To start with I’ll say most of these photos if you click on them they’ll enlarge to full size.
It has been SO long, I know I know I’m getting worse at this. I think it’s been like a month…I don’t even know what day it is anymore haha. So, the last time we chatted I was in Albuquerque staying with Bill and Karen! During mapping out my next set I had been told by several people, Bill and Karen included, that I should visit a place called Acoma Pueblo just west of Albuquerque and about 15 miles south of the interstate. The problem was that I couldn’t stay at the pueblo plus I would have to pay for entry which was like 25 dollars and I couldn’t do it. I was disappointed but accepted the reality and moved on.
On March 20th Bill drove me out to Cubero, NM where I was going to start my next portion sleeping at a rest stop. According to http://www.freecampsites.net it’s legal to camp at any New Mexico rest stop. Well, when we got there THE REST STOP WAS CLOSED. CLOSED. Who does that?! So we began shopping around, which is what I normally do anyways. First we went to the RV Camp across from the casino and were told we had to go into the casino hotel and ask them if I could camp there. I was told no in several different ways and finally got the information that in the next little town, San Fidel, there was a church. We drove over there to the church and the nun living on the property directed me across the street to the school. The administrator was the owner of the church. His secretary called him to ask and then informed me, to my great excitement, that not only could I camp on the land but that there was a trailer I could stay in since no one was living there. I set up camp, said my goodbyes to Bill and began exploring.
I wandered over to the school where there was wireless I could use to download a few books on my kindle app. That was when I met Tina! She comes out of the school and I thought she was someone I’d been told about named Felicia so I said “Are you Felicia?” and she goes “….uh no….who are you?” HAHA! I explained who I was and she was immediately very kind and friendly. She asked me if I had been to Acoma Pueblo and I explained the situation. She then tells me that she is from Acoma and her family has a house on the mesa and that if I’m willing to stay an extra day she could drive me up to the pueblo the next day! Of course I said yes, it was very exciting and I knew my grandmother had had a hand in this. So the following day I took a nice shower, relaxed and waited for Tina to pick me up around 4:30. We were going to a movie being shown at the Acoma City cultural center called Reel Injun, a film showing the evolution of the portrayal of Native Americans in film over the course of time. So Tina picked me up, we picked up her sister and headed to Acoma. On the way there Tina asked if I wanted to just crash at her home afterwards so we could just hang out and relax and I’d get to meet her family. I said yes that sounded fine. Driving down into the canyon to get to Acoma (also known as Sky City) was INCREDIBLE. I wasn’t prepared for it to be so beautiful!
We went to them movie which was incredible and informative if you’re looking for a good movie to watch I highly recommend it. If you click on the words just now it takes to the IMDB site for it. Aynway, so after the movie we drove up to the pueblo on top of the mesa. It was incredible, simply incredible.
It was already dark however so we decided I would stay another day and we’d go back tomorrow during the day. We went back to Tina’s house and I got to meet one of her daughters, her nephew and all the little dogs they have outside their house who were so so sweet.
So the next morning we woke up, went over to Tina’s mother and step father’s home to shower and have breakfast. From there Tina and drove back to the mesa where we CLIMBED TO THE TOP! CLIMBED! Yes, and it was AMAZING! I had never seen anything like that, had never been up so high freely like that.
We then came back down and drove up so we’d have a car to drive around the pueblo in. Tina showed me her family home and we went out on the roof. Many of the families from the Acoma Reservation have a home on the top of the mesa. Tina explained to me that if there’s ever an emergency they go up there, that they hold ceremonies and parties up there for celebrations as well. It was amazing. There is no power or running water either which you don’t realize what a big deal that is until your inside a dark house with one window. The houses (most of them) are made with mud and straw. Tina said that some of the newer stucco models are most updated but that this look isn’t authentic like the mud and straw.
Acoma was beautiful. It was everything I was told it would be and so much more, I think because I got to experience it with Tina to show me and explain as opposed to just a guide, which ordinarily is required for access to the mesa. Tina showed me all the different things that are tradition and normal for her family and their ancestors and I’m so happy I got to learn about them from her =). By this point in my stay with Tina, we had become friends. We drove back to the trailer and collected my bike and belongings and brought them back to her house so I wouldn’t be imposing on the church trailer any longer and could just stay with her. I ended up staying two more days! Monday night she made me fry bread which is my faaaavorite! I’ve always loved it!
So. On Tuesday Tina drove me to Grants, NM where I stayed in a church rec room which was great…until about 10pm where I swear to you all that it was haunted and things came out to play. I was the only person who was supposed to be in the building and yet I was hearing thumps and footsteps practically right outside my door. I was video chatting with my friend Caitlin for comfort and even she heard the noises. I was utterly terrified, I can’t even explain. I didn’t fall asleep until about 2:30 am and made poor Caitlin stay up until 3:30 her time on the east coast. She is great friend haha.
