Monday, April 30, 2012

Grand plans

Day 16. Everyone left Santa Rosa on time this morning. No dawdling. Never mind that we had a big hill to climb on the way out of town, and several more larger hills after that. At mile 20 we turned left onto an old alignment, with some marginal pavement and the rest gravel and sand.

Cuervo cutoff, Route 66.

Yucca, a seed pod that looks like a flower.
Very few complaints. True, we're getting better at the unpaved stuff. And we were glad to get away.

During the ride to Tucumcari I was thinking how much the appearance of a town influences its destiny. People have been talking about how some of the abandoned places we pass through seem sad. It makes them want to avoid those places. We want to be a part of vibrant, successful things. Travelers pass through and make a quick judgment based on what they see. Cyclists see more than most folks in cars or motorcycles. But it's not possible to see everything.

Sometimes we see only cookies, bananas, and Gatorade...
The unpavement dumped us out at Cuervo, a ghost town. Seemed completely deserted and falling down. We got a tip that it was worth exploring, so a couple of us wandered around. People had clearly been living in some of the buildings, probably not that long ago. We saw this in some ruins near Grants as well. If a ruin has a roof on it, people will move in.

Inside the old school house in Cuervo.
Tucumcari has the same signs of economic devastation as Santa Rosa. A majority of motels and gas stations and restaurants are boarded up, with weeds growing. I mean, this is my first experience of a town where the donut shop went out of business. It reminded me of recent pictures of Detroit. In the midst of this war zone, downtown we also found ourselves in the midst of a vibrant community. The grocery store is huge and well-stocked. Ranchers from outlying areas gather in the parking lot at Del's Restaurant. An artist showed us some of the 30-odd murals he's painted for businesses here. Tucumcari's got a vibe.

At the TePee Curios shop, I found this tribute to Bob Waldmire. You might remember him from the Hackberry post. Bob was a traveling artist who lived in an old school bus on Route 66.

There is a lot of positive, creative energy if you know where to look. Many of these folks are living on the margins right now. They don't fit neatly into a traditional narrative of success. But experience with failure does not make you a failure. It's the first step in an evolution.

The Blue Swallow Motel is a classic 1930's motel on the main drag. Each room has a little garage next to it (that's where the bikes are sleeping). It's incredibly welcoming, attractive, and well-kept. A fabulous neon sign flags down travelers. Under the original owner it was apparently a little bit of a scary place. New owners have fixed it up and made it into a motel where anyway would want to stay. I'm going to sleep well here tonight. It's not cookie cutter. It's part of the real Route 66.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Creatures of the interstate

Day 15. It has been two weeks since we left Santa Monica pier.

Yesterday's and today's routes follow a newer alignment of Route 66. When Route 66 was defined in 1925, there was no road from Albuquerque east to Santa Rosa. Existing roads went north up through Santa Fe, through Las Vegas (NM) and then southeast to Santa Rosa. On the 1925 map this looks like a big camel's hump.

In the 1930's they blasted through the canyon east of Albuquerque and built a road that went directly to Santa Rosa, 140 miles to the east. When they cut off the camel's hump, Route 66 used the new direct route. We rode the first 55 miles of it yesterday, mostly on frontage roads. Today we ride the remaining 83 miles, mostly on the interstate. Apparently the interstate basically repaved and widened Route 66 here. I-40 is on top of Route 66. They are the same thing.

Vic and I missed the first turn this morning due to a mistake on the cue sheet. We missed the second turn due to a conversation about the Spanish Inquisition. Never discuss deep topics when turns are coming up! Getting on the freeway involved ducking under a fence and hopscotching across four lanes. On-ramps are for other people...

Yesterday Todd the Local Rider was aghast when he found out we'd spent some time on I-40. It's really not bad. Today's shoulder is wide and relatively clear of debris. There's a rumble strip and minimal gravel. In many ways, it's safer than the bike path we used to get out of ABQ. The sound of the traffic, especially semis, is what takes most of your attention.

