Day 11 Safford Arizona

9/18/19

There are no Saints in Washington…well maybe once there was one…

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For the past week we have been inundated with the colors of olive green, burnt umber, raw umber and cerulean blue. These are the colors of the desert. Everything has a look of desiccation… plants, buildings, dogs, cats, and people, Today for the first time we are surrounded by verdant green fields of corn and cotton in the Gila Water Way, the flow coming from high in the mountains of New Mexico to the East. 

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The day starts in Globe just as the sun is rising. Tomorrow there is a time zone change so we will be leaving later. I sneak out at 6 AM before anyone else so that as they catch up throughout the day we will arrive at the same time. I am rewarded with a 20 mile gradual downhill and arrive at the first rest stop before anyone else and before the van. I recall that I am on the San Carlos Apache Reservation and find a small gas station for my first pastry of the trip…along with a Diet Coke…. need to keep some calories in check though I think I am down about 5 lbs and half a belly roll…

The store is crowded with Native Americans who come over to talk to me about the ride…my orange garb usually draws attention. They are truly interested in the details of the ride and I spend 15-20 minutes with them in very pleasant company. I want to take their picture but I think that it might spoil the moment…”White boy with Indians tourist photo op”.

The San Carlos Apache Reservation is huge and for most of the day we travel through in a Southeast direction. 

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Created by President Grant in 1872 the Reservation, like most in the US, has seen its share of misery and pain. For the first two years money sent to the Reservation by the Federal Government was stolen by the US Army. Stationed nearby, soldiers tortured the local population and used  men for target practice. A Dutch Reformist minister by the name of Clum joined the Reservation in 1874 and through his efforts much of the blatant cruelty stopped. In addition he was able to get the Federal Dollars to bypass the Army and go directly to the Apache Tribes. Through his efforts Geronimo was eventually captured in a relatively peaceful manner…much to the anger of the US Army. 

In 1886 there was a consolidation of Apache tribes leading to the present San Carlos Nation officially recognized in 1934. 

At present there are two casinos, a Chamber of Commerce, a language school, a cultural center, a tribal center and a small college.

As on other reservations alcoholism is a major problem…at one point we thought we were riding on paved bike paths along the road only to be told that these were well lit walking paths for those so inebriated at night that they might walk out into the road.

And lest you think Trump is the only “ Evil One”…. a major ongoing legal battle involves a land swap authorized by Obama…3000 acres of copper rich land considered sacred grounds to the Indians sold to private mining companies in exchange for 5000 acres of useless desert with no access to the Gila River system…there are no saints in Washington.

The transition off the Reservation is mind boggling. Suddenly the valley to the left is bright green with thousand of acres of corn and cotton. The land is surrounded by mountain ranges on both side, to the East the Continental Divide.

Into Pima we ride the first of the three towns surrounding the Gila Water Basin. We stop at an ice cream shop and I find a picture on the wall of my riding partners from two years before.

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A new picture is taken today.

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By the way, this photo proves that I know what I am doing by leaving an hour early…after 80 miles we all arrive at the same time!

Tonight we are in a church, the last of Arizona. After my outdoor shower I wander around looking at the beautiful flowers.

 

Tomorrow we head into New Mexico and then cross the Continental Divide. 

East Coast here we come…

 

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