The next day is titled Worst Day in my one line a day notebook. I started the day great! Light breeze no animals or problems. I stopped for lunch and when I came out the winds had blown my bike over. This should have been a warning but I thought I’d be fiiiine. Oh how wrong I was. The wind was blowing so loudly that I couldn’t hear ANYthing. This would have been fine except that this meant I didn’t hear the PACK of dogs barking until I was surrounded by them. I screamed and stopped my bike. As soon as they heard me scream and stand up they backed off and ran back to their property, thankfully!
I was biking along Route 66 and determined to keep going, however I really hadn’t encountered winds from the side like the ones I met that day. They were blowing from the south and kept blowing me off the road and because there was no shoulder, only gravel afterwards, off my bike. After the 8th time I decided it was time to start walking. The dirt and dust was blowing all over and I was particularly grateful to have my goggles on. I had initially wanted to make it to the town of Thorough (sp) but I was about 10-15 miles away. I had jerked a muscle in my groin after blowing off and not being able to unclip my shoe in time to step down. I came to a bar/liquor store and dragged myself in. The woman behind the counter was everything except useful. Here’s how the conversation went:
Me: Hi, I’m biking across the country and was wondering if I could camp behind this property (it was a huge field by a train tracks)
Her: I’m not the owner, sorry.
Me: Okay, do you think your boss would mind?
Her: Well, sometimes he let’s drivers sleep in the lot because they’re exhausted.
Me: Uh…okaaay. Do you have a number I could reach your manager on?
Her: We’re not allowed to give it out
Me: Okay, can you call him and then I’ll ask him?
Her: He doesn’t like to be bothered.
Me: Great. Thanks SO much.
I was so frustrated because just my appearance spoke volumes at how exhausted I was. I was clearly not just bullshitting this woman into letting me camp there but she didn’t want to go out of her way at all to help me. I understand if you have a boss who is terrible and you don’t want to risk getting in trouble but come ON! I finally slowly rolled my way around the building to the lot next door. There was a section of grass and mud that looked the best so as I was very gingerly rolling across the broken glass I resigned myself to having to camp there. As I was unloading my tent from my bike I heard a truck pull up. A woman gets out of her truck and calls out to me “You can’t camp here” I looked at her in defeat, “I have no choice, I have nowhere else to get to” She repeated, “You cannot camp here. It’s too dangerous. Where are you going?” I told her about how I had meant to make it to the next town as I’d confirmed with a church there that I could camp on their property and she was like ”Get in the truck, I’ll take you. I can’t let you camp here.” So she drove me to the church and dropped me off. I found a little corner between three walls so the wind was only coming from one direction which was perfect. I was totally hidden and protected from the wind. I set up my tent and collapsed.
I woke up in the middle of the night and peeked out of my tent for whatever reason and discovered about an inch of snow! AN INCH! Poor Evelyn’s tires where covered in snow!! And of course I hadn’t put up the tarp over her because it was so windy and clear when I’d fallen asleep…of course. In the morning when I sat up I stretched and realized that my leg was actually hurt. What I thought was just a little pull that would be gone by morning was not gone and was still very sore. I could barely walk much less pedal. I staggered into the main offices of the church where they were amazed that I had camped out. After all for the first time there was still snow on the ground even at like 9 am! Usually if I encounter snow then it’s gone by the time I wake up and exit from my tent.
It was arranged that I would be scooped up by LeeAnn my host in Gallup. For lunch the church secretary Delrae (AWEsome name) took me over the school with two other friends to eat in the cafeteria. It was very cool to see the school and eat school lunches (again). That afternoon LeeAnn picked me up and we headed to Gallup. That night we went out for a drink with her boyfriend at a local bar called The American. The next day I slept in and walked around a little bit. That night LeeAnn and I went to a karaoke bar and sang which was fun. All night there was a guy hitting on LeeAnn asking all these ridiculous questions. At the end of the night when he realized he wasn’t going to get her to go home with him he started complaining about the line for paying his tab. “What’s stopping me from paying me bill? I could just walk out and they’d never know” I turned and looked at him with zero emotion on my face and said “….because it’s wrong?” I was floored at this guy being a jerk just because he wasn’t getting what he wanted. Not only that but he had barely said three words to me all night and suddenly we were talking now that LeeAnn was having a conversation with someone else? No.
The next morning LeeAnn, her boyfriend and I went to the Gallup Flea Market which was actually fantastic. I got a little bracelet and a little pair of beautiful earrings that I’m wearing now. I really wanted some that weren’t dangly that I could wear all the time and not worry about and since these were only like 4 dollars I wasn’t going to freak out if one of them fell out.
