Cameron, Arizona

As you know, I have been on a 6 week tour including many of the South Western States of the U.S. Throughout I was impressed by the helpfulness, openness and, well, nobility of those whom I encountered. This was particularly true of Government Employees; Park Rangers, Police and Immigration Officers. This all changed in Cameron, Arizona.

As I trundled into this tiny desert town, I noticed the road had changed into a 2 lane. I also noticed a car parked on the hard shoulder with a man leaning against it holding a license plate. There was also an unmarked black saloon with a flashing light on the roof. There were no other vehicles in the vicinity. We were alone in the desert.

A few years ago but you get the idea.

I slowed down to see if the guy needed help but there was clearly no emergency and I trundled on.

3 minutes later there is a siren and a firework display of lights behind me; I am being pulled over. The unmarked black car I had seen is a police car.

Officer C. Carter, badge number 10426, explains to me, after several attempts, as I really do not understand what he is talking about, that I have broken a regulation that if there is an emergency on a road involving, Police, Ambulance, Fire Service then motorists must move over into the outside lane. This is a regulation that no one I have talked to since the incident has ever heard of. He takes my license, insurance, registration back to the unmarked car. He returns some minutes later to inform me that he is serving me a traffic ticket, my second ticket in almost 50 years of driving. A few days later I learn I have to pay a $326 fine.

This incident upset me. Officer C Carter, badge number 10426, had set up a trap for unsuspecting motorists to lure them into breaking the law. His actions were premised on deceit and trickery. I would imagine that they had the sanction of the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office. There was absolutely no emergency in fact there was probably no-one within a mile of us.

Two of the core values of the Flagstaff Police Department, according to their website, are:

  • We value integrity-we recognize integrity as the basis for mutual respect and trust. 
  • We value service-by providing exemplary service we enhance our credibility and establish trust with the community.

Do not go anywhere near Cameron, Arizona. Stay far away from the Arizona Department of Public Safety. They are completely lacking in integrity and appear to strive to destroy trust.

My offence was, according to the ticket, “Yield-Emergency Vehicle-lane Change Not Adjacent” Do you understand that?

Boo!! This is not the America I love.

POST SCRIPTUM

The Flagstaff Police Department have pointed out that Officer C Carter does not work for them but for the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Therefore references to the Flagstaff Police Department are incorrect.

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This is for you, Baby

I get to the Kezar Bar at 6:15 to watch Scotland play Italy, followed by Ireland versus England.

It is one of the best parties! The place is packed with Irish having the best time, gulping down Guinness and gobbling Full Irish Breakfasts. It is 7:30 in the morning. They are hilarious!

The anticipation of an Irish victory over the Saxon strangers is very high. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really go that way as the English essentially smash them. It gets quiet apart from, “Red card, Ref !!” each time an England player tackles an Irishman.

Oh dear, England 32, Ireland 10.

I am walking/stumbling home on Haight at 10:00 ish in my dirty travel clothes, stinking of Guinness. There is an old black lady leaning against the wall of Amoeba Records, who is having trouble getting a cigarette out of the pack. I think she has Parkinson’s. She finally succeeds, but drops the cigarette on the sidewalk. I pick it up and hand it to her.

“No, baby, you keep that one and wait, here is another.”

I thank her and shuffle off. She calls me back. “This is for you, baby.” handing me a small roll of dollar bills.

Red eyed, filthy clothes, homemade sandals, stinking of booze at 10:00 in the morning; she had every right to think I was homeless.

She was adorable. So Haight St, San Francisco solidarity.

Get a job.

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Country Roads,Take Me Home.

So, I cross over into the USA at Agua Prieta. It is a great place to cross with hardly any waiting. The immigration folks politely ask me to pull over into an inspection area where 3 officers, all women, go through the truck. They are very courteous and businesslike.

After 10 minutes they come back, looking serious, “Sir, we have found contraband in your vehicle.”

Can I make a run for it?

No need to worry as with big grins, they display a potato and a grapefruit. “Sir, I am afraid you will have to leave these items with us.”

I stop for breakfast in Bisbee Arizona.

