Clobbered by the Arizona Desert

It’s been a rough first week. Things started out normal enough; I planned on only going about 25 miles on flat ground the first day. I was a bit tired at the end of the day but nothing too bad. But I made a change to my route to go on paved roads and more civilization rather than 60 miles of dirt roads with no services. The roads around here are a bit sandy and my bike does not do well in sand, in spite of the fat tires.

So I ended up on some bad traffic-filled roads for a couple days through the towns of Maricopa, Gila Bend and Ajo. Leaving Gila Bend I must have been going up slight incline because after 18 miles I was pretty pooped. The problem was that I was in the middle of a US Air Force training area which spanned the highway on both sides. It was fenced with DANGER signs. LIVE ARTILLERY. DO NOT ENTER. Problem was, I had to enter in order to camp for the night. But with tons of cars and trucks passing I could not climb the fence without being seen. So I jumped down into a dry riverbed which gave me some cover and slipped everything under the fence which had a gap of 2 feet. But in order to stay hidden I had to fight my way through heavy brush for about 50 yards. Then I could emerge and walk my bike on flat ground. So by the time I got to camping site I was exhausted. I had ridden from 8 am to 5:30 pm with few breaks. I was so tired I didn’t even worry about the possibility of live artillery.

The next day was a killer. I got lost trying to get back to the highway. I could hear the traffic noise alright but I kept running into tall heavy brush with needles and thorns. I could not find the way I had come the night before. So I spent a good hour wandering around, tripping in the soft dirt and getting bit by flies and scratched up by the brush. I finally got out and tried to pedal but found I had hardly any energy. I was wiped out from the previous day and all my hiking through the brush. On top of that there was still a slight incline and I faced a stiff headwind. In additional, all my hiking around caused me to drink a lot of my water so I had barely 3/4 gallon for the 23 miles to Ajo.

It was torture. I was totally exhausted the whole way. I had to stop for breaks every 1/2 mile or so and at times I was on the verge of collapsing. I felt light headed and extremely weak. I was not drinking a lot in order to conserve water. Eventually I tried to flag down a car to get water but nobody stopped.

After six hours and 23 miles I finally stumbled into Ajo. If you do the math that’s about 3.8 mph on average. Dead slow. I drank a gallon of water, found a motel and collapsed. The next morning I was still sore and could barely walk so I decided to take a rest day. Beware the Arizona desert!

I felt better after my rest day and continued on to Mexico. Here are some photos.

Some junk cars in the town of Ajo.

Ajo is an interesting small town. Many buildings had murals painted on them like one.

There were also many artsy sculptures around.

This part of the state is home to many of the famous saguaro cactuses. Saguaros can grow up to 40 feet tall, and have a relatively long lifespan, often exceeding 150 years. They may grow their first side arm around 75–100 years of age, but some never grow any arms. Arms are developed to increase the plant’s reproductive capacity, as more apices lead to more flowers and fruit. A saguaro can absorb and store considerable amounts of rainwater, visibly expanding in the process, while slowly using the stored water as needed. This characteristic enables the saguaro to survive during periods of drought. It is a keystone species, and provides food and habitat to a large number of species.

Some saguaros seem almost human.

On my way south I came across several roadside memorials, as usual. Drive safe everyone!

I spent one night camping in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

My camp site.

Here I am testing to see how sharp the needles are.

You’ve got to be careful where you walk out there or you might bump into one of these.

Sunset in the desert. It was incredibly quiet there as I managed to get 2 miles off the highway.

On November 4 I crossed into Mexico without incident. Taco time!

That’s it for now. The plan is to head south along the coast to Mazatlan then take a bus to Puerto Vallarta. Stay tuned!