After the flea market LeeAnn dropped me back at the apartment where I made Jamaican stew and she went to get her hair done. During this time I also had a minor panic attack. It wasn’t going unnoticed by me that I seemed to be still having trouble and getting ride after ride after thing after thing went wrong for me. I decided that I was just going to give up when I got to LA. I started making phone calls to anyone I knew in the LA area who I thought might be able to help me out. I figured I could just get to LA and get a job doing something like waitressing or cleaning hotel rooms…anything. I basically called everyone I was friends with and panicked on the phone to them. I had also discovered that I was getting altitude sickness. I realized it on the night I first arrived in Gallup after we got home the bar and I had a debilitating headache that was keeping me awake all night. The night of karaoke after two beers I could FEEL that horrible headache coming back and I immediately started drinking as much water as I possibly could to keep it at bay. I had noticed the shortness of breath in and before Albuquerque but then nothing much until Gallup. I started plotting the easiest way to get out of the higher elevations. Train? Bus? Car? My host in Flagstaff informed me that they were basically at the same elevation as Gallup so I wouldn’t be much better off by heading to them. The Grand Canyon, my next planned stop, was even higher up so that was out of the question. I felt like a horrible person because I had been staying with LeeAnn for three days at this point and usually the general idea is to staying one night or so and move on.
The following day I arranged with a warmshowers host I’d been in contact with previously but due to lack of signal, hadn’t been able to reach, for me to go to their house that day. I loaded up my belongings and bike and departed. I went down the curb outside of her apartment and my rear tire blew. Great way to start this shitty day. LeeAnn was great enough to just drive me the 8 minute drive over to their house. Chris and Jackie were great. They took me hiking up in the Cebola National Forest. Hooowwwwever as soon as Jackie and I started on our trail I realized that I was in big, big trouble. The headache was back. The farther we got the worse it got. Soon I couldn’t even lift my head because the movement and the sun was excruciating. I couldn’t even breathe and the farther we went the more my entire body throbbed. Jackie kept saying I could go back but I had no idea where I was (and I KNEW there were mountain lions in this forest) so I wasn’t about to strike out on my own to try and find the trailhead. Finally after a couple hours of hiking which if it wasn’t for the alititude, I’m sure I would have LOVED, we were back in the car. That’s when the nausea hit me full force. All the way home I just kept saying I could NOT throw up in a strangers car. When we got back to their house I passed out on their couch for about an hour and a half desperately trying to calm my stomach. I woke up and ate a slice of pizza and then really, went back to sleep. I just lay there in agony, and I know I sound like I’m exaggerating but it was horrible. I hate being nauseous, plus the headache and soreness on top of it all. And then I threw up and it was horrible. Jackie came out and gave me some crystallized ginger candy and ginger tea which seemed to help a little. I also remembered that I had anti-nausea pills from when I had dizziness in January. So I took one of those and fell asleep.
The following day I slept until like noon, literally. When I woke up I started making phone calls to take a bus to Phoenix. The problem was that to take the bus I would have to box up my bike which wasn’t the problem. The problem was that in all of Gallup there were no bike boxes to be had. The one bike shop didn’t have any and the bus terminal AND Amtrak didn’t have any either. I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to bike to Phoenix, altitude illness or no. Jackie and Chris helped me out looking over the map and deciding on the easiest, quickest path. Another thing I’d been doing while there was going through my belongings and deciding which things I didn’t need to use and could ship ahead of me to my Mom and Jack’s house. By the end I had everything whittled down to my two rear bags and my basket. Because of weight issues I had it distributed between all four bags but lemme tell you, it made quite the difference. I was all packed up and ready to go that night. I knew I had an early morning and had to beat the wind. I was determined to beat some of the wind which starts up around 11 or noon. It was an early night for me.
April 1 -10
Tuesday morning I got up at 5:30 am. I took a shower and ate breakfast with Chris and Jackie. Then I packed up my bike and was off. The first ten minutes was a solid roll down the hill which was great. Then a few climbs. It wasn’t too bad until about 10 am when the wind started. I’d gotten to blow down some great hills so I had a little fun that day. But I eventually got to a stretch of road that was just horrible. Not because it was uphill but because the wind was blowing so hard.
