It’s late in the day, again. I’m flying down Interstate 10 — and despite the downhill and downwind nature of this here flying — it fucking sucks something massive. To be more specific about what I mean by flying: I mean 32 mph without pedaling. By sucking something massive I specifically mean: the most 18-wheeler traffic I’ve ever seen, plus a weekend-induced army of RVs, trailers, trucks towing RVs and trailer and whatever other large vehicles you can imagine. Most everyone else egregiously has six wheels or more. I have two. One, two. This is indeed the only road through this part of the world and everyone else brought their extra wheels for it. I don’t have extra wheels; the state of 10’s shoulder is concerning, maybe alarming for most. I’m slaloming shredded tires, nails, wires and other debris while preventing a damaged wheel by the familiar every-ten-foot pavement ripple/bump on this shoulder. Signs tell me to stay in the shoulder and I wouldn’t dare take the Interstate lane with this volume of traffic anyway. Taking as much weight off my back wheel as I can, I’m standing up, but also tucked down to not get blown over by the wind and the traffic. This is not the 8. Looking for shelter from wind and sun and traffic, I finally find it at an underpass. It’s not as zen as I’d like but my water bottle is the only causality.
Ok let’s board Space Ball One and go to back before now. Back to before then. Back to when I get the best sleep I’ve gotten since night one. What’s that you say, Space Ball One is a spaceship known to transform into Mega Maid. Negative. Its a time machine via the miracle of “Instant Cassettes”. And and it has a Mr Coffee. If only Rick Moranis would un-retire and do the sequel. When will then be now?!?
Now that we’ve cleared that up. We’re in now, now. Right now. After some hotel Starbucks we methodically mosey on out of Tucson, enjoying both a shower and the last dozen or so miles of bike trail before adventuring up a level to ride the now infamous Interstate 10. We have no daily destination, just distance and daylight – with an ultimate aim to reconnect with the ACA route in Lordsburg New Mexico two or three days from now. But there’s a lot of Nothing Arizona between here and there.
By mid morning it’s hot. And I’m finding out how much 10 is not 8. It’s the first day of this tour that my water bottle water is hot when it hits my mouth. Climbing most of 40 miles straight with very little shade and services, I’ve got a bit of a headache and these gigantic vehicles passing me non-stop don’t help that. I’m not sure if the posted speed limit is 75 or 85, but clearly some of these death machines are moving 100 mph. Ludicrous speed. I push on up the hill. Damon is about 10 miles back.
I grueling arrive at an actual rest stop, the first anything in hours – about 20 miles southwest of Willcox. It’s not a rest stop, it’s THE rest stop. I think this is the peak of today’s climbing. I hope. After 50 miles of some of the hardest riding yet, I’m absolutely drained. My water bottles are on empty but I can’t even do that. I’m taking a picnic table nap. Lay down. Eyes closed. Trying. Nope. This place is jumping. Seriously. It’s busy. So busy there’s a barking dog locked inside a nearby caretaker’s house. There’s like 60 people using two bathrooms. Some people even wanna talk to me. Cuomo would have a conniption fit. Keep firing assholes!
Damon rolls up and is well into utter exhaustion status as well. He’s glad it’s not just him… and I agree. We eat peanut butter banana trail mix burritos, pound water and weigh the options. We have a big decision about staying on the 10 or not. We can rejoin the actual Southern Tour Route, heading up into the mountains of Gila to climb Emery Pass at 8,000 feet. Or we can stay on 10, deal with this nonsense and make El Paso two days earlier. We decide to decide tomorrow and are suddenly accosted by a frantic and grizzly twenty-something asking if we “know the area”. He says he’s “almost out of gas and got three dogs in the car.” We help him out, realizing that although we aren’t from around here, we do know the area. I wonder if “three dogs” is slang or something. But then I see him roll off with all four windows down, three of which are occupied by a shaggy dog, each enjoying its head out the window. I hope they made it.
We put those last twenty miles in our pocket. They aren’t easy. Remember that stretch of I-10? Back then before we got to now. Cruise into the next tiny town and stake out the local park. Water and wind coverage? Check. Calorie consumption? Check. Gorgeous sunset and 30° temperature drop? Check. Pop up the tents in the dark next to the baseball dugout? Check.