In the small, Mingus Mountain mining town of Jerome, Arizona, I met a man by the name of John Dempsey - an old, but stone bold character. With piercing eyes and an index finger that felt like the dull, dead lead weight of a thud-blunt rail spike, he pointed into my chest, demanded complete attention, and with a low rumble drum baritone, began a Wild West bike tale from many years ago....
"This [pointing to my bike] will be the most important machine for the rest of your life. Never stop riding. It will keep your mind clear and sane; your senses sharp; your spirit strong and in touch with the world. [Looking out and down to the valley] You climbed up from Cottonwood?"
"Yes sir. Began the day in Cornville."
"How was traffic?"
"Hectic, but they gave me space."
"Good. It's never been a great place for bikes. Now let me tell you what happened down there in 1954. Back then, I used to live near Cornville, but would ride my bike to work up here to the mines and back home. One afternoon when I was headed down, a man in a truck ran me off the road. If I hadn't seen him at the last second and bailed, he may have killed me. You figure he would have stopped to see if I was all right, but instead, he burnt a tire and rode away. The SOB didn't give a s***."
"Were you hurt?"
"No, I didn't break anything....was lucky. The bike was bent up pretty bad though. Once I drug it out of the draw, I walked it through town, passing the local watering hole where I saw his truck. There's the second mistake he made. It was at that point that I decided that I was going to teach this guy a lesson. I went straight home, got my 45, went back to the saloon where I found him. He musta been a barrel deep cause it wasn't much to sneak up behind him, grab his collar, and put my gun up against his throat. I told the bast*** that if he ever ran another bicyclist off the road again, I'd find him and kill him."
"Yeah, the barkeep told the sheriff, who then told the judge, but he knew I was from good people, and he let it go after a short talk. Just told me to go easy...that I shouldn't be threatening nobody like that."
"So maybe I should thank you for laying the law long ago in that town I just rode through...guess you instilled one heck of an ethic?"
"Well, you can't just let hateful idiots run reckless. There's consequences. I got my point across."
"I'd say so."
"Anyway, you're losing daylight. If you're trying to make the pass and get across Lonesome Valley, you better get going. Otherwise you'll have to dump off the side of the road up in the forest, which ain't bad, but you won't freeze as easily down near Prescott."
"Thank you Mr. Dempsey."
"Get on now."