Day Six – Slogging Along the Straightaway

Stopped at a store along Route 60

Taken by Dan, a fellow biker during a rest at a store on Route 60. Click on image to enlarge.

29 March 2011 (posted on the 30th from Wickenburg). Aguila, Arizona is about as different from Quartzsite as you can get. It is extremely poor, run-down, depressing. The motel I’m staying in (Burro Jim’s) is even less expensive than my accommodations last night ($50—cash). It’s a vinyl flooring and BYOS sort of place (bring your own soap), but the shower works and I was able to scrape off the dust-infused sunblock that left my arms and legs gritty and sticky.

Burro Jim's Motel and café next door

Fortunately, this place was on the east end of town. I'm not sure I'd have wanted to spend the night a half-mile back, where dogs wer barking and I had to outrun one as it nipped at my rear panniers. Click on image to enlarge.

Coyote Flats Café and Bar

This restaurant and bar is aptly named; I heard a chorus of coyotes outside the window of my motel room. Great food, and very reasonably priced! Click on image to enlarge.

Burro Jim's Motel

My room was the last on the left. The antique BMW with sidecar gave this place a bit more class than it really had--though a recent paint job helped I'm sure. Click on image to enlarge.

Motel room interior

Austere, but a great price. Very simple concrete-block construction. Note how the reflectors on my panniers reflect the light from the flash. Click on image to enlarge.

Motel room interior

This captures the rest of the room. I realize that I like carpeting in a motel room. Click on image to enlarge.

And I just had a GREAT dinner at the Coyote Flats Café & Bar next door. I’ve surprised myself on this trip (so far) that I haven’t been hungrier. I had a big breakfast (two eggs, bacon, and two pancakes) this morning, but had to force it down, and then I couldn’t even finish a late lunch of a club sandwich and fries around 2 pm. (I brought the leftovers with me in case there wasn’t a restaurant in Aquila.) Tonight I was hungry. Fortunately, I could start anew for dinner: steak (my first in who knows how long), baked potato, garlic bread, vegetable, and a margarita…all for $21. And superbly cooked—well, not the green beans so much (which I think were from a can). This is a find! I’m now typing up these reflections on the day’s activities in the adjoining bar, enjoying another of their $4.50 margaritas.

While yesterday’s pedaling was full of learning about farming in the Imperial Valley, today I was mostly passing by the same mesquite-scrub and creosote bush drylands (I’m not sure of the species).

I had gotten a slow start out of Quartzsite, owning to my late-night photo sorting and blog-posting last night. By the time I finished breakfast (at the highly recommended Darling Darlene’s), it was probably around 10 am—already hot.

Friends met on the road

Dan and Tom, who were on a fundraising ride to support women in Africa.

Right out of Quartzsite, I got on I-10 east. As I was coming down the entry ramp I noticed two bicyclists a few hundred yards ahead. One was stopped adjusting something, and I managed to catch up. We chatted for several miles, then as the grade increased I let them go on alone. They were traveling light (minimal gear for moteling it) and were on lightweight, high-performance road bikes. Great guys. We chatted while riding together and then later when I caught up to them while they were resting at a store along Route 60 (which we got on just west of Brenda).

ATV'ers at the store on Route 60

Normally, I shy away from folks on ATVs, but my biking friends had struck up a conversation, and they were very interesting. They had just done a 30-mile loop picking up trash. The father (?) is a geologist and showed us some of the jasper he has collected. In the nearby hills they had seen two desert bighorn sheep, which they were quite excited about. (Don't judge people by what they ride!) Click on image to enlarge.

Dan is from Louisiana and Tom from Ohio. They’re college buddies from way back, and I think this ride, for them, is much like mine is for me. Theirs is also a fundraising ride to aid women in several African countries: “Dan and Tom’s Ride for Tirzah.” Dan is a geology professor I think, but clearly a broader naturalist as well—from his comments on wildlife. I would have enjoyed chatting more with them. Unfortunately, they’re not following the Southern Tier route, but are angling to the northeast off this route tomorrow and will end up in Savannah, Georgia.

