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Day 9: Tempe, AZ to Globe, AZ

73 miles - Biking With Tricia, Mike and Jo's SAG Wagon, Cycling Thru Queen Creek Tunnel To Globe - February 28, 2011

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Final Morning At The Four Points Sheraton

I was dressed in my cycling attire and at the breakfast buffet in the hotel restaurant by 6:05 a.m. This morning, I would leave the Four Points Sheraton Hotel in Phoenix and ride well out of the city.

During my stay, I connected with many friendly employees, many of whom made of fuss over me when they learned I was bicycling across America. In the adjacent photo is Sandy (left) and Doreen (right), two waitresses in the restaurant. During my first breakfast, Doreen boldly told me she loved my long, naturally curly hair. That totally scored points with me! :)

My always faithful buddy Phil, accompanied with Beth, shuttled me from the hotel to Southern Avenue. As I was getting ready in the parking lot, Phil pointed a finger at me, I think, as a gesture to tell me to be safe. :)
Road Bicyclists Based on Tricia's input at the Arcadia Tavern yesterday, I decided to bike across eastern Phoenix via Baseline instead of Southern Avenue. Three years ago, I cycled on Southern Avenue, which seemed fine, but I was informed Baseline was a more relaxed road. (Having done both, I can vouch this is true.)

So a few miles into my ride, I met Tricia at an intersection on Baseline in Mesa. Now Tricia is quite an athlete herself: She swims, runs and bikes regularly, and participates in cycling races and triatholons. Go Tricia go!

Tricia biked with me for about 2-3 miles, before turning back to go to work on this Monday morning. Isn't this a nice picture of us? Up to this point, I had three people bike with me. Touching!

Baseline Road, AZ Not long after Tricia left me, a true bike lane appeared ... I want to guess this is near the border of Mesa and Gilbert.
Baseline became greatly relaxed in Apache Junction.
Tall Saguaro Plenty of RV parks and retirement villages dot the roadside scenery in Apache Junction.

One disappointing observation: I saw hardly any saguaros in metropolitan Phoenix. C'mon people, this is the desert! Saguaros are what make you unique. Grow them. Protect them. Celebrate them. :)

I had to stop to photograph this large saguaro at the entrance of the La Casa Blanca community.

Palm Trees Baseline continued for many more miles before forcing me to turn north to Highway 60.

I had my first major rest at a Chevron near the on-ramp for Highway 60 in Apache Junction, and adjacent was another RV park named Golden Vista. The place was teeming with beautiful palm trees!

Many older folks were walking in what appeared to be their morning exercise routine. I had a nice conversation with a retiree from New York who "snowbirds" in Apache Junction in the winter. Too bad I didn't get a picture of him.

Before leaving, I got a call from Mike and Jo, my friends with the 1964 Cadillacs in their yard. They reminded me that today they'd be my support vehicle as I biked out of Phoenix. Biking on Baseline was relatively easy riding, but now that I was about to enter Highway 60, I certainly welcomed their help.

Florence Junction, AZ

Florence Junction, AZ

I biked well on Highway 60 as it exited Apache Junction (the last de facto suburb of Phoenix) and traveled east along the Superstition Mountains. Mike and Jo called again to say they were on their way. I told them my route. "You can't miss me. I'm wearing red, white and black," I said. :)

Florence Junction

I don't believe Florence Junction is an actual town, but it's on maps. (Similar to Vidal Junction, California!) This particular area has value to me from my first cross-country tour. Synopsis: At this spot, I had trouble fixing a flat tire and wasted a few inner tubes and at least an hour until I figured it out. Then, as if another thing could go wrong, I inadvertently looped the chain, making it impossible to coordinate the chain around the cassette with the back wheel.

Unable to unloop the chain, I had a meltdown. Angry. Flustered. Wanting to quit. Even a crazy spiritual thing happened. Stranded for hours, eventually Phil drove to rescue and transport me back to Phoenix to regroup. You can read the full story in my book Under a Triumphant Sky, a memoir about that first trip.

Anyway, this time I sped through the area without any problems. It was nice. :)

Arizona Highway Knowing this was the same area, I felt the compulsion to take lots of pictures.
Arizona Highway

Arizona Scenery

TOP: Onward I continued. This sign indicated I was only 14 miles from Superior and 38 miles to Globe. Superior was my "safety destination," but I was pretty sure Globe would be the goal for today. I was making good time, but I also knew a lot of climbing awaited me.

The Arizona Desert

SECOND: Look at all of those beautiful cacti and plants in the desert. Ah Arizona! I love Arizona so much. It's not just about all the palm trees. It's about desert fields teeming with cactus. Wide open sand-shaded vistas. And crazy hot and wonderful weather. You gotta love it!

My First Cross-Country SAG Wagon Mike and Jo

A short distance were folks on the side of the road I was quite familiar with. Mike and Jo!

