Thursday, January 31, 2013

Arizona Mountains to Las Cruces, New Mexico

From the Apache Gold Resort we drove east in the rain to Safford, checked into the motel, drove out of town to turn in the U-Haul truck, and rode back to Safford, narrowly avoiding the rain. 

Hotel Simpson, Duncan, AZ
We did not attempt the ride up to Silver City (too far, too much climbing, too cold, strong possibility of snow, and winter days to short).  Instead we left the Adventure Cycling route and headed south on route 70 toward Lordsburg. The ride was smooth, the traffic light and the shoulders were generally good.  The ride took us through more high desert, which became greener as we moved further southeast.  We stopped in Duncan for the night.  Duncan may have been a prosperous stop over before the interstates were built but it is now clearly in decline. The accommodations at the B & B where we stayed, the Simpson Hotel, were quaint and charming.  The couple running the B & B had spent the previous 5 years restoring the 100 year old building, which had been a hotel, a restaurant, and electric company office and a bar.  The pictures below include the parlor and the exterior of the building.  Based on the forecast for heavy rain on Saturday, we stayed an extra day at the B & B in Duncan relaxing in the parlor with a lovely fire. 
Parlor, Simpson Hotel

Mining Truck Bed

The road from Duncan to Lordsburg was straight, flat, and a bit boring.  More high desert with Yuccas replacing the cactus.  Along the route we saw two huge truck beds parked by the side of the road.  When we checked into the motel in Lordsburg, the people in the next to rooms were driving the pilot cars for these extra wide truck beds from Mexico, taking them to a mine in Glamis, CA, where they would be mated with the truck chassis from Caterpillar in Illinois, and giant tires from somewhere in the south.  Some of these truck beds hold up to 300 tons.

Mountains off Road to Lordsburg
Gila Cliff Dwellings
Monday Enterprise delivered a rental car to our motel and we drove to Silver City and into the Gila Wilderness area to visit the Gila Cliff Dwellings.  The drive from Silver City took almost two hours on winding mountain roads through Ponderosa and Pinion forests.  The scenery was spectacular.  It started raining heavily just as we completed the half mile climb to the cliff dwellings.  We were able to refuge in the caves and were just in time for a guided tour of the caves.  The dwellings were only inhabited for a generation in the 1300s.  Archeologists suspect that the inhabitants came to the caves because of a severe drought, which lasted 30 years.  The Gila River flows about a half mile from the cliff dwellings.  It is unclear why the inhabitants abandoned the cliff dwellings.  The caves protected the dwellings from the weather but the roofs were burned in the late 1800s, probably by local ranchers. 

View from Gila Cliff Dwelling
Gila River
The Joys of Winter Riding
After leaving the cliff dwelling, we encounter heavy snow at the higher elevations, making the driving very hazardous.  We briefly drove through the historic district of Silver City but decided to get out of the mountains ASAP and drove to Lordsburg for dinner.  The next morning we woke up to an inch or two of snow on the ground but the pavement in general was clear.  Given the predicted 25 to 30 mile per hour tail winds, we packed up the bike and headed east to Deming along Interstate 10.  The roadway was clear but sections of the shoulder had an inch of snow, fortunately no ice under the snow.  The wind blew us toward Deming at 20 to 25 miles per hour with very little pedaling.  Needless to say, if we had been heading west, we would have stayed in the motel.   Everything went great until we had two flats within 10 miles of Deming.  Changing the flats was a challenge in the high winds and 40°F. 
Southern New Mexico or the Arctic?

Carolyn Crossing the Continental Divide

The next day we rode from Deming to Las Cruces.  The winds were lower but still behind us.  Unfortunately we had three more flats within 10 miles of Deming, two from steel belted radial debris and one from a piece of steel the size of a small knife.   On Thursday we restocked our supply of tubes and tires in Las Cruces and are ready to head to El Paso Friday.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Leaving San Diego

Our good friend Rich Wolf took this video as we left San Diego on the first day of our journey.   You may need to paste the URL into your browser.

Phoenix Into the Mountains

After relaxing off the bike on Sunday, Jan. 20, on
Mountains East of Phoenix
Monday we rode across Phoenix and headed toward the mountains east of Phoenix.  The weather was much warmer after the record cold spell the week before.  The ride began along the Arizona Canal trail, which runs through the center of the city, and then along residential streets in Scottsdale, and Tempe, past the Arizona State University campus, through Mesa and into Apache Junction.  In the residential area of Mesa we found front yards focused on orange, lemon, grapefruit trees and cactus, needless to say – no grass.  The roads were excellent, with wide shoulders, except in Apache Junction, where the road narrowed and traffic was heavy.  Fortunately, it was MLK Day so rush hour traffic may have been lighter than usual.  We spent the night at Gold Canyon Resort, a very nice hotel with Southwestern architectural flair.
Superstition Mountain
Tuesday we had some climbing into the mountains but the mileage was fairly short, the shoulders wide and the slope gradual.   We toured the Boyce Thompson Arboretum just outside Superior, AZ.  It had a large collection of desert plants from all over the world set in a very scenic location.  The Seguaro Cactus, which is native only to this area, was prominently featured.  The arboretum even had its own man made lake.

Descent from Gonzales with Copper Mountain in the distance

Cactus at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum
Lake at Boyce Thompson Arboretum
After checking into the Copper Mountain Motel, we rode into the historic section of the Superior.
Clearly this town had seen better days.  The area was quite depressed.  Copper mining is the main business in the area, providing a quarter of the USA copper production. 

