Category Archives: Arizona

A Little Time In Tucson

            Stuck in Tucson for a few days trying to bring the Chupacabra to life.  More about this later.

Fortunately, we got to fill some time by visiting Rincon High School and talk to a few classes about our trip and Friends of the Lafitte Corridor.


In order to keep our budget costs down and our bellies full, we’ve been dumpster diving around town.  Taking advantage of the incredible amount of waste.


Verde Valley

            It seems that the longer we stay around in a place the longer it takes us to get ready to leave. As if there was a scientific exponential formula dictating our delays. Being in Flagstaff about a month, the end product of that equation was high. We struggled to get things shipped away, get our bikes in working order and say goodbye to the friends we made. In a feeble attempt to overcome the inevitably sluggish departure we enlisted one of Flagstaff’s finest, Blair, of Team Hobo, to bike over and wake us up at 8 AM for breakfast. It was worth a shot.

            We did not leave until after dark, but knew better than sticking around another night. We would as so many folks warned us, “become permanent residents.� Which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad fate, as Flagstaff is a great place to be, but does not further us towards our goal.

After zipping around on trails for a month on a short bike without gear, the weight of my fully loaded Xtracycle was quite a burden. “How did I ever ride with all this crap on my bike?� I silently questioned, while wincing in pain.

So many things I had learned to take for granted, like being able to shift while ascending a hill. The steep driveway of our friends’ house forced me to stop, throw up my kickstand and hand pedal my bike into an easier gear. We rolled out of the residential zone and I began to get a feel for my new Surly Instigator frame and Thudbuster Seatpost, two drastic changes to my world. I had been having a lot of lower back pain and was hoping to switch up the geometry of my bike so I wasn’t leaning so far forward. My old titanium frame was a mid 90’s racing bike that was in no way conducive to cycle touring. The thin titanium tubing was remarkably flexible, and even functioned as passive suspension, particularly with all my gear. My new thick tubed steel frame designed for freeriding and lasting a lifetime, was as sturdy as could be. The Litespeed titanium frame felt like a wet noodle compared to this new ride. I knew it was time to get a different frame after Sean destroyed his Dean Titanium frame at the 24 hour race near Tucson. The last thing I want to do is get stuck in a foreign country without any way to fix my bike. Steel can be welded with just about anything, by just about anyone, whereas titanium requires space-age precision and is prohibitively expensive.

            The first night of riding was largely on paved roads, so that we could still get out of the town at night and ease back into the physically demanding lifestyle of off-road mountain bike touring. And we assumed we’d need to be easy on our newest member, Nate, who quickly proved that he was more than capable to hop on a 125 pound bike and ride. Even with Nate riding in front of us at times, we were still feigning sympathetic interest to the new guy as we chose the easier route to the town of Strawberry. He had been spending his winter tele-skiing and was in perfect shape to seamlessly integrate into the bike journey.

            3 bikes makes a crowd, and 4 makes a gang, not sure what 5 makes, but imagine we’ll know soon enough. Our campground was far more substantial with another Xtracycle and friend lounging around. I met Nate on a rafting trip on the Tuolomne River the summer before he came to UCSC, and had been friends ever since. He was a fellow “woodsieâ€� in Santa Cruz, having built and lived in a treehouse during his time at college. When I began the trip last July, I was leaving behind an extensive group of best friends, and it was nice to reconnect with that.

            We rode mostly on pavement to Strawberry, and I had repeatedly encountered tremendous fatigue while trying to ride at pace with the group. I couldn’t ever remember having to exert so much, and I struggled to keep up, at times pedaling while they were merely coasting away from me. In Flagstaff, I tried to ride a bunch, but without the gear. I feared I had just gotten soft. It got to the point where I had to rest, and it finally occurred to me to check my bike. The spring that causes tension to the brakes came out on one side and was pulling the brake pad into my rim, creating constant friction (and probably ruining the rim as well). It was bad enough to happen once, but I managed to repeat this same scenario 3 times that day.

            The traffic on the road was mild most of the way and gradually ascended throughout the day, reaching the edge of the Mogollan Rim before dropping a few miles directly into the Strawberry Lodge. Sean & Goat were patiently waiting for us outside, but I didn’t know because my vision was fixed on the Taco Tuesday sign declaring “All You Can Eat Tacos� for 6 bucks.

