I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name

It felt good to be out of the rain

In the desert you can remember your name

‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain

This song by America was in my head on constant repeat as I journeyed north from Phoenix into the desert of Tonto National Forest, land of cactus and rock. My companion? An ATV.

I had never before ridden such a beast, and nervous energy crackled around me as I climbed aboard my steed at Extreme Arizona in Cave Creek. Helmeted, I felt like a knight and charged down the street toward the off-roading trail about seven miles away. To battle!

Once off the paved highway, the ride got a bit rough. Some bounces were small; others were large. The trail led in a 35-mile loop down to a small river – a lovely oasis in the Arizona desert. After a few miles, I felt more in control of the ATV and was able to appreciate the setting in which I found myself without fear of being thrown.

That said, I will never be a professional off-roader. The accelerator was a lever pushed by my right thumb, which ached. Having declined to bring gloves (rookie mistake), I ended up blistered from hanging on to the handles for dear life.

But there is no better way to appreciate the wonder that is the desert of Arizona. Most people think of desert as an absence of life. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Life is abundant in the desert, and it is beautiful to behold. Sagebrush, saguaro cactus, and small trees lined the trail. The sound of birds and insects greeted every turn, and tracks made by small mammals and reptiles could be seen all over.

If you love the sky, the desert is the place to be. The sky seems bigger here, stretching from horizon to horizon, interrupted only by stunning rock formations and the occasional cloud. Driving through this landscape, my thoughts to keep me company, was calming.

I rode through the desert on a horse with no name, and I emerged victorious!

Note: this is the first in what I hope will be a semi-regular feature here on The Royal Tour, Jonathan vs x. One of my resolutions this year is to move beyond my comfort zone, and you will all be along for that journey.

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