DISCLAIMER: THE FOLLOWING STORY IS A LITTLE HORRIFYING. If you don’t like toilet stories scroll on by. Otherwise enjoy my misery. I wasn’t going to tell a single soul, but then I told a few people and they agreed it should go in the blog. So here you have it:
So, as I’m biking along I realize that I need to pee. This is nothing new and unusual. What was new and HORRIFYING was the knowledge that I also had a tummy ache and had to poop. There was NOTHING between where I was and the Zuni Pueblo about 30 miles away. …Nothing but trees that is. After about half an hour or debating I came to terms with the fact that I was going to Freedom Poop. I didn’t have a choice. I then spent the next 30 minutes biking and scoping out the best hiding place for said Freedom Poop. Who knows how long I’d be there, I needed to be hidden. Unlike peeing in the wilderness which takes a second and who cares who sees your butt, I really didn’t want to have an witnesses. I found a spot, parked my bike hiked around to investigate and decided it was perfect. I went to my backpack to get my wet wipes and make the discovery: I had packed them somewhere else while rearranging everything. I couldn’t wait to hunt through all my bags for a tiny bag of wet wipes so I kept digging in my backpack for anything that might suffice as a wet wipes replacement. Nothing. That’s when I noticed it. My bag of flour tortillas and one tortilla left. I had had them since Texas and it wasn’t getting eaten any time soon. I made an executive decision that this would have to do.
You have not experienced hysterical humiliating laughter until you have used a tortilla to wipe yourself because you don’t have wet wipes. It turns out that tortillas aren’t really made for wet wipe replacement. Don’t get me wrong, they got the job done but you have to be very careful. Thankfully it didn’t fall apart at any important times but I will always be prepared with wet wipes from this day forward.
So anyways, I get back on my bike feeling much better and full of humor. The wind is making a habit of being really strong and then dying down repetitively. So I get to bike for 15 minutes and then have to get off and walk. As I’m entering Zuni Pueblo the wind REALLY starts up. It’s blowing so hard that the dirt is actually hurting me as it slams into my legs, arms and cheeks. I’m so grateful for my ski goggles that I use when it’s windy, or going down a really fast hill. Without them I would have been blinded, surely. (Maybe a little dramatic sounding, but true nonetheless.) I biked through the pueblo and stopped at the cultural center just for a bathroom and directions. The children in the community were putting on a show for their families with cultural dances in all their regalia. It was adorable and beautiful! No photos allowed without a permit so I just watched and enjoyed. I also got a piece of cake and a cup of juice! The women at the center gave me directions to the church I was trying to find and I headed over there. Once inside I spoke with the priest and plead my case. He introduced me to a girl who of course I can’t remember her name (again, so sorry). She gave me directions to an indian christian reform school down the street. I headed there and they let me sleep in the school which was nice after a long dusty day.
The next morning when I woke up I knew I was in for a long day. The next town, St. John, was 55 miles away. Which is 2 days for me. I knew I’d be camping along the road one night and that was okay. I decided that as long as I got halfway there I’d be fine. HOWever, the wind had other ideas in mind for me. That day the wind was SO powerful that I walked my bike literally the ENTIRE day. I walked for 8 hours and make it 14 miles. Not bad for walking all day, but I wasn’t pleased that the next day if I wanted to get to St. Johns I’d be biking 41 miles or so. The exciting thing about that day was that I crossed into Arizona, which I’d been determined to do on my own. No rides, nothing. I stopped and took an exhausted nap leaning up against the Arizona State sign wrapped up in my blanket from Caitlin.
When I woke up about half an hour later I got up and kept walking. I walked another 4 miles and as the sun started going down I began looking for where I was going to camp. I somehow managed to find the PERFect hiding place. It was off the road about 20 feet. I stepped on a prickly pear walking up to it, which sounds terribly painful and it was but I was just grateful that it was me and not Evelyn’s bike. I hadn’t even known to be looking down for cactus and wouldn’t have even noticed. Two little pine trees had managed to grow in such a way that there was a clearing between them but their branches grew horizontally towards each other so the clearing was hidden. It couldn’t have been more perfect for me, because I wanted to be hidden from cars in either direction. Not only that but it was blocking the wind coming from the West at a mighty speed, so I wouldn’t spend the whole night freezing and listening to my tent blow. I wiggled into the clearing, praying for no poisonous caterpillars falling, and dragged my bike in with me. I set up my tent and was so so grateful to just collapse inside where it was quiet. The next morning when I woke up at 6 am THE WIND WAS ALREADY BLOWING. There was another weird noise that I was hearing too and when I unzipped my window I realized what it was: tiny hail. It was snowing and hailing. In Arizona. I was not pleased. I had already decided to just stay in my tent all day and not go anywhere because what was the point if the wind was blowing and it was SNOWING. After an hour of this I got bored and cold after being awake for a little. I finally got out of my tent, packed up and determined to just hitch a ride, rolled up to the road.
No one was stopping for me. After twenty minutes of trying and me just shivering in the wind I figured I might as well bike a little and this turned out to be the best decision ever. I climbed an enormous hill and literally, the rest of the day was pretty much downhill. Majorly down hills. Like…I cannot even explain. I’ll show you photos instead!!
