Yuma to Phoenix – Now

The Adventure of Exploring

Joe and I intended to ride straight through from Yuma to Phoenix on our mapping ride, but things didn’t turn out exactly as planned. I had a road marked after Agua Caliente that I believed was the correct route to Phoenix, but it wasn’t and we ended up out in the desert on a 100+ degree day. More on that later. We know from Baker’s writing that he made it to the post office in Dome, AZ the morning of his second day after leaving Yuma. We have some mountain roads we are coming back to explore later, but we know that Baker later made it to Agua Caliente. Be sure to read his account in “Baker’s Route” about how he ran out of gas and had to push his bike a few miles in 119-degree heat.

Our friend Michael Bryant (left) came along with a support vehicle for our Arizona ride. Since cell phone coverage is unpredictable, we carry Satellite phones and before we left Yuma we made a point to make sure everything was connected and working properly. That turned out to be a smart move.

 

We know Cannon Ball Baker’s first stop after leaving Yuma was the post office at Dome, AZ. In 1914, approx. 5,000 people, mostly miners, lived in Dome -- which is why it had its own post office. That’s me with the only standing structure there today. Dome is located on the map above just to the east of where the red line leaves Highway 95.

From Dome, we took the old Butterfield Stage road east. It was a dirt road for about 20 miles and it eventually merged onto Old Highway 80 -- which, at times, parallels Interstate 8 heading toward Gila Bend.

We gassed up and had lunch in Dateland, then headed up to Agua Caliente. In 1914, it was a hotel and natural hot springs. It’s a ghost town today, but much of the original hotel building and a few other structures are still standing.

Agua Caliente is another location where we know from his written account that “Baker was here,” so Joe proudly displays Cannon Ball’s AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame medal that we carrying with us.

On our way out of Agua Caliente Joe checks out a building that didn’t hold up through the years very well.

 

Sidebar: Unsuccessful first attempt from Agua Caliente to Phoenix

The reason our map from Yuma to Phoenix ends at Agua Caliente is that back in June when Joe and I were doing a mapping ride, all went well as shown above from Yuma to Agua Caliente. However, from there I mistook a dirt road heading east for Agua Caliente Rd, which was called the “Agua Caliente Scenic Route” on the paper map I had with me. I did have a Garmin GPS on board which I use to mark where I have been, but couldn’t get it to show me the old dirt road that I needed to be on. One local source told me the road would be wide enough to drive a motor home on it, so for a few miles I thought we were on the right track. That would soon change however…

Soon after departing Agua Caliente, we turned east on Hyder Rd., which I believed turned into Agua Caliente Rd. I now know my navigating mistake was that we should have gone straight through Hyder Rd instead of turning right. In this photo Joe heads east and at this point we were pretty confident this was the road we heard about where you could drive a motor home.

Looking back from where we had come. This part of the road was fun, but we were getting concerned that it turned into this less-defined surface, and we also had to cross a couple of soft sand washes. The weather on this day was about 105 degrees.

Finally, we got to a point that we knew we were on the wrong road. For sure no motor home was going up this road. But instead of just turning around, Joe volunteered to ride up the hill to see if he could get a better view of where the “right” road might be. What we didn’t know was that a bracket had broken in his battery box and when he got onto the incline, the battery shifted and made contact with some metal, and it shorted out. So now we had a dead motorcycle half way up that hill. We had no clue what the trouble was, suspecting that the high temperature had maybe fried something in the system.

This is where our satellite phone, SPOT GPS and in some locations, our cell phones, became real life savers (perhaps literally). We made contact with Michael, our extra driver, who was now over in Phoenix who went to work contacting local towing companies with off-road capability and did find one. Unfortunately, they did not have GPS, so weren’t able to make use of our coordinates. But we also were in touch with some family and friends who spread the word and started making their own efforts to help us.

A couple of hours went by and we were not having any luck having our tow truck find us. Note in the photo the sun is beginning to set and we were looking at the prospect of possibly spending the night out there. Unfortunately, our cell batteries were starting to run low and we had used all of our water. We knew the temperature the next day was going be even hotter, so we made the decision to leave Joe’s bike behind for now and ride double, back over the tracks we had ridden in on. Luckily, the lights worked on the working KTM 990 and instead of our tow truck finding us, we rode back out and found him. He took me, Joe and the running KTM over to Phoenix. We would get to work later on how to get Joe’s bike out from where we left it on the hill. We also learned later that the area we were in has a large mountain lion population, as well as being used often by drug dealers, so it’s a good thing we didn’t spend the night out there.

The next day we continued to hunt for someone who could go get Joe’s 990 off that hill. Our Managing Editor Jordan May located the perfect solution through an online 4WD Forum. Brian (seen here) volunteered to drive out to the scene using our GPS coordinates and despite a few glitches; we did finally get the bike out to a dirt road where our tow truck driver from the night before could pick it up. It was really amazing that on a 105-degree day, Brian was willing to drive out there and pick the bike up. Many thanks to him for coming to rescue the bike.

At the end of the second long day, we did finally get the 990 over to the west side of the Phoenix metro area. Our tow truck driver brought it out on this trailer from where Brian had to leave it and to where my trailer was. When I got the bike home for repairs, which were actually fairly minor, I realized the short had completely killed the electrical system.

 

WHAT NEXT?

Once we got Joe’s 990 repaired, we knew that the heat of summer had arrived in the desert southwest of Arizona, so we decided to skip over that state for now and get the rest of the U.S. bookmarked. Having completed that and after riding all the way to New York City recently, this fall we plan to return to Arizona, and perhaps some of New Mexico to finish our mapping work, which will complete the entire route of Cannon Ball Baker’s 1914 ride.