Four Days in February in Arizona  -  All You Need is a Plan!   
 by Marina Ackerson


     The Oracle Inn was the destination for the February S.E.A.T. (Southeast Arizona Touring Club) brunch.  It was reason enough to plan a four day ride!

     We took the Pinal Pioneer Pkwy past the Tom Mix monument, Saguaro cactus desert and mountains in the background – straight and flat.  There’s something about it though, it draws you in.  Hang a left on 77 to Oracle and American Avenue.  Oracle is an old mining town and is home of Biosphere 2.

     AND IT’S ABOUT THE PEOPLE……BMW’s filled the parking lot of the Oracle Inn.  S.E.A.T. riders filled the dining room – conversation abounded.  Deryle and Wanda planned a ride for us back to their place in Sierra Vista.  As usual, it was a most spectacular ride.  The route took us across Park Link Dr from the Pinal Parkway to I-10.  It twists and turns 18 miles through lush pristine desert against a blue, blue sky and brings you to I-10 at Picacho Peak.

     Just 10 miles on I-10 and off through Marana and Saguaro National Park West – jaw dropping beauty -- again through pristine cactus forest, curvy two lane road with good blacktop and over Gates Pass, passing by Arizona Sonora Desert Museum and Old Tucson Studios.  Then a short ride on AZ-86 (Ajo Hwy) to Mission Rd past San Xavier Del Bac Mission and through Sahuarita to 83 south and in to Sonoita.  The landscape changes to sweeping curves and yellow grass hills that remind me of the golden hills of Laguna Seca, California.  We rode through more golden hills, past more mountain formations and Fort Huachuca and the Huachuca Mountains (rolling thunder) to Sierra Vista.

     AND IT’S ABOUT THE WEATHER…The next morning we headed to Bisbee and Tombstone, Tombstone being the town “too tough to die” and Bisbee being the town “too high to care.”  We took a quick detour through the border town of Naco with a stop at Fort Naco which was one of the last forts built by the United States in continental territory and is the only remaining border fort out of several that were constructed during the Mexican Revolution.  We had coffee in Bisbee at the Coffee Company (the local motorcycle stop) and lunch at Big Nose Kate’s Saloon in Tombstone.  Kate was a girlfriend of Doc Holliday plus many others – she was a busy girl so the sign says.  John & I headed for Patagonia Lake State park to camp. Upon arrival we were informed they had shut down most of the campsites to put in electricity.  We ended up staying the night at the Stage Stop Inn in Patagonia.  It turned out to be a nice evening and plenty of local conversation.  John cooked our meal out on the balcony overlooking the park in front of the Inn – so we half camped.

     Next day we headed for Roper Lake State Park just south of Safford, Arizona.  In near perfect weather, we left Patagonia a little late as locals kept stopping to talk with us out in front of the Stage Stop.  Our route took us back through Tombstone, up to Willcox, with its old time buildings and railroad station where Geronimo was put on a train to St. Augustine, Florida, after his surrender.  We also rode past the Chirachaua Mountains and the Chirachuaua National Monument where Geronimo hung out.  We’ll plan another trip to explore this area.

     The Roper Lake campground sits below snow peaked Mt. Graham.  The campground is well maintained and includes an outdoor hot springs tub with a view of the mountain.  We set up the Nomad tent and our Kermit chairs inside the “garage,”  rolled up one end of the garage and gazed up at the almost full moon.

     The ride back to Apache Junction from Roper Lake took us through Globe, Devils Canyon and Gonzales Pass, with a stop for lunch at the rest area in Miami.

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