Exploring Historic Southern Arizona on a Honda CB500X Rider Magazine

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Honda CB 500

Exploring Historic Southern on a Honda CB500X

March 6,

The CB500X and I are headed up to Oatman on old 66 and have pulled off the road to a picture of the Black Mountains.

is something about the Old West appeals to romantics—myself included. on Main Street, brothels beautiful ladies, stagecoaches along and keeping the highwaymen at depicted in famous films, with John Wayne and Cooper. The truth was a little charming—few face-to-face shootouts, as a in the back was a safer option.

And the were damned uncomfortable, with the springing, as the roads just ruts in the dirt.

many-armed cactus is in the Saguaro Park (East); it can grow tall and last 150 years.

Arizona in the fall would me a chance to dawdle along back roads that mere trails in the late century. The temperatures were to be in the high 70s, and a Honda ABS was sitting outside, your $6,500 bike, with accessory centerstand, saddlebags and a top taking it to $8,000 and 470 pounds. I would head to Oatman, a one-time ghost town has not been very ghostly for the 40 years.

The place has become a tourist destination, especially the build-up of Laughlin, Nevada, as a mecca. Even gamblers can get and want to go see the sights. The only in my plan was that I had to cross the Desert on the Interstate, well 100 miles of smooth asphalt by sand and stone. Time to the stamina of this 500, did just fine, keeping up the light traffic moving at mph.

This 500 is a middling-sized bike, enough horsepower to keep me and its light weight makes it to run down dirt roads.

Helldorado Days in Tombstone, the infamous 1881 gunfight at the Corral, the main street is of theatrical goings on.

I had called to see if the old Hotel was open for business; Clark Gable and Carol honeymooned there in 1939, so it has a touch of romance. No rooms any more; food only. The got me across the desert in an hour and a After sleep in Needles, has a dozen generally featureless providing clean sheets and water to the traveler, by 7 a.m.

I was the Colorado River and heading the Black Mountains to catch the sun over Oatman.

The origin of the name is certainly not very The Oatman family was headed for in 1851 and they were alone, camping roughly the town is located. The story that some Native attacked the family, slew and kidnapped two daughters.

One of the girls died, while the other, was held captive until the and more peaceful Mohave traded for and released her, now in 1855.

Prospectors had been around these mountains the 1860s, but in 1902 there was a big gold in them there to warrant a big company moving in, building a narrow-gauge railroad to the ore to the mills in Milltown, close to the It was quite a climb, as Oatman at 2,700 feet above the but the work was completed in 1903. And out by storms a year later.

And rebuilt. Then washed out abandoned in 1905. The Mohave Railroad was short-lived, with the big playing out soon after, and the population dropping to a few hundred.

is a perfect road for a CB500X, or for any with lots of curves, traffic and great views—though it is a hazy today.

Until strike in 1915 brought a boom to the town, these closing down in 1924. By a different clientele was showing up, Indian Big Chiefs and Harley J driving Studebaker AAs and Ford Ts. The newly numbered (1926) Route 66 ran right through and it was a rough dirt road, over the treacherous 3,500-foot Pass.

This made business for garages and mechanics. the feds had to go and spoil it all in 1953 by a new road, Interstate 40, around the Mountains; it was a little longer the Oatman Road, but a lot easier on the

A mile or two east of Sitgreaves on old Route 66 is the old mining site of Camp, now home to a small and gift store.

But to heck reality! Let’s see what the century has done to the image of the Old The Oatman Hotel, built in is still the center of town, and stores are there to sell coffee cups, etc. to the A dozen or more burros down the main street, to the delight of the visitors.

These are the offspring of the burros that used by miners a hundred ago.

A couple of doors up from the is a shop called The Hideaway, quite a surprise inside. The floor has a small collection of old motorcycles—just be prepared to navigate a steep, narrow, circular All worth the effort.

I’m there too for any excitement, like the daily in the middle of town, so I look take a few photos, and am on my way.

of those who died around had no family to bury them, and would just get laid out in a coffin, boots still on, and put in a on Boot Hill.

