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 92 2004-05-31Arizona page 84 of 86

At 5:30 am we set off from Buckeye, and peddled east toward Phoenix on Yuma Road for several miles before it changed into Buckeye Road. The town of Buckeye was fairly remote and rural, but soon we started seeing more and more housing tracts replacing the farm fields and sage lands.

The traffic was very light this Memorial Day morning. The only signs of life for many miles were the lizards and rabbits. Within an hour we had cycled into Avondale, which is part of the West Valley arm of the great metropolis of Phoenix. The closer we got to the city, the more traffic, especially semis because this was an area where there were a lot of truck terminals.

We sensed that the day was going to be a hot one, so did not linger too long at our rest stop in Avondale. We cycled on east, then at 51th Street we turned south and stayed on this road for nearly 30 miles as it bypassed the city center and made its way between Sierra Estrella and South Mountain. This gap in the mountain ranges is where the Gila River makes it way west towards the Colorado River. We were now in the rural farmlands of the Gila River Indian Reservation. The cycling was very pleasant, even with a slight headwind and a slight uphill climb. We left the irrigated fields behind and for much of the way the land was open creosote and cholla cactus, with the occasional palo verde and mesquite trees. The traffic was very light, now that we had left most of Phoenix behind.

While cycling along this road we encountered a bicycle rally, with hundreds of local bicyclists, all headed the other direction. Included in the mix were a couple of recumbents, but no tandems. The group was spread out for miles, and at one point we stopped to talk with a few of them.

Our road eventually angled southeast, then east, and crossed Maricopa Highway and then several miles later, Interstate 10. At this intersection was a small store so we stopped for our second rest stop of the morning and drank lots of ice-cold, watered down fruit juice. The day was already very hot, and we knew that drinking plenty of liquids would be crucial for us today.

East of Interstate 10 the road became Riggs Road and we peddled along this busier road for another 4 miles before turning south once again. We were now on Highway 587, which is the road we had cycled last year during our Canada-to-Mexico trip. But this time we were not headed to Mexico. Instead, our goal was simply to return to our starting point, our home in Arizona City.

In the small Indian town of Sacaton was a small park with shaded picnic tables, and something we truly appreciated - a hose. I turned the faucet on, and we stood under the flow of water, completely drenching ourselves. It was wonderfully refreshing. With our shirts still dripping we followed the 2-lane highway as it climbed onto the lower flanks of the Sacaton Mountains and wound through a gap. Then we turned south again, crossed the Interstate again, and cycled on a newly resurfaced road toward Casa Grande.

The traffic here was a lot busier, and in one place a fellow in a large gas hog of a pickup roared up behind us, blared his horn, and swerved in front of us with his tires screeching, cutting us off as he turned onto the side street. This has happened to us many times, and I think part of the problem is that the drivers completely misjudge the bicycle's speed. When someone wants to turn, they almost always try to pass us first, rather than slow down and wait about 1.5 seconds for us to clear the intersection.

Mid-day we stopped at a sandwich shop in Casa Grande. The temperature was in the 100s, but home was less than an hour's bike ride away and we were anxious to keep going. Checking the tires, we found the rear one low, but not so low that we couldn't simply pump more air into it and keep going.

In another mile we turned east onto Jimmie Kerr Blvd and followed this 3 or 4 miles, past familiar shops and other landmarks. We crossed under Interstate 10 then turned south onto the road that would take us into Arizona City.

We commented several times how odd this felt, after 3 months and over 6,000 miles, to be cycling back into our home town. We talked about our departure day on March 1: the feelings of awkwardness and unfamiliarity with the bike, our bodies that were not yet lean and mean, and those overwhelming number of miles that we hoped to peddle. We compared that to how we felt now: as Jenny put it "two leathery lizards on wheels," cranking out the miles, very much in tune with the bike and comfortable on just about any kind of road.

"Two leathery lizards on wheels"
Before we crossed Interstate 10 for the last time we stopped next to a strip of grass outside an old motel. Here the sprinklers were watering the grass: another chance to drench ourselves and cool down.

Then after a couple more miles we crossed our outbound track. Circle completed!

We stopped at our local market to buy some fresh oranges, and soon were cycling down our street and turning into our driveway. The time was 1 pm, the temperature 105 degrees, and we were home.

Day's mileage: 99

Trip total: 6,716 miles [^!--6,689 mi--^]

The story has 86 pages. This is page 84.
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