Sierra Vista AZ: Through Palominas

Up at 5AM, then just dozing with MSNBC’s Morning Joe on the TV. I figured I’d better address the saddle sores acutely, and so washed well, applied a bunch of antibiotic cream, and then 2 big square padded bandages. On top of all that an extra generous dose of Chamois butter. Better to nip this in the bud (or butt).

At 8AM, Jesse and I met up and took another roll through Douglas. This time we tried to find a café from the Google map, but unfortunately found only a local Iglesia de Luz del Mundo at 12th and A Avenue. Maybe a café in a former life.

My new seat position was horrible by the way. Much too low and much too forward – man, I was having trouble getting it right – so we stopped again to fiddle with it. Jesse suggested a return to the Gadsden Hotel. There we found a terrific old café called the Cattleman’s Coffee Shop, with a row of round swivel seats facing an old tiled breakfast bar. Perfect spot for java and a bite to eat, and I enjoyed eggs, one strip of bacon, and one large pancake. Jesse went with his customary 2 English muffins. A friendly Latino kid struck up a conversation with us, asking about our ride, etc.

Cattleman's Coffee Shop at the Hotel Gadsden
Downtown Douglas

We took off east on AZ80 away from Douglas. As expected, we encounter a very slow incline which increased its slope as the day wore on. The winds were soon noticeable too, a few mph directly out of the west. Great – three days of headwinds in a row.

Heading west immediately out of Douglas
Looking back east at the brown cloud hovering over Agua Prieta
Mining equipment west of Douglas on AZ80

A couple of good hills had us working to reach the outskirts of Bisbee right around 5000 feet elevation. We decided to take the southern route along AZ92 for variety, and because AZ80 through Bisbee does some serious climbing. At the intersection we stopped at a gas station but it had no snacks, and were advised that a convenience store would be about 1.5 miles down AZ92.

Outskirts of Bisbee

The intersection was one of those old-style roundabouts, and the steep climb away from it had Jesse’s Garmin bouncing between 7% and 9% grade. After a half mile, however, the grade turned to our favor, and we soared down a nice hill to find a Shell station at the intersection of South Naco Hwy and AZ92.

We sat for a few minutes enjoying Gatorade, Snickers, and Power Bars, and met up with a friendly Latino guy wearing an Army cap. He turned out to be ultra friendly and ultra talkative and interested in our biking, gear, and fitness. We learned that he lived here just north of Naco and was retired from the Army. I figured he must have been in it for a long time since he mentioned he’d worked in intelligence, electronics, depot, and a few other disciplines. He said he’d ridden bicycles a lot for a while, losing up to 85 pounds. Man – looking at the guy you’d never know he could ever carry that much more.

It’s really interesting to observe how one is treated while bicycle touring, and the loaded down bicycle with panniers seems to be a calling card. People go out of their way to say hello, ask questions, shoot the shit, tell of their own bicycle experiences. Truck drivers seem nicer, motorcyclists treat you with more respect, heck, even policeman seem to offer a warmer acknowledgment.

Naco, Mexico, viewed from AZ92

From the Naco Hwy, it’s a great downhill for many miles. Unfortunately, the winds picked up considerably, gusting to around 10 mph directly from the west. We eventually hit some slopes of 2, maybe 3 percent down, but the gusts kept us pinned under 12 mph or so, even while pedaling.

Check out the headwinds we were fighting
East on AZ92
Signs of the times in Palominas AZ

Sixteen miles brought us to the San Pedro Feed and Hardware Store in Palominas. We were looking for the Palominas Country Store, and stopped to check on directions and other availability of food. A large dilapidated food truck, like one you might see at a carnival, was parked in the dirt lot, with “Mexican Cuisine” painted amateurishly on the side. We peeked at it and a lady immediately called out that she had caldo de olla and would be happy to serve us.

