The American Southwest, Part Two
We had no idea.
Poor ‘Colina’ was in for a real treat, his biggest ride up to that point being only 20 miles. His Spanish nickname transformed the gently rolling hills, to which I had been accustomed heretofore, into steep mountain grades. I’m proud of him, though, for having endured about 6000 feet of elevation change in just under 600 miles! And in only 2 weeks! Also, we were put to the test in multiple days of severe winds. A new personal record for me – 25 mph crosswinds with gusts to 35! It’s easier on a bike, but like he would agree – still not fun. This gave me an excuse to go to visit my first Casino. I won a few times, and we ate a nice dinner there, but I came out about 3 meals-worth poorer.
The government shut-down had begun the following day (can we semantically reframe it as “Total Congressman Malfunction” or “Job Responsibility Holiday?”) and we were promptly kicked out of the Petrified Forest National Park by Ranger Prick (off-duty, so technically he was volunteering). We only wanted to pitch a tent after Colin’s longest ride of his life to date (73 miles). But I blame Congress. I don’t usually talk politics, but on this we can all agree – if you are getting paid to make decisions, then that’s what needs to be done. Better to compromise than be compromised . And despite that they aren’t doing their jobs, they’re somehow still getting paid. Unlike the rangers and other miscellaneous government employees.
Anyway, the government became just as much an issue as time constraints.
So we skipped the Grand Canyon..
Is it even possible for a small group of humans making up a government a measly couple hundred years old to “close” a natural formation millions of years old? Very silly.
So we rode straight to Flagstaff, had some day beers and rode Arizona’s incredible Highway 89a down to Slide Rock State Park, one of the most fun places on earth. The switchbacks were cut into the mountainside at the most scenic goddamn overlook imaginable, as if they were carved by dwarves. I rode the 7 miles down the 7% grade at almost 17 mph, riding all the repeating hairpin turns without stopping, screaming my head off and thumbing-up cars. All while filming myself on GoPro. Top ten days of my life, without any doubt.
We spent two “rest” days of hiking, rock-hopping, easy rock-climbing, and swimming in the ice cold river. We caught up on girls and other things over beers near our riverside campsite. And a few short days later, we made it to Phoenix. Good job, buddy.
At some point just before arriving in Phoenix I passed a milestone: 4,563 miles (7,300 km) That’s exactly half the world record!
Here’s a general recapitulation of items used/lost and time pedaling to give you a greater scope of that distance:
3 sets of disc brake pads
4 pairs of sunglasses
6 water bottles
88 days of riding
117 ounces of gas station peanuts
180 approximate number of hours just to pack/unpack everything daily
494 hours in the saddle
700 approximate number of liters of liquid consumed
950 approximate number of hours sleeping in a tent alone
440,000 approximate number of calories burned, riding and not
And can you believe I’ve survived with only 1 pair of underwear and 2 pairs of socks?
I’m posting this from Los Angeles, California, having just today reached the Pacific Ocean. I’ve ridden through 12 states, D.C., and Ontario. In the scheme of the trip, we check one off!
☑ Cross the North American Continent
⍻ Ride through Central America
⍻ Encircle the South American Continent