Day 12 - The rest of the way to Mesa – Wednesday, April 27th

We awoke the next morning, refreshed (but a bit cold), and ate our breakfast of canned food.

Our 'home, sweet home', out in the sticks, by the side of the road

Our camp, as seen from near the side of the road – not all that conspicuous – especially in the dark

This day would start with a 3 mile climb, a big descent, then a shorter (but steep) climb. Pretty much the rest of the way to Mesa would be downhill, with a short (but not steep) climb just before the town.

Profile from where we stayed the night, to Mesa

We initially started cycling, at 9:10 AM, but quickly tired, and it became a walk-up. This was a long climb (about 3 miles), and at walking speed, it was slow. But it wasn't without its moments of beautiful scenery.

Roadside flowers, seen during the long walk-up

As the walk dragged-on, I began hoping for any ideas that would help me cycle, avoiding my slow walking pace. From my memory of last year's trip, I had been pulling on the pedal up-stroke, against the toe-clips, but I was still ending up too tired, and having to get off and push.

I tried cycling again (as we got nearer to the top of the big climb), and tried a few more things. It's unfortunate that I seem to have to re-learn (each year) how to climb a hill on a bicycle.

The critical problem in cycling up a long hill, is not how much energy you can apply to the pedals. The problem to be dealt with, is how can I reduce the energy expended to a rate I can maintain for an extended period of time.

So in line with that thinking, though I could go faster, I deliberately kept the speed down to 2.7 M.P.H. To 3.1 M.P.H., even though my pulling on the up-stroke of the pedal would allow me to go faster. By doing this, I was not only able to cycle up the steep hill, but to keep on doing it for an extended period of time.

Another thing I noticed, was if I looked up ahead, seeing how much more I had to climb, I would become discouraged, wanting to stop. If I kept my focus on the road immediately ahead, I could keep going, and not get discouraged.

To my surprise, I was able to cycle the rest of the way to the top of the hill, enabling Malcolm to walk at his faster pace, which was in-line with my cycling speed. Success!

At the top of the 1,200 foot climb, ready for a long descent

Once again, we had a long, exhilarating descent, dropping 2,200 feet. This put us at temperature ranges suitable for Saguaro cacti, which were our sign that we had entered the realm of the Sonoran Desert.

Our first Saguaro Cactus, a sign we had entered the Sonoran Desert

Malcolm was really enjoying this scenery, since he had never before cycled through such a landscape of (to us) exotic plant-life.

Malcolm, amid desert scenery

It was as if we had cycled into the colorful pages of the old “Arizona Highways” magazine. This beauty came at a price, however, since just about every plant (including those bushes with yellow blossoms) had thorns on it, and we had to be careful when taking those necessary 'restroom' breaks (without the benefit of any restroom).

Aere, climbing again, amid desert scenery

This was an area of road construction, where all of the traffic was on one of the pair of the divided highway, with the construction being done on the other.

Soon our long descent was over, and we were climbing the last significant climb of the trip, with a total ascent of 600 feet in 2.5 miles. Using the techniques learned at the end of the morning's big climb, I was able to cycle all of it (with some rest stops) – despite the gears on my rear wheel not gearing-down as low as they did with my old wheel.

In this section, we met the pilot-car for a Marine Corp. volunteer, who was cycling cross-country to raise money for wounded veterans. As the cyclist passed, we yelled “Sempre-Fi” to encourage him. I was very impressed that he was going up the 5,000 foot ascent to the Mogollon plateau, as opposed to our easier descent down from it.

A Saguaro 'family'

Looking back, at the top of the last significant climb – a 6% grade

From this point, it was pretty well all downhill, and a very pleasant part of the trip, particularly from the enjoyment of the scenery, as if were cycling amid plant-life of another planet.

Desert scenery, a bush with a splash of red color, with yellow flowers in the foreground

As we cycled along the highway, there were Mesquite bushes overhanging the edge of the road shoulder, which we stayed away from, knowing they had thorns.

It was definitely getting hotter, and at one point, we rested in the shade of a highway overpass. We did more pedaling as the descent became less and less steep. Fortunately, there was no head-wind to dog us.

Crossing the Verde River, as we drew nearer to civilization

Just beyond the Verde River, we came to the first store in two days, at the Fort McDowell Indian Reservation. There we took a long-awaited break, consuming sandwiches and ice-cream, as well as a cool drink. It was nice to take a restroom break in a real restroom!

After relaxing for about 40 minutes, we resumed cycling, climbing the gentle slope near the Fountain Hills sub-division.

Climbing the gentle slope after the Verde River, near Fountain Hills

Soon we were going down the other side of that gentle slope, and into Mesa. Using the directions sent us by my college friend, Gary Bivin, we went south on Gilbert Road. The first part of this was difficult because of road construction he was probably unaware of, but we made it through okay.

We ate at a Mexican restaurant near a store (where we replenished our supplies), then (per directions from a waiter in the restaurant) cycled south to Main Street, then east, where we found the Starlite Motel, which was the non-chain type of motel we prefer.

It was good to be back in civilization, and to enjoy the luxury of an air-conditioned motel!

On this day, we traveled 50.9 miles, averaging 8.1 miles per hour.

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