We set off at 5:30 am into an already warm morning. The large town of Blythe lay 20 miles north and a little bit east, but to reach it Highway 78 had to bend at right angles - first west a few miles, then north a few miles, then west again, then north again - around large fields of agriculture. Highway 78 ended at Interstate 10, so just before we reached the Interstate we turned east on a side road and proceeded on into town.
We stopped at the first gas station/convenience store and enjoyed a "breakfast" of hot chocolate and toasted bagels. While we sat outside eating and relaxing, a fellow rode up on his bike. This fellow was definitely not a city-type bicyclists (wearing the expensive cycling jersey and matching shorts, and riding an expensive bike) nor was he the typical bike bum on a beat up old bike, hauling a trailer full of aluminum cans and other road debris. He was a mixed breed. He rode a mountain bike that had a small pile of gear strapped on the back. He wore a battered old sun hat, and his face and arms were darkly tanned and slightly grizzled, a bit like lizard skin from spending a lot of time outside, which is rather what we look like. We learned that he has biked all over the southwest, and he knew a lot about the roads and towns in this area. He explained to us in fine detail how to find the bike path that would take us through Phoenix. He had ridden on Interstate 10 many times and seemed to know every bump and hill along the way. He said the Highway Patrol didn't mind if bicyclists rode on the Interstate.
Following the fellow's directions we peddled to the old main street though Blythe, which had very little traffic this Sunday morning. We passed a bank sign reading the temperature: 84 degrees. The road led us to a pedestrian crossing of the Colorado River. We were amazed at how much water was flowing here. No wonder this area draws so many boaters and floaters.
The Colorado River serves as the boundary between California and Arizona, and so crossing it we said goodbye to California and hello again to our home state, Arizona. Now we were on the final leg of our journey. At Ehrenburg we cycled onto the Interstate and began our eastward push toward Phoenix. The shoulder was wide and newly resurfaced, which meant clean of debris. The traffic was surprisingly light, and a highway patrol car whizzed by and the officer ignored us. The wind was at our backs, making even the uphill gradient seem friendly. The river here is only a few hundred feet in elevation, and peddling away from it we climbed gradually but steadily into and through the arid Dome Rock Mountain range. The slopes of the dark hills were covered with creosote and cholla cactus.
One hour and seventeen miles later we pulled off at Quartzsite for a rest. At the truck stop, we went in to the busy gas and service station and found the trucker's tables with table-side telephones. This was what I had been needing for a couple days now, a place to plug in my notebook computer in order to take care of some internet business.
When we left Quartzsite the day had warmed considerably. The key element for us today - in this hot climate with few towns along the way - was water. We had to know where the next store or gas station was. After a few miles of level terrain, Interstate 10 began another gradual ascent through the Plomosa Mountains then leveled out on the Ranegras Plain. Now we were in Saguaro cactus country. The tops of these tall and chunky cactus were covered in flower buds, but few of them were flowering yet. When they blossom, the tops of these cactus are covered in large white flowers.
Because of the excellent road conditions and our good progress we decided to stay on Interstate 10 rather than take the north route (Highway 60 via Wickenburg) into Phoenix. The nice shoulder surface ended, but the shoulder remained wide with a stout rumble strip. The only problem was the astounding amount of truck tire debris on the shoulder. It was like trying to peddle through a mine field. I had to constantly steer right, left, right, left, back and forth, trying to avoid the flak.
We cycled on into the hot afternoon, stopping every hour or so, whenever we came to a shady overpass. Each time we would inspect the tires and pull out any bits of wire debris. These stops were not terribly restful because we could not sit down, but at least we could get out of the hot sun for a few minutes and drink another quart of water. We carried 7 quarts of water and 2 quarts of fruit juice.
At one such rest stop Jenny found several truck tire wires in the rear tire, and sure enough, one of them had punctured the tube. We patched it, but when we tried to pump up the tire, the tube wouldn't hold air, so we knew there must be another small puncture in the tube. We pulled out one of our old spares and simply replaced the damaged tube.
At a freeway rest stop we pulled off and were pleased to find a faucet. We shared the water with the honey bees, and doused ourselves in order to cool our overheated bodies. We could have taken a longer rest here, but the social ambiance wasn't too inviting and the picnic tables didn't have much shade this late in the day, so we pushed on.
Over 100 miles into the day, and at 5:00 pm we stopped in Tonopah, and enjoyed cold drinks and a most friendly chat with a couple of clerks at a store. With a strong tailwind we cycled on eastward, past the large domes of the Palo Verde nuclear power plant. The shadows were growing very long; rarely have we cycled this late in the day. By the time we reached the turnoffs to Buckeye the air was beginning to cool ever so slightly. We don't know what the high temperature had been today, but we would guess around 100.
Finally we pulled off Interstate 10 at Buckeye, and thus ended our longest stint of freeway riding yet - 114 miles. The time was 7 pm, and we had been riding for 11.5 hours. We had come a long ways today, 146 miles altogether - our highest mileage of the trip, with the monster tires no less.
Day's mileage: 146