Day Seven – Wickenburg and Into the Megalopolis

On Route 60, passing Black Mountain

I never thought I'd look forward to a climbing up and around a mountain, but after about 100 miles of straight-as-an-arrow roads, it was great to have a change! Click on image to enlarge.

30 March 2011. Today was a relaxing day, though I did pedal 66 miles. I got a much earlier start than the day before: leaving around 7 am. After the straight-line Route 60 from Quartzsite, this section finally had a bit of a hill and some curves. I never imagined I would like a hill!

As we rose (only about 600 feet), the vegetation became more interesting. Saguaro, hedgehog, barrel, and prickly-pear cactus, Ocotillo (is that a cactus?), yucca (Joshua Tree), palo verde, mesquite. From my bike, I scanned Black Mountain hoping to spot a desert big-horn sheep, but no luck—and it would have required extraordinary luck.

Joshua tree

Sometimes called the "Dr. Suess tree" for its form, this tree-like species of yucca (Yucca brevifolia) is found in parts of the desert Southwest. Click on image to enlarge.

Desert vegetation

Prickly pear cactus and Arizona's state tree, Palo Verde, are adapted in very different ways to drought. More on that in a future post. Click on image to enlarge.

Toward Wickenburg

Dropping down into the gentrified town or Wickenburg, population 5,000. Click on image to enlarge.

By 9:30, after various stops to take photos, I had made it the 25 miles to Wickenburg. There, I found the Pony Espresso Café, where I spent the next three hours relaxing, posting yesterday’s blog, reading comments from earlier blogs, sending e-mails, Skyping with Jerelyn, and having an early lunch.

It felt very civilized. They had a table outside (in the shade), and the temperature was perfect. The battery charge on my laptop held up fine.

I’m really impressed with Wickenburg. Very different from the towns I’ve been through, which seem mostly desolate and destitute. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was even a foreign car dealership in the town! I gather it’s somewhat of a tourist town—focused around dude ranches.

Following my relaxed late morning at the café, I continued on down Route 60. But no sooner had I gotten started than I veered off, attracted by a sign for the Hassayampa River Preserve. I was thinking I might find a shady patch of green grass to catch a short nap. It turns out it’s a Nature Conservancy preserve—and a really nice one. I spent a good hour there and could have spent much more time checking out the vegetation and wildlife. I got the first use out of the small pair of binoculars I brought.

Hassayampa River

This small stream flows year-round with crystal clear water. The area is protected by The Nature Conservancy. Click on image to enlarge.

Hassayampa River 2

Another shot of this beautiful, meandering stream. It was mid-day when I was here, but an early-morning walk would be filled with bird song I suspect. Click on image to enlarge.

For most of the Hassayampa River’s 100-mile course, it flows underground, but here at the preserve the river (really a stream) surfaces with its crystal-clear water. Apparently, it flows year-round, providing for lush vegetation and rich birdlife. More than 280 species of birds have been seen here, along with lots of lizards, mammals, butterflies, and lots more.

Tiny lizzard

I didn't notice until I uploaded my photos that this little lizzard (maybe 4-5" long) has two tails. As a defense measure, some lizzards can lose and then regenerate a tail (a handy trait if a bird grabs you by the tail). Somehow, this one regenerated two tails. Click on image to enlarge.

Hummingbird feeder at the TNC preserve

Some of the males hummingbirds frequenting this feeder had brilliant red heads. I haven't looked up the species. I think this is female. Click on image to enlarge.

Definitely worth a visit. It’s just outside of Wickenburg (heading southeast on 60), on the right-hand side. Oh, and after walking one of the trails (Lion Trail), I did find a place in a picnic area to lie down—shaded by a fan palm tree.

When I finally got back on my bike for the not-quite-forty mile ride to Sun City, where I’m staying, it was around 2:30 pm. This part of the ride was all on a four-lane, divided highway (Route 60). With a speed limit of 65 mph and lots of traffic, it’s more like an interstate highway, but it was an uneventful ride. A few construction zones actually worked in my favor by closing off the right-hand lane so that I had it all to myself and could pedal on the traveled surface, which is much smoother than the shoulder.

Into Sun City

Traffic picked up as I got into the more developed city. Click on image to enlarge.

As I got into the city—Surprize, Sun City, Phoenix, Tempe, Mesa, and Scottsdale all run together into a massive suburban sprawl that’s 50 miles across—the traffic picked up (six-lane highway) and the biking became less fun. But I made it, just when I told my hosts I’d likely get in: around 5:30.

The pool out back

Larry and Trudy were wonderful hosts with a beautiful place. Apparently there is a restriction against hanging clothes on the fence, though, so I had to drape my washed clothes on the arms of chairs. (I brought little in the way of clothing, so wash out what I bike in each evening.) Click on image to enlarge.

Larry and Trudy's place

The Burro Jim Motel this is not! Click on image to enlarge.

Larry and Trudy

Posing next to my bicycle. Click on image to enlarge.

It’s a very nice house, right on a golf course. The retired couple does a lot of outdoor activities and couldn’t be more gracious.

On Thursday I’m going to ride about 25 miles to Mick Dalrymple’s place across-town (closer to my escape route out of the city). Mick is active with the Arizona green building community.