USA! Won’t someone get me a cheeseburger?

I then take the smallest roads I can to San Francisco.

Boot Hill Cemetery, Tombstone Arizona.

Tombstone, Globe, Pine, Flagstaff, Page, Cedar City, Caliente, Tonopah, Bishop, Sacramento, San Francisco. Absolutely amazing drive, apart from one incident in Cameron, Arizona, about which more in future post.

The South West is huge and the trusty Tacoma trundled through deserts, snow, forests, lots and lots of old, semi-deserted towns. We only did about 30 miles on Freeway before we hit 80 in Sacramento.

Utah
Utah, an hour later.
Er,Nevada
No gas for 170 miles
Like this for a 150 miles.

I finally approach the Bay Area just as it starts to pour with rain and gets dark. My eyesight is still not terrific and being surrounded by thousands of cars, going 65mph on 6 lane highways was almost as bad as going down the mountain road into Ulrique. I am a country boy now.

We made it! Well done truck! She did not falter once in 5400 miles. I read the BBC web site to find that the UK is facing its coldest night for a decade at – 12C. Ha! We were camping out in – 29C at Horseshoe Bends! Didn’t really realize just how cold it was at the time. Crazy!

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Cheap Hotels

You may think that the biggest disincentive to camping wild in Mexico is the bloodshot-eyed bandito, crazed on loco weed, who loves to dismember Gringos. Actually it is not that, it is the superabundance of cheap hotels.

I would like to add that everyone I have met in Mexico has been charming, helpful and welcoming. I hope Mexico can lose its dangerous brand.

What do I want from a hotel room? It must be clean. The sheets must be clean. There has to be a hot shower. There has to be Wifi. It does not have to look good because I hope to be asleep most of the time I am in it.

I have over the years been in lots of expensive hotels. They are not worth it. You are asleep.

350 pesos
Expensive – 500 pesos but with beautiful gardens.
Federico and Señora Federico in their hotel courtyard. They feed me supper and breakfast and refuse payment.
I think they were making improvements
Not the jolliest, but filled all the criteria mentioned above.

I set off for my last drive in Mexico. I hope to cross the border in early afternoon. The day starts well with a beautiful drive through the amazing Northern Sierras.

Physics of this anyone?

Then suddenly the tarmac road stops. This is a complete surprise. Within 2 kms there are six junctions with no signs. I spend the next 6 hours battering my way up a very poor dirt road. Once again I have no idea if I am on the right road, other than my iPhone compass telling me I am headed vaguely North. I actually knew that from looking at the sun but thanks anyway Apple.

Well done truck.

It is a very exhausting drive with river crossings, steep grades, terrible drops into canyons. I rarely make it to 3rd gear in 6 hours and a lot of the really bad stuff is done in low ratios. The truck is amazing.

It starts to get dark and I realize I will have to camp out somewhere amongst the bloodshot-eyed banditos. Next thing I know I hit tarmac, then I am in Agua Prieta! What is this I see before me? Yay! A cheap hotel.

3oo pesos!

It is fitting that my last drive in Mexico should be very seriously off-road and that my last night should be spent in a very cheap hotel.

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Lost

Mexico is the best place to get lost, or perhaps the adjective should be the easiest. There are very few road signs, indeed sometimes at very important junctions, they are non existent. I am gently heading North back to the States. A kind man gave me a map of Mexico, which has done wonders for my wellness.

The last leg. Follow the yellow brick road. Click on image to get full detail.

I leave from Rosario de Tezopaco headed for Monteczuma. Looks straightforward on the map but it is not. It is wild mountain country that is devoid of traffic. This is great as you can trundle along at low speed enjoying the views.

More miles and miles of Mexico

Suddenly, you come to a T junction with no sign post. The map is useless and there is no phone signal, ergo no Google Maps, you turn right. A few kms on you come to another T Junction, you turn left. After an hour or so of this you have absolutely no idea of where you are or if you are vaguely headed in the right direction .

I stop the truck and wait. 10 minutes later another truck comes by which I flag down.

