Day 6: Kingman, AZ to Seligman, AZ
Distance: 88 miles
On John Muir’s birthday, we departed Kingman at a bit past 8:00 after scarfing down a complimentary breakfast buffet at the Quality Inn. Few natural forces in the universe are capable of wreaking havoc on a buffet like a bunch of Pac Tour riders almost one week into their trip. Fortunately, this is a smallish group for Pac Tour, so there were a few donuts and toaster waffles left over for the truckers.
After the heat of yesterday afternoon, everyone seemed relieved that skies were cloudier and temperatures were cooler on this morning. Anurang and I were just about the last to leave, and we set off with Lon and Jim Meyers (who is also doing some blogging). It didn’t take us long to catch up to some of the other riders, though, as we wound our way through some major road work in Kingman.
We were stopped at a traffic light when the window rolled down on a pickup truck to my left and the passenger asked me a question I didn’t quite catch. It sounded to me like the guy had an accent, too. “Excuse me?” I said.
“Do you have any grey poupon?” he asked again.
“Non,” I replied.
They laughed and the guy then said, “You guys are crazy. You’re going to get hit.”
“Oh no,” I said. “We’re taking the old road.” And then the light changed.
Well, in fact, the old road wasn’t that old today. We could occasionally see it off to one side of the highway we were on, but it was on what is now private property, and it didn’t look particularly ridable at that. This road was a real highway – not an interstate, though – with a reasonably good if somewhat gravelly shoulder and variable traffic that included a fair number of trucks. If a truck passed us while someone else was approaching in the opposite lane, though, our shoulder started to feel a little less roomy.
Looking at my route card now, I see that there is not a single turn on it for the 88 miles from Kingman to Seligman. In fact, the road builders did their best to make sure that there were as few curves as possible. This road sometimes ran for more than ten miles straight as telephone line, and it occasionally became frustrating as we pedaled and pedaled and could scarcely tell whether we were making any progress or not. The high-desert scenery, although not quite as bleak as, say, West Texas, didn’t offer a whole lot to look at after you admired the mesas and hills at the far end of the road.
At least there were some interesting stops to break up the monotony. After a pretty fast 12 tailwind-powered miles, we took a photo at mile marker 66, which we had also done five years ago. A further 14 miles up the road was a nice souvenir shop in Hackberry, were I picked up an aloha (Hawaiian) shirt with a Route 66 theme that I can wear to my ukulele group.
Somewhere between Hackberry and a SAG stop at Peach Springs, another rider apparently accidentally brushed wheels with Leon and, as he fell down, something on his bike ripped into the Leon’s rear wheel and took out four spokes, as well as disabling the freewheel. They waited 15 minutes before a group of riders that included Lon came along, and Lon swapped rear wheels with Leon. Of course since Lon rides a single-speed bike, that meant that Leon had only three gears (I’m assuming he could still use his front derailleur) to ride the four or five miles to the rest stop (not a problem for Leon, I suspect, as he seems to be a very strong rider). Lon then rode that section on Leon’s rear wheel (after truing it as best as possible with several spokes missing from the same section). Lon was lucky and the wheel didn’t disintegrate. I should have taken a picture of it, as we were at the rest stop when he arrived.
By now the wind was becoming stronger but not necessarily favorable. When the wind’s that strong, it has to be right at your back, or it just slows you down. We also had a fair amount of climbing to do at this point; our lunch stop at Grand Canyon Caverns was at 5,450 feet – more than 2,000 feet higher than Hackberry.
I had forgotten that Grand Canyon Caverns, and the restaurant adjoining, are at least a mile (up and into the wind) off the highway. By the time we go there, I was ready for something to eat, having only had a banana, a coke, an ice cream bar, beef jerky, a package of cookies and, uh, probably some other stuff, to sustain me since breakfast. The interior of the place always reminds me of the National Park Service’s cafeteria in North by Northwest. I think we slightly overwhelmed them, but eventually I was able to get a grilled chicken sandwich.
From the Caverns, it was only 27 miles to Seligman, but the wind was pretty bad, and at least 12 of these miles were across one of those giant valleys where the road starts to feel like a treadmill as the mountain never gets any closer. Except that it did eventually get close enough that we had to turn to get around it, which meant heading straight into the wind for the first time all day.
This was a good time to be riding behind Lon.
However, the ride ended with a four-mile downhill into town, which is always welcome, even when the wind keeps you from doing it at 30 miles an hour.
As soon as we’d stashed our gear bags in our rooms, Anurang and I headed over to the Snow Cap to have an ice cream cone and marvel at the schtick they’re famous for. (Ask for a shake, and he’ll offer you his hand; ask for a cone, and you’ll get a traffic cone, etc). How they keep from getting jaded, I don’t know. Must be something to do with living in a small town that’s 80 miles from anywhere and a mile and a half from the interstate. Seligman could have become a ghost town just like so many of the others we’ve seen on this trip, but Angel Delgadillo (a barber) and his late brother Juan (owner and builder of the Snow Cap) made sure that it didn’t.
Anurang went over to Angel’s barbershop to see if he could get a shave (well, it’s really 80% souvenir shop at this point), but the barber had left for the day – he’s semi-retired, after all.
Dinner tonight was at “The Road Kill” diner – their motto: “You kill it; we grill it.” Since I haven’t killed anything lately, I had a Philly cheese steak sandwich.
Don’t know whether I’ll be able to get on-line and post this tonight; the phones are a bit funky at this authentic, historic Route 66 motel, which, as near as I can tell is named “Historic Route 66 Motel.” They have plaques on most of the doors denoting a famous person who has slept there. I was thrilled five years ago to have the room that Will Rogers, Jr. once slept in. (I actually met the man once; his father is a hero of mine.) This time I got the second-coolest (in my opinion) room: Bobby Troup’s.