The Pettit files~the most excellent miss adventures of Jonny P, touring Northern AZ and finding new dives
I am confused about a lot of things, but mostly that we spend more time doing what we don’t want to do as a means to an end. The suffocating accounts others carry for us, telling how much we have to spend, save, or pay out. It feels more like a step on the chest than living, the inability to breath deep and take things as a whole, with jaded eyes and tired bodies we form to the shape of “life” as we know it and scurry off to get paid for our daily dues.
There is a part of me that wants the security of a routine, but a much larger part that is fine out on the fringe, and I suppose now at 34 I’ve come to understand the feelings of both hunger and pity, a moderate sense wealth with stupid expenditure’s and the fake sense of security. Sometimes effort is all we have, and sometimes that effort is draining, demoralizing, unrelenting and defeating. The other end of that spectrum is deviance, exploration, a broader realm of our knowledge, to touch and feel things that we’ve only seen on maps or in magazines. Those times and experiences are defining and nearly deafening when done right, the texture of living, far beats a painting of life, and I, like many others, seek the texture.
After New Mexico my moral was shot, and still is. I took three days off in a row to race the Arizona 300, a trail race from nearly the Mexican boarder, 300 miles up the Arizona trail to Superior. It was an important test of equipment, a trial and error by fire. Instead however I devised an easier option to give my broken hand a rest and still log some miles in country I haven’t yet seen. Northern Arizona fits like a glass slipper, pines, aspens, streams, lakes and tiny mountain towns covered in their own uniqueness appeals to me a great deal. In true fashion it didn’t go exactly to script, but it was an adventure and an opportunity to test out my own gear and get the hell out of the valley.
On the road to Payson there isn’t much to see, I rode some of the Arizona trail and another who’s name I forgot, but the trail proved to rough for my hand so I was forced back to the highway, amongst cars and the lack of shade. Looking out over the land all you see is brown earth, cacti, and the occasional bones and carcass of animals brave and dumb enough that tried to outrun the family suburban on vacation. It climbs, and climbs a lot, I was over packed with more stuff than I needed, to give me an idea of what wasn’t necessary for the great divide ride.
With my bike over 40 pounds loaded down, and more than enough shit on my back I stared off into the cacti landscape and was amazed at the sheer tourchness of everything, it was either burnt or near burnt, and in the late afternoon sun you begin to feel like the environment your in. Even the asphalt is covered in black impressions of cars that caught fire in the inhospitable climate I find myself in.
Arriving in Payson I was out of water and pretty damn hungry, my buds told me to check out the Buffalo, a local watering hole with a good mix of folk. I threw on some regular clothes, walked in with my backpack and got a couple odd stares, asked the man if he could unlock the patio door so I could slide my bike in, he looked at me said, yea, I’ll be out in a minute, so I said thanks and went outside to wait. After about 15 minutes I was pissed, thirsty and hungry. Upset my man didn’t help me out I was confused by his ineptitude, as I was going to get a little tipsy and eat massive calories. Instead I went over to a Walgreens, bought a pen and some paper and began to write down some thing from the trip, went next door to dell taco got two sloppy burritos, wolfed em down and looked at the map for a campsite. Before I left I used the bathroom and at first didn’t recognize my own face. Covered in a heavy brine of salt, it looked like rope coming down around my eyes forming a Y at my throat then curling to the back of my neck, it looked like I was sweaty and stuck my face in a pile of cocaine, and I began to understand the man at the buffalo at why I was refused service.
Cleaned up and riding sidewalks to a campsite I was limited to a headlamp and found one close to town, found an empty spot an began to off load. At the entrance there was no prices marked an the envelope box was locked, thinking I’d pay in the morning I pulled out my newly acquired jet boil and set about making some tea with my remaining cytomax water. In my bivy looking up at the stars and enjoying my new found concoction Johnny Ranger saw my headlamp and cruised up with his golf cart and ruined my supreme comfort. JR “did you get your envelope” JP “box was locked figure I’d square up in the morning” JR “well I’ve got one right here” JP “Alright, what’s the damage?” JR “20 dollars” I looked at the man as if he was serious, 20 bucks for a dude and a bike? I’ll be gone first light, isn’t there another campsite a couple miles down the road, shit for that price I’d sleep on side of the road. But all my stuff was already unpacked and I was in my bag.
He began to tell me, once he had my cash about the “amenities.” Hot showers, running toilets and water, so I thought well that’s cool, I wouldn’t mind a shower in the morning, I began to feel it dough well spent. In the morning I was even less enchanted with Johnny Ranger, fucking kids screaming till well after midnight then the kicker, it’s 2 bucks for 6 minutes of shower time, and only two shitters where unlocked meaning I had to wait while I had two cups of coffee knocking. Johnny Ranger and his buddy pulled up to pick up the trash and in his supreme authority over the Houston Mesa campsite, said “well, what do you think?” Fully kitted out and ready to ride I let it fly. “20 bucks huh, for bathrooms that aren’t’ locked and 2 dollar showers, buddy does it look like I’m packing quarters? And secondly or thirdly your water is shut off, yeah, don’t think I’ll be back, but have a good day.”
It was 13 or so miles till Pine and breakfast, the road is beautiful and full of assholes who don’t think they can cross a double line to pass a packed cyclist, a purple minivan came by with his horn blowing and took a swerve at me, I could feel his mirror miss me by inches, up ahead was a national natural bridge park and I so badly wanted captain dip shit to stop and get fully thumped by a dude in spandex, but he wasn’t and I continued to climb and slowly get towards Pine.
