Seven iron horses and riders thundered across the desert toward Tombstone, Arizona. The winter skies were overcast maintaining a cool, shaded and pleasant journey for the Sentinels on their, “First Annual Winter Ride”.
The, “Magnificent Seven”, met early Friday morning and were joined by the chapter chaplain, Saint, for the send-off devotional. Eddie, recuperating from a non-motorcycle related tendon injury, strapped his crutches to the side of his Road King and Captain Vern, on his Road King, led the pack into the rising sun. Gadget, on his Road King brought up the rear maintaining radio contact with Captain Vern working to keep the group safely together on the journey. The, “Three Kings” ranks were completed with; Duke, the Sentinel’s President and Boomer, the Vice President on their Victories; Sting, the Sgt. at Arms, was astride his newly acquired Harley Sportster for his maiden voyage and George completed the formation for his first road trip on his Yamaha 950 touring.
After a quick stop for gas in Indio, the next stop was Arizona. After filling up on the Arizona side of the Colorado River, George noticed the rear tire on his Yamaha was flat. Luckily, the Flying J sold tire plugging kits and Duke provided his expertise to make a repair that lasted through the entire ride. At the next gas stop in Glendale, Arizona, it was Boomer’s turn for a tire issue. Fix-a-flat revealed the location of the slow leak, but repaired it adequately to last the trip with the addition of air at gas stops for the remainder of the ride. Of course, the Harley riders teased, “See, if you guys were on Harley’s, that wouldn’t have happened”. However, when a Harley had a fuel issue near Benson, of course, no brand name was mentioned.
Tombstone was a mix of history, touristy fun and lies. Not all Hollywood versions were entirely accurate. There never was a, “Gunfight at the OK Corral”. The “OK Corral” part was a Hollywood fabrication. The actual gun battle took place nearby, but, Gunfight at the Vacant Lot at Freemont and Third Next To The Boarding House”, doesn’t seem to have the same ring to it.
The town was fun, though. The group toured the town and had lunch at “Big Nose Kate’s Saloon”, which probably had no actual affiliation with Doc Holliday’s girlfriend. The basement of the saloon featured the entrance to one of the mines that honeycombed beneath the streets of the old mining town. That location was scheduled to appear that night in a, “Ghost Story” television program. During heavy rains some streets are closed due to fears cars might disappear through collapsing pavement, falling into one of the many mine tunnels below.
After an entertaining gunfight show at, “Helldorado”, the group headed south for Lowell on the edge of a huge, abandoned open pit gold and silver mine. The closure of the mine doomed the town instantly to ghost town status. The former owner of “The Broken Bit”, a huge, famous biker bar in Sturgis, SD, used funds from the sale of the bar to purchase the entire, (all two blocks of it) town. The street is a trip back in time to the 50’s complete with vintage cars, trucks and motorcycles. There are old gas pumps, fire trucks and even an old Indian Motorcycle dealership.
On the return trip to Tombstone, the seven stopped to investigate the old mining town of Bisbee. The terrain and architecture was very interesting. Old houses clinged to cliffs above picturesque turn-of-the century brick buildings. While walking along the street, Duke commented that the, “Vibes” there were not good. His intuition was verified as we passed a man openly smoking pot next to a storefront window filled with skulls and heads, arms and legs from baby dolls. As final confirmation, there was a sign above the door of the next business that said, “Doing our best to offend the religious right”.
The return trip to Tombstone was pleasant and treated the group to a spectacular sunset over the old town and surrounding hills. Dinner in front of the giant bar at the Crystal Palace Saloon, downstairs from Virgil Earp’s office was followed by a stroll to the famous, “Bird Cage Theater” where there are over 100 bullet holes in the walls and ceiling fired from the six guns of celebrating miners and cowboys.
The group then rode past Wyatt Earp’s house and Boot Hill to return to their log cabins on the outskirts of town for the night. Campers in the adjoining RV park were treated to the rhythmic, music of Sentinels snoring in discord reverberating through the park.
Before sunrise and after the morning devotional, the seven went to prison. The historic Yuma Territorial Prison, to be more precise. The ride from Arizona’s Southeast corner to the Southwest corner of the state was scenic including rock formations, wildflowers and lots of desert. The prison was, “a nice place to visit, but wouldn’t want to live there”. It is a stone reminder of man’s inhumanity to man.
Riding home west of Yuma past sand dunes and agricultural fields was uneventful until passing Indio. The final leg of the trip produced rain, sometimes of epic proportions. The combination of Sunday evening traffic returning to Southern California and torrential rain made the final hours a challenge, but all returned safely to their homes.
It was a memorable trip comprised of fun, challenges, history and camaraderie. The “Magnificent Seven” are now anxiously looking forward to the next road trip to Yosemite in May.