Hellhound for Benson
Bisbee 1000

January 14, 2016

No Interstate riding today, just the peaceful SR#80 from Benson through to Tombstone for lunch, and then cycling up Mule Pass. We cross the Continental Divide just before plunging through the Mule Pass Tunnel into Tombstone Canyon and arriving at dusk in beautiful, quirky Bisbee.

What happened…

Amanda writes: We set the alarm clock to be up early for a number of reasons. We knew we had some climbing to accomplish today and we wanted to check out Tombstone on the way … only so many hours of daylight. In addition Jerry had to head to work early and I was hoping to chat with him some more before he left. We headed over to his house and enjoyed a lovely omelet. After chatting with him more I was left thinking it would have been nice to meet his wife. She was in Panama on a bird watching excursion.

After breakfast we headed into town to check out Jerry’s bike shop before starting our ride South. It was cold! I had four layers on and we both put toe warmers in our shoes. Combined with our balaclavas we probably looked like mobsters; if mobsters rode bikes. The ride was pretty easy. We were climbing but it was such a gentle climb it didn’t seem like it was hard climbing. We got into Tombstone around lunch and checked out the streets. I was surprised at how busy it was even though I wouldn’t have said it was tourist season. The town, with its dozens of employees littering the street, reminded me of Dawson City, Yukon in Canada. It appeared all the people were likely employed by the town or tourist agency and all were encouraging you to check out the gun fights in the saloons. I sometimes struggle with touristy stuff and must remind myself that while this is our life, we should take advantage of tourist opportunities. Too often we pass by the tourist stuff. Having said that I wasn’t that keen on hearing people yell at each other and then take fake gun shots at each other – not my cup of tea. We headed to a coffee shop for some hot chocolate and could hear the bar fights from the street.

After taking about an hour in Tombstone we were off toward Bisbee. The climbing became a bit harder but we knew it would. Being prepared always seems to make things more manageable. As we got closer to Bisbee and climbed higher we started to come across snow on the side of the road. It was cold and beautiful. We rolled into town via the tunnel we had heard so much about before 4pm and I was happy for that. Apparently when you drive through the tunnel you’re supposed to leave your troubles behind. I couldn’t think of anything I’d like to leave behind. After the tunnel we took the first exit off the highway based on a recommendation from Jerry and I’m glad we did.

We rolled into town down a winding road through this quaint little community called Bisbee. Up until a month before I had never heard of this place until our friend Mary showed us a picture of it. And I’m so glad she did. It had a great vibe to it and we quickly liked it. As we rolled into town again we totally lucked out with our warmshowers.org host. We were riding into the main part of town and this guy yells at us … “Hey I’m your host tonight!”. That’s two days in a row.

Andrew writes: I said brrr, it’s cold in here, it must be something in the atmosphere! Any water we had left outside last night was frozen solid, and I was happy to be in the cozy, furnace-heated RV this morning instead of camping in the bitter cold. Jerry had cooked up some of his “world-famous” omelettes for us, and so we got the day started off right. Then Jerry left to open up his bike shop, and we took our time packing up, but not too much time because we had places to be! Jerry’s “Benson Bike Shop” is the perfect size for the community, and he keeps a bunch of bikes either outside in the parking lot, or brings them home to repair. Jerry also has such an incredible attitude, it’s a great way to start the day.

We left Benson in our rear-view mirror and started the long, gentle climb. The terrain seemed mostly flat to start, as we wound our way through the terrain between Benson and Tombstone, but our electronics recorded the elevation gain for us. The signs as we approached Tombstone advertised gunfights starting at 12’noon, and as fate/luck would have it, we arrived just in time for the gunfight at the OK Corral! Except it cost $13 per person, and that’s like $20 Canadian dollars each, and we just didn’t have the energy to pay that kinda cash. So we went in search of a giant cinnabon snack, and as we rode through the historical streets of this once lawless town (which Wyatt Earp brought law to back in the Wild West), several establishments had historical gunfights in progress. The town had a sleepy quality to it, that I think might have been because of the season, or the cold, I’m not sure, but I do know that I wouldn’t want to be here when it’s “busy”.

The rest of the afternoon was spent climbing up to Bisbee. A few people had remarked on how difficult the climb would be, especially for the last 6 miles (10km), but it just seemed like an average 6% climb to it. As we got higher and higher, the snow started to pile up on the side of the road. Then we reached the summit, and it turns out it’s some sort of continental divide, although not the Great Divide as it were.

There’s a tunnel that one must cycle through to get to Tombstone Canyon and the town of Bisbee. Cycling through this tunnel, even though it was brightly lit was frightening! The pavement is grooved, and I was constantly worried about losing traction, or about a truck coming up behind me and knocking me off the road. For some reason I also think about some of the tunnels we’ll encounter in other parts of the world and it makes me wonder if we should get some better lighting system…Amanda’s fear about getting lights is that it will just encourage us to cycle in the dark.

Bisbee itself at first glance reminded me a lot of Nelson, or Trail, BC. An old mining town that’s built right into the mountain sides of the canyon. The western canyon walls were brown, and the eastern ones white with snow that refuses to melt at this altitude/temperature. Everything looks old in Bisbee, but there is a certain “hippyness” to the community as well.

Our host, David, found us before we could find him, and after a quick trip to the Queen Copper Mine Visitor Centre, we met up with him to enjoy some of the beer samples at the Old Bisbee Brewing Company. Despite trying 8 different beers, I ended up ordering a pint of their non-alcoholic root beer. It was great! David seemed like he would be up for just about anything, but all Amanda and I wanted to do was eat and sleep. We cooked up a big pot of spaghetti and it was lights out around 9pm.

Today’s Photographs

Hellhound for Benson
Bisbee 1000