I’d been really uncomfortable last night though but on the plus side I had been the warmest I can remember being on this whole journey. I woke with my back twisted in a funny shape. The sun was so amazingly warm and there was not a sound except for a bird singing. The Roosevelt Lake stretched blue and polished for a mile or two across and maybe 10 miles either way from where I stood.
I’d took Janette the bar maids word and parked up away from the Hillbilly’s in the cove and the RV’s along the shore line of the beeches, there was nobody except us. Quite remarkable.
I checked the steep rocky perimeter of the picnic area we were in but it was a little too steep for a nice stroll down to the waters edge. So we drove back to Bachelor cove and nudged in between the hillbilly’s. Ok ok, I presumed hillbillies, but I’d heard banjo music last night from around their campfire and the grumpy guy over to the left nobody was stirring. I was the early bird.
I didn’t hesitate too long, clothes off then walked in to the lake up to my knees, it was pretty cold, went back and got shampoo left it in a bush that was in the process of being submerged a few feet in the waters edge I would need a hair wash today, then, just dived in.
Now when you first dive into cold water it is a shock, but then the body reacts and you warm up and you get used to it, pretty quickly. The water was calm and peaceful a guy fishing over from his boat near the high rocky banks to my left, birds floating on the smooth glassy surface, fish jumping out of the water all around me, across the way the pastel cream and orange sandy cliffs. It was beautiful and I went out like an expectant fishing boat leaving the harbor chin up powering out there. Looking back now and again, just to check progress and my distance. Breaststroke, the water was smooth and peaceful, it water tasted mildly vegetable and chalky, not unpleasant. On I went. I think I was just over half way across when I realized the cold waters were starting to wear down that inner heat generated by my body. I hadn’t gone in to have a marathon, but had just kept going, enjoying my body, the stretch and the pull. It had been smooth. I could have crossed I thought relatively easily but I would have to swim back across and the purpose today was to enjoy and just relax
I turned around and looked back at the shore it looked a long long way away I also realized that there was a very subtle current that had helped carry me out. Shit!!
I am a very strong swimmer well practiced, that is my sport, but it jarred me and that’s when the cold really struck. I have often though cold is like that, cold is an ambush. Keeps letting you know its there and ignore it at your peril, it won’t go away and then too late, it’s in there and it will takes its toll. It was a really hard swim back and I have to say, I was a little worried there for a few moments till I found my stride and my stroke, it wasn’t Tibet, but the cold was winning, it took twice as long to get back as it had to get out there, I really had to work hard, I worked hard with my mind too, pulled it in, no rest, if you rest the cold moves into the body, deeper.
I glanced at the guy out in the boat but he was a little too far away. For a few seconds I’d changed my course towards him and that’s when I got a grip of myself and focused. Something said
“Pull pull” Mercury I think. I wasn’t sure, but I heard it.
I sensed I was making headway, so changed my course back to shore.
“Pull Pull Pull” it said, I was back in charge. By the time I got back my feet were actually numb. The touch of the chalky muddy earth beneath them felt so good, the cold had very nearly got to my lungs, I remembered the Tibet swim vividly. Kept me focused, kept me moving.
Before I got out fully I washed myself and my hair then stumbled back to Hummingbird. I think I was in a mild state of shock and began to shake uncontrollably, I found it hard to stand up for a few moments, but dried off a little willing the sun to penetrate me, but it seemed to bounce of some internalized cold.
I got in Hummingbird and drove barefoot up to a tarmacked area and stood on the flat ground, no rocks so where I could get my balance better, I was still shaking. Once I was dressed again I decided to drive back to the Saloon and restaurant at Tonto Basin. I needed some warmth inside. I shook nearly all the way there. When I arrived it had stopped but I my toes were all still numb I worked at them inside my boots.
I put an extra jersey on and sat in there all morning waited on by a wonderful bleached blond waitress called Kath, she greeted everybody warmly and right then any warmth at all I welcomed. I recalled she’d looked at my quizzically when I’d come in.
I’d answered her questioning expression “I’ve just been for a swim in the lake and I’m a bit cold”
“Well” she said “If you go swimming in there at this time a year, the cold is gonna git you for sure”
She overflowed my cup for over two hours with hot coffee. At one point she’d come over and said
“Your slowing up, you must be feeling better”
I had some warm food, eggs, hash browns and toast and eventually took the extra jersey off, “Yeah feeling better” I said
The restaurant was a sleepy place full of slightly solitary people who all seemed to be vaguely local, except for the unhappy looking marathon cyclist sat on the opposite table or maybe it as that Kathy was so friendly it was like she knew them all. She certainly warmed my heart up.