We climb gently for about the first 25 miles. Wind is variable all day long but it's a quick and painless ride anyway. This is what the interstate was designed for - to get you there quickly. We're still on a high plateau with scrub and some hardy wildflowers and not much exceptional scenery. The shattered tire bits on the shoulder stand out as objects of interest.

Flung from an exploded tire, they land on the shoulder in neat abstract configurations. Many of us have plucked the wires out of our bicycle tires on this trip. But if there were flat tires today, I did not hear about them.

When we head downhill toward Santa Rosa, the headwind means it does not feel like a downhill.

Tonight we're at the Sun 'n Sand Motel, which has a fabulous neon sign out front but has seen better days. Like the Rota-Sphere in Moriarty, the motel sign was restored and featured in the PBS documentary. It's beautiful, a work of art.
At night, it's all red neon.
Sadly, we guess that the motel did not receive the same TLC. And Santa Rosa has the most closed businesses of any town so far on Route 66. Like Grants, there's an older part of town along Route 66 that is clearly struggling. And there's a new part of town right next to the exit on the interstate, where chain motels and fast food places have set up shop.
Abandoned garage in old part of Santa Rosa.
Is it possible to build a local economy based on through traffic? We're in a fairly remote part of the US, maybe as remote as I've ever been within sight of an interstate highway.

To complicate matters we find ourselves in the middle of a moth epidemic here in New Mexico. The housekeeping routines at the Sun 'n Sand might not be keeping up with moth ingenuity and sheer numbers. Some of our group headed across the street to the Super 8. Our room is fine, and our neighbor's rooms are fine. We're staying for an authentic Route 66 experience.

Need a break from grim realities? Behind the motel about a mile away is what they call the Blue Hole. It's used by the locals as a swimming hole. In fact it's an 80-foot deep, spring-fed pool with caves that connect for miles. The water stays a constant 61 degrees. Scuba folks explore here, but the underwater caves had to be blocked off. They go so deep and far that it's possible to outrun your air tanks.
Word is out that tomorrow will be 90 degrees. The first day of a heat wave, and the Blue Hole will be the place to be.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Get out of town

Day 14. Here in Moriarty, NM a light mist is falling. All day we rode under an overcast sky and now the front is here. Honestly it seems weak as fronts go. Certainly a distant cousin to the the two bullies  that blew into California during the ride to Santa Monica. When you're not on your home turf it's hard to know whether tomorrow will be OK weather or a washout. We spend every day outside, under the sky.

Everyone thought today would be an easier ride, after our 82-mile day from Grants to Albuquerque. Only 55 miles! Of those miles, roughly 20 were spent along the bike path along the Rio Grande, heading north. Beautiful scenery but Saturday morning is clearly rush hour for joggers and cyclists. Then we climbed. And climbed and climbed up to the base of the Tramway. We were not the only cyclists; this is a popular route.

Todd caught up with me on his new Specialized road bike. He could see that we were in a group, with route sheets clipped to the handlebars. He's been a whitewater rafting guide but sold his boat last year. ("But it doesn't mean I can't get another one".) The idea is to compromise by getting back into cycling because his wife loves to ride her bike. It's something they can do together. Their kids are still young, but they'd like to do some touring in other countries, like Viet Name and Bhutan. Friends have done that, so it's become their long-term goal. Apparently the national metric of Bhutan is Gross National Happiness. Who wouldn't find that appealing?

The conversation takes a darker turn, toward the white Ghost Bikes we are seeing in Albuquerque. We're passing one right now on this hill. He warns me about the drivers here but no warning is necessary. In the few hours we've spent in this city, the only surprise is how few of these bikes we've seen. Several of us had close calls, either on bike or on foot. The drivers in ABQ are insane. Bike infrastructure seems to focus on multi-use paths, which are not terribly safe or practical for cyclists. New Mexico actually ranks 46th among the states for cyclist safety. Last night we did see a Critical Mass gathering in the Plaza Vieja on the way home from dinner. It must be tough to be a bike advocate here. Like climbing a long hill...

