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Daily Journal: Arizona
Yuma to the north
rim of Grand Canyon National Park
(March to May, 2009)
March 6, 2009 Yuma to Antelope Hill 42.3 miles
Oh my god! my bike is so heavy, I'm not sure if I can pedal it for more than 15
minutes. Tim's bike is loaded too, I guess I went a bit overboard on food. Well
we will eat everything eventually. We stopped by to say goodbye to Mark and
Faye, I will miss Faye, we had so much fun while I was in Yuma. Sometimes
hitting the road is hard, leaving friends behind is a tough thing to do.
We were in luck the wind was from the west and we were riding east. We set off
from Yuma through Dome Valley and it was a beautiful ride through the valley. By
the time we got to Welton two and a half hours later I was ready for a break.
During our break Tim talked me into stopping at Antelope Hill for the night. I
really wanted to go on but it was a case of wanting to do more then I could
physically do, taking the last week off the bike really slowed me down. On the
other hand Tim seemed to be riding well. We began to set up camp at Antelope
Hill and Joe came by with our package from Ortlieb, it had arrived 6 hours after
we had left. I guess we will have to pick it up in Phoenix later.
March 7, 2009 Antelope Hill to Sentinel 52.3 miles
I woke to the sounds of bullets flying over our heads. No kidding! someone was
hunting in the wash near us and the bullets were flying. Hmm maybe we camped in
the wrong place. we quickly go up to pack and start our day. Only one day on the
bike and my arms feel like lead. Experience tells me that this soreness will
pass eventually. We had a light wind and headed towards Dateland. The rest area
near Mohawk was open and we met Cheryl's husband from the cycling club, he was on
a 100 mile+ ride. He commented that we looked really loaded. yes I know I bought
too much food. Yes Yes a pack rat I am and it is such a bad habit to break when
I get back on the bike. In late afternoon we pedaled into Sentinel and picked up
water at the only gas station and headed into the desert to camp. We camped
behind an old adobe building melting into the ground, it was surrounded by trash
including an old stove and refrigerator. It always amazes me that things left in
the desert 50 years ago are still there and look like there were left behind
just yesterday. The area was pretty trashed with broken glass too a sad sight to
March 8, 2009 Sentinel to mile 10 hwy 85.40.1 miles
The first thing we saw laying in the road was a rattlesnake and at 9 am it was
cold and the poor thing could not move, ok that was a good thing because I had
to ride within inches of his head. We stayed on the highway until Painted Rock
and rode the frontage road from there until Gila Bend, the road wasn't as smooth
but it was quieter than the highway.
In Gila Bend we stopped at the truck stop and I checked to see what the price of
a shower was, ughh! they wanted $9 for a shower or free with the purchase of 50
gallons of fuel, well that isn't going to work for me. Drat. We turned onto
highway 85 and into the abyss, nothing but the Goldwater bombing range for the
next 40 miles or so. our luck we had a headwind heading south and our pace
slowed down to 8 mph. We collected water in Gila Bend and Tim was miles ahead of
me even with the 2.5 gallons of water tied on top. I can see that the rest in
Yuma did him some good. Anyway, we had to find a place to camp and the only
trees were in the washes and the fence to the bombing range wasn't that far from
the road. We decided that it would not be a good idea to hide since we were on a
road to Mexico and border patrol was everywhere. Sometimes it is tough to find a
place to camp but this was proving to be exceptionally difficult. Then over the
hill we saw what we thought was a rest area. No it was an observation area for
people to watch the planes go by, novel. We pulled in and decided that was it, a
place for the night. The sign said, "Overnight parking permitted, NO Camping". Ok
we decided to park for the night instead of camp. HeHe.
We were expecting company at any moment but instead were eyeballed from two
different border patrol helicopters. No illegals here. No one bothered us all
night it even got quiet after midnight. one of the stranger places we have
camped for sure.
March 9, 2009 Mile 10 hwy 85 to Ajo 40 miles
The morning was pleasant and I even got to do some tai chi this morning, ah how
relaxing. Then the fun began immediately we started heading south and the wind
just continued to pick up with gusts practically knocking me off my bike, oh my
aching arms. Patience was in order today because it took more than 3.5 hours to
ride 30 miles. I can't remember the last time we were in a wind like this. Lucky
for us the wild flowers were everywhere, we had good music to listen to and
traffic was light. so we pedaled on and on.
We took refuse in town for a couple of hours, let the wind die down and camped
in the desert just outside of town.
