Your questions about cyclists along the highway, answered
Every year, adventurous spirits hop on their bicycles and ride long roads throughout the Southwest. They come from as far as Europe, Canada, and other parts of the U.S. From time to time, they inevitably stop in Globe.Some of you know who I’m talking about. You have seen them yourselves—those people with helmets and spandex on, gear in tow, hugging the right side of the highway on two wheels. They are the ones you might curse at as you narrowly avoid clipping them with the front bumper of your car. A few of you even roll your windows down to let them have it.
Who would want to compete for road space with cars flying by at 65 miles an hour?
As I’ve continued to run into long-distance cyclists in Globe, I’ve learned there are a few motivations that drive these people across highways, whether it’s to get in shape, explore, make a political statement, or simply shake up their lives with an adventure.
Below are the stories of a few bicyclists who have passed through this area.
“I almost died about three to four times,” Jake Wolf-Saxon says.
He is remembering his experience riding his bike from Surprise to Globe the day before Thanksgiving in 2012. He had spent the day riding steep inclines, and now, he is recalling the part where he rode into the tunnel in the Devil’s Canyon. The sun was setting, and it had already been a stressful day. Now he was trying to avoid getting swiped by cars along the barely present shoulder of highway while riding uphill. Next thing he knew, he was inches from making contact with three big rigs, two coming from either direction, and a third passing the one already creeping behind him.
As they all passed, “I just let out a scream,” he remembers.
The minute he found a turnout to safely park in, Saxon threw down his Surly Long Haul Trucker bike, collapsed to the ground, and took a nap for an hour.
Originally from Seattle, Saxon had always dreamed of doing a big bicycling tour.
“A lot of it was just to explore and to have fun, and just to make myself a better person. To push myself, I guess,” he recalls. “If you’re going to do that, you should do it when you’re young.”
Once he found himself switching careers, he decided it was an opportune moment to take off.
So, in September 2012, he set out with his touring bike (the Long Haul Truckers are designed to last 20,000 miles), making his was south from Seattle. He went as far as San Diego, Calif., before veering east, passing through mountains and paralleling the Mexican border into Arizona. Then he hit Phoenix, and then Globe.
What made the trip especially treacherous, he says, was not only steering clear of cars and big trucks, but also racing the sunset to get safely from one location to another in limited daylight. On any given winter day, he was riding from 40 to 90 miles with his fully-loaded steel frame bike, hauling things like: a tent, a front cooler for food, a waterproof shoe bag, a sleeping bag and mat, a side bag of clothing, a side bag of cooking gear, a solar panel for charging electronics, and a hammock.
He also had to replace a slashed tire back in California. He could only find a cheap tire to replace it, so throughout his ride toward Globe, he was stopping one to two times a day to fix a flat. Hence the reason why, by the time he had reached the tunnel, his stress-level reached an all-time high.
Fortunately, once in Globe, the town’s hospitality welcomed him with open arms, he says.
“Globe looked like such an amazing little town,” he recalls. “It seemed like a highway town, but it really had some depth to it.”
“Some highway towns are just a gas station and a Motel 6 along the side of the road, and there’s nothing there,” he adds. “But in Globe, there’s a couple of highway things on the side of the road, but once you get past those, there’s actually a real town with brick buildings and all sorts of cool features.”
By the time he cleaned himself up, hunted down something to eat food, and settled into the Cedar Hill Bed & Breakfast, he felt the anxiety from a treacherous ride wearing off.
After a night in Globe, refreshed, Saxon continued eastward to New Orleans, took a detour from his trip to Costa Rica, and then returned to New Orleans, riding all the way to the East Coast. He finished his trip in March 2013.
Would he do it again?
Maybe, he answers.
“I met so many people going down the coast,” Wolf says. “But not as many people turn left in San Diego and go across the south.”
With the exception of towns like Globe, the road through the Southwest is a lonely one.
It was fat camp time when Team Kaker rolled through Globe with their two friends right before New Year’s Eve in 2011. That’s right, fat camp. That is what couple Forest Baker and Annie Kallus (Team Kaker) call that window between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, where they traditionally embark on an annual cycling trip.
