Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last Ride of 2008 - A Pilgrimage




Although I wound my way all over SE Arizona today, for my last ride of the year I did have one specific destination in mind - the "Our Lady of Sierras Shrine" south of Sierra Vista. I had no idea there was a shrine tucked away in the Huachuca Mountains above Sierra Vista, until I read about it in the paper a few weeks ago. I'm hardly a "churchy" type, but something about a shrine attracts the latent Catholic in me, I guess. It's a New Age Vortex from the old age! Plus, the last day of the year isn't a bad day to reflect upon one's life. I certainly don't need a special day OR special place for this sort of mental exercise, but something about a making a specific journey for the purpose, gives more intention to it. I suppose that is why people have been doing it for as long as they have.

The shrine is, well, a shrine. The wooden cross is huge - 75 feet high and weighs 40 tons, and there is a stone chapel nearby.



There is quiet music playing in the chapel, which, admittedly, drove me out of there in minutes. Being a musician, I'm pretty picky, and a poor choice of music in this situation really just seems sacrilegious. Here was my peaceful retreat from the distressing chapel music.



There a statue of Our Lady, almost as tall as the cross. I especially liked her toes, the smallest being larger than my entire foot, riding boot included:


If you want to relive the violence of the crucifixion, you can visit the stations of the cross, and suffer a bit yourself along the way by climbing the steep hillside that houses the entire shrine. I had a few crosses of my own to bear, along my journey. My trusty heated vest wasn't so trusty today. I still can't seem to find one little intriguing road shown on my map. Getting a pass to ride through Ft. Huachuca requires close inspection of several documents (license, registration, insurance, proof of successful completion of a motorcycle safety course) as well as appropriate safety gear in contrasting colors (I wear that anyway, so no big deal on that point. Ditto for the safety class.) There's also always at least one Border Patrol Checkpoint to negotiate in that area of my state. I've been the recipient of a number of miracles this week, including managing to exit the narrow, tightly turning, oddly and steeply canted parking lot without an embarrassing spill. It's odd how, during moments of real danger, I am cool as can be, but put me in an awkward spot where my short legs won't be able to save me and my whole body trembles with fear, and not just a little bit. That just goes to show you that fear is not always rational. My sporadically functioning cheap second hand iPod, which lasted only until my first gas stop today, must have benefited from the positive energy of the shrine. It fired right up when I departed. A miracle indeed!


Lunch was, well, less miraculous. Fried chicken from a gas station restaurant. Go figure.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Planting Time at Richcrest


Lest I be accused of always harvesting and never planting, I can report that I had a fine time at the Richcrest Farms Garlic Planting Party last weekend. I didn't end up taking the moto - alas, a good friend talked me into a carpool. It was a tough choice, but having some quality catch-up time with a girlfriend, even in a car, is a good thing. I lie - it wasn't a tough choice at all. Having another good friend, just now, out of the blue, diagnosed with stage 4 cancer is a not a very gentle reminder that relationship upkeep should be pretty high on anyone's priority list. I figure I can post about my day here anyway, since it was supposed to be a moto trip.

Now if I do my math correctly, our little group of 15 or so field hands planted, oh, some 30,000 cloves of garlic. Wait, can that be right? Sixty-three rows of about 190 feet each, two to three cloves or so per foot, depending on the variety (white, purple and elephant, which, incidentally, is really a type of leek)... yup, that's 30,000, give or take. Whoa. Even though we can expect a germination failure rate of 25-30% (I don't know why) that'll be quite a few heads of garlic to harvest in May. Sounds backbreaking, doesn't it? Actually not at all -we were done well before lunch, really. Of course, the field was already plowed and furrowed, and most (not all) the garlic was already separated into cloves, and Farmer Jim has yet to run the tractor over the field to cover up the furrows (which will take a good half day), but still I was impressed with this motley field hand crew of all sorts.



With deadly speed and accuracy we dropped in our cloves. Funny - each person had their own "technique." Some were squatters. Others stood upright and dropped the cloves in, their aim improving with each row. One gentleman used a walking stick both to lean on and to scoot errant cloves into their proper place in the lineup. I was a fan of leaning over, resting my weight on my elbow, which in turn, rested on my knee sort of yoga style.







After plantin' was done, we sat down under the fall foliage of the fruit trees (sadly not demonstrated in this photo) to a hearty lunch, provided by Etta, the good wife of Farmer Jim.



