The sheriff checks us in

SALOME, Ariz. — On the western approach to Salome along U.S. 60 stands a sign that must have puzzled many a traveler. The sign says: “SALOME Arizona ‘Where she danced.'”
So who was Salome and why did she dance in this Sonoran Desert town in the McMullen Valley between the Harquahala and Harcuvar mountain ranges?
Students of the Bible might recall that Salome was a temptress who performed her dance of the seven veils so seductively for Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee in Palestine, that he offered her whatever she wished. At the suggestion of her mother, she asked for the head of John the Baptist on a plate.
SalomeTurns out that this town, which prides itself on being “in the heart of the Arizona Outback,” was founded in 1904 by Charles H. Pratt, with the help of Dick Wick Hall and his brother Ernest.
Pratt’s wife was named Grace Salome. According to local lore, she did a dance, too — not a dance of seduction, but one of pain. She had taken off her shoes in the desert and danced to keep the soles of her feet from burning on the hot sand.
Her reward was to have a town named after her.
Hall, a miner, humorist and publisher of the Salome Sun, drew stick figures of Salome’s dance, and, like many a newspaper proprietor boosting his town, hyped it as the place where Salome danced.
Heat is a big part of life in this patch of desert. The temperature was hovering around 105 degrees on Friday afternoon as our caravan of cross-country cyclists rode 58.29 miles from our campsite along the Colorado River just inside California east of Blythe to the higher desert in the Arizona Outback. Our net elevation gain was about 1,500 feet.
It was nearly dark when one group of our riders reached Salome after suffering through the heat of the day.
The motel where we’re spending the night is operated by the wife of the La Paz County sheriff. But she was away when I and a group of riders arrived in mid-afternoon. So we were greeted and checked in by the sheriff, who was wearing his sidearm and badge. I’m assuming that this is the safest motel in town.
ArizonaSaturday’s ride of about 55 miles will take us to Wickenburg, our last overnight stop before reaching Phoenix on Sunday. We’ll have a full day of rest in Phoenix on Monday before continuing our journey on Tuesday. As of Friday, we have ridden more than 300 miles of our coast-to-coast trek of more than 3,000 miles, and we’ve now crossed into our second state.
But a little more on Salome: I had assumed that the name of the town was pronounced like the name of the biblical temptress. But locals pronounce it in two syllables, without sounding out the “e” at the end.
As we’ve ridden through tiny desert towns in California and Arizona, I’ve wondered how they came to exist and why they’re still here. As for Salome, it was once was the main stopping point on the Santa Fe Railroad between Los Angeles and Phoenix.
Hall wrote in his Salome Sun in 1921: “The train stops here twice each day — when it goes from Phoenix and when it comes back from Los Angeles. Some folks have wondered why it comes back from Los Angeles but the engineer’s wife has the asthma and lives in Phoenix — so he comes back. The train stops here because Salome has the only good water for a long ways — and the engine has to have water.”
As for why Salome is still here: I’m not sure.



Filed under Americana, Cycling across America, Journeys

11 responses to “The sheriff checks us in

  1. Dad, are you all right wearing black in the desert heat? Keep on posting – I am now an avid reader!

    • — Actually it isn’t safe to ride at night . It is pitch dark out here at night. Drunk drivers like to take the back roads at night , besides many drivers are sleepy at night as well. If the cyclists wet their clothing the wind chill will keep them nice and cool 🙂 – advice from a “local” 😉

      • JoAnn,
        Thanks for reading my blog. Unfortunately, we could spend only one night in Salome. We hit the road early Saturday morning and are now in Wickenburg. Dick Wick Hall Day sounds like fun. By the way, thanks for the advice about how to cool down in the desert. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing.

    • Matt,
      Thanks for becoming an avid reader. During the past three or four days in the desert, I’ve been wearing a long-sleeve shirt for protection against the sun. I pour water over my head, chest and arms and let the water evaporate. It’s like air conditioning.
      Take care.
      Love, Dad

  2. Dad,

    At those temperatures you should ride at night. Just a thought. Good luck on tomorrow’s ride.


    • Thanks, Thomas. We’ve been trying to start at first light so we can get most of the mileage out of the way before the sun gets too high. I started this morning (Saturday) at 7:11 and got to the campsite in Wickenburg at about 1 p.m. I was first in, got a good tent site, shower, etc., and now am relaxing. It’s a very nice RV park that also stables horses. It’s called “Horsepitality.” The temp here today was forecast to be 102.
      Love, Dad

  3. Anchal

    Jim – Don’t get heat stroke! Love reading about your adventures… good luck and god speed!

  4. Welcome to Salome! Are you folks going to stay for the Dick Wick Hall Day Parade and Bar-B-Q and live music tonight?

  5. Roger

    Mateo’s got a point. Many Arabs, Indians and others in hot climes wear white to reflect the sun vs black which absorbs light. White is probably a better heat shield, though, come to think of it, the Tuareg have worn dark blue/black for a couple of thousand years in the Sahara. Keep it coming, Jim. Don’t forget your electrolytes!

    • Roger,
      Lately, I’ve been wearing a long-sleeve shirt to protect against the sun. It works pretty well. I have indeed been drinking gallons of fluid every day and feel pretty good. We arrive in Phoenix/Tempe on Sunday for a full day of rest on Monday. Take care and thanks again for all your help in San Diego.

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