I don't think anyone would disagree that certain stretches of I-10 through western NM and eastern AZ are dreadfully boring. The only excitement afforded through that stretch is scanning the horizon for a hint of a dust devil.
But my, all that construction these last few years has certainly paid off. Smooth, wide roadways through NM where there used to be miles of Jersey barriers and horrendous back-ups.
Along the way, I spotted three different lone pedestrians, desperate-looking men carrying all of their worldly belongings on a road out in the middle of nowhere. Two of them carried heavily-loaded backpacks, but the third one was the most pitiful. he had a rickety luggage carrier loaded down, and on the ground about 30 yards back was a small pile which included a light blue milk crate and a duffel bag. He had pushed the luggage carrier ahead and when I passed him, he was walking back to move the small pile of belongings. Three times the work to move 20 yards. It will be a very long day for him There was nothing for miles in either direction.
I also spotted the occasional serious hard-core bicyclist, lone travelers moving west, their panniers no doubt carrying the bare minimum necessities to keep the load light. It is, after all, 4,000 ft above sea level along I-10, dry and arid, and with some short but steep climbs and descents along the way. Hard bodies doing hard work under hard conditions.
I arrived in the Scottsdale area mid-afternoon, my first stop The Runner's Den to pick up my race packet. It's a small store crammed with running gear. The tiny parking lot was packed so I continued a few yards past the shop and turned into a parking lot serving a small strip mall. As I was getting out of my car a man and woman were carrying large stacks of bakery boxes toward an open car trunk. I looked in their direction and saw the Europa Pastry Cafe. Never, never go into a European bakery on an empty stomach! No, I did not stop for lunch today, choosing instead to make good time to Scottsdale. The pretty young woman working behind the counter was talking to a man who was no doubt her dad, but they were talking in a language that sounded to me like Eastern European origin. She easily slid into unaccented English to greet me and take my order. I asked her where her family was from and she proudly proclaimed, "Poland!"
And then there was this little bit of Texas a couple of blocks down from the Bakery:
Bakery treats in hand, I walked to my car, stowed them inside and then walked across the street to the Runner's Den to get my race packet. Inside, the display floor was crammed with racks filled with running clothes. Every inch of wall space held racks, tiered 3 high, loaded with shorts, tops, jog bras. If I didn't already have two dresser drawers crammed with running clothes, I would have spent some time here. I got my race packet and then grabbed some Power Gel and got in line to pay. I struck up a conversation with the young man running the cash register and learned that he was headed to Austin TX next week for an Outdoor Sports Gear Conference.
Tomorrow: Back to Old Town for some in-depth roaming and browsing.