Superior at dusk
In Superior, we talked with a Category 2 racer who advised us that the road from Superior to Globe passed through a tunnel, had no shoulder and had heavy truck traffic.  After listening to the truck traffic rumble past the hotel all night, we decided to rent a U-Haul and drive forward to Globe.  (We were planning to find alternate transportation for the following day, which was too far with too much climbing for us to attempt in the winter.) In Globe we visited the Besh Ba Gowah Archeological Park, the 700 year old site of a Pueblo community of Solado Indians .  We enjoyed the short video, the exhibits of pottery and other artifacts, and walking the partially restored pueblo.  We spent the night at the Apache Gold Casino Hotel and enjoyed the opportunity to swim and sit in the spa while admiring the snow in the mountains above us.  

Pueblo at Besh Ba Gowah

Sunday, January 20, 2013

From the California Desert to Phoenix

Brawley City Hall, Brawley, CA
Monday, January 14, was our first day off the bike.  We walked through the town and found the classic city hall shown here.  The weather was unseasonably cold and windy.

Fields of alfalfa outside Brawley, CA
We left Brawley just after sunrise on a very cold morning, hoping to reach Blythe, 90 miles to the east, by sunset but strong head winds and rollers from hell (think doing multiples of the Texas dip) got in our way. The first part was smooth going through Imperial County’s farming areas with alfalfa and other green crops, and then we found sand.  We were in the Imperial Sand Dune Recreation Area near Glamis.  The dunes went on for miles, along with the ATVs, and the farming was behind us – until the next plateau.  

Imperial Sand Dunes outside Gleams

Plowing sand off the highway
Then the rollers and wind hit us.  At 2 PM we were still 40+ miles from Blythe so we hitched a ride in a pickup truck from the immigration check point into Blythe.  The drive took us past some of the poorest farm communities we have ever seen.  Cotton appears to be the main crop.  Pods of cotton littered the side of the road and there were bales the size of a small railroad container around many of the fields.

Hank at the Colorado River
Entrance to Quartzsite Yacht Club
After our Brawley to Blythe misadventure we decided to split our next day’s planned ride into two days.  From Blythe we crossed the Colorado River and climbed into the mountains on Interstate 10.   It was actually a nice ride, with wide shoulders and smooth steady climb with none of the rollers from the day before.  Our destination was Quartzsite, AZ,  which is little more than a site for retired RVers to hang out for the winter.  Our lodging was in half of a prefab trailer at the Quartzsite Yacht Club. (There is no body of water within 25 miles of Quartzsite; it is in the middle of a high desert.)   We met the Yacht Club owner at dinner that night.  Seems his father bought the bar back in the 70’s and had the absurd the idea of the yacht club, selling memberships for $10, which included a membership card and a tee shirt.  Rumor has it that some members have used the membership card for reciprocity privileges at real yacht clubs.  Anyway, the food was great, the lodging comfortable and we had a red sunrise over the desert.

Cafe, Quilt Shop, Plumbing and Electrical Supplies in Brenda, AZ
Westward Motel in Salome, AZ
From Quartzsite we continued east on route 60 across more high desert, passing through Brenda where we stopped for lemonade at the cafe below.  

Our destination for the day was Salome, a tiny community in the high desert with very limited services.  Our hotel, the Westward Hotel, had four rooms and didn’t look like much from the outside but was nicely decorated on the inside with antique furniture, an Indian pattern rug, a cattle hide rug and a gas pot belly stove for heat.  It was very pleasant!

Cactus growing on the hillsides east of Salome, AZ

From Salome we continued east on route 60 across 45 miles of monotonous oil and gravel road across the high desert.  In 45 miles our Garmin recorded 1 ft. of elevation change.  After a short climb we descended into Wickenburg, AZ, and civilization.

Our Saturday ride from Wickenburg, into Phoenix was delightful, with smooth roads, no wind, warmer temperatures, and a slight downward grade.  The scenery was still rolling desert scrub, cactus, and now horse ranches. 
We’re now on the west side of Phoenix, heading out Mon. morning to cross the city and  back into the hills east of Phoenix.  

Monday, January 14, 2013

From the Pacific Ocean to the Desert

Dipping the rear wheel in the Pacific
Our final week of training began with the traditional dipping of the rear wheel in the Pacific Ocean.  If all goes as planned the front wheel will go into the Atlantic in May.

Riding along Torrey Pines State Beach

View of the Mountains to the south entering Ramona

Friday, Jan 11 we left San Diego and headed into the mountains to the east.  Our first night we spent in Ramona. 
Carolyn in Julian with snow in background
Saturday we were on the bike by 8:30.  The temperature was 34°F and would only get to the low 50s.  We continued to climb, being careful to avoid ace patches on Wynola Rd and arriving in Julian (4235 ft.) at 3PM.  Note the snow behind Carolyn in the picture.  Hoping to reach Yaqui Pass before dusk, we nearly froze as we descended Banner Grade, arriving at Yaqui pass just at dusk.  We pushed the bike up Yaqui and descended into Borrego Springs after dark, arriving at the hotel just in time to hitch a ride with Sam Powell to the Borrego Blast party.  The Borrego Blast is our annual tandem cycling event in the desert, which happened to coincide with our trip. 
Hank at start of Borrego Blast Sunday ride

Sunday we met the Borrego Blast group as they departed to climb Yaqui pass and we headed east.   We had left the ocean Friday, climbed into the San Diego mountains Friday and Saturday and now had a flat ride past the Salton Sea into Brawley. 

Anza Borrego Desert on the way to Brawley
Today is our day off in Brawley.  Tomorrow we have a long ride to Blithe, 88 miles north east of Brawley on the California, Arizona border.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Ten Days to Departure

After weeks of training and preparation our journey starts in 10 days.   Today we did a New Years ride with the San Diego Tandem Club around San Diego Bay.  Later this week we will do a mock packing of the panniers, take the bike in for it's final servicing and perform the traditional dipping of the rear wheel in the Pacific.  With any luck the front wheel will go into the Atlantic in May.