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Brian Cray - Hitchhikin', Trainhoppin', and Wanderin'

Wanderin' the world, at will, by any means

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Archives for October 2015

Feelin’ Stuck in Estrella

Estrella Mountain Regional Park

Over the past month much of my life changed drastically compared to the past two years. I lived with Kelly and her mom for the better portion of September into mid October. I spent most of my days couped up reading or watching Netflix due to the intense desert temperatures locking me indoors. This killed me. The whole move to Phoenix took much adjustment, but at least we housed up in our apartment in Park Shadows a few days prior. Now I wait to hear back from potential employers. I might work for a mobile grilled cheese truck or the Grand Canyon. As I wait I continue to explore the roads around me. Goodyear is home to the Estrella Mountain Range so I took advantage of this on a cool Monday afternoon.


I raced against the clouds hoping to beat the rain (October is monsoon season in Arizona). After two years of dormancy in a shed in Fairplay, CO I picked up my sleek black road bicycle and hit the roads of Arizona. The flat desert off in the distance matched the roadways making my ride smooth, enjoyable and carefree. Surprisingly with over 3,000 miles my baby performed quite well as I coasted through the desolate roadways to Estrella Mountain Regional Park. Passing cottonfields, a few mobile homes with junk scattered sandy lawns and a steady flowing canal the Estrella Mountain Regional Park was within range, but the clouds screamed in even closer.  I gazed at the small brown peaks cascading through the valley and beyond their mountainous cast lie nothing but desert.  I tried finding a loop trail, but rushing against the weather I ended up hiking Coldwater Trail. A 2.9 mile trail that switchbacked to a loop if other trails were added into the mix.  The moderate climb through endless desert became a race against the clouds as a dark mass sprawled out above me. The occasional flicker of light shimmered and small sounds bellowed from above like a yawn spreading its contagion through the sky.  My road bike became an off-road rider. Pounding through the rocks, slipping in the sand and riding the brake down every winding turn and hill, I needed to make it back before the storm.

My triceps tingled from a lack of suspension and my fingers went numb but I kept riding this corvette as if dodging a snow storm in the dead of winter. I cruised through the last three miles of the hike seamlessly avoiding the storm. The 16-mile bike and hike to Estrella Mountain Regional Park ended with a red bull in hand and a nice warm shower.  Something I’m only familiarizing myself with now that I’m back in apartment living.

Abandoned Twin Arrows Trading Post

Road Trippin’ to the Rockies

Abandoned Twin Arrows Trading Post

After two years on and off the road traveling by foot, thumb, bicycle, bus, train, plane, and working itinerant jobs, I set out on a road trip with my fiancee from Phoenix to Breckenridge, Colorado – where it all began!

(Two years ago I set out on a bicycle tour from DE to CO. I pedaled over 2,600 miles before making it right outside Pueblo where I met up with a buddy to hike Hell’s Hole in Denver, CO. I hitched a short ride with him to Idaho Springs and continued my journey up through the Rockies covering over 5,000 feet of elevation in a day and eventually ended up in Breckenridge where I found a temporary job for the winter.)

Our short 4-day journey took us through Arizona, Utah and the Rockies ending up in Breckenridge. The best part of any trip is the journey and not the destination, but with only a few days to spare because of a short break from her teaching job, our stops along the way were limited. We headed north up through Arizona stopping at the abandoned Twin Arrows Trading Post.

Faded paint chipped off every corner and wall of the structures. Each room covered in vibrant, artistic graffiti and random tags defaced what once remained a historical roadside landmark on Route 66 off I-40. As we roamed through each adjacent, dilapidated room we felt a piece of history come over us. The 25-foot tall twin arrows perched outside the trading post stood tall attracting us to the abandoned structure. The roof of the structure fell through to the foundation of most rooms piling up soggy, moldy debris alongside all of the trash discarded by other trespassers. One room turned into a beautiful, under-the-sea mural of a giant Octopus alongside an unknown sea creature splashing in the waves. The artist blended yellows and greens with a hint of orange to emphasize the head and tentacles outlining the creature’s veins with a thin line of purple. This room stood out from the others because the ceiling remained intact and minimal litter scattered across the flooring. Other rooms remained in shambles with garbage piling up in the corners of each room and random tags sprayed across the walls. One that stood out said, “Nothing Else Mattress” spray-painted in black cursive above an old, worn mattress. The metal springs exposed and rusted from the misty air. Empty floorboards, broken drywall, wood and trash made the trading post look like squatter central. Stenciled gray faces spray painted much of the outer building walls. Old gasoline pumps stood out front of the structure completely gutted. I looked deeper into the history of the Twin Arrows Trading Post to see what once lied on these crumbling ruins.

