Days 9-12, Posts 9-11: On my way to Tucson to visit my cousin Karen. Had a great visit and hospitality from a cousin (once removed?) in Phoenix. Rode into Phoenix yesterday from Wickenburg, about 69 miles to the NW. All is good - rain is long gone and the sun is intense. One thing about Phoenix that I knew already from experience but had forgotten - it is the most car dependent place I've ever been - and it may also be the worst city for biking in the US. Puts LA to shame -- maybe it's the unrelenting 3-4 lane roads with no bike lanes, nor sidewalks for that matter... in any case it's taking me a long time to get out of here today... but I am now in the southern outskirts....
I think I'm now sitting in the only restaurant that isn't fast food in Coolidge, AZ, an old agricultural town that is also the site of the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. Predictably the restaurant is Mexican (which I like and have been eating regularly). Unfortunately, they don't serve alcohol, which normally doesn't bother me but on a cycling trip, ...OMG, that requires a great personal sacrifice. Or deep and patient acceptance, at least.
Somehow I got here after realizing about 10 miles south of Chandler that my rear tire had suddenly developed several serious aneurisms, as in scary looking bulges. Ironically I had already stopped at an REI in Tempe because I was thinking it might be a good idea to swap out my back tire - with no knowledge of how seriously right I was - only to learn they had little inventory because they were in the process of moving their store. So I decided I would get a new tire in Tucson instead. Bad choice. I considered turning back but navigating Phoenix again was definitely not appealing, so instead I decided to continue on and count on good luck. After all the tire was holding even though it looked scary. And so far so good - I made it this far, but after checking out the tire again after I stopped for the day - it would be a miracle to make it another 70 miles. And there are no bike shops nearby.
But there is a Walmart about a mile away. In the morning I will see if they stock 700cc x 35 tires - it seems unlikely, but anything is possible. Even at Walmart. If not, I'm not at all sure what my plan B will be... but I can assure you there will be one, even if I don't know what it is until after it happens...
Check out my road cycling activity on Garmin Connect.
Day 10, Post 9: So here's how Plan B worked. Walmart stocks tubes, but not tires, at least in Coolidge, AZ. So I was up shit creek, so to speak. And as once before in recent memory, a Good Samaritan came my rescue (shit creek always requires divine intervention, I suspect). The first time I was saved was last summer when my derailleur blew out about 70 miles out of Pittsburgh. My host in Pittsburgh was Kittie Verdolini, and she kindly drove 70 miles to retrieve me and my bike, and then delivered us both to an REI, where a great mechanic replaced my failed derailleur within 30 minutes. Today I was saved my by my host in Tucson, my cousin Karen MacCluskey, who drove 70 miles to pick me up (what is it about me, 70 miles and bike disasters?) Karen then kindly drove me to an REI in Tucson. I had new tires in about an hour (it took awhile to decide which pair was best for my purposes). For those of you who don't know, REI stands for Recreational Equipment Inc, a national chain for outdoor adventure gear. I go to REI when I can because I am a member - which means I get a 10% dividend beck per annum on purchases.
So I am now sitting in Karen's lovely apartment in Tucson, chilling after sitting in a hot tub. Karen is working right now, but when she returns we'll go out for a meal. Tomorrow Karen will drive me to Safford, AZ because she has business there (a resourceful musician, Karen does property insurance assessments as a day job). So by this time tomorrow, I will be back on the Southern Tier cycling route, about 2 days ride from the New Mexico border.
It's probably a good thing I had an unplanned day off from cycling. When I woke up this morning, my legs were letting me know they really needed a rest. And I'm noticing other tell tale signs – I've been starved all day, even though I'm eating (which makes me think I need to restore carbs) and I've been kinda lazy. In fact, I took a relaxing soak in an outdoor hot tub (a perk at Karen's complex). Boy, did that feel good! ...Quite the place to be at this time of year.
