Saturday, June 26, 2010

Grand Canyon Bicycle Tour, Day 10

Packing up and leaving a motel is pretty much like packing up and leaving a campground.  My plan was to put in as many miles as possible each day and try to cover the remaining 280 or so miles across the desert in as little time as possible.  It wouldn't hurt anything to arrive a couple of days early at the Grand Canyon, and there didn't appear to be any reason to waste time sitting around, assuming I would be able to find a suitable place to sit.

I took Pinon Hills Blvd, which runs north of Farmington, to avoid the traffic and some construction on US-64.   There were a few hills along that route, but nothing too strenuous.  Pinon, or Road 6480 as it is called father west, terminates at the community of Kirtland, and Road 6500 quickly got me to the highway.  There were no signs indicating what US-64 was, so while it really couldn't be anything else, I checked my GPS just to be certain.

The ride to Shiprock was fairly nondescript, and I arrived around 11:00.  There is a large rock formation which is presumably the namesake of the town.

It doesn't much look like a ship to me.

Past Shiprock, I got onto some freshly paved tarmac and was making good time.  Unfortunately, I missed a turn in Shiprock where US-491 continues south and US-64 makes an insufficiently labeled turn (New Mexico doesn't seem keen on spending money on superfluous signs).  I was 25 miles off course by the time I realized what had happened.  All said, I rode an extra 50 miles and lost 4 or 5 hours due to that mistake.  Shortly after turning back, one of my water bladders fell off the back of my bike and cracked the cap.  I was feeling really angry, like nothing was going right.  But there was nothing to do but ride on.

US-491, south of Shiprock

Upon returning to Shiprock, I stopped for lunch.  I picked up some super-glue at a convenience store and did the best I could to fix the water bladder cap.  Then got back on track.  The US-64 turn is instead labelled San Francisco Parkway there in town.  There was a sign pointing toward Kayenta, AZ, but somehow I had missed it while looking for the highway number.

I had ridden right around 100 miles for the day and was in the middle of Navajo reservation land, nowhere near a proper campground or any other accommodations.  Eventually, around 18:45, I saw an area on the side of the road where there was a steep bank which was reasonably accessible.  It was low enough that headlights from passing cars would not shine on me.  I stopped and walked my bike down the bank and laid it over on its side.

My campsite below the guard rail on US-64

I did the best I could to make a meal down there in the ditch without drawing attention to myself.  My camp stove burns clean, but I would have had to move to a more exposed location to use it without running a risk of setting anything on fire.  I don't know if this fact is well-known or not, but ramen noodles to not require heat to prepare.  They had been a staple of my diet for most of the trip, and I never bothered to waste stove fuel cooking them.  You can just submerge the noodles in water for a while and they just soak it up.  Sure, they would probably taste better warm, but the choice of fare was strictly pragmatic in the first place.  So I ate and laid low, waiting for the sun to go down.

There are two types of plants in this world: those which are cultivated by humans and those which must fend for themselves.  My ditch was covered by the latter, mostly grasses.  The remarkable thing was that, although each one of them had developed a unique means of spreading its seeds, they all involved varying degrees and forms of discomfort to myself.  I had beggar's lice stuck to my clothes, sharp pods poking into my socks, and all manner of seeds sticking me in an effort to further their species.

I was sitting on my tarp, leaning against the bank with my bike below me.  As dusk began to fall, I noticed someone walking along a ridge just north of me.  At first I was concerned about being discovered, but whatever this person was doing, it didn't have anything to do with looking for bicycle tourists sleeping in the ditch.  He/she just paced back and forth across the length of the ridge.  I watched the walker against the graying sky until there was not enough light to see anymore.

This was the only night I slept outside of a tent or was otherwise enclosed.  It wasn't terribly comfortable - I had a pannier wedged under my backside to keep me from sliding down the hill - but it wasn't too bad.  The sky was clear and the stars were magnificent.  At one point I heard a rustling in the grass near my head, which ended up being what I assumed to be a small lizard which ran down my shirt.  But otherwise it was a quiet night.

View Larger Map

Not shown on the map is the extra 50 miles of wasted riding.  Even though it turned out to be the highest-mileage day of the whole trip, I didn't make nearly as much progress as I had hoped.

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