Day 16: Glendale, AZ to Phoenix, AZ - American Redemption - CycleBlaze

March 10, 2013

Day 16: Glendale, AZ to Phoenix, AZ

I planned to leave the Phoenix area today, but repairs on the bike tomorrow sets things back a day. So I spend the morning sleeping, writing, eating, and hanging out with Benny the dog instead.

I don't leave Glendale until the afternoon. I ride along the Grand Canal Trail, which takes me under roads, over smaller canals, and through a long series of housing developments where kids play basketball in cul-de-sacs and dads work on old sports cars in the shade of the garage.

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As soon as I hit the Phoenix city limits the houses become older. The backyards are filled with more garbage and broken down cars. The power poles all have dark spots where graffiti has been painted over. And the swimming pools in the few houses that have them are either empty or filled with greenish standing water.

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Then I round a corner and there, just beyond a very poor neighborhood, where the houses have bars on the windows and a shopping cart has been dumped in the canal, are four impeccable baseball diamonds and a 7,000-seat stadium filled with Midwestern tourists sitting in the sun watching a Milwaukee Brewers spring training game. Not two miles farther down the trail, the surface turns to dirt and runs past long groups of industrial buildings and a handful of homeless men who live in shelters of scrap wood along the walls of the canal. These are neighborhoods of pawn shops and prostitutes and general destitution. I'm only ten miles from Glendale and its modern hockey and football arenas and fake-old restaurants, but it feels like another country.

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And then, just two miles later, it's back to the comfortable, modern America: attractive homes with stucco siding power-washed to a brilliant white, rows of tall and healthy looking palm trees, a golf course, office towers in the distance, and restaurants that have passing grades from the city's health department.

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It's in one of these refined areas that I roll up to the hostel where I'm spending the night. It's a converted three-bedroom house with modern furniture and electronics and a common area dotted with colorful works of art. It's mostly empty in the late afternoon, which gives me a chance to talk to my people at home, clean up the bike, and catch up on the journal.

Always dehydrated.
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As the sunset burns deep orange and purple along the horizon, the house starts to fill out. Everyone tells me their name, which gives me a dozen chances to commit at least one of them to memory. But I can't do it. So as we drink beer and read books and peck away at laptops, each person takes on a general identity. There's the German, the Canadian who gets paid to move the cars of rich people from Canada to Arizona for the winter, the late arriver, the annoying family, the girl from Arkansas, the guy who came to Phoenix to go hiking but also to go to a conference about defective helicopter engines, and so on.

Five other people sleep in the same room with me, stacked in bunk beds. The soft mattress promises good rest, but then up pops a snorer. There's always a snorer. At first I decide that he sounds like a rough-idling motorboat. But soon I realize that the tone and timing almost exactly match that of the Harley-Davidson motorcycles that rumble past on the busy road just beyond the window behind my head.

Today's ride: 20 miles (32 km)
Total: 646 miles (1,040 km)

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