Later, I ran into an odd group of kids who were biking to Pennsylvania. The four of them, two guys and two girls were in their early 20s, on the second leg of a cross-country journey that took them from Pennsylvania to California and now will take them back home. They are seeking out information on natural building, permaculture, sustainability, intentional communities. Neat stuff, but I couldn’t quite figure them out. They have a loose-knit organization:

Three of the Cultural Recyclists

A ragtag band of explorers re-crossing the country by bike. Click on image to enlarge.

Fourth of the Cultural Recyclists

This gal had a milk crate on the rear rack and two plastic pales hanging from it. Not a picture of cycling efficiency! Click on image to enlarge.

Low-tech biking gear

I had to take a photo of this bike gear! Click on image to enlarge.

They don’t have any money, so try to work for meals or seek donations. We stopped for lunch together in Salome, Arizona. I gave then $20 toward their first real meal in two days, and a waitress  gave them another $20. The four of them were famished and spent forever figuring out exactly what to get—everything looked so good to them.

But their preparations seemed off. They weren’t your normal bicyclists in Lycra shorts and with high-tech gear. Far from it! One of the girls had a milk crate lashed to the rear rack and square plastic buckets hanging off it as panniers and a wire-cage basket in front. Both girls were biking in billowy dresses, and one of the guys had a Tigger mask or something mounted on his helmet. But, hey, they’re out there bicycling and connecting with people about sustainability. Who cares if they aren’t high-tech about it. They’re having the adventure of their lives. (Though I must say, if I were their parents, I’d be a little worried!)

Central Arizona Project Canal

Crossing the Central Arizona Project Canal--lots of water, lots of evaporation. Click on image to enlarge.

Irrigated trees

Cotton, alfalfa, and wheat aren't the only crops that are flood irrigated. I'm not sure what these trees are; nut trees of some type I'm guessing. It seemed odd that they weren't in leaf yet. Click on image to enlarge.

I left them to enjoy their lunch after talking with them about BuildingGreen, solar energy, and natural building issues; I had 30 miles left if I was to get to Aguila. I made it, though it was a bit of a struggle. The shoulder was plenty wide, but rippled with those heat heaves every ten feet or so. Sometimes I would ride out in the traveled lane, which was much smoother, but I’d have to watch my rear-view mirror constantly and drop back into the shoulder when a car or truck approached—Route 60 was little traveled, which was nice.

Bumpy road

When you see lines of flowers in the shoulder every ten feet you can be pretty sure it's going to be a bumpy ride! Click on image to enlarge.

I looked hard for a rattlesnake just off the road, but no luck—though I suspect I passed a few. I was struck by how many bottles there were strewn along the highway—well back from the shoulder. These weren’t recent bottles; many probably dated back 50 years (an earlier generation of dark brown bottles, long devoid of their beer labels). I passed one area that was fairly thick with Ocotillo, but it wasn’t yet in bloom. I stopped relatively few times to take photos—unlike the day before.

Looking west

Looking back to the west on Highway 60. Click on image to enlarge.

Looking east

And from the same spot looking east. Straight as an arrow as far as the eye can see! Click on image to enlarge.

For the last 25 or 30 miles I don’t think there was even a hint of a bend in Highway 60. Straight as an arrow. It might have been the perfect opportunity to do that reflection, which is what this bike trip is all about. But I found myself focusing, instead, on various parts of my anatomy that would have preferred to not be on a bicycle just then. I’m still breaking in my body—and sore. (Hopefully, these margarita’s will help in some way!)

Total miles today: 68. Cumulative total: 342.

Tomorrow, I head in toward Phoenix. I’ve arranged to stay with a Warm Showers host in Sun City, which is this side of the city—about 63 miles from my current location according to my iPhone. I have one initial climb, but only about 600 feet (a third of what I climbed today). It will be a lot hotter, though, as I drop toward Phoenix. The forecast right now isn’t as bad as it was yesterday, but they’re still saying  a high of 98°F on Friday! Tomorrow it’s supposed to go up to 88°; I had thought I might spend two days in Phoenix and visit a bike shop to see about getting a new calculator (the odometer/speedometer gadget that tracks our progress).