Went for a ride last night with a good friend who I haven't seen in some time and he only has a 10 year old Specialized HardRock so I decided to bust out my XC race bike and go exploring with him.
I ride road 95% of the time, and I love it because it's fast, it hurts, and it's a great way to really push my endurance and I like to see how much I can climb. That said, I see what is on the side of the road, but last night on the mountain bike, we went through some areas that I don't know if we were supposed to or not, but we found all sorts of things about our city that we didn't even know about. Lots of old artifacts and relics of the past, which was really cool.
I researched the things we rode by out of curiousity. Some of them I had heard about but didn't have a clue where they were, and some were a real surprise.
First curious thing we found was an abandoned amphitheater. This area was used back in the 80's and 90's to conduct desert survival clinics for children and curious adults. Apparently it hasn't been used in 15+ years but is still intact. Surely we would see something cooler than this:
Next, after riding through Papago Park, we found some hidden lakes at the end of a canal. This used to be the end of a HoHoKam Indian canal, and they had a lake here that held irrigation water for farms in the area. Since their canal system was almost 100% copied, the current lake and dam still exist today. Phoenix has a really neat history with irrigation canals, which you can read about here if you'd like: http://www.waterhistory.org/histories/hohokam2/
A few miles later, in the bottom right corner of the screen, you can make out a stable that's been abandoned for years. We peerd into it and there wasnt enough to make use want to further investigate, but it was definitely cool to see something that could be left over from Phoenix's old cowboy days. The riparian area was a nice surprise too!
Then just about 100 yards later, we stumbled upon this building. I'm not sure what it is, but it definitely looked creaky and like it had been there for at least 100 years. I'm pretty well educated in Arizona's ghost towns, and most of the ones I've been to are at least 150 years old. This one was in much better condition than the ruins that they usually are, so I'm guessing early 1900's but might have been used much longer.
Then, riding home, already done with our adventure, we saw from across the canal (you can ride the canal banks all over the city) the original HoHoKam Indian townsite, settled in 450 AD. WOW! It's a well known site in the archeological world, but I'd never seen it. We peered for a few minutes until a 747 flew over our heads, ready to land on the runway just 1/4 mile to the west of where we were standing. That scared the crap out of us, and we guess that's why the indians moved out. They hated the noise from the jets.
All in all, I had a blast exploring my city, and I plan to do it again. There are lots of really neat places and now I'm spending time researching more weird places with historic significance I can see by bike. If you haven't explored your city in an off road fashion, I highly recommend you do so and see what you find out about your home.