San Pedro Feed & Hardware in Palominas AZ

We were a little unsure of this. I, for one, sort of misunderstood the name of the soup, thinking she had said caldo de ojo, which didn’t sound all that great to me. We both were sizing up the situation, too. Here was this truck serving Mexican cuisine out here on desolate AZ92, in the dusty parking lot of a feed and hardware store. They couldn’t be serving more than 3 or 4 customers all day.

First, we walked into the store and found it had no food, but at least had cold drinks. The clerk indicated that no other food was offered in Palominas, but that the Mexican Cuisine truck was pretty good. We both bought a drink and headed outside to order.

Shelly described her 3 or 4 ready dishes in detail, but definitely pushed the caldo. Jesse ordered a bowl and I waited to check out what he got. As soon as I saw the bowl, I was ready to order my own. Shelly brought me out a spoon so I could pre-taste the stock, and the bowl was piled high with corn, potatoes, beef, and lots of chayotes. Delicious.

Shelly and me chewing the fat

We sat down and Shelly soon joined us. A mysterious guy, perhaps Shelly’s significant other, sat perched in the truck’s driver’s seat. Old-time traditional Mexican musicá emanated out the open door.

We found Shelly affable and delightful. Born in Mexico City, she’d lived in Bisbee for a while and was a two-time cancer survivor – one time cervical cancer, and the other time lung cancer. And she had this glow around her like she had rediscovered life. Articulate, opinionated, and divorced, Shelly described how she often takes in gay boarders because things are “much less complicated that way.”

Our conversation turned to world affairs. We agreed that overpopulation is a fundamental problem everywhere, and that unfortunately many economies, including our own, are based on population growth. Sitting there at the table, we attempted to solve a few of the world’s complex problems, but eventually settled on simply discussing them.

Wannabe hitchiker on Jesse's brake levers

From the feed store, we continued west and started to ascend. The direct headwind gusts kept us really pinned down for about 8 miles. Eventually, we found ourselves on the leeward side of the mountains ahead of us, with the winds partially blocked. The road turned north and some real climbing started, back up to around 5000 feet.

Ansel Adams skies
Stark beauty in southern AZ
Climbing out of the Palominas valley

We stopped at the top for a short break, then started a long sweet glide downhill toward Sierra Vista. For the first time today, the winds were just a crosswind, maybe even helping us by 5° or so, which felt just great. Lots of houses sprung up on our right, a sprawling development known as Sierra Vista Southeast. Quite a few restaurants were there, too – I guessed it was all related to the population at Fort Huachuca.

We entered Sierra Vista proper and the traffic picked up a lot. Turning left onto E Fry Boulevard, the traffic was really thick, and the street design was horrendous for bicycles. Jesse and I took to the sidewalk and fought through numerous stoplights and entrances.

My little saddle sore bandages had worked really well, and it seemed that my buns were no longer going to be an issue. Still, when we passed a CVS I stopped to buy a supply of new bandages, so I could repeat the process tomorrow.

We then found the Motel 6 and checked in. As I relaxed in the shower, I noted that my knees were also much better today – the seat adjustment made back in Douglas certainly seemed like a big step in the right direction.

Fuzzy pic of Motel 6 Sierra Vista AZ

Jesse and I walked to a Pizza Hut “Italian Bistro” down the street, where the Jets-Patriots game was on Monday Night Football and so we sat in the sports bar portion of the restaurant with a couple of terrific cold Amberbock drafts. Jesse liked the tall glasses a lot.

Nice beer glasses - Janel would be proud of this photo

We asked our server whether one person can typically eat a large pizza and she shook her head, “No, not usually.” So Jesse ordered a large pizza margarita style (garlic, onions, tomatoes, basil, cheese) and I ordered one with chicken, mushrooms, and green chilis. About 45 minutes later we were polishing off the last piece, fully stuffed. Not such a feat with my thin crust pizza, but I was impressed that Jesse managed it with a thick crust version.

After (we polished off those last 2 pieces)

A walk back to the motel, with a plan to meet very early tomorrow morning. Seinfeld on TV, then the NFR rodeo again.

Miles today: 61.6
Climbing total: 2,444 ft (Jesse’s Garmin)
Trip miles: 186.0