March 21, 2017: Day 11, Brawley, CA to Alpine, CA

Today started out being my day off this week, but once we got past the hideous Brawley/El Centro/Plaster City area I decided to take Snoopy for a spin.

Pictures of this part of the trip are trapped inside my Samsung camera, which I hate more than sand and wind, but not heat.

Brantly took no photos as he was disgusted by the agribusiness of the first part of the day and busy trying to keep the Cube on the road for most of the second part.

I biked a mere 29 miles before calling it quits. The wind was beyond brutal. Brantly said it was (and this is a direct quote) the worst wind he’d ever driven through. I made him repeat that, just because.

Anyhow, the high wind warning signs were permanent fixtures that threatened treacherous gusts for 77 miles.We haven’t gone the full 77 miles, yet, but I can honestly say the signs delivered on the first 50 miles.

Seriously? 77 miles of killing winds accompanied by a 4000 foot elevation change??  Uncle, already. Uncle!!

After about 10 miles I felt I could have made better progress using a pair of spoons to claw my way up the sheer cliff face. Here is a map, for what it’s worth. It doesn’t do justice to the steepness of the ride. If I had a functioning camera or Xerox machine I would include the elevation profile that is printed on the back of my American Cycling Southern Tier map. It reminded me of the first day of this trip and Emory Pass, except with wind.

Map from Plaster City, California to Alpine, California

We saw a sign for a “luxury” casino in Alpine, CA and rapidly adjusted our plans-plans which had involved me continuing to cycle.

Instead, we stopped at the Las Viejas Casino (old ladies in Spanish).

I gave Brantly $20 and sent him off to the poker tables to have a good time while I checked into our room and did a face plant into the bed.

I awoke in time to join Brantly at an all-you-can-eat buffet and then go back to bed.

Approximately 35 miles remain to get to the beginning of the Southern Tier in San Diego. I made an executive decision that tomorrow would be an official day of rest–for Snoopy, you know…

Here is a picture of Sparky and Shmoo to make up for the lack of other visual aids. All the critters back in Taos are in the gentle, caring hands of Marjorie and Andy, who dandle each animal individually on a daily basis.

Sparky and Shmoo being so cute it is downright painful!

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Sparky and Shmoo

 

March 20, 2017 Day 10: A Quint-fecta of pain…

Today began at the Hampton Inn in Blythe, CA. Not much to say about the town of Blythe itself, but the people at the motel were very nice.

Here are Snoopy and I considering what fascinating items we will include in the day’s blog…

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Notice I have the pepper spray handy beside my multiple beverages and bell pepper, just in case Brantly gets out of hand.

The destination is Brawley, CA. The maps I’ve found on Google don’t reflect the actual route as bicycles are frequently shunted off onto other, smaller less-traffic laden roads but it will give you an idea of the general conditions and area.

Map from Blythe, California to Brawley, California

 

About half of today’s ride went through heavy agricultural. There is a mind boggling array of stuff growing around here. I identified onions, citrus, wheat, broccoli (at least it sure looked like it), alfalfa, dates, and possibly Brussels sprouts.

I wish I could show you pictures of the fascinating sites I saw today but my camera has stopped functioning. But that is another long (and curse word filled) story.

One of the things I noticed, unfortunately, were the number of pesticide spraying vehicles everywhere. Apparently toxic pesticide/dust storms in the area are not unusual.

It took a lot longer to get out of Blyth than we expected and by the time I approached the tiny town of Palo Verde (Pop. 170– the ‘0’ on the sign was a regular store-bought house number so somebody must have just left…) it was already warming up outside.

Oh, FYI, absolutely nothing was going on in Palo Verde on a Monday morning.

Everything was hunky dory up until Palo Verde. But then I entered the Marquis de Sade Highway…

The asphalt on this road was the first part of the Quint-fecta. I swear it felt like it was composed of broken glass and boulders. Most of my fillings had fallen out after the first mile, which is when the shoulder disappeared (part two of the Quint-fecta).

