Day 9 : Sunday 6th March : Wickenberg to Phoenix: 66 miles

The night was fine but we could feel the cold moving in as we walked back from town after a memorable evening.  We went to a traditional American/Mexican restaurant.  The food was OK – not great – but the beer was excellent.  

Every picture tells a story – here were a pair of shoes just away from the road. So what led to this? Who knows?

Sitting next to us was a man and his wife – in their forties – and their teenage daughter (all wearing caps).  This was cowboy country and lots of the men were wearing cowboy hats although how much any of them knew one end of a horse from another may well have been open to question.  As we chatted to our neighbors (no cowboy hats) it became clear that they were the “real deal” for this part of the world.  They were understated, funny and great company.  They were here because their son was competing in a cow lassoing competition and had done rather well – how well not specified but “rather well” probably meant spectacularly well.  The man was into hot air ballooning and had come to England (Bristol) to discuss design modifications with a UK balloon manufacturer.  Who knew that some world’s best hot air balloons are designed in Bristol? But Cameron Balloons is the world’s largest manufacturer of hot air balloons and exports them to Phoenix so our friend can fly them here for tourists and anyone who wants to pay him to go skywards.

They live on a ranch outside Phoenix and have “lots” of horses.  He proudly told us that his wife is the horse expert, being passed horses that are found abandoned (often ex-race horses let out into the desert because they cannot be sold and are too costly to feed).  She also buys, rears, trains and sells horses.  The daughter told us she really loves “barrel racing” – riding a horse around a three barrel set up.  Check it out on Youtube videos – it involves amazing horsemanship.  All the family go riding off in the desert – not on roads like we do but on horses for days at a time.  They spoke of the serenity of the landscape, oneness with nature and the peace of the experience.  It was great to meet them – and I suspect they have more connection to this part of the country than lots of others strutting around in cowboy hats.

We thought about their experiences as we ambled back in the cold.  The desert can be really cold at night and it was due to fall to near zero overnight, and did not disappoint.  There was frost on the grass this morning and the stove decided to break down today of all days – partly I suspect because the cold froze the rubber cups seal.  I managed to mend it and we eventually got coffee – but not in our sleeping bags as we hoped.

The first few miles were flat, slightly downhill and fast.  We had full cold weather gear on including full gloves and overshoes.  Gradually feeling returned to our fingers and toes.  After 9 miles we turned off the main highway 60 onto a smaller road going East, and with far less traffic.  This was part of the Sonaran desert, and was greener than the deserts in California.  It is also the only place we could see Saguaro Cacti – the tall distinctive Cacti with arms going out like a person standing to attention.  

We stopped for a brew and some trailmix as the sun gained some strength, and took photos of the stunning surroundings.

Then we pressed on and did a great descent down to the neck of the Pleasant Lake Dam which keeps in the supply water for Phoenix.  This is mainly from the Central Arizona Project – or CAP – which is a canal to divert water from the Colorado River to a variety of places, but most notably the 40 sq mile lake held in by the dam we were passing underneath.  The CAP is 336 miles long and provides billions of galleons of water to those living in desert areas.  It is an amazing feat of engineering (one for Lucy Taylor to better fo course).

After that we pressed along and then went onto quieter roads as we entered  suburban towns north of Phoenix.  After 40 miles we stopped for something to eat at Peroria.  Then it was a final 24 miles to our warmshowers host for the evening. That was mainly along a bike track which followed a series of vast dry river beds across northern Phoenix and then along the canal.  When it rains here, the heavens must open because these are vast spaces for water – albeit bone dry at the moment.  

Then the route took us along a canal with a series of underpasses as the trail runs under the main roads.  These underpasses are home to a thriving community of the homeless.  There is room for their tents and belongings and for us to pass by.  None were threatening at all to us as passing cyclists – in fact they were all totally polite as we slowed down and inched past their homes.  Homelessness is a feature of cities all over the world, and it was on show here.

We finally reached our wonderful Warmshowers host, Julie – tired but refreshed after a lovely hot shower.

3 thoughts on “Day 9 : Sunday 6th March : Wickenberg to Phoenix: 66 miles

  1. We are near. Do you have a phone. Our numbers are
    Tom/ 509-670-8878
    Carolyn- 509-679-2683

  2. Sounds a really interesting day. Meeting different people on their own ground must be one of the best experiences..

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