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Day 3 - Sierra Vista AZ to Douglas AZ - 45 mi / 72 km
Sierra Vista to Douglas

Mile 0 - Leaving Sierra Vista

I am up and out and look ahead across the Sonoran Desert to today's challenge. On the other side of that range is Douglas.

I am hoping that the road will stay to the right/south.  Instead, it angles left/east and starts a slow ascent that gets steeper and steeper until finally I am off pushing my bike again. 

Cars are struggling as well.  I don't know if the cars are all downshifting or whether they are gasping for air - in the space of five miles I climb from 4700 ft elevation to 5800 ft, a gain of 1100 ft.

Then, at the top, a tunnel (next two pics from Google Earth):

I can see the other end, a speck of light, and there is little breakdown lane to speak of. I wait for a car to pass, then head in.

The road is wet. Cars hiss past me. It was already fairly cool, now I am wet as well.  I pop out the other end and immediately go winding down a road with no breakdown lane at all - steep rock face on my right, cliff on my left. I am squeezing my front and rear brakes alternately, I've never gone this fast before and a quick glance back showed a growing line of cars behind me.  30mph for a car is slow.  My eyes are blurry from tearing and I'm looking for a place to gracefully pull over, but I'm afraid to take a hand off my handlebars to give a warning "stop" signal to the cars close behind me.

Bisbee flashes by on my left and I finally see a long strip of reddish dirt coming up on the shoulder.  I pull over and slam on both my brakes and skid for 20-30 yards, my rear wheel fishtailing. I'm at the old Phelps Dodge Lavender copper mine:

The Lavender Pit is a closed open pit copper mine, named in honor of Harrison M. Lavender (1890-1952), who as Vice-President and General Manager of Phelps Dodge Corporation, conceived and carried out a plan for making the previously unprofitable low-grade copper bearing rock of the area into commercial copper ore, starting in 1950.

Production through 1974 totaled 600,000 tons of copper, with gold and silver as byproducts, as was turquoise. Bisbee turquoise, also known as Bisbee Blue, was amongst the finest turquoise found anywhere in the world.

I continue on a bit to the Bisbee Food Co-op for food and water and then head off for Douglas:



I'm happy to be going downhill at a more gentle grade.  It's pretty much a straight line into Douglas, a border town.  Folks seem to be a bit sullen and suspicious of sweaty wild-eyed cyclists.

I check into the Gadsden Hotel, built in 1907 and named for the Gadsden Purchase.

The Gadsden Purchase was land bought from Mexico in 1854 and was part of negotiations needed to finalize border issues that remained unresolved after the Mexican-American War of 1846–48.

Named after the American Ambassador to Mexico at the time, it also allowed the Americans to build an east-west railway while avoiding the higher mountains to the north.

The main lobby has a staircase made of solid white Italian marble with four tall marble columns. An authentic Tiffany & Co. stained glass mural extends more than 40 feet across one wall of the massive mezzanine:

My bike and I squeeze into the old elevator, complete with accordion-style black bar doors and an enormously fat male elevator operator who takes up half of the cabin space.

My room is outfitted with a huge deep tub of the Victorian clawfoot style, which I use for a long enjoyable hot soak.

Thereafter I walk across the street from the hotel into a Mexican restaurant called the Grand Cafe.

The food is amazing, cheerfully served and I enjoy my burritos and beer surrounded by Marilyn Monroe:


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