Pat and Sari's Honeymoon Bike Ride

Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Three Way, AZ to Safford, AZ
52 miles (3123 total miles)

Our sojourn at the camp last night reinforced how much better we like staying in motels. True, it was peaceful and we got to see a great sky-full of stars (at least in the bit of sky we could see through all the trees). But not having any water to wash our hands off after we ate, or when we got greasy from working on the bike - that was no fun. We had plenty of food, but we had misjudged how much water we'd need, and essentially ran dry by the time we got back to civilization at the town of Three-Way, 20 miles from our campsite. Live and learn. We started out at 8 am (actually 7 am AZ time, they don't use Daylight Savings so we are now 3 hours behind the east coast!). We knew we had 2 big passes to climb in the first half of the day, but were encouraged that the second half would all be downhill or level. We started our first 4-mile-long 1,000-foot climb soon after we left camp. We were going up the Big Lue Mountains to a 6,300-foot high pass at Black Jack Canyon. Beautiful scenery on the way up and spectacular view up at the pass. The big excitement on the way up was seeing a small pack of small pigs in a field. I saw one, who quickly ducked behind some pale grass with which he blended in perfectly. We quickly stopped to see if I could get a picture and I saw another larger one scurry into a bush with a baby in tow. I managed to get a very camoflauged view of the mom. We learned later that they were javelinas, a type of pecary, so I found a picture of one on the web so you could see what they really looked like. We also saw a turn that would have taken us to Hwy. 191, the road we were to pick up in Three-Way, by way of the Black Hills Back Country By-ways, but decided to pass that up.

The descent from the pass was tough at first, steep and curvy - we had to brake almost continuously most of the way down. Near the end, though, the road tapered off and took the snakiest, most convoluted route down until it finally settled into a fairly straight, gently rolling road. At one point, we were actually riding along the top of a short ridge - that was really pretty. The road from there into Three-Way was a gentle, smooth descent and we made it in very good time. We found a great little general store in Three-Way - when you're the only store in town, you have to stock just about everything. I had the coffee I needed and then had a soda to quench the thirst I had built up; Pat just had a soda and we got a couple of snacks to make up for not having had pancakes for breakfast. We also got a bag of ice and gallon of water and refilled all our bottles and camel-baks. We had a nice chat with the guy that worked there while we were doing all this. He's the one who told us the name of the javelinas. He also said there was a mountain lion as well as deer and elk in the hills - we hadn't seen any of those. We noticed there was a big drive-in movie screen right behind the gas pumps; he explained the drive-in had closed 25 years ago. The store had a t-shirt for sale, advertising itself, with the cute little catch-phrase "conveniently located in the middle of nowhere" - how true!

Refreshed, we started out for our second climb, this time on Hwy. 191. To add to the fun, the road was under construction - they seemed to be adding 2 more lanes to it. But at least the traffic wasn't bad and the road was smooth. We crossed the Gila River very high up near the beginning of our ascent; it didn't look nearly as pretty as it had the day before. Then we started the slow grind up. The grade was about 5-6%, like the first climb today, but the wind had become a little stronger by now. Three-Way was at about 3,600 feet and the top of this pass was about 4,800 feet, over a 7- or 8-mile stretch. Very slow going. We saw a few tiny lizards darting in and out of the rocks along the road (when you're going that slowly you can see a lot you might otherwise miss!). The landscape was pretty, like New Mexico it looked surprisingly green in some areas. There was lots of cactus and yucca and other little plants and bushes. The hill sides were rolling. Later, near the top, the hills got much craggier. When we finally passed the peak, the descent was long and gentle, so we didn't have to worry about braking. We settled in for a nice, fast run into Safford, still about 27 miles away. And for a while it was, but the winds got very, very strong and slowed us down significantly. We passed the Black Hills on our right and Mount Graham, a very high peak on our left. There were also lots of flowering cacti on the last stretch into town. We joined Hwy. 70 on the last stretch into town and the traffic got a bit worse as well. It was also quite hot - about 90 degrees. All in all, by the time we reached Safford, we were worn out from fighting the wind and couldn't wait to find a motel to collapse in. We were glad we decided to make tomorrow our rest day, too. We ended up at a motel at 3:20 local time, having gone 52 miles in 5-1/4 hours of bike time.

Your scribe working late into the night at the camp's picnic table

An alternate route to Hwy. 191 that we decided not to take

Our little mamma pig hiding in the bushes

We added this picture so you could see what she really looked like

Some of the impressive rock shapes in Black Jack Canyon

Pat ponders the vastness of the view from the pass

It is an impressive view

A schoolbus chugs around the bend

The bike is there to show the scale of the rock face

Another view as we come down from the pass

Near the bottom looking back up

The road at the bottom snakes up and loops to the right

After it loops around at the right, it snakes left and then goes up the middle

On the straight run at last

Some reddish dirt

After a little jog, we go up again briefly

Looking back at where we'd been again

The general store at Three-Way where we refueled

Climbing again after Three-Way, we can see the mountain and the road we were on

Yellow-flowered bushes covered some of the hills

Looking back again, the dark square over the white building in the center is
the Three-Way drive-in

The landscape along the hill

Another view back - a cluster of buildings north of where we were

Purple-tipped grasses bending in the wind that started getting stronger

Cacti were plentiful

Another look back at this morning's mountains from the top of this pass

Rocky ledges start to appear around us as we head down again

Another vivid yellow-flowered bush at the lower elevation

Yellow flowers on red cactus

Red flowers on another type of cactus

Mountains, including Mount Graham, ahead as we get nearer Safford

Black Hills behind a farmhouse with very green hay in front

Tubes suck up water from an irrigation ditch

The little town of Solomon just before we get to Safford

We're amazed to find we'd dropped over 4,000 feet today