From the Tramway area we tacked south, ducked under I-40, and then east again on Route 66. It looks like a frontage road, but every so often there's a New Mexico Route 66 sign. More climbing. It's not very scenic and the frontage road is busy. I didn't take pictures.

Our little group stopped at a convenience store for snacks. One key skill is to be able to fuel yourself for riding out of gas stations. It doesn't matter if you like the food, just that it's edible and contains enough calories to get you up the hill. If you see someone reading the Nutrition Facts in a convenience store, it's probably a cyclist.

My take is a roll of 6 Hostess Donettes (crumb top), leftover GORP from the pre-ride, and coffee made from hot water and Via (mine). Others had "brown water" coffee, a weird almond amaretto drink from a machine, Red Bull, potato chips, and a grab-n-go burrito. It's a little cold in the wind up here - we must be over 6000 feet.

The terrain rolls (into a head wind) on the other side of the hill, down to Moriarty. It's relatively early but feels like we put in some real miles today. To avoid yet another waffle combo breakfast at the truck stop next to the motel, a trip to the store is in order.

The sky outside Moriarty Foods.
There's a small chance of thunderstorms today, and the clouds are starting to look more organized. But I still need my yogurt and cinnamon roll.

When we first came into town it looked like one long truck stop. Chain motels and fast food joints. Et cetera. Despite its first impression, Moriarty is known for a couple of things. One, it provides fireworks to the greater Albuquerque area. The sale dates are limited by state law. But in the legal date window, you get your fireworks here.
Missing Bella, Resident Kitty.
The warehouse with the fireworks is conveniently located between our motel and the truck stop. The light misting we are experiencing should help in case of explosion or fire.

Another thing Moriarty is known for is this fabulous neon sign.
Dennis films the Roto-Sphere
Last night at the Econo Lodge Old Town, our guest speaker was the former head of the New Mexico Route 66 Association. His hobby is restoring old neon signs along Route 66. They obtain grant money and take applications from people with original neon signs that need TLC. The signs get new paint and neon, and are reinstalled for a new life. We watched a short PBS documentary that followed the process of restoring 8 signs several years ago. Well, this was one of the signs! It's called a Roto-Sphere. Many of us ate dinner at the restaurant under the Roto-Sphere, El Comedor.

After climbing for ~25 miles today, everyone else is tucked into bed at this America's Best Value Inn. I'm going to go do that now, too.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Licks and kicks

Day 13. During the night the wind shifted. Today it was our friend the entire day. OK, to be completely accurate it was in our faces for .3 miles. But that was not the wind's fault.

In a group of 4 riders traveling 22 mph pushed by a strong tailwind, it's tough to see anything. The  crossroads are invisible if you blink. Reading the route sheet is downright dangerous. We blasted right by the first turn.

Thus it became necessary to backtrack .3 miles in a howling cold headwind to the original turn. It was an excellent reminder of how the day could have gone, just by pointing in the other direction. Also, yesterday was not so long ago. Humility is important because a tailwind can make you feel like a racer on the European cycling circuit. Immortal.

The turn took us to the town of Anzac. At least that's what the sign said; at 20+ mph I couldn't tell you if there was a town. There definitely was a sinewy gorgeous road that follows the contour of the land. After that we tried to stay on route. It is the route and a way to not be lost. Also, Lon designed it to show all the good stuff.

One of the highlights was in Laguna NM. A small detour took us to this whitewashed church that was built ~300 years ago. Photos inside are not allowed, but it was simple and sincere and beautiful. A packed dirt floor. Handpainted Pueblo motifs on the walls. An altar that was elaborately festooned with folk art and color.

Next we turned into Owl Canyon, which reminded Hans very much of the scenery in the movie Cars. Another road that seemed designed for the enjoyment of the traveler. I find myself stopping for any old reason on roads like this. No hurry to get to Albuquerque.

