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Day 6: Salome, AZ to Surprise, AZ

86 miles - Two Flat Tires, Wickenburg, Free Stay At Four Points Sheraton Hotel In Phoenix - February 25, 2011

Cyclist's Breakfast This was the breakfast I bought at a grocery store in Wenden, Arizona. Usually I ate something light in the morning - crackers, bread or maybe a package of trail mix.

The cherry cheese danish was definitely out of character. Apparently I was in a purple mood as seen by the grape Gatorade and 99 cent Arizona Grapeade. :)

Highway 60 Arizona

Western Arizona Desert

It was a cold morning as I rode on Highway 60 in the wide open desert.
Agulia, AZ Eleven miles to Aguila.
Cross Country Cyclist

Aguila, Arizona

At the 28 mile mark, I stopped at a Mexican grocery store. Outside I posed for a self-portrait, and yes, church pews were in front of the place. A little odd, but cool too. :)

I continued in the desert, knowing that Wickenburg, a possible destination, awaited me at 55 miles. That meant I was about halfway done.

Road Bike Tire
Flat Tire #1

Then it happened. It's the moment most cyclists will tell you they dread: I got a flat tire in the front wheel.

To be honest, I'm not the greatest at fixing flat tires, but I did fine, I suppose. I examined the tire, inside and out, and didn't find anything that caused the puncture.

The part I find most tricky is fitting the outer tire in the wheel, while getting that last part of the inner tube worked into the tire as well. Even though I had a "spoon," I've never learned how to use it well, and so I used my fingers to secure the tire fully around. It was taking a long time while I was crouched down with the wheel leaning against a fence.

Then a truck pulled over and a man asked if I needed help. An older guy with a scruffy beard helped me get that last part of the tire secure using both of our fingers and hands. As we were cajoling and fit the tire on, he asked if I had a "spoon." Then I showed a "spoon" in my pocket and I explained I always sucked at using it. Anyway, we had a nice and brief conversation, and he declined when I asked if I could take a picture of him.

Adjacent Photo: Holding up my front tire after airing it up with a new inner tube inside. :)

Metal In Tire
Flat Tire #2

So I was back in business and cycling well on Highway 60, heading toward Wickenburg. After about five miles, it happened again. Another flat tire in the front!

Once again, I stripped out the punctured inner tube and inspected the tire, inside and out. This time, I found a metal piece lodged in the rubber. Look at that!

I handled everything fine, and had more success at the final part of fitting the tire on the wheel. I aired up the tire and was back on my way.

Flat tires. Unfortunately, it is "part of the package" for road biking sometimes.

Wickenburg, AZ

Wickenburg, Arizona

Arrival in Wickenburg. I was already acquainted with this route from my previous ride that it was unnecessary to pull out my map today.

Wickenburg Massacre The Wickenburg Massacre happened here. Somehow this was never covered in my history classes or books. :p)
Bicycle Lane Special thanks to the Wickenburg planning department for the bicycle lane on the west side of town!
Wickenburg, Arizona I passed a few motels and reached the center of town. This particular intersection is where Highway 93 turns off and heads northwest toward Kingman and Las Vegas.
Dunkin Donuts in Wickenburg

Dunkin Donuts
Having biked about 55-60 miles, I rested at a Dunkin Donuts on the east end of Wickenburg. Truly, I could have stopped in Wickenburg and held my head high for a successful ride, but I wanted more. It felt like a day to be aggressive with the mileage.

Also three years ago, I did the same exact ride, Salome to Wickenburg, and wouldn't it be boring to have the same starting and ending points on this tour? Of course. I had to go!

One issue: Although my friend Phil planned to host me for the two nights in Phoenix, this first night I would need to find a motel in a northwest suburb of Phoenix. My research rendered not many options, which didn't make me feel good despite this need to continue riding.

Then I remembered something: A guy named Dan had recently begun following me on Twitter, who was supportive and encouraging of my bike tour. He stated that he had connections with a hotel in Phoenix, and could get me in for free. When he first tweeted me about it, I thought it was nice and took down his phone number. Maybe I didn't believe him, or maybe I figured it wouldn't work out, and so his offer didn't sink in. However, as I considered my lodging dilemna, I gave him a call. What the heck? I had nothing to lose.

