Day 10: Apache Junction, AZ to Globe, AZ (53 miles
Trip Start Mar 08, 2006
55Trip End May 07, 2006
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The only word to adequately describe today's ride is ... brutal. It started out innocently enough, but I was stopped about eight miles out of town with a flat tire. A quick repair and we were once again on our way. We met Joanna at the first SAG stop, at about mile 20, where we refilled water bottles and ate oranges and other assorted snacks. Joanna informed us there were two riders on the road in front of us, Leslie and Delores, who had left the hotel an hour ahead of everybody else.
A mild uphill grade followed by a two-mile climb to Gonzales Peak, elevation 2,651', and quick downhill brought us to Superior, a little town about 27 miles into our trek. The threatening clouds both ahead and behind us aided in our decision to take refuge in the Buckboard Restaurant and refuel for the climbs ahead. While dining on eggs, hash browns, and homemade biscuits, the rain and hail came down in torrents. Several other riders arrived, and the restaurant was soon filled with conversations back and forth regarding the wisdom of continuing the ride. Several other diners, who had just come across the pass westbound, warned us of snow and high winds ahead. Heather recommended shuttling to Globe, and several riders readily agreed. Di and I decided to layer up, including rain jackets and pants, and continue on.
We began the steep four-mile climb to Queen Creek Tunnel in the pouring rain. The road was narrow, with no shoulder and trucks and cars whizzing past. As we rounded the corner, we could see a bridge spanning a deep canyon, and a dimly lit tunnel cutting through an especially towering peak hundreds of feet above us. As we approached the tunnel entrance, we stopped at the turn-out to check in with Joanna who was going to escort us through the tunnel. Heather also arrived with the van and trailer, loaded with bikes and riders. Heather told us the other riders who had set out to ride had turned around and were going to wait at the restaurant for the van to return and shuttle them to Globe. That left just Di, Leslie, Delores and I electing to bicycle to Globe.
Once through the tunnel, the climb was steep, on a narrow mountain road lined with snow. How to take my mind off the pain? My first strategy, counting my pedal revolutions, was not a confidence booster when I hit 1,000 and there was still more hill to climb. I tried to think of a song to sing, but my mind was a blank. All I could think of was "Ten Little Indians", and I sang it over and over through this climb and the next. After a grueling six-mile climb we crested, and dropped a precipitous two-miles through Devil's Canyon. The weather continued to deteriorate, as the winds swirled and snow began to fall. As we started the next six-mile climb, we found Delores on the road. Her handlebars had been damaged while riding the rumble strip and her bike was unsafe to ride. She told us to continue on, as she would keep walking while awaiting the SAG. She was not dressed adequately for the weather, and I offered her my rain jacket, which she refused. Di and I continued our climb, and soon reached the top of Signal Mountain Pass, called the "Top of the World" by the locals, elevation 4,829', and the highest point on today's ride. The next four miles was a fast and dangerous downhill, with visibility limited by fog and snow, to the bridge at Pinto Creek Canyon which spans a very deep gorge. I quickly outdistanced Di on the downhill, and literally flew the last 10 miles into Globe, hardly even slowing on the last few small climbs.
I arrived at the hotel cold and wet, my toes and fingers frozen. Fortunately, my room was ready and I wasted no time before jumping in a hot shower. Di and Leslie arrived together about an hour later. Heather returned to Superior to pick up the rest of the riders, and also picked up Delores enroute.
The mountains here are full of old mines, many of them closed, which can be seen on the hillsides along the route. The Sleeping Beauty Mine, just west of town, provides some of the most expensive turquoise in the world. Old copper mines, like Magma Mine and Pinto Gully Mine are now closed. They are currently opening a new mine, which will take five years to be operational, and will bring gold and silver up from over 7,000' below the surface. There is also a copper smelter outside of town, which I also saw on my ride in.
Snow and accumulations of 3"-6" are forecast for tonight, so tomorrow's ride is questionable. It is hard to believe that last year was so hot the riders suffered heat stroke on today's climbs!