Route 66 in Owl Canyon.
The next treat was an old part of Route 66 that bent south a few miles from the freeway. There's  washboarding and some sand. Where there's pavement it is bumpy and scaly. It was a small price to pay for a break from the through traffic. Seeing and hearing it all day really takes a toll. Riding this section solo, it was easy to imagine being the only human for miles around.

Looking south.
Not sure why these rocks are here, but they look cool.

Today for the first time we are parting ways with the train tracks. The train line goes north to Santa Fe. Many of us look forward to watching the trains pass, usually parallel to Route 66. They run day and night. We've seen an unbelievable number of containers and liquid/gas cars and hopper cars with coal moving across the country. But Albuquerque is really a car town.

A train passes just a few feet underneath. Its powerful momentum is comforting somehow.

I was not the only human around. Team Awesome had spent the night in Laguna and was taking a snack break! There's so much stuff on their bikes that they were asking us what our average speed was. Of course it's different each day. Today we are fast...because of the wind!

Getting on the freeway after this, we got no fewer than four friendly honks in 10 minutes. Two from truckers. Well, things are really looking up. Good things seem to compound: a little fence-jumping to reach a frontage road, an excellent burger at the DQ, and then the tailwind up what is supposed to be a hill. A long downhill run into ABQ.

The magic had to stop somewhere ;-)

Riding in Albuquerque is not my thing.
Hans gazes at the river.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Random encounters

Day 12. Greetings from the Days Inn in Grants, NM! Veronica and I are just back from an excursion to WalMart. My goal was to supplement the motel's continental breakfast tomorrow morning with Greek yogurt. Her goal was to get some BandAids and tape to protect some split skin on her left thumb. Not too serious, but it keeps getting bumped by the shift lever.

WalMart is about a quarter of a mile away. Cut through the back of the Holiday Inn Express and the Taco Bell drive-thru, and you're basically there. Still it was the most difficult trip of the day.

The wind that started to kick up 20 miles outside of town is now at full bore.  It's picking up the sand in the parking lots and along the railroad tracks and blowing it everywhere. On the way to WalMart we have to lean against it, and on the return trip it is gusting so hard we are basically walking blind. Through the WalMart parking lot. It scours bare legs (ow) and sets grit between our teeth. Looking toward the interstate, the air is just a dark fog of dirt and sand.

Veronica approaches a car that's clearly just pulling out. I can't hear the conversation but the young woman starts making room for us in her car. We get in and she gives us a lift back to the Days Inn, 2 blocks away. The interior smells like cigarette smoke, but I throw her a fiver saying gas is expensive. Someone should do something randomly kind for her at some point.

It's been a weird day. The ride from Gallup was only 64.5 miles but we pushed off early, at 7:30am. That meant before dawn in Gallup we were walking to a place called Earl's for breakfast. Maybe the early start was to avoid the wind... Possible thunderstorms were also a subject of much discussion, but they did not materialize. The high temp today was ~83 degrees, barely warm enough for convection.

The route included 3 rest stops with the van on the way to Grants. Three. Almost more stopping than riding. For context, on the last day of the pre-ride I stopped once, in Santa Barbara for lunch. Now here we are, munching Oreos shaped like footballs and Hostess Donettes every 15 miles or so.
We stop when we see the cone.
Jim, providing junk food and deadpan humor in remote places.
Today we rode only ~8 miles on the interstate. But it had the worst shoulder we've seen so far on the trip. Asphalt dust. Pieces of radial tires flung everywhere. Rumble strip. A lip where the pavement drops suddenly. Glass. You name it... Choose between riding the white line, inches from passing semis, or picking through the debris field. Everyone was relieved to make it to a smooth frontage road, where we spent the rest of the ride. The name of the exit? "Continental Divide".

Yes, THE Continental Divide. From here on the rivers all flow to the east. Of course, Jim was there with the van (and snacks).

Down the road a bit we caught up with a group of 3 bicycle tourists. They carry everything on their bikes, including tent, sleeping bags, stove, and so on. One said they camp wherever, even by the side of the road sometimes. After starting from San Diego they're trying to skirt snow and tornadoes by staying south. It's a roadside party for a couple of minutes.

