Jerome's full moon skateboard ride
Many tourists use the word 'hair-raising' to describe the ride down Highway 89A from Mingus Mountain to Jerome and Clarkdale, a distance of about 18 miles. It is a steep, curvy road with some unprotected drop offs. These days, there's an accident most every week.
Twenty-five years ago, the highway had a lot less traffic, especially at night. What happened then, could not happen today without a lot of danger. Be forewarned.
One full moon night in 1991, my 14-year old son Max Rapaport, and Zack Druen, his Jerome buddy, along with a few kids from Cottonwood, skateboarded down the mountain at 2:30 a.m. It wasn't the first time they had dared the mountain.
A few months ago, I asked Max, as he was holding his 3-month old baby Myko, in his lap, "Did this really happen?"
"Oh, yeah," said Max. "We'd park one car in Clarkdale and the other up on the mountain. We'd start riding our skateboards right at the top. When I got scared, I'd sit on the skateboard and use the soles of my sneakers to slow down. That's how come I went through so many sneakers."
I thought it was because he was hiking so much. Among some, my nickname in Jerome was Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms, always so optimistic and cheery, and never suspecting the oh-so-innocent looking Max of his daredevil ways that are only now coming to light.
"Well, how did you get across the cattle guard below Jerome, the one that got Ferne Goldman on her bike?"
"I used to stop and walk across. The others jumped it."
"One night we ran into big trouble. Just as I was cruising into Clarkdale on my skateboard, I saw Zach and the others bobbing crazily up and down, like jumping beans, and I couldn't figure out what was going on. I couldn't stop. Suddenly, I found myself in the middle of a tarantula migration-hundreds and hundreds of them trying to cross the road. They were as scared as we were and were jumping on our shirts and jeans and tearing at us with their pincers. They weren't biting, just tearing at us. We kept brushing them off and kept right on going. There wasn't anything else to do."
The next day in biology class Max asked his teacher about tarantula migrations and told him what they had seen. "I just didn't tell him too many details." The teacher scoffed: 'Oh you boys up there in Jerome must have been on something. There's no such thing as a tarantula migration.'"
I searched 'tarantula migrations' on the Internet. Apparently, during Fall, male tarantulas go on a march looking for females.
My friends and I used to see tarantulas in Jerome during summer monsoons. According to an article in Boy's Life Magazine (the official Boy Scout publication), tarantulas have become popular as pets. "As horrifying as that sounds, most tarantulas are relatively harmless to humans. Only rarely does a tarantula bite cause serious harm or an allergic reaction that may actually become life-threatening."
If you see some tarantulaw on a visit to Jerome, please don't harm them. They are innocuous.
Diane Sward Rapaport is the author of Home Sweet Jerome: Death and Rebirth of Arizona's Richest Copper Mining City. The book is widely available in the Verde Valley and Jerome. www.homesweetjerome.net