The shoulder disappeared right around the time the hills started (yes, part 3). I kept wondering why I was peddling and peddling and dodging semis and Canadian motor homes and getting nowhere when the fourth part kicked in. . . the wind.

Oh, the fifth part? (Come on, I know you all know this by now!) Yes, the heat.

Just as I was looking for a cool place to burrow into the solid rock beside the road I got to the top of the hill and saw my chase car waiting at the bottom. Yay!

I was stuffing my face and bitching non-stop when the squad car pulled up along side me.

Because I’m Catholic, I immediately wondered what I’d done wrong and began to slide down in my seat. Luckily the other occupant of the car was raised Episcopalian and more normal. Brantly ordered me to roll down the window and that’s when we met Officer Boudreaux, surely the most helpful (and nice!) California highway patrolman there is.

I immediately introduced him to Snoopy and then told him my PB&J joke.

Here we are, having a good time in the blazing heat.

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Officer Boudreaux told us a little about the area and also said the temperature right then (before 10 am) was around 86 degrees. He then informed me the road was a shoulder-less, ragged-assed death trap for the next 16 miles.

Based on his recommendation I loaded up Snoopy and allowed my SAG wagon driver to chauffeur me to a spot where there was shoulder (but still poor asphalt conditions and WIND). There were also some lovely cacti and here are some pictures Brantly took:

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Here is another cactus that is very common in the area. My mother says they are called “Buggy Whip” cacti.

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And here are their blooms close up:

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Here I am smearing on yet more sunblock and getting ready to hit the road again…

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It seems I left my Union Jack cycling jersey in a motel bathroom somewhere along the way so I’m down to one jersey and 4 pairs of shorts. I guess I didn’t pack effectively for the trip.

Not long after the cacti photos were taken my cycling companions drove up with their bikes loaded on the back of their truck. They were (quite sensibly) fed up with the scorching weather, lousy road conditions, relentless headwinds, and insanely heavy traffic. They were done with the Southern Tier and I couldn’t really blame them. The road was extremely poor for most of yesterday and today and when the roads were decent the weather was brutal.

Anyway, so long Leslie and Lynda, it was fun while it lasted!

Onward to the town of Glamis, CA, one of the weirdest towns on the trip. The only thing going on out here was driving on sand dunes with off-road vehicles. This leisure activity was (luckily) only permitted in one (vegetation-less, animal-less) area. The air was rich with blowing sand and petroleum fumes for about 3 miles around the dunes. It seems there is a season for this kind of thing and it was nearing its end for the year.

The wind was positively howling as I cycled through the dunes and I could see sand moving across the roadway in piles as I fought my way to the top of each hill.

By the end of the day there was sand in everything. I was encrusted with sand and so was Snoopy.

The really good pictures of the dunes are trapped inside my camera but here are some Brantly took from the safety of the car:IMG_1023

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Quite a crack in the windshield, isn’t it?

The trip ended in Brawley. I was so sand-blasted, filthy, wind-burnt, and tired I fell asleep at 5:30 and slept all the way until 5 the next morning.

 

March 19, 2017 Day 9: A Good Day to be a Cactus.

Map from Wickenburg, Arizona to Salome, Arizona

Today was an easy ride of just a little over 50 miles, mostly gentle downhill slope after the initial hilly bits around Wickenburg. Last night we met my new traveling companions, Lynda and Leslie and this morning we were all up an about before it was light.

Here we are getting our gear together. . .

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And here is the leader of my own pit crew, bright-eyed and brushy-tailed:

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What do you think he is describing?

The ride out of Wickenburg was hilly but very quiet early on a Sunday morning. There was quite a nice bike/walking path that led out of town along HWY 60. I only saw a handful of walkers (one smoking while walking! Yay! An exercise fanatic after my own heart) and nary a cyclist for the first few miles.

Just in case you did not know, Wickenburg, AZ is known as the Dude Ranch Capital of the Universe. Naturally, I kept thinking about Jeff Bridges, but it’s not that kind of Dude.

