Triplogue - Arizona to New Mexico

Phoenix to Globe, 19 March 1997, 92 miles 

Even after relaxing at Chez Jack and Leslie for four days we hadn’t grown too soft to climb some 6000 feet today. Though it wasn’t the hottest day of the trip it sure seemed that way. Maybe the fact that I had sunburned my back working on the bikes in the midday sun without a shirt or sun screen ("duh" says Andy) contributed to my sensitivity to the golden orb. All in all it was a beautiful midday framed by two ugly segments.

Leaving Phoenix is a bigger challenge than you might imagine; it spreads from its center for miles and miles and there are more cars on the road than poseurs in Hollywood. Drivers range from comatose to ultra-aggressive. The best part of the trek out of town was on a bike path where the only obstacle was testosterone-infused power walkers.

Once we left Phoenix city limits we passed through mile after mile of motor home parks that range from elegant to spartan with tag-lines like "Motor Resort", "Mobile Estates", to the downscale "Mobile home park, overnighters welcome". Leaving Apache Junction we officially left metro Phoenix and said goodbye to mobile life. Even the wind conspired to make it difficult for us to leave. Each time we changed course it managed to swing around and again blow in our face.

Though the riding was tough against the gusting wind, the scenery became gorgeous as soon as we ascended to 2000’. Saguaro cacti dotted the hills, ocotillo showed their red blooms and an amazing perfume from a white flowering desert bush tantalized my nose. With this kind of landscape to distract us, it became easier to surmount the rolling terrain with the breeze in our face. Little hills gave way to bigger ones and the scenery became even more dramatic as we approached our lunching spot at the botanical gardens near Superior, AZ as we rolled into copper country.

Jack has joined us to support our ride to El Paso and get in a little riding with us. He met us with a splendid picnic that included "greek bread" with spinach and feta cooked into it. "It smells like a baked fart but tastes great," quipped Jack. I couldn’t manage to make the tour of the garden, too wacked by the heat so I napped on the bench while Andy and Jack had a father/son outing. I woke to the local Audaban (sp?) Society representative concluding her senior birding class lecture just before Andy and Jack reappeared. They missed the moving poem which had inspired me to hit the road.

The next miles out of Superior would be the most lovely and the most challenging of the day. As we ascended nearly 2500 feet up Devil’s Canyon we were treated to sweeping views of craggy outcrops, spring cactus and a generous shoulder to ride on. The signs on the road were more than a little perplexing. We were so inspired to see "6% downgrade, next 12 miles" we almost cried after our horrendous climb --only to swing around a corner as we descended to see a massive uphill ahead. Two more times the sadistic signers tried to fool us into thinking we would go downhill uninterrupted for a long period of time only to find nasty hills that we had to mount.

Rolling into the globe metro area we found the rural American trinity --McDonald’s, Walmart, and Taco Bell-- signifying that we were back in civilization and close to our final destination for the day. Andrew was almost run off the road by the "butthead of the day", a bearded driver of a Chevy Camaro Arizona license "MT 1666", hope he is reading this. He managed to drive onto the shoulder to nearly miss Andy though there was no other traffic on the road. Andrew was still fuming over the incident as we arrived at the Cloud Nine Hotel as the sun started to set. We were greeted by the mascot of the establishment as she darted from Jack’s room. Stella the sharpay ran up to us demanding to be pet while her nipples dragged on the ground. A major Mexican meal and coffee at one of Globe’s happening nightspots capped the evening. I lost consciousness and began snoring as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Click on image to see full-sized version

Panting up Devil's Canyon

Click on image to see full-sized version

The only straight thing about this trip is the road

Globe to Safford, 20 March 1997, 77 Miles 

I knew it would happen eventually, so it came almost as a relief. Some twenty miles out of Globe, in the heart of the San Carlos Apache Nation Reservation, a half-filled beer can was flung at us from a passing vehicle. The injun ambush angle made the event slightly more bearable, and we were happy to find plenty of the perpetrator’s more friendly brethren at a nearby grocery store – a sort of Apache 7-11.