            The last time we sat down in the lodge, we had just climbed up at least 3500 feet of elevation in about 8 miles of muddy trail. It was supposed to be all you can eat fish & chips, but they claimed to have run out of food when we were just getting started.

            “Ya’ll still have plenty of Tacos?� I asked, still wary of the last “all they want to serve you� buffet.

            “It’s all you can eat.� A waitress replied, mildly irritated at my inability to comprehend their sign boasting the clarity of bold 18 inch letters.

            “That’s what they said last time,� I said under my breathe.

                We sat down at the same table and were momentarily transfixed, remembering our last visit. The incredible fatigue in our legs, the snowbanks outside and the black ice on the road. It was remarkable how much the place had transformed after a month. I remembered just how much I had come to hate the frigid weather.

            Instantly, I was snapped out of my post-ride daze as an energetic waitress came over to our table to say hi. We had met her just a few miles down the road in the town of Pine at a small café the last time we came through. We had given her a sticker and she had been enthusiastically following our travels online.

            “Wow…never thought I’d see you guys again! How is everything? You want the tacos?� She asked.

            And before we could really respond she had vanished into the backroom to return with plate’s full of tacos, rice & beans.

            “Did you guys get the Clif Bars?� She asked.

              “Oh yeah.. Wow. It was incredible. A huge box of just about everything they make. How’d this happen?â€� I responded, unsure how she knew about it.

            “I talked to my friend Kenny Souza, remember the guy I was telling you about, hardcore duathlon guy, huge bike fanatic. I told him to check out your site and see if he could hook you up.�

            My words of gratitude trailed after her as she rushed to the next urgent matter around the dining area. Then she was back.

            “So where you guys gonna stay tonight?�


            “Good should come over to my mom’s house. She’s a really cool lady. I’ll call her up.�

            I finished up another taco in about two bites, and she had rushed back.

            “I talked to her. She’s down. Doesn’t know if we have enough food for you guys, but you can stay there. She’s a really cool lady. Said she’ll cook you breakfast.�

            We had been voraciously consuming our tacos, like the good American buffet eaters that we have become. Except Nate, unaccustomed to our carnivorous and gluttonous habits of consumption was not enjoying it quite as much. He did not revolve his diet around meat, and his stomach did not fare well with all the ground beef. Either way, each platter of tacos disappeared moments after Coleen disappeared. Though, it was becoming apparent that the “all you can eat� part of this taco feast was questionable and Coleen had to fight higher powers to supply the unusually voracious appetites.

            “You guys still want more??�

            “Of course.� We replied.

            “Ehh… will 6 more take care of it?�

            “Uhh…well..that would be a good start.�

            “Sheeshh….they’re gonna kill me back there if I keep getting more.�

            “Awwhhh…that makes sense.� We said while realizing that we really didn’t need to consume tacos until we felt ill, nor did we want to cause any trouble for our benevolent friend Coleen. “6 more will be fine.�

            “Okay…so I can’t get outta here until a bit later, but I called my daughter and she’ll come meet you at the gas station by the Pine Market. Here’s 10 dollars, go and by a 12 pack and hang out. I’ll be there when I get off.� And with that she vanished behind the swinging doors leaving us staring at each other in disbelief.

            We meet her daughter and mother standing under a pale yellow street lamp in front of an old gas station. They lead us to the house nearby and gave us the tour. It was a trip hanging out with the daughter, mother and grandmother all at once. Stayed up chatting pretty late and crashed out, to be awoken the next morning by whispers of the youngest daughter.

            “Mom, can you wake them up? I want to say goodbye to them.�

            We were treated to waffles and coffee and relaxed out in the sun before heading back up the hill to access the Verde Valley.



            Our enthusiasm for dropping into the Verde Valley was expressed with various whoops and yelps, heard across the mountains. We’d keep our hands off the brakes and shred the straight sections, trying to see how fast we could get going before having to pull back hard on the levers and corner the turns that cut along the edges of steep cactus covered cliffs.

            Fossil Creek cut down through the valley, flowing with water so transparent you could see fish swimming in the cool depths below. With the sun directly overhead, we sought refuge in the crystal lagoons eddying out next to smooth flat rocks.

