Live A Big Life Ride

living big to create opportunity

Day 10: March 15, Tempe to Globe

The rest of our stay in Tempe was just lovely. We went to REI to re-up on some biking gear, including doing some serious upgrading to our safety accessories.


Normally I’d be embarrassed to look like this, but shoot, we’re trying to be seen!

We also had a lovely evening get-together with an old friend of Concerned Mother #1, Karen Smith, who took us out for the classiest evening we’ve had so far. It’s refreshing to talk to someone who doesn’t live on a bike!

The next morning we reluctantly packed up and out of our hotel and got back on the road. After crushing another generous portion of the hotel breakfast (buffets are my new favorite thing) we headed east out of Tempe, which turns out goes on FOREVER. Urban sprawl at it’s finest. We thought we only had a handful of miles until we got out on the open road, but oh no, 30 miles of stoplights and residential neighborhoods later we finally cleared the Phoenix/Tempe area.

On our map it said to follow Route 60 for quite a ways, and we figured that, like a lot of other local highways, it would be a narrow road with cars whipping by. Instead we found miles and miiiiiiles of a stop and go traffic jam, which meant that we got to pleasantly cruise by faster than the cars, which always gives us a nice satisfying boost. We finally figured out the cause for the traffic (which literally lasted, bumper to bumper, for 10 miles): The Renaissance Fair. Seriously.


We then passed several big stadiums filled with Renaissance Fair spectators, which emitted loud cheers every few seconds. We guessed there was some jousting going on?


This is my “I’m flabbergasted by what I’m seeing” face

We continued on and before too long got to a small town called Superior, where we rested, hydrated and had a snack. We knew the next portion of the day was going to be a wicked uphill climb, but we had NO idea what was in store for us.

In general the maps we’re using, from the Adventure Cycling Association, do a pretty good job of guiding us on roads that are relatively safe and less traveled. This was not the case going east out of Superior. In addition to a grueling upward slope, this stretch of road was filled with hairpin turns, blind corners, and about 15 miles of a 2 lane highway that had a large population of 18-wheelers, trailers and other totally terrifying vehicles. The stretch was highlighted by a 2-lane bridge at one point, with a low guard rail and steep drop, and soon thereafter  a tunnel, also two lanes, where we got off our bikes and walked on the 10-inch platform while pushing our bikes through the glass covered mini shoulder, as cars whizzed by. We actually tried to hitch hike at one point, asking an elderly couple if they would let us put our bikes into their RV until we got to safer roads, but they were unfortunately going the wrong direction.


Madeleine pushing it through the mountains

We were so concentrated on staying out of the road that the 5,000 feet of climbing didn’t seem so bad. Well, that maybe isn’t totally true, but it paled in comparison. We did eventually make it to the top, in fact there’s a sign for “The Top Of The World” that we got to with a beef jerky stand (we went ahead and did that), and then got to go downhill for a while. We wound up in Globe, Arizona, shortly before dark. Upon arrival to the local RV Park, we found no bathroom/shower and just a port-o-potty. Seeking something better than that, the proprietor of the park let us use the shower her house, which was amazing and completely awesome of her. We were so tired from the day we barely spoke as we crammed some PB&honey sandwiches, got in our tent at 8:45pm and woke up 9 hours later.





Day 9: March 13, Wickenburg to Tempe

We were PSYCHED to get to Tempe, because it meant both that we had a hotel to stay in and because we were going to stay put for two nights. It’s really very fun to go all these places, meet all these people, etc., but relaxing for a day? That’s something that tops it all. So with that thought in our minds, we got up and out of camp early in Wickenburg, got to the local coffee shop by 7:15 and scarfed down some sustenance (caffeine), and hit the road. We even had… get this… a tail wind for the first few miles. But, needless to say, before long we had another head wind in our faces, and the fact that we had 70+ miles to go started to sink in.

We hustled to a gas station 20 miles in so we could have some breakfast. But we had places to be, so shortly thereafter got back on the road. Once we hit the Phoenix suburbs, signs of older-folks-golf-land started popping up more and more. The best sign we saw, for a retirement community / golf course, said “More fun than the grandkids!” But really we just peddled down Route 60, past miles and miles of strip malls, fast food chains and big box stores, trying to hustle to our much-anticipated hotel.


