Another state line was crossed, and so we were yet another state line closer to the finish. Arizona was the penultimate state – we were getting close. Throughout the trip I had been sent messages about the various different sections that I needed to be careful in, Arizona was the one that came up in most messages, magnificent yet deadly seemed to be the common theme. Looking back at the day now, I am glad we made the decisions we made but at the time tensions were extremely high on the RV.
We galloped out of Gallup (I have been wanting to write that since I began writing this blog). Riding well with my average speed pushing towards 32 miles per hour mark. I, once again, stuck closely behind the RV and we were belting out the miles. I was singing every song at the top of my lungs as the early morning sun peaked over the mountains. I was sailing through Arizona; mountains loomed off in the distance as we contoured our way along the valley floor, the odd little rise forcing me out of the saddle and into a standing attack but nothing that I hadn’t dealt with before and the draft of the RV pulled me up the lesser climbs.
We were deep in Navajo territory, and if the signs weren’t evidence enough, the huge cave paintings were a good indication of where you were. The cliffs and caves continued for an age. When I was a kid my Grandad would sit in his chair and watch John Wayne westerns on an afernoon, this place took me back to my childhood, and I became lost in a world of Cowboys and Indians.
Map of Arizona Photo Gallery
Yet, the nostalgia and enjoyment didn’t last long. Suddenly, there was a massive thump on my back wheel, followed by a loud bang – I had hit a cattle grid at 32 miles per hour. As I disembarked, I could see that the tyre was clinging limply to the wheel, it was burst and broken, and the wheel had a large chunk missing from it, as well. This meant that no matter how many tyres or inner tubes we tried, there was no immediate fix, the wheel itself was broken.
It was now where the tensions began to grow; we had a decision to make. My idea was for me to run for the next part whilst the rest of the team travelled the 120 miles to the next town called Show-Low and got the bike fixed. However, I was quickly reminded of my day previously at the Continental Divide (difficulties breathing, etc) and also the day the team had gone to Pittsburgh and how long it had taken them to do that round trip (around about half a day). Arguments for and against flew around the van, in the end, though, common sense overcame bravado. We decided we would load up the bike and the whole team and head to the little town of Show- Low, 120 miles in the wrong direction.
We arrived in Show-Low and after a few brief discussions with the locals about where the bike repair shop was, we found it. They were genuinely incredibly helpful and they began working to get the bike fixed. We decided to have lunch in Show-Low. I munched down an all you can eat pizza buffet in record time – it was all about the very necessary calories. The rest of the team had one or two slices, I had around eight.
We made the decision that, in order to get the miles in, we should cycle back from Show-Low the 120 mile route we had just done in the RV As we left, we asked the bike shop owner why there were signs warning of snow. He told us that in the winter they get about three to four feet of snow on average. It was 33 degrees and I could not understand how in the world there would ever be snow, I was sweating just standing still. The shop owner was a keen cyclist himself and he reinforced the decision to cycle back towards Route 66 informing me that the wind would be at my back and apparently even he could average about 29 miles per hour himself across some of that route – this proved to be excellent advice.
We pressed back out of Show-Low. The road was a great surface, a well-used highway with trucks rumbling their way along throughout the day. It felt a little too calm and we all felt it was about time we had another brush with the law. Luckily, just then the police pulled us over for holding up the traffic. Sergeant Rush was the name of this police officer, there had been 11 in total so far on the journey. Nearly every officer that had pulled us over had done it purely out of curiosity rather than because we were actually breaking the law. However, on this occasion we were told in explicit detail why and how we were breaking the law. Afer what felt like an eternity he allowed us to continue. He had one stipulation, though. The RV must travel ahead and not block traffic, we, of course, agreed.
We passed the small towns of Snowflake, Taylor and Holbrook while making our way back the 120 miles we had come, checking all the time that we were not holding up the traffic – we didn’t want to be breaking the law, again! The police throughout the trip had been brilliant, in most towns and in every state the police had come to see what we were doing. Sometimes they were worried we had broken down or that I was in distress (I was) but each time they left us with their best wishes and a thank you for what we were doing for our injured veterans.
As we pulled into the Winslow, our finish for the evening, I couldn’t help but think how little there was there. If it was in Yorkshire, it would have been called The Ar$e End of Nowhere’. There was nothing there at all. We stayed just outside the town centre in a small RV park. The RV park was not manned; it was a self-service place, where you left money in a little tin as you left. As we pulled into our bay for the evening, a dead snake lay on the little gravel road, it did not fill me with much confidence. If Bear Grylls had been there, he would have been out eating scorpions and drinking his own pee. By contrast to those wild survivor type people, we sat and ate M and Ms’ whilst drinking Yorkshire tea – real adventurers.