Prefixing “great” to the name of your village seems a bit optimistic doesnt it? What if it doesnt live up to the hype? Even cities with as much civic pride as Boston and New York have yet to preprend “great” to their names. I digress.
Doing my best to cure my (emotional) election hangover by riding home to Boston. At the moment I’m riding along US-6 through the region known as the Pennsylvania Wilds because its all designated wilderness. There’s a herd of elk out here someplace!
Megan and I have been off the road for about 2 weeks now. After hitching into Flagstaff we nursed our bruised adventure bones with ample locally brewed beer and pizza. Being a poorfessional cyclist is hard work. We caught the last farmers market of the season and charmed the local (actually) homeless population into telling us about the good local camping. Downtown Flagstaff is located not far from Coconino National Forest and so the first few nights we made our 5 mile commute to a campsite in the shadow of Mount Humphreys. Were we more energetic bagging the highest point in the state would have been fun, but our prodigious supplies of vim and vigor bled out in the Navajo Nation and watered the infinite fields of sagebrush and goat heads.
Incidentally, the Navajo Nation was not as bad as white folks liked to tell me. I’m about halfway done writing up our time there, as I am with my time anywhere in the Southwest. Summary: Good people in a bad situation. No water.
Wind was so bad and our sleep so poor that for the first time (well second time, but that was because its illegal to ride through the Zion tunnel) in nearly 12,000 miles I hitched to my destination. We’re cooling our heels in Flagstaff for a bit, and I truly hope to write something substantial but we need to find computer access for great than hour.
Sometimes people insist that I must miss sleeping in a soft bed. Not really, but tonight we’ve sprung for shelter for the first time since Seattle. Why? Exhaustion. We’ve been riding and hiking non stop for a few weeks pushing from Nevada to Zion to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Up and down the grand staircase. At the moment we’re near the bottom, I think, and looking across the start of the Grand Canyon into the Navajo nation.
What next? Before we disappear here’s the plan: ride east to canyon de chelly and then south to Tucson or flagstaff where we intend to hop a train back to Pittsburgh. Originally we had thought crossing the rockies to Denver would be a good idea but the higher elevations are already getting snowed on and we’re not prepared to handle that. It’s just as well because I routinely feel as though I’m on my last legs and so crossing high passes is less appealing than it was in the past. What a year, enough to satiate even my wanderlust and ADHD. Just a few weeks and maybe 1,000 miles to go!
Few places conjured as much dread for me as Nevada. It’s a big, dry, hot, rugged expanse of desert, which makes it a less than ideal place for cycling. Like Texas and Montana people talk about driving across like its a penance for all the things they have done or intend to do in California. Nevada could actually be the death of me.
Still Nevada has its proponents. Over the past year I’ve met a handful of people who have tried to sell me on the idea riding across it. One was a person that hosted me in rural Texas and told me that it would be the hardest ride he had ever done and that I wouldn’t be able to do it self-supported (He was talking specifically about US-50, but I’ll get back to that detail), but that it was a worthy challenge. Just recently I met two people in Mammoth Lakes that insisted it was a great place to ride. One, eyes bleached and skin tanned to leather, told a story of riding 163 miles with a single water bottle because his other had blown away or some such. He loved every moment of it, but he was a certified Nevada desert camel. I’m a wet-lander with skin full of life and water.
You don’t want to live forever do you? Good, point your bike East and bring your shades because Nevada is a-calling.
Well we tried to escape Mammoth this morning but a series of since-remedied technical failures convinced us to stay. Megan has been dealing with some pretty bad joint issues (sound familiar?) and wasn’t really in the mood to ride anyway. The solution was a trip to the local bike shop where they told her to do the one thing that fixes nearly all biomechanical issues: raise the saddle. Now we have a fighting chance of making it across Nevada in one piece.
Can you summarize Yosemite in 5 minutes? No you cannot. Here are some pictures.
We crossed Tioga pass today, the highest in the state, and are looking at the vast expanse of the rain shadow cast by the Sierra Nevada range. It was a multi day expedition from the valley to the top but we made it and Toulumne Meadows was spectacular. As we are about to disappear into Nevada for safety’s sake I’ll let you all know that we are taking US-6 to NV-375 and then some more things to get St. George. We might hitchhike to avoid the 100 mile stretch of nothing before Rachel. Any way you cut it, it’ll be hard.
And now: a pause in our ascent of the Sierra Nevada range. Here in America’s tinderbox it’s hot and dry, as it has been for decades or maybe forever. The California drought has been around for as long I’ve paid attention and although I think it rained this year the whole place is ready to burst into flames. No matter, we are not growing any food. We are growing big legs, though, and that requires hydration, cool air, and corn chips. So after eight miles of climbing we’re just calling it in hopes of better conditions and bigger legs tomorrow. The better part of adventuring is knowing when to brew coffee and set up the hammock.
Megan and I spend a good amount of time foraging each morning for whatever food we can find. This tends to be blackberries, but in Oregon we learned about salal berries. Here in California there’s a good deal of fennel alongside the road and I’ve been meaning to try harvesting some seeds when they are ready. Today I thought I’d document our foraging technique with a photo essay
We enjoyed the coast, and I’ll be back later with more stories. For now though we’re taking a load off and celebrating Megan’s birthday in Wine country. Then, Yosemite.