I had pretty much decided that I was only going to get to Flagstaff today, if I got that far. While it was only 35 miles up the road, it was going to be more than 2500 ft. of climbing. While the climbing was challenging, it was the weather that was going to hold me back.
It was supposed to rain in Sedona and along any path to Flagstaff. In the morning and evening there was snow in Flagstaff.
Yesterday’s ride had toughened me to the rain. While I had overcome more than 10 miles of it, the prospect of 35 was still way more than I thought wise. I had reached out to a couple of the warm showers hosts last night. I normally provide a lot of lead time to my requests. I didn’t like the idea of asking a host with less than 24 hours notice. Luckily I got a response and had a place to stay beyond hotel options. With a place to land, I kept checking the weather forecasts to see if there would be a good time to launch. I planned as much as I could the night before. When I got up early the next morning, all the forecasts had changed and shifted, but not for the better. I was just going to have to deal with it if I wanted to make any progress.
There was light rain when I got up. I tried to see if there was going to be any breaks in the weather along my route. There was no good time, just different degrees of bad. The temperature was in the low 40s. I was trying to decide which jacket gloves, and layers I should use. If they got wet, would they make me colder? I started with my lighter windbreaker and no leggings. Just a few miles down the road, still in Sedona, I got a call from Becky.
She had dialed me by accident, but it was good to talk to hèr. Besides hearing her voice, I had time and opportunity to reconsider my clothing choices. With the shelter of the overhang at some gas station pumps, I put on my leg warmers and shoe covers. Best decision all day. They kept my legs and feet both warm and dry.
My original plan was to simply take AZ 89A north as a straight shot to Flagstaff. Some of the climb would have steep grades and the shoulder was going to be narrow or non-existent in spots, but it was simple and scenic.
Google had suggested a road off 89A to take me to the interstate. With the terrible weather, I was open to the idea of having the easier incline and the wide shoulder of the Interstate and that became my plan. I headed out of Sedona in light rain and was careful to check my phone and Google maps to make sure I didn’t miss the road that would take me to the interstate. I thought that the turn was close, so I checked Google maps to confirm my course. To my surprise, Google said that I had over shot the turn by a few hundred yards. I didn’t remember seeing an opportunity to turn, but I doubled back anyway. I pulled off 89A where I thought the road for my turn should be. The section of road that should have had a road leading to the interstate was all protected by a guard rail. There was no road and below me was a 200 foot drop to the Oak Creek canyon filled with flowing water. It was just like my training ride in Easter – Google had led me to a phantom road. My ride was going to continue all the way on 89A and a narrow shoulder.
It rained the whole 30 + mile stretch of 89A. Sometimes the rain was faint, but it was never heavy. Midway, I gained altitude and the temperature was dropping. I got wetter and colder. I tried to get under a tree at a time when the rain was especially light so I could swap the windbreaker for the heavier, more water repellent coat. I also traded my headband for a baklava.
The scenery was nice, even in the rain. When I caught sight of large tour busses in my rear view mirror, I would try to stop and get off the road if there was a shoulder. There wasn’t always a shoulder. Sunday tourist traffic got a little too busy for my tastes at points.
A jeep with 2 mountain bikes on the roof stopped on a wide shoulder area ahead of me. When I caught up to the jeep, I stopped and got off the road to catch my breath after yet another climb, A young woman stuck her head out the window and offered me a ride. She had seen me pull off the road and thought I might be in trouble. I told her I had stopped to get off the road while 2 big busses went by. We were about 6 miles from the edge of Flagstaff. I thanked her, but declined her offer. Had I met her 5 miles earlier going through a series of switchbacks, I might have been riding a jeep instead of Hidalgo into Flagstaff.
My host lived on Foxglenn road. Don’t get it confused with Fox Glenn. For the second time, I had issues with Google maps. It pushed me to Fox Hill, because it didn’t think there was a Fox Glenn. To make matters worse it wanted me to take bike paths that ran through a residential area. From the map, I couldn’t tell if it was a trail. I thought it was a street. I was constantly stopping to check my phone to see where the next of many turns was coming. Needless to say, I took a lot more time and distance to get to my warm showers host than was needed.
Andy Fraser and his wife Sara were fantastic hosts. I got clean, I got dry, I got fed. Hidalgo got air. I had wonderful
conversation and traded some life stories. It made the suffering of the ride worth it all.
It looks like I will finally get some clear weather on the ride to Tuba City tomorrow. The second week is starting well.
The Lone Rider