Saturday 5th March.  Salome to Wickenberg. 55 miles

Our rather run down motel was great for our purposes.  A large room, hot water, and clean.  It had seen better days – but then the last 2 years have been disastrous for the tourist economy so no surprise that things have got run down.  We met a nice Canadian biker who was down motorbiking round the desert in the the sun to escape minus 20C in Winnipeg.  Who could blame him.

The outside of Shaffers Motel, Salome – complete with cooking set up!

Our body clocks have finally adjusted and for the first time we weren’t up with the dawn.  The weather has also changed again – cold and windy- so no pressing need to set off early to avoid the heat.  So a 9am start felt positively late.

The day was spent going down the middle of a wide valley – straight, straight, straight.  We went 40 miles before any significant bend in the road!  It was blowy – mostly a side wind but a bit behind so not too bad, but it was jackets and gloves first thing.  The desert can be cold – and not just at night!

It was scrubby desert with occasional irrigated fields and at one point some fruit trees (unidentified) in blossom). 

Mountains either side; sometimes close but sometimes in the distance. With so little change in scenery, the brain had to focus on other things to stop getting numbingly bored. The ticking over of the miles on the bike computers, focussing on a lump in the mountains that got gradually nearer, was reached and eventually passed (but only after about 20 miles), getting in tune with our bodies,  the turning of the pedals and just absorbing the experience of cycling through the desert that was so different to cycling in the UK. 

About half way we passed through the tiny town of Aguila where we could at least sit down out of the wind at the one cafe over a very indifferent cup of coffee. Then more of the same. Often going imperceptibly upwards at about half a percent gradient – which also plays tricks with the brain – as it looks flat but you are pedalling harder than the brain tells you you should. 

Finally we entered some hills, wiggled up a bit on a more proper uphill then had a glorious 8 mile descent down into the town of Wickenberg.  This town started in about 1860 and there are some houses around the railway station from that time.  They look like a Western Film set.  We had followed the railtrack all day but did not see a single moving train.  I wonder if it still used?  The town is busy in the winter with those escaping the cold of northern states, but has more to it than most of the places we have passed through.  It is the “horse lassoing” capital of this area – and there are lots of parade grounds where competitions take place to see who can demonstrate teh best horsemanship (or horsewomanship).  

We found an RV park near the centre which actually allowed tent camping – it even had a bit of grass to pitch our tent – and only charged us $10 including hot showers and wifi. Result!  It even came with a picnic table to spread ourselves out on.  We pitched our tent slightly tucked out of the wind (although can still feel it) and then had lovely hot showers.  We are walking distance into the quaint old town and plan to eat out there this evening to gear ourselves up for a longer day into Phoenix tomorrow. 

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