Even though it was only for a day, these friends were my very first SAG wagon on a bike across America ride. I removed the saddlebags from my bike and tossed them in the back of their truck. It was nice to be lighter! :)

Picketpost Mountain, AZ As I cycled toward Superior, Mike and Jo "played leapfrog" with me. They'd drive a few miles ahead, then wait for me to arrive.

Up to this point, my riding had been swift. I was tearing into the countryside. Then, as I encountered some hills, my riding slowed. I felt bad that I was riding so slow with Mike and Jo waiting.

Adjacent Photo: Picketpost Mountain (elevation 4,375 feet) stands prominently from Highway 60.

Gonzales Pass, AZ Gonzales Pass wasn't too difficult of a climb, but it earned my respect.

The elevation gradually increased:

Apache Junction 1,719'
Florence Junction 1,883'
Gonzales Pass 2,651'

Superior, Arizona

Superior, Arizona

I sped down Gonzales Pass and was greeted with another climb before entering town. Superior sits at 2,888 feet in elevation.

Pizza In Superior, AZ

Hawaiian Pizza

Lunch at Eduardo's Pizzeria in Superior was excellent.

The three of us ate the entire pizza. I also broke down and kept refilling my cup with root beer soda. :)

Superior, AZ

Superior, AZ

I wanted to rest a little longer - another 20 minutes or so - and Mike drove us around Superior. The mountain and desert scenery of this region looks nice, but it appears this town has seen more prosperous days. Many buildings on the main roads were abandoned and/or boarded up.
Superior, AZ Cycling
The Climb East of Superior, AZ

And then the climb began. Oh what a climb this was! Rate this ascent with the Jack Rabbit Trail, Chiriaco Summit or many Colorado climbs.

Here we go... Nice and steady.

The road widened to four lanes for vehicles, but at the expense of giving up all shoulder. I biked on the white line as the road ascended a canyon filled with saguaros. I held steady in "granny gear." A number of semis passed me, most moving to the left lane, or at least leaning toward the left while in the right lane. Nobody was mean. Yet everything intensified with (what seemed like) more cars and trucks on the road.

Queen Creek Tunnel Queen Creek Tunnel, AZ

I reached the entrance to the Queen Creek Tunnel. At this point, Mike and Jo's truck was parked beside me, and Mike no longer wanted to play "leapfrog" with me. He insisted he drive directly behind me in the tunnel. I completely welcomed that.

The ascent from Superior to this point had been relentless. My legs burned. I stood there for a few minutes and caught my breath. Some swigs of Gatorade were helpful. Then like a crazy person who wants to get the pain over with as soon as possible, the moment came. "Let's go!" I shouted.

Upward I biked on the right. Mike's truck followed directly behind. I entered the tunnel, and biked its 0.25 mile length. The lighting was such that it would certainly be scary to be in there without a SAG wagon behind me. (I did not have lights on my bike.) Cars and trucks traveling in my direction had to slow, go around Mike's truck and pass in the left lane. One motorist hit their horn while in the tunnel, creating a loud echo. It felt wild and fun and scary. Like an adventure movie. And all this time, I was filled with gratitude for Mike and Jo. They were protecting me.

One last thing: When I biked through the Queen Creek Tunnel three years ago, it was early in the morning (approximately 7:15 a.m.) on a weekday. Not many cars were on the road and no one passed me as I went through the tunnel. It felt safe then. This time, it felt more dangerous. My advice: If the Queen Creek Tunnel (or tunnel by Cloudcroft, NM) is on your route, you should use bicycle lights in the back.

Arizona Scenery Out of the tunnel, cars could now see me better, but the lack of shoulder continued for miles. And so did the ascent.

Queen Creek Tunnel was so intense that I didn't take any pictures; I didn't want it to look like I was goofing around in the tunnel. I was focused on riding fast anyway! Now that things were somewhat relaxed, the camera came out.

SAG Wagon The sound of Mike and Jo's loud diesel engine was never far behind as I climbed the canyon.

At one point, I contorted my body and held out my camera to photograph my glorious SAG.

Magma Mine Road Eventually, the road relaxed with more shoulder for bikes. Then Mike and Jo played "leapfrog" with me again.

Look at that! I had climbed to 4,000 feet at Magma Mine Road. :)

Top of the World, AZ It gets even better. I ascended to 4,600 feet at Top Of The World, Arizona.

I'm not sure what this place is all about, but here's its wikipedia page.

Motel Room

Globe, Arizona

The road had numerous ups and downs as I approached Miami, but overall, I descended to 3,509 feet in Globe.

I stayed at a decent low-end motel in Globe, and said good-bye to Mike and Jo. Ahhhh, these two good friends made it such a special and memorable day! I could not thank them enough.

Adjacent Photo: My motel room in Globe. It was quite a contrast from the Four Points Sheraton Hotel, but everything was clean and okay. The rate was affordable. Truly, I had so much to be grateful for. :)

Cycling Jersey

By the way, I learned one thing. In general, it's much harder to clean a dirty white cycling jersey. Most nights, I hand washed my clothing in a motel sink, which is fine for removing basic body oils and odors, but only a washing machine will bring things back to true white! :p)

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