            “Hey Jacob,” Nate said as he popped up from underwater, “you should swim down and open your eyes and scope out the fish.”

            “This water is freakin’ cold,â€� I said as I stepped in. Instantly, regretting my words as I was bombarded with ridicule from the peanut gallery. It really wasn’t that cold.

            As we dried off in the sun, I felt a bliss vaguely resembling that of summer vacation when I was younger. Where everything you do feels right, and you’re certain that you’ve spent your day doing exactly what you want. How lucky we were to be lounging naked under the sun beside an otherworldly swimmin’ hole, on our way to hot springs and the ends of the earth.

            Over another hill with a remarkably deceptive false-summit, we made our way to the springs. Opted to cross with our bikes and camp on the foundation of the old hotel next to the spring, a modern ruin complete with two very out of place palm trees and rubble pile. Sitting in front of a plate of our usual nighttime oatmeal gruel, I heard something moving around nearby. My headlight illuminated two curious eyes that disappeared instantly. It wasn’t until the middle of the night that I got a better look as I heard something rustling around nearby, trying to run off with my oatmeal encrusted spoon. It had the face of a fox, the body of a ferret, and the tail of a raccoon. I was told later that it was a ringtail cat.

            We lounged around for an entire day at our campsite, dipping in and out of the Verde River and hot springs. Hiked up the creek, where Nate shimmied up an epic butte, to get the bird’s eye view of the terrain. We met plenty of characters passing by our campsite on their way to the springs, including an older fellow with a white beard who looks over some property in the area.

            “Ya’ll gunna be ‘roun this weekend?” He asked.

            “Probably not, only packed so much food. We’ll likely be outta here by tomorrow.”

            “It’s gonna be a busy weekend. Should be lots of naked girls. A lot of times their from France. There was this one time…”

            I interrupted, “You know anything about the trails around here? We’re hoping to take some dirt roads south. Maybe to pop us into Apache Junction?” We asked, hoping to not listen to this old guy banter about naked girls 1/3 of his age.

            “Sure. I know this better than just about anyone. Just yesterday I was helping some cowboys find some lost cattle. They didn’t even know the trails. Lemme think. You cross the river down yonder, puts ya up a hill…steep as shit. You’ll surely have to walk yer bikes. Goes up and up for miles. Then just keep on taken’ that road…up and down..up and down on outta tha valley..then you’ll hit a spring where you can get some water…then you’ll head out to the dam and a larger dirt road that’ll take ya on outta here.”

            We looked over our map and saw the road he was talking about end abruptly out in the middle of nowhere. But, our experience with the old topo maps is that a bit of local wisdom can likely offer more insight and was worth following. So we checked out his route.


            After a full day of soaking and sloth, we returned to our journey. Crossed a section of the Verde River and began what I would dub as the hardest climb we have had on the entire trip. There was nothing gradual about it, having begun about 60 paces past the river at an incline that would challenge some of the most advanced 4 wheeled vehicles. I dropped into my lowest gear and prepared myself for a day of unrelentless grinding, slowly churning my way up the first hill under the full intensity of the sun. Always cautious to not lose traction and having to step down, fearing that I wouldn’t be able to remount the bicycle on the steep grade and end up having to push. There was a brief section where the hill let up, kind of like the calm before a storm, when the climb returned with vengeance, punishing us for the next 2-3 hours of our life.

OUt of Verde

            At the top, I chugged a liter of water and collapsed under the shade of a tree while waiting for the others. Goat comes strolling in next and repeated my actions.

        “Whoowee…what’d ya think of that one?” I asked as he sat down next to me.

            “She was a beauty.. that’s for sure.” He replied..still out of breathe, “Glad that’s over.”

        “Wonder how ‘ol Nate’s doing on that. Sure is quite the introduction.” I commented.

            “Yeah…I’m pretty sure that was about the toughest hill we’ve hit yet.” Goat said.

            Then Nate rides up, his face bright red from the sun and exhaustion.

            “Damn good to see the end of that hill.” He said.

            “Yeah.. just so you know. That was probably the hardest climb we’ve ever experienced. Welcome to our little off-road bike tour.”

            “Heh.. That’s good to hear. When I was slowly inching my way up that hill, I began to realize that I’m out in the desert with three guys who are completely out of their minds.” Nate said with mild exasperation.

