What you should expect from a long bicycle journey
Bicycle touring for a sustained period of time is a…
Day 99: Silver City to Buckhorn, NM (37 miles)
Quick morning picking up supplies at a supermarket in Silver City. And then ridiculously slow progress. Passed a sign that read “Continental Divide, Elev 6230 feet”. Should have been amended to “P.S. get ready for absurd gradients”. It was hard to get anywhere due to a powerful headwind and the sheer steepness of the immediate roads outside of the city. Incredibly slow, walking pace for a while, until finally the last hour provided some respite from the wind and less horrific climbing.
Ended up in Buckhorn, which, perhaps influenced by the local gas stop and getting chased by dogs, had an eerie feel that nodded to bare feet, whiskey and shotguns. Most likely it was just farmland at night.
Day 100: Buckhorn, NM to Safford, AZ (78 miles)
Steepest day so far, absolutely brutal climbing through Gila and Apache National Forests. But the great thing is that after 4 hours of painfully slow climbing, there wasn’t any more ‘up’ in sight. Instead, blazingly fast downhills that zig zagged down the hillside. Tight 180 hairpins, steep sides, amazing fun and the first relatively technical riding section. Be careful not to ride of the edge of the road, that would really suck.
It was so fast, and the adrenaline was pumping, until a point of dread pulling into the town of Three Way, which is essentially a single shack. Eyeing up the road into the distance, it clearly zig zagged up what can only be described as a flipping-huge-mountain. Turned out to be not so bad, maybe a couple of hours climbing, but again, it was worth it whilst speeding down for miles into a Safford rest stop.
As a hint to this weeks lifestyle, I’ve been doing a lot of cooking and discovered a magic ingredient: Pineapple Philadelphia. You can basically add it to anything for a decent meal.
Day 101: Safford to Ft Thomas, AZ (22 miles)
The day was cut pretty short, after the looming clouds made it clear (and various people suggested) a snow storm was coming. One positive was meeting a fellow cyclist going the other way. Jeff is a super cool guy taking a bit of time off to ride from CA to FL, and he’s keeping an active blog here. Soon after this by-chance encounter, there was a rest stop with a shelter 20 miles outside of Safford and called it a day. Good place to hide from the approaching rain.
Day 102: Ft Thomas to Globe, AZ (56 miles)
A quick 10 miles to a traditional reservation called Bylas, conveniently, just as the downpour began for the day. The reality of the day was a lot of time spent working on content in the reservation’s Laundry-mart, but I also spoke to a mother-of-three who’s family had been based on the reservation for generations. She was sad that her kids, whilst they are taught the traditional ways at home, don’t learn their heritage at school anymore, so she believes their generation is the one where the past becomes truly left behind.
After a while of weather avoidance, it occurred to me that there’s no reason to stick around in an area where there wasn’t much going on. So a quick switch to water-preparedness. Drybags, rain coat, cover up the saddle, dig out the gloves. What followed was horrific. A crazy snow storm going from San Carlos over the pass to Globe. “It’s the first time it’s snowed here in 6 years”. And it wasn’t a little bit. It was covered, and really dumping the white stuff. But it was great fun. Cold, yep, but easy to get into a cold rhythm on the deserted roads. A blizzard photo:
Unusual weather conversations always lead to rare phrases, in this case an overheard phone conversation based on a nearby town name.
“My buddy’s stuck in the snow on Top Of The World”.
Day 103: Globe to Mesa, AZ (60 miles)
Met up with HoYoung again in Globe. It’s a different mentality cycling with another person who’s going the same way – easier to be motivated to cycle. The morning went well, some quick climbing out of Globe lead to incredible top speed downhills into Superior, immersed in the most incredible steep sandstone canyon landscapes. And then, sticking to the common cycle touring tradition of ‘it never goes smoothly’, HoYoung got a flat. Which started what will be remembered forever as ‘HoYoung’s problematic day™’.
A flat tyre isn’t usually much of a momentum-killer, they usually only take a few minutes to fix and then it’s good to go. Not in this case: A really thick wire all the way through the tyre, and through both sides of the tube. 5 (5!) repair patches later, plus a lot of glue, and the tube was still knackered. With no spare inner tube (I also had no spare) there wasn’t much HoYoung could do, so he managed to flag down a pickup and got a lift into Mesa, to Gerri and Bill’s house (below), whilst I rode the rest of the way to join them a few hours later.
Bill got in touch through the site a few weeks ago and offered a place to crash on the way through. Him and his wife Gerri were great company. Both avid cyclists with thousands of touring miles racked up – they know their stuff. Surprising to find out they lived on a resort with a swimming pool and a bunch of other good stuff. The polar opposite of tent life.
Day 104: Mesa to Tempe, AZ (22 miles)
Short ride today, but a good one nonetheless. We left Bill and Gerri’s this morning after meeting the cycling club they’re part of. Gotta be nearly 30 members of the community who ride 3 times a week. The ride was nothing complicated, very flat. The greater Phoenix area is super clean, with a lot of green space, and best of all loads of fruit trees. Oranges and grapefruits mainly. So many that people give them away for free in baskets.
HoYoung’s making some California-bound progress, whilst I’m enrolled in a webinar that’s happening over the next two days, so after pulling into Tempe, a quick search lead to a coffee shop with WiFi in the university area. To sum up the proceeding few hours – comfy sofas and screen-gazing. Left a few hours later to find a flat front tyre. Good’o.
Day 105: Tempe, AZ
Finished the seminar and compiling this blog. Nice to have an explore on the metro (Transport without pedalling?!), Tempe is a super nice university part of the greater Phoenix area, super vibrant. Got lost and was pointed in the right direction by Charlie, a college footballer at ASU who’s potentially a month away from being signed to the NFL. Good luck!
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Knowing that California is relatively close (<400m), day 106 onwards will be a bit of an experiment. The mileage up to now has been consistently inconsistent, so it’s an attempt to try some consecutive big days. We’ll see how that goes, but maybe putting the strategy up here will be a form of motivation.
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Another weekly update – they’ll become more regular again upon reaching California. During the time when the blog is a weekly thing, there is quick content (photo’s etc) being posted to the Facebook Page, if you’re into that kind of thing.
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Map of this week’s progress: