Day 69: I Cheat a Little. Worth It.

Day 69 (2016-11-03): ~25 miles from Grand Canyon Caverns RV Campground to Williams, AZ. Nasty headwinds on Route 66 plus a ride from a nice RV man.

Another day of wind tearing out of the East. Route 66 curves towards the south and I cherish the minimal respite from Mother Nature’s relentless onslaught. I am covered head-to-toe: rain jacket breaking the wind, base layer keeping my legs warm, and buff protecting my neck, ears, and lips from the scorching win. Only my forehead, nose, and cheekbones are exposed to feel the wind’s full blast. My saddle sores protest the ride but when I try to shift my weight my knees or back signal me to stop.

The mind is strong when it must be, but weak when it knows the stress is avoidable. I yearn for a comfy chair in front of a fireplace, with a comforter on my lap and a book in hand, sipping hot chocolate and reading until I doze. Is this wind punishment? It seems stronger than yesterday. Perhaps it is punishment for all the times I forged ahead, dragging people with me or else leaving them behind. I am not so egotistical to actually believe Mother Nature gives a shit about me but I see the irony in my struggle. What is more, there is nothing I can do but press on…

My savior comes in the form of an older gentleman named Jim. Jim beckons to me from in front of his old style RV in a pull-out about 25 miles into my ride. I come to a stop and he invites me in for lunch. Jim offers me everything: sandwiches, salads, ice cream, candy, fruit – whatever I want. I try not to disappoint him with the knowledge that I just snacked, so I eat salad, orange juice, and a double-chocolate Klondike bar. I know, it’s terrible 😉  My satisfaction prompts him: “Eat another one. There’s a whole dozen in there. Eat as many as you like.” We keep talking and he offers me a ride east as he heads for Arkansas, his home. I might otherwise say no, but I am mentally drained, physically sore, and I just don’t care anymore. I ride shotgun as we talk about travel and his tenure as a democrat in the Arkansas State House of Representatives. I pick his brain just enough to learn but not so much to be annoying. We ride together until Williams, a small town about 30 miles outside Flagstaff, and the final stop before the city. I could have road with him all the way to Arkansas is I wanted!

I wander town, find the library, and head to the Grand Canyon Brewery as soon as it opens. I’m in luck – 2-6pm is happy hour with $2 beers! And not just a selection – every beer on tap is $2! I’m in heaven. I curl up on the comfy couch in front of the fireplace, order a beer, and read for a while. I order the chili, a bit uninspired by their prices until my chili comes out. It’s not the small bowl I expected for a $7.99 appetizer but a giant, meal-worthy bowl with two large pretzel poppers on the side.

I leave after dark, happy the earlier soft rain has left up. I ride to Cataract Lake, just a mile or so outside of town. It was once a campground but is now day-use only. There is a car parked off in the woods, headlights shining bright through the dark trees. Who? Why? Probably some parking happening, but why the lights? I lay low for a while, setting my bike down and enjoying the night sky from the rocks along the lakeshore. The car stays for a while, so I eat dinner on the rocks. Eventually it leaves and I set up camp at one of the old camp sites that still has a picnic table. It’s mostly overgrown, so I camp in the gravel/dirt parking area so as not to trample the plants. Probably not the most stealthy spot, but easir than riding a forest road in the dark and I doubt anyone will care. Maybe their other campgrounds shouldn’t close in October!

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