            “Make that 4.. You are just as nuts as we are at this point.” I replied.

            Then Sean rolled up, made some ambiguous grunting noises and popped open his gun case, extracted his musical burden and played a medley of short tunes and rifts while we sat staring vacantly at the cactus around us. We laid back among the silence and guitar chords for a good while, relaxing in the shade and dreaming about Mexico.


            A short descent began a few miles later and I celebrated the occasion by getting 3 pinch flats and another small leak, completely exhausting my patch kit with 7 repairs. This was a first of many flats to be fixed that day. The rest of the riding that day consisted largely of dropping down into small drainages and slowly rising up and out of them. After one hill I waited for Nate & Goat. Sean had waited for me around the bend, and impatiently rode back to see what was up.

            “Where are the other guys?”

            “Don’t know. They were just behind me a moment ago. Figured I should hold up, see what’s going on.” I replied.

            To abate my curiosity I yelled into the distance, “WHHHHEEEERRRREEEEE aaarrrrreeee yooooooouuuu?”

            Immediately, their reply was carried back by a gust of wind, “FLAAAAT TIIIIIRE.”

                Sean anxiously said, “Hey. Can I borrow your camera. There is a huge iguana or something around that bend. You should come check it out.”

            “ my handlebar bag.”

            We both rode over to check out the giant lizard who had sought refuge from the humans under a large prickly pear cactus.

Gila monster

            “Oh wow.. That’s a Gila Monster,” I said, “I hear they are poisonous.”

            It was a bit camera shy, wouldn’t move much unless it could regress further into the dry grass and out of sight.

            The sun was edging its way to the horizon and sending a cool breeze across the dry desert landscape. Darkness stripped the contrast from the foliage, leaving silhouettes of the cactus before submerging the long day into night. Fortunately the flat tire was repaired before it got too dark, and the rest of the day was downhill. From our vantage point we could see the spring in the distance, blooming with life and huge trees amids the desolate and thirsty environment.

            I was desperately hoping for a swimming hole to relieve my exhaustion, but was instead greeted by some folks camping there.

            I was immediately accosted and simultaneously adopted by Mary, a lady bursting with energy wearing blue jeans and a colorful shirt exhibiting all the virtues of Arizona. “Jacob, where have you been? We have been waiting for you.”

            I looked over at Goat hoping for a bit of clarity, though he seemed equally puzzled. I looked back over to the lady and smiled, unsure what else to do with myself.

            “We’re going to cook you guys dinner, so just sit back and relax. Do you want anything to drink? Some water, Ice cold Gatorade?”

            “Gatorade sounds great.”

            “You sit down. Relax.” She commanded. “I’ll go get it for you.”

            I obligingly sat and quickly found the ice cold beverage in my hand. My first gulp sent the cold liquid tangibly down my throat and into my stomach, filling me with refreshment. I responded with a reflexive sound of, “Ahhhhhhhhhhh” as if I was on a commercial. “This IS paradise,” I thought as I looked around at the lush foliage thriving on the clean spring water and our new friends cooking up a feast.oasis.jpg


            We then met Kevin and his partner Fran. Kevin was leaving for a 7 week horse ride around the Mazatzal Wilderness trying to follow old Indian & horse trails from a bygone era. He is an author of a book titled, “Ride With Me” about his previous horse packing trips. He wore cowboy boots and a hight top Stetson hat slung just over his eyebrows, an off-white cowboy shirt with the top half of the buttons undone, tucked into low slung jeans.

            He was extremely excited about his upcoming trip and told us endless stories about his adventures, from almost losing a horse in quicksand to getting left by his horses in the desert and almost dying of thirst.

            Mary’s companion, Gary, was cooking away on the open fire, perfecting the pork chops and sausage while Mary finished up the beans and vegetables. We sat listening to Kevin as our plates were filled in our new found desert oasis.

             We solicited advice on the best routes to take and got to hear about Gary & Mary who traveled all over Arizona and New Mexico, seeking remote camping spots,

                I remembered a distinct moment of silence, when we were all sitting around the campfire, illuminated by the flicker of fire. A strange moment in the universe where three different groups of people crossed paths, out the middle of a distant desert surrounded by a hundred miles of wilderness. There were the two horse cowboys, the two car cowboys and the bike cowboys, all seeking freedom and adventure. Inspired by their curiosity of the horizon. Everybody satisfied to be where they were at the moment, unburdened by complications of the real world and excited about the possibilities out there.

