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 2 2004-03-02Arizona page 2 of 86

In a light drizzle we walked a few blocks downhill to a mini-mart to buy a bottle of water and a few snacks. Back at the room, we mounted the bike and set off at 8:30 am, now in a heavier drizzle. The shoulder was good, the traffic wasn't too heavy, and the road led steeply up into the rugged canyon. The farther we went, the heavier the traffic, the narrower the shoulder, and the harder the rain. Globe was only 23 miles distant and we figured we could get that far, even in the rain. The uphill grind kept us warm. In fact we overheated even though the day was quite cold. We could see our breath, and our eye-glasses were fogging.

We both had mirrors, but about all I could see astern was Jenny's head. She was sitting smack in my rearward view. Anyway I had to concentrate intently on steering along the narrow shoulder, tying to avoid the rocks and glass, bits of wire and other tire-damaging bits. So Jenny gave me a running commentary on the traffic approaching from behind, as to whether I should pull over a little tighter, or whether I could relax a few inches out into the lane. Mostly we were pressed tightly against the ragged edge. A couple of times we had to ditch it off the side of the road because of some driver billowing up the hill pell-mell and not giving us an inch of leeway.

The Queen Creek Tunnel was fortunately only a couple of hundred yards long. It was a bit nerve wracking, though, because its two up-hill lanes had no shoulder. At least the tunnel was well lit, so the drivers saw us well in advance and gave us plenty of room. However, each car or truck was frightfully noisy as it zoomed past.

Several times in the morning we had to stop to clear the fog from our glasses with a small bandanna. The sky was now pouring a near freezing rain.

At one point the traffic was so frenetic that around one blind corner we walked the bike. When we got back on and resumed peddling we were surprised at how much easier it was than walking, thanks to the compound gears. The mountain bikes of last year were just the opposite: much easier to walk than peddle them steeply uphill.

The canyon was spectacular with craggy rocks, and despite the rain and traffic the morning was most interesting. Near the top of the hill the desert ecology began giving way to the occasional sycamore, oak, juniper, manzanita, and even cottonwood. We reached the top but didn't check our watch - somewhere around a couple of hours. The rain continued and at this elevation, 4,500 feet approximately, the temperature was nearly freezing. We peddled a few more miles along easier terrain and past the ramshackle community of Top of the World (mostly trailers and RVs).

A few miles farther and the front tire went flat. A couple of curious coincidences: first, it happened at a turnout with a large, sheltering oak tree. Second, it happened just before a long, steep descent; more on this shortly. Also, the rain was starting to turn to snowfall.

We leaned the bike against the tree, pulled off the wheel, and this is when Jenny started shivering. We were both soaked through with sweat and rain, but were no longer exerting to keep warm. So I advised her to pull out the first warm shirt she could find in our bag, which turned out to be mine. Also we both donned our rain jackets. I swapped the punctured tube for a new one, put the tire back together, pumped it up, and we started off again. But the tire still had a problem, so we again found ourselves back at the tree. I had not seated the tire on the rim properly, and it was bulging in one spot. This was an easy fix, simply deflating the tire, pressing it over the rim at that place, then re inflating. With this particular pump, though, achieving the recommended 110 pounds of pressure was a work-out.

By the time we set off again, the weather had greatly improved. The snow had stopped, the rain had stopped, and the sun was trying to force its way through the heavy cloud cover. We now realized that we were not meant to start down the hill with the snow falling - for some reason - maybe a potential problem with a truck, or slippery road...

After the first section of downhill we had to stop and cinch the hood of my jacket tightly around my face. The wind was positively freezing, traveling much faster as we now were downhill. A couple of times we had to let the cars pile up behind us, in places where the road had no shoulder. Because the pavement was wet, I was squeezing the rear disk brake to slow our speed, helped also now by strong headwinds.

Soon we reached the mining town of Miami. The larger town of Globe was 9 miles ahead, and we hoped to reach that before the onset of more stormy weather - though we did make a brief stop at a mini-mart for warming cups of hot chocolates. The sun had managed to show its cheery face through the clouds. Here the scenery comprised huge tailing piles, above which towered nearby mountains gleaming with their fresh load of snow. The towns had basically merged, and we followed the highway up and down all the way through.

At the eastern edge of the community, near the junction of highway 60, we stopped for the day at noon. The weather was foreboding, and we were more than ready for a break, to dry off and warm up. We checked into a motel, and outside our room spent well over an hour cleaning the bike of grit, grime and grease from the wet and wild ride. We also cleaned and oiled the chain, sprockets and gears, adjusted the front dérailleur which had been giving some trouble, and patched the flat tube.

Days mileage: 27 - considering the conditions and our decidedly poor level of fitness at trip's beginning, not too bad. Trip mileage: 95 Time: 4.5 hours.

The story has 86 pages. This is page 2.
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