. The wide-open, well graded, off-road sections are very easy, and the few directional changes pump me up with confidence. On the incline to Coronado National Memorial, which pays tribute to the first organized expedition into the Southwest, the first curves get thrown my way. On the top, we reduce tire pressure for easier handling. This increases the chance of a flat, however, and I really don’t feel like fixing one in the next eight days. I decide to keep the psi around 20.

The entire afternoon, we follow a maze of dirt roads until we come to the Empire Ranch. Just up the trail, we find a suitable camping spot underneath huge trees. The last leg already had a few sandy sections, and I’m not looking forward to more tomorrow.