Okay I just went back and it turns out I have no photos of that day, which is odd because I swear I took a zillion.
Never mind I found them on my other camera. Okay here you go:
Not only were the hills glorious and many the scenery was just gorgeous. It was so beautiful seeing canyons in the distance and giant walls of rock. The entire day was made up of this beauty.
So anyway, all day was glorious. My legs felt great (as they should after two days of walking) and the wind was great. I knew that I had to make it to St. Johns that day. It was 39 miles away from where I started and I had to do it. I was so so happy all day long, waving at people driving by me, some of them would wave back and some of them wouldn’t. I had one truck that the guy and his buddy just stared at me and kept going. I didn’t think anything of it until hours later as I’m climbing a hill and the same truck passes me going in the opposite direction as before, (so they were heading to St. John too) and they see me sweating and huffing and puffing up this huge freaking hill and start honking and wave and cheering from their car. It was great haha. When I got to the top of the hill I passed the St. John City Limits and I had a brief moment of overwhelming joy. I was so so proud of myself and the fact that I had bike so far in one day after the past few horrible horrible days. Days where it seemed like everything was going wrong and I thought I had surely made a huge mistake on this trip. I talked in my last entry about how I was getting nervous and I was right on the money. The stretch of biking from Santa Rosa to Gallup (basically all if New Mexico) was full of a lot of feelings of defeat and uncertainty. In Gallup I felt sure that I was going to quit my trip and just give up altogether because what was the point if I was going to keep getting rides every time something bad happened. I really needed to have a good day and that was this day. All through Texas I was seeing this little yellow butterfly and I liked to think it was my Grandma keeping my company. The butterfly reappeared on this day and it was just what I needed to keep believing I could do it.
That night I ate dinner at a restaurant in St. John called ….crap now I can’t remember it. If you guys are reading this comment the name and I’ll edit this post so I can add a link. Anyway, the women in this place were fantastic and sweet and just what I needed after my day of hard work. My lips were so chapped and split they were bleeding but I didn’t even care. I had made it to St. John! I was directed to the fair grounds in town where I could camp and that’s where I met Kay and her dog! Kay runs the RV park out by the fairgrounds and that’s where I camped that night. It was perfect! Her dog was so sweet (after he met me) and well behaved in his little golf cart.
The next day started off well, however towards the end of the day my legs were crapping out on me. They were sore from the day before, having never gone 39 miles before on this trip. By 2:30 I was again walking my bike. A woman stopped me and asked if I needed somewhere to stay that night. I agreed to go with her and she said to just follow her car. So we crept through a town called Concho. At one point a dog suddenly was racing at me growling ferociously and stopped inches from biting my ankle as soon as I put my feet on the ground. I seems as though as soon as they realize that I’m not a monster, I’m a person, they are okay. But as soon as my foot goes back up to the pedal they growl again. It’s very interesting. Anyways, after that Joan (the woman) told me we could pack up my bike into her car as she and her husband lived off an unpaved dirt road. They had a beautiful home. They grew pretty much every produce imaginable, every fruit tree I could imagine eating from, they had a vineyard, they had a pond with koi etc. Joan made an AMAZING dinner for us of pesto pasta, homemade bread and salad from the garden. Rich, her husband is a potter who makes amazing pottery, so I spent an hour or so in the pottery shed watching him throw plates and bowls.
That night RIch took me out and showed me a bunch of constellations in the sky which was great! The next morning Joan took me to Show Low which was where I would have ended up yesterday if I’d kept going. Again, it was a great day. There were a lot of hills to climb but also a lot of downs to roll. So I worked hard that day and my legs were up to the challenge! I knew I would be camping in the forest that night I just didn’t know where exactly. I was on a stretch of road that had nothing at all in terms of little towns or anything. I passed a little RV camp around 5pm but it was closed which was probably for the best, why should I have paid to camp where I could have camped ANYwhere in the woods for free. I found a trailhead into the woods around 5:30 and started in. Picture this. There was quite a few forest fires a few years back and it burned a lot of the woods. So I biked about a mile off the road until I reached the trees. I was really excited to camp in the ”real forest” with tall tall trees.
