Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Duncan, AZ

Friends: I received the good news that bicyclists are allowed on Interstate 10 in New Mexico from a fellow touring cyclist, who had just come that way. He was eating a snack in the shade of a historical marker telling of a husband and wife killed by Indians in the 1800s nearby. There have been several such markers on this route, but none honoring the massacred and displaced Native Americans, not even on the 45-mile stretch through an Apache Indian Reservation.

Being able to ride on the Interstate for about 25 miles past Lordsburg, 36 miles from here, will save me 50 miles of zig-zagging. I'm not particularly looking forward to an hour-and-a-half of 18-wheelers zipping past me at 80 mph every ten seconds, but with my time running short to get home by Thanksgiving, those saved 50 miles are very significant. Those Interstate miles will be followed by about 150 miles of very lightly traveled roads, mostly hugging the Mexican border. I'm not sure what chance there will be of encountering "illegals" crossing the border, especially as I'm wild camping, but with the moon nearing full, if the camping seems ill-advised I can just keep riding. But I'm excited about whatever awaits me. New Mexico State Highway 9 from Hachita to El Paso has been beckoning me every since I laid eyes on its light gray thin line on the map. It appears to be one of those roads that touring cyclists live for and justifies our existence.

For the third time in the three thousand miles I have biked since leaving Telluride two months ago I encountered a ghost town when my map promised otherwise. The first was in Utah, then there was the one in California after 29 Palms that I was at least forewarned of, though somewhat belatedly. The latest was Florence Junction, about 50 miles east of Phoenix.

Thankfully I hadn't drunk my water bottles dry by the time I reached it and thankfully the service station, that was about all that comprised this dot on the map, hadn't been torn down, so I had some shade to rest in before continuing on to the next town, just 15 miles away. But still I was more than ready for my 48-ounces of ice cold Gatorade as I approached Florence Junction and most chagrined to have to make do with the tepid water in my water bottles to wash down the last of the hard boiled eggs David and Anna supplied me.

I have many more stretches of 50 miles and more between towns through New Mexico and west Texas, but with the cool of November, they are miles that I look forward to. Even though I have climbed back up to 4,000 feet after being down at 500 feet most of my time through Arizona, the terrain remains desert and desolate. But the gain in altitude also means cooler temps.

There was a 30-mile stretch yesterday after the Apache Reservation to Safford of cotton fields. It is harvest season. Stray white balls of fluff are scattered along the road and box-car sized bails of cotton dot the fields. I could push on well past sunset last night knowing I could pull off and camp behind any of them.

The Land of Enchantment awaits me. New Mexico is just across the border.

Later, George

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