Adventures from Back of Beyond

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Highway 169

Highway 169 in central Arizona, sometimes known as the Cherry cutoff, is a pleasant road connecting I-17 with the town of Dewey. The road is often used as a shortcut between points northeast and the former Arizona territorial capital of Prescott.

One warm summer day in September 2000, I was driving on 169. Windows down, enjoying the breeze and fresh air, on my way to Prescott, I noticed a highway patrolman on a motorcycle, which is unusual on this road, headed the opposite direction and going fast. Real fast. As he passed at an extraordinarily high rate of speed, the engine on his bike was just a quick high-pitched whine, and zip -- he was gone.

Unusual, I thought.

Then, within a few minutes, way off in the distance, I noticed what at first I thought were fire engines heading to a fire. Several vehicles in a row, caravaning, with lights ablazing.

They got closer and I saw they weren't fire engines after all. I slowed and pulled over as they passed, wondering what the heck was going on. There were 8 to 10 vehicles traveling close together, lead by a couple of highway patrol cars. In the middle of the pack were 5 or 6 Ford Explorer SUVs, all similar with dark tinted windows. A Sheriff's car brought up the rear.

Later that day, I learned that presidential candidate George W. Bush had given a campaign speech, along with Arizona senator John McCain, at the Prescott Courthouse Square. Afterwards, they spent some time at McCain's "cabin" along Oak Creek in the Verde Valley. On this day they too used the Cherry cutoff, along with their escort of secret service agents, highway patrolmen, and Sheriff's deputies.

That's about as close as I got to the senator and future president that day. I've dined with McCain a couple of times at his cabin, but those are other stories.