March 10, Ajo to Organ Pipe 37.4 miles
What a difference a day makes, the winds died down. For some reason I have been
having stomach ailments, I am guessing the water in this part of Arizona is a
bit too salty for me. The ride to Organ pipe was stunning we came over a rise
and the view of the desert took my breath away, it went on for ever. It seemed
like it took forever to get to the campsite and rest. We could see Mexico from
our camp site.
March 11 Organ Pipe Wildflower tour.
A day off the bikes and I had an
opportunity to take the wildflower van tour through the park. We stopped at a
number of sites, the wild flowers are out but it has already gotten too hot for
some of them. This year the flowers are mainly in the washes.
March 12 Organ Pipe Ajo Mountain Loop road.
Tim and I decided to ride the
22 miles intermittent dirt/paved loop. Even though I was here yesterday the
difference between riding in a car and riding a bike is huge. I saw so much more
and enjoyed the smell of the desert as well. The ride was a bit hilly with a few
steep place, however the park has paved some parts of the road. We stopped at
Bull Pen and did a three mile hike through Estes canyon. This is where all the
wildflowers are, well worth the trip.
We went to an evening presentation, it was suppose to be about the geology of
the park and the poor girl who gave the talk obviously didn't understand the
geology. Geology can be intimidating to some and when she mentioned how old the
park was some people actually got up and left. I guess the age of the earth is
still a bit of controversy. Tim and I felt really bad for the girl it was all so
confusing and we didn't want to get up and leave as well. She could have used
some help from one of the many geologists in the audience.
March 13 Organ Pipe 3 miles.
A short hike around the camp ground and then
off to the visitor center to work on our presentation that is coming up at the
end of the month. Lets just say we were inspired by last nights presentation. We
always get funny reactions when we work on the computer in public places, the
Organ pipe visitor center was no different. It was nice of the Park staff to let
us work in their area.
We met a local ranger when he was gathering up food left behind by a couple of
campers, the birds were having their dinner before they got back to camp. We
asked him about the roads that are closed in the park, half the park has been
closed since 2002 when a park ranger was killed. He was patrolling the border
road and was gunned down by drug smugglers. Sad really sad. The Park Ranger we
talked to was armed to the teeth, when did a park ranger job become scary? He
said that a million dollars worth of drugs comes through the park a DAY, yes a
DAY. The border patrol stops most of it but some gets through. He also added
that the desert is now littered with trash where they come through with their
loads. We have lost a piece of our country and a life for money and drugs. This
really bothers me and I have no idea how to get it back. This is not a one way
street it is a supply and demand situation and the demand must be high for so
many to risk their lives for the money.
March 14 Organ Pipe to Ajo 37 miles
sunny, headwind, NE winds 5 to 10 mph
People can just be funny and not always in a good way. Tim was walking to the
bathroom when an RV pulled out of its space in front of him. He noticed that an
electrical cord was dragging on the ground, so he was trying to tell the driver
who had his window rolled up that his cord was dragging. So Tim pointed to the
back of the RV and said, "Your extension cord is dragging," the old guy in the
RV looked at Tim, obviously didn't understand him, and flipped him the bird. Tim
was flabbergasted, at the same time some other guy was trying to get the drivers
attention, the driver ignored him he just drove away. Easy going Tim let it
roll, it bothered me more than him. How incredibly immature and rude of the old
guy. He must of assumed something else, one only can guess.
on the road again with a mighty tailwind and to Ajo we pedaled. If it wasn't for
the huge tailing piles around Ajo I would think it was a nice town.
March 15 Ajo to Sonoran Desert Monument Wilderness area. 53.4 miles sunny
75 degrees, SW winds 10 to 15 mph.
A tailwind can make all the difference in an
easy or hard day, today was an easy day for the most part.
As we were riding along the fuel bottle for our stove that was on the back of
Tim's bike slipped out from under the bungee cord and fell into the road. A car
behind us ran over the bottle, yikes, that thing is full of gasoline, and
rupture the bottle, before we knew it a liter of gasoline was on the road and
our bottle was destroyed. Ut oh there goes dinner. With heavy hearts we rode
into Gila bend and picked up some bread for dinner. We also picked up 10 liters
of water and turned on to Maricopa road towards phoenix. Since it was Sunday
traffic was heavy and we took the first road into the Monument. No motorized
traffic allowed and we were glad to get to a quiet place in the desert to camp.
What a beautiful place to camp and so close to phoenix.
