An easy exit from the big city

SUPERIOR, Ariz. — I’ve read several online journals by cross-country cyclists who had braved the traffic in Phoenix. So I had some apprenhensions on Tuesday morning as we set out from Tempe, a part of the desert metropolis, at about 7:15, not long before rush hour.
Gonzales PassBut the exit from the big city was surprisingly easy and pleasant.
We had spent two nights at a Motel 6, a short ride from the campus of Arizona State University. The early part of the ride took us down University Drive, past restaurants, coffee shops and students heading to early classes.
The Adventure Cycling Association map then routed us through quiet neighborhoods in Mesa, a Phoenix suburb.
We passed the spring training facility for the Chicago Cubs, a pleasant neighborhood designated as the Evergreen Historic District, an orchard of orange trees that stretched about a mile along Adobe Road, the Dreamland Villa for “senior adult living,” a yard of bluish-green fake grass that looked as out of place as an ill-fitting toupee and several schools, proof that Arizona has a generation of young people and is not just a place for seniors to retire.
The urban sprawl ended after Apache Junction, a little more than 20 miles into the ride. And then the tough part of Tuesday’s route began — a steady uphill slog into a range of mountains crossed at Gonzales Pass, at 2,651 feet.
It wasn’t particularly steep or as high in elevation as passes I’ve ridden through in Colorado. But the temperature again was at about 100 degrees as I was approaching the summit.
A few clouds appeared on Tuesday, the first we’ve seen since San Diego. But they were fragile, wispy things — long, narrow trails of vapor that seemed more for show than any useful purpose, like shade or rain.
Entering SuperiorThe pass took us through the Tonto National Forest, with hundreds of suguaro cacti dotting the sandy slopes. On the western side of the pass was Dromedary Peak and on the eastern side Picketpost Mountain, both stark, arid desert peaks.
We finished the day at an RV park in Superior, a former copper-mining town that has seen better days. I ended up riding just over 58 miles for the day. We’ve now ridden 500 miles since leaving San Diego on Sept. 20. Only about 2,660 to go.



Filed under Cycling across America, Journeys

4 responses to “An easy exit from the big city

  1. Kathy Murphy

    I look forward every day Jim to the update of your adventure. I roll out of bed with my various aches and pains ready to start the day with a whine, then I remember you. Thanks for the continued inspiration. It’s now a high point of my day.

    • Kathy,
      I feel honored to be a high point of your day. I sometimes start the day with a whine, too. Like this morning, when we faced a very tough climb through the Superstition Mountains. But the weather was an ally today — temp in the mid-70s, nice cloud cover and a following wind. Take care. I’ll keep trying to provide reading material.

  2. Roger

    Congrats on the first 500 miles. How is your body handling it? Legs? Back? Hands?

    • Roger,
      This 66-year-old bod is holding up remarkably well. We had a tough climb today through the Superstition mountains to Globe, Ariz., but the weather has turned cooler. It was in the mid-70s during the hardest part of the ride with nice cloud cover and a cooling tailwind up the mountains. Thanks again for all your help and hospitality in San Diego.

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