It was the worst of times, it was the best of times*

This post is going to be 95% travel narrative, because sometimes the story of one damned thing after another is a reasonably interesting yarn. The last post ended with me pushing off to Lordsburg. I felt OK as we headed southwest, but pretty rapidly realized the day was going to be a difficult one. It was a lot cooler on the bike than I thought it would be and there was a strong headwind. It was nasty enough that i stopped 5 miles into the ride to change into warmer clothes, eat something and re-bundle-up Lotte. We used a small shelter south of the Tyrone open pit mine (complete with info plaques extolling the mining company’s reclamation efforts o_O) and I could see precip coming at us from the west. We continued on NM90 and got maybe another 5 miles down the road before it started to spit rain. Low 50’s (10’s C), rain and a 20+ knot headind? Ugh. Then the wet snow pellets (not really graupel afaic) started. It got to the point where I was shifting with the palms of my hands because my fingers wouldn’t work to do it. But there were a couple good moments: crossing the continental divide for the 3rd time, seeing some patches of sunlight on the plains to the west, and realizing that I’d finally done all the climbing I had to and that all I needed to do was descend into Lordsburg. Looking back on it, I think I was a little under the weather with a touch of digestive distress. I was laboring up hills suddenly doubting whether I’d ridden myself into shape at all. All in all, one of the tougher days of the trip so far.

Saturday the 13th dawned cloudless and cool and we rode southwest again – this time with Portal, AZ as our destination. Goog initially steered us to a road that, as far as I could tell, did not exist. No matter – there was an alternate route that peeled off left instead of right a quarter mile farther on, just past the CDT trail marker. The alt route turned out to be a pretty rough jeep trail, complete with gates – fun!

Happy trails!

The jeep trail eventually debouched on to Animas St., a lane and a half dirt road. Lots of dust and lots of grinning – the kind of terrain where Molly Fin the bike can really strut her stuff. Another nonexistent Goog road (it may have been converted into a wash a monsoon season or two ago), then it was a long slow descent to NM338. A bit northward to pick up NM145 and thence to NM80. We’d started south on 80 and I was checking he map on my phone when a truck pulled over. The driver got out and we exchanged greetings – turns out he was (is) a Warmshowers host in Portal, just coming back from pilot trucking an oversized load up into the PNW.And just like that, my tenative plan to bike up into the Coronado NF and camp for the night changed for the better. It took me a while to get to R’s place (Google bike routing again), but once there: paradise. R is a fascinating person and we had a lot of interests in common: birds, trains and Copper Canyon – turns out he used to lead tours there! The contrast between Friday and Saturday couldn’t have been more stark: tough, doubtful day/glorious, long, fun day.

Entrance to the canyon last night.

* with apologies to Chuck D (no not him – rather, this dude 🙂 )

Next, into Cave Creek Canyon, Tombstone and Tucson…

I was woken pre-dawn Sunday by the whirr of hummingbird wings. R had me set up in a bare spot in his garden, surrounded by penstemon, and the hummers were getting an early start. A great morning: coffee, Bullock’s oriole, Gambel’s and scaled quail staring each other down, oatmeal, eagle aerie a mile away on a cliff and then it was time to go. We pedaled up into Cave Creek Canyon – my goal was to climb up and over Onion Saddle and camp in the National Forest on the other side. On the way up we met a motorcyclist from SW Colorado who invited me to camp at the site he was using; this R was also a mountain biker, a fly fishing guide and an aviation mechanic who’d done 4 seasons in Antarctica. The climb was tough – I was oxygen-limited again! Near the top I ran into B – another bicyclist – and at the top we chatted and exchanged contact info. If I bike north along the coast from L.A. I may have a place to stay in Santa Cruz!

East side of Onion Saddle.

Sunday night was sitting around a campfire chatting with R and sipping single malt – entirely excellent. Monday morning was cold, but like all cold desert mornings, as soon as the sun hit the campsite, the temperature rose. I rode out of the National Forest and took a side trip to the Chiricahua National Monument visitor’s center to refill my water bottles. Then is was off to Tombstone. Lots of wind, a couple more googleroads (IOW, they ain’t there) and 84 miles in the saddle led to a pretty late arrival in Tombstone, so I treated myself to another cheap motel.

We got a reasonable start Tuesday – especially good because about 11:30A the wind picked up out of the west and we spent the rest of the day riding into another strong headwind. We hunkered down for lunch in the lee of a gas station, then pushed on.

Hunkered

We were making for Sonoita, but about 4 and a half miles before we got there a dirt road peeled off into the Las Cienegas conservation area. I made a good decision – down the dirt road (I had enough water) and into the first camping area we came across. Thunderstorms were in the forecast for that night, but the rain jumped the gun a bit: about two minutes after I set camp, a decent sized shower rolled through. Lotte and I sheltered in the tent and after the rain stopped, I did a little exploring/Lotte continued snoring. The thunderstorms did come through later that night – Lotte is not a big fan of thunder and lightning, but buried in the foot of the sleeping bag is about as good a place to be as any.

All the storm clouds were gone Wednesday morning. We rode around Las Cienegas for a while then set out for S & T’s place in Tucson. S is an old friend, we originally met because of dart frogs, and he and T had invited me to use their place as a layover and R&R spot. Here it is, Friday morning – I’m writing, about to perform another cull of things I haven’t used recently, Lotte is sleeping on my lap and all’s right with the world!

Despues de la lluvia

Next, Phoenix, then Kingman, then Rte. 66!!

 

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