To borrow a phrase, I am truly blessed.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I went riding!

Big deal, right? Actually, yes. The very fact that I not only went riding, but am sitting here writing about it is huge. Did you happen to notice that seven month gap in my blog from Sept 2007 to April 2008? Last year I had one full time job, two part time jobs, the odd gig and student and a summer job. That doesn't count all the practicing that happens when you're "off duty." Plus I took a number of auditions (aka job interviews, the preparation for which totally consumes you and your life for weeks or even months at a time.) On a good day, I found time to brush both my teeth AND hair. On bad days.... In this case correlation DID equal causation. Riding (or anything else "optional," although I think of riding as mandatory) wasn't really in the picture. Well, a few things have changed, at least for this year, and I can not exaggerate how pleased I am to not be working every waking minute! Funny, I FORGOT all the things I used to like to do. A few weeks ago, it dawned on me: "Hey, I used to do yoga. I could DO that again!" Or, upon contemplating a ride, my instantaneous response to myself was "no time." (See, not even enough time to form a complete sentence.) But wait, I DO have time! So ride I did, down to Madera Canyon one afternoon earlier this month. I didn't really eat anything remarkable as I recall (I think I had a sunflower seed roll with Alouette cheese, plus the half eaten gasoline scented granola bar tucked away in my tank bag), but the very fact that I got out is blog-worthy, in my opinion. Just a little ride, with a walk along a short trail, but wow! It took me a good two weeks between riding and blogging, but still, what a quality of life improvement! I hope I can manage the same for next year...

Madera Canyon is at the base of the Santa Rita Mountains, south of Tucson. It's one of our "sky islands." We've got a number of these small mountainous regions poking up from our desert floor, and they really are remarkable. The climate, flora and fauna atop these islands couldn't be more different than the Sonoran Desert. There are things like pine trees and snow up there! Each sky island is unique, since they are isolated from each other by the desert surrounding them. This was clearly demonstrated to me by the deer I saw that day. I have never seen a deer in the Catalina Mountains, north of town (including Mt. Lemmon.) I saw at least half a dozen on the 1 mile stretch of road in Madera Canyon.

Here are a few more pictures from my day.

The Santa Ritas


One of the cute little B&B's


There were fuzzy caterpillars everywhere!



Edit: I woke up this morning to this article in the paper about Madera Canyon.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Delightful Contraband!


I can NOT believe my good fortune! I am planting some trees today, and a really special tree just came into my world here in Armory Park, Tucson. I have been tossing around the idea of putting some sort of deciduous tree in my back yard. Something to let the sun in during winter, give me shade in the summer. Such a tree will likely have to be watered, and I'm not known to be very reliable in this regard. I'm hoping to have laundry facilities soon, and the only way I can deal with the waste water will be to use it as grey water, rather than tapping into my sewer (not possible with my current, 1916-old house set up.) But it's the perfect solution for watering a tree. And, I figured, if I am actually going to WATER something, it should return the favor in the form of food. Maybe an almond, maybe a fig...

Well today I happened to be in the right place at the right time, and I acquired a little Black Mission fig tree. This is not just ANY fig tree. It's a "Kino" fig tree from the Kino Heritage Fruit Tree Project. Coincidentally, I had read about the project just a few days ago. The Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum, The Desert Survivors Nursery and an organization called Native Seeds/SEARCH have joined together to identify, preserve and propagate direct descendants of fruit trees brought to this area by Spanish Missionaries centuries ago. The name Kino refers to Father Eusebio Kino (1645-1711), a Jesuit missionary and explorer who made about 40 expeditions to AZ. These trees will be used to replant ancient orchards at The Tucson Origins Heritage Park, and the Tumacacori National Historic Park. The trees (fig, apricot, pear, quince, pecan, walnut, pomegranate...) are not, at this time, available to the general public. Unless you're lucky enough to be me! (I've been sworn to secrecy regarding my source.) As tiny as the tree is now, I'm told it might even have a few figs this summer. My glee is uncontainable! What is it that makes this living link to the past so special? I hope I can manage to be a good custodian to this wonderful tree!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Twitter!

I know you're all just dying to know what I'm eating at any given moment. Wait no longer! By checking out the "twitter badge" I've added here (top right of the page) you can satisfy your curiosity about my every bite. For past repasts, use the little arrows at the bottom of the blue box to go back in time. (Reload the blog page for the latest breaking news.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Nuts!



