Day 7: Seligman, AZ to Flagstaff, AZ
Distance: 82 miles
Well, this was a tough day. We had climbing, a stiff south wind, and our first serious off-road riding all conspiring to make this the longest day of the trip thus far. Add to that a few flat tires (two of them mine), and Anurang and I didn’t roll into the ironically named Luxury Inn until something like 5:30.
But to begin at the beginning – we had a great breakfast across the street at Lilo’s Café, before rolling out of Seligman on Rt 66 heading east. Most of the day, we were going some variation on east – I guess because Chicago is more or less east of Santa Monica. The wind was already strong when we started on this day, so we didn’t get any easy miles at all. Just a series of long gradual climbs with too much wind.
After about 11 miles, we reached the summit of the first ridge that we were climbing. Looking to the southeast, I could see two mountains; one fairly near and one pretty far with snow on it. The nearer one was near Williams, and the farther one was near Flagstaff. It looked a long ways away.
After 19 miles, we got on our first section of really old road that was closed to cars. This was kind of exciting, especially since the road itself was relatively ridable. I took lots of photos on this section, though I’m not sure they came out that well.
A rest stop waited for us at the end of this road, after which we rode through the town of Ashfork, which is where all the flagstone in America apparently comes from.
We then hopped back onto I-40 for a few miles before getting off to ride one of the old alignments. Don’t forget that we’re climbing all this time! This particular section starts out pretty easy (in terms of gravel) and gets progressively trickier. Eventually, it peters out and literally disappears under I-40. At that point, we squeezed through a barbed wire fence, very carefully crossed the freeway, and continued on I-40 East.
Getting off a few miles later at Devil Dog Road, we took a somewhat circuitous route to reach yet another section of very old alignment that has now become a gravel road. This was probably the toughest riding of the whole day. It climbed on loose gravel and took a lot of energy. Again, we dead ended at I-40, but this time we didn’t have to cross the freeway to continue east.
From here, fortunately, it was mostly downhill to Williams, where we had lunch at the excellent Twister’s Café. Great milkshakes.
By now it was clear that things were running a bit behind schedule, and I think it’s fair to say that the culprit was the wind. In general, I think I had a false impression of how easy this trip would be – based on the conditions that we had five years ago. This time around, the wind and the heat are much worse. I, of course, am convinced this is all because of global warming. But still, it’s kind of a drag to take two hours longer to do the same ride and to be as tired as if you were actually on a “real” Pac Tour. Oh well, if I get really trashed, I suppose I can take a rest day somewhere.
After lunch, I hung back a bit with Anurang as we… climbed some more. And we weren’t done with either the dirt or the interstate, either. The next section of old road was partially paved and partially sand/gravel. It’s also where I had to fix my two flat tires. I should have found the thorn the first time. Oh well, lesson learned, I hope.
Eventually, we got back on I-40 for a long (I’ve been using that word a lot, haven’t I?) trip up to the Arizona divide. That’s when things finally started to get a bit easier as we descended to Flagstaff and then rode through town with a detour though Northern Arizona University to miss the worst traffic.
Chinese food for dinner, and now I must stop typing and try to get some sleep. Tomorrow offers a lot less climbing (and a lot more descending), but I hear that the wind may actually be worse.