Day 17: Phoenix, AZ to Tempe, AZ - American Redemption - CycleBlaze

March 11, 2013

Day 17: Phoenix, AZ to Tempe, AZ

A cross-town morning ride takes me past elementary school parking lots packed with parents dropping off their kids and through Hispanic neighborhoods of lavanderias, carnecerias, and Chihuahua mixes that wander the streets and sometimes chase bicycle riders for half a block. I drop the bike off as the shop door unlocks and swings open at 9:00. I explain my situation and emphasize that time is an issue today. I assume that the production of taking four bright yellow bags and a tent off the bike will drive home the point that I'm on a cross-country bike trip and trying to head out of town as soon as I can.

Up and over the freeway.
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It all falls on blank faces and deaf ears. I check in four hours later and find a half-laced wheel in the back. The mechanic stands outside, helping a young girl test ride one of those cruiser bikes with a swooping frame, wide handlebars, whitewall tires, and a seat wide enough for an offensive lineman. Again I plead my case to the guy behind the counter: I'm trying to leave soon, so please call me the second you're done because this bike is my only ticket out of town.

"Oh yeah, no problem," he says. "It should only take another hour. We'll call you when it's ready."

Almost three hours pass. I run out of journal entries to write, photos to process, and weekly newspapers to browse. I hang out at the coffee shop long enough that it starts to get weird for everyone involved. I try not to worry about the angle of the sun as it arcs across the sky. But in the end, a job quoted over the phone on Saturday at an hour of labor, with the implication of a quick turnaround, burns up seven hours of a rare sunny but cool day in the desert.

Phoenix, you've done it again.

I don't start riding until after 4:00. Because Arizona doesn't follow daylight saving time like the rest of the country, that means I only have two hours of sunlight left — not enough time to escape the sprawling mess of the Phoenix area. So even though I want to throw up a middle finger and blast back into the desert, a lack of light and any other option sends me to a cheap motel on the south side of Tempe. It feels like defeat, and for about an hour I grumble about the outrageous time and money sink that this odyssey through the city has turned out to be.

High-brow bike trail in Scottsdale.
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But then I tell myself to stop being a turd and make the most out of my last night in a big town for the next couple of weeks. I load up on carbs for the mountains that lie in wait. I gather supplies I probably won't find out in the sticks. I hand wash clothes in the sink and cringe in disgust when every piece turns the water some opaque shade of yellow or brown or black. Standing over the sink and looking at the reflection that stares back at me, I laugh as I realize that today feels just like my last trip on the day before I left Florida. The stress and frustration and general ass feeling of urban riding while on tour is a drag, but I made it. I'm excited and optimistic and nervous in a good way about what's to come.

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Thoughts of quiet highways and mountain passes and freezing cold nights float through my head. Traffic buzzes by outside, "Proud Mary" plays from an open car window, and the punks in the next room head outside to smoke and say awful things about women for the third time in an hour. And then I shiver a little. Not for some great spiritual or emotional reason, but because I'm laying in bed in wet clothes to help them dry faster.

Today's ride: 19 miles (31 km)
Total: 665 miles (1,070 km)

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