Who knew that the "world's largest irrigated pecan orchard" is a mere 20 miles south of Tucson? I didn't, until a spread about it in the local paper caught my eye. The Green Valley Pecan Company, located not in Green Valley, but in Sahuarita, AZ, has over 6,000 acres of trees. They provide pecans to such companies as Hershey's, Ghirardelli, and even Costco! That's a lot of nuts. I thought a visit to the orchard would make for a fun little day trip, and indeed it did. I was hoping for a bit of a tour, but I was told that the facility wasn't set up for that sort of thing. But the nice ladies in the shop were kind enough to answer all sorts of questions and I did get to watch a little video. I guess not too many people grill them about the life of a pecan as much as I did - eventually they gave me a quizzical look and asked "Are you writing a research paper?" I had to laugh and admit, that no, I wasn't, I was just a geek. I picked up a nice bag of organic nuts. Given the amount of entertainment I've gotten from them already (and I haven't even made anything with them yet) they were quite a bargain at $10.

I couldn't help but take a detour through Saguaro National Park (Eastern Division) on my way home.


Hmm - looks like the prickly pears are ripe for the picking...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Found! The Holy Grail

Here it is, friends, the holy grail of the plant kingdom. More precious than saffron, more elusive than the Italian White Truffle...

it is The Perfect Tomato.

Yes, these are as good as Grandpa's, as good as those from Gary's farm in Utah. And they're right here in Southern, AZ about 70 miles from my house. (Well, if one chooses to take the scenic motorcycle fun route, it's substantially further.) I came to meet Jim Dumas of Richcrest Farms in a prophetic fashion, befitting to the singular event of coming across this seemingly endangered species. An SOS email written by him hit my inbox, wisely forwarded by a friend. Up to his eyeballs in ripening produce, with not enough help at the farm, he put out the call to all he knew. Come out and can! He would provide the produce and the use of his fully equipped commercial kitchen free of charge as well as a host of canning jars, if we would put in the labor of picking, prepping and preserving anything and everything that was ripe that day. His fee was 50% of the finished product. Woo hoo! I was SO there! People of all sorts came from far and wide for this two day project. Despite it being an interesting sociological study on the "too many cooks in the kitchen" phenomenon, our productivity was impressive. We made soup, salsa, pickles, hot sauce, we preserved zucchini, peppers, eggplant, onions....

I was the first to arrive that morning and got a nice tour of the farm. Here are a few things I saw above and beyond the expected fields of crops (organic, even!).

Artichoke in Bloom

Butterflies and Zinnias

Grape Arbor

A Particularly Handsome Chicken


Farmer Jim at Rest

Last week I cracked open a jar of salsa. It was just way too good to be served as a mere condiment. I poured the entire jar into a bowl and called it gazpacho. Ahhh - sunshine in a bowl. I'd never had better. It confirmed that the canning party was a complete and total success. Except...

...nary a jar of pure unadulterated tomatoes!

Today I returned to the farm to correct this grave omission. Here I am in Farmer Jim's kitchen, canning almost 30 lbs of deliciousness.





NOW I can sleep.

Monday, September 22, 2008

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program. (Farewell, Utah!)

Okay, enough of contests and scrappy back yards. Back to the business at hand - riding and eating. Or is that eating and riding? All good things (well, most of them) must come to an end, and I did eventually have to leave Utah. The drive home (alas, I had to tow the moto rather than ride it - too much stuff to haul) was - take a guess - heartstoppingly beautiful. I came upon the Vermilion Cliffs/Lake Powell area at that time of day just before sunset, when the light is just, well, magical. It must be the same sort of light that inspired the great landscape painters in southern France. All the cliffs were positvely luminescent, and I found myself meditating on the salmony-corally-pinkish-reddish hues, trying to pin down just exactly WHAT those amazing colors were. (It can't be done, at least not by me.) It's an interesting exercise though, running through the palate of words in your mind and constantly coming up short. There's a certain color of grass in southern Idaho that first sparked my interest in this little game. The best I could come up with was "ever so slightly radioactive jade". Funny, I didn't stop to take pictures - not of this grass and paint by numbers green landscape in southern Idaho, nor the unbelievably saturated study on pink in southern Utah. I always regret not having the pictures, but at the time, pulling out the camera almost seems like a distraction.
After all this magical sunlight, I had to suffer through yet another extraordinary sunset. I'm going to stop saying how beautiful it all is, lest you stop believing me.

