Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Day 21 .... From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows....

Sticking my feet out of the door from breakfast was enough to tell me the weather had changed.... specifically the wind was up. A second longer look outside gave me the sinking feeling... it was strong and was most definately not a tailwind. At least it wasnt cold.. but having learnt my lesson the other day, on went the gloves and windjacket anyway and with that I put my head to the wind.

I had plans for the day... to cover 100 ish miles to the state boarder and not least meet up for lunch with monica, a likeminded alarm fan who had been in touch via facebook once she heard my journey was going to take me through her hometown....

Arizona had other ideas. Once again a state had decided not to let me go easily... either that or this was so I had truly earned santa monica pier. So Arizona let the headwinds rip. The first 30 miles to Kingman were without doubt the worst I have ever experienced on a bike. Worse than new mexico. Initially I managed 8 miles per hour but as the hours went past 6 was the best it got. The scenery... nope cant tell you much about that as my eyes were fixed to the tarmac and my teeth were gritted. When I did look up it was into a haze of dust thst the wind had kicked up. The first 10 miles were either into a headwind or a sidewind, so vicious that several times I was almost blown off my bike.
These conditions had the advantage of making me forget the small problems from yesterday. 
It is herevthat I will introduce you to the concept of catch up miles becsuse for about 5 miles I was lucky enough that the road turned, turning the sidewind into a tailwind for a brief, hopeful moment. Catch up miles are where you have bedn going slowly for some reason, be it bad road surface, headwind, or gradient. Then for a period of time,  conditions improve. This is where you must go down to the drops, put your head down and put as much effort in as possible to go as far and as fast as possible before the conditions change for the worse again. So for those few delightful miles, I was racketing along at 20 mph... didnt kadt and because I knew the route, I knew I would be facing this headwind for the rest of the day.
The last 10 miles of this stretch, into kingman, I could barely reach walking pace (you know its not great when the tumbleweed is hurtling straight at you) and was getting mouthfuls of dust that had been kicked up. I must have looked so wretched that a kind lady in her truck, offered me her condolances (she had done some cycling) and offered me a lift into town. I explained why I couldnt, at which point she apologised that she didnt have any food or drink to give me... This encounter boyed my spirits for the next 5 mins, by which time I was back to shouting obsceneties at the wind. The sign for macdonalds was a welcome sight, even though it must of taken me 15 mins to cover a few hundred yards, so strong was the wind at this point.  I sunk into a dennys, absolutely exhausted. Every fibre of my being had just about reached breaking point and then stretched beyond it. More than that, I couldnt see how on earth I was going to get to oatman, where monica lived, before dark, never mind the border.
I phoned monica, trying to convert a plan a to plan b in my head. Now monica and I had never met, but without hesitation, she offered me a bed for the night if I could get to oatman, as there is no motel there. I was so grateful for the offer, as it meant I didnt have to stop in kingman or put any other plan in my head, into action. If I stopped at oatman, I would be a little short on mikes but not as disastrously as it could be and with a better day tomorrow, I might make up time.
I knew it was the right decision when a kind gentleman told me that the winds would be better tomorrow.

So having eaten, and some determination restored, I set off again, knowing that the next 30 would probably be as bad... I wadnt disappointed. I knew thanks to monica, that I had about 20 miles of flat before a steep climb over the pass. Which would have been fine, if the wind hadnt continued to gust, (apoarently up to 55mph).  The road wasnt great condition either, which didnt help, and I continued to struggle onwards, hitting the lowest I had felt this entire trip.  I keot the pedals turning, occasionally stopping to try and admire the view. As got closer to the mountains, the desert floor got more rockier and less sandy than previous, and I kept my eye out for interesting creatures, even hopping off my bike and going back to photograph a (dead) snake!
Losing the will, I made it to the foot of the pass. The climbing was ok, and once in amongst the mountains, I was somewhat shrltered from the wind... but it was all taking too much time and sunset was fast approaching.
The road wound up the side of the mountain rocks, no barrier in many places so was being extra careful. About half way up I stopped at a gift shop (lol) and met geaorge the manager,  who was kjnd enough to give me a coke and offer me a chair,  but not before calling me crazy!
I only sst for 5 mins, aware time was ticking on and pushed on. The road was stunning with mountains towering to either side, but as I finally reached the top, the sun was dropping behind the horizon.  Downhill catch up time right... eerrr nope. The gradient was steep, I had my brakes on full and was picking my way round the u turn bends. By this time it was getting hard to see, so eventually as night fell, I got off my bike.

I knew oatman wasnt that far and it was becoming dangerous to continue on the descent. So I walked the final 2 miles,  until I saw lights in the road, and monica calling out my name. Man was I grateful!
Monica turned out to be a bubbly kindhearted person, who made me feel so welcome in her home, and along with her children and her husband, deserves a medal for just accepting a stranger into their midst for the night. Not only that but I got to see all their pets, includjng loads of small frogs.... very cool.
As I write this I am knackered and desperate to sleep, knowing it will be another long day tomorrow.. the forcast is supposed to be better tho and I remain hopeful. So another day done, catch up hopefully tomorrow, then just 2 more days of this crazy adventure!

So I hit the lowest of the low, but maybe for good reason, cos I got to spend time with monica and get to know her, instead of the quick coffee planned... fingers crossed for tomorrow... nite all