By the way, I didn't have a chance to mention how great it was to see my cousin Andrew (once removed or second, I don't know which - it's all relative anyway 🙃). He's got a really interesting job at ASU working with foreign students. It's fascinating how our current national trends are negatively affecting foreign students who chose to study here. Our numbers of foreign students are going down with a lot of foreign talent choosing to go to Canada, Australia and England instead. An unintended consequence is that we lose out on foreign talent for our own STEM based workforce for up to 3 years after a student graduates. We need to be careful - in higher education, "America First" might well make us "America Third or Fourth" (or last).
Look for a pic in another email. I'll try to get a selfie with me and Karen (who looks a lot like how I remember my Grandma Ruth). Pretty women, those MacCluskey's!
Day 11, Post 10: I woke up to a beautiful day in Tucson. Yesterday was uncharacteristically cloudy and windy. Today the air was calm, the sky was blue and the Tucson sun made its gentle warmth known immediately upon stepping out of the shade. Waking late after a fabulous dinner and late evening in downtown Tucson, my cousin Karen and I gathered together our belongings, and I hoisted my bike (with it's beautiful new tires) into her van. We set off for Safford, AZ, where Karen was going to drop me off (back on the ACA "Southern Tier" trail) and head to a home nearby to conduct a home insurance assessment. We set off in a whirlwind of chatter. I get teased for being a talker, but I don't think I can compete with my cousin Karen. I checked the news on my phone while Karen drove. OMG, "Obama wiretapped Trump Tower"! Well... you can imagine how much fun we had with this blatantly diversionary headline. We made up new headlines-- "Putin's semon found on Hillary's dress!" "Schumer secretly uses Mike Pences AOL account to send out Mike Pence's confidential emails!" Before we knew it we had driven around Mount Graham, which as it turns out, is a peak in the Pinalenos Range.
Curious about what we were looking at, we checked Wikipedia. These mountains are a "sky island" range that is typical of ranges isolated by desert valleys. The desert areas between the mountains prevent flora and fauna from traveling to or from nearby ecosystems. As a result, the mountain ecosystems are isolated, and distinct sub-species can develop. For example, The Mount Graham red squirrel is an isolated population of red squirrels and probably it's own sub-species. Safford, Arizona is one of two nearest towns to the Pinalenos.
I have been here for several hours, and have seen no squirrels. Maybe tomorrow....
Day 12, Post 11: I left Safford, AZ this morning at about 8 o'clock and cycled (mainly uphill) for for about 35 miles before stopping for lunch in a wonderfully funky town called Duncan. It's only about 7 miles from the New Mexico border, so I was in that lovely state soon after. I then cycled another 47 miles to the southeast, combating an increasingly intense southerly wind. It was cloudy and cool all day. I arrived in Lordsburg, NM just as the sun was setting, with the southerly wind now blowing at about 15 miles an hour, which would have pitching a tent quite tricky. So I found a motel on the outskirts of town for which I paid a cycling rate of $35. The towns on the Southern Tier route treat cyclists well, because I'm sure we help out economically. My room is clean and the hotel manager is wonderfully weird, so I have no complaints. I know I'll sleep well tonight.
Seems that Lordsburg has several interesting historical features. With a current population of just above 3000, Lordsburg opened the first municipal airport in the state of New Mexico. In 1927, Lordsburg was one of the stops on Charles Lindbergh's transcontinental "Spirit of Saint Louis" air tour. The other fact is not as positive - Lordsburg held as many as 1,500 Japanese Americans in a Japanese American-internment camp operated by the U.S. Army during World War II. On July 27, 1942, shortly after the Lordsburg Internment Camp was opened, Private First Class Clarence Burleson, a sentry at the facility, allegedly shot two Japanese American internees under questionable circumstances. One of the victims, Hirota Isomura, apparently died instantly. The other, Toshiro Kobata, died before dawn. After a military investigation and court-martial, Burleson was found to have lawfully killed the two men.
Check out my road cycling activity on Garmin Connect.
As usual, I'll send a second post with pics. I know they don't always go through (cell service can be dicey), but I'll do my best. Tonight I may send several batches of photos - I got a lot of good shots today....
More to come,