            We were greeted the next morning by bottomless cups of coffee and another feast. We solicited advice from Kevin about our route, having decided that the Arizona Trail is more an idea/concept than a specific route. There are trails/dirt roads crisscrossing the entire state and plenty of incredible riding that hasn’t even been discovered yet. We were always on the lookout for new and exciting paths. After lots of hugs and goodbyes we said farewell to our friends and continued on our trip

            The riding flattened out, and the dirt roads opened up a little. After a half a day’s ride we reached Sheep’s Bridge, crossing over the Verde River. Our first signs of civilization since leaving the hot springs overwhelmed us. American flags waved high and proud while humongous 4 wheel drive trucks carried trailer’s full of ATV’s, a miserable accompaniment to the outdoors. A giant party of belligerence to celebrate Easter with a bunch of beer bellies, good ‘ol boys and tall cans. We stopped to cook lunch and observe. 5 ATVers pulled up next to our makeshift picnic spot near a river crossing and revved their engines repeatedly instantly filling the space with exhaust fumes. One guy struggled to get off of his recreational vehicle to see if they could cross the river. He stumbled out into the river and got swept into the water and over a few small rapids, got stuck among some trees, stood up for a moment before falling down and getting pulled further downstream. We sat there watching, dumbfounded. Eventually he was able to get a bit of control and get out of the river and back to his ATV. They left us with a parting gift of a cloud of dust that they spun up with their tires as they went to get some more Bud Light.

            As soon as we could, we packed up and continued on our way. We saw a coyote just 10 feet from us around one particular bend in the road. It scampered away into the desert. It was nice to get away from the chaos of Sheep’s Bridge. But signs of civilization were growing, largely in the form of beer cans and garbage on the side of the dirt road. We even began to see trucks out there, kicking up dust as they blew by us. There are certainly times when we wished we didn’t have to re-supply.

            Late in the day I came screaming down a hill, abandoning my brake levers until I reached the beginning of a turn. Suddenly my front brake failed, about the worst thing that could happen to a bike tourist careening down a steep hill, turning along the edge of a cliff. My mind flushed with a momentary dose of fear as I wrenched my rear brakes, which were not adequate to stop my momentum. I considered laying the bike down, but as a last resort, unclipped my shoe and jammed it between the fork and tire to slow down the momentum. Eventually the mass of bike and momentum eased to a stop. The noodle on my brake had broken off and separated the two sides of the brakes rendering them completely useless. I took a few deep breathes to calm myself after my near catastrophic event and hiked back up the hill to where I heard the brake pop off looking for the remaining pieces. By some miracle, I was actually able to find the very small pieces I was looking for and fix my brakes.

            A caravan of about 8 cars and ATVs passed, and were kind enough to offer help (you’d be amazed at how many times we’ve walked our bikes because of some failure out in the middle of nowhere and have the only truck we see all day blow past us). Unfortunately, I separated from the rest of the riders by the caravan and cloud of dust. Fortunately, the quality of the road was so poor that I could pedal much faster than their cars could drive and quickly passed them up.

            We had to cross the river a half a dozen times and pedal over countless stretches of “babies heads” (large rock fields). Eventually, we reached the main dirt road and were treated to the company of speeding vehicles buzzing across the dry dusty roads. The caravan passed me by, with the lead driver slowing down enough to say, “Man does it feel good to pass you.â€� And sped away with a wicked laugh.

            Our turnoff was supposed to be within a a couple of miles, but because of a combination of an inaccurate map and degree of map reading incompetence we could not find it. We resigned to camp in a wash near the road among endless stretches of wildflowers that had recently bloomed.

            The next section of riding was supposed to take us into the outskirts of the Phoenix metropolitan area, and we were hoping to skirt around the dense cluster of city roads inherently plagued with dangerous drivers, construction, and bike unfriendly paths.

            We had spent countless hours looking over our maps, dreaming about where each one of those little red 4 wheel roads would take us and what they would look like. Rarely have we discovered a very dependable correlation between those lines and reality. We got off to a pretty hairy start, with a good mile of terrain so steep and technical that we were forced to push our bikes up most of it. It put us up on a ridge-line covered with Ocotillos and Teddy-Bear Cholla. I got bored waiting for Sean to fix a flat and explored the nearby area to take pictures of the cactus. Managed to get too close and found pieces of Cholla embedded in my ankle on multiple occasions. Each time I had to get pliers to get enough purchase to pull them out.