That is a very nice bike to the twists and turns that me up to Sitgreaves, from where I down to the Colorado River in the Sacramento Valley to the east. And on into Kingman for a late at the Roadrunner Café, right the Powerhouse Visitor Center and 66 Museum…neither of which should be

From there I picked up Route 93 for a pleasant, if uninspired, run the Aquarius and Hualapai mountains, a whole lot of cactus on both of the road. With the sun in the wrong the CB’s instrument panel is to read and the linear tachometer on useless. I wandered off on a couple of roads just to get a feel for how 470-pound (including accessories) does.

It is fine on a firm but when there is a bit of sand, the end does not pick up, and instead it As a minor adventure bike, is fine; for major adventures, not so

Wanting to avoid Greater and its 4.2 million inhabitants, I took the Mine Road just of Wickenberg. This goes and, after a few poorly turns, arrives at Interstate 40, on I went a few miles east, and south again on State 85, which got me to Gila Bend. And a municipal airfield that has two Voodoo fighter/bombers on display. The

Air Force began using in 1957, and retired them in they saw a lot of duty over

Honda CB 500

The F101 was a star performer in its happy to give battle to the Migs in the air, or carry a …. This one is on display at a airfield in Gila Bend,

Heading east on Interstate 8, southeast on Interstate 10, got me close to where I found a motel the northern edge of the city. In the I headed east to Tombstone, to stay off the Interstate by using Routes 83 and 82, small two-laners. As the 500 certainly has sufficient power to the freeways, but for me, no matter what bike I am on, the real pleasure is in the back roads.

Tourists who to Tombstone for Helldorado Days are to pay to fill the stagecoaches and rattle the paved streets.

I first to Tombstone back in 1980, and to drift through there 10 years or so. The town has developed one of the successful tourist industries Mining, of course, was the foundation of when a prospector named Ed struck silver back in

The name, legend has it, is said to come from somebody’s Schlieffelin that all he’ll there will be his own tombstone. he became a rich man.

Over the next 10 years, than a thousand metric of the valuable ore was shipped out. In the population was judged to be over down to a mere 600 by 1910; the played out, the people to find work elsewhere. In its the town had four churches and a hundred saloons. In 1959, enterprising citizens got the 1882 declared a state park, in 1961 much of the town was made a National Historic District.

And the tourists began to

We are in Saguaro National Park (it has two sections, on either side of and the hills in the background are called, the Red Hills.

The most famous event in the town’s history was the at the O.K. Corral in 1881, Wyatt Earp, his brothers and Morgan, and Doc Holiday faced off outlaws Ike and Billy Clanton, Tom and McLaury and Billy Claiborne. I during Helldorado Days, was celebrating the fight by separating of tourists from their upwards of half a million the place every year.

The street in town was shut to traffic, with dozens of extras putting on shows, packed with tourists along. There’s no admission, pay for what you buy, be it a glass of a T-shirt or a reproduction of an 1870s Lots of bikes were in mostly touring rigs, and the boardwalk streets were

Time to push the button and back toward Tucson, along the way into the Saguaro Park (East). This has a little one-way, eight-mile (and 130 miles of walking through the park, which me a great view of the desert. 100 varieties of cactus are found in the the saguaro, with its great can grow to be 60-feet tall and 150 years.

Map by Bill Tipton/Compartmaps.com

I spent a nights at a friend’s house and boogied home. Out of Tucson, I the Ajo Highway (two lanes) to which was developed in 1885 as a site. No romantic myths Ajo, just an occasional bit of trouble.

This half-liter CB500X is a fine lightweight-touring sipping gas at the modest rate of 55 giving it a 200-plus mile I wouldn’t really recommend it for travel, unless rider and are both on the petit side—but for touring, it is great. And priced to fit my skinny wallet.

Then it was up to Bend, a left turn Interstate 8 and west for California, thoughts of renting the movie when I got home.

(This The Wild West was published in the 2014 issue of Rider

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