U.S. 360 Tour II — My Immediate Destination … West out of the Desert Southwest to the Pacific

“In the desert a fountain is springing, in the wide waste there is still a tree, and a bird in the solitude singing, which speaks to my spirit of thee.” — Lord Byron

This tour is the second installment in the pursuit of my goal to cycle unsupported around the American perimeter. My inaugural journey, U.S. 360 Tour I – Origins in the Texas Hill Country, was a solo, semi-unsupported effort from Austin Texas to Phoenix Arizona. It covered 1151 miles, traversed three states (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona) and introduced me to countless road angels. The tour was everything I hoped it would be, and more. I’m hopelessly hooked on long-distance bicycle touring, and not a day has gone by since that I haven’t wanted to get back on the road.

This trip will commence where the last terminated, in Phoenix, and it will progress West to the great Pacific Ocean and San Diego California. The distance will be a shade less than 500 miles, and I expect it will take me approximately nine days to complete. I will be traveling with a good friend and cycling buddy, Jim Hinkel. Jim is a fellow vegetarian, a superb long-distance athlete, and a pretty good guy. I will enjoy his company.

Like the last trip, I’ll be guided by the Southern Tier maps procured through the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA).

As for lodging, I will blend camping with probably a few nights in local establishments. For food, we’ll pack some essentials, but for the most part we will eat the local cuisine as we’re passing through.

I can’t wait!!

 

U.S. 360 Tour – Final Thoughts and Abraham Maslow

Latest update on my purpose-driven cycling journey around the American perimeter.

Thanks to all of you; my family, and friends old and new, for following my adventure and for tolerating my musings. What a wonderful experience, and I’m thrilled I had the opportunity to share it with you. As I’ve contemplated how to compile my “final thoughts” on this section of my journey, I’m thinking the most productive path might be to organize my writings into a few categories of interest, hopefully informing touring cyclists and mildly entertaining the rest.

People

The folks on this southwestern section of the Southern Tier were, in a nutshell, salt of the Earth. Working people. People who seem to be busy making ends meet. They work with their backs, they drive trucks, they labor in the vast fields, they work in small businesses. They are as demographically diverse as the occupations they hold. They are mostly of anglo, latin, and native american descent, but they are all American. I was amazed, particularly on the Texas-Mexico border in the Upper Rio Grande region, at the number of United States flags I saw being flown proudly over ranches, farms, and businesses. The people are courteous, and often generous. A number of folks, drivers and business owners alike, offered me gratis food and drink for no other reason than their compassion for my efforts. I found the drivers, on the whole, to be courteous as well. I cannot remember a single auto-bicycle incident on the entire trip that was worth noting in a negative manner. If they were able, drivers of cars and trucks alike would provide me with a wide berth, and many would politely honk in passing, just to acknowledge my efforts. The people of this region were certainly one of the highlights of the trip.

Places

If I were forced to describe this region in one word, that word would be “vast”. I love the Southwest, always have. I love the “vastness”, I love the rugged country, I love the contrast of the green valleys against the rocky brown desert, I love the mountain backdrop against the desert floor, I love the little twinge of fear that one gets when the distances between towns is great and the supply of water is minimal, I love the wildlife that can survive in this region, and I love the unique names of many of the towns: Blanco, Sisterdale, Comfort, Vanderpool, Leakey, Comstock, Langtry, Marathon, Alpine, Van Horn, Sierra Blanca, Fabens, Dona Ana, Radium Spings, Hatch, Caballo, Silver City, Buckhorn, Mule Creek, Three Way, Geronimo, Peridot, Apache Gold, Globe, Superior, Apache Junction.

Route, Roads & Terrain

There were essentially four climbs worth noting on the route. Given my starting location in Austin, which is at the edge of the Texas Hill Country, I gave myself very little ramp-up time to ride myself into shape before some challenging days. While this made me a tad nervous, I was a bit intrigued at the “sink or swim” nature of the route I had chosen. The first climb was between Vanderpool and Camp Wood, Texas. Locals call the three hills “Twisted Sister”, and this area is a favorite among the motorcycle crowd who frequent this area on the weekends because of the hairpin curves, ups and downs, and the spectacular views. The second climb was in West Texas between Fort Davis and Kent, and was the first true mountain climb (around 6300 feet) up to the McDonald Observatory located on Mt. Locke. The third major climb was in New Mexico’s Mimbres mountain range and is the high point (8228 feet) on the Southern Tier. The fourth, and last significant climb is a pass at the tail end of the ride between Buckhorn New Mexico and Three Way Arizona (around 6300 feet) in the Big Lue Mountains. The view coming over this unnamed pass into Arizona is mind-bogglingly beautiful. It is simply indescribable and will probably be the single most memorable imprint on my brain for years to come.

