Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mulligan

Adam was having a Bad Day. Not yet a Very Bad Day, but worse than just a bad day.
First, his riding partner - loathe to abandon the indolance of the past two days - lazed about the house in the morning, delaying his departure by two hours. Then, he had to wait in a long line at the post office just to buy a sheet of post card stamps. The hat he acquired the day before was turning out to be too big, as it flopped around on his head in the wind, sometimes blocking his view.
He had a little falling incident after brief contact with a railing on the river path, and though no damage was done to bike or rider, there is the physiological consideration.
After riding several more miles, we decided that the hat was not going to cut it. It was not going to work while on the bike, and we either had to send it home, or get it fixed. So we called a do-over, and rode 12 miles back into Tucson to see the little lady at the hat store. She fixed him right up with a little padding in the band, and now the hat fits great.
By this time, it was pretty late in the day, and we couldn't expect to make it out of the Tucson area by dark.  We knew this would be the case when we turned back, so we rode the few miles back to Adam's Aunt Donna's house. When we got back, the house was locked up, but we enjoyed ourselves sitting on the back patio listening to music, something we haven't had an opportunity to do in a while. It was nice to just sit back and relax with nothing to do.
This also gives us a little time to go over our route again. We are playing chicken with the snowstorms north of the Tucson area. There are several spots we want to see in that area, including the Gila Cliff Dwellings, but the weather can be kind of dicey. We don't mind cold weather, or snow on the ground as long as the roads are clear. Getting stuck in a snow storm could be kind of uncomfortable.  Anything approaching a low of 20 also starts to intrude on our comfort zone.
We have a little breathing room in our schedule, as after some discussion, Adam and I decided that we were not terribly interested in riding through Louisiana and Mississippi, and that we will find transit across those states in some manner. That gives us the flexibility to see some more of the things in Arizona and New Mexico that we would like instead of racing across the West. With that in mind, we're heading south and east towards the Mexican border again to visit Tombstone and Brisbee, which we hear is neat.
The bikes are still mostly loaded, and we plan to be up and out early to check out Colossal Caverns on the way out of town. Adam apologised to me for setting us back another day. I told him not to worry - I'm not going to complain about another night with clean sheets and a warm bed!

Lunch in Tucson

This is a picture that Donna took of us at lunch yesterday. We are now steel cowboys!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Photo update

We have had a wonderful rest day in Tucson.  We analyzed our route and searched for potential places to stay over the next week or two until we get to El Paso.  We got several recommendations and decided to go with the southern route of our possible options out of Tucson.  If we go north, we run the risk of riding into snowy mountains.  So, we will go see Tombstone and stay south of I-10 until we are into New Mexico.

In the afternoon, we ate pizza with Donna for lunch.  After that we ran a few more errands and cleaned up and performed maintenance on the bicycles.  For dinner, we fulfilled a craving from the last few days with fajitas at Guadalajara Grill.

Since Dwight normally writes the blog posts from his phone, we can't include too many pictures. This post is pictures with captions and references to previous blogs.

Day 1: San Diego to Alpine

San Diego Country Park

Day 2: Alpine to Ocotillo

Looking across the Mexican border

Coming down the mountains


Windblown and sunburned after 45 mph down the mountain

Sunset from the campsite outside Ocotillo (click image for full view)

Day 3: Ocotillo to Glamis

Sunrise over our campsite at Ocotillo

Below sea level between El Centro and Brawley

Night view from our sand dune campsite near Glamis. The bright lights are a passing car.  The far off city lights are El Centro and Brawley

Day 4: Glamis to Yuma

Securing lodging for the evening via email atop the sand dune

Our campsite at the back of the sand dune

Taking a break after 30 good miles with a tailwind enroute to Yuma

Day 5: Yuma to Petroglyphs state park

Welcome to Arizona, where the roads haven't been paved for years!

Day 6: Petroglyphs State Park to Maricopa

Barrel Cactus growing near the petroglyphs

Hummingbird near our campsite at petroglyphs state park

Day 8: Tucson rest day

Getting ready for fajitas!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Rest Day

First of all, sorry for the formatting on the mobile posts. The formatting from the phone I use gets messed up when it uploads to the blog, and I don't know how to fix it out besides going in and editing the html line by line. I'm way too lazy for that. I'll keep working on it, but sorry till then.

Monday was rough. After checking out the petroglyphs right next to the campgrounds,


we rode back down to the interstate and made our way to the town of Gila Bend. 1700 happy people and five old crabs, according to their sign:

The old crabs are listed by name, though you can't really make it out from this picture.

In my opinion, maps should be interactive. I'm a computer mapping professional (or would be if someone would pay me to do it again), so I expect maps to work a little like mapquest or google earth. If you click on a location, it should tell you what it is. If you click on two locations, you should be able to get an accurate reading of the distance between the two points, along your line of travel.

Paper maps do not work like this. We estimated from the dumb (literally) paper map that we had a 30 mile ride from Gila Pass to Maracopa where we would get supplies, and then camp outside of town. Our estimate was off by about 50%, and we had pedaled 45 miles before pulling into the lot for the grocery store in Maracopa. It was a long, dry, tedious ride into headwinds through the Sonora Desert.