From San Marcos the road became more rolling, just as the receptionist at our digs in Globe had warned me. In the desert, "rolling" is a euphemism for some serious ups and downs, and once again the wind wasn’t cooperating with us. But the scenery was spectacular, and anytime that I felt hot I’d look off to my right at snow-covered peaks. The wind worsened as we descended into the Gila River valley just before our designated lunch stop in another Indigenous American hellhole called Bylas. We picnicked in the only shade around, next to the town’s only grocery store, which proved a good vantage point for checking out the local denizens. Most of the vehicles had "JESUS" emblazoned on their front license plates, and I gawked at a pair of seriously obese squaws.

It took us a while to get motivated for the remaining 30 miles to Safford, which lay directly upwind, and no sooner had we started pedaling than a big black dog leapt out of nowhere to attack Fred. But Fred was prepared with pepper spray, which he released in an effective cloud at precisely the right moment. It was the first time either of us had been able to put the stuff to use, and was therefore highly satisfying.

Another seriously obese Apache –this one a brave--gawked at us from inside his parked car in a place called Fort Thomas. We went through the now-familiar saw of explaining how we’re on our way to Florida (whenever we tell anyone of our plans beyond that, it kind of throws people, so we’ve learned not to emphasize the mostly international nature of this trip), to which the Indian pointed westwards and told us we were going the wrong way. Civilization reared its ugly head some thirteen miles further down the windswept road. Roadside signs signaled the presence of a Tastee Freeze coming into Pima, where we stopped for Fred’s daily dose of rootbeer float. Three little boys came up on BMX-type bikes and asked us where we were headed. When we told them Florida, they echoed the kids we ran into last week with a chorus of disbelieving "Nuh-uh’s"

Also in Pima, we spotted a weird-looking guy lounging in a park with his loaded-down bike. He was dressed in hardcore Ashram wear --beads, a white robe and a turban—and presumably rode barefoot since his feet were filthy. He said he was called Brother Richard and came from Tucson, and then he launched into his prophet routine, repeating several times "We should eat things that come from the ground." The eternal smartass, I asked him in a deadpan voice if rootbeer floats came from the ground, since that was the last thing we had eaten. A pause ensued, followed by a solemnly pronounced "The rootbeer does." When we asked Brother Richard where he was headed he responded enigmatically, "To the ten." Leaving him, I wondered if we’ll someday become two more shell-shocked psycho cyclists.

Dad and the truck bearing our gear were nowhere to be found in Safford, so we jumped into our motel’s pool with our slimy biking clothes, figuring that the chlorine would help sanitize them. When Dad showed up only minutes later, he said he’d been out hitting golf balls at the local driving range, and proceeded to kick my ass in backgammon while my clothes dried by the pool. Dinner was surprisingly good (and copious) Chinese food, and now it’s feeling like time for bed even though the clock doesn’t yet read ten p.m. From the map, tomorrow looks like a challenging day, with lots of climbing.

Safford to Buckkhorn, NM, 21 March 1997, 80 Miles 

Whatta day! Dramatic desert landscape and elevations held our attention while we pumped up merciless hills. We hit our highest elevation and top speeds to date.

Leaving Safford we actually felt a chill which was short lived. Level, straight and beautiful scrubby desert was just beginning to bloom. The road quickly shrugged level and we began to climb steadily over our first mountain pass. Very little traffic to contend with made it a tolerable trip. After climbing for a few hours we were treated to a long steady and fast downhill. As we descended it was hard to ignore what lay before us. 

As we dropped into a town (town is generous, more like where three highways meet) called Three Way we couldn’t help but look at what was before us. 10 miles of the meanest road you can imagine boasting a greater than 2500’ ascent through the desert. The wild flowers and rocky crags nearly distracted us from the high temperatures. Just as we were about to crash, Jack’s chow wagon rolled up. We snarfed chinese food leftovers and hit the trail. At the top the flora changed dramatically, pine trees and rolling hills greeted us.

At the New Mexico Border we paused for a moment and then hit glorious downhill number two. Again the terrain changed and rolling hills and grass were our new surroundings. At times the hills were more than rolling. Andy kept saying, this is probably the last hill for the day over and over again until I shamed him into stopping. The miracle is that for the first time the wind was blowing us from behind and pushed my aching body into Buckhorn.  

