Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Part 12...Lon's First Cross Country 1981

Part 12
I had never been to Arizona and as soon as I crossed the state line I knew I was someplace unique. The landscape and rocks were as different here as New Mexico was different from Texas. As we approached the towns of Sanders and Chambers we were warned by local gas station owners that we were entering Indian Country. The warning seemed more appropriate 100 years ago. I couldn’t imagine people being any different in Arizona than they were anywhere else. We didn’t have any problems with Indians or other locals during our ride across Arizona.

After riding for about 80 miles on the interstate we came to the town of Holbrook. The Wigwam Motel was an area landmark that had been over grown by weeds. The 15 cement tepees were an icon on Route 66 postcards. It would be another 10 years before this motel would be remodeled and return to it’s glory years of Route 66 fame. The next town west was Winslow. This was another town that had seen better days. The one-way divided main street was lined with closed stores and $14 a night motels. The “Eagles” song of “Stand’in On a Corner In Winslow Arizona” was play’n in my head. The highlight was leaving town and seeing the snow capped peak of Bill Humphrey’s Peak 60 miles away near Flagstaff. At over 12,000 feet this mountain is the highest point in Arizona.

The grade from Winslow to Flagstaff climbed another 2,000 feet. The mountain peak seemed to stay in the distance similar to the grain silos in Kansas. It would take me most of the afternoon to finally reach Flagstaff. A local television station wanted to do an interview there. We met just as I was getting off the interstate and heading south on Rt. 89-A toward Oak Creek Canyon. It was a fast interview and I was glad to be off the interstate for a while. I would ride straight south for the next 150 miles through some of the best scenery of the trip. The red rock cliffs and Ponderosa pine forests were a refreshing change from the interstate.

The corkscrew descent down to Sedona was a thrill as I out coasted my support car through the hairpin turns. The cool temperature was just right to need arm warmers but not tights on my legs. I crossed through Camp Verde at 3,500 feet elevation and started the climb up 7,000 foot Mingus Mountain. The motor home had driven ahead and called back on the CB radio about the town of Jerome just ahead. “You won’t believe the narrow streets” they said, “We can barely fit the motor home downtown”. In 1981 Jerome was a run down mining town hanging on my it’s teeth to the side of the mountain. Most of the stores were closed and remembered better days fifty years earlier. I was feeling good spinning up the grade 7% grade. I was feeling better than I had the entire trip. The routine of the crew was smooth and efficient. Everybody felt good about the progress we made today. Tonight I felt like I was on an after dinner social ride. Even racer crew member Jon Royer commented that I was climbing better now than in West Virginia. In the back of my mind I knew my freshness wouldn’t last. It would be dark soon and the fatigue of riding into the night would visit me again.



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