Junji’s Arizona Excursion 

    By Deryle Mehrten

 If you are or have ever been an Internet BMW Rider President then you know that when a fellow President decides to do a ride in your backyard its time to jump in with route directions and help setting up the obligatory dinners and/or lunch gatherings.  So it was when I heard that IBMWR President Junji Yoshida, a well respected doctor in the Tokyo area of Japan, announced he was coming to the States with a plan to do a loop around southeast Arizona…our backyard.

     Junji is a long time BMW motorcycle owner and is an accomplished rider.  I have lived in Japan a couple of times in my younger days and experienced some of the worst traffic in my life there.  I can understand someone from the highly congested streets of Tokyo wanting to come to a wide open state where the horizons are miles and miles off into the distance and just…ride.

     After a day or two of business in Phoenix, Junji’s plan was to ride Hwy 70 through Globe and spend his first night on the road in Safford.  From there he’d ride down to Bisbee for his second night; and the third night would be spent in Tucson with side trips to the Missile and Aviation museums in South Tucson.  The fourth day would be back to Phoenix, returning the nice K75RTP that Phil Marvin had parked in Phoenix for Junji’s Arizona Excursion.  That was way kewl of Phil.

     So on a bright Monday morning in late March, Junji set off to meet Bob Straubinger in Superior on Hwy 60 for the ride over to Safford.  Considering that in Japan you drive/ride on the left side of the road, it was good to have someone along to make sure everyone stayed on the “right” side of the road…no pun intended.  The time change meant that 11 am in Arizona was 3 am in Japan, another reason to have a friend along for the ride keeping an eye on everyone.   Good on Bob for taking care of Junji on his first leg.

    Our plan was to meet Junji and Bob along with Phil Marvin in Safford for a late lunch at the La Paloma restaurant in Solomon.   From an early email from Junji he seemed to be fascinated by the big “holes” he could see when he looked at Arizona through the eyes of Google maps.  That gave me the idea of taking him up to the Morenci Mine overlook.  Now that’s a hole!  He was duly impressed.  Phil drives one of those huge trucks you see moving around in the open pit; and having Phil along to give us a commentary of the mine goings on was icing on the cake.

     Just to give Junji a small taste of the Coronado Trail, Olde Hwy 666 now Hwy 191, we rode north another 10 miles or so to the Chase Creek Vista.  Past the vista is another 75 miles of the best motorcycle road around.  We talked about him coming back sometime and we’d set up a ride to Hannagan Meadow and Alpine.  The Coronado Trail is a one of a kind, for sure.

     After our sightseeing of the mine and just a taste of Hwy 191 we headed back to the Quality Inn & Suites in Safford getting in about 4 pm. Just so happens the QIS is right across the street from the Manor House Restaurant and Sports Bar.  Wanda and I did a quick splash in the indoor pool and hot tub before we headed over to the Manor House for a cold one and dinner.  Dinner was good, the conversation excellent.  Junji is a way kewl guy!

     The next morning didn’t dawn bright and sunny…it was raining!  Looking at the Weather Channel it was coming from the west and appeared to be moving pretty quickly.  We decided to hang out for an extra hour and see if it would pass over us.  Lucky us, the front went over sooner than we expected and at about 8:30 am we headed south with our rain gear on.  Junji wears a one piece ‘Stitch so he was ready for the rain as well.

     We turned west off of 191 at Hwy 266 and headed over to Bonita and Ft Grant.  This is a great ride rather that taking 191 down to I-10 then slabbing it over to Willcox.  We stopped for a picture at the Bonita junction.  The Bonita/Ft Grant road south of Bonita was paved just a few years ago, nice of them to do that for us motorcyclists. 

     Both bikes needed gas by Willcox.  The plan was to get a picture or two at the Rex Allen Park in old Willcox and gas up at the Chevron right around the corner.  Turns out, the Chevron right around the corner wasn’t pumping gas and we had to ride back down to I-10 to fill up.  There’s a nice coffee shop across from the park, but with the weather not looking good we decided to ride on.

     With all the rain we have gotten this year I was concerned that there could be water in the washes on SR 186/181 past Dos Cabesas.  It’s not unusual during the Monsoons to find running water in the washes after passing by the entrance to the Chiricahua Monument.  Damned if we didn’t hit about an inch or two of water in the very last wash we went through.  Surprise, surprise, surprise!

     There was no way I wasn’t going to take Junji to Tombstone.  At least once in everyone’s life they should visit the Town to Tough to Die.  Just come in the fall, winter or spring, its way to hot in the summer.  To really experience the ambience of the Old West it was Big Nose Kate’s for lunch.  The pictures and paintings on the walls are worth the visit.  The Cowboy bathroom is a hoot.

     It was a bit after 2 in the afternoon when we rolled into Bisbee.  Wanda and I had set up dinner reservations in Santiago’s, right below the hotel where Junji was staying.  After making sure Junji knew his way out of town, we hustled home to take a shower and come back in the M3 Bimmer, it was still raining and would rain the rest of the afternoon and into the night.  Allen and Diane Moore, who live maybe a mile from Santiago’s, joined us for Margaritas and dinner.  Due to the bad weather none of the other possibles made it.  Too bad, they missed a great evening!

     We all hugged and said our goodbyes around 9 pm.  It’s amazing the bond that forms between like minded motorcyclists in such a short time.  We all promised to get together again somewhere, sometime…and here’s hoping we do.

     The next day the weather was near perfect for Junji’s ride over to the Longhorn Grill in Amado to meet Mick McKinnon and Harb Lill for lunch.  They escorted him to the Missile and Space museums then got him settled into a motel for the night.  The last day of Junji’s Arizona Excursion took him through the Tohono O’Odham Indian Reservation; he rode out the Ajo Highway past Sells to Quijotoa and north on Indian Road 15 back to I-8 and into Phoenix.  Nice route.

     Thanks Junji for letting us be a part of your Arizona Excursion. 

      Lots more pictures at www.photohighway.co.jp/AlbumPage.asp?key=2302220&un=64918&m=2. 

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