I have the good luck to spend part of the winter in Arizona, specifically Cave Creek, a small town located ten miles north of Phoenix. There’s only one major thoroughfare, the four-lane Cave Creek Highway, which is essentially Main Street. It runs into Carefree, a city of similar size, but if you miss the sign, one wouldn’t know they switched towns.
Cave Creek has many eclectic shops, hawking most everything that could be called “western,” some of it made in Mexico. You can buy something as unusual as a twelve-foot rusted metal rooster for your yard, a gorgeous couch or bed in western motif, knick-knacks, T-shirts, and even works of art.
I have had great meals at restaurants such as Big Earls, Cartwrights, El Encanto, Oregano’s, Tonto Bar and Grill, or the Horney Toad. There are plenty of other beaneries not mentioned – all in one small town. The only franchise is the Dairy Queen.
There is the famous Buffalo Chip Saloon, a Green Bay Packers bar, which puts on great rodeos. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen some real “mutton bustin.’” This entertainment consists of young cowboys and cowgirls emulating bull-riders by clinging for dear life on the backs of sheep. Great place to be when the Pack is playing, too.
There is a Pittsburgh Steelers bar, named Harold’s, across the street from a Chicago Bears bar, called the Roadhouse. The Roadhouse is even painted orange, hard on the eyes of this old Packer fan.
Cave Creek is also a biker town, and as I write this, Bike Week is going on. It’s like a mini-Sturgis. There’s plenty of places for bikers to hang out, including the aptly named Outlaws, Hideaway, and the American Legion. The afore-mentioned Roadhouse doubles as a biker bar.
During this week, thousands of us bikers descend upon town to hang out in the biker culture. Yes, I have a motorcycle, an Indian Chief Vintage I call “the Baby.” I enjoy riding motorcycles, particularly around the hills and mountains of Arizona. You see incredible sights in the mountains – soaring cliffs, deep canyons, jutting rocks, cacti of every variety seemingly running up mountains, and even wild horses. This year’s been the wettest in the past thirty so the desert is an explosion of every color and hue. Unfortunately, so are my sinuses.
After a long ride, most bikers meet back at Cave Creek to listen to live bands and party. OK, we look at the gals too! The outer lanes of Cave Creek Highway are shut off to traffic to accommodate the thousands of chromed bikes parked side by side. This bottlenecks traffic because of all the four-wheelers that travel to Cave Creek to get glimpses at us bikers.
In my estimation, over 90% of the bikes are Harley-Davidsons. Then there’s guys like me that had to be different. Custom bikes are becoming popular, and they’re as colorful as the desert. Some of the paint jobs and the images are incredible, costing thousands of dollars. Bikers in this group seem to have a fascination for skulls painted on their bikes.
Various vendors set up shop in tents all over town. Most of these vendors sell specifically to the biker culture. Motorcycles and parts, chrome, leather, helmets, silver and black jewelry, T-shirts and women’s biker-wear are all the rage. My favorite, of course was the tent selling President Trump merchandise. Bought a new MAGA hat.
One would think, with all those bikers gathered in one spot, some from various clubs that may look suspiciously outlaw with their leather vests and rockers, there would be issues. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth as the bikers all get along and the sheriff’s department does a great job in traffic and crowd control. Most of the bikers have their wives or girlfriends, although rarely both. Many women prefer riding their own bikes.
I regularly ride with some guys that have been around the motorcycle life all their lives, and they are just great guys, many Vietnam Vets. They work hard, play hard, and are fiercely patriotic. They drive a little fast sometimes for my taste, but I have grown to appreciate these guys as they are truly salt-of-the- earth type folks. They would, and have, given me the chaps off their legs during one cold ride up Granite Mountain on the way to Prescott.
The last ride I made was with a couple of business owners and their wives, all originally from Kankakee area. We drove the twenty-five miles to Lake Bartlett, a trip that is mostly a winding downhill road through a beautiful canyon that spectacularly opens up to a gorgeous lake. Afterwards, we came back for lunch at the Horney Toad. If you go, try the spectacular strawberry shortcake.
Please watch out for bikers