On the Way To Bagdad
By Craig Littlefield
I was talking to a friend recently who sells chemicals to the mining industry. He mentioned that he had been to Bagdad, Bagdad Arizona. I had never heard of the place. He said it was a small mining town in the mountains west of Flagstaff. Hey! A place we have never ridden.
Roger Austin and I, on one of our periodic 3 day “no particular destination” rides, had spent the night at the Riverside in Laughlin on the way back from California. It is one of Rog’s favorites. He got us a $27 room with a view of the river. We had the “all you can eat’ prime rib dinner. In the morning we headed home through Kingman and down US93.
We turned left, north, off 93 about 50 miles north of Wickenburg onto state highway 97 toward Bagdad. Bagdad was not on the sign but we knew it was out there. The road surface was perfect, tight curves and a lot of ups and downs. Rog, got all excited and passed me on his LT with the foot pegs dragging. I knew I had to ride hard to keep up.
After about 20 miles of great road we met state 96, turning left toward Bagdad. It was now on the sign. After 10 miles the speed limit and our speed dropped as we came into town. Most mining towns seem to be dying but not Bagdad. It was spotless. The town is doing well and it was obvious that the mining company owns the whole town. They keep a tight rein on things. The road is a dead end so there is only one way in and out of town. We took some photos and chatted with the woman in the 7/11. She even left the store to take our photo. After some serious warnings from her over the number of people who crash after failing to negotiate curves on highway 96 we left looking forward to 96.
Bagdad is about 50 miles straight west of Prescott in the Mohon Mountains. State 96 leads to Prescott through Hillside, Yava, Kirkland, Skull Valley and Iron Springs. Here is another wonderful road with sweepers, tight twisties and a lot of ups and downs. Every now and then it would open up to beautiful cultivated valleys with cows and horses and then back into the twisty hills again. There was no traffic at all and surely no reason for an officer of the law to waste his time out there.
After another 40 miles we were back on US89 south of Prescott and heading for Wickenburg. Deryle had mentioned to us that there was a new road that headed straight south out of Wickenburg to I10. I had been on it several years ago when it was dirt. Now it is paved. Three miles west of Wickenburg on US62 we turned south on Vulture Mine road. There were a few miles of nice curves and then it opened up. The speedometers went up to numbers that the FJR loves as Roger stayed a dim light in the mirror on his LT. We quickly made it to, and under, I10 with not a car on the road. This is a great way to get back from Wickenburg and points north and west without the traffic of Phoenix.
We met old highway 80, cruising through the farmlands through Arlington coming into Gila Bend the back way. This is the way Rog, Rob and I have always used to get home avoiding the freeway. From Gila Bend it was 120 miles of freeway home. We had a nice day with good friends, good bikes, good weather and great roads.