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...


  1. Hey, sweetie, you rode fast!!! Petrified Forest is so gorgeous...haven't been there in person, but their web site is compelling. A couple of Q's: Is the route 66 insignia really painted on that dirt track in your photo? And what is the structure in the second photo? Hope you don't have any more rain!!! Love, Mary

    1. Hi Mary! Yes the symbol is really painted on the marginal old pavement there. It's only a couple of miles from the interstate, that spot. I wonder if some enthusiast put the marking there. A lot of the benchmarks have been stolen from bridges, culverts, etc. so there's no other way to know for sure you're on 66.

      I don't know what the structure is. Maybe a hay barn? We aren't seeing many other living things out here, not even cows. But maybe there once were cows.