            At some point we managed to get off trail and did our best to follow a route along the river, but realized that it had long been washed away and was impossible to navigate with an ATV, and incredibly difficult with a bike. Our day of bike riding turned into a 5 mile river exploratory. If nothing else we hoped that a few miles down the river we could link up with another trail. It involved laboriously lugging our bikes over huge boulders and through dense spiky vegetation. We had to cross the river about 8 times. We’d tote our bikes a good ½ mile and reach an impossible juncture and all would go explore the potential routes and come back and decide on our next direction. We found ourselves pulling our bikes through swamps and attempting to ride across huge boulder fields. Once again, we managed to find some of the most challenging sections to thoroughly introduce Nate to our bike trip. I imagined there must have been a few moments when he questioned, “just what the hell he is doing, pushing a bike through a swamp or up an impossibly steep ATV trail.â€� But by the end of the day he was smiling as big as any of us.


            Even though our daily mileage was in the single digits we ended the day completely exhausted and set up camp near the river. Enjoyed a relaxing swim and laid back watching the stars. Dreaming of what the next day would bring us.



It was twelve noon, start of the mega-pain race; Old Pueblo twenty four hours in the desert. In front of a towering white circus tent hundreds of jersey clad gladiators were fine tuning their steeds of war as spectators cheered and the power-gel hawkers hurled miniature sample packets at people passing by. Everyone had the look of just having disembarked a shuttle to an enchanting lunar playground; faces conveyed childish delight as hands made feeble attempts to steady glasses of beer heaping with foam. The racers more fanatically determined to belt out hour-flat laps could be spotted by their indecently tight spandex shorts and brightly colored water bottle concoctions fizzing like tonics in a mad-chemist’s laboratory.

Goat, Jacob, and I stood at the sidelines watching the event gather momentum, not without a bit of longing to be out shredding trails. A young couple approached Goat and inquired about the xtracycles.

“We’re freelance writers covering the race,� said the man, “We thought there might be an interesting story behind your long bikes.�
“Yeah, we’re traveling from the top of Alaska to the bottom of South America.� Sez Goat.

“Really, well, are all of you here? Could we perhaps get a picture?�

Naturally we bit the bait, unable to resist the lure of small time celebrity status. We posed for a picture, and then I tried to discretely follow a lead to less significant business leaving Jacob to explain the details of our trip. I failed to get very far. Jacob called for me to come back; “One more picture�. After forced smiles and a flash the girl let her camera fall by its strap to her waist, opened up some manila folders and leafed through her portable file cabinet.

“Jacob Thompson!� Cried the girl handing Jacob a stack of papers stapled together. “Sean Monterastelli!’�. I was obliged to receive a similar stack. “David Yost…�. Quite suddenly we were wisked away from that dreamy desert playground; transferred incongruously to boot camp detail assignment. “These are summons for each of you to appear in Court in Flagstaff on Thursday, regarding a criminal case.� The full force of the intruding terror still hadn’t set in; I took a sip of my beer hoping my head would clear.

“We’re federal marshals assigned to serve you summons for a court hearing.� The female officer elucidated. “Here, take a look at our badges.� Both former reporters pulled out leather bound gold plated badges confirming their identity as federal Marshals.

I tried to look disinterested, yet my mind was working itself into a panic; these ‘reporters’ have gone to great lengths to set up this rather unamusing hoax. No, the badges were too authentic, the official documents headed with the words ‘The United States of America Vs. Sean Monterastelli, David Yost, Jacob Thompson’ too lamentable not to be taken seriously. I set my beer down behind a rock and flipped through the fifteen pages of federal charges and the supporting evidence.

The charges went as follows: (The riding the spine crew) conspired to Camp in an undesignated area on the North Kaibab Trail… camped without a valid backcountry permit… provided false information to a Federal Ranger… used bicycles on the North Kaibab Trail. Especially frightening was the invocation of a section of the Federal Code of Regulations (F.C.R) usually reserved for terrorists; the language itself was terrifying enough to sink my heart into a state of permanent despondency: “…did conspire to…defraud the government (!)�.

