Safford, Arizona

What should have been the best descent of the tour was ruined by high winds. I don’t mean to dwell on such things, but the wind made riding impossible. We left the Coal Creek campground and climbed a short distance to the pass. As we reached the top, the forest opened into a vast canyon and the road below unfolded in a beautiful ribbon of downward angled curves. We worked hard to inch along the steep declines, where we would have been coasting at thirty and forty miles per hour in still air.

We dropped a couple thousand feet into a basin. Without the help of gravity at the bottom, we were now nearly unable to keep the bikes upright. We made it to a junction with a gas station and a small grocery store. We bought ice cream. As we ate, the roar of the wind was still in our ears. Our route left the basin and climbed westward. We rode on. Steve’s knee began to hurt. I was averaging about three miles per hour. Steve was walking his bike. The wind velocity was around forty miles per hour, gusting to well over fifty.

I wanted to ride on, but Steve could barely bend his knee. He stuck out his thumb.

And someone stopped. A young man driving a Jeep pulled off the road and we decided to get a ride to Safford. I initially refused assistance, but at our current pace, it would be well after dark before we would arrive at our destination. We loaded the bikes into Stan’s car and piled into the passenger seat.

Stan worked at the Phelps Dodge copper mine in the area, the fifth largest open pit mine in the world. He told us about the staggering amount of copper ore extracted every day by the huge dump trucks. A very interesting area. The mining company actually owned the nearby towns. As Stan struggled to keep his car straight in the wind, we enjoyed the beautiful scenery. We arrived in Safford and got a motel room. We needed a rest.

We will soon decide whether we ride tomorrow. We might take another day off. We were battered today. Not a fun ride.