In Buckhorn we rolled into the local RV park set up camp and called it a night. Our first night camping for the trip. As we unloaded our gear little Nathan, a five year-old on bicycle pedaled up and said hello. After just a few moments his witchy mom summoned him and we showered in the elegant club house and shuffled off to dinner. Hoping for a view of the comet tonight… 

Click on image to see full-sized version

Catering by Chef Jacques

Click on image to see full-sized version

Making a fashion statement in chilly Gila

Buckhorn to Silver City, 22 March 1997, 39 Miles 

There was no place to get breakfast –or even coffee—in Buckhorn. We had learned the previous day, however, that a café in Gila, some ten miles away, might be open. So we left our cozy trailer and hopped on our bikes just after the sun rose and pedaled through the near-freezing cold, feeling sorry for ourselves. The café was worth the effort, though, run by a hippyesque woman and frequented by characters like a spidery, hyperactive guy called Strider, who worked as a ranger in a nearby wilderness area. The only choice for breakfast was a delicious concoction of vegetables and potatoes, served by the proprietress’s ten-year-old son. We dawdled there for well over an hour, waiting for some incredible green scones to come out of the oven. By the time we got back on our bikes, it was much warmer, though neither of us felt terribly motivated.

The road to Silver City included a very tough climb over the Continental Divide, where I stopped to pee into two oceans. We met Dad in a recommended lunch spot in the center of the funky old mining town, and found lodgings in an old hotel down the street. The day’s short mileage was planned; I wanted to see the Gila cliff dwellings some fifty miles away, and thought visiting them by car would be simpler than biking over the Continental Divide twice more. So we hopped into Dad’s motorized behemoth and followed a windy, steep road through forests and canyons. The cliff dwellings were in a beautiful setting near the source of the Gila River, and were home to fewer than a hundred Mogollon Indians for a brief period in the thirteenth century. On the way back to Silver City, we saw several mule deer and more Mountain Bluebirds than you can shake a stick at.

Silver City to Hatch, 23 March 1997, 101 Miles

Starting to write this section it seemed like deja vu, just two days before I had exclaimed of our incredible ascent reaching our highest elevations of our bicycling careers. The record was short lived.

On this bright and cold Sunday morning breakfast was the first priority. We set out to find an appropriate spot to feed my tape worm only to discover that there aren’t very many breaky opportunities in Silver City. The first attempt was obviously a mistake. While Jack sought a paper we went into Grandma’s restaurant in search of pancakes. After seating ourselves we noted the eerie feeling of an eating experience about to go awry. The only waitress serving about 20 tables greeted us with an impatient, "I’ll be right with you." We looked around the room and noticed that every patron had a menu and no one looked like they were happy with the service. We went across the street to another diner and were relieved that it seemed to be a money making operation with servers and happy patrons. There we chowed and then hit the trail.

By the time we finished munching the temp had climbed to riding temperature and we had to shed our sweatshirts within a few miles. Somehow I drove the chainwheel cogs into the back of my ankle while we were stopped and within a few moments I watched the first letting of blood of the trip. Fortunately it wasn’t to painful or unsightly.

We rolled through the little mining towns east of Silver City climbing and descending hundreds of feet each time. First water stop we had a look at the kneeling nun, a butte that looks like a sister praying across an alter just past the largest open pit copper mine I’ve ever seen. She’s probably hoping that some day they’ll manage to restore the abomination back to its original state. As ugly as it is awesome the whole is two square miles and 1800’ deep.

Following the mine we swept down some 1200’ to the bottom of the days monumental ascent. For the next 15 miles we were to climb 2500++’ to reach the pass which stands at 8250’. Seemed really daunting at the bottom until we rounded a bend and the wind hit us from behind and seemed to propel us up the hill. In the whole ascent I only hit granny gears (the smallest forward chainring and the easiest to pedal) once or twice. As we mounted the pass the desert yielded to pine trees and the temperature dropped and the wind from behind became more and more intense. At exactly the right moment Jack’s catering service arrived and we huddled in the car escaping the wind and cold. The sense of accomplishment upon reaching the top was great, but hard to revel in knowing that we had another 55 miles or more to go.