The roads on this section of the Southern Tier were as diverse as the landscape. State Highways, Farm-to-Market Roads, Ranch Roads, U.S. Highways and a little Interstate riding were the norm. I was, for the most part, comfortable on most of the roads in Texas and New Mexico. I must say that I was mildly disappointed in the rural highways in Arizona though. Specifically, U.S. Highway 191 out of Three Way Arizona and U.S. Highway 70 through the heart of the San Carlos Apache Reservation. Both of these highways and shoulders were showing heavy wear from the significant amount of truck traffic emanating from the copper mining in the area. The shoulders were typically very rough, rumble strips were sometimes milled across the shoulder, and the traffic was heavy. To top it off, much of the roadbed beyond the shoulders was home to inordinate amounts of refuse, probably caused by the heavy traffic in these two areas. Enough said, other than I remained very cautious through these areas, and my focus was on the beautiful horizon as opposed to the junk left in the nearby ditches.

Weather

As I began planning this trip, I harbored a mild concern that the time of year I chose, and the direction I was traveling, were both ill-conceived. As a resident of the Southwest, I understand what late Spring in this area is capable of in terms of heat. Also, the East-to-West direction I chose gave me pause (although apparently not enough to change directions!). A sizable majority (probably at a 3-to-1 ratio) of Southern Tier cyclists are Eastbound given the prevailing Westerly winds. In spite of all this stuff, I chose the Westward direction, and my rationale for doing so was straightforward. As I’ve mentioned before, I like the Southwest, and this being my first really long tour, I wanted to go to an area that excited me. In the end, I’m happy I chose the path less pedaled! There were weather challenges, to be sure!. The coldest day on the trip was in Marathon Texas, where a record-breaking cold front blew in and blessed me with a 24 degree morning ride. There were triple digit days as well, one being in Texas and a couple in Arizona. There were also days when the wind, especially in the mountains, howled “like a big dog”, as Carol sometimes says. However, the wind days, overall seemed to neutralize themselves. I was constantly on the ready to shorten days, start earlier in the morning, etc. because of the possibility of headwind, but all in all it seemed like the wind was behind me or coming across the road as much as it was in my face. Had I known this going in, I would not have fretted about it as much as I did. Many of the days on this trip (April/May) were cool, cloudless, with mild to moderate winds.

Three Things I Learned from this Journey

1. Don’t Buy-In to the Negative Hype about Riding on the U.S.-Mexico Border

I cannot tell you how many conversations I had during the planning stages of my adventure regarding the proximity of the border to my route and the imminent danger I was going to be in. While I was always diligent and watchful during my ride, I must say that I felt completely safe, not only because of the great folks in this area, but by the almost constant presence of the U.S. Border Patrol. There were literally stretches of lonely highway where the only traffic I would encounter was that of a U.S. Border Patrol vehicle, many times coming out of the brush or a dirt road. During one particularly lonely stretch of road in New Mexico, after seeing three Border Patrol agents in a span of five minutes, I rode up to a parked agent’s truck and asked the young officer if everything was ok. He looked at me sort of puzzled and replied, “don’t worry, no one is going to jump out of the bushes and get you today”. My reply, and the end of every conversation I had with many U.S. Border Patrol agents along the route, was simply “thank you for your service, sir”.

2. It’s No Longer About Me…..It’s about the Experience

It seems odd now, but in the months leading up to this journey, and indeed, during the early stages of the ride, my focus was purely introspective. Would “I” enjoy the journey? Am “I” fit enough to make the trip? Have “I” planned appropriately? Am “I” doing the right thing? Eventually, as “I” became lost in the vast landscape and equally vast beauty of my surroundings, my introspection was lost as well, and only “experience” remained. Soon, I was no longer the lead character in a play, but simply a spectator witnessing the awesomeness that lay before me. I would drift to sleep each evening, not really knowing what lay ahead, but having confidence that what lay ahead would be an experience that I would remember a lifetime!

