Well last night and this morning saw me mending stuff! Yesterday, I forgot to mention in my blog that I had been having severe trouble unclipping my feet from the pedals. For the uninitiated basically I have metal bits on the bottom of my shoes that click into the pedals and to unclip, before you get to a standstill preferably, you have to twist your foot.
My left foot hurts severely whenever I do this so I have tried to use my right foot, which is fine until it stops working. Basically throughout the whole of yesterday, both feet took turns to refuse to unclip, no matter how hard I twisted or pulled.... this, as you can imagine is not ideal, especially for unplanned stops, and the risk of ending up on your backside is a very real one. So I spent most of the latter part of the day, cycling with one foot permanently unclipped, which destroys power transfer from your legs to the pedals.... right thats the technical part done... basically they were broke so with advice over fb from chris summerrill and fortunately a spare pair of cleats, I changed them... only by getting on my bike could I assess if that had solved that one!
This morning saw me with needle and thread, trying to sew my shorts back together... hmmm, lets just say my mum's needlework skills did not rub off on me!
So once again, an early breakfast, which saw me chatting to another trucker, only this time he was telling me how dangerous the interstate was and how people do get killed. Well yes, but if I had worried about that too much, I would have never set foot on my bike. Nevertheless, his words were ringing in my ears when I set off.
I was a bit stressed this morning, I took too long to pack up and my planned point of stoppage seemed not to have anywhere to stay, meaning I had to cycle further than planned, fine but I was now late in setting off.. I had asked the receptionist what the road was like... upwards until gallup, then good from then. I did take this with a pinch of salt though!
So off I went, having first checked unclipping... it worked hooray.... aiming to get to Gallup by middayish, 60 miles away. Naturally the road climbed up out of town but once again, the gradient was ok. I had seen the weather report before I set off and knew temperatures were close to freezing so had my gloves and jacket on already. And boy was it cold... my toes went numb after 10 minutes, even with the climb. I cycled for about half an hour at an easy pace, to acclimatise the legs for the rest of the day, then stopped to take my usual morning picture. The sky was clear, no wind again (what had I done to deserve 2 days in a row) and once at the top of the climb, I reached a plateau of scrub with some rugged outcrops of rock in the distance, which the morning sunshine lit up. The railway was running beside the road and it made me feel as though I had been transported back in time, however briefly, to the day when the railroadhsd been the main means of travel across this vast country.
In the 60 miles to Gallup, I considered what to write in this blog as it looked as though the day was just going to be an a to b day, with nice scenery but boring to read about... I came up with road debris as a topic... of which I have become quite a conisseur. Apart from dead animals (and a deer, an owl and a cat can be added to the list now) most of the debris seems to have flown off lorries, wheel rim, bits of tyre, hooks, bungees and rope, all seem to be flying off at a great rate, which led me to wondering whether I would be unkucky enough to get hit at some point... thinking Massa in F1.
I hopped off the interstate on to the frontage road, and am so glad I did, because I met another crazy fool, I.e another touring cross country cyclist. This was the first one I had met since I started and we swopped road stories for a while. So nice to meet someone else travelling the road and this was one of the incidents that made this day the best one since starting! I told him stories of large crickets and he in turn told me about tarantulas, perhaps slightly surprised by my gleeful reaction.
Shortly after this, as I was dodging debris, I saw movement, swung my bike round it and registered 8 furry legs and an unmistakable, live tarantula. I was so surprised, that I kept going, before thinking that I should have stopped to take a photo. But by the sounds of it, I should see a few more, but this was another piece to add to making up a great day.
The day was not without its difficulties, and this section of hard shoulder was stony, gravelly, bumpy and generally more suited to a mountain bike. It was complete fluke that I didnt get a puncture, and although frustrating to be bumping along next to a smooth bit of road, I decided it was definately safer to remain where I was, rather than chance the main lane.
I stopped a fair few times to take photos, before reaching Gallup at around 1pm, in time for a cup of coffee and some food at Dennys and a chat with the lad who was serving me about bike trips and his dreams of one day going on a long one.
Gallup itself was quite a large town and I decided to cycle through to see any Route66 markers, of which there were none, the older part of the town was pleasant enough, but once again, nothing yelled out at me to stop and take a closer look. I was soon on the interstate, rolling westwards again and remember thinking to myself that it felt like I had broken the back of today's ride. Gallup is also home to what seemed like hundreds of prairie dogs, at least that's what I think they were.. and as I passed they dived for the safety of their burrows whilst leaving a head poking out to observe the ongoings!
Once out of Gallup, the scenery changed again. I was surrounded by rocky cliffs, rising up on either side as the road threaded its way round and through and ever upwards.
Even more spectacular as it went on, I lost myself once again to it. This majestic landscape continued as the miles disappeared under my wheels and once again I wish that I could describe the immenseness that dwarfed everything that man had made around it, enough to do it justice, but I cannot find the words.
Then I reached the continental divide, officially the highest point on this road at 7295 feet and the point where I began to feel phase three starting. From now on, the road would inexorably slope down to the pacific ocean. Thats not to say that there wouldnt be any more climbs to overcome, but rather I was now on the homeward straight. I was sooo chuffed, I went and bought a souvenir!
As I span along, the mile markers were counting down to the state border and here I have to give people that do not know me well, insight into me, in order to give more meaning to what follows..... I tend to keep my emotions inside me and deal with them quietly ( I think thats a fair assessment of myself)... I dont like outbursts of emotion, it can make me angry with myself. I dont criticise others who do, but its just not me.
So that said, I continued along, counting down to mile 0. As I approached the boarder I had to choke back tears, that were threatening to blind me (not good whilst going downhill at 25 mph). The surroundings, the passing through the continental divide and the approach to my 7th state after over 1500 miles once again overwhelmed me. This was the point where I started to really believe that I might actually make it to the pier and justify the faith that has been shown in me by family and friends.
Just before I reached the state line, my hard shoulder ran out and I ended up going through the lorry weighing station, receiving waves as I did so. Made me laugh.
The Arizona state sign... another way point on this journey that has been filled with them. One more step closer to home....
Once into Arizona, the rocky outcrops and cliffs receded into the distance, leaving a large plain of grassland and scrub bushes. 25 miles to go and my legs were infused with energy as the end of the day approached.
Arizona didnt make things totally easy and there were a few stiff climbs to negotiate on now tiring legs, but with plenty of time until sunset, I wasnt concerned and took my time. I sped past the ititial stopping point with the knowledge that by keeping going, I would for the first time this trip, actually be ahead of schedule. The petrified forest is coming tomorrow and with those extra miles done, I can look forward to some extra time to take photos there.
Those last 6 miles hurt.. and I do mean hurt! Over 220 miles in 2 days. Not wholly surprising. Also in the back of my mind was the worry that I hadnt seen an advertising billboard for the motel, unusual by this point. But relief came with three miles to go... wifi, shower and a bed awaited... if they had a room!
They did and I crawled into it, before changing and heading to the restaurant.... ate food, feel sick... have eaten too much today.
Whilst I was eating I was simultaneously reading a book about a woman who dared to dream big, and by big I mean massive. For 5 years she walked around the world in memory of her husband whom she had lost to cancer. Her story and others like it show that anything is possible, for anyone... you just have to let go of the fear in order to live.
So today I begin to believe...