The descent nearly made me find religion. We roared down the hill with the wind at our backs essing around the hairpin turns. Passing through a little town we saw what I thought to be an ostrich being walked by an old goon through town. Andy corrected me, it was an emu. No, New Mexicans have not taken to keeping oversized birds as pets, seems that 15 of these future birdburgers had escaped and this emu rancher was collecting them.

We shot eastward with a wind at our back for over 30 miles, it was exhilarating, which made it all the more frustrating when we turned south to find that this tailwind was not as friendly as a crosswind. We had our first mini-tiff, Andy frustrated over my insistence that I thought this was a headwind. Finally heeding Andrew we fought it and commiserated until we turned some fifteen degrees west and the wind became our friend again. Which leads me to my binary theory of the elements. They are either your friend or enemy, rarely are they neutral. Today one element rendered another neutral, the wind canceled out gravity as we ascended Emory Pass.

Literally blew into Hatch, the chili capital of the world. Without energy and motivation and with a huge desire to see the Simpsons and X-files we ate at the nexus of Hatch culture right there in the parking lot of the hotel, Dairy Queen. The menu diverged from the standard, offering fresh hatch chilies on everything but the sundaes.

Click on image to see full-sized version

Andy having a testosterone attack at 8250'

Click on image to see full-sized version

Andy, while still in the mood for a margarita

Hatch, NM to El Paso, TX, 25 March 1997, 84 miles

We have made it to Texas, and are treating ourselves to some much-deserved luxury at an elegant old hotel in funky downtown El Paso. The Mexican border is just a few blocks away, and out our window we can see hundreds of cars lined up to get into El Norte.

Getting here from Hatch wasn’t as easy as it should have been. Though the road was mostly flat, the wind coming out of the West nearly blew us over with its gale-force gusts, and the moments were it was directly at our backs were woefully few. The first ten miles out of Hatch was one of those moments; we averaged nearly twenty miles an hour with practically zero effort. We followed the course of the Rio Grande along a deserted country road, passing through countless pecan groves and fields full of baby chilies. An added treat was sighting two road runners doing their roadrunner thing across our path. But once we neared Las Cruces, the wind had really become a problem, blowing dust into all our exposed orifices and coating our right sides in topsoil. We weren’t feeling too pretty by the time we reached our lunch spot in La Mesilla, a Disneyfied tourist trap where Billy the Kid was condemned to hang. Lunch was long and tasty, in a gorgeous old place called the Double Eagle, and I figured a margarita would help me endure the fifty-odd windy miles that lay ahead.

--I ought to have ordered a second. The wind was so bad after lunch that the whole valley was filled with dust, making visibility difficult and fraying our nerves. I kept having Wizard of Oz flashbacks and tried to keep my mind off where we were and what we were doing. But the thought kept creeping back into my head: "I’m committing the next two years of my life to this?"

It took forever to make our way through the sprawl of El Paso, and Texan drivers seemed ruder than their New Mexican counterparts. To make matters worse, our route left the river to climb into the Franklin Mountains before heading into downtown. But we endured, and when we spotted our hotel in the distance it was like seeing a vision, a mirage. The bellmen dealt with our bikes efficiently, and the receptionist seemed only slightly revolted by our filthy state. Showers rejuvenated us, as did drinks in the hotel’s fabulous old bar, where we met a drunk old Mexican-American called Raul who owned a polo field we had passed earlier that day. He told us more than you’d ever want to know about the sport, and we were very careful not to invite him along to dinner in the adjacent dining room, where the meal was divine and served in grand style. I ate more than I had previously thought humanly possible, and Fred and I indulged in a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape before heading upstairs for the tail end of the Oscar hoopla on the tube.

Home Page Contact Andrew and Fred About their adventure

© 1997 Frederick Felman and Andrew Broan, All rights reserved. No part of this web site may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means without permission in writing from authors or their agents.