Friday, July 20, 2012

More flats and into the Canyonlands

Friday, July 20. A few miles west of Blanco, NM to Teec Nos Pos, AZ. 76 miles of riding in 4:51 hrs.

Easy day by the last two day’s standards. But for the next several days I had to do these “strategic” kinds of rides due to the unavailability of services between places. I probably could have easily done a century today, but we had a coupon for a $50 place in Farmington as opposed to zero camping and $250/night hotels in the city of Kayenta, AZ – we opted to go for the AZ border and then drive back to Farmington. I was blown away that all these hotels in Kayenta are charging such inflated prices. But they’re the only game in town for 90 miles in each direction. Nothing else out there other than having to drive north 20 miles and camp in Monument Valley, UT.
So with that in mind, tomorrow we’ll have to shoot for Kayenta for the end of the ride and then drive north to camp up in UT. No way in the world am I dishing out two-fifty for a bloody hotel room. So anyway, such is the way it shall be for the next several days.
         Forgot to mention yesterday that as soon as I finished my ride I loaded the bike into the van and we hear this loud hissing noise – yep, a tire flatted on the spot. Now if you remember, I’d bought 4 of these thorn resistant tires in Pueblo, CO to ride with the burs and thorns and everything else, but I’ve been on all pavement since. BUT, out of the four tubes three have now flatted on me – and these are 10 dollar tubes! And what’s happening is the same thing with each and every tube – the stem is pulling away from the tube. They are all failing at the valve stem. Now the first one I thought may have been due to operator error, but not three. I’m putting in 1 bar of air, seating them properly, no stone unturned, but they’re still failing on me.          So now I’m back to being in a tube shortage again.
         Got on the road at 6:15 today so I could end early, what with a 1 hr drive back east once I was to finish the ride. Rolled through Bloomfield in under a half hour and then continued to Farmington. Now man, that gas and oil industry out here, from Farmington east to Chama, is just hammering. Darned near every vehicle that passed by me this morning was involved in the gas-oil biz. It was reminiscent of my ride through ND two years ago. Good thing here was that all the wells seemed to have been put in, so most all of the traffic is tankers carrying the fuel somewhere to refine, and the maintenance workers who drive from well to well each day in white pick-up trucks with flags on them. Matter of fact I passed a massive Conoco-Phillips management center between Bloomington and Farmington that must have had 3-500 of those white pick-up trucks in the parking areas. The traffic between Farmington and Shiprock was just horrible, even at 7 AM. For the first time in a long time I actually felt a bit threatened while riding. The traffic was that bad. Between Bloomington and Shiprock, it’s like a mini megalopolis of congestion. There was a ton of road work and a ton of traffic.
         Farmington is a pretty big place out here, and probably the main hub of everything between Shiprock and Taos. So riding though this place was not a fun time, even like I said early in the morning. Got through Farmington and gave Jude a call just to check on her progress since she went back to the motel after dropping me off and did a workout in the little fitness room. She eventually caught up to me just before I entered Shiprock. I downed a coke and icewater and just kept the ball rolling. Once in Shiprock we were in the Navajo Nation Reservation, and wow did things change. This was probably one of the poorest areas I’ve seen on the trip other than maybe in WV. Have to admit I was a bit wigged at some to the poverty we saw going through the city. It was a total dump save for this shopping mall area where Rt 64 jcn with RT 491.
         By that point I’d been just humming along at about 16 mph, with a very slight tailwind and a very flat stretch of Rt 64. But once through Shiprock (the city is named for this massive outcropping of rock, called Shiprock, that rises 1500 feet above the plains. It’s the erosive remnant of the throat of a volcano and can be seen from as far as 30 miles away towering over the landscape) the riding took a turn for the harder, much harder. Seemed as though I was just doing the endless false flat climb. Began passing dry washes and small canyons with plenty of mesas on the horizon. The road just did a steady series of ramps up higher and higher. Then I’d hit these small canyons where the road would descend down to the bottom of the little canyon and then climb back out onto the plains.
         That terrain slowed me a good deal for a good hour as I neared the AZ border. Now Judy and I both took a wrong turn back in Shiprock, going straight on Rt 491 and totally missing the 64 turn sign, I only noticed it because all of a sudden the sun was casting a shadow of me on my right side, indicating that I was riding south. And I knew that 64 was straight all the way through Shiprock. So I quickly turned around and found my mistake. As soon as I got righted I called Judy to see if she did the same thing – and she did, but she’d driven about 5-6 miles down 491, so I was ahead of her heading to the AZ border. She caught back up, I flagged her forward and continued, being only like 3 miles from the line. And about 5 min after she went by I hear this massive hissing and my front tire goes flat – another thorn resistant tube, and one I’d just put on last night after yesterday’s flat.
         Have to admit that I was so pissed that I damned near chucked the bike to the side of the road. I was praying that I’d have cell service to call Jude, and luckily I did. So back she came for yet another flat stop. I’ve been so snakebitten that I’m now carrying an extra tube, tire irons and a hand pump even when Judy is around with the van. I’ve never had such problems as I’m having now with tubes and flats. So I put in my last tube – not one of those freaking thorn resistant things – and rolled on into AZ and finally into this gas station stop in the town of Teec Nos Pos. The desolation out in this area is pretty severe. I mean there’s just nothing. To solo this on a bike you’d really need to plan the stops strategically and carry just a ton of water. I feel pretty lucky to have Judy and the van waiting for me every ten miles down the road.
We flipped it in Teec Nos Pos and headed back to Farmington for the night. I did find some tubes in a Walmart back in Farmington – these cheesy things made by Bell that are super light and have this self-sealing gunk in them. Believe you me, not my choice by a long shot, but those were the only 26x1.75 prestas in the place – at 9 bucks each. Then I got on the computer and found an actual bike shop where I bought 4 Kenda presta tubes. So I’m back up to 7 new tubes, one of which I’ll never again use for cycling but I’ll will use it as a towchain – the thorn resistant tube.
         Got in our little motel and jamming on the AC and working on the computer. Now tomorrow and the next day I may not have cell service for phone and computer, so if you don’t see anything chances are that we had to drive up to UT and camp on Saturday night and Sunday night. We’ll shoot for the Grand Canyon on Monday. Temp is now about 96 degrees here in Farmington. That will be the case for the next week I presume, so I’m going to try to start early and end early each day.
         That’s it……….Pete

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