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.

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