Team Awesome from Eugene (just like Vic, right)
They call themselves Team Awesome. In Williams a week ago, they had to spend 3 days because of snow. None of us is sure what day it is! Then Thea and Vic start down the road again and I scramble to catch them.

That's when we started to notice the wind. Talking to Team Awesome also gave an opportunity to look at the clouds behind us. It didn't look so good for Team Vic Thea Elaine. We headed for clearer skies but the wind was not so easily dealt with. It had been turned on like a switch and with each passing minute seemed to grow stronger. Like 2 days ago it came from whatever direction, depending on whim. Mostly a crosswind, about 20 mph. We did our best to draft into Grants.

The people seem nice here but the economy must be severely challenged. All the newer buildings are out of town, next to the interstate. Downtown the main drag is full of empty lots, shuttered motels and restaurants, and commercial For Sale signs. Our lunch restaurant had a petition at the register for local residents to sign. It stated that no one objected to the new 7-day-a-week schedule for the cement plant. The noise would be no problem. We had tried to go to the restaurant on the route sheet but it had closed. We saw another cafe sign and rode over to investigate. There was no building on the sandy lot. It had been leveled and the sign was propping up a For Sale sign.

Welcome to Route 66.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Land of Enchantment

Day 11. Another uneventful day on Route 66. There's a front coming in and the clouds are gathering. Cyclists are obsessing over this weather change the way that only cyclists can.

Started on the interstate, then got off a few miles later in Petrified Forest National Park. Unspeakably beautiful colors in the rock. A visual feast. We are still in Arizona, technically, but it's starting to look like New Mexico.

Rudy and I accidentally detour through the park for a couple of miles, with great vistas. Unfortunately the storage card in my camera was loose. Check out the park's web site for photos.

Inside the park, behind an Authorized Vehicles Only sign, lies old Route 66. For several miles the pavement is still visible, though a bit rough to ride on. Then, sand! From time to time it's so deep the bike has to sort of surf through it. In other words, you aim roughly for where you want to end up. You handle any unscripted movements as they happen. The good part of sand is we can see the tracks of bicycle wheels from a group in front of us. We know we're on the right track. Tomorrow the storm will probably wipe those tracks away.

Out here it's primal, road and earth. No guarantees of getting anywhere. People must have had a lot of courage. In leaving for a better life, they might have romanticized going west. They might have gotten scared, stuck in the sand, lost. Along with opportunity comes risk. Maybe riding the old broken, deserted road is the only way to understand that.

Rudy's rear tire is losing air again. He tried to fix the flat along the interstate earlier. But a stubborn piece of thorn is still lodged in the tire. We should have booted the tire then. Now he's trying to keep going by pumping it up every hour or so. He's still faster than me on the un-pavement, but it's slow going. Between the detour and the flat we've lost a lot of time. On a 100-mile day you have to think about that.

Because we're so far behind, it's lunch time before the lunch stop. We're ecstatic to find a Subway sandwich place inside a truck stop. Eating a Subway sandwich can be a religious experience, under the right conditions.

We part ways at the official lunch point. Rudy's decided to catch a ride, which is more efficient than trying to deal with the tire and then hurrying to reach Gallup. Dennis, who has done the tour before and seems to remember everything about it, is there too. He informs me that there's an ice cream opportunity down the road at Fort Courage. That's a nice thought...

If there's anything I'm really failing at on this trip, it's the ice cream aspect. I've never consumed so much ice cream in my life. It's hot, yes. But even when I was a kid, ice cream was a special treat. Not a daily thing!

I just like it that there's a place out here in Rural Wherever that serves something as frivolous as ice cream. Ice cream is not grim. Ice cream is not a problem needing to be solved.

