Push Bikes

A few days ago, Emer and I rode the stretch between Superior and Globe (Arizona), climbing up and up to Top of the World (the actual name of the community), then down and down to Globe, via Miami, copper mining capital of the world. Except we didn't. Combining the thrill of modern cross-training with a more primitive instinct-to-survive, we pushed our bikes, uphill, against a hurricane wind, on a road with no shoulders, for - oh, I don't know - about 6 miles. But let's start at the beginning of that fabulously tedious day.

The Queens Creek Tunnel, just east of Superior, Az., has a fearsome reputation in the cycling community. Depending on who you talk to, between 2 and 10 riders have been struck and killed attempting to navigate its 300-400 yard length.  A roadside memorial, with bicycle handlebars, dims the joie-de-vivre of eastbound bikers about to try their luck through the poorly-lit, uphill, no-shouldered, heavily-travelled mine shaft of sorrows. Seb and I did it last year, and the thin, wavering trail of Canadian diarrhea is almost certainly still evident - a tunnel tattoo of fear.

So this year I had a different plan... Thanks to the brilliant suggestion of BettyKay BettyKay (a Warmshowers host who liked her first name so much she had to say it twice, changing her surname legally for $130 big ones), we decided to take the old road out of Superior and go through the old tunnel - exchanging traffic concerns for crumbling ledges, rockfalls, and the ever-evocative tunnel collapse. On balance, a fair exchange. 

The secret, don't-tell-anyone, old road up to the secret, don't-look up, old tunnel was about 3 miles long, closed to vehicles, and rumoured to be featured in the upcoming Mad Max movie: Forsaken Road - No Longer Angry, Just Disappointed. The new-route strategy was a success, and the photos below, taken by our in-tent photographer E. J. Dowd, give you a feel for the scene.

Only after we'd thwarted the fearsome tunnel of doom did things get interesting. Last year, Seb described the stretch of highway between Superior and Globe as miserable, without a shoulder to cry on (oh that Seb...). Now, I believe I mentioned the wind a few paragraphs ago. It was the kind of wind that causes you to automatically duck your head and lean forward, striving for balance. But wait, there's more - let's pretend there was no wind: the uphill grade for the next 10-15 miles was such that, even in a vacuum, I would be in my granniest of granny gears, straining and wobbling my way along. Now combine the gale and the grade (if I ever open a pub, that'll be its name), the lack of shoulder, old-man legs, and too-big-to-care trucks, and we got about 200 yards up the slope from the tunnel before I yanked the bike over onto a scenic lookout/suicide zone-of-contemplation, and announced to Emer that this was silly. Between the wind and the slope, I was barely able to keep the bike upright. I needed a PB&J and a few minutes/hours to contemplate options. Here's what I came up with:

1) Huddle behind the rock face until June comes and picks us up.

2) Return to San Diego, with the wind at our back.

3) Flag down a car, and ask them - nicely - to drive behind us with flashing lights for the next eight hours.

I was leaning toward #3 when Emer came up with a suggestion:

4) Push our bikes up the side of the road for several hours, against traffic, and pause every 12-16 seconds to flatten ourselves against the cliff face to avoid vehicle after vehicle as they come around and around the numerous blind curves.

Excellent idea, Son! Let's do it!

Because it was President's Day down here (Family Day in Ontario), and we were on a scenic, touristic, as well as commercially-travelled route, the traffic really was a little denser than you might ideally wish. But we were going faster on our legs than I (not Emer) would have been able to go on bike so, really, it was a winning solution by The Middle Child. His only concern, as we scrabbled down into the little ditch against the rock face over and over, was that we might disturb any number of venomous serpents, unhappy at having their President's Day disrupted by clumsy hikers wearing biking shoes.

All's well that ends well, and the day ended well. By the time we reached Top of the World the wind had abated, of course, and we zoomed down through gorgeous countryside, past several fine examples of open-pit mining, and celebrated the strength and progress of Mankind in all its glory - big and small, young and old.