Day 9 on the Southern Tier Route

The day began at 6:15 A.M. when Betsy walked to a 24-hr restaurant to buy breakfast burritos and to a convenience store for coffee. We dined in our motel room. At 7:00 A.M., we set forth on US Hwy 70. For four miles we passed by fields of irrigated grass. At Solomon, the highway climbed a bit and re-entered desert shrubland. At 14 miles on this cool morning, we turned north on US Hwy 191. In five miles, we came upon an accident and a smashed car. The somber emergency personnel and the lack of an ambulance suggested a fatality. In a few more miles, we began our climb to a pass at 4700 ft elevation. The land north of the pass featured lots of grass between the shrubs. We sped downhill to the Gila River, here flowing clear. In half a mile, we reached Three Way where we bought snacks, drinks, and food for dinner. We got water from a well. Onward on State Hwy 78 for a 2,600-ft. climb. Going was easy at first then the grade steepened, but the scenery was great (see photo). After lots of huffing and puffing, we reached the summit then coasted for five minutes to the US Forest Service Blackjack Campground. We begged water from two ladies on their way back to Mesa. Then four more miles to the Coal Creek Campground, our destination for the day. Since it was only 2:30 P.M., we kept going although we didn't know where we would stay. After a short climb, the highway descended to a dramatically different landscape - an orange-hued grassland. It reminded us of parts of California. At Mule Creek, we stopped at the tiny post office and found a shady camp spot next to the parking lot. Betsy asked the guy who owned the home next door if we could camp there and he agreed. I cooked dinner, then we set our tent. We're happy to be here. 59 miles today.

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