Monday, July 23, 2012

The Grand Chaos of Humanity Canyon

Monday, July 23. Tuba City, AZ to 8 miles west of Grey Mountain, AZ. 42 miles of riding in 2:53 hrs.

The short day today what with our planned excursion to the Grand Canyon. So with that in mind plus the fact that we were going to pick up an hour today going into PST, I was a bit on the casual side today with respect to getting on the road. Got rolling out of the decrepit little town of Tuba City at about 7 AM MST.
The ride from Tuba to the jcn of Rt 89 was kind of downhill and fast and through about 10 miles of desolation. Then the ride south on Rt 89 started out pretty good, with a nice tailwind and good road. But shortly thereafter the road alternated from good, to moderate, to meager, to shit. It would just change mile after mile. And all of the issues there were with respect to the berm. In places it would virtually disappear. Then again in places it was 4 feet wide and pristine asphalt. Again, the terrain was pretty deserted and dismal with no really scenic beauty – but plenty of traffic. And again, as I kind of touched on yesterday, the Hopi Indian Nation Reservation here is a very impoverished place. So you’re just kind of riding past all these small huts and trailers with junk all over the place. The big thing here, on this stretch of Rt 89 between Flagstaff and Page is that you go by umpteen little roadside stands where the Indians sell their wares of artwork and curios. You go by mile after mile of these roadside stands. Some are quite elaborate and others are mere hovels for stands.
My ride to Cameron was shot and sweet despite the crap sections of Rt 89. But after a support stop with Judy there the ride got brutally hard. I had descended down to cross the Little Colorado River in Cameron. But then spent the next 8 miles climbing out of that little canyon. The wind changed to a headwind and the road continued to go from great to God-aweful. Man was that a grunt climbing into a headwind for those miles as the road just continued to piss me off. There were times when there was just zero berm and I was forced into the road with all the bloody trucks and cars buzzing by at 70 mph. And sometimes, when there was berm, it was 2 feet wide with a rumble strip down the middle so you had 6 inches of good berm to the right and left of the strip. And that climb just went on for eternity.
Topped out in the tiny Hopi town of Grey Mountain, another decrepit little place with gift shops and curios stands and two gas stations and an OOB hotel called the Anasazi Inn - very sad place indeed. Once back up from the climb the road really never flattened out, but continued to false flat upwards. And it made sense because I was at 5000 feet in ele. in Cameron, and up to 6000 in Grey Mountain – and I’ve got another 1000 feet of ele. gain to get to Flagstaff. Again, with respect to the terrain, it’s pretty boring, and I’ve done this stretch a million times in previous years in a car coming and going from Utah and the north and the Grand Canyon and Flagstaff to the south. It’s just a non-stop flow of vacation traffic and 18-wheeler traffic.
Finally called it quits for the day about 8 miles west of Grey Mountain so we could load the bike and head back to the Grand Canyon. I was VERY happy to see that van what with plodding uphill and fighting a head wind. So much for a nice, easy short day in the saddle. I was beat from just 40 miles of riding. Got rolling to GC and as soon as we turned onto Rt 64 west you kind of begin this climb up onto the Kaibab Plateau and gain elevation every so gradually until you’re up in the pine forests and out of the desert desolation.
Got into the park and I took a turn at the wheel so Judy could check out the park as we drove. Stopped at the two biggest tourist spots, Desert View and the Grand Canyon Visitor’s Center’s Mather Point. With the heavy cloud cover the heat was way down. And I’ve never really been in this area when it was so cloudy. Usually, 9.9 out of 10 days this place is hot as hell and clear blue skies in the summer. But with this monsoonal weather pattern as of late, today was quite a contrast to the typical summer day. That did make for some easy, and cooler hiking to the viewing areas.
So really, our stop at the canyon was much like the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation where Chevy Chase looks down into the canyon for 5 seconds and then herds the family back to the car. Only we stopped at two places instead of just one. Now I’ve backpacked down into the canyon and to do that it’s pretty much a multi-day to one week gig. So hiking to the Colorado is the primo thing to do there. Just hiking down a few miles on the Bright Angle or Kaibab trail does little to change the perspective of the place. So Jude was very cool with just doing the Griswold thing and checking it out and then hitting the road.
Today the place was just a beehive of activity. I mean it was a mass of humanity from all over the world. Just lines and lines of people at the railings checking out the view. And then all these people who never ride a bike deciding to ride their bikes (probably for the first time in 20 years) on this pedestrian walkway crammed solid with people along the canyon rim. It was just insane. So honestly, it felt pretty good to “view and bolt” as we did. We had camping reservations at the Mather Campground but we decided to just go down to Flagstaff and chill there instead. We’d pick a day up and just keep the ball rolling on to CA tomorrow. Back in Flag we hit this totally amazing Indian (we’re talking Nepalese) restaurant for a buffet. The thing was just spectacular. I mentioned to Judy how good it felt to be back in civilization where we weren’t confined to some little hole in the wall place a gazillion miles from anything. Flagstaff is a great city and a fun place to eat, drink, hike, bike, and a whole lot more.
That’s going to do it for today. Short day, but interesting day….Pete

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