Let's talk delicious, instead. Gary, one of those wonderful people who keep the Utah Festival Opera festival running, happens to live on a small farm outside of Logan. (Where he and his wife find the time to actually run the farm, I have no idea, but it seems to be working.) Some years ago, he decided to give a party for the entire opera company. For those of you who don't know, that is a really big party. He had ribs, barbecue, deep fried turkeys, pies... you name it. But the most memorable item on the table for me were his tomatoes. Who knew the holy grail would be sitting there on a plate, with no more than salt and pepper on them, looking so innocent? I've had tomotoes like this as a child, from my grandfathers garden, but I had long ago given up finding anything like that again. Well, Gary had another party this year, and all I could think about was those tomatoes. They weren't a featured item on the table this time, but I wasn't shy, and the lady of the house handed me a stash from her kitchen counter to take away. I'm embarassed to admit that I actually sort of hid them as I left - they were that precious, and I wasn't about to give even one away. When I prepared them (yes, I did share with my roommates), I was almost nervous about eating them - would they really be as good as I remembered? They didn't disappoint. Here they are, with some basil from my front door herb garden in a pot.



Little did I know that there were more such tomatoes in my future. In Arizona no less. Stay tuned.

My transport to this party was indeed a motorcycle, but not my own. My moto-mentor (i.e. the one who got me into this motorcycle madness), on his annual (more often if possible) cross country moto-camping trip, arrived in Utah the day before on his new KTM 990 Adventure. It's the three dimensional moto! Big and comfy enough for the long haul, fast and sporty for fun, and (this is the new part for him), highly capable off-road. What's not to like? You can read about his adventures here.



And so, with the taste of tomatoes still lingering and more than a bit of sadness, I bid farewell to Utah until June 2009. But, ahhh... Arizona! I've yet to share my adventures on what may be the grand-daddy of all Glorious Motorcycle Roads - AZ 191...

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Heartfelt Thanks to All...

who joined me in the fun of my backyard contest. I'm sorry to report that I didn't win, but I must say, the overwhelming support was worth more to me than any backyard! Here are the finalists, if you're curious. All worthy indeed! (I'm guessing the link will only be active for a week or so.)
http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/athome/254996

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

YOUR mission, should you choose to accept it...

...is to vote for me in the AZ Daily Star $30,000 back yard makeover contest! Once a day, every day through August 23rd.

Firstly, the essentials:

1). Register to vote here (the first time only):
http://azstarnet.upickem.net/engine/Registration.aspx?contestid=2112

2). Click "save vote" here (You're done! Until tomorrow when you can repeat step 2 again.):
http://azstarnet.upickem.net/engine/Details.aspx?PageType=VOTING&ContestID=2112&SubmissionID=145224&IncrementNumber=1#SubmissionDisplay

Remarkably, at the time of this writing, I have more votes than practically any of the other 962 (!!!) entries! However, there are at least two entries that are ahead of mine.
I'm not going to post a picture of my horrible back yard. But you'll see two lovely samples when you vote!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The latest harvest...

Friday, July 25, 2008

I didn't get to go riding last weekend (weather and insomnia conspired against me), but here's a bit of that Utah bounty I've been raving about. The pictures aren't great, but you'll get the point anyway.



I canned this "lug" of apricots to console myself when not being able to ride on my day off. I ended up with 11 quarts. Really, I would have had 12 quarts if I hadn't eaten so many in the process. There's that "dreary student apartment" in the background.



I picked about 10 quarts of strawberries from my colleague's garden earlier this month.



Many of those berries became preserves. Man oh man they are good!



Of course, we had to save some berries for strawberry short cake, courtesy of my roommate Nadine. That's a bit of cardamom sprinkled on the top. Nadine serves a generous portion!


Saturday, July 12, 2008

In Search of the World's Best Water

Okay, I might be exaggerating, but then again, maybe not. It is true that the naturally carbonated spring water in Soda Springs, ID took first prize in the World Fair in Chicago in 1893, and again in Paris in 1905. If you go to Hooper Spring Park in Soda Springs, you can taste it yourself, for free. I did just that, and it's just as good or better than that you can buy, and infinitely more rewarding since I rode 100 miles, and hiked almost 2 miles one way to have the pleasure of dipping my cup in a happily bubbling pool of cool clear fizzy water. You can see and hear it bubble yourself below. Just screen out the chatter of the other tourists:

video

Here's "the world's largest captive geyser" (???) at Geyser Park in Soda Springs. I guess it's considered "captive" because it's controlled by a timer now, which is set to allow the geyser to spout once an hour on the hour. I arrived just at spouting time, and had to hastily abandon my lunch sack in the middle of the parking lot to rush over and take pictures.