The great American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, authored one of the best quotes of all time, in my opinion, and one which I would wish upon anyone contemplating an adventure, “The way to recover the meaning of life and the worthwhileness of life is to recover the power of experience, to have impulse voices from within, and to be able to hear these impulse voices from within – and make the point: This can be done”

3. Ride, Eat, Sleep, Repeat (and Eat Again)

Maybe you have seen the consummate touring cyclists bumper sticker which says “Ride, Eat, Sleep, Repeat”, obviously conveying the importance of cycling to the person’s life. After this latest tour, I have learned to appreciate this particular recipe for a life centered on bicycle touring, but I would also augment it to read as follows: “Ride, Eat, Sleep, Repeat (and Eat Again)”. I found myself, throughout the tour, thinking about food an inordinate amount of time. Mind you, I ate, and ate well along the way. In fact, I ate what I wanted, when I wanted, in large quantities, and yet I felt food-depleted much of the time. Because I am a vegetarian, I paid extra close attention to protein intake, and supplemented by diet accordingly. Who knew I could eat like a horse, sleep like a baby, and lose 12 lbs along the way! Kinda sounds like Heaven, huh?

Giving Destinations

A few years ago, as I began to form the basis for my goals related to long-distance cycling, I documented my intent to raise awareness and funding for two high-performing causes, noted below. If you have enjoyed reading this journal, and if you believe in these causes, I would ask you to consider supporting them, even in small way. I’ve provided direct links to the organizations below. I really do appreciate it.

The National Brain Tumor Society, a non-profit organization inspiring hope and providing leadership within the brain tumor community. They exist to find a cure and improve the quality of life for those affected by brain tumors. They fund strategic research, deliver support services, and promote collaboration;

American Rivers, a non-profit organization focused on healing North American waterways by removing dams, setting up “Wild and Scenic” designations which preserve rivers as free-flowing, and working with municipalities to push measures to prevent polluted urban runoff from reaching watersheds.

Thank You’s

I’ll keep this short. Thanks to my bride of 28 years (& 5 days), my three joys (aka Luke, J.R., Will), my unbelievable parents, other family members, friends (old & new), numerous road angels and small business owners along the way, the many folks that commented/emailed/ texted me, and lastly for the rattlesnake (that I’m sure was present) that elected not to snuggle with me in one of the many desert oasis campgrounds.

U.S. 360 Continues

Well, well, well! My favorite part of this post. What’s next on this Journey Around the American Perimeter? At this point, it looks as though I’ll have time this coming Fall to finish the far Western section of the Southern Tier, from Tempe AZ to San Diego CA, and then begin the Southern section of the Pacific Coast Route from Imperial Beach CA (on the U.S.-Mexico border) to Santa Barbara CA. I intend to start in early October 2013 after my oldest son’s birthday on October 4th. Should be fun, and I’ll soon be setting up another journal on this website, so you can follow along!

Until next time,

It’s All Good

My Girl
My Girl

 

My Angels
My Angels

Click Here to read my daily tour journal entry on crazyguyonabike.com

 

U.S. 360 Tour – Day 23 from Superior AZ to Tempe AZ (Gliding, My Niece, and a Girl)

Latest update on my purpose-driven cycling journey around the American perimeter.

48 miles (77 km) – Total so far: 1,151 miles (1,852 km)

What a superior day! Another early rise to beat the heat! Left Superior, Arizona around 6:30 am amidst fairly cool weather. I immediately started a single climb out of the small town, which honestly, I thought would be worse than it actually turned out to be. After that climb, I could see for miles ahead what locals call the East Valley, which is home to the suburbs East of Phoenix.

For almost 25 miles, I glided almost elegantly down a slight decline into the valley, just enough of a descent to barely pedal, but not so much that I couldn’t enjoy the scenery. I love the desert landscape, and today I quenched my thirst for it. Saguaro cactuses came into view, and they filled the desert, looking like giant green people standing straight up in the sand. I also came upon quite the sight when a group of about six or seven cowboys, all on horseback, were driving a herd of cattle from Point A to Point B. For a minute, Surly Pearl considered going off-road to join her brethren on the cattle drive, but I kept her steady on the roadway shoulder. Speaking of roadway shoulder, today’s riding conditions (almost) made up for the less than average Arizona road conditions I’ve experienced over the last few days. The U.S. 60 roadbed was excellent, recently repaved, wide, and very smooth.

