Day 11 – Lots of Miles, Aided by a Strong Tailwind

From Route 70

Looking out from Route 70 in the San Carlos Apache Reservation, along my route today. Click on any image to enlarge.

3 April 2011. A few people have suggested that it doesn’t really matter whether you biking east or west; you’ll find headwinds either way. Well, so far on this trip, I’ve made the right choice by a long shot! Go tailwinds!

Today, I had a 20-30 mph wind coming out of the south, west, or southwest most of the day—stronger as I got further east. Once or twice when I had to pedal the other way (going into a grocery store, for example), it became ever so apparent that it would have been A LOT harder pedaling west today!

Looking east

Looking east along Route 70; a cold front brought in light clouds and strong winds today.

Looking west

From the same point, looking west.

With over 80 miles to get to my WarmShowers host, I got off fairly early—around 7:30. My left knee was bothering me all day, though, so the long miles were hard, despite the tailwind.

Shortly after leaving Globe, I got off Route 60 onto Route 70, which had a lot less traffic. In general, the shoulder was pretty good, though bumpy. I often rode on the white line and would move into the shoulder (across the rumble strip) when a vehicle came up behind me. It was much smoother and more comfortable on the traveled lane.

Saguaro cactus

These may be the last of the saguaro cactus I see. I've left the Sonoran Desert behind as I head toward New Mexico.

Gila River

Passing over the Gila River.

Lyons Club founder monument

Who knew that the founder of the Lyons Club was born in Fort Thomas, which I passed through--in the blink of an eye.

Most of the day I was biking through the San Carlos Apache Reservation, with long, long stretches of straight highway with the same sparse vegetation on either side. Far less dramatic than the route I pedaled yesterday!

When I checked in with Mons Larson (my host in Safford), he reminded me that I should provision for two days, since there’s really nothing between here and Silver City, New Mexico. If all goes well, I’ll camp tomorrow at Black Jack Campground, which is a National Forest campground (though no water). So I stopped at a grocery store and struggled to find something that will tide me over (along with all the nuts and granola bars I’m carrying).

Swirling dust

Along some stretches of highway this afternoon I had to wear a bandanna to shield myself from blowing dust and sand. At least I was going in the right direction!

Windy in Safford

The wind was really blowing when I reached Safford.

I had a great dinner with Mons, his wife Sarina (who suffers from MS), and their younger son. I learned a lot about the local economy (copper, cotton, and corrections), the hardware/building supply business, difficulties with drugs in the San Carlos Reservation, and biking in the area. Mons is quite an athlete and both runs and bikes, though he hasn’t yet done touring.

Mons’ wife Sabrina was active in the discussions, though speaking is a challenge for her. The MS came seemingly out of nowhere, without explanation. Mons noted that it’s better to get cancer than full-blown MS.

Pima cottom fields

Right across the highway from the Larson's home are cotton fields, where the famous Pima Cotton is grown--among the best cotton in the world. Here, they are pre-irrigating, before planting the seed.

Mons Larson

My host for the evening (I'm actually staying at his parents home, next door).

Well, tomorrow is a really big climb day. We’re at 3,000 feet here in Safford at the Gila River. I’ll climb over one mountain ridge up to about 4,800 feet, then drop back down to about 3,600 feet (Gila River again), then climb over a pass at 6,295 feet. If I make it, the distance is 52 miles. It will be a challenge for sure! I’ve raised my seat slightly, at Mons’ suggestion, hoping that that will help my knees.

Total miles today 86, average speed 14.25 mph (wind-aided). Total miles since my start: 626.