I brought some water home with me. The bottle is in the fridge and when I open it, it gives a very satisfying "psssht"!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Utah: Pictures, instead of my 1000 words

Sheesh, all that talk about Utah in my last post, and so few pics. Here are some more at one reader's request.


Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake



A BMW K1200 RS (fondly known as "the Super K" - no, it's not mine) resting quietly on the strange and mysterious Bonneville Salt Flats






Sunset from the afore-mentioned "dreary student apartments." Life is rough, huh?



Flaming Gorge National Recreation area. This picture is from inside the Visitors' Center! The colors aren't what they could be, it was an overcast drizzly day.


Hogsback Ridge on Highway 12


The Fremont River from Fish Lake Road (one of the many Glorious Motorcycle Roads).


Larb Hollow Overlook from Highway 12



Lake Solitute at the end of the Cascade Canyon Trail in Grand Teton National Park. Yes, technically this is Wyoming, not Utah, but for my purposes, "Utah" constitutes the actual state plus anywhere else I go while I'm living here for the summer.


In and around Sawtooth National Recreation Area (I know, it's in Idaho, not Utah - see the above note regarding Grand Tetons)
Stanley Lake Inlet Campground, a moose noted on the way home, Sawtooth Lake




My pictures of Capitol Reef aren't great, but here I am at the "Hickman Bridge" rock formation.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Utah: The Land of Milk, Honey, and Glorious, Glorious Motorcycle Roads

Each summer, the several hundred people that comprise the Utah Festival Opera Company travel from all ends of the US and beyond and joyfully agree to be overworked, underpaid, and housed in dreary student apartments for the privilege of spending two months making exquisite music amidst what must be the most beautiful and bountiful place on earth. I am one of those lucky, lucky people. You'd think by my sixth year here, I'd be a bit blase about the whole thing, but I never fail to be stunned on my drive from Tucson to Logan. Every shade of green, from the mysterious dusky color of pines, to grass so luscious I want to get on all fours and join the livestock in their serene grazing, to the magic silvery blue green of sage bush (my personal favorite) is represented in nearly every vista. The mountains and canyons range from brilliant reds and oranges to a lovely coral pink (again, my personal favorite), mixed with all the wonderful aforementioned greens. All this, and snow-capped mountains, too. And the water - some of it is so blue it's just plain freakish. Take Bear Lake, on the opposite end of the Logan Canyon Scenic Byway from Logan. The lake is hidden from view until you crest the final hill, and - RazzleBlueDazzle! - there it is - a total traffic hazard. There should be a warning sign. The lake is so big, and so electrically turquoise blue that, if it doesn't stop you in your tracks every time, there is seriously something wrong with you. If that's just too unnatural for you, there are plenty of glassy steel bluish green ponds and streams for you to gaze upon. This is the kind of landscape that makes such silly phrases as "this great country of ours" pop into your head and ring true.

I think I've made my point that Utah is beautiful. Now on to its bounty. It's hard to visit the Cache Valley Gardener's Market without at least one tear of joy slipping down my face. Unlike many markets I've seen in this country, this one actually features, gasp!, food! This week I came home with all sorts of succulent greens, new potatoes, sweet spring onions, garlic scapes, garlic and rosemary lamb (yes, local and pastured) sausages, eggs (local and pastured with day-glo colored yolks) and, the big treat - strawberries. These berries are what all other strawberries wish they could be. How can I describe the taste? I can't. So I won't. You're on your own for that one. Good luck. I look forward to further purchases, including honey (they even have the bees in a little enclosed glass hive for you to view), cheeses of all sorts, grass-fed beef, fresh cut flowers, and more fruit. This year I've joined a CSA at the market, and for an embarrassingly small sum, I bring home my portion of the Craft Farms weekly harvest. If I had to pick the crown jewel, it would have to be the fruit. There's actually a 10 mile stretch of US 89 designated as Utah's Historic "Fruitway." Strawberries, cherries, plums, apricots, blackberries, raspberries - each one being the very model from which all others should be (but, alas, are not) created. Last summer I canned jars and jars of the stuff, and enjoyed my bottled sunshine all year long. The jars returned with me this year, and are eagerly awaiting refilling. If you're not the sort that deals with the actual preparation of food, and only the eating of it, there are plenty of options here in Logan. Most notable are Le Nonne (Italian), Happy Sushi, Indian Oven (sadly moved from its gas station beginnings next door to my apartment to an official restaurant setting a whopping five minute drive away), La Ranchera Market (home of excellent $1 tacos), Aggie Ice Cream (home made ice cream just a short pleasant stroll away). All of these are really fine representatives of their cuisines - fine enough to more than please all the big city palates that form the UFOC. Opera folks are known for their appreciation of good food.