The last 25 miles were spent cutting through the suburbs of Apache Junction, Mesa, and finally Tempe. I must say that this area knows how to treat traveling cyclists. Bicycle lanes are everywhere, and bicycling infrastructure (rest areas, signs, road markings) is ubiquitous. This part of the ride took me through well-groomed neighborhoods, playgrounds full of kids, and courteous drivers. There were also palm trees and citrus orchards, lots of citrus orchards. Not even a flat tire three miles from the end of the ride could bring me to reality. A great day, from beginning to end.

Later in the day, I got to see and stay with my phenomenal niece, a Neuropsychologist who lives in Chandler. After relaxing for a bit, we went to her favorite local brewpub and drank, ate, and drank the evening away. I am assuming now that I am her favorite uncle, having pedaled 1151 miles to see her! We are all so proud of BriAnne.

OK, whew!!

Today is my final riding day of this section of my journey around the American perimeter. I have most certainly achieved the things I originally set out to achieve, and I have experienced things that I could not heretofore have dreamt. I will be posting my final thoughts on this adventure in a few days, and laying out my plans for the next journey to the West Coast and up along the Pacific Coast, so stay tuned! Until then, my very highest priority awaits in Austin, to celebrate not my return home, but to hold my hand as we celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary next week. Until my next adventure, I will borrow a very fitting line from Will Hunting…

“I have to go see about a girl”.

It’s all good. It’s all very, very good.

 

Early out of Superior, AZ
Early out of Superior, AZ

 

Neat, single mountain near Superior AZ
Neat, single mountain near Superior AZ

 

More mountains out of Superior AZ
More mountains out of Superior AZ

 

Saguaro cactus fields
Saguaro cactus fields

 

Surly Pearl at the top of the pass between Superior and Tempe AZ
Surly Pearl at the top of the pass between Superior and Tempe AZ

 

Shadows and descents going into the the East Valley
Shadows and descents going into the the East Valley

 

I really do like Arizona!
I really do like Arizona!

 

Tail-end of an old fashioned cattle drive
Tail-end of an old fashioned cattle drive

 

Surly Pearl wouldn't go any further until I took her picture next to a Saguaro cactus (I think this cactus is why I got a flat tire)
Surly Pearl wouldn’t go any further until I took her picture next to a Saguaro cactus (I think this cactus is why I got a flat tire)

 

Surly Pearl and Apache Junction AZ
Surly Pearl and Apache Junction AZ

 

Kinda hoping this Saguaro cactus doesn't fall on us
Kinda hoping this Saguaro cactus doesn’t fall on us
Bicycle Rest Area in Mesa, AZ
Bicycle Rest Area in Mesa, AZ
The bike lanes in Mesa AZ are as big as automobile lanes!
The bike lanes in Mesa AZ are as big as automobile lanes!
The bicycle signs in Mesa AZ are excellent
The bicycle signs in Mesa AZ are excellent
Final destination for this segment in Tempe AZ
Final destination for this segment in Tempe AZ
Hook'em ASU
Hook’em ASU
Me, my niece BriAnne, and her dog Carmen.  Guess who is still in this picture?
Me, my niece BriAnne, and her dog Carmen. Guess who is still in this picture?
Uncle and Niece
Uncle and Niece
I couldn't decide which brew I wanted, so... I chose a few
I couldn’t decide which brew I wanted, so… I chose a few

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U.S. 360 Tour – Day 22 from San Carlos (Apache Gold) AZ to Superior AZ (The Stuff of Legends)

Latest update on my purpose-driven cycling journey around the American perimeter.

31 miles (50 km) – Total so far: 1,103 miles (1,775 km)

The setting for today’s ride was something out of the Old West. The ride started where yesterday’s ended, at the Apache Gold Hotel and Casino in the San Carlos Apache Indian reservation. Heading West into Globe, Arizona, I was greeted by a town of apparent great copper mining influence, given the open mine in the panorama that serves as a grand backdrop to the lively town. The town is also famous for the the likes of Ike Clanton, who came to Globe after the infamous gunfight at the OK Corral. Apparently, Ike was whacked by a local deputy sheriff, so it was not exactly a productive visit for him.

My visit was much more productive, given the spectacular views, the climbs, and the descents that made up much of today’s fairly short ride. The wind, unlike yesterday, was non-existant, and the temperatures a bit cooler. The two-lane roads with sometimes no shoulders were manytimes dicey, but all in all a gripping ride that has probably been done more times on horseback than on bicycle. Regardless the steed, it was memorable. Only took a few pictures today, especially after entering the mountains, since there were relatively few places to relax and enjoy the rugged beauty.

