Part 1: Douglas, AZ to Gila River, NM


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The Experience

Vince had chosen a 0700 meeting in Douglas, AZ so we had to get "close" the night before to make that objective.  We selected Bisbee, AZ as an appropriate camping spot and headed there from San Diego.  We elected to stay over in Tucson with relatives for a couple of days before heading to Bisbee.  The trip from San Diego to Tucson was brutal with temperatures in the 110 degree range during the day.  Our air conditioner suffered a failure the previous year and we were not able to effect a repair prior to the trip, so we rolled down the windows, took plenty of salt pills and drank 8 liters of water each during the trip.  The trip from Tucson to Bisbee was hot, but not dangerous-hot like the previous segment.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

We stayed a the Queen Mine RV right next to the large pit mine in Bisbee.  Our site was right on the rim of the pit.  The late afternoon sun cast long shadows in the deep hole.  The various colors in the rock are an indication of the level of mineralization in the area.

The steep walls of the pit were not fully stable and were subject to slumps and slides.

Thor presents a daunting site in any RV park.

We got out of bed at 0500 and rolled into Douglas to make our 0700 meeting in the parking lot of the local Walmart.  From the left: Len's 1017A, Mark's high-low pickup camper, Vince's U500, Chris's U500, Thor.

From the left: John's U500, Len's 1017A, Mark's high-low pickup camper, Vince's U500.

Len's 1017A was of particular interest to me as it was the only identical platform to Thor.  This rig is running 425/65 R22.5 concrete truck tires and has a front winch.  Additionally, it has a diesel generator and extended living quarters.

We rolled out of Douglas and got onto the Geronimo Trail that crossed over the mountains into New Mexico.  Once the group got onto the dirt, we spread out to help minimize the dust.  Above, note the extent of the dust plumes raised in the calm morning air.

Len suffered a "mechanical" and we stopped to check it out.  The Border Patrol also stopped to see what we were doing.  The Patrol runs all manner of vehicles, aircraft and horses as part of their normal day-to-day operations.  The group above were on horseback.

New watchtowers were being constructed along the entire border.  The new tower is on the left, the old (portable) tower is truck-mounted and on the right.  Both have cameras, infrared, radar and other sophisticated detection equipment.

A real "oh, shit" party.  We caught the failure before it became a catastrophe.  Anika, the young gal, is visiting the U.S. from Germany and is traveling with Chris and Anne.

The issue was the rear-mounted hydraulic spare tire mount.  One of the pins on the 4-bar mechanism had worked loose and was in danger of coming out.  The weld holding the retaining plate had broken, thus allowing the pin to slide.  A road-side fix was effected using a pop rivet and a C-clamp and we headed out.

We headed into the mountains east of Douglas, AZ.

Most of the road was in really good shape but had narrow bridges and overhanging brush to clean the top of our campers.

The rim of the canyon had nice hoodoos.

We found this monument at the Arizona-New Mexico border.  The road was built in 1932.

As we approached the pass, the road got steep.

We stopped at the pass to take some photos.  The view to the west shows the Douglas Valley.

Even though the road was built in 1932, the path has been used for over a hundred years.  The pass was used by the Mormon Battalion in 1846 during the Mexican War.

The trail took us down the eastern slopes of the mountains into the Animas Valley.  The terrain was quite barren.

We hit the paved road and headed north through the Animas Valley and encountered, no surprise, more Border Patrol agents.  In this case, we were stopped to determine if we could take the Adobe Creek Road, but it turned out that the land was private.  As we waited to see if the owner would allow us to pass, the agents stopped to check out the trucks.  Above, Mark gets some pointers on routes that would be interesting.

We stopped for chow in the little town of Animas.  Then we headed north to Lordsburg, NM.  The lord had forgotten the town many years ago and it is a now a god-forsaken shit hole on the side of I-10.  From Lordsburg, we headed north to Redrock and then over the mountains toward Silver City.  From the crest of the mountains we could see one of the fires burning the Gila Wilderness (which, sadly, was our destination).  It turned out that the fire was east of our destination, so no diversion was required.

Cattle on roadways are a persistent hazard when traveling in the west.  You can pretty much count on them doing something stupid like bolting into your path.  We have seen plenty of cows but we had never seen cows that had this kind of leather headdress.  This cow has had his horns burned (for rancher safety).  The headdress, it seems, is this season's hot bovine fashion.

Approaching Silver City, NM from the west, we had a view of the tailings from one of the many mines in the area.  We crossed the Continental Divide (again) and headed into Silver City for fuel and supplies.

We left Silver City and headed north into the Gila.  The Pinos Altos road was narrow and very steep with many tight turns.  Len was unaware his rig had an exhaust brake and rode his service brakes down the 20% grade with predictable results -- overheating.

The brake drums were smoking hot and were, in fact, smoking.  Chris sprays some water on them to help them cool.

We were not sure if anything was damaged, but at least now Len is aware of the importance of his exhaust brake and how to use it.

We met up with other members of our expedition at a camp on the Gila River and set up right next to the water.

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