We knew we had a long day ahead of us so we were up with the larks and on the road at 7. We expected the roads to be quiet at that time of day but the US wakes up early and traffic was busy for the first few miles out of town, now on the a new road the 70 which we will be following for a couple of days, but it gradually eased off.
The first 30 miles or so bumped up and down through hills. None of it was too strenuous and we were going well – probably because we were doing more descending than climbing and we had a favorable wind.
We were now in the San Carlos Apache Indian reservation. About 10,000 Apache live on the reservation, which was established in 1872 as they were removed from their homelands and set against other Apache tribes by General George Cook as a deliberate strategy. The Apache had dominated much of northern Mexico, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas for hundreds of years and they were relatively successful in resisting white invasion compared to other tribes but eventually succumbed. The Apache leadership was passed on through female inheritance, so they were on to something (guess who is writing this!).
Cycling through the reservation, the land seemed very barren and unproductive, but perhaps there were better areas. Eventually we came out of the hills and into the valley to the town of Bylas ‘Home of the Apache’. We passed mostly simple wooden shacks but little else. There was a central gas station but no store that we could see. There was a herbal tea shop but nowhere for coffee! There was one fast food outlet that we were grateful to sit in and have some food after 45 miles. The town seemed bleak with little that could provide employment. I hope we got an unfair impression.
On from Bylas we entered an area of some irrigated fields – cotton we had been told, although the fields were bare at this time of year and looked as if they were being prepared for planting.
At Fort Thomas we passed the Melvyn Jones International Memorial. Melvyn Jones was born there in 1879 and lived there for 8 years. He went on to found the Lions Club (when he was living in Chicago), with Lions Clubs now throughout the world. He died in 1961.
Most of the day we had been able to see Mount Graham, which reaches almost 11,000ft and was topped with snow. The road was flat and the wind behind us so we motored along the flat valley. After about 70 miles we reached an urban area of increasing traffic and at 77 miles we reached Safford. Most activity seemed to centre on the extremely busy main road. Moving one block away was like a different universe of quiet pleasant roads.
We stopped a a bicycle shop to buy an inner tube after David’s exploded the day before. The guy running it was retiring so was running down the stock but we were able to get the tube. It’s sad but it seemed unlikely anyone else would take on the bicycle shop.
We found ourselves a motel – marginally more upmarket that the day before. However basic suits us as we can take in the bikes and cook outside on our little stove. I walked the less than half a mile to a supermarket and was again struck that no one walks in the US. We virtually never see people walking on the street, which makes a lot of places appear like ghost towns. An example was the night before – when we cycled through the town to reach the restaurant it seemed dead but the moment we opened the door to the restaurant it was heaving with life.
Although we had broken a distance record for this trip we did not feel too bad – helped by the fact that a lot was flat with the wind behind. I fear this won’t last.