I only went through three towns today, including Globe, Miami, and ended the ride at Superior coming out of the mountains. Saw no Eastbound Southern Tier cyclists today, and had I, they probably would not have acknowledged me given the need to stay completely focused on the navigational tasks at hand. I saw no wildlife today, but did see lots of wild geography.

It’s all good.

Wrapping things up at the Apache Gold Resort
Wrapping things up at the Apache Gold Resort

 

Outskirts of Globe, Arizona
Outskirts of Globe, Arizona

 

The copper mines around Globe, Arizona
The copper mines around Globe, Arizona

 

Coming out of the mountains toward Superior, Arizona
Coming out of the mountains toward Superior, Arizona

 

Queen Creek Tunnel
Queen Creek Tunnel

 

Mining exhibit in Superior, Arizona
Mining exhibit in Superior, Arizona

 

View from tonight's backyard in Superior, Arizona
View from tonight’s backyard in Superior, Arizona

 

Surly Pearl relaxing at tonight's lodging
Surly Pearl relaxing at tonight’s lodging

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U.S. 360 Tour – Day 21 from Safford AZ to San Carlos (Apache Gold) AZ (Apaches and Angels)

Latest update on my purpose-driven cycling journey around the American perimeter.

71 miles (114 km) – Total so far: 1,072 miles (1,725 km)

Today was difficult.

I had a feeling from the beginning it would be tough, and unfortunately, I was right. I glanced at the hour-by-hour weather forecast last night, and saw that the Westerly winds were going to be a problem early, and they were going to get worse throughout the day. The temperatures were also forecasted to creep into triple-digit territory. Even knowing this, I elected to try and make the long trek to Apache Gold, which is a nice resort area on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation.

The first 20 miles of the ride out of Safford paralleled the Gila River Valley, thus the surrounding area was quite fertile and green. I was amazed to see golden fields of wheat, as well as other crops nestled between mountain ranges to the left and to the right. Once completely out of the valley, the surroundings become noticeably more arid, sandy, rugged, and ….. windy. Over the next 50 miles, the wind increased, temperatures climbed, truck traffic on U.S. 70 increased, the narrow roadway shoulder deteriorated, etc.. I mention all of this only accentuate the positive, which manifested itself through two road angels I’d like to tell you about.

The first came in the form of a driver who saw me laboring against the wind, the climbing, and the temperatures. Tim, from Tucson, Arizona, saw me as I was cresting a particularly nasty hill. He pulled over, offered me a bottle of Gatorade and an apple, and we chatted for a good 15 minutes. Ironically, Tim is a cyclist, and is considering touring as well. I wish him well and I certainly hope he’ll take the cycle touring plunge. Thank you for your generosity, Tim! The second road angel came in the form of an Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) employee. A few miles outside of Peridot, Arizona, I came upon a work zone where apparently a four or five mile stretch of highway was being resurfaced. The highway had been funneled down to one lane, and I was in the front of dozens of cars waiting their turn to traverse the work zone. A very friendly ADOT employee driving the Pilot vehicle to lead cars through the zone agreed to let me throw my bike and gear into the back of his vehicle in order to avoid quite assuredly a dangerous situation. Thanks to both of these men for their show of kindness. It made an otherwise trying day very memorable.

I passed through a number of small communities today, some of which were on the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, which dominated the days ride: Thatcher, Pima, Fort Thomas, Geronimo, Bylas, Peridot, San Carlos. This particular reservation was established by President U.S. Grant in 1872, and in terms of land area, is the tenth largest Indian reservation in the country.

Didn’t see any Eastbound Southern Tier cyclists, and like yesterday, wildlife sightings included predominantly lizards. I’m staying at the Apache Gold Hotel and Casino tonight, and enjoying the hospitality (and cold beer) whole-heartedly.

It’s all good.

Beautiful Mormon church and beautiful backdrop in Safford, AZ
Beautiful Mormon church and beautiful backdrop in Safford, AZ

 

Sunrise over Gila River Valley near Safford, AZ
Sunrise over Gila River Valley near Safford, AZ

 

Plush wheat fields in the Gila River Valley near Safford, AZ
Plush wheat fields in the Gila River Valley near Safford, AZ

 

Gila River Valley, AZ
Gila River Valley, AZ

 

Entering the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation
Entering the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation

 

Tim, Road Angel #1 for the day
Tim, Road Angel #1 for the day

 

Heat, wind, and hills are beginning to take their toll
Heat, wind, and hills are beginning to take their toll

 

Typical scenery for the day
Typical scenery for the day

 

San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation
San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation

 

Surly Pearl and I getting a lift in a ADOT Pilot Vehicle from Road Angel #2
Surly Pearl and I getting a lift in a ADOT Pilot Vehicle from Road Angel #2

 

I was hammered tired, but the views were still beautiful
I was hammered tired, but the views were still beautiful

 

Final Destination: Apache Gold
Final Destination: Apache Gold

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U.S. 360 Tour – Day 20 from Three Way AZ to Safford AZ (Copper Country)

Latest update on my purpose-driven cycling journey around the American perimeter.