As I found a tree to lean my bike on and started unpacking my tent I made an interesting discovery. I was about to shake out the footprint that goes underneath my tent so I was scoping out the ground for flat area with little to no pricklies. I looked around a realized that there were some awfully large paw prints all over the place. Upon further investigation I discovered there was also pretty big poop all over the place. I didn’t have any 4G service at all so I texted my sister, Kerry AND Caitlin (a backup and a backup for my backup) to google this forest and find out about it’s wildlife and if there were bears I needed to be attending to my food appropriately for. My sister’s text goes ”You better hang that shit up.” Caitlin goes “I don’t want to alarm you BUT…” and Kerry goes “Ahem, according to Sitgreaves National Forest website: _____Insert Lots of Bear and Mountain Lion Warnings Here____”
I packed my tent back up and rolled back down the road until I was practically in view of the highway. I dumped out all of my bags and sorted through everything separated anything that smelled like ANYTHING into the odor proof bags, ate my dinner and packed that away too. I then walked my food and water bags about 100 feet away from my tent and hoped that was far enough. I have a wasp spray as well that if you spray a ring of it around your tent it’s supposed to help deter snakes and scorpions who can cross it but don’t like to. So I didn’t my ring around my tent and got in. I then watched the sun set from inside my tent. It was really gorgeous but as you remember, my debilitating fear of bears was taking away from my enjoying it.
I was so scared that night. I know a lot of people think I’m being silly but I can’t help that I’m terrified of bears. I can’t help it and I’M SO SCARED OF THEM OKAY?! You know when you’re so tense that your muscles hurt? That’s how I was until about midnight. I couldn’t fall asleep because I was so scared. Every noise was impending brutal bear-death. I heard coyotes howling on the hill right next to me and it would have been totally adorable if it wasn’t RIGHT THERE on the hill next to my tent. In the morning when I came out of my tent, alive and fully put together mind you, there were coyote paw prints aalllll around my tent. Clearly they’d been checking me out. I packed up my shit as fast as I could and got the hell out of there. I knew that night would be the same as the last.
I’m biking along doing alright, but going slowly. There are a LOT of ups and downs. It wasn’t bad though, I wasn’t dying. Around 3:30 or so I’m biking along bopping to my headphones, which I HAVE to have on to focus or else the sounds of cars makes me nervous and twitchy. Suddenly, the same way with the woman on I-40, there’s someone next to me, and just like last time I screamed loudly. It ended up being another guy touring!! His name was Spence and he was biking from Florida to the California coast between San Diego and L.A. He goes ”Hey I’m camping at the Canyon Point Camp Ground, do you want to camp with me? It’s just down the road!” I was thrilled to meet another tourist.
Me: Sure!! Where down the road!
Spence: Just up there a few miles.
Me: Where up there a few miles?
Spence: Like ten miles down the road
Me: …….ohhhh. Ten miles you say?
I don’t think Spence fully understood just how slow of a biker I am. It was 3:30 though so I figured I could make it there by dark. I told him I would be there, and it would be late, but I would be there. He pedalled on. Now I was in big trouble lol. I had to make it to this camp ground come hell or high water. It was only 10 miles. ONLY TEN MILES DAMMIT. Up and down and up and up and up hills.
Finally at 5:30 and with 3 miles to go I see Spence coming BACK towards me down the road. When I got to him he announced the camp was closed and he knew if I’d had to climb the last few hills I would not be pleased. So we decided to just go into the woods and make our camp there! AND WE MADE A FIRE. Which was glorious because the temperature dropped pretty fast. Spence had food to share and I had bread and fudge to share so we pooled our food together and it was deliiicciiioouus. We stayed up chatting and being warm by the fire until it was late and we were exhausted and retired to our respective tents. I was still nervous about bears but we were close enough to the road that I was less nervous plus with the campfire I felt a little better.
The moon was so bright that night but I didn’t even realize how bright until I took my headlamp off with me to use the bathroom before bedtime. I clicked it off and suddenly everything was bathed in light. I was like where the hell is that light coming from!? It was the moonlight!! I couldn’t believe how well I could see.
The next morning when I woke up it was still chill so I STARTED MY VERY OWN CAMPFIRE. CYNTHIA, CLYDE AND CLARA BE PROUD. I was super proud of myself for being able to start the fire. It certainly helped that everything was dry as could be. That day I was hoping to get to a town called Payson. It was about 39 miles away but I had a Warmshowers host there. I hadn’t’ planned to be there so soon so that was kind of exciting that I was making such good time. I asked ahead of time and they said it was fine if Spence stayed with them too. Spence and I agreed to meet at the McDonalds in Payson where we were going to use the wireless.
DAY OF BIKING
We were biking along something called the Mogollon Rim. We were going down mountains at 6% incline so fast I could smell my tires burning and we had to be entirely in the car lane so we could stay in control. Cars had to go slowly too so everyone was very careful and aware of their surroundings. If you’d like to see how fast click the followign link. It starts getting good after the 1 minute mark or so.
So it was basically an entire day of that. I passed into the Tonto National Forest and like I said before, the Mogollon Rim which was INCREDIBLE. It was so beautiful!
I passed Spence at one point because he had stopped to help a woman fix her broken down car.
