Payson Part Of Book On Cross-Country Bike Trip

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Erik Schlimmer's 2,720-mile bike trip across America, from Canada to Mexico, took him over the scenic Arizona Trail and through the heart of the Rim Country.

"My route passed right through downtown Payson," he said.

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Erik Schlimmer

The professional adventurer, motivational speaker and author began the lengthy bike trip Aug. 15 and finished Oct. 5.

During the jaunt, he said he experienced "a trip of extremes, with temperatures ranging from 26 to 101 degrees in terrain varying between 11,000-foot high snowfields and broiling Borderland deserts."

Although the jaunt through Payson took only a few hours, he remembers it well.

"My descent into Payson off the Mogollon Rim was the final drop -- as it was when I rode the Arizona Trail corridor in 2002 -- into the desert," he said.

"From that point forward there would be no more pine forests, no more cool breezes and no more riding above the 7,000-foot level.

"I truly missed the higher, cooler elevations of the Grand Canyon State when I descended upon Payson, but also the moment defined what the Western States Mountain Bike Route is: a traverse of not only five states, but many ecosystems, containing everything from alpine lakes to the low scrub growth of desert.

"Though I love the higher elevations (I'm from the Northeast and am thus accustomed to freezing) the deserts of Payson and also beyond have a beauty and challenge all their own."

Once in Payson, Schlimmer took a brief respite to rest and prepare himself for the final leg of his journey.

"I used Payson's large infrastructure to refresh myself. I ate some pizza for lunch, drank a few quarts of cool water, mailed some unnecessary maps back home from the Payson post office and sent Western States Mountain Bike Route e-mail updates from your beautiful library," he said. "I entered town with a descent down dirt roads through Washington Park, which led to the main paved road that enters Payson from the northeast.

"I stopped at the Shoofly Ruins, which were very interesting and provided a nice glimpse into the pretechnology era of Payson.

"I departed town riding past the golf course and back on dirt roads where I feel most comfortable.

"I rode below the Mazatzal Mountains that stood tall above the burned forests full of baked, dry desert soils and charred but still standing saguaros.

"I continued on the main dirt road that hugged the east side of the range until it dumped me out in Rye at the All Bike Museum."

Schlimmer said he completed the trip self-supported and the ride was the most difficult task he has undertaken.

That's a tall statement, considering he had previously pedaled 2,250 miles across the U.S.-Mexico border and bicycled what he calls the first solo crossing of the Arizona Trail.

He's also undertaken several hiking, canoeing, skiing, snowshoe and mountain climbing adventures.

As author of such books as "Thru Hiker's Guide to America," Schlimmer has drawn praise from fellow authors who call him the "quintessential outdoorsman," "a hiking guru" and a "nomadic madman."

According to his Web site, Schlimmer was a former U.S. Army paratrooper, Appalachian Trail caretaker, back-country forest ranger and professional trail builder.

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