Day 57 – Bike Ride to Payson, Arizona
Today I rode with Phil on one of the most amazing rides yet. I remember last week when I was saying New Mexico is my favorite state well I think Arizona has now taken first place.
We climbed for the first part of our short 54 mile day up to a state park with a lake. It was still fairly early by the time we got there so the air was still too cold to make swimming feel refreshing. However it was still very peaceful to lay out by the water and enjoy the scenery.
Then, right after lunch we hit our 3,000 mile mark!!!
Finally it was time for our reward: downhills baby! 6 miles down hill at 6% grade! I about freaked out with happiness when I saw the sign.
Day 58 – Build Day – Payson, Arizona
We spent the day painting today. It was pretty relaxing strategically choosing the shaded side of the garage to paint in order to stay cool.
Afterwards Matt and I went for sushi but were disappointed when we arrived to find there was no sushi chef and therefore no sushi. So we had to settle for Thai food which was still delicious.
Day 59 – Bike Ride to Cottonwood, Arizona
For another 20 miles or so we climbed more and more until we hit about 7,000 feet.
Then, I saw the most amazing sign in the world!!!
The down hill was amazing. It was such a surreal experience to start with the scenery of pine trees and green grass then gliding down 9 miles to sand and cacti. I can’t even put into words how beautiful it was looking out over the mountain peaks. These photographs hardly do it justice.
We eventually all met up at Walmart about a mile away from our destination. Once we all arrived we got a police escort into town.
I felt like a celebrity taking up an entire lane of traffic while locals lined the road cheering us on as we passed through. We eventually reached the Habitat for Humanity Restore where we store our bikes for the night. Then, we were off to our host location. Little did we know the leaders had a surprise for us. No thermarest tonight for us, not even a dorm room bed, we were staying at a meditation retreat. Apparently when the leaders contacted Habitat of Cottonwood, Habitat started advertising about us on the radio and newspaper which eventually caught the attention of Mago Retreat. They contacted Habitat asking if they could host us for the two nights we could be staying (which normally costs $600 a person for a weekend). Of course both Habitat and the leaders were overly excited for us to stay at such a wonderful place.
We took a long dirt road into the desert to the retreat.
After settling in we received a waking tour of the retreat. It was such a peaceful escape from the fast paced Bike & Build life. We walked through the Healing Garden and shown different locations for meditating.
After dinner Julie and I went for a walk around the retreat. It was a nice change of pace to hear silence rather than the headwinds whipping in our ears or traffic whizzing by. We sat by the pin under a willow tree and talked all night about the mystery of the meaning to life.
Day 60 – Build Day – Cottonwood, Arizona
I awoke this morning early enough to watch the sunrise over the beautiful mountains that surrounded the retreat. I then went on a relaxing walk to slowly let my mind awake.
Once again we were painting for this build day like many other build days we were have experienced in the past. Unfortunately we were using air pressured spray guns to paint the home which, although made the job much quicker, left many of us with nothing to do.
For a change of pace we only had half a build day because the Habitat we were working with was generous enough to give us the afternoon off to explore Jerome, an old mining town nearby.
With a town of only about 300 residents it was surprisingly a fairly built up tourist city.
Jerome was originally a mining town in the early 1900s and was booming with about 15,000 residents making it the biggest city in Arizona. Once the mines closed it slowly turned into a ghost town around 1952 until the 1970s when hippies came in and revitalized it.
I learned all this from the mining museum which was definitely a best place to check out to learn all the history of the town.
It’s funny to think that when I was growing up and went on family vacations I would get annoyed with my dad who had to read every little piece of writing in all the museums we visited. And now I find myself can’t getting enough of all the fun facts I pass along the way. I even stop at every Historical Marker on the roadside to read about the town we are about to enter.
Another change that has recently taken place in my life is my love/addiction to coffee. Each morning the majority of the riders absolutely needed a cup of coffee to start their morning. Whether it be at the host or at a local coffee shop along our route they needed their fix. More than anyone else were Julie and Ellie who talked about coffee making them feel so amazing and happy each morning. Every time Ellie took the first sip of her morning coffee she would get a big smile on her face and say “I’m so happy.” Most recently I decided to give this whole “coffee in the morning” thing a try. After about two cups I knew exactly what they were taking about. I felt more alert, energized, and filled with joy. Then, after dinner when I was beginning to feel sluggish I had two more cups to put me right back up to that level of excellence.
