Our motel room was very small and the train tracks were very near. Trains passed by all night and were very loud. And so was the traffic on the highway, also nearby.
The eastern side of Flagstaff was one long strip of motels and restaurants, there must have been a couple hundred of them. The train tracks paralleled that. Downtown were a number of shops catering to the tourists and a number of eateries, catering to the downtown coat and tie set. The south part of town was a lot of newer construction, more motels, big chain stores, more interesting college campus oriented businesses.
This morning the sky was clear, the morning very chilly, the streets were quiet and perfect for riding. We set off at 5:20 am and followed Milton Road south, following signs to Lake Mary Road. After about 45 minutes I finally stopped to put on my shell jacket to warm up. Jenny had worn hers from the start.
Lower Lake Mary was dry except for a meandering creek that had attracted 3 or 4 Great Blue Herons and a number of ducks. Yesterday's rain had left a beautiful veil of mist hanging over the dry lake bed and a welcome freshness to the air. The lake bed comprised grasses in various shades of green, and was surprising long and narrow. It went on for mile after mile.
Eventually we reached an earthen dam which this marked the end of Upper Lake Mary. This was a genuine lake, although not a very deep one. And again, it went on for mile after mile. The whole region was very clean. No litter or signs of abuse from ORV or loggers. The local forest protectorates (Coconino National Forest) were doing a great job taking care of the region.
As the morning began to wear on, the mist lifted, the paved road began to dry, and our hands began to warm and regain feeling. Soon we came to Mormon Lake, a vast lake bed, dry except that the recent rain had created some spongy areas. Along the road we saw quite a lot of scat that looked like bear. All through this region the forest was Ponderosa.
We followed the main road south past Mormon Lake. The further we went, the more the traffic began to build. The highway had virtually no shoulder south of Mormon Lake, and this was the case all the way to Payson. Also there were a number of uphill stretches so we did a fair amount of walking.
In a downpour we reached Clint's Well and stopped at the restaurant there. It was thronging with customers. We parked our bikes by the window where we could see them from inside, as usual. We dried our arms, heads and faces with a hand towel, then went inside. We enjoyed a very nice and expedient lunch. We never know what to expect on the road ahead. This restaurant was a very pleasant surprise. Also there was a nice gas station/c-store.
The next 10 miles had many uphill sections. The traffic was much heavier now that Highway 89 had joined our route. The rain continued, and at one point was cascading from the sky. We found that the drivers were intolerant of bicyclers in heavy rain. From the top of the last hill the road started leading down. In the heavy traffic we could not go fast because of the danger of falling off the side of the road. The drivers were about 50/50 between considerate and not particularly caring if they killed us. Three or four of them even blared their horns. This made things worse for everyone. By law, bikes are not illegal on such roads, but the drivers tend to be extremely possessive.
The final couple of miles to Strawberry were steep, as it descended the Mogollon Rim on its western edge. Peddling through Strawberry and Pine felt very strange because we had scoped this region out earlier in the year with the intent of hiking through here. The thought that we would be bicycling instead of hiking had not crossed our minds. From here to Payson the traffic was almost unbearable, but we were even more determined to reach Payson. There were quite a few hills we had to walk up, but no more rain.
Eventually we rolled in to Payson. It was rush hour and the place was absolutely jammed with frustrated drivers. Just to see the look on their faces reinforced the thought that automobiles do not belong on this planet. At least that was our thinking at the moment. About one mile south we checked in to a motel. We were surprised when we tallied our day's mileage and found we had peddled 95 miles.