Friday, January 9, 2015

The Anasazi Bellows Part I, Leaving Phoenix (again)

I thought I had already written this story, or parts of it, but I can't find it in the index. I need to be more organized. If it's already posted, well, here it is again. Probably a little different. I wanted to work in The Apache Bellows. I just can't help but think it was already written. I get confused sometimes, because I often work through the telling of these stories orally, to a lot of different people, before I write them. This is certainly a story I tell a lot, and cannot imagine I haven't written it.

I'll lay a little back story out on this version.

After Maya passed and I broke all those bones, I spent a few weeks back in Phoenix, in a tin shed. When I was just healed enough to ride a bicycle, I headed back out to The Forest.

It was March, and brutally cold yet up at my home at Bear Canyon, but a heatwave in the Valley of the Sun.  I was going to have to find a place to lay up until about May. I consulted the fourth floor at Burto-Barr library. I searched the trail maps and topographs for a location the easiest distance I could find from the Mogollon Rim that would provide me with the climate and resources I would need.

Fossil Creek, below Strawberry, seemed my best bet. I could get there via trails I had found that traverse the Matazal Mountains I could always be within three miles of water. Then, when the weather broke to the north, I would leave the Fossil environs and follow The General Crook Trail up to familiar haunts in the high country.

I'm glad now, that the plan didn't work out that way or else I might still be waiting for somebody to find my bleached bones out there in that vast underexplored Matazal Wilderness. We'll get to that.

I acquired a mountain bike and outfitted it with solid tubes. I built a trailer for the bike, and loaded it with water and food and all my gear in two duffel bags and a big rubbermaid container that resembles the tool box of a contractor's truck.  I also carried a few personal Items that I wished not to take. I intended to leave my home at 75th avenue and ride to Chandler Arizona and leave these few mementos and family photos with my friend Sunshine.

I rode down 74th avenue to Broadway and then took 67th avenue across the Salt River and past a farm stand. As I turned onto Southern, my bike trailer collapsed with no hope of repair. I found a piece of cardboard in the ditch and made a sign. “Bike for Sale. Need Help. A truck full of Mexican Landscapers stopped and sold me a four wheeled cart from Home Depot for $50.00 and took the remains of my trailer with them. From here, I had to steer with one hand while with the other I dragged the heavy cart with my gear.

Progressing eastward on Southern, I began to see how rough this would be. It would take me days at this rate to reach Sunshine's place in Chandler. It was more than a hundred degrees. I was sweltering. I turned south on 59th avenue. It being mostly desert I thought I would have to worry little about traffic. I'd gone about a half mile, my arm failing me as a trailer hitch, when I was overtaken and accosted by a stereotype.

I should say here, that I was taking up about a third of the road with my unlikely caravan. I had chosen 59th for it's lack of housing and hopefully traffic. No such luck.

The huge white Cadillac crept up on me silently and laid on his horn. Then he sped up and with a screech of tires, pulled around me and cut me off. A fat white man in his early sixties emerged from the behemoth with the admonition that I knew not who he was. He wore Bermuda shorts, penny loafers with corroded nickle in them, and a Hawaiian shirt. He was right. I didn't know him. My mind wound back through news footage of local authorities and came up blank. His attitude bespoke Sheriff Joe Arpaio, but his face was unfamiliar.

He wore mirrored shades and a Greg Norman Shark hat. The hat failed to hide the fact that he was balding, sweaty, and angry.I could see belly hair between the gap at the bottom of his too-short shirt.

He told me it was illegal for me to be taking up the road like I was and that with a single phone call he would call down upon me a fury of law enforcement the likes of which I'd never dreamed. Then he continued to tell me the numerous indignities and inconveniences I would be subjected to as well as repeating his assertion that I did not know who I was dealing with. He finished his rant by asking me what I thought of it.

I told him I wasn't any happier with the situation than he was. I unfolded the tale of the collapsed trailer and the journey so far. I assured him that at the nearest pay phone, I would make arrangements to ditch the trailer and that I chose this road for it's lack of traffic, pointing out that he had blocked the road completely now for several minutes and no traffic had approached. He returned to his caddy, shouted that he'd see me in jail, and sped off. 

I wondered why an upstanding citizen like him, Greg Norman fan and all, would be in jail. It was probably about then that I realized my newly shaved head was blistering from the sun.

I made Cesar Chavez Park at sundown, and made myself a bed. I woke several times throughout the night with police spotlights in my face, but none ever hassled me further. In the morning, I set up my camp stove and proceeded to make oatmeal when a squad car approached and two officers emerged. Apparently, it was okay to sleep at the park, just not to cook there. They recommended I adjourn to a nearby Circle K to prepare my morning meal and I obliged, thankfully. 

The Circle K at 35th avenue and Baseline is frequented, in the early morning hours, by workmen in search of coffee, water, ice, and gasoline. After breakfast, I sold the Home Depot cart and Rubbermaid container to visiting contractors for the fifty I had in the cart and twenty more. They left me with some milk crates into which I sifted the contents of the container. I called Sunshine to appraise her of my fortunes, and she came and picked up those artifacts I relocated to the crates that she would store for me; saving a trip to Chandler. She wept when she left, professing a certainty that I would never return and it would be our last meeting.

There happened to be a bus stop on the corner, and I loaded up the bike and mounted for the Greyhound station. I had a new plan. I would bus to Camp Verde and then hike to Fossil Springs where I could pick up the trail north. I got off the bus a few blocks from the station, at a spot I knew would have the most traffic. I worked the sidewalk there, until I sold the bicycle.

At the bus station, knowing I had more than the seventy five pounds allotted at the time for luggage, I hooked my toe under each bag in turn on the scale and lifted. My ruse proved successful, as they charged me no extra. While I waited for my bus, I was entertained by INS agents chasing a fella out and around and through the terminal. It was like an episode of Scooby Doo when they run in one door and out the other being chased by ghouls.

Eventually, I got my bus and was able to relax a few. I had no idea how profoundly the next twenty four hours would affect my life.

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