As I was passing through what I called the pre-town of Payson I started getting really really hot. If you’ve ever passed out you’ll know what I mean when I talk about that kind of cold feeling you get when you’re about to pass out. I was getting that hard core as I was going up the last 2 miles of mountain before the McDonalds. I kept stopping and pouring water down my shirt because it was cooling me down in the breeze but I was so scared I was going to pass out before I got there. BUT I DIDN’T. I MADE IT. Spence got there about 10 minutes after I did. We sat for about an hour cooling down and just being happy that we made it. Spence knew he would, me not so much =) Then we headed over to our hosts in Payson who welcomed up, let us shower and do laundry and then made us DELICIOUS vegetarian mexican..ish food. I’m not entirely sure but it was so delicious. I wasn’t too smart that day and didn’t put on enough sunscreen so my back was definitely burned and I was hot hot hot that night. It took me awhile to fall asleep because I was hot and it was quiet. I was used to the wind blowing my tent and animals calling. In the morning Spence and I said goodbye before heading out on our route. While we were taking the same route we knew we were separating today. I was making my trip into a 3 day ordeal where Spence was doing it all in one day.
We had one section of downhill for about 5 miles where we both stopped at the same time, took some photos and that was that!
From that point on it was all downhill. Figuratively. Not even one bit up hill. At about noon time my legs had decided that they were no longer participating in this game. I was in lowest gear, would go about three yards and have to stop. It was terribly, terribly hot and I was exhausted already. I passed one section with a downhill for 3/4 of a mile and that went by way too fast. WHILE I was very slowly rolling down this hill is when I saw my first Saguaro Cactus. Saguaro Cactus grow only in very specific areas of the southwest and all through Texas I had read that I ”would not see any Saguaro while in Texas or New Mexico” so to see it towering at least a hundred feet above my head on a mountain side was one of the most profound moments of my trip to date.
I stood still and stared up at that cactus full of excitement smiling enormously for several minutes before dissolving completely into tears. I felt as though I was finally reaching a milestone of such worth that I could say “Look Grandma, look at the traveling I have accomplished so far.” I’m sure I looked like an absolute nut on the side of the highway sobbing brokenheartedly. I felt almost like the pain of my Grandma dying was new as the first day.
Eventually I was able to go on for a short time before I began walking. My legs were exhausted. A police officer stopped me and asked if I was okay. I asked how far away Sunflower, AZ was. He says “It’s at mile marker 217. I looked at the mile marker: 227. Ten miles away. Great. Thanks officer.
FOUR hours later it’s about 98 degrees out, I’ve been applying sunscreen to my back every 5 minutes (more because the spray is nice and cool than for protection) and I’m still walking and I pass mile marker 226. The sun is low, like low enough that it’s going to set soon. I realize that the nearest trailhead is one mile away and it’s basically an uphill climb and there is NO way I could even walk there in time before it’s dark. I have stopped at a section along the highway that leads to a fence. Picture a canyon and mountains rising up from all sides. I was in the bottom. Yea. The highway goes back and forth with no off ramps for miiiiiillless. I rolled up to the fencing behind which was a kind cliff/…mountain…thing. I can’t explain well. I shimmied underneath the barb wire fencing and started exploring. I called my sister and with terrible signal ordered her to not hang up on me unless I hang up first for SURE. I then explored down in an empty waterbed of some sort now inhabited by deer, ants, coyotes and who knows what other prints I saw. I was torn because I was TERRIFED to sleep here. I’d been seeing ”watch out for the wildlife” signs since I had entered down into this section of the mountains. WHAT KIND OF WILDLIFE? This was a section of land that people didn’t normally come to so I couldn’t blame any animals that would chance upon me if they reacted, after all I was encroaching on their territory!
After I discovered I was standing on an enormous anthill (both the ants and the hill were huge) I decided it was time to hitch a ride. I crawled back under the fencing, still on the phone with my sister, and tried for a solid 15 minutes to get a ride. Finally a man in a pickup truck stopped for me. I hung up on my sister and ran to his truck, explaining the situation. He agreed he could take me to the next highway intersection (since he said Sunflower has really nothing). He chatted with me about the different types of cactus that I was seeing and told me about the jumping cactus, which I’d never heard about. When we got to the intersection of the highways I got out, and he got out. Immediately we both smelled something rotting. He says to me, “I can’t leave you here, that dead animal will attract predators from all over, especially bears”. UH. YEAH. NO. TAKE ME WITH YOU. I managed to get ahold of a warmshowers host in Mesa which was where he was heading. On the way there he pointed out the Superstition Mountains as well. I got to see an AMAZING sunset.
He dropped me off with Bill and Gerri in their little senior community and it was FANTASTIC. They were the sweetest couple not to mention some hardcore cyclists. We agreed that I would stay there the following day to relax, then make the last push of 50 miles or so to Trish and John’s home, Kerry’s aunt and uncle!! I was so close!! So the next morning Bill and Geri went for a bike ride with friends ”a short 50 miles or so”. I went down to the pool and swam for a few hours.
