Day Fifty-Four

Springerville, AZ to Show Low, AZ

This was a fantastic day. After days of hanging out in Springerville, I was anxious to get back on the road. When I woke up and checked The Weather Channel, I couldn't believe my eyes. For wind, it said " calm." I heated up some leftovers for breakfast, finished packing and headed out around 9:15. I decided to go for the high, scenic road for several reasons. With so much rest, I felt like I was up for a challenge. Knowing how high the mountain passes are further north, I felt like I would be taking the easy way out if my trip topped out at " only" 8,000 feet. SR 260 would take me above 9,000 feet.  Plus, it was only a few miles further than US 60.

The first few miles felt strange. I had been off of my bike a little too long. Nonetheless, it was an easy ride through Springerville and into neighboring Eagar. I headed west on SR 260, the road I would follow for several days. After passing by the 26 Bar Ranch, which was formerly owned by John Wayne, the road began to climb. The hills were gradual at first, and yet my legs felt weak from too much time away from riding. Then the real climbing began. The first big rise made me think I would be in for a long day. I entered Apache National Forest and saw ten deer by the side of the road. When they saw me, they all jumped over the barbed wire fence and ran away. The climbing had only just begun--over the next couple miles, it was all uphill on a 6% grade. I'd like to say that I charged right up, but in actuality I was gasping for air. With the pounding of my heart and the heaving of my lungs, I couldn't even hear cars coming up behind me anymore. Several times I paused by the side of the road, breathing so hard I thought I would hyperventilate. It wasn't that I was so out of shape from a few days off--it was the exertion in the thin air. By the time I reached the top, I was over 9,100 feet.

Along the way, I saw several cyclists heading the other way. When a white van went past with several bike wheels on its roof rack, I knew that this had to be an organized group. As I came up to the high plains, a couple of them stopped to talk to me. One took my picture. I got a kick out of that--after meeting and writing about so many people who have been a part of my trip, now I was part of someone else's tour. I should have given them my web address, but I forgot--wouldn't it be funny if that guy created a web site about his week and included a picture of me? I counted a total of 18 riders stretched out across seven or eight miles. I was glad that they were there because motorists coming my way would see them first and maybe be a bit more alert to another cyclist on the road.

A strange thing happened when I got to the high plains and suddenly had a 20 mph headwind. It invigorated me. The rest of the day was a piece of cake. The road was good and traffic was low. I rode on into the White Mountain Apache Reservation and marveled at the beauty around me. I spied a lake through the trees and rode off on a side road to take pictures of it. There is a certain peacefulness about a shimmering high altitude lake.

After a series of hills, I began descending. Occasionally I went down and up at a creek crossing, but it was mostly downhill. I sped through tiny McNary, the first town in 35 miles. Soon I came to Hon-Dah, home of the requisite reservation casino. There wasn't much to the town beyond the casino, dashing my hopes for a photo of a car dealership: Hon-Dah Honda. Traffic picked up, but the Arizona DOT was proactive enough to be on the verge of opening two more lanes. In the meantime, I was lucky enough to be headed in the direction that had a wide shoulder.

A few miles later, I entered the town of Pinetop-Lakeside. This was the busiest traffic I'd seen in weeks. I saw a lot of things, but I didn't stop to take pictures--I just wanted to get out of there. On the bright side, it was almost all downhill. In fact, if I didn't know better, I would have figured Show Low to be around sea level. Although I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast, I was still feeling strong, climbing hills at 20 mph. Show Low was a stretched-out town covering much more area than a Midwesterner would expect for a town of 8,000 people. In fact, this was a common trait of Arizona towns.

There is an interesting story as to how Show Low was named. I saw several variations, but here is the version from the Show Low Motel 6 Guest Directory:

Partners Marion Clark and Croydon E. Cooley, a famous Indian scout, settled their land in 1870, fencing off some 100,000 acres with barbed wire. (The present townsite was part of this large ranch.) Several years later, the two partners had a disagreement and decided to dissolve their partnership with a game of cards called " Seven Up" ... the winner would buy out the other.

As the story goes, the partners played all night. On the last hand Cooley needed just one point to win. At that moment, Clark is reported to have said, " You show low and you win." Cooley cut the deck, and came up with the Deuce of Clubs...thus winning the game...and providing the name for the future town of Show Low!

US 60, the main street in town, is named Deuce of Clubs. To my surprise, Show Low's elevation was 6,350 feet. Even though I had been descending for most of the day, I only lost 600 feet from Springerville. Of course, the 2,000 feet I gained in the morning helped.

For dinner, I went to the White Mountain Restaurant near the Motel 6. I was getting tired of hamburgers and pizza, occasionally supplemented by a grilled ham & cheese sandwich. As soon as I saw the menu, I knew what I wanted. I had seen several Italian restaurants in Pinetop-Lakeside, which whetted my appetite. And there on the menu, across from the burgers and below the steaks, was " Italian spaghetti." That seemed a bit redundant to me, so when I ordered, I asked for spaghetti. " Italian spaghetti?" the waiter asked.

The spaghetti was fantastic it really hit the spot.

Totals for the day: 58.50 miles in 4:43:57 for a 12.3 mph average.

Click here to see today's photos.

Copyright 2002-2013 David Johnsen. All rights reserved.