I have included a picture for veracity:

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There were again many bird sounds, indicating there were many birds. I managed to get one photo:

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I noticed some pretty insistent, repetitive bird calls, one of which sounded like somebody squeezing a dog’s squeaky toy. Another which sounded oddly like, “This is hot. This is hot. This is hot.”

The only excitement as I cruised out of town was an oncoming car containing what looked to be a standard poodle. Anyhow, the dog saw me (or sensed me, maybe, with that weird dog radar they have for UPS and FedEx drivers) and launched itself from the back seat into the driver’s lap. The woman swerved across the empty lane of road toward me while her dog attempted to claw its way out of the (thankfully) closed window. The last I saw of them both, the dog was wedged between the steering wheel and windshield while the driver fishtailed back and forth across two lanes. Bad dog, no bone.

I am prepared for dogs and always ride with this at hand:

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That’s right, I have no qualms about deploying pepper spray against an aggressive canine.

Not far from The Dog Incident there was this sign:

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That’s right, LA- watch out.

Anyhow, Lynda and Leslie leap-frogged and I got to cycle with both of them during the day. It was nice to have some company and I felt a lot safer knowing there was somebody else nearby while cars and trucks whizzed by us like maniacs. Most drivers were pretty courteous but things got more hectic as the day wore on and the temperature crept into the 90s.

Salome, our destination, is barely a dot on the map. There are three places to stay in the small town and the only one we all found acceptable was fully booked. We ate lunch at the Stanford Cafe while we discussed our options for tonight. I had pancakes and they were absolutely fantastic. This diner was a perfect place to experience “small town America” and the service was as friendly as the food was good.

If you are interested in seeing on of our rooming options for Salome it’s worth checking out the Trip Advisor photographs and reviews for this place. . .

After looking at the next stretch of road, which included a big stretch of Interstate 10, we decided to head to Blythe, CA- just across the border-to spend the night.

Local thermometers in Blythe got up to 99 degrees but I’m sure it was hotter out on the blacktop.

Tomorrow is a little over 70 miles to Brawley, CA. There is some talk about rain on either Tuesday or Wednesday but I’ll believe it when it happens.

 

 

March 18, 2018 Day 8: Did I mention it was hot?

Up at 5 a.m. hoping to get in every minute of daylight before temps headed into the 90s. I began my day at the intersection of HWY 51 and Glendale Avenue. The Arizona Canal Trail runs for miles and miles and miles. Early on a Saturday morning after St. Patrick’s day I pretty much had it to myself. Well, except for some ducks:

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The trail is pretty cool and it is wonderful to cycle without worrying about cars. The only hair raising moments were the subterranean tunnels that ran beneath the busy streets. Not only were they dark, but they were also the only cool place to be found for Phoenix’s homeless. It was kind of a crapshoot as to whether somebody would be sleeping along one of the sides of the corridors or, in one instance, right in the middle. This became a bit dangerous when another cyclist was approaching from the other direction.

The canal is pretty murky and dotted with submerged shopping carts and other, unidentifiable, items. I couldn’t help thinking as I whizzed along side it how easy it would be to go over the side and into the water. Would I be able to unclip from my bike fast enough? Or would Snoopy and I sink into the vasty deep, never to be seen again?

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Well, that didn’t happen, no matter how appealing the duck-pooh water began to look as the sun rose and the temperature along with it.

In any case, I took the path for about 16.5 miles, until it intersected with Grande Avenue, also known as HWY 60, which was my road to our next destination: Wickenburg, AZ.

Incidentally, this particular intersection is one to be avoided in either a car or a bike. It took me at least 20 minutes to get across the road. My reward, however, was this on the other side:

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Yes, a real, honest-to-goodness bakery with Italian pastries that had names which sounded vaguely insulting.

I picked something a bit more pedestrian, a cherry cheese puff and 2 apple fritters.Hey, I earned them. Not only that, but I was going to burn them pretty quickly. . .