“You guys should read over the summons carefully and ask us every question you can think of,� Instructed the marshals. “Cause you know that as soon as we leave, your going to think of many things you would like to have clarified�.

Looking over the expansive ‘evidence’ section, I noticed that the entire case was based on information provided on our website. They had us quoted several times as admitting the knowledge that our activities in the Grand Canyon were illegal. The prospect of us coming out of this trial unscathed was slim.

Jacob wanted to get a sense of the severity of penalties that could be imposed on each count.

“I’m pretty sure that all of these charges are petty offenses/misdemeanors. I don’t think you’re being charged with any felonies. Each of the charges will probably carry a maximum fine of two thousand dollars, and some jail time.� The Marshals informed us. “However, I don’t think it’s likely that a prison sentence would be imposed in this circumstance.�

The two marshals continued to discuss an issue that they wanted to see resolved before departing.

“So, we’ve done a lot of research on each of you and your trip, we went through your website and discovered that you would be at this race. We also understand that you intend to leave the country very soon, and with the Mexican border being so close we have to impress upon you the urgency of making it to this court date as well as get an idea of how you’ll secure transportation to Flagstaff�.

“We realize that you’re all limited in mobility by the pace of your bicycling, so we can offer a place to secure your bikes in Tucson, along with ride to the Greyhound bus station�.

We assured the marshals that such arrangements would not be necessary, that we knew plenty of Flagstaff folk attending the race who could give us rides. A few other mundane details were discussed, all three of us desired to be set free from this official meeting to dwell in each his own anguished thoughts.

“Well, now that we’re all on friendly terms,� began the male marshal, face brightening up, “We’d like to express our admiration for the trip –I’m a mountain bike enthusiast myself-, and hope we haven’t ruined the race experience for you.�

Of course at this point a tempestuous sandstorm assaulting the desert plain with nuclear fallout would have considerably brightened my disconsolate mood. We parted ways with the Feds, dragged our feet back to ‘Camp Flagstaff’ and stuck our heads under the nozzle of the Pay-N-Take wagon keg.

News of our criminal status spread like wildfire throughout bike city. Most people held the belief that not much would come of the trial –despite the absurd amount of time and money already spent by the government in dealing with our case. One person offered to give us a ride to the Mexican border; another vowed to organize a critical mass bike rally that would disrupt all courthouse activity. Consulting the legal council of Dave Bednar proved to be the best piece of advice offered by Flaggies. Dave was something of a local hero to those having to deal with bike legal issues.

We left the race on a Monday, all taking separate rides of to Flagstaff. Goat rode in the pickup truck of our good friend Ryan, whose house we would end up settling into for indefinite residency. Ryan and Goat spent an unpleasant four hours stuck in a snowstorm just a few miles south of Flagstaff. Having the only shovel on the highway, Ryan was obliged to dig out the snow in front of several cars stranded before him. It was disheartening for all of us to witness our previous southward momentum visibly diminishing with the onset of winterland all over again.

On Tuesday morning we realized that we had a mere forty eight hours to prepare our defense. After calling several attorneys we came to the understanding that hiring a lawyer would be an expensive but necessary undertaking. Since most of the evidence supplied by our website was told through one voice there was a ‘conflict of interest’ among the three of us. We were advised that if we were to take the case to trial it would be advantageous for each of us to hire our own lawyer so that two of us could testify that what the third wrote was simply an embellishment of the actual story and didn’t reflect the real nature of our Grand Canyon activities. But really it would be in our best interests to strike an early bargain with the prosecuting attorney and be over with the whole ordeal as quickly as possible. Luckily we eventually came into contact with the miracle worker Dave Bednar, who took it upon himself to deal with the federal prosecutor free of charge. The night before the preliminary trial Dave worked out a plea bargain for us to consider. The conditions to our bargain were as follows: To delete from our website all journals and media presentations relating our activities in the Grand Canyon; to post (on our website) an apology to the Park Services as well as a list of rules restricting bike use in the Canyon; to serve forty-eight hours in the Coconino county jail; to (each of us) pay a five-hundred dollar donation to the Grand Canyon Search and Rescue team; to endure five years of unsupervised probation during which we would be forbidden from entering any National Parks, and would be barred from profiting off the telling of our Grand Canyon story. Even if we each forked over twenty five hundred dollars to hire personal lawyers, there was little hope of us acquiring a better deal; grudgingly we accepted the plea bargain.

