Day Forty-two, Date Saturday, April 11, 2009
Time in Saddle: 7:08
Distance for the Day: 50.07 miles: From S of St. Johns, AZ To Alpine, AZ
Accumulated Trip Distance: 1650.3 mles
Altitudes: Starting/Ending 5969’/8056’, Highest: 8563’, Accumulated: 4790’
Speeds: Avg: 7.0 mph, Max: 39.7 mph
Weather: 25° and strong winds in the AM, mostly or totally cloudy all day
It rained a little starting at 1am off-and-on sprinkles, got up around 6am just before sunrise, and it was *very* cold and windy, but not raining. I started to break down, and then it started snowing. My hands were so cold, I couldn’t do much, so I just hung out at the side of barn out of the main brunt of the wind. The ground became sticky “gumball” mud, where when you walk on it, it builds up on the bottoms of your shoes until you stand an inch or so higher. This clogged-up my cycling shoe cleats real good, and so I just stood there and ate the blueberry cheese Danish I bought yesterday, and stood there for perhaps an 1.5 hours or so until the sun finally came out. I tried to roll my trike out towards the road, but the sticky mud got stuck between my tires and fenders, so my trike got stuck! I managed to get it over to a water hose to wash the mud out of my tires, but made the big mistake of splashing some of the water on my shoes. I knew this would mean numb toes for most of the day (Demitol!) I finally got away from the barn by 8:10am, and began moving on to Springerville (whew!)
It was a tough slog going uphill in the cold and wind with numb toes and fingers, but I made Springerville by noon, where I met yet another amazing person on this trip already chock full of amazing people. His name was Dan, and with two pairs of socks on his hands for gloves against the cold, and a backpack so ratty, it seemed anything put into it would immediately fall out through the holes, again, we got to talking. He’s been walking around the contiguous 48 states of the U.S. and down into Mexico and Central America for more than TEN YEARS. The only U.S. properties he hasn’t been to are Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. He just walks, and walks, and walks! I don’t know how he’s been able to do it all this time, but he just goes and goes. I never knew the world was quite this interesting. We swapped stories a bit, until I couldn’t stand the cold anymore, and we said “byefernow,” and went our separate ways. I went into town and got and ate half a Subway sandwich ($7). Then I pushed on further up to Nutrioso.
The day was getting late, and I wasn’t seeing much in the way of any place to overnight. When I don’t see anything locally, I usually push on, so, that’s what I did. I began the ascent to Alpine – another long, uphill slog, going 2 or 3 mph. I passed a reservoir and spoke briefly with a Ranger, who said it might snow pretty soon. Great! I ground my way up, and finally got to Alpine and the mini-mart there. Before I got into the store, a couple of guys in a truck asked me where I was from, where I was headed, and if I was nuts. I gave ‘em my story, and told them I was going to check around locally to see if anyone would let me put my sleeping bag on their porch, or something, and they invited me to their father’s cabin about 2 miles back up the road I’d just come down. They were having a family get-together for Easter Sunday, and I could join them. I could eat, take a hot bath, and sleep there(!) I accepted enthusiastically and gratefully. I put my panniers and trike in the back of their truck, and they drove me to their cabin, a large, rustic, and un-finished building that had a large fireplace, and a very efficient wood fire stove that heated the whole place. There were more than a dozen kids of ages varying from baby to teenage, and almost as many more adults, all parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, and the grandfather and grandmother of them all. (I’m going to have to wait to be contacted by one of them to get their names right.) I *think* the grandfather’s name was Bud (I’m so bad with names)(it's actually Claude, and the grandmother's name is Karen), and it was his sons, Chris and Spencer, who invited me over. We chatted about my trip, and Claude showed me pictures from his travels around the U.S. on his Mac. We had a big dinner of meat and bean stew, fajitas with steak, green peppers, onions, and sauce, and lots more, all delicious and very much appreciated (I was originally planning to have a Power Bar for dinner). Then came the kids who did funny, very animated lip-synching dances to the songs they liked. They called themselves “rednecks,” but I came to realize, it’s just a label. They were open, tough, joyous, people who enjoyed life as much as they could, and suffered its problems honestly and with strength. I went to sleep watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade on a soft couch, in a warm room with little bundles of sleeping kids all over the floor.