The Mound Builders

The prehistoric earthworks at Newark, Ohio cover almost five square miles…the largest ancient monument in the world.  Over one hundred such earthworks were built over five centuries by mysterious early Americans.

Reconstructed effigy pipe

“My father has received many honors.  Today’s will be the greatest.  Flickering light and choking smoke filled the ceremonial house.  My eyes watered as his bones blackened, then cracked and settled deeper into the coals.  Only inches below the clay-lined fire pit lay the ashes of his father.  If the monuments I build prove worthy, my son will one day stand where I stand.  He will hold my stone pipe, my most intimate possession, home of my animal spirit; source of visions and wisdom…as today I hold my father’s.  His will never be smoked again.  When his funeral fire was kindled, I broke it.” 


Great Winter Ride–Day 5–Home

“I fed the macaws pulverized maize–no fruit remained this far from home–and tightened the hide straps that secured their cages.  With painstaking care, I’d raised twenty Scarlet Macaws from hatchlings to an age that they could safely travel the long route to buyers in the north.   Esteemed for their beauty and in much demand for religious ceremonies, these birds have become astonishingly valuable.  I’m still a young trader, but my reputation for delivering healthy specimens has produced appreciative repeat customers.  I trade for turquoise, fine beadwork, copper or gold.  Occasionally I’ll take something else in trade; a glazed vessel or woven basket, but only if especially elegant.”

“Only two birds remained as I neared my final stop, the prosperous village with two cliff houses that overlooks a wide spot in the river.  Its headman had requested two live macaws, two bundles of feathers and cacao.  With difficulty, I’d kept two especially fine birds in reserve through all the prior weeks of trading.  This headman is particular, he has become my friend..and his oldest daughter is very beautiful.”


Great Winter Ride–Day 4–Safford

Day 4  Tombstone to Safford  My plan was to roll on some respectable miles in the two final days of the trip.  Yet with a map crowding my plate of ribs in Tombstone, I was tempted by some shorter routes home.  In the quiet of the morning, still undecided, the routines of loading and checking the bike reawakened my travel urge.  I stuck with the longer route.

Good thing.  It led to a memorable nose-to-nose encounter.


Great Winter Ride–Day 3–Tombstone

Day 3  Tubac to Tombstone  Today’s short ride gave me extra time to explore mythic Tombstone.  During the height of its silver-fueled boom, the latest Paris fashions sold from the back of wagons on Allen Street.  Tombstone was like no other place in the universe.  No wonder folks like the Earp brothers were drawn to it.  Enjoy this scene from the movie, “Tombstone”.


Great Winter Ride–Day 2–Tubac

The relatively uncommon organ pipe cactus

Day 2–Ajo to Tubac  The desert is alien, harsh and mysteriously interesting.  It conceals more life than we realize.  I got a new insight into the essential nature of the Sonoran Desert–and all deserts–on my first stop on day two at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument south of Ajo.


Great Winter Ride–Day 1–Ajo

 Trace from my Cellphone App

This is my go-to ride for Arizona’s winter months.  I’ve done some version of it three times since 2009.  Rider magazine published my first account, “Half Busted in Old Arizona” in January 2010 (the article’s side topic was the then-new and still tedious US economic recession).  That seems ages ago.  An update shouldn’t be too repetitive.  I took this ride in February 2016, logging 950 miles and spreading the trip over five leisurely days to better savor southern Arizona’s perfect winter weather.