At Fort Courage, no ice cream (just water and photos)
35 more miles in an hour and a half, now that's a problem. Luckily, the storm blowing in brings wind from the west! I am heading east across the state line. It's hard to hurry through gorgeous rock outcroppings. There's no way the scenery in Gallup can match this. But the whole group is already there. The wind blows me in to join them...

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

No hurry to Hollbrook

Day 10. A luxurious sleep-in and breakfast at La Posada. Most of today is on unpaved roads. But it's a short day, 35 miles. We leave Winslow at the late, already very warm hour of 9 am.

I keep waking up at 5:30 or 6 every morning, no matter our start time. Today it's a little awkward standing around waiting to leave. Finally people just do. They head off east down Route 66. There's a ton of broken glass on the shoulder, as if locals come out here to park and drink. Then they smash the bottles for good measure.

There's a group ahead of me and Vic. After 3 or so miles they stay straight on Route 66, past a sign that says Dead End. According to my logic we need to turn and cross over the interstate to the other side. But they are too far in front to hear anything. Then Susan passes, heading that same way in a hurry. She's done the ride before, so I really have to hunker down with the instinct to turn. We are pack animals. The instinct to follow someone is very strong.

Later, after explaining to Vic why he should go this way and not that way, after crossing over to the frontage road on the north side of the highway, after entering the un-paved old Route 66, we look back. Sure enough, a few hundred yards back there's a moving pack of bicycles glittering in the morning sun! Veronica is waiting up ahead. It's always more fun to explore in a group. After a mistake the route-finding tends to improve, too.

Old Route 66.
We spend the morning on quiet old alignments on abandoned pavement. No maintenance has been done here in a long time. The late morning segment is loose sand that is deep in places. My rear wheel is fishtailing like mad; I should not have filled the tires with air this morning. A couple of riders go down but no one really complains.

Even though we can see the interstate clearly on the left, it still feels like we're in the middle of nowhere. Lon explains how you can tell we're on Route 66. Arizona has a law that every structure for crossing over water has to have a benchmark showing the elevation.

These benchmarks are unfortunately being stolen, probably to appear somewhere on eBay. Removing these markers could mean that some day no one will ever be able to know they're on Route 66.

For the morning's effort, we are rewarded with a stop at the iconic Jack Rabbit Trading Post.

Sand roses, the state flower of Arizona. 
Insulator art.
 After monitoring his tires all morning, Vic finally has to change a tube. Yesterday's 30 miles on the interstate did not come cheap, in terms of flat tires. There were at least 3 in the group, along with a couple of close calls. The last 8 miles into Hollbrook are on the interstate as well. The last 4 miles the pavement in the shoulder has been ground down. It's almost unrideable. A bumpy welcome to the Wigwam Motel!

And we will...

Fun VW shop in Hollbrook.

Now the teepee is calling... Tomorrow, another 100 miles.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Every which way into Winslow

Day 9. Tired legs all around...sore behinds...smudged sunglasses. 94 miles to Winslow!

We headed north out of Williams in the cool morning and turned immediately toward dirt. Packed dirt, a great surface, almost 30 miles of it. Riding even flat dirt roads is harder than riding on pavement. There's just more resistance and therefore more pushing. The reward is knowing we are experiencing northern Arizona in the same way early motorists did. The other reward is the quiet and scenery (pine forests and prairies). The elevation here is around 7000 feet; the air warms up the minute the sun hits.

It was surprising how many local cars use old dirt Route 66 for short trips. It's become a local alternate to the interstate for people who live in this mountain area. So we did see some cars. It was no problem to see them coming because of dust.

The rest of the day we mostly rode on the highway, except in Flagstaff. Vic was my partner in crime  from late morning on. When we came to our turn in Flagstaff, he suggested that instead we should go straight for a few blocks to a diner. I went along for the adventure and a second breakfast. The food was terrific.

Our waitress was a cyclist!

It really looks like this inside.
Fully fueled, we took the direct route Business 40 through town. It's actually Route 66, but our route detours onto quieter streets. Since the last PAC Tour trip, a shoulder was added to this road, making it more bike-friendly. As a bonus it runs right past the old town. Eventually we connected the dots and met up with the group.

