The road to Camp Verde, Arizona was paved with good intentions. We were up early and on the road.
Elliot suggested we stop and see Tonto Natural Bridge. He had fond memories of camping and swimming when he was a Boy Scout and had us sold on the short detour. Ten miles (16 km) and a climb of of 750 feet (230 m) later we turned off into the park entrance. Then we saw the sign.
With a 14% grade, the ride down would be fun but the long steep grind out of the park would be less than pleasant.
The bridge and the surrounding environs was spectacular. The bridge is believed to to be the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. It stands over 183 feet (56 m) high over a 400 foot (122 m) long tunnel that measures 150 feet (46 m) at its widest point.
The slog out of the park in the heat was not fun but the side trip was well worth it.
Five miles later a recovering catholic, a skinny girl, and a recently unwaged CEO walk into a bar. Not any bar, but THAT Brewery.
We met Matt Josef at the entrance. He saw our bicycles and told us about his bicycle, bmx, motorcycle and his Volkswagen camper van exploits. He’s an artist and was moving from Oklahoma.
The camper van with all his implementations of adventure was parked in the lot and loaded up. In the driver’s seat were a chihuahua, fresh off the Chihuahua Road, and an Australian sheep dog. The chihuahua was driving and the sheep dog was working the pedals.
As Matt drove off we made our way back to the patio area of the brewery and restaurant where we were treated to the one-man band jamming from the gazebo on the keyboards, fiddle, sax, clarinet, harmonica and guitar.
We started talking with Ed and Kathy at the table next to us. They recently bought a house in Pine, Arizona, as a vacation retreat and escape from the heat in Phoenix. Half seriously, half jokingly, they offered their backyard as a camping spot before they left.
Be careful what you offer a cyclo-tourer. Offers of food, drink or lodging are rarely turned down.
After some food and a few beers later, we called them. The price of admission was a growler of beer.
Their son, daughter and grandson showed up later and after a barbecue, beer bonfire, and boisterous conviviality, we had new friends.
At 24 miles, it was a day short on distance but long on experiences.