I’d been tempted last night to stay and go on a long hike next day but there I thought no, time to move on.
I stepped back outside the sun was now on full beam and literally wilting anything alive, buckling anything organic and blistering or melting anything none organic. I soaked up the heat like one of the little lizards, gosh it felt so really very good. I breathed it right in and as I opened Hummingbirds doors I was hit by a wave like an oven, I enjoyed that too.
As I was pulling out I called in to the gas station to say goodbye to the sweet old lady, Pat she wasn’t on duty till 3pm but here husband was there selling Waterdogs to fishermen. He was about 5’3 with a long grey white beard and blue eyes with a warm quiet charm and a truckers cap on. Looked like one of Santa’s helpers on summer break. I’d never heard of Waterdogs so I asked them what they were.
The fishermen looked a little puzzled, but I was unstoppable, one said,
“Well, there like little lizards without the legs, s’ept they have little ones”
“Oh right, and what do you do with them” I asked genuinely. I was thinking like maggots that you throw in the water.
“Do you put a hook through them or cast them out?”
The guy looked at me surprised and a little uncomfortably
“You put a hook through them”
“Oh right” I said. I very nearly said “and does it hurt them?” but I caught myself
It was all quite pleasant, we said farewells they said ‘enjoy our country’
I said “I am very much”
I was sat back in Hummingbird and I thought, I want to see a waterdog. So I went back in and asked Pats Husband if I could have a look at some. He was happy enough and pointed me to the water filled tubs bubbling there in the side room.
There were what looked like little Newts or Salamanders, They were a dark green had 4 little legs and little gills on the side of their large heads. I felt awful for them. No way could I put a hook through one of them. I nearly bought the lot and let them go. But though ‘Get a grip mick”
We drove easily along the road through the beautiful green basin with the sandstone rocks working their way down the hillsides in amongst and around the juniper and the Saguaro Cactuses.
I have questioned myself at various times along this journey as to why I am here and what am I doing. I could look at pictures of cactuses couldn’t I. but the thought came to me that just being here on my own terms, seeing them, experiencing them, I have them in my mind now, it enriches me. It is how it is with many things, it could be an old oak in Victoria Park London, if you see it you experience it, and so it enriches you doesn’t it.
The flood basin below was lush and almost iridescent green in the bright glorious sunshine.
“It may look like a garden of Eden out there, but don’t be fooled Micky boy” I said
Any time I’d stepped 5 paces of the road into the bushes I had been painfully spiked stabbed and jabbed by about 10 different species of plant and cactuses.
I supposed if you existed in a desert and you’ve worked really hard searching for that water below the tough dusty sun baked earth, working your way tenaciously through the rocks and you’re the one sucking it up you’re gonna get pretty territorial over any other living thing that thinks it can just walk up to you, munch a few leaves or break a few branches to get at that precious moisture you worked so hard for. Yes sir. The solution is obviously sharp pointy spikes thorns and barbs and I’m not kidding, they hurt and they hang in there.
As we glided peacefully onward two Ravens flew straight out of the side of the road right at the car, they swooped upwards, their shadows right across the center of the windscreen. I of course waved and said hello, fantastic, no struggles today, good omens. I was smiling widely.
It was only a few miles to Tonto National park so a quick pit stop at the Roosevelt Damn and bridge at the confluence of Tonto Creek and the Salt River on the way along. The Dam was completed in March 1911 and traffic used to drive over the top until the bridge was completed in October 1990 It looks rather like the bridge over the Tyne in Newcastle, same sort of arch. Roosevelt himself said it was one of proudest moments of his life.
“You could not have done anything which would have pleased and touched me more than to name this great dam this reservoir after me”
Up in Tonto National park I discovered that this week all national parks are free, how cool, I felt lucky again, the girl on the desk looked bored to tears and when I asked her for information her mouth just dropped open. She just seemed lost for words so I helped her out.
I think the only thing she said, not out of any rudeness was
“Press the red Button to play the film, its upstairs”
Later when I came back down and was going up to the site she had regained her composure and said “You have a great day”
I said very cheerfully and without any irony“ I already am”
It was a lovely site, a walk up through the cactuses, shirt off and just feeling fit and lean after the swim, I had recovered now and feeling content that I’d pushed myself enough for one day and so I could just take it easy.
The monument is up in the superstition mountains, just on the northern edge of the Sonoran desert the ruins were built and lived in by a people of the Salado culture who apparently moved down from the north not the other way.
