Mesa to Pitt 2015

Mesa to Pitt 2015

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Biking from Why, AZ to Tuscon on AZ 86. March 14

March 14.....112.7 miles in 8:02....I knew it was going to be a long haul, because just about the entire trip was across the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation, and we were told that there are no accommodations for travelers on the entire reservation. They don't even really appreciate it when travelers pull over and stop. So.... I was ready for a nonstop, self supported ride. I was actually looking forward to doing the distance, because it's been a while since I've done a century ride. Pam came by at about the halfway mark, and I had a nice cream bar and some spaghetti for fuel. There was one or two gas stations with convenience stores, so there a few stops for travelers.
The ride started in sunshine and 60 degree temps, with a side wind that really was no factor. There was a casino within a few miles, that looked like a convenience store, not really much of a destination. The miles passed easily, with plenty of cactus to look at as well as watching for signs of illegal alien activity.  I read in some literature that illegals usually carry their water in black gallon jugs for some reason, and I had noticed them laying along the road on my last ride. At the time I didn't get the connection, but now that I do, I saw at least 20 of the jugs on today's ride, right along the road. That demonstrates to me the number of illegals making it into the country. Some of the jugs had cloth straps tied to them, so they were easier to carry. 
Two other things that were always nearby on the entire trip were Border Patrol agents, of which were passing me constantly, loaded down sometimes with ATVs and horse trailers full of horses, which are tools of the trade. I also saw a low flying helicopter surveying the open wilderness as I rode. I was told that many aliens come in on Indian property, so I don't know how much the Indians care about keeping them out. I'm just not sure about that one, but I think it would be interesting to know. The other thing that was always nearby, was the large number of memorials to the dead that were built along the road. I must have seen over three dozen today, some quite extravagant. People did brick work and concrete work on the monuments that was quite professionally done. Other monuments were just wooden crosses with plastic flowers and candles inside of metal cans. Some nearby trees were also decorated with what looked like Christmas balls and tinsel. Lots of people died on this road. 
There were quite a few small Indian towns that seemed to be pretty basic and poverty stricken. The town of Sells, where Pam pulled over for me, was the biggest town, but only one gas station and one grocery store. I didn't see any other businesses. 
The trip encompassed three mountain passes and three valleys, the third of which was our final destination, a BLM campground seven miles outside of Tucson. ( the solar panels are working great, making all this free BLM camping easier.  I really like the solar panels cause even on an overcast day we are charging and then at night we function on the inverter. It's easier to watch TV without the sound of the generator.  Plus it's nice to just hear nature...)  I climbed about 2500 ft over the three passes, but they were all very gradual. The mountains were the most scenic parts of the ride, and the valleys were long and the roads very straight for miles and miles and miles.the third pass was the longest and highest, as AZ 86 skirted Kitt Peak, which was way up there at about 6800 feet, and has a national observatory at the top. As I negotiated my part of the climb, to about 3500 ft, rain clouds surrounded the peak, and I watched rain fall in several different directions, even though I was almost always in the sun. Pam got rained on pretty hard while she was setting up at the new campground. It did drop about 20 degrees on top, so I stopped and added a layer. It stayed cool as I descended into the Tuscon area. Tuscon is about 1000 ft higher than the Sonoran Desert, which I pedaled out of as I left the town of Sells, and headed to Kitt Peak. The Saguaro cactus also thinned out quite a bit near Tuscon. They were everywhere early in the trip and throughout most of the reservation. Overall, it was a very enjoyable 112 miles, except for the last five miles, as the shoulder was wide on AZ 86, but the bumps were bone rattling. From the top of Kitt Pass all the way down the last thirty miles, I had wide shoulder, and most of it was brand new and clean, until that last section. The west end of AZ 86 basically had no shoulder all the way through the reservation, but the road was pretty smooth, and the traffic was quite manageable, despite all the schools being on spring break out here, which I found out was the reason traffic was so bad for me from Gila Bend to Why the other day.


Approximate riding distance to Tucson

Travelling on AZ 86 the entire way

(Tow-HOE-no   Oh-oh-thaam)  This is the reservation that AZ 86 cuts through 

This town we have no idea how to pronounce!

One of dozens of memorials along the road

Black jugs that illegals carry, then discard

AZ 86 winding through the first mountain pass

Saguaro cacti everywhere!

No shoulder through here

I think this road has been closed for awhile

Indian cemetery is as colorful as the memorials!

This is the Indian road that Mike's GPS wanted to take from Casa Grande

A little local history

Rain clouds surrounding Kitt Peak

Kitt Peak National Observatory on top

These Indians did not want anyone on their roads!

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