Day Fifty-Five

Show Low, AZ to Forest Lakes, AZ

I didn't feel very good today. I probably was a little flat after yesterday's inspired ride. Although I didn't reach yesterday's heights, I probably climbed quite a bit more today with all the ups and downs.

This morning when I came out of a gas station with a Coke and a blackberry fruit pie, a man came up to me and asked where I was headed. When I said California, he said, " The military sent me there when I was 18 years old... a long time ago... well, that was about 48 years ago." He added that he supposed things had changed a little since then.

As soon as I turned onto SR 260 from US 60, I was going up. Traffic was heavier than it was on SR 260 from Springerville to Hon-Dah yesterday, but the road generally had a good shoulder. After I passed through Linden, a bedroom suburb of Show Low, I saw a minivan pull off the road across from me at a nearby intersection. A man got out of the minivan and walked toward me as I was heading downhill. Realizing that he wanted to talk to me, I clamped on the brakes.

" I saw you," he said. " ...Back in New Mexico." I was trying to place him, but I couldn't quite figure it out. " Remember, we talked... what town was that?"

It clicked. " Carrizozo!" I exclaimed. We had talked outside the gas station where I stocked up for the ride to Socorro. It turned out that he lived nearby, just off SR 260. Especially considering how many repeat encounters I had around Carrizozo (the man in the pick-up truck, the cyclists from Colorado and the man from The Outpost), this was amazing.

The hills just kept coming today. Eventually I found my climbing legs and started to enjoy the scenery instead of struggling. I was in Apache Sitgreaves National Forest. Since the towns shown along the highway were actually just north or south of the road, the route was quite rural. That was broken up by a western-style resort, mall  and housing development called the Bison Ranch. And yes, there actually was a herd of bison there, too. That was the eastern edge of Overgaard. I was looking for a pet store I'd heard about in Overgaard called Teddy's Place. Since one of our dogs is named Teddy, I had to stop. Alas, I never saw Teddy's Place. Overgaard was not a typical town with a shopping district. All the businesses were spread out and many were hidden in the woods. I was disappointed, but I didn't want to take the time to make another pass through town.

However, I did want to take the time to eat. When I made a reservation for the night, the motel owner told me that the adjacent restaurant wasn't going to be open until May 1, and there were currently no other places to eat in town. Therefore, I had to find something to eat in Overgaard or Heber that would tide me over for the evening. When I saw a place called Pizza Time, I decided to give it a try. It turned out to be the best pizza I'd had in several weeks, and I had a couple of slices leftover that I could take with to microwave in my motel room. Also, after looking in Springerville for days, I finally found Jerry Springer on the TV at Pizza Time. His first guest was a woman who claimed that she had sex with an alien. Someone mercifully changed the channel.

Heber was only a mile past Overgaard, and judging from the development in the area, that gap will soon disappear. I rode down a huge hill into a canyon. I stopped at the Heber Country Store near the edge of town, which despite the quaint name turned out to be a full-blown grocery store (albeit not nearly as large as a Jewel, Kroger or Safeway). I bought water, a Coke and a lemonade. While I was refilling my water bottles outside, a woman asked me about my trip. She asked where I was going for the night, and I said the Forest Lakes Lodge. " Well, I'm the owner of the Canyon View Motel here in town. We probably charge half of what they do." On a weekend she would be correct, but on an off-season Monday, the Forest Lakes Lodge was $39, only $5 more than the Canyon View Motel. It was well worth it to get 17 miles further down the road.

I left Heber at 3:00, plenty of time to cover the miles, but it wasn't easy. After that huge downhill into town, now I had to ride back up onto the Mogollon Rim. I had an exhausting two hours of climbing ahead of me. My consolation was that I wouldn't have to do it tomorrow. The traffic on SR 260 was heavier west of Heber, especially truck traffic. In town there was a junction that linked to Holbrook, and since this was the most direct route between Holbrook and Phoenix, I figured that the trucks  had to be en route between those two cities. SR 260 alternated between two lanes and three lanes. When it was two lanes, there were a few hairy moments when trucks were passing both ways and I balanced precariously on six inches of shoulder. None of the hills were quite as exhausting as yesterday's climb into the forest, probably because the elevation wasn't as high.

I saw something unusual--road kill poetry on a series of blue highway signs, Burma Shave style:

They saw an elk

Oh what a thrill

Until they smashed it

On the grill

I had a nice surprise at the end of the day--Forest Lakes came sooner than I expected. I bought some Coke at the first store I saw, then continued to the Lodge  at the west end of town. When I walked in, the motel owner pointed at the television. They were showing a shark that was caught. " They caught that shark, and it had a human skull inside!"

" Really?" I asked. He didn't 'fess up at the time, but I saw on the news later that he was pulling my leg.

As he checked me in, he said, " Let's see, that was $89 plus tax is $273..." That got my attention. " No, no. I wouldn't do that to you." I've actually thought about that before--that a motel owner in the middle of nowhere at sunset could really gouge me.

Totals for the day: 55.56 miles in 5:23:19 for a 10.3 mph average.

Click here to see today's photos.

Copyright 2002-2013 David Johnsen. All rights reserved.