We traveled 4500 miles before someone threw something at us. We had just cycled up to the main gate of the Fort Huachuca to see if we could explore Garden Canyon. We had heard that some of the best wildlife habitat left in the lower 48 states is behind the barbed wire on military bases. Our Tucson Audubon bird finding guide said that we should not stray away from the road or trails since there may be live ammunition lurking in the grass.
We stopped at the checkpoint, clutching our photo ID, which included Wendy and Malkolm’s Canadian Passports. Foreign nationals, it turns out, are not allowed to look for birds on the military base. It wasn’t good enough that I am a dual citizen and was willing to guarantee their good behaviour. They are a dangerous-looking duo, with their front and back panniers and binoculars around their necks.
We rolled back down into Sierra Vista, a town that sprawls down from the mountains and across the San Pedro Valley. There was no place to camp in Sierra Vista. Wendy had already asked at the Sherriff’s office if it would be okay to set up our tents in the park in town. No luck. Fortunately, Tony Battiste had generously offered us a night in his Bed and Breakfast down the road in Hereford.
We cycled southward. Something that looked like the Goodyear Blimp floated ominously above our heads. I looked nervously at it, wondering whether the eye in the sky was monitoring our conversation. We passed pawn shops, tattoo parlors, six “Dollar Stores” and one 98 Cent Store for those on a budget. A small truck zoomed by on the highway and someone flung a two-quart plastic soda bottle right at us. It floated over our heads and bounced around in the ditch. I imagined the people in the truck yelling, “And don’t come back!”
We felt better after a welcoming night at Battiste’s “Bed, Breakfast and Birds.” In the morning Magnificent and Anna’s Hummingbirds zoomed around the feeders and Yellow-rumped Warblers fluttered in the trees. We cycled up to Tony’s friend Mary Jo Ballator’s place. She also runs a birdy B & B. Woodpeckers circled her trees, wild turkeys visited and Malkolm identified the first Scott’s Oriole of the trip.
Before we left, I asked her about the blimp in the sky. “It’s called an Aerostat,” she said. “I think it is used mainly for drug-running surveillance. Fort Huachuca is the center for US Army Intelligence . . . if you don’t mind the contradiction in terms.”