There was a beautiful section of concrete road south of town. It carried us to Walnut Canyon National Monument. Some day when I come back I'd like to visit this place.

Then it was the interstate, on a high plateau with a light blue lid for the sky. It was a straight shot through Winona to Winslow. What was 'every which way'? Wind, of course! For 55 miles we had every kind of wind. Every kind, that is, except light. Crosswinds. Tailwinds. Quartering head winds, from the east and from the west. It was a mental workout, keeping track of its direction and staying on the road.

As the afternoon wore on, about 10 miles outside of Winslow it absolutely started howling and trying to blow us back to Flagstaff. There's really nothing on that plateau to act as a windblock. Dust and tumbleweeds were blowing across the road. It took every bit of energy to keep moving forward, but somehow we did.

Winslow is a sweet little town and we're staying upscale tonight, at La Posada. It's such a beautiful building that I felt ashamed of the grime and soot coating my legs! Perhaps the nicest shower so far.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fashion, and other pressing matters

Day 7. A 50-mile-ish ride to Williams AZ from Seligman. Cyclists are beginning to show off the quirkier items in their gear bags. We like that...

Angel Delgadillo took the day after his birthday off. So, no autograph from Angel, who cuts hair in Seligman. He's the driving force behind revitalizing Route 66 after the interstate bypassed Seligman. We were disappointed not to meet him in person, though a day off sounds totally reasonable to me. In fact, at this point it sounds kind of appealing!

Our route to Williams was shorter than usual, but featured plenty of off-road excitement. A few examples of road surfaces along the way:

To avoid a long and grueling climb on the interstate, we went native with old Route 66 alignments. Instead of a steady 6% grade our afternoon road dipped and climbed, over and over. We were a group of five in the middle of the Kaibab National Forest, enjoying the road to ourselves.

The road tilted up a few more degrees and conversation stopped. We all started pushing hard on the cranks. The challenge was not only the grade but the surface. It was a bit loose because new gravel had been put down after the rainy season, but not yet packed down by any vehicle. It's a late spring kind of a problem. My rear tire slipped a few times. That was mostly because I was too stubborn to use the little ring.

The gravel road trailed off into some bushes. We could see the interstate at this point but a deep ravine lay between us and it. Hans ventured off into the brush, then waved us over. We all picked up our bikes and ported them over rocks, bushes, and debris for about 30 feet to a guardrail. From there we executed some strategic dashing across four lanes of freeway. We probably surprised some truckers, emerging like ants from this little spot on the shoulder.

Go Thea, go!
 Everyone in our group got across fine...

Near the summit, we found three semis parked in the shoulder, cooling off from the climb. It was hot on our marginally paved road. That kind of constant pushing uphill is usually featured in mountain biking. We heard from other riders that the climb on the interstate was just as hot.

In town, we cooled off at Twisters, with cherry phosphates and a stellar selection of deep-fried items.

Hans and Vic vogue in front of Twisters
It was a triumph to make it Williams, our largest town since Needles and unquestionably uphill from Seligman. Williams has a Safeway!

We heard at dinner that one rider, Doug Uhl, happened to stumble when crossing the second set of lanes on the freeway. Everyone (including the truckers) held their breath while he picked himself up in time and got to safety.

That evening was the fabulous SBI auction at Villa Ragusa. I was able to be there for part of it via video chat, and thanks to Henry everything went off without a hitch. Route 66 goes high tech! Thanks to Christine, Lisa, Henry, and Pilar for enabling me to speak at this gala event. And a thank you from the heart to Danny, and Mary & Eric, my family providing support by attending in person. It meant a whole lot to me to know you were there...

Today I left at about 7:15am with 4 others for a one-way ride to the Grand Canyon. The other riders were fast, but as we don't normally ride together the teamwork part was a challenge. We all arrived at the park at roughly the same time.... And the Grand Canyon itself was of course breathtaking.