The Roman god of fire would feel right at home amid the burning desert sands, Jurassic epoch rock, and sinking copper mine tailings of the old bootlegging town of Cottonwood, Arizona. The namesake of Kawasaki’s Vulcan cruiser lineup rolled into this mysterious valley, flying the factory green, saddled in black leather and iron.
This place of cool rivers running through unforgiving desert, spectacular vistas, hidden canyons, secret springs, ruins of forgotten pueblo people, and towering red rocks that stand sentinel over what ancient tribes considered sacred land is a good place to honor your deities. To some 80 or so Vulcanites, this was Mecca for one beautiful spring weekend in May. They came from around the state and California, and as far away as Sweden.
The Phoenix Vulcan Riders is a local chapter of the Vulcan Riders Association
, which has chapters across the nation and abroad. It hosted VRA’s second annual West Coast Rally, or as the Phoenix chapter referred to it, the Copper State Roundup. By any name the good times remain the same.
) The Old Town district is a popular tourist attraction in Cottonwood. (Below
) Plenty of pristine Vulcans and proud owners to see during the rally.
Preceded by unusually cool temps and constant winds and high gusts, the skies calmed and warmed just in time for the roundup, held May 16-18. The event was based in Cottonwood, once a notorious hideaway for bootleggers and home to hard-luck, hard-liquor miners, choking down rock dust and building a dreadful thirst from swinging a pickax dawn to dusk.
Set in the Verde Valley in the shadow of Mingus Mountain and the copper boom camp of Jerome, Cottonwood has dispensed with the likes of Al Capone wannabes and is nowadays a little more peaceable. Its shift to lawful tourism is most evident in the city’s Old Town district, a collection of restaurants, galleries, saloons, mod boutiques, antique shops, and a growing number of wine bars and tasting rooms. Vineyards are a burgeoning industry as the area develops a rising reputation as the next Napa Valley.
A short putt from Old Town is the 800-year-old ruins at Tuzigoot National Monument, home to some 100 pueblo people for hundreds of years before the first bikers landed in North America. Once a ghost town, Jerome is now an artsy colony of second and third generation hippies, who squatted in the once nearly abandoned town in the 1960s after the mines spent out a decade before. Still a town of less than 400 living souls, the census not yet counting scores of reported sightings of the ethereal undead, Jerome once boasted an inconceivable population of 15,000. The business was copper, the trade was whiskey and women and mortuary science. The New York Sun once called it the most sinful city in the nation. Good times.
The roundup featured a bike show, but the real attention was on what motorcycle rallies should focus on—the ride. The Phoenix Vulcan Riders would have been hard pressed to find a better place to enjoy life on two big black wheels. Guided rides over rolling Mingus Mountain to Prescott, to the red rock wonderlands of Sedona, up Oak Creek Canyon on one of the most scenic roads on planet Earth, stopping at overlooks and outdoor Navajo and Zuni trading posts, to the old logging and trapping town of Williams, still alive with Route 66 kitsch, participants experienced some of the most spectacular riding anywhere. Suggested self-guided rides included tours of Mormon Lake near Flagstaff, and a ride to Montezuma’s Castle, a restored pueblo ruin in nearby Camp Verde.
According to Phoenix Vulcan Riders Chapter 1-15’s president, Bryan Park, the club is not only welcome to Vulcan enthusiasts, but riders aboard all makes and models. “It’s about the fun, the camaraderie; it’s about family,” said the affable Park, who claims five children and 13 grandchildren but looks like a sturdy 30-something. The club’s mantra is “good friends, good rides, good times,” which when faithfully followed will apparently keep you young forever. The Vulcan Rider’s code is what biking is about, and that’s all it should be about.
Registration, which included a pizza dinner, cost $25 single; $35 couple, $5 less in advance. Event T-shirts were sold for $20. For more information or to join the Phoenix Vulcan Riders, visit www.phoenixvulcanriders.org
or write Phoenix Vulcan Riders, P.O. Box 744, Apache Junction, AZ 85117.
Vulcan Riders Rally 2014 Photos