At the Early Bird Café in Pine I wolfed down some real food after once again “more climbing” My legs were feeling dead and I was hoping some home style fries, eggs, ham, more coffee and a big ole slice of watermelon would help. The town of Pine is beautiful, a small relic mountain town fully wrapped in its own mystic. For reasons unknown I feel internally relaxed in pines and mountains, maybe a nod to my childhood in the great pacific northwest, but like a soft hand it calms me greatly.
Welcome to Strawberry and PBR’s on tap and in my glass before noon at the Sportsman Chalet. If I had to describe my adventure thus far “hilly” would win. Another small town with charisma and hangover barmaids=me likey. The terrain matches my youth, the miles are slow but well worth it.
Tall trees and grass, the smell of pines and mountain sun draw sweat and inspiration from my body. I love my bikes, but I also love to drink, this is a test of gear my fortitude and a chance to ride slow in county I rarely see and discover new towns.
Here I jotted down a couple things-the top 5 things noticed thus far.
1-these fucking things are heavy
2-lower AZ sucks
3-over 30 mph and the bike with all this stuff shimmies almost out of control
4-you don’t cover much ground climbing 5-7 mph’s
5-northern AZ is rad
A spandex man 4 PBR’s deep is at the jukebox rocking this joint. My picks, some black keys, Adele, Hank Jr, and senior, Jerry Jeff Walker, David Alan Coe, and a host of others when the men in cars asked who played the country?, I proudly said the dude in skin tight clothes, he looked at me his belly sticking out way more than his dickey do, I stood up and patted him on the back told him there’s plenty more coming, he grumbled to his buddies, hopped in his mid life crises and left the building. I was on a fact finding mission of cool towns and bars, plus to try and ease the demons I knew I had forming in my current state of funk, and I was hoping the exploration of new towns and rivers would, like it’s always done, smooth over the depression.
Kate, the hungover barmaid kept bringing em and I kept drinking em, after a half dozen I closed my tab and time at the Chalet, filled up with water and two cokes I made my way towards Fossil Creek. There was a trail I wanted to try and find, plus badly wanted to soak in what looked like in pictures, a perfect stream. The nice long 9 mile bumpy decent meant my legs would have a break, also I would loose my gloves I had Velcro’d together on the bars, I was a little worried about my paw now with no protection, and the funk would multiply immensely if I further hurt my hand.
Arriving at Fossil Creek all fears stopped dead in their tracks, a beautiful creek laid before me, the edges tan flowing deeper into jade towards the middle. I sat and watched the sunlight shimmer on the on the bent trunk of an Aspen, here I knew I was both drunk and a romantic, although the latter rarely comes out. If you listen to a river at first is sounds like a loud applause of natures grandest hand, but it flows freely with empathy bending to hills and formations both natural and man made. I knew I was in love when I thought of only Amber, dogs and beer to accompany along this empty stretch of perfectness.
The climbs out of the Oasis wasn’t as bad as all those that came before it, winding through canyons and up past the trees into pastures were lone cattle grazed on tall grass and laid near dirty ponds, the occasional cars and qauwkers neck would snap taking in the salt encrusted figure on a packed bike burning in the afternoon sun. Camp Verde isn’t as close as it says on the map, at least not what is important, food, water, and shade. I was worried about a couple things, my hand was throbbing with no protection, and I also caught a shard of glass along the sidewall tearing it open. During my change out I couldn’t find my pump. I had packed 3 tubes, 1 patch kit, one big air and one 16 gram co2, and a pump….Well it rolled out of Ambers Jeep when she dropped me off. I was burnt from exposure, my lips were cracked and bleeding a little and this damn pack sucks a mighty one.
Finally in CV, I had a bacon cheeseburger, salad, fries, a Coors original along with lots of water at Valley View Restaurant in Camp Verde, a family run business 60 days into operation, large windows viewed out towards the cliffs, baron land with no trees, you could see the valley give way to the hills dotted by pines and houses, leading further up the slip to the bigger trees and taller peaks. I talked to the girl who was heading to Prescott to see her friends Candy and Tom, I had a feeling my quest for Wilhoit was out of contention with my hand being sore and no pump, plus I really, really didn’t want to ride the rode with jackass drivers, I would prefer to go to Crown King and take the long lost dirt roads of Senator highway but without sufficient equipment it wasn’t a good idea. We agreed she pick my sorry ass up in Camp Verde drawing a premature close to the ride, but still a good one with lots learned. I went up to the casino off of interstate 17 to await my ride and unbeknownst to me Rio Speedwagon were playing in an outside venue at the Casino, I circled back on the bike, took in all the sights, stopped and sat on my top tube just staring, and them at me.
A rather loud girl was walking through the parking lot with a tall skinny man talking loud enough so two counties could hear her, she was spewing on and on about how they met this time last year over by the hot dog vendor, her wardrobe classic, the vernacular even better, I was glad the bike had taken me here, showed me parts of the state I’ve longed to see and learn more about my equipment and packing. it’s a beautiful thing we all have, and even in a funk it’s amazing. Amber picked me up and took me too Prescott where we had dinner and drinks, the next morning her and Candy where going off for a hike and Tom and I sat around doing Manly things of sorts, I hopped on my bike and rode down to Whiskey row, as Amber was coming home, took my bike and dropped me off at the bar and said they’d be down later.
I sat and drank two for one beers, whiskey, lamented on the soreness in my legs and the trip itself, and the big one coming up, so much to learn and do it’s amazing we spend so much time doing things we don’t want to. The stress of the divide and reality of my life gets to me from time to time, so I got blissfully drunk while listing to a great blues band and a ripping harmonica player reminding me of the music on 1st street of my hometown, comfortable and relaxed we woke up early so we could both get to work on Monday morning in do time, but my mind wonders wildly of deep creeks, long roads and even races, the moral still low, but life is at a high.