Miles Today: 71
Miles to Date: 10,289
States to Date: 26
One look in the mirror this morning told me the ten pounds I’d gained over the holidays were already slipping away. A cyclist’s problem for which the world offers no empathy: I needed to ramp up my food intake.
Phoenix’s sprawl enveloped me for twenty miles and stopped along a sharp line when I reached Highway 87 and entered the Gila Indian Reservation. I took a break at the first wash I came upon to breathe in the desert and carb up. Then I pedaled twenty-five miles through stunning landscape to visit Casa Grande Ruins, our nations first archeological preservation monument. The remains of the four-story adobe structure and its surrounding plaza, circa 1350, represent the apex of an agrarian culture that existed for a thousand years, supported by an elaborate irrigation system fed by the Gila River. The society collapsed shortly after Casa Grande was built. The reasons are unknown, but there is evidence that increased population encountered a period of heavy flooding that washed out the canals, forcing the people to relocate and decentralize.
This explanation resonates with scenarios people often articulate in my travels: that our population has increased so much and our resources are stretched so thin, a disruptive phenomenon (climate change, tsunami, plague, food contamination, take your pick) will decimate us and refocus how we live. Casa Grande Ruin is a sobering place.
I cheered right up with my first Sonoran enchiladas, better-fried tamales, at Tag’s Cafe in Coolidge. They fueled me the last 25 miles to the Motel Six outside the present-day town of Casa Grande.
When I passed Love’s Country Store, where gas is $1.75 a gallon, I wondered if it’s even feasible to turn this giant spinning globe of seven billion people in a different direction. Floods in the desert undid our ancestors. Will pulling gas and oil from our earth and burning it through the atmosphere do us in as well? Or will it be something else completely? Something we could never predict. Like a flood in the desert.