Cycle Across America — Part 87
Arizona: Southwest Dreams
For another day the trip is still alive. The leg is now as it was cycling, very tender. But the cycle was easy — in fact one of the easiest. It needs to end soon though — as my dreams are getting worrying.
Last night I was at Goodison with a friend from Liverpool. Kevin Sheedy was still playing albeit a bit slow. In the Presidential election Regis Philbin got less votes than Clinton but when Clinton declined the presidency Regis ended up accepting. And few nights ago I dreamt I stopped in the Southwest and started working. I was very happy until an old work colleague from England turned up in the mirror of a pub, then in the workplace, and finally sitting beside me. Then I woke up.
I forgot to take any photos of Wickenburg. One of the nicest small towns I’ve been in and I have no photographic record of it. Another McDonald’s for another breakfast. Everybody seemed to smile at me and I ate my horrible pancakes as if they were medicine.
26 miles to Aguila through the hills. Occasionally through gaps I would get glimpses of mountains behind the hills. These were the Vulture Mountains to the South. I had climbed up a couple of hundred feet.
The road had a generous shoulder with markings and signs indicating it’s intended for bicycles. Three bikes came the opposite direction as I left Wickenburg. They were training or racing. Each of them had a water pack on their back.
In Aguila, which is a mining town, I stopped at a cafe and had the special — a bowl of stew. When you’re hot and thirsty eating hot stew is very odd. So I had a couple of cokes at the same time. This was almost a nothing town and yet it had 3 motels — which augured well for the road ahead.
The road was now down on the desert floor again so it was level and straight. My speed picked up. The town of Gladden was just an RV park. This was the Aguila Valley with the Harcuvar Mountains lining the valley to the north and the Harquahala Mountains to the south.
At one point I saw 8 dust devils at once — all in the same area. I stopped and watched them. Most eventually dissipated after moving on. One got very fast and very marked. Another had a base of from 12 to 15 feet. Overhead frequently was the gentle mumble of a jet. In the clouds I couldn’t see anything but suspected it was the airforce.
You cross the river just before entering Wenden. Again of course it’s just a river of sand. Here the valley is known as the McMullen Valley after its first businessman — James McMullen. The land around Wenden was irrigated and at one of the irrigation channels I saw a heron. When was the last one? In the middle of all the Saguaros it was a strange sight.
Wenden was originally established as Wendendale in 1905 when it was founded as a supply depot for the mines in the area. In 1907 Wells Fargo Co. established an office here for the shipping of gold. Now it’s just a big RV park full of old people. It’s known as the “Gateway to Lake Alamo” which is 40 miles to the north but the only paved access goes from Wenden. I stopped for a can of Mountain Dew but that was really just to purchase some goodwill so I could ask about motels down the road. I was told there was one outside the town on the near side, and one right in there.
Leaving Wenden I took a photo of a cotton gin to add to the couple of self-timers I’d tried in the desert. On a nearby mountain was a large “S” — presumably for Salome. You get that a lot out here. I think they should go the whole hog and spell the entire word not just put a single letter up there. Then again spelling is not one of America’s skills as re-confirmed to me over the menu for dinner. And leaving Wickenburg there was a children’s’ playschool called “Tina’s Tots” with a multi-coloured sign that had the “n” and the second “s” deliberately written backwards. It’s the same idea as the Toys “R” Us logo but is that where you would first send your child to learn to spell?
Including tax this motel is $28. Across the road is the Salome Restaurant and Cactus Bar. I had an ice cold glass of milk while I looked around at its museum pieces. There was lots of newspaper articles on the town’s origins and history. The town was established in 1904 by Charles W. Pratt. He was guessing where the railroad would lay its tracks and missed it by a mile so the community moved to its present location. Also with him were Earnest and Dick Wick Hall. Dick was famous for his newspaper in which he was a wit. The restaurant was then his “Laughing Gas Station” and in the “Salome Sun” he told tales of the frog who is 7 years old and still can’t swim.
After a lot of messing the office got me through to my phone card 800 number and I left a message on the phone of the people I stayed with back in Connecticut. It was too difficult then to double ring home so maybe today in Parker with a phone that works.
There’s great soup in these parts. To add to the great 7-bean soup with vegetables and ham in Wickenburg, I had a hamburger and vegetable soup last night. It was like they liquidised a burger. Inside you can see what looks like walls of adobe brick. On them hang horrible paintings on velvet of Indians and wolves.
Today a strong south-west breeze (15 to 20 mph) is expected and tomorrow the temperature is expected to drop from the mid-80s to the mid-70s. I want to see the Indian petroglyphs near Harcuvar and also need to get to Parker early if I’m to sort out paying for my Amtrak ticket.