“Hola. Donde es Sahuaripa?” He points in both directions.

Anyway, I finally get there but cannot get out, as there are no signs to next destination, Monteczuma. I drive round and round the washed out town on dirt roads. I stop and ask a policeman.

I am not sure that this was the best decision as he gets on his radio and in a couple of minutes, two other police turn up in a big truck. How will I stand up to torture? They turn out to be the best guys and want to escort me out of town.

Pablo on left and Antonio on right.

Off we go with me following Police truck through a total maze of back streets.

The High Road to Monteczuma
The policeman with the black balaclava over his head, gives me the thumbs up.

Thank you Policia Municipal of Sahuaripa, I will vote for you.

I have not spoken about the actual drive so careworn was I as to where the hell I was. Mexico is huge! On the smaller roads there is no traffic at all, you are lucky to see another vehicle every 20 mins. You will see many more people on horses. The scenery is very big.

Stopping in the middle of the road is not a problem. You could have a picnic

I make it to Monteczuma and eat tacos!

Tacos de tripas!
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Huatabampito

What a good name for the place where I am. It is a 10 mile long beach with pelicans and dolphins frisking just yards into the Sea of Cortez. It is hot and wonderful.

From my bed.
Dawn
Can’t go any further in that direction

I am urged to get my eye looked at. I wander over to the restaurant which is near my place on the beach. The nice people there tell me that there is an eye doctor in the town of Hautabampo, just 15 kms away.

The doctor is a great guy and although he does not speak English, this is compensated by all the eye doctor machines that we get to play with.

I try to explain the meaning of ” Here’s mud in your eye.”

Anyway he says I have Macular inflammation and gives me drops and pills. I suppose he would have noticed a detached retina so I am much reassured as I do not really want to lose my eyesight just yet.

Strong juju

To celebrate, I lash out on new sandals.

$7

I then go birdwatching as best as I can in my lens-less and cyclopian state.There are tons of birds here.

Crested Caracara
Heermans Gull
Mexican Ibis thing. Don’t know its real name.
Brown Pelicans

The food is perfect.

$4.50

I think I will stay here forever, or at least until I can see reasonably well.

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The Curse

I emerge from the mountains into the town of Choix. I am the only non Mexican, except for a couple running a Chinese restaurant. I am such an oddity that a student turns up and asks if she can interview me about Tourism in Choix. She cannot speak English but her brother, who is in Phoenix, Arizona does. She calls him up, asks him the question, he then asks me in English. I reply and he then explains to his sister. We have a lot of fun!

Merita, student, and her mum, Nicoletta.

Look up Choix on Google and you will understand that Merita has a great career ahead promoting tourism. However, the frightful paradox, because there are no tourists, it is completely authentic and fascinating. There must be an algorithm comparing number of tourists to authenticity that predicts when the whole system breaks down.

Take your pick.

The shops sell mainly horse stuff.

A man called horse.

Fetishist stuff.

I eat very well.

Fancy seafood restaurant.
Shrimp,octopus,tomato,lime,onion. Seafood in Mexico is the best.
I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts.
Early morning exercise.

There is nothing to see in Choix except Choix itself, which turns up all kinds unexpected delights.

I head of for the legendary San Fuerte and, skimming over the tarmac, arrive an hour latter. Changed days. I meet my first non Mexicans, ok Chinese restaurant, for nearly 2 weeks. They want me to have lunch with them to swap tourist stories. I explain that I have rabies and shoot off like a frightened cat. El Fuerte s very pretty.

Moorish architecture travels well

A cactus
A Church
Camping in Mexico is difficult as you can get a great hotel room with good wifi for $20
Breakfast time.
Goat stew makes a change from porridge.

The Apache curse has followed me to Mexico. The morning I left Ulrique I woke with seriously impaired vision in my right or telescope, camera viewfinder eye. My vision is very blurred with very active particulate Brownian motion. This makes bird watching very difficult. I only know 2 causes of blindness. One is gin and the other we will not talk about. As neither have been high on the agenda on this trip, I cannot understand why I should suddenly be blind in one eye. I suppose it will go away.

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