March 16 Sonoran Desert Monument to South Mountain 60.2 miles sunny 70 to
85 degrees by the end of the day.
The first half of the ride was a headwind from
the east and when we turned north at Maricopa we had a tailwind from the se. I
dreaded riding into the city today, I thought we would be on narrow roads with
lots of traffic. The road was a bit narrow out by Mobile but as soon as we
arrived in Maricopa we were in suburbia, a line was drawn in the desert, nothing
on one side and suburbia on the other. Sadly as we were riding up Maricopa road
towards phoenix the amount of trash on the side of the road really brought tears
to my eyes. I don't mean to complain about this all the time but the desert is
so trashed, I can't understand why people just don't care.
When we got to Phoenix we rode through Awatukee and the roads had bike lanes so
it was much easier to get around then we though. We met Jay through warmshowers
and we stayed at his house off baseline for the night. We had a grand time with
his too cats and he made us a great salmon pasta bake. Yumm.
March 17 South Mountain to Paradise Valley 28.5 miles
We left Jays house and rode the canal to central ave. then followed the Phoenix
Sonoran Bikeway through downtown then dreamy draw to Paradise Valley. It was a
nice ride, not at all what I expected in Phoenix. I am impressed with the bike
facilities including bike lanes, they have come along way since we left 7 years
ago. Since Tim and I were involved bicycle advocacy we know how much work it
takes to get things done. Thanks to all involved. We will be going to Prescott
in a few weeks and honestly I know I have to lower my expectations, we will see
what has changed since we left 7 years ago.
April 9 Paradise Valley to Lake Pleasant 34.7 miles
We finally got out the door about 1 pm after riding to the
house a couple of times because we forgot something. The ride out of town
was easy thanks to directions from Rich. We picked up water at the gas
station on Cave Creek rd. because we weren't sure if there would be water
farther down the road. It was a good call because there wasn't another place
with water. We camped in the desert near lake pleasant. Our last night in
the desert, I will miss it because I love the cactus and the wildlife.
However, summer comes to the desert early so it is better to move on before
the high temps get here. In the middle of the night I could hear coyotes
barking off in the distance, a sound that will always remind me of Arizona.
April 10 Lake Pleasant to Congress 50.5 miles
A tailwind is a beautiful thing and we had one all day long.
We also managed to set up an interview with the Daily Courier in Prescott,
cell phones can be handy at times. I really wanted to make it to Yarnell
where we camped almost 7 years ago but it wasn't in the cards. My legs were
spent so we picked up some water in Congress. I went into the restaurant and
filled our 10 liter bag of water. Tim was suppose to stay with the bikes and
wait. As I walked past the bar I heard Tim talking to someone inside. Ut oh,
Tim in biking shorts in the Congress bar is like being in biking shorts in
the outback of Australia. Yes we are 45 miles from home yet a lifestyle
away. We are in cowboy country where the folks here stay their whole life
and they don't always take kindly to cyclists in their way on the road. In
the bar I walked and there was Tim having a friendly conversation with a
local cowboy. The conversation stayed friendly, I am happy to say and I
dragged Tim out of the bar. We peddled back to Manzanita Creek and put up
our tent near an mine adit. Little did we know that we would spend the
afternoon in the opening of the mine. We knew a big storm was coming from
the south and decided it was better to hunker down in Congress where it is
low and warm rather than climb up to Yarnell where it could get below
Just before sunset the storm raged in and
as I lay my head on my pillow a huge flash of light blinded me and bam a
crash of thunder levitated me off the ground. ok I am awake now.
It rained and rained today. We were stuck in our tent all
day long, I didn't mind I had a book to read. The rain let up a little and
we walked over to the mine adit to sit out the rain there rather than our
tent where we could only lay down in or sit. As we were sitting there it
began to hail and hail hard. It must be snowing up top.
April 12 Congress to Prescott 45.7 miles
weather cleared and we packed our wet tent up knowing that we could dry it
later and Jim and Karen's house in Prescott. I felt bad because I know the
extra weight it adds to Tim's bike. It was an emotional ride up to Yarnell,
yes I know this place and it hasn't changed much. The climb wasn't as bad as
I made it out to be, 2000 feet down and another 2000 feet to go. As we were
riding to Wilhoit our friends Marcie and Tom stopped to say hello. Oh it was
good to see a familiar face. She assured me that dinner would be ready for
us when we got to Prescott. We took a break in Wilhoit and met some other
cyclists from Prescott. Now all we had was one last push. It was amazing, my
legs knew exactly where I was, I knew every turn and hill. The hills weren't
as bad as I remember. The saddest part came when we reached the top of the
pass, we use to stop at the top of the pass on our club rides. Only we were
in dense pine forest, now it was bare of trees, the indian fire that
occurred in 2002 wiped out the ponderosa pine stand here. I had tears in my
eyes as I reached back in my memory to what it use to look like. The forest
is something I didn't think would change much but a fire changes everything.