This picture was taken when we still had faith in our original estimate and thought dinner and rest was 10 miles away, not 25.
After our 115 mile day yesterday, we were both looking to take it kind of easy and stop a little early. Instead we found ourselves rushing out of town as the sun went down, hoping to find a good spot to camp before it got too dark. We were worn down, tired, sore, and we were each in a foul mood. Adam joked about getting his aunt to come pick us up from her home in Tucson.

The best camping spot we could find was between the railroad track and and pistachio grove, behind a pile of debris. We heated up dinner quickly, put all our gear under Adam's green tarp, and settled in where we hoped to remain unobserved.

We worried at first, but before long we had come to like our spot. We could see the road and the trains, but we were well protected from discovery. We couldn't risk much light, as we might give away our position, so after dinner we laid around and tried to learn the constellations in the nearly cloudless sky. (We have Orion, Taurus, Perseus, and Cassiopeia's, I think we figured out Gemini last night)

Our only remaining worry was that the farmer who's pistachio trees we were near would drive by around dawn and discover us. So we woke up at 5, shook the frozen dew from our sleeping bags, and packed our gear. It was still pitch dark, so we cooked some oatmeal and made coffee as we waited for dawn. It was still pitch dark. We walked our bikes over the tracks and set up our lights and waited for dawn.

I managed to restrain Adam for about ten more minutes and as the sky was just starting to get light in the east before he dragged me onto the road, headed towards Casa Grande. We had put 15 miles behind us before the sun was up, and we were at our destination in Casa Grande by 8:30.

If we had ridden all the way to Tuscon, we would have spent most of the day on the shoulder of the interstate, all thoughts drowned out by passing semis. Instead, we waited in a Starbucks in Casa Grande for Donna, Adam's aunt, to come pick us up. We loaded our gear into the van, and she drove us to her home in Tuscon.

We spent the rest of the day running errands. We are ditching the tent (haven't used it once) for bivy sacks, I needed new tires, and we both needed a hat to keep the sun off.

Tomorrow is a full rest day! We'll run more errands, we're going to service the bikes and rest up. Hopefully a full day off will allow some of the aches and pains to fade a bit, and hopefully the soreness in my legs will transform into extra strength by Thursday.

We're going to start trying to post our daily and cumulative mileages. The problem is that I have been using a bike computer calibrated for my other bike, so it's readings are off. I'll have done the conversion by tomorrow and post our numbers. For right now, I think we've done around 415 miles this week.

Our first week on the road has been great. It already seems like we live in a different world. Things start to bleed together, and I have trouble remembering what day it is. It's great. I'm looking forward to the rest, and I need it, but I can't wait to get back on the road!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Century!

So, no posting after the wine and steak last night. Should have known
better than to think I was going to.

Sean and Ali were great hosts, they opened their house to us. We met
their neighbor's children, who treated the house like it was their
own, coming in and playing out back and getting snacks in the kitchen.

They fixed us a great meal of steak and potatoes, served us wine, let
us use the shower and washing machine, and gave us each our own queen
size bed.

We slept in late this morning, and then fixed breakfast at Sean and
Ali's house. Sean was there to see us off In the morning, and we
headed out at around 10.

It is hard to express how grateful we are for the hospitality last
night. Not only were they generous, we had a wonderful time sitting
around and talking after dinner. So if you guys are reading, thanks
again!

From Yuma, we headed east through Dateland, where we got date shakes.
They were sweet and chunky. Neat once, I think that will do it for me.

The last ten miles into Dateland was supposed to be on a frontage road
along I-8. It started rough and bumpy, and deteriorated from there. By
the time we were three miles away from Dateland, it had turned into a
strip of crumbled asphalt mixed with soft sand, punctuated by bone
jarring bumps and wheel-destroying holes. Our tent poles shook loose
from my bike, and I can't imagine how my tires survived.

After almost falling over the third time, we jumped the barbed wire
fence, crossed to the other side of I-8, and rode the last three miles
into Dateland on the shoulder of the freeway. After all that, the
shakes were Welcome indeed.

After the break, all signs of the hated frontage road had disappeared,
so all bicycle traffic had to ride on the interstate. We rode the last
(we thought) 30 miles on the interstate.

Traffic was loud, but the shoulder of the road was wide, smooth, and
clear. With the wind at our backs we were averaging around 25 mph, and
with my iPod playing the miles passed quickly. We started seeing our
first wild saguaro cactii on this stretch of road. They dotted the
landscape, sticking up like thin fingers poking from the ground.

Just around sunset we got to our exit, where we expected to find
camping (tables for cooking and benches for sitting! Maybe even
water!) sign read: "camping - 11 miles". We decided to go for it
anyway, as it was better than getting back on the interstate to an
unknown destination after dark.

As we rode through the flat, scrubby plain into the rocky hills of the
park the sun set quickly behind mountains to the west, and the sun
shining through the clouds and the brown rock of the hills made the
horizon look like a smoky fire, framing giant saguaro cactii on the
ridgeline.

It was full dark before we reached the campground, and we almost
missed our turn twice before we stopped and got out our lights.

Even with the late start, stiff tail winds drove us to first century
today! Averaging around 20 mph for the day, we got somewhere around
120 miles before we finally stopped and set up camp in Petroglyphs
State Park. Hope this wind stays at our backs!