2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser

Martyn Goddard

At Sonoyta, we filled up with premium fuel at a Pemex station on the intersection of Benem,rito de las Americas Boulevard and Eusebio Francisco Kino Boulevard. Kino was a Jesuit missionary from the Tyrol who mapped northwestern Mexico between 1683 and his death in 1711, and his name had also popped up on a street sign in Mexicali. With the tank full, we proceeded some miles southeast to the customs station, becoming the cause of great mirth among those Mexican agents whose flashlight beams revealed the VIN ending in eight zeros; my protests that the FJ was un protipo were futile.

Retreating north, we crossed into Arizona's Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: 330,689 acres and twenty-six types of cactus, including reproachful saguaros in our headlights. Lodging in the town of Ajo, which is the Spanish word for garlic, we consumed an 11:30 p.m. supper of tepid hot dogs from the Circle K minimarket. In the morning we learned that the nearby New Cornelia Mine stopped producing copper ore in the mid-1980s, and the biggest things going now are retirement living and the Border Patrol hub.

Goddard was eager to show me Tombstone, Arizona, a shopping destination for Tucson's palefaces. He blazed away with his camera in front of Big Nose Kate's Saloon, and I bumped into Lew Sexton, retired military, whose monologue ranged from such topics as Tombstone's development ("I think it's sick") to respectful mention of Chris Simcox, president of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. To much fanfare in April 2005, the Minutemen supplied ad hoc augmentation of the U.S. Border Patrol's regular efforts to turn back illegal immigrants.

It was Saturday evening when we checked in at the Copper Queen Hotel in Bisbee, Arizona, said to be the nation's southernmost mile-high town. Bisbee, like Ajo, was built by the Phelps Dodge Mining Company. After a supper far surpassing lukewarm hot dogs, I sat at the bar and met writer Rick McKinney, who spoke sarcastically of the Minutemen. Whereas they had only patrolled a two-mile stretch of border, McKinney last summer had hiked to Hunter S. Thompson's memorial service, near Aspen, Colorado, when the gonzo doctor's ashes were fired from a cannon. In his new book, Dead Men Hike No Trails, McKinney writes of "a lifetime of swimming from one funky freak community to another . . ." So who lives in Bisbee? Retirees? Ski bums? "People who don't like to work," he said.

The early bird catches the worm, and for Goddard and me, the worm on Sunday morning was the '74 Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser being driven by Hans Decoz past the enormous Copper Queen mine on a stretch of road that's picked up by the Cochise County Gay and Lesbian Alliance. FJ40s were sold in the States from 1960 to 1983. Decoz settled in Bisbee in 2003 and bought his the next year for $7200. He overhauled the original in-line six, added two and a half inches of lift, put on new tires, and began exploring the back roads around Bisbee. "This thing literally crawls over everything," he said. "Just take your foot off the gas, off the brakes, and steer." He apologized for the "Arizona desert stripes" on the sides of his vehicle, as though they might spoil our pictures. Looking at the FJ Cruiser, he expressed appreciation that the design retains the signature rear corner windows. Decoz, incidentally, proved that some people in Bisbee do like to work: he is a successful software developer and the author of Numerology: Key to Your Inner Self.

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