All of this, and I still haven't said one word about motorcycling. Utah is just crisscrossed with designated scenic byways, national forests, twisty mountain roads, national parks - all the features that make you think that God must be a sport touring motorcyclist. Seriously, it's that good. My little 130 mile "I-gotta-get-out-on-the-bike-but-still-must-get-some-serious-work-done-today" loop is comprised of the Logan Canyon Scenic Byway, the Oregon Trail-Bear Lake Scenic Byway, US 36 through Strawberry Canyon and a small part of the Pioneer Historic Byway (to be fair, some of this ride is in Idaho). Ho Hum. All this just outside my door. If I have the time to go further (I always have the inclination) there's the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway in the Uinta Mountains, Highway 226, a little secret happened upon a few years ago, and that motorcycle mecca called Highway 12 (perhaps only rivaled by AZ 191, but that is for an entirely different post). If you find yourself in Torrey, UT on Highway 12, beg, borrow or steal the money for a meal at Cafe Diablo. There's excellent "tall food" (i.e. - fancily presented, often in tall intricately built forms) to be had there. I particularly recall the Rattlesnake Cakes appetizer. All within striking distance, if one has a few days, are the Grand Tetons, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, Dinosaur National Monument, Sawtooth National Recreation Area, Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, Craters of the Moon National Monument and more. It's that just ridiculous? Not coincidentally, the way from Logan to all these wonderful places happens to be paved with more, glorious, truly glorious motorcycle roads.

Don't even get me started about the hiking here...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Riding and Eating in an Organized Fashion


I went for my first "organized" ride last today. By that, I mean, I rode with a group of people, with a set route and destination. Destination: (no mystery here, folks) a restaurant; Route: Scenic AZ 83. I have to say, I almost always ride by myself, (I can count the exceptions on one hand, not counting riding as a passenger) and I prefer it that way. "Ride your own ride," they say, even when in a group, but I like to take that phrase literally. So I was a little unsure of whether or not I would actually enjoy an organized ride. I've also been chomping at the bit, having had little riding time lately, and was more in the mood to tear up the road, rather than ride along at a more, um, legal pace. I'm not saying I always race around - I'm all for smelling the roses - but hey, today that's what I was feeling.

As it turns out, I quite enjoy riding with a gang of women graduates of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider Course, two of its instructors, and one instructor's daughter. We had riders of all experience levels and all varieties of bikes. One gal even followed us in her car! She doesn't have her own bike yet, but being female and and having just taken the MSF BRC she meets the other requirements, so why not? We gathered at a gas station on the fringes of town, made some introductions, formulated the plan, and after a brief review of the protocols of group riding (of which there are many), departed.

Our restaurant destination was the Crossroads Cafe in Sonoita, AZ. I enjoyed the French Toast Special, layered with a raspberry sauce and creme anglaise, even though it was a bit too cold. It was nice to see a reasonable tidy portion size, and prettily presented, too. The ginger iced tea, I was sorry to find, was sweetened. Why not let the diner decide on that point? The conversation was lively, and exclusively about - can you guess? - our motorcycles. I suppose it is a bit odd to spend lunch with all these ladies and not even learn what they do for a living, but it made perfect sense at the time. That's just what happens when you put a group of people with a shared passion around the dinner table.

Just as riding of the front of the moto doesn't replace riding on the back for (ditto for the reverse), group riding and riding solo are apples and oranges. It's always nice to have a variety of fruit in the basket. Besides, I had a spicy solo ride up Mt. Lemmon "on my way home." ;-)