35 miles (56 km) – Total so far: 1,001 miles (1,611 km)

Left Three Way Arizona at a decent hour and was immediately greeted by a tough climb up Mt. Guthrie. After cresting that particular climb, much of the rest of the ride was a gentle downhill into high desert country. Most of today’s ride could be characterized as desert-like, with sizable mountains looming in the distance. The Arizona desert was noticeably warmer than any weather I’ve experienced since Del Rio, Texas.

This is mining country. Nearby communities like Clifton and Morenci, as well as Safford, are almost totally dependent on copper mining. Freeport McMoRan owns the mines, which are some of the largest copper mining operations in the world. The main roads, US 191 and US 70, unfortunately, seem to have been degraded by all of the truck traffic coming to and from the mines. Between the huge trucks hauling mining equipment, the significant cracking of the area’s pavement, the liberal use of rumble strips by ADOT, and debris on the highway shoulders, today’s riding wasn’t completely stress-free. Having said that, if that is the worst roadway condition I’ll see on this adventure, I’ll consider myself both blessed and lucky!

Finished the ride in the Gila River Valley, which ultimately runs through Safford, Arizona. Because of irrigation in the area, the landscape immediately changes from desert-like to bright green with hay and cotton throughout the valley. Between the two ends of the ride, I did not pass through another single town. Also, didn’t see any Eastbound Southern Tier cyclists. Wildlife sightings today included lots of lizards scampering across the roadway and into their desert homes.

I intend to sleep well tonight in preparation for a long ride through the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation. My goal for tomorrow is to make it to the Apache Gold Hotel and Casino, where I most certainly intend to lose money in exchange for a cool room and a cold beer.

It’s all good.

Mt. Guthrie in my rear-view mirror
Mt. Guthrie in my rear-view mirror

 

Surly Pearl looking like a chiseled desert machine
Surly Pearl looking like a chiseled desert machine

 

Time to pull out the Tilley Hat.  This is Arizona.
Time to pull out the Tilley Hat. This is Arizona.

 

No question we are in Arizona
No question we are in Arizona

 

Making my way to the Gila River Valley
Making my way to the Gila River Valley

 

Didn't realize it, but I'm on The Old West Highway
Didn’t realize it, but I’m on The Old West Highway

 

Gila River Valley just outside of Safford, Arizona
Gila River Valley just outside of Safford, Arizona

 

Cotton fields just beginning to take form
Cotton fields just beginning to take form

 

Final resting place in Safford Arizona
Final resting place in Safford Arizona

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U.S. 360 Tour – Day 19 from Buckhorn NM to Three Way AZ (Beauty in Simplicity)

Latest update on my purpose-driven cycling journey around the American perimeter.

45 miles (72 km) – Total so far: 966 miles (1,555 km)

I will keep my writings short tonight, and let the pictures do most of the talking. The first 15 miles West of Buckhorn were nice and almost relaxing, with sweeping, seemingly endless grasslands and rolling hills. My, how the next 15 miles changed! Moving back into the Gila National Forest and the Apache National Forest, the climbing began. After crossing the New Mexico/ Arizona state line, I began the final four mile ascent to the high point on the ride (elevation 6,295), labeled on the map simply as “Pass”. As I contemplated what the “Pass” would reveal, I was less than enthusiastic, given the somewhat generic label. I could NOT have been more wrong.

My first glimpse of Arizona coming in over the top of the Big Lue Mountains was, in a single word, spectacular. As I dropped nearly 2,500 feet over the next 14 miles, the panoramas, multi-colored rock, winding roads, and mountains in the distance were like cycling in a painting of the Great Southwest. Only the extreme switchbacks and constant braking would bring me back to the reality at hand. My arms felt like Jell-O after all was said and done.