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Highway 60 from Sun City, AZ is a 6 lane divided highway. About the only good thing I have to say for that stretch of road is it has been paved in the last few years. Otherwise, lots and lots of traffic and about 20 miles that look like this, with businesses on one side:

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and suburbia on the other side of the highway:

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I lasted about 5.5 hours before I began to notice my skin blistering on my left elbow and calf and decided to wimp out and thumb a ride. I rode around 45 miles and we drove the remaining distance into the town of Wickenburg.

Wickenburg is a cute “Ye Olde Weste” town that has attracted its fair share of Harley dudes and dudettes.

After changing out of my cycling gear (I wash my clothes in the sink every night. I have to say I could get used to doing so little laundry) we ambled into town and had lunch at the Horseshoe Cafe. A very amusing staff and excellent burgers and fries made this one of the better stops on the trip so far.

Here  I am whoopin’ it up with a few locals:

 

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This is everyone after I told them my PB&J joke:

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Okay, so I was the only one who found it funny.

Today we met up with my cycling companions from California, Linda and Leslie. Tomorrow we will hit the road early, our destination is Salome, CA. Right now it doesn’t seem like there is anyplace to stay in Salome, so plans could change…

 

March 17, 2017, Day 7: Phoenix: An Irish City

Today was a day of rest. Kind of.

We had two nights in the Phoenix area and stayed our first night in Chandler, AZ, a destination chosen in a less than lucid moment after a day of 90+ heat.

Anyhow, we needed to get across Phoenix to the Glendale, AZ area where I would begin cycling on March 18th. My plan was to begin at the intersection of HWY 51 and Glendale Avenue and take the Arizona Canal Trail out of town.

Naturally we had to hit a few Nordstrom’s, a couple stamp shops, an ice cream store, and a Trader Joe’s on the way.

I did manage to liberate a hat and a pair of shoes from a Nordstrom’s during the course of the day.

An early check-in at our newest motel and an early night to bed in prep for tomorrow. . .

March 16, 2017 Day 6: Tonto Basin, AZ to Phoenix, AZ. Are we there yet?

Map from Tonto Basin, Arizona to Phoenix, Arizona

I don’t remember much about today except it was HOT. Yes, it got hot and stayed hot. It was in the 90s at 7 o’clock tonight. Did I mention it was hot?

I started as soon as it was light enough to see, which is just before 7 a.m. (AZ doesn’t use Daylight Savings). Nice, easy peddling through to Jake’s Corner (that’s the odd “zag” you see on the map above) but all that changed once I reached HWY 87, or The Beeline Highway.

HWY 87 was not a pleasant stretch of road. The heat aside, the road is a major artery into Phoenix and traffic is very heavy. There are also some serious elevation changes.

More bluntly: Hills. Big, damned hills.

The heat, traffic, and hills combined to make it miserable. No doubt they could hear my whining at the International Space Station. I was ready to pack it in by noon.

I am inexpressibly grateful for my patient, kind, and helpful support team. I passed several people today who were packing their own gear and was glad I had an air conditioned car to get into when the weather got too brutal. And I’m glad for chocolate, too.

I only took one picture today (there appears to be an inverse relationship between pictures and misery) and it is of my SAG crew, Brantly and Gigi.

 

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The greater Phoenix area is not one I would like to approach on a bicycle. We came in from the Tempe side and drove around aimlessly for a few hours while we tried to find a motel.

Finding accommodation proved to be unbelievably difficult, not to mention expensive. The first place we booked over the phone was horrific and we left before we even unpacked our bags. Even 1.5 star Quality Inns are over $250 for tonight and over $300 tomorrow night. (That’s where we are staying and grateful to get it!)

The city is besieged by people coming here to watch spring training. (And I thought football was over after the Super Bowl.)

The good news is there is a wide variety of food. We had excellent Greek food today and will go on a doughnut hunt in the morning.

I will meet up with my cycling buddy-Leslie- for the first time tomorrow and we will head out Saturday morning. I’m guessing Saturday will be a half-day as it is projected to be the hottest day before the heatwave breaks on Sunday.

The really, really good news? There are at least two Nordstroms here. . .