With a mixture of a heavy and happy heart we rode down White Spar into
Prescott. As we approached the Campground Jim was standing on the side of
the road with Karen, they were going to lead us through town to there house.
A good thing too I think I would have gotten lost. As we rode past Copper
Basin Road I wanted to turn to where I use to live but we couldn't there
were renters in our house and we couldn't just pop in. I recognized downtown
but that is about it. To my pleasant surprise there were bike lanes on Iron
Springs. Prescott had made progress with bike lanes I was worried that we
would be disappointed but I wasn't, we even saw more bike commuters then
when we left. Or was it I now noticed them? hmm.
April 13 to 28 Prescott.
Jim and Karen who we stayed with because our house is
rented were excellent hosts, we had our own room, enjoyed great evening
meals, played with their dogs Bear and Kali and even had a party with all
our friends. While in Prescott we had a book signing at Prescott Alternative
Transportation's house and Tim gave a presentation at the First Assembly of
God's auditorium, in my opinion it was one of Tim's best presentation's yet.
Prescott has changed a lot since we left seven years ago, I felt
disorientated for the first week, some intersections had changed so much I
didn't know where i was. I was worried that Prescott had not improved much
in the way of cycling around town. I was pleasantly surprised to see bike
lanes on many roads (I don't recall any when we left) and more cyclists
using them. The one thing that disappointed me was the lack of bike racks at
every grocery store I stopped at, ah well that can be easily remedied.
Another wonderful surprise was the new mountain bike trails that have gone
in, nice very nice. It seems more and more people are realizing that
Prescott is a great place to ride a mountain bike. During our stay we
painted our house, sounds like a simple task but it wasn't, our tenant
wasn't the easiest person to work with but we finally did get the job done.
April 29 Prescott to Cottonwood 48.7 miles
Leaving Prescott was hard to do, it seemed like we kept adding a day here
and day there. I was really in my comfort zone while in Prescott and that
was hard to give up. In the morning we rode out with Jim, Karen, Keith, and
Max. So we had an escort out of town again only this time we were heading
northeast towards Mingus mountain. Karen turned around in Prescott Valley,
Jim and Keith rode with us to the base of Mingus and Max rode to the top
with us, well he rode the last couple of miles alone and waited for us at
the top. He handed us off to Dennis, Debbie's brother at the top of Mingus.
Dennis rode his very cool recumbent to the top to meet us. He certainly had
the tougher climb then we did. We stopped in Jerome on the way down and had
a snack before riding to my friend/former coworker's house in Cottonwood. By
the time we got to Chris's house I was pretty beat, 48 miles and 2500+ feet
of climbing later my legs were jelly. Chris and Tammy have two kids, Angelo
is 6 and bella is 4. Cute kids but oh so busy, Chris cooked a great dinner
and Tammy baked us some cookies for the road. In the morning we were able to
sit on the back porch and watch the birds and wildlife along the Verde
River. A nice place to hang out for sure. It was good to see Chris again.
The ride - From Prescott we rode Willow Creek rd. to the Pioneer Parkway
through Prescott Valley to 89A, the road had a good shoulder most of the way
with just a few tight spots. It was 24.5 miles and over 2,500+ feet to the
top of Mingus mountain at an elevation of 7032 feet. From there is was a
nice downhill ride to Cottonwood. We took Mingus rd over to 89A and it has a
good shoulder as well. Cornville road had lots of traffic and not much of a
April 30 Cottonwood to Manzanita campground (oak creek canyon) 28.3 miles
We woke up to the sounds of birds out our window, the sun was
up and day seemed to start early. I felt a bit groggy from the
overindulgence in exercise yesterday. It always takes some time for my body
to adjust to being on the road again. Tammy, Chris and family had to get out
the door early but we stayed and enjoyed the view from the back patio. They
have a great view of the Verde river and all it's wildlife. Awesome. It was
late when we finally left Chris's house and started towards Sedona, 89A has
been upgraded to a four lane highway. It was a stunning ride into Sedona, at
least the rocks haven't changed since we left, although Sedona has grown
immensely. We climbed for what seemed like forever but it was only 20 miles
into town. With lots of room on the road I didn't mind the noise of the
traffic, it was easy to ignore. Sedona and the surrounding red rocks laid
before us and it was a stunning sight. It also brought back lots of
memories, I studied the geology and hydrogeology in this area and did some
projects in the area while I worked for the Department of Environmental
Quality, oh so many years ago. Somehow we all knew then that this place was
going to grow. As I pedaled along I wondered if they have addressed all the
wastewater issues in this town. There was a time when septic system failures
were common here, the red rocks are great for scenery and bad for
percolation of wastewater.
