Thursday, April 19, 2012

Arizona, old and new

Day 5. Not much going on...

Today we crossed the Colorado River into Arizona. Circumnavigated Pyramid Peak and climbed Sitgreaves Pass. Rode an old alignment of Route 66, where generations just fell away and I saw and felt exactly what my grandparents would have seen and felt.

In between we traveled Interstate 40 for about 10 miles, passed truck stops that promised massage girls, and visited the kitschy town of Oatman, Arizona.

Pyramid Peak in the distance.
In the morning Hans was riding next to me. He asked where my energy comes from. I think he meant motivation... I said, I find it really beautiful here. And then, it's a joy to be out here on my bike, with friends to ride with. We have all day to get to Kingman. He agreed.

Abstract art by the Department of Transportation.
Gorgeous scenery, with a side of headwinds, tailwinds, or crosswinds.

More people live in Oatman now than 30 years ago because it's become an iconic tourist destination. Tourists come to see a mining town that recalls the Old West. Donkeys descended from the original crews still roam the streets, though most of their food comes from tourists. Needless to say, they're very tame!

On this second hot day, we used Oatman for ice cream and cold drinks. My front tire went flat just before town - another wire from a steel belted radial tire. Probably picked up yesterday on the interstate. 

Klaus sticks out his tongue.

Gold mine above Oatman, with abandoned car (in foreground).
The rock formations on Sitgreaves Pass are lovely. Sometimes when you cross a state line, there's no real evidence you're anywhere different. But Arizona is different. Fabulous rocks.

The highlight of the day was probably riding the old alignment just outside Kingman. With active railways on either side, this original segment of Route 66 probably dated back to 1915. It was bypassed in the 1930's.  Barely two lanes wide, you are really in the midst of your surroundings here. The scenery is rock and sandy wash and desert flora. Without noise from car traffic, I could hear birds singing.

Train coming on the left side. Trestle is for tracks on the right.
It reminds me that the railroad and the car coexisted for a long time here. Route 66 roads followed the railroad right-of-ways. When cars broke down, it was common to put them on a train. Today we think of trains and cars as being mutually exclusive, but this is a recent idea.

Cactus flowers.
Here in Kingman, we're staying in a chain motel, literally surrounded by motels from every national chain. The Hotel Beale sits abandoned in the old town.

People on this ride tell their stories and many of us are dealing with change. It takes a lot of effort to sort through what to take along, what to leave behind. Hard enough to do as individuals. And to tell the truth it's a bit of a jumble here on Route 66, too. Change comes fast. It's noisy, leaving abandoned and broken buildings in its wake. A busy interstate with messy shoulders. It feels like collectively, we haven't really done the sorting work. The former residents are gone while the new ones are busy making a living.  


  1. I love your eye for things and your words to describe them. You sure know how to impress a guy.

  2. One year, we were inundated with white butterflies as we climbed to Oatman. Sitgreaves is a long haul, but what a great downhill. I agree about that old alignment, too. Definitely worth seeking out.

  3. I love the photos (particularly the rust in the first one!) but it's the last paragraph of this that really speaks to me.

    1. Thanks Rachel! I'm learning a lot from my fellow travelers.

      Arizona feels like a land of contrasts and contradictions. New stuff right next to old. Most of the little motels have WiFi, for example, but the businesses are definitely still local storefronts - no Web presence.