Then I walked to the library a got a few books to read, then I went and showered and just relaxed in the air conditioning. When they got back we had a little lunch and then went down to happy hour. There was a band playing and Gerri and I tried to figure out why the drummer was wearing a black shirt in this heat and who she was married to in the band.
That night I packed up all my belongings and went to bed early. I had an early morning ahead of me and a long long day. I HAD to make it to the Muir’s house.
Early Thursday morning I got up and departed. And it was amazing. AMAZING. Totally flat the entire way and for the most part I had a bike lane of my very own!!
The city of Mesa is pretty hardcore about their cyclists. It was fantastic!! I really loved seeing orange trees everywhere I looked! And beautiful green trees with pink flowers on them. I biked until 12:30 pm when I stopped for lunch. I’d been biking on roads and along canals. It was incredibly beautiful.
Shortly after lunch I got my first flat since Gallup. The front tire blew out. The sun was blasting down full heat. I spied across the street from the canal I was on a house with a big tree. The woman in the house was just happening to walk across the front yard so I called out asking if I could maybe change my tire in the shade of her tree. She said sure so up I rolled. Much to my amazement and joy she was having work done on her house so there was a pressurized air hose available to use! My tire was changed in five minutes and I was off! I was 4 miles away from Trish and John’s house when THE SAME TIRE blew out AGAIN! I stopped, changed the tire but once it reached it’s air level it immediately deflated. I was pissed. I called Trish and she had John come scoop me up. I felt so mad at myself for not being able to make it. I knew it wasn’t my fault but I had been so determined that morning. John told me it’s the cactus needles in the tires that makes it go out so repeatedly! He said a local bike shop could put some stuff in my tires so they wouldn’t be penetrable by the cactus needles…and a lot of other things for that matter! I got to their house and this was on the front door:
So I am officially in Phoenix! I’ve been here for almost a week just basking in the sun, the pool, the fun and most importantly the love that Trish, John and their granddaughter Destiny and Trish’s brother Gar are giving. And of course their dog Scruffy! He takes a little to warm up but we’re officially friends. They make it very difficult for me to leave. ❤ We’ve had lots of adventures! I went hiking with Destiny on Saturday (a VERY short hike), celebrated her 13th birthday with her, we went out to karaoke twice (you know that that’s my favorite!)
Friday evening I got to see an old high school friend who I hadn’t seen in eight years…since high school! We met up, walked around Target and had a beer in front of McDonalds…sounds good to me! It was really wonderful to reconnect and catch up on things. I love when you see someone and the friendship is like no time has passed. I also saw a sweater at Target with BICYCLES ALL OVER IT!
Sunday we drove to the Grand Canyon and Sedona!! Trish and John felt that I really should see it since I couldn’t go as I’d planned so we spent Sunday up there and it was IN.CRE.DIBLE. It was just so beautiful. The squirrels there are shameless. There are really no words to describe the Grand Canyon, so here are a plethora of photos.
On the way back from the Grand Canyon we drove through Sedona and it was just as beautiful!! So much green everywhere, along with the red rocks and everything was just gorgeous. It was amazing, magical and everything I had hoped for! Little babbling brooks, people wading in the rivers and little new age shops everywhere!
Just before Sedona we stopped at a canyon called Oak Creek Canyon (I…believe) where we took this photo:
I also bought a necklace made out of Blue Goldstone by a Navajo woman there. I couldn’t walk away from it. When I asked her what it meant she said it represents Tranformation, New Beginnings, Adventure, and Safety on Trips….CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT!? Meant to be, honestly!
Today was Easter. We enjoyed our last day together as I depart tomorrow to continue on my journey! It’s supposed to be a high of 98 degrees! EARLY MORNING FOR ME!
I’ll be honest with you all, getting from Gallup to Phoenix was, I felt one of my most successful stretches. I did a lot of legwork and felt really accomplished because of it and while at times I felt defeated like the evening in the canyon when I hitched a ride, I knew that these were things I couldn’t control and were out of my power to change. I felt my grandma with me when I saw that cactus, just as I felt her when I was at the Grand Canyon, those first few moments of seeing it. Meeting a new friend on the road was a great experience (I just spoke to Spence tonight and he just flew back to Florida last night!! Yay Congrats Spence!!) My next stretch will be difficult, a LOT of mountains but I feel much better knowing my tires have that new rhinodillo material in them to keep them strong. Which, actually, reminds me that I need to get new tubes in case I do get a flat. I hope all of you are well and I will talk to you next time!!
I’ll leave you with this sign that’s behind every toilet at the Grand Canyon: