Riding Along The Arizona Mexico Border

We’ve come 14 km from home so far. How far is it to Argentina? Something like that, maybe a little further, Neon replied. Ok, I said, I’ll need to get more water then.

We filled our canteens at the Elephant Head trailhead and continued on; Neon thinking we’d get to the town of Amado by midday, and me shaking my head saying, maybe by tomorrow, adding “I think this trail gets harder and our bikes are heavy.” The trail was rocky and lined with catclaw for most of the singletrack portion (and two-track too); at one point a tall catclaw bush pulled me off my bike and I nearly landed in it while trying to save the fall. We pushed our bikes uphill over ledges of rock the final third until we reached a good dirt road. From there it was a swift ride into Amado where we got water and camped on the Juan Bautista de Anza Trail. People peered in from the roadside, watching us, so we moved camp a little further down the trail. In the night, three people ran by startling me awake. I watched the shooting stars for awhile until an owl landed in the tree beside our camp. It was loud, and its silhouette striking against the dark sky.

The next day we took paved roads, including a section of interstate, to Tubac where we mailed a bunch of excess stuff home leaving our bikes much lighter than when we started this journey. We continued south, riding some on the Anza Trail, and the rest of the way to Rio Rico on paved roads. We arrived in Rio Rico by midday, resupplied, and headed off on a dirt road shortcut to Ruby Road (a scenic road that runs along the Mexico border between Rio Rico and Arivaca). We camped in a wash on the side of the road a few miles from Rio Rico. I took a liter shower and had my best night sleep so far since we began.

The next day we continued down Ruby Road to Peña Blanca Lake, had a burrito picnic, rinsed our clothes, and washed up in the lake. The day was filled with nice riding up and over hills in a classic Sonoran Desert “old west” setting. We arrived in Arivaca the following day, resupplied, and then headed south and west on dirt roads along the Mexican Border to the border town of Sasabe. The border patrol roam these roads, but always smile and wave when we pass. We slept in the desert near Sasabe, watching the sunset paint Baboquivari in soft pinks and oranges in the fading evening light.

After resupplying in Sasabe, we headed northwest over Presumido Pass in the Pozo Verde Mountains, south of Baboquivari. We descended into Tohono O’odham Nation land on the other side of the pass and continued our ride north toward Baboquivari, spending one last day and night with the mountain that captured my soul the first time I saw it seven years ago. The shooting stars have been amazing, and on this particular night Neon said “look, look, look”. I looked up and there was the biggest, and greenest, shooting star I had ever seen. He said, “That one is going to make a noise somewhere when it hits.”

In the morning we continued north to Sells, and then west across another road that eventually turned to dirt, and then sand, lots and lots of sand. We camped in a chollo forest. I woke in the night to pee. In the distance I saw a blue blinking light, the first of many we would come to see. I had heard about these. They’re “help” stations along the border where if an immigrant gets desperate and thirsty enough they can push a button and the border patrol will come get them. A little while later a border patrol drove by and coyotes howled. I watched the shooting stars until I fell asleep, but woke again shortly thereafter to wild horses tromping through near our camp. We woke early and continued across the desert. We decided to take a smaller road slightly north that was hopefully less sandy. It went through what looked like old growth chollo forest, but it eventually ended. We weaved our way through the desert on cattle/horse/donkey/burro trails until we found another road that led us to a little town called Kupk. From here we caught the bigger road west to paved road that led to Pisinemo. We got water and took another dirt road west to the eastern boundary of Organ Pipe National Monument where we decided to head north on pavement and ride into Ajo on the main hwy. after eight days we were more than ready for a real shower, clean clothes, and a night or two in a real bed. And salad, on these long stretches out I crave greens!

… … …

I don’t really have any stories from this journey yet as everything is still seeping in and becoming real. It always takes a while for me, at the beginning of a new journey, to peel back the layers of myself and let the new places and experiences show me the way. My current thoughts are muddled up on the different stories and histories and feuds surrounding the Arizona Mexican border. These places, the people, and the long history of disputes that permeate the border areas are intriguing and challenging to understand. On our journey through, the Tohono O’odham thought the border patrol would give us a hard time. That was not our experience. The border patrol were friendly, helped us with directions, and were curious about our bikes and our journey. The border patrol thought the Tohono O’odham would give us a hard time. That was not our experience; they were friendly and curious about our journey. Everyone was worried for our safety. We saw four people, all dressed in black, obviously “illegals”; they were just hoping to go unnoticed, and never bothered us. We saw several dead donkeys and cattle decaying in the sun, hollowed out, with flies, and buzzards, and coyotes cleaning up their remains. It’s a harsh landscape on one hand, but home to many on the other hand. I don’t know this place, but in the few days I spent riding throuygh I found myself trying to imagine what it would be like to call it home.

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Coming next: El Camino del Diablo, The Devil’s Highway in southern Arizona.

2 Comments

  1. Love that you two are out there on this personally historic journey. Thank you for doing this blog. I will follow you faithfully. I promise not to be a mother-hen/ worry wart type! I went to Mexico at 19 for a month and have lived for 40+ years in & out of beloved Mexico Lindo ever since. Magic awaits you, as does potential danger. Enough said. Cuidense mucho, Peli-Roja! ( Redhead in Spanish)

    Liked by 1 person

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