Day 76 - Wilcox to Tucson (Vale)
I spent the night camped in a little league ball field, the second time in my odyssey that I have needed to resort to such tactics. When I arrived in Wilcox last night, I immediately made my way to the local park, but it was much to well lit and populated for any form of camping. After dark, the people left, and I found myself in a far off field next to Interstate 10. Other than the constant drone of the trucks and the full moon, it was pretty pleasant night.
I woke early, even earlier than normal, to make sure I was out of such a public place before people started moving around. The night before I had stopped at a Safeway, the first one I have seen since the east coast, to pick up bananas. What I love about Safeway's is they have Starbucks in them. I knew that they opened early, so after packing up I headed over and sat down for a great cup of coffee and free WiFi. Before you know it I had met this really talented artist and found myself talking about his art, my travels and great places in the US to call home. He and his wife were headed back out west after doing the east coast art scene but they had made the decision to relocate to xxxx North Carolina, one of my favorite places on the east coast.
Due to my lounging in Safeway for way to long I was now off to a late start. It was 80 miles from Wilcox to Tucson and I had hoped to make it to the Colossal Cave state park which lies about 17 miles out of the city. However, the winds have really been coming up, and I had just done to big days, so I was really unsure of how far I would make it once I hit the road. Luckily as I started out, the winds were reasonably light and my legs had enough energy to push me forward at a decent clip, although not as good as yesterday morning.
The terrain seemed to largely be a climbing elevation, which also contributed to slightly slower speeds. None the less, I found myself making good progress as I approached Texas Canyon, a location I had been warned about as being one of my last big climbs. By then I was feeling pretty good and just moving along at a good clip, even up hill. I must say the lighter load in the BoB is making a big difference in my climbing speeds. Then, well, the dreaded feeling that only occurs with a rapidly deflating tire. Here I was, half way up the climb, 18 wheelers wizzing by, and really no place other than the shoulder to do a repair.
I slowed to a stop and watched the last of the arir flow out of the rear tire -- why oh why is it always the rear tire? I must say right now, that I have been so lucky compared to others that I have met. This is only my 4th flat over 2500 miles, and that is really impressive. People ask me all the time about my huge tires and if they are really efficient, to which I say, hey they really roll when inflated. Scientifically, well, I have no real idea and speculate to a certain extent that smaller tires would be more efficient, and I might even try them out when I get to the west coast, but you can't argue with the flat resistance of the Schwalbe Big Apples.
I managed to repair the flat, put in another tube, got back on the bike and it immediately flatted again. Needless to say, I was questioning my luck, but I figured out that it was a bad inner tube that I put in and not another flat. However, I still had to repeat the whole process of changing out the rear tire, and re-inflating the monster 2.3 Big Apples, something that is really quite a chore with my little pump.
Later that morning, I approached a lone rider going down the highway just short of Benson. I slowly worked my way up to them and met Leann, a woman from Orlando who was riding across the country at an amazing pace. We stopped and had lunch together where I learned that she had left Orlando barely a month ago, averaging over 100 miles a day for a good portion of the trip. She had started with a BOB trailer, but quickly dumped it in favor of an ultra light setup. She managed by her lightweight setup by eating out all the time and staying in hotels the majority of the nights. This allowed her to carry the bare minimum on her carbon fiber, dual suspension mountain bike. We finished the day by riding to the Tucson area and she really could cruise up those hills. On the downhills, the Fargo and Bob, quickly pulled ahead of her, but I was never able to keep up with her on the clims. It made me long for an even lighter setup, so the wheels in my head continue to turn as to how I can go ever lighter without sacrificing my ability to camp and cook.
I managed to roll off the highway at the Vale exit and worked my way another 7 miles to the Colossal Cave state park. I got there after five with the gates closed for a special event. I don't mind ignoring closed signs when I have to but an event with people made me skittish, so as tired and spent as I was, I went in search of a place to camp. Not 200 yards outside of the park entrance was an elevated creek wash that I quickly rolled the bike into and found a nice rocky/sandy oasis in a desert of pointed, prickly, stingy things. It turned out to be an perfect place to watch the moon rise up over the canyon, back lighting the giant Saguaro cactus and listen to the coyotes howel at the brightly lit sky.