So now, thanks to those two girls I am beginning to become a regular coffee drinker.
Day 61 – Bike Ride to Flagstaff, Arizona
Today I rode by myself for a change of pace. It’s always nice to ride alone every once in awhile, it gives you time to collect your thoughts and reflect on everything going on in your life. About 15 miles in I went though the town of Sedona where I stopped at a coffee shop, with an amazing view, and met up with some other riders that were still trying to wake up.
Throughout our ride any time we stopped, whether it be at a coffee shop or a park, locals would intimidate us by dramatizing the intense hills we had ahead of us on our route.
About halfway through our ride we stopped at a national park called Slide Rock. Rocks formed a natural waters life through a spring in a valley.
At the end of the spring there was an opportunity for cliff diving. A 30 foot cliff overlooked a deep pool beneath. Everyone took turns jumping into the clear blue pool. I was tempted to but after feeling how ice cold the water was I decided against it. There’s a reason I’m moving to a city where it’s 80 degrees in the winter, Austin, TX. Anyone that knows me knows that I don’t do cold.
We continued on our route to the intimidating mountains that the locals kept referring to. Despite it having several switchbacks and climbing high elevation in a short amount a time it was probably one I my most enjoyable rides ever.
Towards the top of the mountain I felt such a sense of accomplishment looking back over the roads I had just climbed.
When I arrived in Flagstaff I met up with a friend from Clarion. It just so happened that Christine Henry is going to grad school in Flagstaff and moved in yesterday. We met up for a few drinks later that night. It was so crazy to see such a familiar face so far away from home.
Day 62 – Bike Ride to Grand Canyon, Arizona
We are heading to the Grand Canyon today! We we’re all awaiting this day for so long. I rode with Julie today which means it was a very slow day. Not because she is a slow rider but for some reason whenever we ride together we seem to stop a lot…a lot. For the last 20 miles after lunch we stopped about three times, laid down on a pull off area on the side of the road, and listened to The Format, one of my favorite bands, until sweep rolled through to sweep us up. It was such a relaxing way to ride into the Canyon.
We got shuttled into the Canyon because it was cheaper to pay for just one van to enter the park than to pay for every single bicycle. We drove through until we found a look out area before we headed to our campsite. The view was amazing. No photographs or Hollywood movies could justify its enormous appearance.
Then, finally, FINALLY after seeing signs for elk crossing every 5 miles for the past 12 days we FINALLY saw an elk. I was surprised it let us get so close to it. It was completely content with letting tourists surrounded it snapping photos as it wrapped its antlers in a tree branch trying to scratch its head.
Day 63 – DAY OFF – Grand Canyon, Arizona
I awoke in in my tent with Julie and I being the only ones left. Apparently the majority of the group woke up early to watch the sunrise over the Canyon which was my original plan but sleep just felt too good at the moment. Julie and I looked at each other wondering where everyone was without a clue as to what time it was. She thought it was around 7 as I thought it was closer to 9. She looked at her phone and announced that it was 5:50 am. “Screw this.” I said, rolled over and went back to sleep. I awoke again 3 hours later to find no one around me. For the first time on this entire trip I awoke feeling well rested, probably because this was the first time I got more than 5 hours of sleep.
I met up with Chris, Julie, Claire, sam, and Melissa and we all took a short hike down into the canyon going only about 3 miles or so.
It didn’t even feel like we were walking that far. That is until we looked up and realized how far we had to go to get back to the top. It’s so easy to get caught up in going down the canyon and not realizing you have to do that same distance again to get back to the top. None of us were planning on doing the entire top to bottom hike which would of taken all day.
After hiking we picked up some beers from the local market on our way back to our camp for lunch. About the time we got there the rain started to pick up. We gathered the food and beer and rushed to the nearest tent, sat inside, and had a picnic as the rain stormed down over our tent. Eventually we fell asleep in one giant nap cuddling session for a couple hours.
I spent the remainder of the day at a coffee shop with Julie catching up on our blogs.
Later that night we all sat around the fire and threw back some drinks. A perfect way to end out night at the grandest canyon.