Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Middle 'o' nowhere

The Ingredients Cafe in Wenden, AZ

Slightly uphill, but straight stretch of highway. The scenery didn't seem to change all day

A view of the surrounding mountains and desert around Hope, AZ

Our campsite in the middle 'o' nowhere
Does this give you an idea of what a straight stretch of highway looks like? It was like this for 50 miles.

Dani standing next to a huge saguaro cactus
before Hope to between Aguila and Wickenburg, AZ
Day 54 55 Miles

This morning we woke up at Three Dreamers RV Park to a cold and damp morning. Our tent was covered with dew as though we back along the coast. We couldn't pack it away in that condition so we made up some beans, eggs, and cheese for breakfast. We usually don't like to spend the time cooking in the morning, but when the opportunity presents itself, a warm breakfast is a nice luxury. After breakfast I started mending Dani's tire which had gone completely flat overnight. Oddly enough, since I have put the new tire on my bike I haven't gotten one flat. Now Dani is getting many more flats than before, and has even gotten more than me.

The flat was on her rear tire. As I started pulling the tire off of the rim a bunch of folks that live in the RV park during the winter started entering the building which I was sitting at. Apparently, every Wednesday morning they have a community get together where everybody brings a snack, drinks some coffee, and chews the fat. We were repeatedly invited to this event, so after I pulled the staple from Dani's tire and patched the tube, I joined her inside. The community not only welcomed us, but they found us to be pretty interesting. We had a minimum of a 30 year age difference, but it didn't matter. We had a great time hanging out and eating snacks and drinking coffee with our new friends. By the time we went back outside, the sun was getting high, and most of our gear was dried out. We started packing up and got ready to head out for the day.

The people at the RV park told us that we would have a whole day of uphill. They weren't kidding. The whole entire day we never broke 15 mph. There was not one downhill section. Luckily the hill was very gradual though, so it wasn't too difficult to maintain a decent pace. We were trying to make 70 miles today, but it just wasn't possible. The heavy condensation on our tent gave us a late start, but more importantly, Dani came down with a cold. She was very congested and had a sore throat, so riding all day was much harder for her than usual.

We were both feeling hungry when we reached the tiny little town of Wenden, AZ, but just as we were riding past the last buildings in town we realized one of them looked very familiar. It was Ingredients, the same cafe Courtney, my sister, had told us about and had gone to when she rode this same section of highway a year ago. We had to stop in, so we went inside and had a really great vegetable melt sandwich for lunch.

We rode on and started realizing that there was no way we were going to make our destination for the day. We had little to no groceries, and there was only one more small town that we would ride through. We hoped that they, unlike all of the other little towns, would have a grocery store. When we rode into Aguila, pop. 600, we saw a store and thought we might be in luck. I went inside, but the shelves were almost completely barren. Under the glass counter at the cash register, the shopkeeper proudly displayed his clothing section. This amounted to what looked like second hand clothes crumpled into a pile and consisted mostly of plus size women's blouses and bras that looked like they might double as either wind socks or water balloon launchers. The food selection was meager at best. The refrigerated section had only one of each item available. The rest of the shelves had assorted snack foods like candy and chips and some meal in a box type meals. Not exactly what I was looking for. The shopkeeper was watching me walk around in circles looking for something I might want to eat, but I walked out and told Dani, "lets keep going."

I didn't expect to find another store in town, but to my amazement there was. This store was a grocery store, a hardware store, and a car repair shop all in one. Perfect. There was an old speaker outside hooked up to a radio blaring some typical mariachi type Mexican fiesta music. It was pretty obvious to us at this point that most of the people in Aguila were Latino. I went inside hoping for something better at this store. I opened the door and found a pile of lumber scraps, boxes of nuts and bolts, and pieces of PVC pipe scraps. I was going to turn around and walk out, but the lady behind the desk gave me a look like want do you want? I said "groceries?" She shook her head. Then I said "food?" "La comida?" she replied. I said, "si la comida." (comida meaning food in Spanish) She pointed me around the corner. I found shelves that were better stocked, but only containing chips, crackers, and soda. I grabbed some Ritz crackers and walked back to the counter. The cashier started to speak to me again in Spanish and then realized I wasn't understanding. In her broken English I understood she was asking paper, or plastic? I shook my head and said, "no thank you." She asked me in Spanish if I wanted a soda, and I said no again. I gave her my money which she counted back to me in Spanish and I left the store. Crazy I thought. I told Dani about being in the store. I realized how ignorant I am living up in the North. I never thought I could go anywhere in the States and not be able to communicate with anyone in a whole town. It was new for me.

We left Aguila and had an hour of sunlight but 26 miles until Wickenburg, the next town. Dani started feeling really rotten from her cold, and I started wondering what we would do for the night. There were no campgrounds or services of any sort until Wickenburg. We were just out in the middle of the desert. I made the call that rather than trying to push through to Wickenburg and ride in the dark, we would set up camp in the desert. We found a suitable place just off the road and pitched the tent. By the time we got some supper made and I made some hot chocolate to warm up Dani, the sun was down and it was getting cold. We got in the tent around 7 pm and we noticed that the rain fly was already completely coated in frost. The temperature would have felt much worse if there had been wind, but the night air was very still. The stars were beautiful and the night was silent except for some distant coyotes. It was going to be a very cold night since we were a few thousand feet above the valley bottoms, but at least it was quiet.


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