Twin Arrows

Twin Arrows

At one point in time, Bob Moore’s “Route 66: Spirit of the Mother Road,” called it the Canyon Padre Trading Post. Along with other nearby towns and businesses along Route 66 many of them failed in the 1970s. The Twin Arrows Trading post changed many hands until their inevitable doom in 1995. The structure still stands decaying more and more each year as the roof continues to cave in, the wet slop continues to pile up across the damp floors and the Twin Arrows slowly come to their death as the desert sun rots away at their wooden cores.

We stood their in amazement as this structure crumbled before our eyes and wondered why no one tried to keep its history.

I wonder what this book was before it dampened in the rain?

I wonder what this book was before it dampened in the rain?

Walking along the side of the highway, hopping the Jersey barriers to get to our car we drove on past more desolate towns, completely barren and left in rubble. We wanted to stop, but needed to continue our journey to Colorado to get their before nightfall. Traveling on we made a few more stops. One at the overpriced Meteor Crater where we decided to turn around as the hefty price of $36.00 dissuaded us from entering.

Abandoned Twin Arrows Trading Post

Through Painted Windows…

The other stop took us to an abandoned structure off the highway right outside northern Arizona. We stopped to explore the decayed, roofless building. I crawled in through the windowless pane avoiding fresh animal dung left by a donkey or mule. An old wooden door creaked as we took a walk-through of the structure. The backside of the structure appeared under construction and after looking in the adjacent rooms I noticed a possible squatter living here due to shoes, and other trash left behind on the floors. “WATER IS LIFE” graffiti lined the outside wall in bright green capital letters and as we walked off towards our car I noticed a small, “No Trespassing” sign spray-painted across the front wall of the building.

Abandoned Arizona

Abandoned Arizona – A roofless hut in the desert sun.

The next state on our travels quickly approached: Utah. We made a quick stop in Bluff and ate at Twin Rocks Cafe. The Twin Rocks became home to the San Juan Pioneers when their six-week journey turned into a 6-month journey in the late 1800s. After eating a quick meal we realized daylight began to fade and we hustled to get back on the road. Hoodoos and canyons sprawled out across both sides of the highway making our eyes glue to the beauty surrounding us. Despite wanting to stop on multiple occasions we only took a smoke break at Recapture Reservoir where we managed to capture a heartwarming photo of the reserve with the sun reflecting its bright rays off of it.

Abandoned Arizona

I wonder where the desert goes…

The short-lived drive through Utah felt like it ended as the night beckoned in through the canyons of the desert. We continued driving down the dark, desolate road until reaching I-70 which took us on a long, inclined drive up the side of a mountain. We journeyed through Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs Canyon on a few hundred mile incline where the car barely broke 50 MPH due to the gradual grade. At around midnight we made it to our destination ending up in Breckenridge, CO where we stopped in to 711 so Kelly could reunite with her friend Kimmi.

Recapture Reservoir, Utah

Recapture Reservoir, Utah

Due to our arrival time our options for sleep were limited. I remembered a lot off the beaten path where we could camp in our vehicle for the night. We wandered down a dark Tiger Road camping outside an old mine in a vacant parking lot. A few hours of tossing and turning in our small Toyota Corolla left us restless and uncomfortable. I almost gave up on sleep that night since 14 hours of driving and 3 hours of freezing inside our vehicle left us sleepless in a cold parking lot. After much consideration we put down the back seats and cuddled up under a sleeping bag in the fetal position.

Breck

Breck

Our bodies resting mainly in the trunk and our heads poking out, laying on the back seats. We awoke a few hours later. I felt tired and grouchy, but we filled the day with friends and exploration. We met up with Kimmi and her boyfriend Dirty exchanging stories and bullshitting for a few hours. We spent much of the day relaxing, wandering around Breckenridge, exploring Tiger Road following the dirt path until our vehicle could no longer drive down it and ended up staying in a cheap hotel in Silverthorne. I napped for a while adjusting to the altitude and we finished the night off with a drink and some alone time before passing out.

The next day I met up with some old friends. We bar hopped from Angel’s Hollow to Ollie’s Pub before ending up in Fairplay, Colorado where an intense night of partying took place. I ended up puking and exposing myself to my fiancee before passing out on the bathroom floor. She still loves me though 🙂

Angel's Hollow Breck

Me, Max, and Phat James

After a few days of reminiscing my time in Breckenridge, wandering and partying with old friends, I filled our car with my belongings that James stored for me at his cabin in the woods. My old bicycle I toured with to Colorado, the rear panniers, and a few other bags of ski equipment all crammed into the trunk of the car. We continued our journey back home to Phoenix, Arizona as I recovered from a 6-hour hangover in the passenger seat questioning my life decisions from the night prior. Most of our route remained the same with the exception of Colorado. Our drive took us through South Forks down to Cortez. The foliage looked immaculate as we steadily drove down the meandering bends of the Rockies stopping at one scenic overlook. Our time in Arizona granted us with an illuminating sunset across the South Rim of the Grand Canyon where we stopped and took in the scenery. Despite the short trip I enjoyed my time on the road with my fiancee and old friends.

South Rim Sunset

Sunset outside the South Rim in the Grand Canyon

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