Get your kicks on Route 66

Thursday.

Again a day goes by and I haven’t cycled. I haven’t thought about water levels or tyre pressure or energy or pedalling.

I miss it.

It’s been three days now. Three days off the bike.

It’s a good thing, in the long term. My knee is feeling much better. Rest is my friend I guess. At least in some ways. But I have missed the road. For three weeks I’ve been lucky enough to have enjoyed different scenery pretty much every day. But for three days, I’ve had Williams.

Having said all that, there are worse places to be!

Williams – a small town off the I-40 in Arizona – lies on the historic Route 66. It’s also known as The Gateway to the Grand Canyon, being a hop, skip and a jump away from the famous gorge. Everything seems to be themed accordingly. There’s the Grand Canyon Railway and the Grand Canyon Hotel. And there’s signs for Route 66 all over the place, in every gift shop and diner and petrol station.

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I’ve been staying at The Grand Canyon Hotel (http://www.thegrandcanyonhotel.com/). It’s absolutely lovely. It seems to have the wonderful double of being the cheapest hotel in town, and the best! All the guest-rooms are uniquely themed and it’s independently owned. All the staff are fantastic and friendly. If you’re ever passing through Williams (you never know!) then this is the place to stay.

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The Mexico Room

There’s also a cowboy show every evening at 7PM. They close of the main street and do their routine. Every night! They close the main street! it’s great!

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So yea, there are worse places to be I guess. But I’m looking forward to tomorrow morning when I’m back on my bike!

I’m taking a bit of a de-tour through Flagstaff, Arizona tomorrow. It’s not on my route but I’ve been recommended to check it out, plus I need a few bike things and Flagstaff has bike shops!

All in all, my break in Williams has served me well; I’m rested, re-energised, focused and ready to go. Bring on Friday!

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Like rider like bike: In knee-d of a rest

Me and my bike. My bike and I.

We’re a right old pair. Funny as you get. Sticking together through thick and thin. And we’ve got some issues, believe you me.

My bike isn’t great. It’s not flashy (apart from the name: Fuji Absolutle 4.0; it could be a spaceship! Or a camera?). It’s in essence, just a bike. Two wheels, two pedals, two handles.

Except recently, it seems to be having some personality issues. It’s doubting itself (or himself, officially named Maurice). It seems to want to be a unicycle. Which is nice. For Maurice. Not so for me.

The issue being the rear wheel, ever since leaving the Pacific coast a few hundred miles back. I’m onto my second back wheel and third tyre (American translation: tire). It’s basically due to a number of things, but mainly the fact that there’s a hell of a lot of weight going through the back of my bike. Namely, me!

When I stopped at Prescott, I bought a new set of better tyres, which seem to be lasting well (I say confidently, after a day of cycling). However, within 25 miles I had already burst two back inner tubes; one when the bike was just standing in the back yard of the guys I was staying with.

Like I said, my bike’s got issues. Sometimes it feels like I’m travelling on one wheel.

I guess I’m just following suit. Since I left Wickenburg and started travelling up mountains, my left knee has been giving me a bit of trouble. Nothing serious to start, but every day, more and more so. The steeper the climb, the more pressure I feel. I guess that’s what thousands of feet of mountains will do to you if you’ve got no experience of mountain climbing. Or experience of much strenuous exercise at all. Except cricket.

Yesterday, leaving Prescott, it wasn’t feeling 100%, and didn’t get any better. And almost 70 miles on the bike probably didn’t help. Some ibuprofen helped, but not wholly.

So yeah, it seems as though I’m down to one good leg, and my bike to one good wheel.

I was feeling quite down about it yesterday. When you’re travelling alone, especially on your bike, there’s a lot of time just to think. And as the day wore on – my knee getting worse, and tiredness creeping in – emotions were running high.

But I’ve got to keep my mind clear and I’ve got to be sensible. I’ve got months of riding ahead of me. Hopefully.

I’ve reached a small town in Arizona called Williams and I’m going to rest up here for a few days. It’s not exactly ideal, but I’ve got to look after myself. My body just isn’t used to this, and it’s screaming ‘What the hell do you think you’re doing!?! Are you mad. Get back on that sofa, why are you cycling every day? Leave me alone!‘. We’re working through some issues.

I guess it’s very much a wait and see situation. I don’t really know what’s going on but I’m confident after some rest I’ll be back on the road. Hopefully with two good legs and two good wheels. Because I’m not unicycling to New York that’s for sure.

It’s all uphill from here (for hundreds of miles at least)

So, after my luxury mini-break in Wickenburg finishes tomorrow morning, I’m on the road again.

And I’m feeling a bit different. Agh, I don’t know what it is. Although, I’ve got an inkling.

More about that in a bit. So from here, I head North, carrying on up through Arizona to the Grand Canyon, on up to Utah. I’m currently at around 3,000 feet above sea-level, and I’ll be climbing to over 8,000 feet. Then I head East again through Colorado and hit The Rockies where I’ll be reaching my highest point of the trip at over 11,000 feet. So, for the next month – at least – it’s all uphill from here.

Over the last few days I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my bike. Thinking about my gear. Evaluating where I’m at after the first two weeks. And I’m feeling good. I’ve had to deal with broken spokes, punctures, worn out tyres, high winds, steep hill climbs. Packing. Re-packing. Re-packing some more. I’ve had early mornings, long days, a tent too small for me, having no GPS, nearly running out of water, the desert heat…

I’ve also had beautiful sunrises and sunsets, wonderful hosts and places to stay, fantastic views of the desert and the ocean, buildings, national parks. I’ve seen 60s motels and old cowboy saloons. I meet wonderful, interesting, friendly people wherever I go. Accountants, students, fishermen and retired cowboys. And a lot in between. And I’ve been cycling.

All in two weeks.

So, I was trying to pin-point what it is that feels a bit different. It’s not that I’ve become better on my bike. It’s not that I’ve now settled for a routine. It’s not that I’ve got everything I need and don’t have anything I don’t. I just feel on top of it. I feel prepared. I feel like anything could happen tomorrow and I could deal with it. And I would be OK.

It’s a feeling of contentment and confidence. I could take on the world – me and my bike – so what are a few hills?

So yeah, it’s all uphill from here. But hey, what’s a few thousand feet between friends ey?