I stopped in the chamber
of commerce to get a map of oak creek canyon and locate the campgrounds. The
women behind the desk was mortified that we would ride up oak creek canyon.
Grant it it was a windy road but I didn't think it was death wish, matter of
fact the drivers were courteous and went around us. It is more about the
drivers then the road. That said if you are nervous in traffic, don't like
narrow roads with drop offs then you really shouldn't be on the road. If you
have cycled on New Zealand's narrow roads then this road is similar.
I knew I didn't have the legs to get to Cave Springs campground so we
settled on Manzanita campground just 6 miles up the canyon. It was a great
place to camp although expensive at $18 a night and there wasn't a shower.
We met a nice couple from Prescott, Ken and Holly and they were great
companions, Tim did a couple of hikes with them while I stayed in camp, I
was so tired I didn't want to go anywhere. Usually it is Tim who is staying
The ride - From Cottonwood we rode 89A to Sedona and up Oak Creek Canyon,
the shoulder is wide on the four lane highway. Traffic is heavy in Sedona
and there isn't a bike lane, they are working on it. The road in the Canyon
is narrow and windy. We didn't have any problems when we rode it. I would
not recommend riding in the canyon on weekends, traffic will be heavy. We
rode in between 3:30 and 4:30 and traffic was getting heavy. Lots of people
commute to Sedona for work. From Cottonwood we climbed about 3000 feet, this
is an estimate, wish we had our altimeter so we would be more accurate.
May 1 Manzanita campground to Observatory hill, Flagstaff 28.7 miles
One of the best things about cycling is the awesome sleep I
get. My head hit the pillow and I was out until sunrise. Even though we are
in the canyon the sun was on our tent at 7:30 am. Nice. We took our time
packing and saying good bye to our neighbors. We also had plans to stop in
Cave Springs campground to take a shower, we weren't sure when our next
shower would be. The climb out of the canyon was not as bad as I thought and
I was thrilled when we got to the top. Tim on the other had was tired, guess
he ran around too much last night. haha. We took a break and had peanut
butter sandwiches at a table between all the native american vendors, nice
jewelry by the way, and talked to any tourist who was interested in our
peanut butter sandwiches.
On the road again and Flagstaff couldn't arrive fast enough, I don't know
this part of the road as well and it seemed like traffic had picked up. We
rode into town around 3:30, picked up some groceries and took the bike path
through the NAU campus. Wow can I say Wow, it has changed, all the open
spaces are now full of buildings, I didn't even recognize the geology
building. Nothing like seeing things change and feeling old, hmm I have been
feeling like that lately. A big plus, tons of bikes everywhere, I would say
a large majority of students do not have a car, that a good thing because I
didn't see a place to park them. Lots of new buildings and add ons, I wonder
how many students go to school here now.
through town and had plans to camp on Observatory Mesa so we stopped in at
Thorpe park to pick up water but all the fountains were off so we went over
to the Army National Guard to get water. We were pointed in that direction
by Mike another bike tourist. He also told us about a bike gear swap in the
We rode up Observatory Mesa and Tim was
surprised how many houses were there, we had to ride about 2 miles in to
find national forest, it was yet another climb, oh my legs. Dinner was great
and we were fast asleep at sunset again.
The ride - The road is narrow in the canyon and the switchback start at
about mile marker 288 and ends at 290. Don't think your done climbing at the
canyon view because the road continues to climb until about 5 miles from
Flagstaff. This part of the road has no shoulder and on the climbs we would
usually ride in the dirt, not much room on the road.
May 2,3,4 Flagstaff
May 5 Flagstaff to Valle 52.3 miles
May 6 Valle to Grand Canyon Mather Campground 25.6 miles
May 7 Grand Canyon, hike along the rim
May 8 Grand Canyon
See index of
all (several years) Cindie's Journals here