Entering the Phoenix area

Once off the highway, we went through several more retirement communities, through a park or two, along a bike path that kept us next to a “canal” (dry as a bone) and over some “rivers” (also dry as a bone), through millions of stop lights and suburban plazas, and finally through Arizona State University campus and up to our hotel, so exquisitely chosen by Concerned Mother #1.


Walking to the brewery

We showered, dressed like regular people, found the Four Peaks Brewing Company, had ourselves an evening, slept in a real bed, and didn’t have to go anywhere this morning. It’s only been 9 days on the road, but MAN does it feel like longer.

This morning we went down to the hotel breakfast… twice, each time loading up with as much as we could carry. When we’re on the road, really all we do is bike and eat, so that we can keep on biking. So we’re using today as a day to store up on all kinds of nutrients that we can’t find easily on the road. Also less interesting things like going to REI to get some missing equipment, most notably mirrors for our bikes and really bright rear red lights. That plus coffee, a treat or two, a chocolate bar, and whatever else we can find in Tempe, this place isn’t bad!


Breakfast round #1


We’ve never craved vegetables so much in our lives


Day 8: March 12, Hope to Wickenburg

This day was going to be a shorter one (by that I mean only 70 miles, who have we become?) so we took our first slow morning. We didn’t wake up to an alarm, we luxuriously lounged in our tent (our perspectives have become skewed) – well actually, Madeleine’s air matress has developed a not-very-slow leak, so she luxuriated on the ground.

The day of riding wasn’t too challenging, except for the noticeable headwind which has become our regrettable and constant companion. The highlight of the day was lunch at a place called Coyote Flats, which is the only place besides a gas station to eat in 50 miles. We figured it would be another exceptional diner experience, which in some ways I guess it was. We walked in and found several tables of men clad in cowboy hats, boots with spurs and mustaches, and got ourselves a booth. I ordered coffee, water and an orange juice, the last of which came in a hilariously portioned cup.

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A tablespoon of OJ would be great, thanks.

Continuing our discovery of the food desert that exists in this area, we both did our best with menu options but wound up with greasy sandwiches, neither of which were quite what we ordered. Ah well, we were hungry.

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Coyote Flats from out front (“Welcome Hunters!”)

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Our view for the day

We met a few more characters along the route, a group of 4 older guys who had found each other and become a unit. We asked if they were headed to the same RV Park / Campground as we were, and they laughed and said “well we haven’t been doing much camping”. About 70 miles later we found Wickenburg, a town of about 6,500 that was the most built up town we had seen in days. It had a big grocery store, a little historic downtown area, a couple bars and a few restaurants. The options were exciting so we checked into our RV Park, put on real people clothes (i.e. not head-to-toe spandex), and got ourselves a beer and some Mexican food. It was all very exciting.

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Enjoying the scenery, while a country version of “Wagon Wheel” played in the bar





Day 7: March 11, Palo Verde, CA to Hope, AZ

We felt less than great when we woke up in Palo Verde partly due to the gnarly two previous days of riding and partly due to our mini mart dinner the night before. Baked beans were a bad choice. We got up early and when we hit the road Frankie was still asleep on a picnic table. Leaving Palo Verde we immediately ran into nasty headwinds (story of our lives at this point) and we trudged along with heavy legs, looking forward to reaching the Arizona border. We stopped for breakfast in Blythe, CA at a place called Steaks and Cakes where we both got the “Pancake Sandwich,” which was the most gigantic breakfast we have ever seen.


The Pancake Sandwich, which comes with a complimentary side of chocolate pudding. Why? Why not.

Getting back on our bikes after that was basically the worst thing that has ever happened to us. But we climbed back on and crossed the Arizona border after a couple miles. Immediately upon crossing the bridge into Arizona we were greeted by an old Native American woman drinking a 22 oz. Bud Lite who shouted obscenities at us which were too vulgar to repeat here. Welcome to Arizona!