March 15, 2016: Day 5

Having lots of internet connectivity problems out here in the boondocks. As I’ve already lost one posting thanks to dropped connections I’ll have to play catch up tomorrow. . .

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Day 5 began in Globe, AZ.

Map from Globe, Arizona to Tonto Basin, Arizona

To say that Tonto Basin is the back of beyond doesn’t really do it justice. Besides, there is Punkin Center, AZ, which is just a few miles further down the road, and it really deserves the title.

But I am getting ahead of myself. . .

We spent the night at some motel I no longer recall but I began my cycling day at The Copper Hen in downtown Globe. Guess who found this breakfast spot and then nagged a hole through her husband’s head until he agreed to eat there?

No, I didn’t actually eat there, myself, that was Brantly’s job. I can’t eat a full breakfast at 6:30 in the morning. But he can.

Anyhow, I did manage to take some time and check out all the fascinating chicken paraphernalia.

Like this:

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Guess what?

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Get it? Get it?!

CHICKEN BUTT!!

Technically it is one chicken butt and one rooster butt.

Incidentally, I would be pleased to teach the “Guess what? Chicken butt!” routine to your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, what have you, free of charge.

And here is a flock of chickens that have seized control of an empty coffee pot:

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And look at this!

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There is Snoopy waiting to begin the day while I fart around taking pictures of chickens.

Oh, while I was writing about this chicken-themed establishment I recalled yet another chicken-themed restaurant in Duncan, AZ. I didn’t actually see that one. Brantly ate lunch while Snoopy and I were out on the open road slaving away.

When he stopped to give me a little water and a crust of bread an hour or so later he said, “Hey, you should have seen this place I had lunch. There were chickens all over the place.”

“Did you take any pictures?” I asked.

“Pictures? Erm, no.”

*silence*

“But I’m going back there to take some now. . . ”

So, here is a picture from Hilda’s in Duncan, AZ:

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Yes, I know it’s upside down. I think it might be easier to just tilt your laptop than for me to figure out how to flip a picture. Well, easier for me.

Back to Globe.

The drive out of Globe was a bit hairy as the town is extremely hilly with intersections placed in inconvenient locations (at least for people whose feet are bolted to bicycle pedals).

So far this has been the most beautiful, pleasant day of the trip. Even though it was hot and the left side of my body continued to burn-no matter how much or how many different brands of sunblock I applied-the scenery was spectacular.

I absolutely love these Saguaro cacti so get ready to suffer through some pictures. . .

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They look so huggable, don’t they?

And then there were these guys:

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I mean, what the hell is going on here? I had to take several shots of this bizarre Cactus Cabal. Something about it reminded me of The Wicker Man (the 1973 version, naturally).

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Doesn’t it seem like they’re looking at you? It was kind of eerie biking through thousands of them. Thankfully I didn’t see any other disturbing groupings like this one.

And then there were these guys:

Pssst! Psssst! Hey, come over here. Come closer . . . we won’t hurt you. . .

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But these are just begging to be touched:

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Aren’t they cute? So fluffy! So soft! So cuddly! These are actually called Teddy Bear Cacti.

And here is the only picture I have of me today, so I’m including it. That is my Maori cycling jersey. They didn’t sell it in pink.

It looks like I might be putting out a cigarette here. (Just kidding, Mom) I think I was actually doing The Hustle. (I hope that song is now firmly embedded in everyone’s brains.)

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When I got to the top of hill there was this:

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Believe it or not, I’d rather climb hills than descend them. I probably used up at least 3 year’s worth of poor Snoopy’s breaks going down this hill.

But when the black, acrid smoke from my burning breaks cleared there was this:

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The Roosevelt Reservoir (or Lake Roosevelt)

This was a shocking sight in the middle of so much desert. You can’t tell from this shot, but it was already swarming with tourists. Why so early in the year? Because it’s Spring Break!

The ride along the lake was truly beautiful and relatively peaceful.

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And on to Tonto Basin and a rustic night’s stay. . .

