Hello America Bicycle Tour

Twice Across the US, Coast to Coast

Bicycling Adventure #2

92 days, 6,700 miles, Mar-Jun 2004

Ray & Jenny Jardine

Day 1 2004-03-01Arizona page 1 of 86

Arizona City to Superior, 65 mi.

Half an hour to departure, we were at the sewing machine, making orange flagging for the bike. The night had been in the 40's so we were in no hurry to depart in the morning's chill. By 9:30 all was ready, so we wheeled the bike outside, climbed aboard, peddled out onto the street and made a 360 in front of our house, then set off on our adventure. This was unique, starting a trip from our house. It certainly was convenient not having to go through the airline routine.

Our first objective was the post office. Jenny was carrying a large bag of half a dozen packages going out to customers. From there we rode north to Battaglia road then east for several miles. The wind was out of the east southeast, so the going was slow. But we were in no hurry. Also we were taking it easy on our first day. Every half hour we'd stop for a rest.

In a few miles we came to our first hill: the overpass over Interstate 10 near Eloy. This was the first hill we'd ever taken the bike up. All our training, several months worth, had been on flat ground. Not by choice; for there are no hills near where we live. We didn't train on this road because it is busy with traffic.

To our relief the bike went over the hill without difficulty. Crossing the RR tracks and Frontier Street, we turned onto 11 Mile Corner Road and headed north. Now the wind was on the beam, though it still slowed us down quite a bit. We went past the Eloy drop zone, at a distance, and watched the Twin Otters climbing to altitude, and then the load of skydivers descending under canopy. At altitude the plane was flying very slowly into the wind, telling of high winds aloft. High cirrus streaking across the sky portended another storm system heading in from California. The winter had been a succession of storms and today we were taking advantage of a lull between them.

Near State Route 287 we stopped at the County Fairgrounds and rested on a bench overlooking a few 14-inch goldfish in a small pond. The morning had started out quite chilly and we had dressed in several layers, but the day was finally warming so we removed a few.

We turned east on to the 287, then at La Palma headed north on 87. This route was very familiar because we had driven it nearly every day for several months while skydiving at Coolidge. The land here is flat, part of the Sonoran Desert, but with large irrigated fields of cotton and alfalfa. The shoulder of 87 was 4-feet wide, but very rough. The high-speed traffic was rather heavy, as usual here.

We reached the city of Coolidge, and at its northern end stopped at a fast-foods restaurant and shared a small burger and fries. This small portion would be ludicrous later on. But our appetites will take several days to kick in to high gear. Again on 287 we peddled east what seemed like a long ways, gently uphill 9 miles to Florence. The shoulder was narrow and the traffic intense. This kind of riding is very fatiguing and although we largely ignored the high-speed vehicles, we still had to watch in our rear view mirrors, and remain on the alert.

North on 79, we were approaching the rugged mountains to the east and north. Here the traffic was much reduced, the shoulder was excellent -smooth and wide -and the surrounding desert was beautiful, with saguaro and cholla, barrels, ocotillo and creosote. All very pristine and beautiful, especially with the rugged Superstition mountains looming ahead. This is also where the fatigue started setting in. We had two strenuous activities. One was peddling, the other was merely sitting on the bicycle.

The sky had clouded over with fierce looking mammatus, and the temperature was starting to drop. We weren't too worried because we had never seen mammatus cause problems at ground level, though we certainly do not discount the possibility. We were looking forward to reaching Florence Junction and the convenience store because we were nearly out of water. Eventually we reached the junction, made the quarter-mile detour to the convenience store, only to find it closed. We had to backtrack the quarter-mile to get back on track. In this area the roadsides were brilliant gold with Arizona poppies. They were so extraordinarily beautiful that we stopped a few times for photos. Perhaps such adventuring heightens ones appreciation of nature. For after all, hundreds of cars were whizzing past per hour, and no one was stopping to look at the flowers.

The road began climbing in earnest, and for the first time I shifted the bike into low gear, that is the smallest of three rings forward. But it didn't work. Such was the price of training on flat ground. We pulled onto a gravel side road, leaned the bike against a wire gate, and retrieving the screwdriver from the tool bag I adjusted the front dérailleur stop. This solved the problem. Here we enjoyed a 20 minute rest, eating the last of our home-grown grapefruit with great enjoyment. Once again, there is that connection.

Proceeding on our way, we ground slowly up the long, steep hill in low gear, assisted now by a 5 mph tail wind. The shoulder was a foot and a half wide, and the traffic was frenetic, but at least most vehicles pulled over and gave us space. Eventually we reached Gonzales Pass at 2,600 feet, meaning that we had climbed about 1,000 feet from our house. Now came the downhill run, a couple miles of high-speed coasting where our speedometer topped out at 35 mph. Just before the Boyce Thompson Arboretum we passed by a javelina road kill. The animal was large with beautiful fur, and there was no mistaking it was a wild pig. As we passed by the entrance to the arboretum, the fellow at the kiosk waved. A few more shorter hills brought us to the town of Superior on the very last of our legs. Because the weather was deteriorating, we were glad to find a motel room. We collapsed on the bed for at least 10 minutes feeling thoroughly spent.

Hot showers, then we wandered across the street for dinner. We could only eat half of it. Jenny washed our biking garments in the motel room's sink, and we hung them from the ceiling to dry. Outside the weather was quite chilly so we were glad for the room's heater.

Day's mileage: 68 Trip mileage:68 Hours peddled: 5.

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