Day Before #12 -
Steve's Trip Report Index -
Next Day #14
Day 13: Safford, AZ to Glenwood, NM
86 Miles: Two Difficult Passes Climbed; Entered Into New Mexico - February 13, 2008
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|Leaving Safford, I captured two pictures showing the grand
view of Mt. Graham, which stands at 10,720 feet above sea level.
I then traveled northeast on Highway 191 towards Three Way, AZ. The
bottom photo was the view as I looked back on the route I had just taken.
It was a very lonely portion of road and I took my time knowing the importance of
warming up for the climbs soon ahead.
Above: Highway 191 in Tollgate Canyon leads to the Greenlee County line,
a vertical and narrow county in far east Arizona.
| The conditions were chilly with some wind on
this lengthy uphill route with undistinguished scenery.
True, I already had recent climbs under my belt east of San Diego
and near Globe (Day 12),
but this was an early morning pass after riding 102 miles the day before!
I cycled well, especially mentally, thanks
to my experiences on
formidable Colorado passes. I was also
expecting days like this anyway as I approached the mountainous
regions of the Southwest and the Continental Divide.
But a pass is a pass and it was indeed a tough one.
Bend after bend in the road, I engaged in mental tricks to encourage myself.
I replayed upbeat 1970's and 1980's music over and over in my head, and resolved once again that
I would have a large dance party in
my small Colorado town to
celebrate my feat when it was all done.
My dear friends Derrick and Anne, who generously picked up my mail, opened bills, and paid them using my checks,
will surely be there, I thought. I went into my own fantasy world, envisioning the
dance floor and the sound of tunes, thinking I would recall this
very moment of me struggling up this eastern Arizona pass. It helped.
NOTE: As of this writing (April 11, 2008),
the dance party has not yet happened, but it will. It's just a matter of
timing and working out some details! :)
||As it always is with climbs, the long,
butt-kicking ascent in Tollgate Canyon was followed by a sensational descent on the other side!
I covered ground so quickly that I did not bother to inconvenience myself to stop and take photos.
A large construction area along a very steep portion of highway near Three Way
prevented any shoulder. The highway narrow to two extremely slim lanes for traffic.
It did not matter though, because the
construction area reduced the speed limit to 25 miles per hour
and I was descending at that speed anyway. I confidently grabbed the
center of the lane and road downhill along with the other vehicles at the same speed. Oh the glory!
Thank heavens for the one and only convenience store and a
nearby porto-potty for construction workers at Three Way, AZ - the junction of Highways 191,
78 and 75 in Greenlee County. See Mule Creek on the sign?
That small New Mexico town was along the route.
I pedaled on Highway 78 (photo above)
eager to continue toward the New Mexico state line, only 20 miles away. As you can see, another mountain
range was out there - the Big Lue Mountains.
This road was very quiet, really quiet! There was nothing but myself, some nice views,
the sound of occasional wind gusts, and a vehicle in either direction every five minutes. That was it!
Yes, bicycling across America was an intensely lonely experience.
I'd like to think I'm well acquainted with the experience of loneliness. I have been single my entire life,
work alone, run a business alone, cook all my meals
alone, live alone, go on vacations alone, etc. Ah, but this
trip provided me with a new experience of loneliness.
A week before my trip, a supportive woman at my church enthusiastically
suggested I would have all sorts of wonderful interactions with people, where God in his masterful planning,
would set circumstances just right for me to be a blessing to someone.
"You will be Jesus to the people you meet!" she insisted.
After two weeks, however, the results were clear:
I could have been Jesus to more people if I would have stayed home!
Out here, it was just myself and the road, my bike and my body. I simply did not encounter many people.
Imagine spending 5-7 hours everyday on a bike on the side of the highway
without speaking to another person. I saw hardly any bicyclists for much of my 45 day journey
and definitely none on today's route. My
social interaction was limited to when I sought some kind of service, mainly
eating at a restaurant, buying supplies in a store or paying for a motel room.
Lastly, being exhausted after a day's ride did not provide much ambition to seek meaningful connections either.
I thought a lot about this woman's suggestion while cycling and perhaps I was too cynical.
Now representing Jesus is definitely a noble endeavor, but I observed an ironic twist:
I needed people to be Jesus to me! I was the one without a car,
appearing as a transient in their town or sitting by myself in restaurants.
I was the one who was sometimes confused, frustrated and anxious
about being in an unknown environment, or acutely needing an encouraging word to boost morale.
On this journey, I was the lonely pioneer embarking
on a task few would ever consider doing.
Heck, it seemed like the vast number of people seemed
anethema to the concept of exercising regularly.
Even though my heart warmed as I thought fondly
of supporters back home in
the reality in this world of highway shoulders, motels
and convenience stores was most people
did not give a rat's ass
about who I was or what I was doing.
It was a profound loneliness indeed.
|The unnamed pass over the Big Lue Mountains on Highway 78 was quite a workout.
At least the temperature warmed up into the 70's with sunny skies again.
This sloped grade would be a great place to train for bicyclists living in eastern Arizona.
Speaking as a Coloradan, it definitely earned my respect. I was very joyous at the summit!
||A few more miles and I was into New Mexico!
||After entering New Mexico, I still had another 30-35
miles to finish. The tiny of village of Mule Creek,
which consisted only of a post office and scattered ranches,
was kind of depressing amidst the isolation and chilly bursts of wind.
East of Mule Creek, the terrain was hilly and the temperature dropped into the 50's.
Adjacent is the easterly mountain
view at the junction of Highway 78 and 180.
Above: The sunset's "color show" west of Glenwood, New Mexico. Regretfully,
this was the only picture I took in this very small and sleepy mountain town.
|I cycled north on Highway 180 for 20 miles to reach Glenwood, New Mexico on yet
another quiet two-lane road.
I really should have taken more photos of this peaceful mountain town
with absolutely no cellular phone service for anyone. I ate at a bar & grill,
stayed at the Whitewater Motel with inviting western decor in my room and watched the weather reports for the next day.
I gained more mileage in this two day period than I had ever in my bicycling career.
No doubt I was sore and exhausted, but my body was indeed acclimating to the trip's physical demands.
My legs were beginning to feel real strong as
I walked around town with a strut that exuded confidence.
Special Thanks: This was one of many days where Jennifer in Oklahoma,
an attorney with access to the Internet practically around the clock, helped immensely.
Often, my riding distances were determined by available
lodging on the route. The day before this ride, Jennifer had
already located motels including this one in Glenwood, even calling to inquire about vacancies and rates.
There would be many days like these where Jennifer's research
brought great peace of mind to me. Thank you Jennifer! :)
Day Before #12
- Next Day #14
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