Monday, March 15, 2010

Globe to Safford, AZ 83 miles March 13, 2010

The day started out with 20 miles of hills, mostly downhill!  At our evening map meeting the night before, we were warned that the downhills would be cold, and to wear warm layers.  We quickly covered the first part of our 83 mile day.  The sag vehicle was there to take the jackets, hats and gloves we were shedding. 

We saw several mountains that had snow on them, and we were told by the locals that it is year round.  The shoulders were generally good, although the road was smoother.  At one point, two of our group (just ahead of us) were pulled over by the AZ State Patrol because there had been some complaints that we were not on the shoulder.  Luckily for us we happened to be on the shoulder at the time!  The Patrolman was very nice about it.  He is a biker himself, so he understood why we preferred the road, but he wanted us to be safer on the two lane road with many 18-wheelers and RV's.

This is an excerpt from Sue Hersman's blog:
So the day was physcially and mentally challenging--it just felt like riding in a vortex.  For me, it was also a ride that saddened and shamed me.  Our route took us through the San Carlos Apache reservation.

I searched the internet to learn about this reservation, and the pictures and description that I found were not what I observed.  Run down, ramshackle homes with littered yards and tarp stapled over windows, broken cars, stray dogs, old tired horses and garbage were the norm.

Established in 1871,many bands of Apache were relocated to the reservation from their traditional homelands, which once extended through Arizona and New Mexico. Median family income is below $20,000 (2000 U.S. Census). Unemployment rates are very high compared to the state average.*(*resource).  I took this from their Chamber of Commerce website:
  "The Apache are descendants of the Ancients. Over time, many bands of Apache were relocated to the reservation from their traditional homelands extending from Texas through New Mexico and Arizona into Mexico and California. The San Carlos Apache Reservation was established on November 9, 1871 is the worlds first concentration camp still existing to this day. Our story, is the American History"  

Pretty much sums up the story, doesn't it. So while we, as a nation, did this to them 130 years ago, what has transpired since? More degradation and humiliation?  The littering of alcohol related glass and bottles on the road are evidence of the rampant alcoholism reported among the tribe.

As with many poverty stricken areas, though, I don't understand the wanton disregard for cleanliness. I don't understand why garbage and debris surround their homes.  I can only guess that it is like being at the bottom of a well, the way out seems impossible, and one eventually gives up, which is reflected in their surroundings.  I am sure there are a multitude of studies and reports about this phenomenon, but actually seeing it makes it become real and personal.  Yet, amid this, I also observed a strong pride and kinship not evident in the general American public.

We rode through a tiny town of Pima, AZ, and stopped at a well known Foster Freeze. I had a rootbeer float, and it couldn't be more welcome!  There we learned from one of the locals that the beautiful green fields were the beginning of cotton plants. Of course! It hit me...Pima cotton!!  This little town with miles of cotton plant fields is supplying the world with Pima cotton.

Tomorrow we ride into New Mexico - 75 miles to Lordsburg.  We will again be starting another climb from 3,000 ft to 5,000 feet.