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Pedal for Power Across America:
An Ohioan's Trip Diary, Part
I By Mary Lou Safran
This article originally appeared in Fresh Air, the newsletter of the Out-Spokin' Wheelmen, based in Youngstown, Ohio.
A Northeastern Ohio woman and her daughter completed the long, rugged Pedal for Power journey across America this summer. Somehow, she was able to keep faithful to her trip diary (by "staying up till 1 in the morning some nights"). Her daughter, Julie, celebrated her college graduation not on campus but on her bicycle as the two commenced their journey. This is their story in the words of the mother...
Rather frightening, landing in L.A. with a one-way ticket, knowing the only way home was to pedal over the deserts, mountains, canyons, prairies, plains, farms, woodlands, and rolling meadows. But...realizing 43 other Pedal for Power cyclists had the same reservations somehow was consoling.
Our top notch Baltimore mechanics assembled the bicycles while 44 riders and 7 staff members attended an orientation meeting. The oldest rider is 73 and the youngest, my Julie, is 21.
The arduous transcontinental pilgrimage started at Manhattan Beach, near L.A. Airport. Julie dipped her rear wheel into the foaming Pacific in lieu of her college graduation ceremonies.
May 13 Riverside to Indio, CA
Stopped for "date shake" in lovely Palm Springs after cruising past many windmill farms. A ways out of Banning we cycled between the San Jacinto Mountains, having a magnetic 30-50 mph tailwind. The riders arrived in Indio, feeling delirious and nauseated after a 110 degree day.
May 14 Indio to Blythe, CA
A 100 mile route across the Mojave Desert in 115 degree unbearable heat. Was told to drink one liter of water every 10 miles. Three out of 44 riders hospitalized due to heat-related illness and dehydration. The arctic breezes of the past winter would be most welcome today.
May 15 Blythe, CA to Wickenburg, AZ
Desert becoming more scenic on the 117 mile route, crossing the Colorado River. Sighted "whirlwinds" of sand while noticing the desert becoming picturesque with blooming saguaro and prickly pear cactuses.
May 16 Wickenburg to Prescott, AZ
Ascended from 2100 to 5400 feet at Prescott. Trees and cooler temperatures were relished on the high desert floor.
May 17 Prescott to Cottonwood, AZ
Climbed Mingus Mountain with a summit of 7,033 feet. Enjoyed spectacular vistas as descending via switchbacks from the summit into Cottonwood.
May 18 Cottonwood to Flagstaff, AZ
Cycled through Sedona, a picturesque town nestled in the red-hued rocks of Oak Creek Canyon. Climbed to peak of Oak Creek Canyon on 10 percent grade with numberous switchbacks; rewarded with breathtaking views.
May 19 Day of Rest--Ha!
Rented car to view the Grand Canyon 85 miles from Flagstaff. NBC's Today Show was being taped on the Southeast Rim. Had our picture taken with Al Roker, the weatherman.
May 20 Flagstaff to Holbrook, AZ
Completed the fastest century of my life with incredible tailwinds on the 2,000 foot descent. Viewed the skeleton remains of several motels on Route 66, the "Mother Road." Was shuttled to a ranch in the middle of 8,000 acres of desert for dinner.
May 21 Holbrook to Gallup, NM
Viewed awesome mesas en route to Gallup, the main trading center for the Navajo Reservation. I could envision John Wayne riding his horse in this region where western films were shot.
May 22 Gallup to Grants, NM
Climbed to 7,275 feet at the Continental Divide. Rode 40 pleasurable miles on enchanting Route 66, cruising by innumberable historic motels and diners. Picked a bouquet of desert wildflowers and presented them to our oldest rider. In turn, he placed them by his odometer and shed a tear of joy, reminding me what this journey is about.
May 23 Grants to Albuquerque, NM
An enjoyable day pedaling through the Acoma and Laguna Indian Reservations. Had a six-mile-steep descent into New Mexico's "big city." Crossed the Rio Grand River and toured the quaint "Old Town" of Albuquerque. Motorists are very hostile towards cyclists.
May 24 Albuquerque to Santa Fe, NM
Climbed 5500 feet, spinning up and down over the Sangre De Cristo Mountains. Arrived in "The City Different" on a sad note. One rider was rear ended on a high traffic street, suffering a broken collar bone and requiring surgery. Seeing his bicycle we realized he was fortunate to have survived. (Helmet saved him!)
May 25 Off Day
Did walking tour of historic Santa Fe with all the adobe homes.
May 26 Santa Fe to Las Vegas, NM
Pecos National Historical Park on route today. The purple-hued mountains inspired us to sing "America the Beautiful." Had dangerous 40-50 mph crosswinds for part of the route. Several swept off bicycles.
May 27 Las Vegas to Tucumcari, NM
Today was an exhausting 112 mile route to Tucumcari with some steep climbs and descents along the Canadian escarpment. A couple in their 80s welcomed us into their home en route, giving each of us a hug and best wishes for our journey.
May 28 Tucumcari to Dalhart, TX
Dalhart--with a 6,000 population and 100,000 head of cattle--greeted us. Finally out of the desert. Lectured by cattle feed lot representative in evening.
May 29 Dalhart to Guymon, OK
A flat route was welcome as we rode into the plains of friendly Oklahoma. Local folks kind, wishing us a safe journey.
May 30 Guymon to Liberal, KS
A short day crossing into our sixth state. Entered the "Land of Oz" on the heels of a tornado two days ago. Visited "Dorothy's house" from The Wizard of Oz and had a costume party after dinner.
Across America is as much emotional as physical. Although we're anticipating living out our "dream's end" at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, on June 25, each day of our trek is being enjoyed to the utmost. Our group has already meshed into a family unit.
End Part One
(click here for Part Two)