Sunday, 27 October 2013

Day 20 - The road has a power that creeps into your soul...

0600 Bloody freezing... ok not Texas panhandle freezing but not far off it. Sunrise hasn't happened yet and am all packed and ready to go, but have to wait until 0630 and diner opening time.. bit frustrating but im dying and I mean dying for a cup of coffee. This morning I woke up at 0430 to give me enough time to get the last things packed,  catch up with fb etc ... I was so tired, not sure this day off malarkey has done me any good as I feel out of sync with everything and my body has decided that it quite liked doing nothing for a day or two!
So there I was waiting for this diner to open, knowing that my day consisted of two parts... 40 miles to Seligman on the interstate, then leave the interstate to take the loop of route 66 up to Peach Springs.

It was all downhill from now right! Having had breakfast the first climb of the day was up and out of Williams. I felt a tinge of sadness leaving this place, the only place I have stayed in this long, but glad to be back on the road... I had missed the whirring of my wheels, the exhilaration of descents and even the struggle of the climbs. As soon as I started out, something was wrong... not a puncture this time, but the feel, the balance of it. Its difficult to describe to non cyclists, but its like when you think there might be ice on the road, and you dont quite trust your car as much in the corners or when braking. Sometimes it happens for a bit when you get a new bike and it handles slightly differently,  not so you could explain how,  it just doesnt feel the same. Perhaps id packed my panniers slightly differently or maybe the weight of souvenirs was unbalancing my bike... it felt skittish, which is ok going slowly uphill....

..... but not so great on the first downhill of the day (I know I know,  never happy right). It didnt help that as promised this was a long downhill section, with a steep gradient and that somewhere in the recesses of my mind I was thinking about the overturned lorry a few weeks back.  I had a choice, just go with the hill and get it over and done with or go really really slowly. I chickened out and went slowly, brakes on close to full.  Now any cyclists out there laughing at me... its one thing to descend at 50 mph on a light road bike, another with a stable loaded bike at 30mph and quite another prospect altogether when your bike feels unstable on the flat!
So I went down at about 14mph, half speed basically,  and not only that but the descent absolutely froze me, and now we are talking panhandle frozen. In the space of about 15 miles I descended close to 2000 feet and by the time I got to the bottom I was shivering uncontrollably.  Ok so I should have probably put on my gloves and windproof before the descent, not after, but you live and learn and frankly id been pretty scared so was happy with the living part!

As any cyclist worth their lycra knows, what goes down, must and invariably does go up and passing up through Ash fork on the way to Seligman, I was actually relieved not to be descending. Ash fork is a very small town, with 1 monument to Route 66 that i saw, and that's pretty much it... so before long I was again on the interstate,  climbing slowly westwards. Fortunately the sun had started to heat up the day and with every foot I had descended it got noticeably warmer so that soon I was pretty warm.

The other advantage of descending is that I could once again sing along to my ipod... it has been a pretty good judge of how high I am.. above 6000 feet, cant sing and cycle... below is all good, unless you happen to be some poor passer by!
This invariably cheers me up, loudly singing along to drunk and disorderly and another country etc.
Seligman appeared very quickly.. it had taken me just under 3 hours to cover  40 miles, which with picture stops isnt bad.

Seligman is apparently where Route 66 began and is basically a street full of gift shops and cafés proudly displaying the route 66 logo. I stopped in the Roadrunner cafe, happy because it was just 11 am and I had already done half distance!

I got coffee and a snack and wandered round the gift shop... to my delight saw nothing I wanted to buy, either for myself or someone else and left without adding to my pannier weight. I also didnt stop at any other shops, except to take a picture of the roadkill cafe, where apparently they will cook any fresh roadkill you bring in....

So onto the old route66 road, and to my surprise it was in good condition but, yup, you guessed it, it went up and up, and up. Not steeply but climbing nonetheless but given that I wasnt stressed about making it to peach springs before dark and the scenery was so pretty, none of this mattered. Basically this part of the route kinda follows the rim of the grand canyon and it is reasonably close, but what made it so good to stare at was the shining golden colour of the desert grass that set off the bright blue sky. Every now and then at the top of a small descent i would get a glimpse of the valley I was heading towards with more mountains in the distance. The air was fresh with a slightly cool breeze and I was pretty happy with life. Scary descents long forgotten, I was getting the feel of this different machine and gaining more confidence in it on the short descents....

I didnt take many photos basically because it would have been pretty much the same photo, but hope they give an idea. Whilst I was cycling along, every 10 to 15 minutes a car would drive by, often with the driver turning to look at me mouth agape... I find this really funny, dont they ever see people on a bike? It got me thinking about my mode of transport though and why I love it so much, and why I cant understand why people think its crazy to cycle across the usa. These people in their cars are often on their mobiles, or just gazing at the road ahead, oblivious to the work of art that surrounds them... okay, they might get to stop at all the tourist attractions, but why pay to see something when you are surrounded by beauty (grand canyon the exception) and even if they do occasionally glance out of their side window, do you really appreciate the view as much if you cant breathe in the fresh air and smell the fresh grass... I dont think you can, and finally i think it goes back to my previous blog statement of nothing worth having is easily won... I know how much more I appreciate a view across a valley if I have put in the effort to get up a hill to see it!

Now today has been a pretty easy day right?  Only 80 miles, some downhill and no wind... well that would be correct if it wasnt for the other problem. At the risk of embarrasing some of you, I feel it is only right to share the bad bits as well as the good, and the following is a fact of life for cyclists... chafing... not good. Couldnt sit on the saddle for more than 5 mins in the last 20 miles, which led to more stops and the last 10 miles took twice as long as they should have. Maybe this is why professionals have 3 week long grand tours and not 4. It wasnt a huge problem today with such short mileage but the next 2 days could be long anyway without having to deal with that...oh well, just have to see how it goes I suppose!

I pulled up to Peach Springs at 1530, to find the one and only place to stay... hulapai lodge, which cost an arm and a leg.. even with the armed forces discount they gave me.. still it is a nice room, good early breakfast, a fitness room opposite my room... which led me to thinking.... more about that possibly later!

So another day done and after 2 rest days, fantastic as they were, especially thanks to louize and mark, the road has crept into my soul and im glad to be heading westwards on it once again.