Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Beware the Ides of March.....continued (March 15: Day 12--Safford, AZ)

AS I was saying before sleep overtook me last night, the ride yesterday had it's challenges, physically and mentally.  The first 20 miles were up and down long inclines--2-4%  grades for the most part.  Riding on Highway 60 requires diligence as the shoulder is rough with cracks and breaks, has ambitious rumble strips,  is littered with debris, (mostly glass) and has overhanging thorn bushes that lay in wait to ambush passing riders.
As such, one has to chose to brave these risks or swing out into the highway when it is clear of traffic to ride. (Doing so requires a jarring ride across the rumble strip.)  About a quarter of our riders chose the latter, until a disgruntled driver called the Highway Patrol and complained--the riders were stopped and asked to stay in the shoulder.  So tha-thump, swerve and dodge was the name of the game.

The winds were ferocious! How hard was it blowing?.....as one member said..(this is going to be gross), 'my snot rocket went straight to the moon.'  Flags were flying straight out, with the wind blowing directly into our faces.  It was definitely a day to put your head down and just pedal to cadence.  For those that didn't make it over the rollers before the real winds kicked in, my condolences!  My average had been 16.7 mph until the wind, then it dropped to 15.3 with the same effort.  Just keep on spinning, spinning, spinning.

Motivated by Taylor Freeze at mile 68, that's what I did--head down and spin, spin, spin..... There I grabbed a hot fudge sundae and sagged the last 6 miles in; my hiney just couldn't handle anymore friction.  I walked like an ancient cowboy!

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

There is also beauty to behold, however.  One just has to look beyond to see it....perhaps that has been the problem all along.
Graham Mountain

75 miles


  1. Sue,

    You made me cry tonight! Seeing beautiful Graham Mountain through the eyes of the Apache from the San Carlos Reservation is too sad. You are exactly right, it probably was the reason the Indian lost faith. The Apache heart is buried in the mountain just beyond their reach.

  2. Wow. What an amazing opportunity you have to see this first hand, even if it is while only briefly riding through on your bike. I'm proud of you for allowing yourself to see the poverty and to be humbled by this experience. So many people would just stare off at the gorgeous mountains and ignore the nearby suffering. You have a huge heart and care so much about the well-being of others. Anyone who knows you already knows this, but here is yet another example.

    For me, this is a motivator to get involved as an advocate and policy changer, whether it is for this cause or others that I am passionate about. It also puts my problems in perspective and makes me realize the privilege with which I have been blessed.

    It's quite easy to be touched by something like this but forget about it within an hour, day or week. I hope that this experience stays with you and that you continue to be touched by the communities you will encounter on your trip.
    Thank you for posting this.

    your secret friend.

  3. Sue,

    I love your posts, this one is particularly humbling...thank you so much for sharing this journey with us, it's great to "see through your eyes" areas of the country that I have not seen. I say we get M3 to come in and help them out!!!