Contemplating Returns, Fighter Planes and Restoration by the Colorado River
As the days of this journey dwindled, I procrastinated.
The incentive for late night scribbling and early morning coffee driven writing tinted by the reality of the calendar and the end of our trip.
Plans to store the motorcycle and rent a car. Incoming e-mails about technical problems with a short documentary heading for broadcast on Alaska PBS, queries about projects that might or might not happen and a Canadian distributor asking me to send on a few copies of a film I made immediately.
There is something about suspending planning and responding and instead, waking up in a cold tent in the desert or in a funky motel to a day of unknowns that I am not ready to give up.
Now we’ve been home a week. Out the window: snow, small clumps not yet melted, wispy clouds passing by Gavan Mountain. Head swirls with news, comments and opinions: health care in the Supreme Court, the tragic shooting of Travvon Martin, the Pope in Cuba calling for respecting freedoms as stateside 123 communities march for respect and stopping domestic violence.
When I last left off we’d spent a peaceful day with cacti in Organ Pipe National Monument and a couple nights in the town of Ajo. Our goal: crossing the western side of the state and avoiding a windy rainy ride in a storm.
We set off on Route 85 towards Yuma, on a ride that should take less than three hours; the wind blowing enough I don’t’ snap many pictures as we pass the Barry Goldwater Air Range. We’ve stared at maps, noticed a large mysterious mass of land with this title and wondered what happens there. I find out later, “95% of all fighter pilots in the Persian Gulf war trained” on the range, Yet it is quiet and doesn’t seem like a place for bomb and fighter plane testing.
According to a site called GlobalSecurity.com:
The Barry M. Goldwater Range encompasses about 1.7 million acres of withdrawn public land and Department of Defense owned land. P.L. 106-65, however, significantly reduced its area by excluding the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge (a part of the Range under previous withdrawals) from the withdrawal and providing for the eventual relinquishment of some parcels. When these parcels are relinquished, the Range will encompass about 1.6 million acres.
We stop at a gas station in Gila Bend and I click a photo of an overloaded van, curious about the story underling the piles.
Then we head off on Highway 8. It is not crowded, but the sound, presence and vacuum created by 18-wheelers passing us reminds me how small and vulnerable we are on this bike.
I’ve found a motel with a website that radiates a charm we have trouble actually finding in Yuma. In the wind and under clouds, with boarded up dreams and for sale signs all over the streets, sadness strikes us. It is a place with an unemployment rate of over 16.9 % , double the state average.
The next morning we head to a flea market with hopes of finding funky door knobs, old tools or something to share with family and friends and instead find 99 cent junk, piles of accessories for RVs, potions and polarity reversing clothing to heal and cure aches and pains.
On Saint Patrick’s Day, as the wind gusts up to 50 mph, we drive around the town in search of the soul of Yuma. A group of young motorcyclists without helmets roar by us. They yell and weave in and out of traffic. At a matinee of Dr. Seuss’ classic tale, ”The Lorax,” I fall asleep. Spencer is amazed that a film with a message of saving the planet shows so many characters jumping into motorized vehicles. Maybe they are hybrids or fueled by animated solar created biofuel?
We wander and discover a trail by Colorado River, part of an effort to restore the wetlands, create habitat for local wildlife and native plants following decades of pollution and water diversion (see a blog about a journey-project to kayak the Colorado River from Wyoming to Mexico to learn a bit more). Then we find an arts center displaying some playful work and see a hint of more than what we first saw.
I query folks we meet about what they like about Yuma and what we should know. Shrugs, scornful laughter, a quick response of “nothing,” gives way to talk about good times spent in the dunes, of river actives and a warm connection to a place we’re only passing by.
NEXT: The Inland Empire, Spencer’s Brother, Graveyards, Malls