The Saldo People produced some of the finest and most flamboyant pottery and weaving in the South West and considering how they did, it is still unrivalled. I arrived again, just at a great moment as the guide, a lady was just excellent, I wish I had written her name down. I’d asked questions about migration and why these places had been abandoned. She said nobody really had definite idea why. As we talked I definitely sensed that she had ideas and had thought a great deal about it.
I’d been reading up on the Navajo and the Apache the other day it seemed to me that the appearance of these two peoples, from the north, who are in fact tenuously related, had to my mind coincided with some of the burned ruins of this area. Around the 1400’s. Some of the peoples like the Salado had simply vanished from the Archeological record
There was she had said migrations mainly from the Colorado basin down into the south to this region and to the south along the Rio Grande. The Hopi though maintain they moved north.
It is a very delicate thing these days in the US to talk about Native Americans as having taken slaves and waged warfare on neighboring or distant tribes come to that. Because of the more recent history there seems to be an unwillingness to talk about these things almost as if warfare is a European invention, perhaps in reality people are people where ever they are and I just wonder at times whether it really was all the Garden of Eden until the Spanish arrived. I have noticed that at quite a few of these pueblos ruins fire damage is mentioned and then places abandoned and all around a similar time, middle late 1400’s. Why? It begs the question. But then I have always been interested in these things.
It was a fascinating couple of hours there and sure was a beautiful place. Unbelievably she told us a story of 1920’s copper miners going up there and dynamiting the walls to get at the pottery. Stunning dumb and idiotic, to say the least.
I chatted to a couple of ladies there who were on a month road trip out from California with their husbands, Cheryl & Susan, they were a good laugh and I think it was Susan who had lived in Ramsgate Ipswich and Norwich when she was a little girl. As I was walking back to the car she keep calling after me down the steep winding path
“ Oh my god, Fish and chips, Yorkshire pudding, Real ale, Crusty Pies, Mushy Peas HP sauce, Sunday roast”
I had to tell her to stop, I said your making me home sick. A little further on I passed their two husbands they were sat in the baking sun on a bench obviously ready to go but good humoured.
They asked if I had by any chance come upon two troublesome women whilst I was up there. I told them I had but they were resting in the shadows, you should go up and join them, they had the right idea. They were good fun.
From there we took off east along the 188 towards Globe. I was just marveling at the Saguaro cactuses dotted all across the valley, then as the road climbed they just started to thin out until on the other side of the pass they had just vanished.
I noticed the same thing all day with various plants, flowers trees and cactuses. Three would be a splash of colour or a cluster of cactus and then they would fade and vanish for no apparent reason, just little micro climates and the particular species perfectly adapted for that little valley or in fact that one side of that one mountain or hill, it was quite remarkable to see and realise, all so fragile and yet had been on that little patch for ages gone by.
I’d overtaken a 4×4 on the way about 10 miles outside of Globe. I’d checked the road, I could see about a mile ahead, it was clear, the road was wide but had two sets of wide yellow lines in the middle of this particular stretch, I think maybe a turning to our left too. He’d been doing about 50mph. It was no big deal or so I thought.
Then as I pulled up at the Lights to enter Globe. I heard swearing , “Motherf**ker blah blah blah “etc . I looked around and realized it was aimed at me
“Hey you asshole why’d you take me on the road like that” he yelled leaning out of his window. A big faced guy maybe around 55
For a second I was jaw dropped, but he kept on cussing me so I gave him what I thought was a universal sign, apparently Boris Johnson had been called one by a cab driver just before I left the UK. You know what I mean.
But it seems that that sign doesn’t mean the same here as it does in the UK and is really very offensive, much more so than the tame British interpretation it seems, he went crimson and his pitch went up another octave, his woman was screaming out the window now too.
“You Californian Queer” he screamed he’d obviously been checking my number plates
“You wish” I called back “But you can kiss my ass if you like” I thought I’d try a bit of American. That didn’t go down too well either.
“You can follow me if you like, I’ll sort you out fagot” But just then the lights turned green, I was going left he was going right. I gave him a wave as we rolled out, I’m not proud of it. But it had really taken me by surprise. I really have been super careful since the written warning the other day and to be honest it did rattle me a bit. I just wondered what I’d done wrong? In retrospect I should have left it another 40ft till the two wide yellow lines had come together into two narrow yellow lines.
But a bit over the top though, don’t you think? I think he was Jealous of Hummingbird. Hummingbird kicks ass.
Now I’m spending all this time on the car and so it seems the perfect time to practice searching for tensions in my body, tensions cause a lot of problems if they are there too long, stop the flow of energy. I have realized a person can walk around clenched for days or weeks or even longer maybe even a lifetime and not even realize it.