“We try to ride for a week or so, because during that time of year, you definitely have some weight,” Forest explains. “So it’s kind of like our fat camp.”
This time, the Sacramento, Calif.-based couple decided on a 550-mile loop that started in Tucson, traveled as far north as Apache Junction, as far east as Lordsburg, N.M., and as far south as Agua Prieta (just shy of the Mexican border), and then wrapped northwestward back towards Tucson.
Forest and Annie are old pros when it comes to cycling tours; Forest has toured the likes of Alaska, the west coast, Europe, and New Zealand. This was couple’s first time touring through the southwest, however. They recruited their two friends, Lindsey and Erik, to join their adventure, and, with plans to travel swiftly (they would hotel-hop or stay with hosts throughout the route), they hit the road on racing road bikes, carrying nothing more than toiletries, street clothes, tools, and some spare bike parts.
With a light load, they could ride fast, riding as many as 70 to 100 miles per day. Soon enough, the trip lead the four through Globe from Apache Junction.
“We thought [Globe] was funky when we first rolled in,” Forest recalls.
Some of the homes had a San Francisco feel to them, he says. At the same time, he remembers the blue-collar types, the Harley dudes, and the artists all mixed together.
Like Saxon, Team Kaker only spent one night in Globe, but it was a good one. They enjoyed a fine Mexican meal, shot some pool, toured the local Wal-Mart for bread to bring to a New Year’s Eve party, and rang in the new year with the locals.
Their entire trip took them just eight days. Of their experiences on the road, Globe remained one of the more memorable ones.
They later posted on their travel blog this about Globe: “It could win an award for the friendliest and most welcoming town in America.”
Frank Marchetti is yet another cyclist who braved the ride from Superior to Globe on a bike, a 2142-foot climb total, passing cars within inches of running him off the road, horns blaring.
“It happens almost everyday,” he says.
Marchetti, hailing from Canada, began a cycling trip that started in San Diego, California. From there he made a loop through Arizona, riding four or five hours a day, passing through Yuma, Dateland, and Casa Grande. Then he made the 20-plus mile journey from Superior to Globe.
While some choose to explore places by staring out of car or bus windows, Marchetti prefers hiking, trekking, and cycling his way through his world travels.
“You appreciate it on a deeper level when you see it slowly. You appreciate it even more when you earn it by sweating your way through,” he says. “Instead of hearing a motor or the noise of a car, you hear the wind breezing by… And you can just stop and soak it in.”
As a seasonal worker, he can afford to take trips like this every year. Marchetti runs his own bug business, so whenever he is not selling trichogramma wasps or fly parasites, he heads somewhere away from home.
This time, for the second time in his life, he decided to take a long distance cycling tour. (His first tour was through Chile and Argentina.) Since it’s about 50 degrees warmer here than it is in Guelph, Ontario (Marchetti’s hometown), a trip through Southern California and Arizona made sense.
He explains all of this while securing side bags to his steel frame, preparing for the next leg of his journey. Not only is he pedaling his own weight, but like Saxon, his bike is loaded up with things like: cooking gear, a sleeping bag, a tent, mixed nuts and Clif Bars, orzo, granola, clothing, 74 ounces of water, bike repair tools, a tire patching kit, and extra cables.
Aside from cycling with a heavy load, there are other things that can slow you down, he adds, like headwind, the quality of the road, the hours of daylight, and, most importantly, the terrain.
From Globe, he was headed toward Tonto Basin. The distance is more than 40 miles, with about a 1,000-foot elevation change. Marchetti allocated himself six hours to do it, including breaks. From there he planned on riding to Show Low, and then looping his way back west toward California.
At the end of January, he stopped in Los Angeles, staying for a month before cycling up to Redding in Northern California.
So, next time you spot a cyclist on the side of the highway, consider giving him or her some room. They are, in fact, heading somewhere, just like the rest of us.
Jenn Walker began writing for Globe Miami Times in 2012 and has been a contributor ever since. Her work has also appeared in Submerge Magazine, Sacramento Press, Sacramento News & Review and California Health Report. She currently teaches Honors English at High Desert Middle School and mentors Globe School District’s robotics team.