Sunday, October 1, 2017

~ Mile Marker 88 ~

“I do not intend to tiptoe through life to arrive safely at death”  M.M. Gavillet.   

9 miles south of Ash Fork, Arizona

They say that the title of a book is worth seriously thinking about even before you write your first word.  This story is no different and the title will unfold naturally.

My alarm rings precisely at 5:01 a.m. as instructed.  It is going to be a long first day and I roll out of bed reluctantly.  My bike was packed last night, and as always, it is eager to hit the road.  Together we make a good team.  Three Rivers, California is where I live and this ride is to La Joya, New Mexico for the annual fiestas.  La Joya is like a magnet, always pulling me home.  I was born in the adobe house built by my dad in this little village along the Rio Grande.  The fiestas are lively with music, dancing, New Mexico green chili, sopapillas, and beans – I love it.

I plan to camp 9 miles south of Ash Fork, Arizona on the Kaibab National Forest.  I call this camp, Middle Satellite.  I hope to arrive an hour before dark; it is 585 miles from Three Rivers. 

My normal ride is east on Interstate 40 until Ash Fork where I head south on Highway 89 to Middle Satellite.  Today is not normal.  I have a promise to keep. 

On January 19, 2017, I received an anonymous comment on my story called -- Exploring the Badlands of New Mexico, Johnny Cash style. 

The comment read:

“Hello Robert, I recently discovered your site and the sharing of your many adventures, great stuff.  A close longtime family friend and much more, was also an ‘iron cowboy’ and a member of the LAFD Fire Hogs and very much a ‘Lone Ranger’ on many solo rides.  His name is Danny Cypert.  Someday when your travels take you on Route 66, about 20 something miles east of Kingman, take time to stop around mile marker 88; Danny’s memorial is located there.  Can be challenging to locate but well worth the effort.  The memorial was erected by the LAFD, Kingman FD, as well as Highway Patrol and others.  After reading your many adventures, I thought of Danny and how much you two were very much alike…”

I was touched by this anonymous comment and I replied:  “I will see this memorial for your friend one day.  I don’t know when, but it will happen.  I promise.”

I searched the internet to find out more about Danny Cypert.  It was not hard to find and on page 6 and 7 of The Los Angeles Firefighter March/April 2008 edition was the tribute to him.

I just left Interstate 40 at Kingman, and heading east on Historic Route 66 to find the memorial and fulfill my promise.  Mile Marker 88 is more like 33 miles from Kingman and I pull over but do not see anything that resembles a memorial.  I ride up to Mile Marker 89, then 90, and no luck.  It has to be here, I tell myself.  I turn around and drive slowly but nothing.  I search for a good hour and feel sad that I could not find it and recall the anonymous comment “…It can be challenging to locate…”  

I did not find his memorial.  I continue on the Historic Route 66 towards Peach Springs knowing that I’ll soon intersect Interstate 40 by Seligman.  

From nowhere, dark clouds gather as the sun begins to set.  I know that I’m within 10 miles of Middle Satellite when the first raindrops hit my windshield.  A few at first, then the heavy downpour.  I know the US Forest Service (USFS) dirt road is near and is hard to see with the rain blurring my eyes.  Finally, I turn onto the dirt road just as the rain stops, I quickly gather firewood and set up a lean-to with my rainfly to keep me dry.  I do not have a tent on this trip.  I dig a hole and the volcanic rocks will be a perfect ring for my campfire.  Just as I’m having my gourmet can of stew, the rain returns.  My gear is under the lean-to and dry.  Sleep comes easily after 585 miles.

Upper Satellite camp ~ south of Ash Fork, Arizona

My breakfast in Ash Fork at the Ranch House Cafe is a good time to think about the next leg of my trip.  My order of eggs over easy with hash browns, corn beef hash, biscuits, and coffee is tasty.  I did not have cell service last night so I quickly let Denise know that I’m fine and heading for Pie Town, New Mexico where I’ll camp on US Forest Service land (USFS).  

The wind is blowing hard as I cross the Buffalo Range east of Flagstaff, Arizona.  I feel like the wind will rip off my helmet as it chokes me repeatedly.  I don’t mind the rain, but a hard wind is tough, especially when it is blowing from the north or south and I’m heading east.  I really don’t care for the Interstate and I’m looking forward at Holbrook to turn south on Highway 77 towards Show Low along some lonely roads, then east on Highway 60 east towards Springerville, Quemado, Pie Town, Datil, Magdalena, Socorro, and finally La Joya.

Highway 60, heading east to a place called 'nowhere'

My camp on the USFS land near Pie Town is good.  I’m beginning to like this spot as there is plenty of firewood.  I set up my lean-to but it does not rain and I get a good sleep.  There is no cell reception and I’ve always told Denise that “if you don’t hear from me in two days, don’t worry unless I have not called you in three days.”  In the morning, I boil water for some oatmeal and coffee – a light breakfast because the cafe in Pie Town is closed.  The ride from Pie Town to Socorro is breathtaking.  I love the sweeping views with few cars or pickup trucks along this lonely highway.  In a few hours, I’ll be in Socorro where cell reception is excellent.  

As my bike hums along, I think about the Cypert Memorial. I made a promise, how can I find it, I need help.

My camp near Pie Town, New Mexico

In Socorro, I google his name again looking for clues.  There it is right in front of me -- the Los Angeles Fire Department.  The Google search begins to bring up phone numbers and the Public Information Office might be able to help me.  