Toured through some classic sounding towns today, like Mule Creek and Three Way, and not much else. Didn’t run into any Eastbound Southern Tier cyclists today, but had I, I would’ve provided my condolences for the mountain they were about to scale. Simply remarkable. Wildlife sightings today included more mule deer than I could count. This place is loaded with them, and they are quite athletic.

It’s all good.

IMG_1504
Just outside of Buckhorn, NM
IMG_1505
Long roads and long shadows heading into Mule Creek, NM
IMG_1506
First national forest of the day
IMG_1507
Beautiful scenery in Gila National Forest
IMG_1508
Second national forest of the day
IMG_1509
Later New Mexico, Hello Arizona!
IMG_1512
Trying to figure out how this little guy got to this elevation
IMG_1513
Interesting rock formations around the “Pass”
IMG_1514
I couldn’t stop taking pictures!
IMG_1515
Spectacular views looking out over the Big Lue Mountains in Arizona
IMG_1517
Amazing, winding descent
IMG_1518
The valley looking toward Three Way Arizona
IMG_1519
Postcard quality view looking toward Three Way Arizona

 

IMG_1520
Another awesome view looking toward Three Way Arizona
IMG_1522
Nirvana
IMG_1525
Looking at Guthrie Peak, which I will climb tomorrow on the way to Safford

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U.S. 360 Tour – Day 18 from Silver City NM to Buckhorn NM (Mothers and Divides)

Latest update on my purpose-driven cycling journey around the American perimeter.

Today was sort of a rest day. Woke up this morning seriously drained from yesterday’s ride out of the mountains. The plan was to go the relatively short distance (39 miles) from Silver City to Buckhorn, which is at the Western edge of the state line that New Mexico shares with Arizona. What I will tell you is that today was everything that yesterday wasn’t. Tailwinds were very much intact, the roadway descended gently for a good part of the day (with the exception of the first four miles West of Silver City), and my outlook was much improved.

The first notable experience just West of Silver City was the sign marking the Continental Divide. As I crossed the line that is the divide, I was half expecting some kind of spiritual experience. While I didn’t exactly have one at that particular point, I can assure you there were times today that I did have spiritual experiences, slaloming down nice hills with a tailwind, sometimes for miles, and always with beautiful scenery. The scenery was interesting today. Much of the latter part of the ride went into the Gila River valley, on one side rolling hills, and on the other side the Mogollon Mountain range, which is part of the Gila Wilderness. Very, very pretty views today, light traffic, and good roads.

The second notable experience was, even as I was enjoying the serenity that is Western New Mexico, the realization of my good fortune to be surrounded by wonderful mothers. My wife, my sister, my mother-in-law, my sisters-in-law, and of course my own mother, were on my mind this Mothers Day. I was blessed to have my mother with me today.

Again passed through areas with very limited services today, including Mangas, Riverside, Cliff, and of course Buckhorn. Ran into one touring cyclist today. Jim, who hails from Albuquerque. He was on the Southern Tier today, but his route is throughout New Mexico. Wildlife sightings were limited today, probably because most of the route was on a U.S.-marked highway.

Camping tonight in Buckhorn behind the Buckhorn Post Office. Swung by the Last Chance Liquor Store and they sold me two fresh medium pizzas, since I’ll be tough camping this evening. Well, a good pizza makes it a little less tough.

It’s all good.

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Surly Pearl contemplating the Divide
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The sign says it all
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Beautiful Western New Mexico on a gentle downhill
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I could ride all day in this weather
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Jim, the touring cyclist from New Mexico
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Surly Pearl looking down on the Gila River
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That’s the Mogollon Mountain range behind me
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I liked this sign
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Happy Mothers Day
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Tonight’s campsite behind the Buckhorn NM Post Office

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U.S. 360 Tour – Day 17 from Kingston NM to Silver City NM (8228)

Latest update on my purpose-driven cycling journey around the American perimeter.

49 miles (79 km) – Total so far: 882 miles (1,419 km)

Emory Pass, at 8,228 feet above sea level, was the goal. It took me two hours, eight miles, and a 2,000 ft climb to reach it. Grades of 4-11% dominated the first part of the ride, up the Black Mountains. At this first destination, the wind howled and the temperature dropped. As I was taking some pictures of the panoramic views and catching my breath, a young hiker with full gear emerged out of the forest. Ryan (pictured below) introduced himself and we had a good conversation. Ryan hails from Seattle and is obviously a seasoned hiker. He is seven days into a three-month hike along the Continental Divide Trail, from Mexico to Canada. Last year he completed the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada. It’s always amazing to run into these resilient, adventurous folks.

