Treasured Roads

May 30, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

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A road is a road, is a road, is a road, is a road...

No, it isn't. A road is not simply a road. There are unique, singular, exceptional, extraordinary, particularly special places which happen to be roads. Three of them reside in Arizona.

Two of those three have been teachers, friends, treacherous, dangerous, exciting, sickening, fantastic, scenic, beautiful, exotic, lovers, killers, challengers, and the most wonderful drives I have ever had the pleasure to experience.

I have not ever been on the third road. My bad. If ever I make or produce a 'bucket list,' a term I despise and find distasteful, it will be the first item.

Along this road of words persistent thoughts of driving Arizona ease into my mind like an onramp on any highway.  It is an unexpected treat. A savored mental image of joy, riding roads I'll probably never be on again.

These roads I knew for years continue their presence in my thoughts. Sometimes I close my eyes and drive sections of Hwy 60 or Hwy 260. They have been driven so many times it is easy. I know where the bumps are. I know the smooth tight corners.

I know the mysterious hills may hold wandering elk, an unwanted surprise waiting for an accident. Tight turns pull me into the curve and the pressured peddle increases my speed as the hum of wheels becomes a whining screech of rubber straining my ears with a sense of terror.

I have shot images on these personalities called roads. They have guided me to many scenic spots worth every mile in every kind of weather. Longer straighter, stretches have provided tranquility also known as the drive transformed into a prayer. Those were sacred moments.

I'm only a visitor now, using my mind to vicariously enjoy this pavement. I laugh. Pete Aleshire comes to mind, my former editor at the Payson Roundup. He always wondered how I shot some of the scenes he could never capture.

When I retired from the 'Roundup,' I finally told him my secret. I shot them while driving. Because the passage of these highways was so frequent I knew where all the good shots were. There was no need to stop.

The point of view would never be the same as from the driver's seat. I never saw a more blank face than his at that moment. He could not believe it. Unable to process how I could do such a thing, he had no response.

Highway 60 and Highway 260 in Arizona will always hold a treasured place in my heart/mind. Hwy 60 mostly because of the Salt River Canyon, though not completely. There are other scenically satisfying vistas on that road found nowhere else.

Hwy 260 has the Mogollon Rim challenge both up it and down it. My challenge of the Rim drive was coasting downhill as fast as my vehicle would allow. My goal was always to reach 90 mph. Never happened.

When I approached the top of the Rim going toward Payson I took my foot off the gas pedal and let the car go downhill. If there were no other vehicles on the road I did not use my brakes, having learned on the Salt River Canyon drive how to accomplish that. The highest speed ever attained was 80 mph. I never pushed the gas pedal to go faster on these challenges. If no cars, then no brakes, no gas pedal.

Storytelling incidents like this one hang around edges of the mind and take precarious turns at any moment. Sort of like driving through the Salt River Canyon on Hwy 60. Your first time into and out of this driving nightmare is a bitch.

Some people avoid the Canyon after their one and only trip through it. I couldn't wait to drive it again, and again, and again. Oh, it has its terrors. Many dead vehicles and crosses with names on them litter the walls of this geological feature. It is not an easy drive. I came to love and understand the Canyon. Ever since then it is a joy, a heartache, a torture, a mistress, a satisfaction, and when each adventure on these roads is done, you leave. But those two roads never leave you.

Thank you. I am grateful for your visit.


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