COWBOYS CALLED BAD COFFEE “dehorned belly wash or brown gargle,” but that’s far from what you’ll get when you saddle up to the bar at the Patagonia Lumber Company, which serves Presta Coffee, roasted just up the road in Tucson, as well as a thoughtfully curated collection of local beer and wine. Following a tasty cup of courage, I pointed it toward Harshaw Creek and the greater San Rafael Valley and pedaled off. Just 20 miles into the journey, perched on the border fence itself, rests the forgotten crossing town of Lochiel, a shell of its once thriving self, which now boasts maybe three or four full time residents, as well as the original schoolhouse that is being restored to preserve its historic past.
It’s easy to feel small in the San Rafael Valley. With very few trees, little air pollution, and clear skies as far as the eye can see, the expanse of the unobstructed views is hard to process, and distances are even more difficult to gauge. There’s a stillness and silence that centers the soul out here, that grounds you in the landscape and the present moment.
I pedaled through the peaks and troughs of this majestic desert sea with only the sound of the breeze at my back and the crunching of my tires on gravel, my sights set on the hulking landmass to the east. Located on the southeast flank of the Huachuca Mountains, the Coronado National Monument commemorates Francisco Vasquez de Coronado’s expedition in 1540, which crossed Montezuma Pass, the very same road I ascended. And off to my west lay the border wall, which is more of a fence along this stretch of Mexico and a physical reminder of the trivial barriers we often erect in life.