28 February 2013

CYCLING THE USA - ARIZONA



5 February - Nogales – Green Valley - 75km

We crossed the border into the USA, which was just like any other border crossing, slow and drawn out, maybe even more so. We needed a permit and had to join the short queue. Although there were about 10 booths, only two were manned and it was 12h30 before we finally got on the road.

We did not even encounter a sign saying “Welcome to the USA”, but we were at least welcomed by the familiar golden arches of McDonalds!!

It turned out to be an interesting day on the road as we cycled past Tubac - an old village and Spanish fort, now more of an artist community than a fort. Later we arrived at Green Valley, a small village close to the copper mine. We stocked up with food from the local supermarket and set off into the desert to camp. The campsite was a bit of a disaster as it was so covered in thorns that we could hardly find a place to pitch the tents.

6-7 February - Green Valley – Tucson
We left Green Valley rather late in the day as Ernest still had to fix our punctured tubes, and he is already so slow in the mornings. LOL even the local sheriff came to check us out and asked what we were doing. He was quite friendly though and wished us well on our journey. At last we were on the road and cycled the short distance to Tucson. We had our first run-in with the police as they stopped us and kicked us off the high-way. In fact, it was not like other places where they just tell you to get off but we were given a written warning!!!

Once in the city we found a RV park amongst the many trailer parks, (yes, people do live in trailer parks) to pitch our tents. The following day we set off to look for a bike shop and some tire liners (to prevent further punctures). Tucson is a nice city and also very cycle-friendly with cycle lanes. We zooted around town, looking for what we needed; always a good way to see a city. Tucson has a modern University campus and has a nice young vibe with many bars, cafes and interesting shops in the downtown area.

8 February - Tucson – Picacho Peak SP - 70km
We cycled along with a nice tailwind until suddenly the wind changed and started gusting and swung completely around. We were told that a storm is coming so we picked up some food and pulled into the small, but pretty,Picacho Peak SP. I quickly pitched my tent and cycled to the viewpoint to see the sun set over the desert. It became bitterly cold and it rained during the night.

9 February - Picacho Peak NP – Coolidge via Florence - 88km
Fortunately the rain had stopped by the time we woke and although still windy and bitterly cold, the sun came out for us to pack up.   We had a pleasant day on the road and soon arrived in Coolidge; it was still early and we decided to carry onto Florence. Florence turned out to be a quaint and historic village straight out of a Wild West movie. After looking around we decided to head out on the road again. Cycling along we heard a cell phone ringing and found one lying in the road. We picked it up, and it was the owner looking for his phone. Wegave him directions and he soon arrived to collect the phone. The owner was rather pleased to retrieve his phone as he slipped me a $20 bill. We headed straight back to Coolidge and used the money towards a cheaproadside motel.

10-13 February - Coolidge – Phoenix - 97km
It was quite a bit further than expected to reach the city centre. We soon enough reached the outskirts but it was easily another 50km into town. Fortunately it was Sunday, and we had an easy ride into the city centre via cycle friendly cycle paths. We located Phoenix hostel without a problem and it turned out to be a very nice place. It is a rather small hostel but they had an old trailer at the back which we could rent for $25 a night (considered a bargain). The trailer was rather nice, although small, and we had a radio and heater making it rather cosy. The next day we went in search of an outdoor store and bike shop. We found both but did not buy anything at the bike shop. At the outdoor store Ernest found a sleeping mat and I finally bought a pair of shoes to keep my feet warm.

It was such a nice place that we stayed one more day, did the laundry, and waterproofed the tents. I took a walk around town and was intrigued that no one walks in Phoenix!!  It was midday on a Wednesday and there was not a soul around…… only the odd person pushing his trolley and talking to himself. People who drive past shoot you looks that clearly say: "You poor fool, don't you know no one walks here?" The whole place looks like a big, deserted movie set….very strange. The only other person I met on my walkabout was a sad looking teenager, trying to buy a joint off me!!!

Phoenix does, however, have the most amazing murals. Just a short walk around Roosevelt Row, the heart of the Downtown Arts District, showed that there is a very interesting side to Phoenix. I found the Phoenix library an interesting building with its mix of steel, aluminium, concrete and glass - it’s an impressive building. The interior is no less impressive with plenty of light and glass elevators; it is known as the Crystal Canyon.


14 February - Phoenix –Wickenburg - 103km
It was a beautiful, sunny day as we left Phoenix via the Arizona Canal cycle way; what a nice and relaxing way to leave the busy city (we heard that a body was found in the canal shortly afterwards. Gosh, good thing I did not see that). Once the cycle path came to an end we met a really nice cyclist who offered to show us an easy way to the highway. He cycled with us all the way to the highway, something which took him way out of his way. What a nice guy! 

After the gradual false uphill slog we reached Wickenburg town fairly late. We found an RV campsite before the sun disappeared, as it gets rather cold after sunset. True to the small towns of this area, Wickenburg looks a bit like an old wild South-Western town with a historic centre. Old-fashioned-looking shops and inns line the streets and there are even some lifelike displays, making Wickenburg look like a movie set. The locals are rather friendly and the campsite owner was no exception we had a long chat and then he offered us beer and the use of the electrical plug in his office.

