Thursday, February 28, 2008
Having ridden the route in 2006 I knew what laid ahead at mile 26 out of Gila Bend just over the steel bridge and again beginning at mile 66 but kicking in big time at about mile 76--hills of the teener grade--13, 14, 15%. Their memory kept waking me--sleepless in Gila Bend, you might say. Could I haul 180 pounds (me, bike, and gear) up and over? Could my 62.5 year old legs, lungs, and heart do it at 2,300 feet?
I ramped up my speed over the steel bridge, switched into my granny gear at the right time, and riveted my eyes on this cow pictured on a road sign warning of free range cattle at the summit. With each pedal stroke I was one revolution closer, closer to that old summit and the cow. I made it, rubber side down, breathless, and self-satisfied.
I carry two water bottles mixed with HAMMER Product fluids with a 3rd one stashed just in case...I parcel a 20 ounce bottle every 20 miles, so I'm technically good for 60 miles.
At the "cow" summit I was down one bottle without a sense from whence my next water source might come. Just beyond the cow sign was an ADOT truck more than willing to give me a 20 oz bottle from their supply for the day.
A highway named Salome (pronounced Sa-lome') and a ramshackled, no-named convenient store at the corner of Salome and Old Hwy 80 run by Asian Indians are unlikely finds, indeed, in the low desert of Arizona. But, there they were, but bathroom facilities there were not. That's when I realized I needed to carry supplies for close encounters of the 2nd kind. Lucky for me my urgency could wait till the truck stop in Buckeye.
Lots of Free Range Cow signs along the route to Wickenburg and lots and lots of cattle guards--those fierce steel grates across the road over which cattle will not cross--a stark contrast to the Concentrated Animal Feed lots of Stanfield--these cattle have open grazing rights.
Road kills help define where you are geogrpahically. Nope, no dead jackrabbits, coyote, snakes, or cows along the roads of Chicago.
The climb to the summit overlooking Wickenburg seemed harder than two years ago; I'm sure carrying the extra weight of my gear made the difference. But the view from atop was worth all the effort. And, it was all down hill from there to the motel. Even needed to put on my windbreaker for the high 30's mph descent. I'd wait for the morrow to face the re-climb challenge to the Wicknburg summit.
Jack and Rochelle, friends from Mt. Prospect, are new snowbirds in Surprise, AZ, just 30 miles east of Wickenburg. Crazy, but it was easier to hook up with them in Wickenburg for dinner than in Chicago. Good company, good meal at Qorri's (pronounced Quarry's), by far Wickenburg's finest. Even had cloth napkins!