Passing through Wilcox, Arizona

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

Driving was never my forte, but "White Elephant", the 23′ RV that will be our shelter for this winter near Big Bend is going and going. I wish it knew how to follow me, it is like a shell on my back as I keep thinking about Tortoises! Living it unattended on National Forest Land is not of a option, everything that we now own is contained and the border’s vicinities are not the safest. We have stopped in Wilcox for a couple of days, the near by Mountains, as the "Chiricahuas" use to be my stomping grounds for about 4 months, 4 years ago. For close to a year after Lance passed away my Life prescription was of medicinal, Prozac amongst others as I was told they would be a perpetual intake for the years to come.  That year is a bit of a blur to be honest about it. Did it help? I yet have no clue as I guess all is based on the definition of the word "help". My work in Naples, Fl, was suffering, my mind was numb which I guess again was the only purpose of the medication. "La la land" as I called it. Having built an incredible reputation as a Personal Chef for then the past 18 years, even though booked years in advance, I knew my exit was a must to conserve that conscience of mine.

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I saw an ad one day, the "Southwestern Research Center", run by the "New York History Natural Museum", was looking for a cook three days a week, perched on the eastern side of the Chiricahua Mountains, at 5600′, 5 miles up from a little town called "Portal". Having seen my professional web site I had to literally beg and explain "why" I wanted to be hired. I just wanted to cook, no responsibilities, away from it all in a beautiful surrounding. They accepted, hired me. I moved! Trailered  "Old Faithful", at the time on two wheels, with the help of a Jeep Cherokee that I owned. The pay was good versus the expenses that were none, a nice cabin and my Menus were a hit considering the budget allowed. But it did not last. My frame of mind was too disturbed yet to put up with the head cook who was a full blown alcoholic and with only a couple years of experience took on an adverse attitude toward me.

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We arranged for my termination with benefits, specially Health Insurance which I lack of today, but at the time was able to carry  for 18 months afterwards. When you have had already 5 bypasses and a couple cancer bouts… sad state of affairs, the Health Insurance companies will only hang up on you. Deep down, I do regret my move, comprehensible at the time not able to deal with such personality hovering above me, but somehow a bit immature looking back now as the head cook was herself fired a couple months after my departure. I met some wonderful people there. The Center’s helpers are always volunteers from all over the World, as long as they work 24hrs a week, they are lodged and fed. I am still in touch with a couple of them. That is the story around these Mountains which were my riding and camping destinations every week while during my days off.

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It feels a bit strange being here, maybe I should have not stopped, and then again it allows me to compare my frame of mind from just a few years back. As soon as passing Phoenix and Tucson already there was a darkness I now try to avoid. But it is "there" that I can be with him often and almost touch his feel and see those green eyes reflecting into mine as happiness of the moment can only be found in the sadness of the past. If that makes any sense I just have not found any other way. We will ride that road tomorrow going up and across the mountain top as I know that its beauty will lift me into a better space.

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We have been back now from the much needed ride. Medicinal for these days probably only understood by riders as ourselves needing that open space uncaged and rolling down the roads. The road up the Mountain has not changed much, actually seemed better maintained than before, curve after curve with no obstacles it did not take that long to reach the Research Center.

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Came across a couple cars and a truck, some low flying bugs which I have no clue as what they are. It is pretty much an unknown road for many, actually a short cut from either side instead of using Hwy 10 or the southern road through Douglas. Of course I was a bit apprehensive stopping by as all morning the memories of the past years kept reliving in my mind as a pilgrimage unsought for so long. No familiar faces when we arrived, besides the cook that had replaced me three and a half years ago. We remembered each other and I was actually surprised at his memory. My surprise also became evident when I found out through his gossip about the fact that politics, games and back stabbing’s had not stopped! With nowhere else to go he has put up with it all these years, a path I myself could not take.

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Time has gone by since I have been there and I just could not understand "why" in this setting I would call "paradise" such behavior would take place. It is beyond my comprehension. Maybe I am too naive thinking one could just work, get along, mainly respect each other thoughts and that is it. Plain and simple as it should be. I don’t think these people belong there as so many with better frame of mind would trade their situation in a heart beat. Disappointed, I only found a couple deer that by now must be "the pets of the Center" worth while taking their picture. But I am glad that I stopped, I don’t feel bad anymore that I quit, I do not belong to such circle regardless of it’s location and surrounding.

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Portal, a little village, is down the road a few miles and nothing there either had changed much if any. Everything is at a stand still, anything physical that is as a couple years are not enough for Mother Nature to do much work.

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I was going to backtrack through the same road, but as it was still early in the day decided to make a big loop through Douglas, Bisbee, Tombstone, Benson and ride back the dreaded Highway as not other route would be then available. Reaching the lower plateau, the vast empty open spaces presented themselves. The riding was good, the weather fair, no traffic, Old Faithful was purring with every mile gone by, the minds wanders freely, there is no holding back.

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We came across the memorial erected in memory of Geronimo’s surrender in 1886. I have always found this memorial so ironic and so physically unimportant looking almost seemingly erected by 10th graders. The irony? This was "their land"… this was their country and the bragging rights remain to the conquerors to this day. I had an interesting conversation the other night while at Mark and Anjie’s house being visited by another rider, not just another rider however but one belonging to the Christian Riding Association as his "colors" where brightly displayed in the front and back of his vest. As I asked him what was all that breaded hair hanging down his handlebar he went on to explain that he makes "Native Indian Jewelry and Artifacts". "Replicas… right?" I added… sold as "replicas" which he confirmed. He however explained me that not too long ago he tried to have them displayed within a "real" Native Artifact store and was turned down. As he asked why? he was told that only true Native Artifacts are sold here and his reply was… "but I am a Native… I was born here…". Ignorant… and more are my thoughts.

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It was then on to Bisbee… bypassing Douglas being just another border town where stopping was not needed. More next time…

Two years of Photography is finally in order on SmugMug… In "Your Favorites", organized also in "States", some labeled "first year" and second year". Feel free to browse, you can even use the slide show mode and have fun. Merchandise is also available through SmugMug.

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Be well, always. Ara & Spirit

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