Coming off of the high elevation point on the Southern Tier, I expected a nice descent. Unfortunately, after a few miles, I was climbing again, before a final descent into San Lorenzo. Continuing on, I was greeted with another long, 1000 ft ascent out of San Lorenzo. Seemed like the rest of the journey into Silver City was up and down. For much of the day, I was either spinning in low gears up the mountains, or hanging on for dear life coming down. I have heard from others that the total climb on this particular leg of the journey is well over 4500 feet over the 50 mile stretch, and my body, for the first time, is feeling it.

The landscape was beautiful mountain country today. Lots of pine trees, lots of rocks, and lots of switch-back curves. One fascinating scene was the Santa Rita open-pit copper mine. The mine was first opened in 1909 and for years it was the largest in the world. Apaches and Spaniards have both obtained native copper and copper ore from this site.

Passed through areas with very limited services today, including San Lorenzo, Santa Clara, and finally Silver City. I didn’t see other cyclists, but as I mentioned earlier, I did run into a hiking equivalent! Wildlife sightings included a number of huge mule deer.

A less challenging ride tomorrow to Buckhorn, passing over the Continental Divide. A shout-out to my middle son J.R., who’s senior prom is tonight in Austin. I love you son.

It’s all good.

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The ride started with a steep climb, and never really let up
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On the trip up to Emory Pass
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You can see the switchbacks up ahead towards Emory Pass
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Still Climbing
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Overlook almost at the top
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Emory Pass
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My new friend Ryan, hiking the Continental Divide
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On the backside, and a little happier on the descent
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Spectacular scenery
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Still on the descent
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Interesting rock formations
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Vista
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The weather’s improving
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Coming out of the mountains
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Santa Rita open-pit copper mine
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The copper mine from a different angle
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Surly Pearl and I are wiped out
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Congrats J.R. and Emily! Y’all look simply dashing!

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U.S. 360 Tour – Day 16 from Caballo Lake State Park NM to Kingston NM (Climbs, Wind, and Character)

Latest update on my purpose-driven cycling journey around the American perimeter.

31 miles (50 km) – Total so far: 833 miles (1,341 km)

My friend Dan Domagala tells me that climbing presents us with an opportunity to build character. Please also note that Dan is an avid cyclist who lives in Colorado and really has no other option but to climb. Given that today and tomorrow’s ride builds up to and ultimately crosses Emory Pass (the highest point on the Southern Tier) and the Continental Divide, opportunities will most certainly abound.

Had a quick breakfast and was off to face what ultimately became deteriorating weather conditions throughout the day. Early in the ride, what had generally been a Northerly route for the last few days turned decidedly Westward. Unfortunately, so did the wind. The first 12 miles were a constant incline into the wind, but no really intense climbing. The balance of of the ride was much more up and down, with a lot more up than down.

The landscape has completely changed to non-agricultural, with the exception of many free-ranging, scrawny looking cattle that literally “free-range” across the highway. The land started off rough and arid, but by the end of the ride, I had climbed into the mountains, replete with pine trees and a more typical mountain landscape. I ended the ride at Kingston, which is the entrance into the Gila National Forest.

Passed through the towns of Caballo, Hillsboro, and Kingston today. Hillsboro is a quaint little historic town, founded in 1877 following the discovery of gold. Today the gold is gone, but a nice little main street is not. A shout out to the wonderful lady who runs the Barbershop Cafe & Motel. She made a (correct) assumption that I liked homemade brownies, so she gave me three of them, again, free of charge. Two straight days of food goodwill. I’m beginning to see a trend here.

Another day without seeing other traveling cyclists. I’m beginning to think it is fairly late in the season to see Eastbound cyclists on the Southern Tier since the Texas desert would still be on their itinerary. Wildlife sightings included two very large mule deer between Hillsboro and Kingston. I cycled within a few feet of them before they leapt back in the woods.

A challenging, if not awesome ride planned for tomorrow through the mountains. Locals are saying it may SNOW in a few of the mountain passes tomorrow, so I’ll be pulling out my cold gear (minus the hot tottie) tonight in preparation.

It’s all good.

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It’s too early to smile in the Caballo Mountains
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Moving into the mountains
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Weather’s not looking so good
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The weather’s really not looking so good
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Gila National Forest around Kingston New Mexico
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Relaxing at the Hillsboro General Store

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