We woke up not too far from the Coolidge Dam. A discovery of an old horseshoe near our cowboy camping spot portended fortune … unfortunately it was mixed.
The power was out in the area for the second day (there was a dam problem) so when we reached the highway, all stores were closed, nixing any hopes of a second breakfast.
As luck would have it, we had a forceful tailwind. We made the town of Globe, Arizona in time to make the breakfast special before 11 am.
Our luck would turn for the worse after that. Leaving Globe, traffic was heavy and the divided road (two lanes in each direction) through town was twisting. This wasn’t a limited access highway, but a main artery through town with moderate speeds. Going around one curve, I saw a red pickup towing an Airstream Trailer in my review mirror coming extremely close. The truck passed me too close and the trailer even closer. Sarah was ahead and the trailer sideswiped her bags, forcing her into the side where her pedal caught the curb, and did not stop.
I was afraid she was going to fall back into traffic but she maintained here balance. I was shaken and extremely angry (I had been hit by a vehicle in Russia). Sarah new something happened but not that she had been hit.
We pulled up onto the side of the road and I explained what had happened. We took a breather and started out again, a bit gun shy.
Along the way, I was constantly searching parking lots of strip malls and gas stations for the red truck and Airstream.
A few miles down the road, I saw it stopped at a traffic light, waiting to leave a grocery store parking lot. I pulled my bike in front of the truck, blocking it from exiting and motioned for the guy driving to roll down his window. A little yapping dog was trying to be ferocious and he kept lisping that he couldn’t hear me. The little punt dog was insistently yelping in his ear from the back seat. So I began yelling:
“Did you see us biking back in town?”
“I can’t hear you what?”
“DID YOU SEE US BIKING BACK IN TOWN?”
“Yes, we passed you”
“DO YOU REALIZE YOU HIT MY WIFE?”
“No, I didn’t” Meanwhile the other man in the passenger seat leans over flapping his hands and lisps “Oh no! We’re so sorry. Is she alright?”
At this point I’m weighing my options:
- Punch this driver and consequently be accused of a hate crime
- Knife a few of the side walls of his tires
- Attempt a further conversation
The driver continued:
“I tried to move over but there was a car in the other lane”
At this point my volume was exceeding “yappy, the wonder dog.” “SO, RATHER THAN STOP OR SLOW DOWN YOUR TRUCK, YOU CHOSE TO SIDESWIPE A BICYCLE, ANOTHER VEHICLE ON THE ROAD? POTENTIALLY KILLING A PERSON WAS A VALID OPTION IN YOUR MIND RATHER THAN ANY OTHER ALTERNATIVE?”
The passenger meanwhile kept lisping “Oh no, we’re so sorry,” and turned to the driver and slapped him “I told you to slow down” The driver was just staring at me, dumbfounded. The dog continued to yap.
At this point, traffic was backing up at the traffic light, horns were blaring, and camera phones were pointed at us from all directions. Rather than escalate further, and be caught on camera, I gave a final yell above the yapping dog volume, “WATCH OUT, YOU’RE GOING TO KILL SOMEONE.”
Mistakenly thinking the worst of the day was over, we continued on to what turned out to be the most dangerous road I have ever biked on, anywhere in the world. The mountain pass road was shared with mining trucks and extremely heavy traffic volumes with small to no shoulder. To their credit, the truck drivers were extremely professional, understanding their vehicles widths and the effects of the drafts that they create. When they could, the truck drivers gave us as wide a berth as possible. The bane of the ride was car drivers, recreational vehicle drivers, and any truck pulling a trailer.
We began a series of frantic uphill sprints punctuated by me yelling “Ditch!” We would run off the road to avoid the speeding uphill traffic. Frazzled, we stopped at the top of the pass for a snack. The guy who sold us ice cream did not soothe our nerves by relating,
“I don’t even like driving my Harley down the other side. There’s a tunnel down there where a few cyclists are hit every year.” Sarah, looked liked she was ready to vomit.
The great thing about riding downhill in a loaded touring bike are that you can approach car speeds. We ended up taking a lane during the descent and moving off to the side when safe. We had a few cars behind us on the single lane, which ended up being great protection, before we entered the dark tunnel.
Relieved, we made it safely to Superior, Arizona where we had been invited to stay with Mari and Charles. Mari saw us on the road the day before and invited to stay with them.
Arriving home from work, she was already aware of the difficult road. She and her husband are cyclists themselves and have hosted hundreds of other bicycle tourists. We related the Airstream story to which she added,
“Well it’s ironic that you’re staying in the Airstream out back tonight. I’ll go turn on the air conditioning now.”
A very special thank you to Mari and Charles (and Sadie) for the kindness, conversation and food.