 

 

 

 

 

March 14, 2016: Day 4, Safford, AZ to Globe, AZ

Map from Safford, Arizona to Globe, Arizona

Hey! Check out this nifty map.

Started out right as it got light this morning. After the heat yesterday I wanted to get out as early as possible. It turned out to be a good decision…

A small collection of town for about 10-15 miles outside Safford made for busy biking. I kept looking at all the fields that were in the process of being flooded with water and wondering, “What the hell are they growing out here?” Well, then I noticed all the little cotton ball type things on the side of the road. They were, um, cotton balls. Or at least raw cotton, which looks a lot like a cotton ball. If I had been thinking (which I was not as I had only a half cup of coffee) I would have put Pima together with cotton.

Anyhow, lots of cotton farming. Also these chickens:

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Again, you will have to look hard to spot the chickens. It made me miss my own birds but I was glad to see such a happy bunch of free-range girls out and about.

Today was also the day when the Saguaros began to appear. Here is a big bastard with a US post office growing off to one side. This picture was courtesy of a guy staring at a flat tire on his trailer and scratching his head. He said taking a picture for me was better than changing a flat…

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There was a lot of nice flat until Bylas, AZ, which is in the Apache Nation. There was also a gas station and convenience store in Bylas–a rarity indeed in these parts.

Brantly, my intrepid chase car driver, met me just in time to share a coke and have a chat with a cyclist coming from the opposite direction. We exchanged road details, checked out each other’s bikes, and discussed the relative merits of hauling all your own gear versus getting some kind-hearted soul to haul it (and you) for you. I have to say I didn’t envy Charlie (the other cyclist) his 45 lbs of gear. He said he left lots of neat stuff at camp grounds (a folding chair, clothing, bear spray (yes! bear spray) and other camping supplies) all along the way. So, if you’re looking for some free stuff (and bear spray!) check out camp grounds between San Diego and Globe. Happy trails, Charlie!

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After Bylas it got as hot as hell– 91 degrees. I was 7 miles outside Globe when I finally called it quits and thumbed a ride in the wagon, ending my day at 70 miles.

And here is yet another shot of me wearing clashing pink and red clothing…

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Tomorrow is a gentle day at just under 50 miles, which my thighs and scorched ear will be thrilled about.

 

 

March 13, 2016: Day 3, redux.

As I sit down to write about yesterday I realize I can hardly recall it after today…

I do remember there was a footprint on the ceiling of the motel room where we stayed. Here it is, you have to look closely. No, closer. . .

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Okay, so you have to look really hard.

Anyhow, yesterday was Lordsburg, NM to Safford, NM. This was a long day (72 miles in all) and it got much hotter than I expected. Did you know you can burn the inside of your ear? Yes, you can. And it hurts!

There were some hills but they were nothing like the first day (notice how I keep saying that? It’s true. After Emory Pass everything is hardly worth mentioning) and there was a lot of time to recuperate between climbs. The road was a bit rough in places and there were a lot of my country people driving huge motor homes with tow-cars.

Somebody needs to teach Canadians that cyclists are not something to aim for but something to avoid. Anyhow, this was the first day I had a few hair-raising moments, especially when the cut-aways in the rock did not leave much (read: any) shoulder. Naturally those were the times when a semi was coming toward me and a Canadian maniac from behind. But I survived.

Today was the day I left behind New Mexico and entered:

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There is Snoopy relaxing on the state line while I do all the work. As usual.

Stopped to have lunch in the middle of nowhere. Did I mention it was hot?

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Lots of relaxing downhill into Safford and along the way I passed this:

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The guy at the bike shop (at least 15 years older than me) didn’t know about the George Jones song set in Clifton– Open Pit Mine. He seemed disturbed when I told him there was a woman called Rosie buried deep in the open pit mine. . .

 

March 12, 2016: 73 (or maybe 74) miles from Lordsburg, NM to Safford, AZ

The truth is, I’m just too damned tired to blog tonight. I’m going to have an early night and catch up tomorrow night. It’ll be twice as exciting tomorrow!