“Hello, my name is Robert Griego and I need help finding a memorial for a firefighter named Danny Cypert.”  I was talking with Margaret who without hesitation began to type his name into her computer.  I described where it was located but she could not find anything right then.  “I made a promise to find his memorial," I told her.  "I may have to call you back and I promise to help you,” she replies.  Ten minutes later my phone rings and it's Margaret. “I just spoke with the president of the LA Fire Hogs and he described in detail where the memorial is located…There is a white isolated house with a flagpole and the memorial is located on their property, just off the highway.”  I told Margaret that I remember the white house with the flag pole and I was within 50 yards of the site.  

“Thank you, Margaret, I’ll find it on my way back to California,” I promise.

I stop by Belen to see my first cousin Tudi and his wife Erlinda before heading off to La Joya and Jewels Camp which is behind my mom and dad’s adobe house.  I was born in this house.  

My 1st cousin, Tudie proudly showing me his magazine

Fiestas in La Joya ~ Sept 16-17

My campfire is comforting when I hear a motorcycle.  It is my brother Gilbert from Apple Valley, California.  He traveled some 785 miles in one day!  We soon are joined by our friend Stanley Esquibel and we have a good time taking well into the night.  Tomorrow, we all will drive to Abo see our sister Elva and her husband Robert.  They prepare a huge New Mexico meal for us and then send us off with tamales, chile Rellenos, red chile, and sopapillas for Saturday’s breakfast.  We were treated like Kings.

Gilbert and I get cleaned up and walk over to the church where the fiestas are beginning.  The music is beginning and we order some mouthwatering New Mexico food.  Our 1st cousin Ernie Griego, who is 90 years young, is dancing with his daughter Sylvia.  For a man that age, he moves like he is sixty!  We meet other friends and the lively music puts a smile on my face.  Traditionally, the fiestas were a time to give thanks to God for the crops, family, friends, and life in the village called La Joya de Sevilleta.  

Gilbert needs to be back home in California soon, so we say our good-byes near Belen. 

Robert and sister, Elva ~ Abo, New Mexico

Gilbert Griego, Stanley Esquebel, and Robert Griego ~ Abo - Salinas Pueblo Missions, New Mexico

Robert, Ronnie, Stanley, and Gilbert ~ 'The La Joya Boys'

Gilbert, Ernie, and Robert Griego (Ernie is 90 years young) ~ La Joya Fiestas

Gilbert with cousin Sylvia ~ La Joya Fiestas
Robert with cousin Sylvia ~ La Joya Fiestas

My sister, Elva with husband, Robert on their way to church ~ Jewels Camp

At a rest stop on my way home, I meet a group of young Japanese who are impressed with my bike.  When they see my odometer, they ask for a picture.  They are coming from Grand Canyon National Park and had smiles a mile wide.  I like them.

Returning from Grand Canyon National Park on their way to Los Angeles

I focus on my mission.  

I am on Interstate 40 about 50 miles east of Kingman, Arizona when a digital road sign, flashes this message: 

“Route 66 westbound to Kingman is closed due to an accident.  Only locals will be permitted to proceed.”  I exit Interstate 40 and the road to Highway 66 is blocked.  The officer tells me that there is a big accident ahead and unless I’m a local, I cannot pass.  “I’m going to the white house at mile marker 88,” I tell him which is true.  “Where is the accident,” I ask.  “Mile marker 90 at the top of the hill,” he says allowing me to proceed.  There must have been 20 cars or locals at the crash scene waiting to go further.  I arrive and within 5 minutes we are all allowed to continue as the badly mangled truck and trailer were loaded onto separate tow trucks.  I don’t know what happened but it looked serious.

I went to the white house and knocked at the door.  The lady kindly pointed me to the memorial and I paid my respects to a biker I had never met at Mile Marker 88.

I kept my promise.

Mile Marker 88 ~ near Kingman, Arizona

A cross for Danny Cypert ~ Route 66 eastbound

The Danny Cypert Memorial

In Memory of Danny Cypert ~ 1942 - 2007

Strength Through Unity ~ amen


Robert Griego ~ My mission accomplished

Danny Cypert, I kept my promise


  1. i was searching google for motorcycle articles about my dad, fred griego, and i stumbled across this somehow! how neat to see your journeys and to find photos of my grandpa and auntie in la joya! i remember meeting you there a long time ago when i was a teenager, and we were petting the horses outside of grandpa's adobe house. such great memories. i love your blog! very neat! ~kami griego

    1. Hi Kamira. Thanks for visiting my site and reaching out. Yes, I remember petting the horses. The horse, Buck, who belongs to Marcelo Abeyta is in several of my posts. He is a good horse, always listen to me but rarely talks. Say hello to your dad, grandpa, and auntie for me. It was great to be at the La Joya fiestas.

  2. Mr Griego, The LAFD is deeply touched at the extent of your efforts to honor our fallen LAFD Captain Danny Cypert. We shared your story on our Facebook page ( We would be honored to meet you should your travels bring you through Los Angeles some day. Kind Regards, Margaret Stewart

  3. Dear Margaret: Thank you for your sincere words of gratitude. I'm sure that Danny Cypert is pleased that the LAFD continues to honor him ~ Robert Griego.

  4. Dear Mr. Griego: Danny was my cousin & I am deeply touched by your loving effort to honor Danny's memory. He was a very generous & giving person who was always looking out for those around him; total strangers & family. He is loved & kept safe & close to our hearts. It is still hard to believe Danny's gone. Thank you on behalf of the Cypert family. Respectfully, Jim Cypert

    1. Dear Jim. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt words; they mean a great deal to me ~ Robert Griego