My brothers and I have converged on Arivaca, Arizona, a small town with approximately 700 residents in the Sonoran Desert, for our father’s 70th birthday on March 19, 2005. Brother Paul has offered his two street motorcycles, a Harley Davidson Dyna Glide and a Yamaha FJR1300, to Eric and me as transportation from his home in Tucson to Arivaca, a sixty mile ride. Arivaca, just a few miles from the US/Mexico border, was originally a Native American village. European Americans started mining operations in the 1850s and as the mines played out, ranching took over. Today, Arivaca is a fascinating mixture of contrasts:
- The peacefulness of the desert landscape and the virtual martial law environment caused by the constant battle between Border Patrol and the illegal immigrants, and the DEA and the drug smugglers. (2017 update: All that illegal border traffic drama has vanished due to the Border Patrol setting up mobile checkpoints on the only 2 roads out of town. So there’s no longer any point in making the short but hazardous 8 mile desert journey across the border to Arivaca. From Arivaca, it’s 50+ desert miles to Tucson and a vehicle is critical to surviving that trip hence the simple effectiveness of the checkpoints. Arivaca is now downright peaceful as it should be.)
- The constant environmental stewardship required to maintain the vast Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge just West of town and the environmental damage being caused by the illegal drug and people smuggling trade. (2017 update: This, too, has dramatically improved due to the checkpoints.)
- The old, crumbling abode buildings mixed in amongst the modern homes of residents.
- Superb micro-roasted coffee at The Gadsden Coffee Company in the middle of what should be pure Folgers country.
- The pro-marijuana residents, the survivalists, the hippies and retirees, the ranchers and the tourists; an eclectic and diverse community to be sure.
Between time spent with family, cruising the local roads, feasting on good home cooking and drinking excellent coffee, a superb time is had by all.
Our Arivaca Ride
The 24 mile ride from Interstate 19 to Arivaca is an absolute blast due to the ups, downs, twists and turns through the desert landscape. We cross dry washes, zip past cactus and mesquite, and keep a sharp lookout for free range cattle and gravel on the road. We have such a good time that we stop upon reaching town and double back to do it again. After riding this road 3 times, we show up at the Lazy E Ranch with big smiles.
After lunch, we saddle up for a ride West of Arivaca to Highway 286 that runs South through the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge with the Baboquivari Mountains on the right all the way to the Mexico border to the town of Sasabe, AZ. Lots of twisty roads, marvelous scenery and very few vehicles make for a very satisfying ride.
The Brilliant Yamaha FJR1300
This machine is absolutely stunning; the superb handling, the performance of a big inline 4, the comfort, the styling. A spartan approach to sport touring, the FJR’s design is essentially flawless.
Pablo’s Harley Davidson Dyna Glide
A mighty sweet cruiser, Eric and I enjoyed rumbling it through the desert on quiet, twisty two lane roads. Despite the occasionally bumpy surfaces and our fairly aggressive riding, the Dyna doesn’t complain too much. We did grind the footpegs a bit but upon inspection, Paul said he did most of it prior to us coming along. As far as comparisons go, think of this Harley as a mid-60s Chevy and the BMW as a Mercedes sport coupe.
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This is a sacred mountain to the Tohono O’Odham, a Native American nation West of the Coyote Mountains. With an elevation of 7,730 feet, it is prominently visible throughout our ride and quite striking.
This tiny town is on the US / Mexico border at the end of Highway 286, a lonesome stretch of blacktop running through the Altar Valley. It’s 47 miles, round trip, from Arivaca. The modern US border facility is a dramatic contrast to the few, rundown adobe buildings just across the border. Eric and I stop for a drink of water. Barely even a wide spot in the road, this town truly is in the middle of nowhere. To we urbanites, we can’t help but wonder about the people who live here and what they do to make a living. It’s so quiet. No highways, no airplanes, no traffic, nothing. Just the sound of the breeze through the mesquite trees. Maybe that’s why.
Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge
What was 117,107 acres of ranch land was purchased in 1985 and converted to a wildlife refuge, a landscape of rippling grassland flanked by mountains, and riparian zones rich in bird life. It is now home to 58 mammal species, including mule deer, white-tailed deer, pronghorn, javelina and puma. There are also more than 325 different bird species and 53 species of reptiles and amphibians.
Gadsden Coffee / Caffe Aribac
It is always a treat to stop by Caffe Aribac in Arivaca for coffee and breakfast. Finding a micro-roaster that offers superb coffee way out in the Sonoran Desert never ceases to amaze this Seattlelite. I love telling them where I live, coffee-wise, and they grin as they serve up a cup that utterly delights me every time. The customers are a mix of motorcyclists, bicyclists, tourists and locals all united by their love of craft coffee; truly a marvelous place to hang out.
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