Day 8: Flagstaff, AZ to Holbrook, AZ
Distance: 88 miles
This will probably have to be a short description of the day’s ride as I am back in a wigwam, and this wigwam is far more authentic than the ones in Rialto/San Bernardino. No wireless (working or otherwise), no Ethernet, no phone, and no grounded outlets. One difference between this MacBook Pro and our old PowerBook is that the AC adapter requires a three-pronged, grounded outlet.
Anyway, Anurang and I met at a little after 6:00 to go look for breakfast. First we tried the place that had been recommended, but after we’d been sitting for about 10 minutes without water, coffee or someone asking us what we wanted to eat, we realized that the single waitress and cook at this particular place were overwhelmed. Lon, sitting at the next booth, suggested that we try another place a little further down the road, so about eight of us decamped for that place, which was a much better situation with quick service and good food. It was called “The Place.”
I admit that I was a bit anxious to get on the road and start in on our 88 miles before the wind kicked up, as all the forecasts said it would. We rolled out of the motel parking lot at a bit past 7:30 and started out of Flagstaff, which was fairly pleasant as it was Sunday morning (or so I’m told), and we were already pretty much on the east side of town. It was chilly, but the skies were cloudless and the wind was actually helping us as we began gradually descending.
I quickly lost sight of Anurang but decided to just keep on going as there were lots of other riders around.
Almost as soon as you leave Flagstaff and get on I-40 to head east, the trees disappear and you are back in a more prairie/desert environment. I noticed a couple of semis parked by the on-ramp as we got on the interstate; in one of them I could see the driver sleeping with his head on the steering wheel.
This first interstate section went pretty quickly and I passed a few riders who had left ahead of me. Eventually, I saw another rider in my rear-view mirror and guessed correctly that it was Leon. He pulled up alongside me and we rode together past the Twin Arrows trading post (now deserted and apparently slated for a housing development) and the Diablo Canyon. Oh, and I forgot: Winona, although I don’t recall actually seeing anything there.
We stopped once to take pictures of the view back up the highway with the snow capped peak above Flagstaff visible.
After 35 miles, we reached the first rest stop, which was located just past a closed interstate rest stop. I remembered having a rest stop at this same spot five years ago, and it was a good deal more windy then. That’s not to say that we didn’t have wind, but I think that it was coming more from the southwest than directly from the south, so it wasn’t nearly as bad as it might have been. By this time, I was feeling somewhat sanguine about getting to Winslow on the early side for lunch.
Pulling out of the rest stop, we agreed that we would skip the first gravel option near Meteor City and concentrate on getting to Winslow by around 11:00 by sticking to I-40. The wind started to pick up, though, and depending on the terrain and our heading our speed varied wildly between 17 and 7 miles per hour. Most of the time, though, we made good progress.
In fact, we got to Winslow just a few minutes after 11, passing “the corner” with its statue of the guy and his guitar. The building that the accompanying mural is painted on burned down a few years ago, leaving only the exterior walls, so the park has been fenced off while they try to find money to repair it.
Our lunch was to be at La Posada, a restored Harvey House railroad hotel that truly is a marvel. This lunch was probably ten times nicer than any other we’ll have on this trip, and it was included in the tour (thanks Lon!). The hotel itself is a masterpiece of Spanish hacienda architecture, and I’d love to stay there sometime. It probably even has wireless. According to the brochure I grabbed, the restaurant’s menu features “Fred Harvey specialties and Native American inspired nouvelle cuisine.” I had duck confit. It had lots of beans and corn and other Native American inspired stuff with it. The lemonade was good, too. Leon had never had American-style lemonade before. In South Africa, lemonade is like Sprite (as it is in Britain).
Anurang showed up about half hour after us and also had the duck.
Leon and I finally left La Posada together while Anurang was tucking into a brownie dessert. The wind was still quite strong, but I felt good enough about our progress that I suggested we take the next optional detour. This was a lovely ten-mile section of old road that got us completely off the interstate. There was still a fair amount of pavement but also a lot of sand. Leon is a good mountain biker, so I tried to follow his lead. It was just enough sand to help build my confidence so that I don’t tense up every time the bike starts to do that sand shimmy thing. We saw no one else on the road at all, unless you count a trio of steers who jumped up and ran away at the sight of us.
Back onto the interstate and it was just a few miles to the Jack Rabbit Trading Post. I was going to say that this is a great place to buy a rubber tomahawk but, come to think of it, I didn’t see any rubber tomahawks. I’m pretty sure they had them five years ago, though. Regardless, they were nice folks. It’s clearly a family business. While we were there, Anurang showed up, so the three of us left together and began the final trip to Holbrook, which started with some nice frontage road and eventually landed us back on … the interstate. Before we got on, though, we made a pit stop at a truck stop, which necessitated a) weaving through a dozen semis waiting to buy gas and b) riding directly into the late-afternoon wind as we crossed back over the freeway. As I stood on my pedals, it occurred to me that it might have been the first time I’d ever had to do that while riding downhill.
When we got to Holbrook, I found that I had wigwam #1. On the way to dinner, Anurang and I met some Scottish cyclists who are going around the world from Perth (Scotland) to Perth (Australia) to Perth (Canada). Someone suggested that they use Route 66 to get across the western U.S. Here’s their website: http://perth2perth2perth.org/