15 February - Wickenburg – Peeples Valley - 50km
It was bitterly cold in the night and we took forever to pack up and get back on the road. It was a steady climb all day and therefore rather slow going. It is a rather vast and desolate area, dotted with small and interesting villages with equally interesting people. At the tiny settlement of Congress we chatted to one of the old-timers, Dave, who gave us some of the history and told us about the many Snowbirds still prospecting for gold in the valley. What an interesting area…..people still prospecting for gold!!!

Americans seems genuinely interested in what we are doing and will often just come up and talk to us. Most are amazed at where we come from and how long we have been on the road. We continued up the hill past the quaint village of Yarnell and on to Peeples Valley. We pitched our tents behind a closed bar and settled in for the night. And what a cold night it was.

16 February - Peeples Valley – Prescott - 67km
We awoke to find our tents covered in ice……. brrrrr. We slowly warmed up in the morning sun before setting off up the mountain. Soon after leaving Peeples Valley we turned off onto a back road past more “movie set” villages, like Kirkland and Skull Valley. Kirkland is no more than a historic inn/bar/store. Skull Valley was no bigger but at least there was petrol and a shop. Arizona is a rugged state with desert-like spaces and rough mountains. We continued uphill, and although it was sunny, there was still plenty of snow on the Southern slopes and shady sides of the road. It was slow going as we climbed and climbed up to Prescott.

17- 21 February Prescott
Ernest came down with a cold and I wanted to look around this interesting looking village so we decided to stay another day. We found a room in the “6 Motel”, a place with fantastic showers and clean rooms!! 

We had a drink at the Palace Saloon - a famous bar on Whiskey Row. The story goes something like this: “On July 14, 1900, a fire raged through Whiskey Row. Quick thinking locals managed to save the 24ft Brunswick Bar. After lugging the solid oak bar across the street, these resourceful citizens then continued the party. The Palace Saloon was rebuilt in 1901 and still houses the famous bar.”

Winter-storm Q moved in and we decided to bunker down and wait the storm out. There is not much to do but visit the local museums in weather like this. During one night it started snowing, and in the morning the town was covered in white…….my word, this is absolute madness!!! I need to get out of here in a hurry!!!  It is incredibly cold and I now seriously wonder how to move on from here.

22 February - Prescott – Ash Fork - 85km
We awoke to blue skies, so we quickly packed the bikes and set off. It was still bitterly cold but it was a beautiful ride past granite boulders and beautiful lakes. It was not exactly easy riding as it felt like we were going uphill into an icy cold wind. By the time we arrived in Ash Fork, I weakened and we took a motel room on the historic Route 66. This tiny village has all the paraphernalia, such as vintage cars, old style neon-ad signs, and labelled gimmicks, such as cigarette lighters and so forth. How cool it this?

23- 24 February - Ash Fork – Seligman - 44km
We headed west on Route 66. Built in 1926, the historic Route 66 stretches from Los Angeles to Chicago across 8 states. Now nicknamed “The Mother Road”, it is fun, kitschy, retro call it whatever you like, I love it!! In the icy breeze we didn’t go very far today, and as soon as we reached the small town of Seligman I knew I was not going any further!  Give me a retro motel, a restaurant called the “Road Kill Café”, a bar playing music from the sixties, and I´m staying put!!

The next morning we woke to a bitterly cold wind blowing at 47km per hour and gusting to about 56 km per hour…….. WOW!!  It was an easy choice to stay in our warm and cosy room.

25 February - Seligman – Truxton BLM - 84km
The sun came out, the wind dropped, and we were on our way. We followed Route 66 West, past the interesting settlement of Grand Canyon Caverns (where one can see real cowboys, hats, boots, guns and all!) to Truxton. The road ran through the Hualapai Indian Reservation and past the tribal capital of Peach Springs. At around midday the wind picked up again and we battled into an icy breeze.

The good thing about this part of the world is that there is a thing like BLM-land, where one can camp for free. We found the gate, which the owner of the store in Truxton told us about, and turned in. All one needs to do is fill in the register and take a permit. On leaving, you make sure to take your rubbish with you and that the gate is closed. How cool is that?!  Soon after sunset it once again became bitterly cold and we quickly made a fire to keep ourselves warm. I felt like an old time cowboy sitting by the fire, eating tinned beans and corned hash-beef with tortilla chips.

As soon as the fire died I dived into my tent. It was a bitterly cold night, I wore nearly everything I owned and still felt cold. I woke in the morning and found my water bottle (which was in the tent, next to me) frozen stone hard!!

26 February - Truxton – Kingman - 63km
We waited for the sun to defrost us, had some coffee, and followed the road past vast plains of nothing but tumble weed. We stopped at Hackberry with its rather interesting general store!  (The owner told Ernest to move his bike, as it may fall over and onto his $150 000 antique Corvette, and he did not feel like shooting anyone that day!!) We picked up a bit of a tailwind and rolled into Kingman in good time. It was time to say good-bye to Route 66 and head north in the direction of Las Vegas, which I believed to be much warmer.

27 February - Kingman – Chloride - 38km
The road out of Kingman leads over the Coyote Pass. Once over the pass we were straight into a freezing cold wind again. After grinding into the gusting breeze for some time, we turned off into the hills to inspect the old mining town of Chloride. Chloride turned out to be a fascinating town, where once there were more than 70 mines producing silver, lead, zinc, turquoise and gold. Today Chloride is a bit of a ghost town, with eccentric locals and a few old buildings, including the old jail and Arizona’s oldest continuously operating post office. We found ourselves a room at the Sheps Miners Inn (an old adobe-style miners living quarters) and set off by foot to explore the village further.

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