Abandoned RR Trail
by Steve Brown
The dual sport ride was planned for an early start on Sunday. Four of us were to meet at the Shell station at Mustang Corners where Highways 90 and 82 intersect. The sky was overcast and it had rained the day before so we were expecting very little dust and some water crossings on the ride. Fifteen minutes after the appointed hour there was just me and my friend Josh, both of us on Honda XR650Ls. We were ready to ride.
We gunned our singles east on Highway 80 for a mile or so and turned off at a gate along the road. This road is called the gas line trail and is a series of whoop-de-doos that go for miles and keeps the bikes air borne most of the time. This day each section after the whoops contained a muddy lake. I'd been here before under the same conditions so I told Josh to take it easy as the mud under the muddy water was very slippery. He snapped the shifter into gear and blasted through the first mud hole, but on the second his front end washed out and he and the bike disappeared under the sea of brown. I heard his engine gurgling and die as I was scrambling to get off my bike to help him as I thought he was trapped under the big single. Also I was trying to get my camera out of its holster to get a great shot. But he was up and pushing the bike to the dry side before I could focus my camera, I mean help him. He hit the starter and it started up and we proceeded on.
The desert was green and the air cool and the sky overcast which was perfect for the ride. This dirt road, which ran about 10 miles, crossed the Sacatan and California Washes. The washes had been racked by the recent rains and proved very challenging to cross. Minor ruts, rocks and having to cut up the other side at an angle made for a few white knuckle moments. The gearing and the big knobs on the Dunlop 606 tires pulled me out of some bad situations.
Soon we ran onto the old abandoned rail road track that used to run from Tucson to Fairbanks. The ties and rails are missing and all that's left is the black gravel. We headed south towards Fairbanks and the San Pedro River. In some areas the black gravel was like running through deep sand and we were man handling the big singles through the soupy gravel. I was sweating it a bit because we crossed a few concrete trestles that had severe drop offs down into the desert below. I didn't want to fall here.
After zigzagging through some great canyons we came up to a long metal train trestle that stretched across the San Pedro River. The river was roaring underneath because of all the rain. We walked the length of the iron bridge to check out the old wooden ties. Some were loose and wobbled under foot. It would be a long drop below if the bike lost it's front end on this bridge. We decided to turn around and follow a trail that took us down to the San Pedro River banks at a bend in the river. Couldn't see any signs of civilization, it was like being in a jungle with all the trees and the brown colored river roaring past us.
We got back on the abandoned rail road track and followed it back toward Benson. As we ran through the canyons we could see it raining in the desert below, but we continued to miss the rain. We got on Highway 80 at St. David and followed Sibyl Road through Knobb Hill canyons and crossed Dragoon Wash to get to the Union Pacific Railroad that runs East and West paralleling the Interstate. There's a great two lane dirt road that follows the track and it's a lot of fun to ride. The road takes one down into various washes that pass under the tracks. We passed several trains heading West as we flew along the dirt access road.
After about 30 miles of banging around on dirt roads we came onto the paved Dragoon Road which would lead us to our destination and lunch. We planned to stop at the Triangle-T Resort and have a burger there. After a short paved stint we left the highway and followed the smooth dirt road that leads straight to the Saloon. We parked our muddy bikes right in front of the Saloon where you would tie up your horse and went into the large wooden structure and ordered a couple of buffalo burgers, fries and beers and ate out on the covered patio. We could see rain over in the direction of Sierra Vista, but we lucked out and missed most of the rain only riding through a couple of areas where it was sprinkling. We'd covered about 130 miles of excellent roads, mostly dirt.