This morning I skipped the official camp breakfast and walked down the road to the Horseshoe Cafe. I wanted the authentic local experience, so I went in on the down-low. What does that mean, did you ask? That's old-man-hipster-hop vernacular for 'without my cycling costume'. Going into a place wearing that thing, pretty much eliminates the possibility of unguarded social interaction. This morning, I wanted to blend. You can learn a lot about a place by the way people react to your costume, but you can learn a lot more without it. Last night's Mexican dinner was somewhat authentic, but we were in a large group. I only had this one breakfast to get a shot at one-on-one interaction.
As we move from town to town, I find it satisfying to use the little time that I have trying develop cultural snapshots. The available time to do this is preciously short. Indeed, one of the defining elements of distance cycling and touring is that wherever you are, you are just passing through. Other than sleeping, a meal (off the bike) is the most time you spend in any one place. While the motivations of long distance and touring cyclist are varied and innumerable, I think that most find satisfaction in that geographical and cultural movement -- and in the ephemeral nature of almost everything on the road.
I personally feel that the bicycle provides the perfect vantage point for the road -- and everything around it. Cars can provide you with a high-speed visual experience. Motorcycles can add some auditory input to that experience. Only on a bicycle, however, can you cover significant daily distances while getting a full five-senses understanding of the places that you pass through. In addition, the physical and emotional drama, both highs and lows, of the cycling adds a unique element to your experiences. As a result, you may develop strong memories and feelings about something as large as a desert horizon, or as small as a pack of dogs or a patch of flowers. It is this personal component of the experience that focuses the meaning and power of the places that you visit.
Ok, back to breakfast... Wickenburg seems to be a pretty sleepy town, and I was the only customer at 6:00. There was only one person working out front, so I was going to get exactly what I was looking for -- a one-on-one interaction. The woman, whom I felt must have been the proprietor, was probably around sixty, of slight build and moved around with a slow but efficient shuffle. I would guess that she has lived in the southwest, or other sunny locale, for most of her life. While she is quite adorable, she was probably a real looker in her younger years. She addressed me with classic diner familiarity, calling me by 'hon', 'darling', 'sweety', and such. I felt that her sentiments were sincere. I would guess that she is a happy person who likes people.
The decor of the cafe was sparse but homey. About a dozen tables with red and white tablecloths, a counter to pay your bill, and a rustic wooden partition hiding the restroom door. On the wall was a collection of various kitschy items. A teapot, dried flowers, and some wooden plaques among other things. Taking all of this in, I was feeling pretty good. Here I was, with the place all to myself. I could hear the cook clattering around in the kitchen while the waitress shuffled around getting the place ready for the morning. Yes, I was getting an authentic breakfast in Wickenburg.
Just as I was feeling warm and welcomed, I noticed a plaque on the collection wall. It read 'I would rather have 1 customer 100 times, than have 100 customers 1 time'. At first, I thought nothing of it but then I thought -- I am one of those 100 customers. My mood stared to change. What did that mean, exactly? Whatever it meant, one thing was clear. I could never be that 1 customer. I sat there finishing my oatmeal, feeling less and less warm and welcomed. Then I thought, maybe it doesn't mean anything -- maybe it is just a piece of kitsch that she put up on the wall because it fit the space or because it was given to her. No, that couldn't be it. Although casual, everything in the place seemed to be deliberate and meaningful to someone.
As I was getting up to pay my bill, it occurred to me what it meant. It was not an indictment of a certain class of customer. Rather, it was both a declaration of her standards and an affirmation. She wants everyone who comes in to visit to want to come back 100 times. As I paid the bill, I told her that I noticed the plaque. I told her that I was just passing through, and that I could probably never visit 100 times, but that if I was ever nearby again I would come pay her a visit. She thanked me, calling me 'darling' or something similar that made me blush, and I left. I had my authentic experience. I'll have fond memories of Wickenburg, and when the cycling camp tour returns there in three weeks, I will have breakfast at my favorite cafe.
Today we rode out of Wickenburg back to Gila Bend. I rode alone for almost the entire day. The return route was the reverse of yesterday's route, starting with a moderate 8 mile climb. Buster was threatening me most of the day, and the weather was beautiful, so I stopped along the way to take some pictures and video:The Road.
Vulture Mine Road looking back in the direction of Wickenburg.Landscape PhotoLandscape VideoAbandoned MineFor My WifeDinnerA tandem couple.
Contrary to what the sign says, they are actually very nice and intelligent people.Mystery Photo.
Two gold stars for anyone who can explain this.
Returning to Gila Bend via the mirror route meant that I would have to ride past the dogs again. I was actually a bit nervous about that. So were some of the others. As I was riding I started thinking that maybe I should defend myself. I thought about carrying some rocks or a stick, or some other pathetic stone age weapon. Would I feel bad if I hurt a dog? No. The stupid dogs were not going to feel bad about eating my leg or sending me crashing to the coarse pavement. I eventually decided not to complicate things with weapons. Instead, I slowed my pace a bit when I was about a mile away. I wanted to be ready to sprint when the dogs came out. It would be difficult, because there is a right-angle turn where the dogs are -- and it has loose gravel on it.
When I was about a half mile from the dogs, I saw a dead animal in the road. It was a dog. I'm not sure if it was one of the dogs that came after us. It looked smaller than the attack dogs, but then again, maybe the memory of the attack dogs was enhanced by the drama of the moment. As I approached the anticipated turn, there were no dogs to be seen. I slowly turned onto Old US 80 toward Gila Bend and I felt sad for the dogs. I was thinking that perhaps one of their friends had died, and now they were in no mood to chase.
Blogging before laundering. When I arrived in Gila Bend I did a quick load of laundry at the laundr-o-mat across from the Space Age Lodge. When I got back, I realized that I forgot to wash my gloves, but decided to do the blog first. I figured I had time. While I was writing, the laundr-o-mat caught fire.Lesson:
Maintenance first. Blog second.
Distance: 87.5 miles
Speed (avg/max): 16.8 mph / 34.5 mph
Riding Time: 5 hours 13 minutes
Total Time: 6 hours 21 minutes
Power (avg/max) 136 watts / 575 watts
Calories Measured at Wheel: 2,547
Heart Rate (min/max/avg): 104 bpm / 174 bpm / 148 bpm
Miles this Year: 858