Saturday, July 21, 2012

Cruising to the Grand Canyon

Saturday, July 21. Teec Nos Pos, AZ to Kayenta, AZ. 74 miles of riding in 4:57 hrs.

Man, it was tough getting up this morning at 4:30 AM so we could make the 1 hr 15 min drive back to my ending spot yesterday. I was pretty much operating in the “robo-mode” making coffee and packing up the van. Managed to get on the road in the van at 5:30 AM. Jude drove as I ate a couple bananas and a half sub while a sipped the coffee. Now with the heat being a factor again, we really wanted to make sure I got on the road by 7 AM at the latest. Anything after than and you’re guaranteed to fry in the sun by noon.
         The drive through Farmington and Shiprock was definitely mellow at that time of the morning so we made it back to my ending spot just a tad before 7 and I was off. Tell ya what, my legs just felt deader than heck today when I first started. No snap. No zip. No suppleness. They just felt tired and sore. Now this is my 50th straight day of riding, and that jaunt through the Rockies, though that was a VERY easy crossing of the Rockies, did put a hurt on me with 2 back to back 90 milers. Then add the headwinds and the rollers and that’s where my legs are right now. Secretly I’ve been hoping that I could do this whole thing with no rest days, and I think I’m like 10 days away from finishing, so I’m going to keep it rolling.
         Starting temp this morning was around 63 degrees, and it felt just wonderful. Had no wind to speak of in the beginning. The road, Rt 160 west was just fabulous in the beginning – brand new asphalt with a berm about 6 feet wide. Quite a contrast to the disheveled Rt 64 from Shiprock to the AZ border – that was a freaking mess of a road. Hell, I could damned near call it gravel in places on the berm – just a crumbly mess! So the AZ road was a joy to ride on, and I was hoping that I could replicate yesterday’s ride of 70-some miles in under 5 hrs. That would put me into kayenta before noon and the beginning of the heat of the day out here. As the ride progressed I could see the landscape changing every 5-10 miles as it became more and more of the canyonland and monument type of topography. Passed some really stunning mesas and monuments (a monument is like a big rock tower kind of in isolation - very similar to the granddaddy of towers – Shiprock). Also began to pass some really nice “Hogbacks” – massive rock ridges of strata that have been uplifted by tectonic forces to positions where the strata is piled up at a high angle – some at 45-degree angles.
         The other thing I noticed, and now we’re talking people not geomorphology, is that the Navajos of AZ seem to be much better off than the Navajo of NM. The little hamlets I passed here in AZ today were not hovels. Matter of fact in the town of Red Mesa, the housing was really current with what looked to be a development with brand spanking new houses, and they even had this amazing sports complex for their high school teams. The difference between the two states is really big. The Shiprock NM Navajo seemed to be one step better than what I’d seen in places like Mexico and Russia, while the Navajo of this part of Northern AZ weren’t a whole lot different that anywhere else out west. So what I was kind of not looking forward to in this stretch of AZ turned out to be just a nice scenic ride. No wigging out like through Shiprock.
         I made some pretty good time through this stretch despite what seemed to be this neverending feeling of going up. Again, I asked Judy if she noticed it in the van and she agreed. I’ll have to look it up, but it seems that I was just riding up onto a plateau of some sort the further west we went. Rode about 42 miles before stopping for support, as I’ve really been feeling better about being able to get more than half the day’s ride in before making a stop. That way we’re not wasting too much time doing the picnicking thing. I call that ice cream riding - where you stop every fifteen to twenty miles or so to eat and drink and socialize. Heck, my stopping for support on this trip is way more than what I did on my solo trips. On some of those solos I’d just eat a whole Subway sub in the morning and have like 4 water bottles on board so I could do the whole day without stopping. Anyway, I’m trying to keep the stops to a minimum right now what with the heat and the distances. So I’d send just up the road every 15 miles, and lately I’ve been waving her on at least two times before I do my first stop. Like today, my ride time was just under 5 hours and the total time was about 5:20 hrs. Git er done fast!! So my first support stop today was around 42-44 miles in, and I slammed a coke, ice water and bologna sandwich and was back on the bike withing 12 min.
On a different not, due to the fact that I’m so snakebitten with all the flats, today I was always kind of looking at my tires, occasionally bouncing on the front and rear just to make sure I wasn’t flatting. I mean it’s in my head now what with all the flats that I’ve had. And I’m even carrying a spare tube and my pump and tire irons just in case. Just sick and tired of calling Judy for a flat stop! I’ve flatted more on this trip than in my three previous trips combined.
         Passed through the Navajo towns of Mexican Water and Dennehotsa, which were kind of like little settlements out in the middle of no man’s land. These looked more like ranching communities than the Reservation towns of NM. Did my second and final support stop right outside of Dennehotsa where I downed a quart of Powerade. From there I just asked Judy to drive into Kayenta and check out the motel we found last night. I felt good about finishing the last 15 miles on my own. That last stretch of the day, between Dennehotsa and Kayenta was were the monuments and mesas really began to stand out – really classic monument and mesa country. The last 5 miles into Kayenta was a bit of a false descent, so I made some good time finishing it out.
         Kayenta, is really way too small to be called a city. It’s more of a town, a kind of oasis out in the middle of nowhere.  There’s probably 4 hotel/motes – several of which are just sickeningly expensive – a Micky D’s, Burger King, Sonics, a very small strip mall of shops, and several gas stations. Then there are a few stray businesses here and there along with the housing. I mean this place is pretty small. Wouldn’t take more than 3 min to ride from one end to the other on the main strip – Rt 160. Met Judy at a gas station. Pulled in and she handed me this pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate chip ice cream. Damn was that a treat!! After than I chugged a quart of ice water and we went to this little café to eat lunch, a place called the Amigo Café. Again, we’re on the prowl for authentic Mexican food – even in a Navajo village! Hats off to Judy for picking this one. It was just a little place that seated maybe 15-20 people. We each got a Mexican dish, me the beef and bean soft shell burrito and Judy the fried shell burrito. They were both fantastic. Matter of fact their salsa and corn chips were so good that I got a second cup of salsa just to pour on top of my burrito. Super duper lunch for twenty bucks.
         Right now I’m sitting here in a different hotel’s parking lot beside a little shade tree catching up on my computer work until we can check into our motel at 3 PM.  This hotel we’re kind of “camping” at right now is the Kayenta Monument Valley Inn, and it has about the only grouping of shade trees on the whole strip.
The old monsoonal thing is going full force even out here in Northern AZ, as the cloud are really building up now and we’re hear some rumbles of thunder in the distance. With the cloud cover the temps are really great out here, but take away the clouds and you just feel the sun beating down on you as if you were in the middle of the Mojave desert. The contrast is that dramatic. So with the clouds taking over right now the temp is way more agreeable than when we first pulled the van in the lot to park by a little shade tree. Just an hour ago the temp had to be mid 90’s in a blazing sun.
Well, that ought to do it for today. Tomorrow we’re on to Tuba City for another 70-miler. Late……….Pete

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