Tuesday, 12 February 2013

NORTH OF THE BORDER

As seen from the Mexican side, the USA border fence at Nogales is an imposing obstacle and deterrent to stop whatever is undesirable from crossing to the other side. On our bikes Leana and I jumped the que of cars and found ourselves at the US border into Arizona state without having left Mexico (we never did get a Mexican exit stamp or pay the exit fee, so I don´t know if we will ever be allowed back there). Our luggage was thoroughly searched in the way one sees in the movies, and although we had a visa, we still had to purchase an entry permit. We were in the Land of the Franchise, and we dodged McDonalds, Burger Kings, KFC´s, Dairy Queens, Holiday Inns, and so forth, on our way to the highway. Although we were out of Mexico we were still in the desert where we camped on our first night in the Land of the Free, where the bike tyres were punctured by an unfamiliar type of cactus (we have since fitted tyre liners, as the steel belt truck tyre debris is as fierce here as anywhere else).
The first big city which we encountered was Tucson, and we were pleased to be able to cycle on the interstate highway on our approach. Our pleasure didn´t last too long, as we´d missed the “bicycles prohibited” sign and were pulled off the road by the highway patrol (and I received my 1st official warning – after only my 2nd day North of the border!).
We camped at an RV park in Tucson for a couple of days, getting some bike spares as well as maps and guide books. On leaving the city we could fortunately cycle on the frontage road along the interstate for a long way. We camped in the Picacho State Park where a freezing rain came down during the night, just to confirm that our tents needed urgent waterproofing.
For some distance the railway ran alongside us, and lengthy double-stacked container trains passed by at regular intervals.
Then we passed the Pinal Air Park (nice name for an aircraft graveyard) – scores of the big hulks eerily squatting in the desert some distance away.
We diverted slightly to visit the restored historic town of Florence, and stayed in a classic overpriced motel room in Coolidge town (the motel was managed by Indians – from India – and they were quite excited by the fact that we’d passed by their home some years ago).
The franchised petrol stations (referred to as “gas stations” around here) along the way all have their franchised convenience stores with names like “circle-K” and “Corner store”. We have found these places rather welcome, especially in the prevailing cold weather. The coffee and hot dogs in these shops are good for reviving us, and relatively cheap as well.
Yesterday we eventually made our way through the sprawling suburbs of Phoenix, and are now staying at the Phoenix hostal (our room is the ancient relic of what used to be a camper van of sorts).
It’s rather chilly around here, as last night brought snow-falls on the higher ground close by. Unfortunately for us, that’s the way we’ll be heading when we leave here. Daily distances cycled since entering the USA on 5 February are:- Green Valley 75 km; Tucson 55 km; Tucson city 45 km; Picacho Peak 69 km; Coolidge 88 km; Phoenix 96 km. The total distance cycled so far in the USA is 428 km. Total for the entire journey is 105 054 km.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

SOUTH OF THE BORDER

After my last update from Obregon, Leana and I slowly headed North through this arid region of Mexico. We turned down to the coastal resort of San Carlos, where we camped for a few days in the RV park. Our tents looked small amongst all the huge RV´s and trailers, mostly inhabited by “Snowbirds” from the USA and Canada who “fly” South for the winter.
Further along we spent some time in another RV park at the more down-scale Kino. Along the way we found ourselves somewhere in the desert by sunset, but it was easy to move away from the road and camp to the sound of jackals in the night.
We spent a day or 2 in the city of Hermosillo, where we did some laundry and I could replace my front brakes which broke on the way into town.
Further North we passed some more interesting towns such as Santa Ana and the historic Magdalena De Kino, where the remains of the renowned missionary Padre Kino are on display. We arrived at the Nogales border rather sooner than we would have preferred, as the weather was becoming colder the further North we moved. But we were there, so we crossed into the USA anyway.
As it is, some of the larger towns along the last part of our journey through Mexico were somewhat USA-like, with strips of franchise hotels and fast-food joints. Distances cycled in Mexico since CD Obregon were:- Vikam (2nd time) 53 km; San Carlos (new ground) 101 km; San Carlos mirador 23 km; Santa Eduwiges 101 km; Bahia Kino 97 km; Nuevo Kino 15 km; Miguel Aleman 54 km; Hermosillo 65 km; La Oasis 77 km; Santa Ana 101 km; Magdalena De Kino 22 km; Nogales (USA border) 97 km. The total distance cycled in Mexico is 7 081 km. Total for the entire trip is 104 626 km.