The Official Center of the World – Felicity, CA

“Now stand on the plaque and make a wish” Norma informed me as I approached the bronze circle. I stepped into the ring of raised lettering that read “Official Center of the World” and tread onto the dot at the center. This was it. I closed my eyes. I made my wish.

Then I asked Norma, sort of cowering, “Hey, Norma. Has a mule ever stood at the center of the world?”.

And my wish came true.

Magnolia first, and… Continue reading

The Sound of Desert Greening – Mobile, AZ

Last night I heard spring arriving.

The sound of spring on the ground

All winter, it’s been a struggle to keep Woody and Maggie fed.

I can haul some grain on Maggie’s cart; sometimes a few flakes of hay. But as soon as I pitch camp, I tether Maggie by a front leg and turn Woody loose. That way they can browse a bit and add the odd wisps of dry Med grass or mesquite twigs to their meager rations.… Continue reading

Mulespeed – Arizona

The joy of mulespeed is the ease of stopping. At 2 miles per hour, the mind slows to the speed of the scenery. From there, it ain’t much of a leap to standing still.

Standing still is where my mind sees the day’s last photos.

I always keep a camera handy and the photos usually just compose themselves. I just have to press the shutter. The following are just a few Arizona mulespeed scenes.

Barbed wire balls – North of… Continue reading

John Henry – Chiricahua Mountains, AZ

John Henry was saying, “The last polymath was …” but the clanking gears in my brain drowned him out. They were too busy working down the names he’d threaded into the last five minutes’ conversation.

The Dalai Lama, Bronowski, the Kula Trail, L. Ron Hubbard, the three types of Pygmy death (dead, completely dead, forever dead).

Just when my brain got the mess untangled, the flash of silver caught my eye. It was John Henry’s skinning knife relieving a coyote… Continue reading

Sierrita Mining and Ranching – Sahuarita, AZ

When the driver asks you to get off and walk, do it without grumbling. He will not request it unless absolutely necessary.

—from “Hints for Plains Travelers” Omaha Herald, published 1877 .

No grumbling, Bernie

“My ancestors were on the way to California when they broke a wagon wheel in these mountains” Norman said as he handed me a photo copied map of the McGee family ranch.

“While the wheel was being fixed in Tucson, they discovered water and began… Continue reading

Butterfield Stage – Mobile, AZ

It cheers me that I can do today what once took an act of Congress. It’s just too bad they never heard the saguaro.

In 1857, Congress voted funding for an overland mail route “from such point of the Mississippi River as the contractors may select, to San Francisco”. The contractors chose St. Louis. Congress chose San Francisco. Ok, so I chose Oriental, NC to San Diego. Still, our routes often overlapped.

As I make my way across Arizona, I… Continue reading

Do Not Enter When Flooded – Saguaro National Monument, AZ

“Why in the world is there a flood sign next to a cactus?” I wondered as I rode Woody down the desert highway.

But it’s a common sight along these desert roads: a yellow sign that warns of drowning next to a cactus that could use a drink.

What a way to go; drowning in the desert.

The reason for this eccentric signage is the monsoon.

I usually associate that word with the tropics: Australia, India, Bangladesh. Those guys get… Continue reading

The New Mexican Nut Job – New Mexico

“High Pecan Prices Lead to Thefts” shouted the Albequrque Journal. Reading on, I learned that the poor pecan harvest in Georgia had driven pecan prices to a dollar and a half and two dollars a pound. No wonder guys were thieving nuts. My mind flashed at the state of my bank account and suddenly I got the urge.

A few of those pounds and I’d be solvent again.

Then Alan hailed me riding down his dirt road with the words… Continue reading

Welcome to the Grand Canyon State – Apache, AZ

Welcome to the Grand Canyon State

For weeks now I’ve wandered through New Mexico with Arizona on my mind.

It’s cold out here on the High Lonesome. Most nights my tipi freezes into an ice-cream cone shape. Mornings, when I go to take it down, it won’t fit into its stuff sack. I roll it up like a six pound burrito and just cram it into Maggie’s cart. In the evenings, when I re-pitch it, it unfurls in a shower… Continue reading

Finding my Way – Animas, NM

“I grew up a-dreamin’
of bein’ a cowboy,
Lovin’ the cowboy ways…” Billy’s voice rasped softly above his guitar, out across the desert scrub.

“Pursuin’ the life of my high-ridin’ heroes,
I burned up my childhood days…”

Billy had finally found me.

Billy Ottis

This was a welcome change. For once it wasn’t me looking for the way.

People often ask me in an assertive tone “How’re you finding your way across America?”. They assume a great amount of planning… Continue reading

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