Days Fifty-Six through Sixty-Six: The End of The Trip

The last ten days of the trip were more of the same: wake up at 4:30am, ride 90 miles across the desert in the summer into a headwind, and vegetate until the next day.

For me, the most useful outcome of this ride was the chance to gain perspective. Events of this nature are fun, but they can also be disorganized and frustrating. Except for me (and maybe two others), none of the group participants, group leaders, or organizational directors, are serious, competitive cyclists. That, more than anything, set the tone of the ride, and led to many misunderstandings.

I'd like to move away from charity tour rides and focus on racing. Perhaps I'll have better lick there?


Day Fifty-Five: Plateau Point on the Bright Angel Trail

True to form, Jane and I woke at 0430 and left for our hike. Armed with a 3 liter Camelbak, sunscreen, four Clif bars, Clif Shot Blocks, and three sandwiches – each, we got on the shuttle bus, had a quick breakfast, and started the hike.

To make a long story short, Jane and I hiked the 12.2 mile trail, with 3,100 feet of descent and climbing, in 6h23m. The park recommends allocating 8-12 hours for the trip. It helps that the weather was ideal, that we were used to long efforts at altitude in the heat, and that she was so motivated to do this hike. We made up the most time climbing fast, as we do. No words that I can write can do justice to the beauty of what we saw, so I’ll work on posting some of our photographs in the near future.

We spent the evening attempting to re-hydrate and re-fuel from our effort.

I can’t believe that we’ll be in Las Vegas in just three days.


Day Fifty-Four: Grand Canyon Silliness

At 0452, I bolted out of the host site on my bicycle to the Flagstaff train station. I wanted to catch a glimpse of the Southwest Chief before I left the town. The train, scheduled to arrive at 0506, was ten minutes early. I saw the first passenger train I’ve seen in some time: two Genesis engines, a baggage car, and eight very shiny, very well maintained Superliners. Upon the train’s departure, I waved at the engineer, who rewarded me with two short blasts of the horn for my effort.

I decided to take a small detour today. At the bicycle shop, one of the employees showed me a topographic map of the area. The San Francisco peaks, just north of town, are a dormant volcano with a peak above 12,000 feet. Snow Bowl Road goes from 7,500 to 9,500 feet in 7 miles. Naturally, I took the detour, adding 14 horizontal miles and 2,000 vertical feet to the day’s ride. Awesome.

After some time trialling, I caught Jane, and we rode into town at a comfortable pace. The Grand Canyon posed a logistical challenge. Bicycles were $12 each, but getting the van into the park was $25. The rangers were unwilling to just wave us on, so, we had to load the bicycles into the van to sneak by the gate in repeated trips. What silliness.

Grand Canyon National Park is an international tourist trap. It’s very developed and very busy on a summer weekend.

After dinner, Jane and I managed to get to the rim and look over the edge. The view inspired Jane to do a hike tomorrow. The second time she asked, I obliged. We spent most of the evening making the preparations for our hike, including arguing with the other riders to be considerate and let us sleep. 


Day Fifty-Three: Day Off in Flagstaff

After a very difficult week of riding, where riders rode 586.18 miles in 7 days of riding, today’s day off was more than welcome. I think this week set a new Bike & Build record, with 4 days of over 90 miles of riding in a week. Jane, who completed all of this riding in good health, was exhausted. Many riders had to take time in the van, due to various illnesses.

Jane and I woke at our usual early hour, and went to the Downtown Diner. I treated myself to the Hungry Man’s Breakfast, slightly amended. I ate a half order of biscuits and gravy, an order of hash browns, two eggs, two of three big pancakes (one went to Jane), and a smoked trout. It was delicious and adequate.

After breakfast, we walked around for a while. I got a much needed haircut. The barber, after hearing the Bike & Build story, told me that the haircut was on the house! I was very happy to hear this news.

Once at the church, I spent the next three hours working on my bicycle. I cleaned the entire bike, scrubbed the rims, disassembled and deep cleaned the rear derailleur, replaced the chain, and re-tightened the rear axle. I drained more water out of the frame, from the freak rainstorm. After the work, I felt like I was riding a new bicycle.

We spent the afternoon visiting the Roden Crater. It’s a famous art work in progress, featured in The New York Times. The artist, James Turrell, is Sophie’s father, so our trip got a sneak peek of the exhibit. It’s really neat: part of the exhibit is a huge natural telescope, other rooms make the sky seem like it is at ceiling level, and the inside of the crater affords breathtaking views of the sky. It’s truly in the middle of nowhere, requiring a long drive on a dirt road.

After taking showers at the Athletic Club, Jane and I ate at the Himalayan Grill, a local Indian restaurant. This was the best food we’ve had in a while. 


Day Fifty-Two: Van to Flagstaff

Yesterday was great, but once again, I wish I didn’t have to drive the van today.

Flagstaff is a beautiful mountain town. In many ways, it reminds me of Jackson Hole, WY. It’s at 7000 feet, surrounded by evergreens and mountains, and very affluent. It also has lots of young people, and lots of traffic. Unlike Jackson, it even has an Amtrak train to Los Angeles and Chicago: Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, with daily service.

We had real showers (!) and dinner at the Flagstaff Athletic Club. The group was very glad for this, as it gave them a change to clean up for the first day off in over a week.

This was a particularly opportune night to be in Flagstaff. It was a special Friday night. The town showed Evan Almighty on a big screen in the town square, and the young people were out all night.

After dinner, Jane and I visited the Goodwill store. She bought a tight black dress (!), which reveals her perfect hourglass figure but little more. She looked absolutely stunning in her dress, and everyone who saw her agreed. We had a fun night walking around town, me in my polo shirt and khaki hiking pants, her in a black dress and sandals.

We’re staying at the Flagstaff Federated Community Church. We’re sharing the church with another youth group, consisting of high schoolers. They sleep on air mattresses, less of a sacrifice than our thin Thermarest sleeping pads.