Our conversation went better than I thought. Dan didn't just have connections; he was part owner of a hotel! He stated he'd "comp" me for my stay. Also, his hotel, located at Peoria Avenue and Interstate 17, would require some biking on congested roads with little shoulder. I asked, "If I get close, is there a shuttle service the hotel offers?" He said yes and arranged a manager to call me at 5:30 p.m., the estimated time that I'd arrive in the northwest part of the city.

Surprise, Arizona
Photo Above: Entering Surprise, Arizona. About three miles up the road were the first signs of suburbia: housing developments, stores and Highway 303 (a major beltway).

Surprise, Arizona

Highway 60 outside of Wickenburg was bumpy with occasional patches of gravel and rock particles. It was annoying! Soon the highway transformed into a four-lane highway with a median and wide shoulder. Most advantageously, a slight descent escorted me for miles as I sped toward the outer suburbs of Phoenix.

While riding, I got a call from the manager of the Four Points Sheraton Hotel at 5:20 p.m., asking about my location. I slowed down and took the call while riding with one hand on the handle bar. I told her I misjudged the distance and was still way out. I told her I would call her when I got closer, and then added, "Thanks so much for this! I'm a crazy person riding a bicycle across America and picking me up will really help!" She made it clear that she'd have someone shuttle me wherever I decided to stop. How generous!

Bell Road & Grand Avenue - Surprise, Arizona
Bell Road

I biked hard. I certainly felt some exhaustion, but I kept going. Probably knowing I could stop at any time and have someone transport me was a morale booster. Up to this point, 74 miles was my highest mileage for a day, and so once I reached 75 miles, I grinned. Everything else would be gravy. I was playing with the house's money. (Insert your own figure of speech right here!) I reached 80 miles. Then 84. Upon approaching Bell Road, I hit 86 miles.

For a short period, I considered continuing all the way to the hotel, but that would have been another eight to ten miles and I had no guarantee about the size of the shoulder on Highway 60 (Grand Avenue), which had become very busy with traffic. Also, when I'd turn left (east) on Peoria Avenue, I was fairly certain I'd have no shoulder. It just didn't seem like a risk worth taking.

I had another reason to stop here: When I biked through Phoenix on my first cross-country tour, my bike was stolen in a high crime area. On that ride, I also reached this intersection and turned east on Bell Road. Bell Road was horrible for road biking and after six to eight miles, I turned south and zig-zagged on various roads, which eventually lead me to a bad neighborhood where the bike was stolen.

This time, I didn't want any repeat problems. So I thought it was appropriate to channel some of that "Groundhog Day" stuff and stop at the very spot where I made a crucial and fateful decision on my last tour. A Starbucks was nearby at a shopping mall on my right, and that was where I called it quits.

86 miles. Impressive. I felt so proud of myself. Today, I no longer felt like an out-of-shape guy who hadn't trained to bike across America. I felt strong!

I called the manager of the hotel and within 20-30 minutes, a hotel employee arrived in a van to transport me to the hotel.

Four Points Sheraton - Phoenix, AZ

What is there to say? I was blessed beyond words to be staying at this top notch Sheraton Hotel for free. In my life, the only time I've stayed at hotels of this caliber is when I've been on vacation with my parents, and of course, my father paid for the room!

Upon checking in, the manager echoed what Dan said: Take advantage of the restaurant adjacent to the lobby. I could eat three meals there if I wished, and all I had to say was, "Charge my room." Everything was comped. It was such a generous deal that I would stay at the Four Seasons Sheraton Hotel for three nights.

Four Points Sheraton Arizona
Beautiful first floor furniture and lobby. Four Point Sheraton Lobby
I was overwhelmed by the bed. It was huge! A number of fluffy pillows of various sizes lay on the bed. Everything was top class in this room. I couldn't believe I was staying here! Hotel Bed
At the restaurant, I ordered a steak with a baked potato and sides. A Fat Tire microbrew was my drink. The chicken soup was superb. Look at all that chicken in there!

Special thanks to you, Dan. You made my time through Phoenix magnificent. I felt like a king.

Steak Dinner

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