As we came out the other side of the gritty copper mining town of Globe, I sure had made other right choice last night, not a place I would have wanted to spend time. Anyway I realized that I had clenched my around my bum, Base chakra, I’m sharing ok and this is for real. I thought how many times do you do that and how long do you hold it for? It seemed that whenever I felt anxious or perceived myself to be under attack I clenched in that area. I spent the rest of the drive consciously relaxing my base chakra and all around that area. I have been doing it from time to time. But that guy had brought my attention to it, so I thanked him. I will keep doing it now as I drive on. I’ll let you know what happens. That guy sure needs to relax his micro climate or I suspect he won’t be around to much longer
I’d always wondered what the Gila Mountains would look like so wanted to drive the Apache San Carlos Reservation,
The reservation was far more organized and seemingly industrious than I had expected. The town of Peridot looked busy with a big swathe of green right through it along the San Carlos river now backed up because the damn just a few miles below town. Bylis too along the Gila river, looked green and fairly busy. Though all around further back from the road looked hot harsh and with dusty beige the Mountains frames in the distance, they looked formidable as I’d read.
As we shot on along the 70 I was surprised by the amount of farming that was going on there, the tiny town of Geronimo for instance was just fields of lush bright green, Fort Thomas, Ashurst and Eden were all busy hives, with trailer homes and wooden houses set back a little from the highway all seemed to have pieces of rusting well used farming equipment. Diggers cranes, tractors ploughs and other assorted farm vehicles. I enjoyed the drive windows down hair blowing sun shinning, ass relaxing. The Gila Valley was green and producing. from about Bylis onwards.
It seemed to reach as far as Safford, a gritty hub where it appeared to culminate and then just after it relaxed and breathed back out into wilderness or at least open range. Safford looked worn and tatty in the same way English Seaside resorts are worn by salt and sea, bleeding rust through gloss paint type of thing. Here it was blistering heat then sand blown that had dimmed the gloss, it didn’t bleed, it was worm away but still standing and still looked pretty good considering.
From there to Lordsburg in NM was a really beautiful drive particularly at that time of day, The really pretty little town of Duncan with its white 1920’s lamp posts and baskets or red flowers, it looked lovely, I was tempted to stop. But kept moving, out again into the range that stretched as far as your eyes could see, which was very long way.
Then again up popped the Yucca cactus, magical, the light at that time golden as the sun set. They are really quite tall and strange looking and cast long shadows, strange figures dressed in long shaggy brown coats with a spikey green ideas on top. But what is more remarkable is the long arrow like thing they have developed sticking right out the top, like a spear or an arrow, I presumed for pollination purposes, as you look out across the land you can see them, thin periscopes just above the desert scrub bushes as if they are waving at one another across the vast open space.
“Coo we Over here” type of thing.
Then just at golden hour and almost before I knew it we were rolling into Lordsburg. I really had high hopes for Lordsburg, but as we pulled up onto the I-10 it looked pretty grim. A train Junction, most of the place seemed closed down, all along the main street seemed to be boarded up or in the process of closing down, we’ll see tomorrow morning. There shouldn’t be any problem about an open space to park hummingbird tonight.
I wondered where I would sit tonight as I am doing my best to keep to the rule of no night time driving. So I coasted up and down the one main street marveling at its loneliness, and there like a beacon at the end, yeah you guessed it Denny’s. Hallelujah.
One of the waitresses a lady called Tara pronounced “Tera” noticed my map I think , but then again I had been sat there for over 3 hours so I was hard to miss. She came and introduced herself as she poured me another coffee asked what I was doing. When I told her she warmed up. Told me a story about her adopted Great Grandfather and her paternal Great Grandfather had both been Murdered by Pancho Villa who had terrorized this region towards the end of the Mexican Revolution around 1816.
I’ve read a little and so we chatted. She was cool, sassy . She’d been born and raised in a little town of Animus 30 miles south of here and she obviously knew the area inside out. She drew me a map of a great road I should check out, Highway 80 back own towards the Coronado and Pendregosa Mountains told me to check out skeleton Canyon where she said Geronimo had been shot and killed and pointed me to a mountain town called Portal with apparently a wonderful place I could sit and write. I may just do it too, it’s only 30 miles away so why not.
She came back and looked me seriously in the eye and sai
“What ever you do don’t stop for anybody out there, no matter what, there’s drug runners and illegals, you understand, right
I had seen the border patrol guards in their green military uniforms a little earlier
I told her I understood, and I wont. I promised. It put a different slant on where to bed down for the night as well.