The border crossing into Arizona, right before we were greeted by the welcoming committee.

The worst part of the day was still ahead of us as we had to ride on the shoulder of the interstate for about 25 miles. In spite of the relatively wide shoulder, it was much more heavily trafficked by large trucks than we were comfortable with. It was a “don’t tell mom” situation, one we hope never to repeat. We both had a mini-meltdown halfway through (some tears were shed) and we very seriously considered renting a Uhaul and driving our bikes to the next town. (I actually called the local Uhaul rental place — they were, of course, out of trucks).


Entering the Interstate. Never again.

Mercifully, we finally made it off the highway and onto a nice slow country road. We stopped at a country store (it was literally called, “The Country Store”) after a few miles to pick up some drinks and met a fellow named Warren who was incredibly curious about what we were doing. We talked to him for a good while and he told us that the RV park we were staying at in Hope, AZ was only about 12 miles down the road. Eventually he drove off and we jumped back on our bikes to bust out the last few miles. It turned out to be 16 miles to the park and when we arrived Warren was there waiting for us. He had driven back to make sure we made it because he said he felt so bad that he had given us the wrong mileage. Unbelievable. Then he offered to let us stay in his RV which was parked next to his house in a town a few miles farther along. We politely declined but were very grateful for the offer. Turned out, the RV park that night was amazing. Wireless internet at the community center, a structure to camp underneath to stay out of the wind, and spotlessly clean facilities. There was one other cyclist camping there that evening. His name was Scott, he was 51, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and he was a total gem. He was biking the route alone while tugging along a trailer that I swear must have had 120 lbs. of stuff in it, including a full-sized cooler. We don’t know why. But he made us coffee in the morning and we sat and compared stories from the road, which are now piling up quickly.


Scott and his trailer. What a gem.

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Leaving Hope the next morning. They’re not really into contractions around here.


Day 6: March 10, Ocotillo to Palo Verde

We awoke at the Ocotillo Community Center feeling a little lead-legged but replenished, meanwhile we wondered how Frankie was alive after his dinner of a bag of Cheetos and a Frapachino. We got out on the road early because, due to the scarcity of civilization in that area of California, we either had the option of going 40 miles or over 100 miles. So we figured we’d do 40 miles and see how we felt.


First feed lot sighting

We passed an enormous cattle feed lot, which was slightly disconcerting, and very little else. 40 miles later we rolled into Brawley, which somehow had a population of over 24,000 people but no more than 8 of them were visible at any one time. The town is sprawling. We found an amazing little cafe, where all the waitresses had Bible quotes on the back of their t-shirts, where we ingested vegetables for the first time in days and stored up on lots of healthy calories. We would have considered staying there, with the next 65 miles seeming a little daunting with the sun beating down, but there was literally nothing to do so we decided to keep on trucking.

There was nothing but long, straight, flat or slightly uphill roads ahead of us, not a gas station or or rest stop, but ahead in the distance I saw what looked like a big pile of sand.


The sand dunes, aka a town called Glamis

By 50 miles, the sand piles appeared closer but it was hot as hell and we started to need more water. By 60 miles, we were in the middle of the sand dunes and had found a string of trailers about 100 yards into the sand, which sold us water for $8. By 70 miles, we were feeling motivated. By 80 miles, we were proud that we had already biked further than we ever had before. By 85 miles we wolfed down some more calories in the shade a some desert tree (the only one we’d seen in a while). By 90 miles we were very sick of being on our bikes, and finishing the last uphill portion of the day. By 100 miles, we were squinting trying to see ahead to where our destination would soon appear. By 105 miles, we found the RV Park where we were headed, fell off our bikes, realized the only convenience store in town (which consisted of the RV Park and the one convenience store) had closed two minutes earlier, went and sweet talked the lady into letting us buy some things, made the inexplicable decision to make two cans of baked beans and pretzels for dinner, got chased by geese, watched Frankie eat Ramen with measuring half-cup, and passed out hard for the night.


The most exciting thing we saw all day


Glam shot around mile 95


Madeleine running from the geese

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Our home for the night