While waiting for admittance into the courtroom, we surveyed some of the fine pieces of art decorating the lobby. A long haired man of rippling muscles squatted on a pedestal bending a long piece of iron into the shape of a bow. The caption written under the sculpture read: ‘Strength of the Maker’. There were also the usual blindfolded ladies of justice holding their scales that are supposed to be on level with each other to represent unbiased judgment. Mysteriously one of the ladies had had one of her scales pillaged, leaving but a dangling chain on one side of the counter –an ominous sign that sent us all reeling with anxiety.

Judge Aspey stated that he was willing to accept the plea bargain granted with a few minor modifications. We would have to post a photograph of us standing before the courthouse on the website to further inculcate our guilt to those who cared. Unfortunately, the façade of the courthouse offered little in impressing the image of a house of judicial matter -a shot of us marching in shackles behind federal marshals on our way to jail would have been much more compelling. In substantiating his addition to our sentence, the judge brought up a federal case in San Francisco in which a man was ordered to wear a sandwich board bearing the words “I have stolen mail, this is my punishment� for one hundred hours in front of a post office. The judge seemed to admire the creativity inherent in this sentence of public shame. I tried to imagine the dismal outcome of a dragged out court case in which this judge served as both jury and arbiter.

After some months of jail time, we would be obliged to ride freak bikes around the south rim of the Grand Canyon for a hundred days. Mounted upon the front of the bikes would be a large battery powered T.V. screen airing a media presentation of careless mountain bikers mowing down innocent pedestrians, spooking mule trains, ending in a dramatic slow motion pan of a baby’s stroller barrel rolling down a two thousand foot precipice. Naturally we’d be towing a chariot of two rangers apiece in spotless attire; both armed to the teeth and wielding horse whips. Each day some ten thousand tourists would step out of their R.V. or S.U.V., wipe their sweaty brow in confusion at the bewildering sight before them, and then curse us and our delinquent ways for spoiling the majesty of a once in a lifetime attraction. Memory cards of Five million digi-cams would become depleted with mug shots of the criminal bicyclists as millions of pissed off tourists vowed to have our heads mounted to their truck grills.

After the judge confirmed our criminal status we had about an hour of freedom before we were required to surrender ourselves to Federal Marshals. Two-thirds of this time was spent dealing with paperwork at the probation office, which proceeded awkwardly considering none of us had any legal residence, telephone number, mailing address, or any recent history of having such. The federal marshals were generally pleasant folk; they welcomed us with a full body frisk, gave us shiny handcuffs attached to chains that were tightened around the waist, and ankle shackles that made us walk like amputee victims. While taking down my information, they informed me that we’d all be beaten up in prison judging by how bad we smelled. Then we were loaded into a paddy-wagon and transported through the snowy streets of Flagstaff to the local detention center. A community park with a brand new jungle gym bordered the edge of the prison yard’s razor-wire fence, but the swing sets and merry-go-rounds were still and none of the city youths dared to climb about or holler their cares –God had turned his back on this day.

Our personal federal security guards transferred us into the custody of regular run-of-the-mill coppers. As the leg shackles and waists chains were taken off the Marshals advised the cops on the proper means of handling us.

“You got to be real careful with these guys�, the one marshal started, “These boys are criminal bikers; got caught bicycling down the Grand Canyon. They’re considered dangerous… check that… extremely dangerous.�

“Criminal bikers�, a deputy looked up from his paperwork with annoyance, “are you kidding me? What a waist of our time’�.

It was somewhat shocking that such trained professionals weren’t acknowledging the deserved severity of our crimes. The deputy asked us each if we intended to hurt ourselves in anyway.

“Wait a minute,� the Marshal interrupted. “The fact that they biked into the Grand Canyon during winter time should automatically qualify them for suicide watch.�

“That’s a good point.� Admitted the deputy with sincere concern.

Piece by piece, our entire hand was captured by the print machine and uploaded permanently into ‘Big Brother’s criminal records. Then we were thrown into the Drunk Tank; a concrete cell with a steel toilet/water faucet, lined with two tinted windows. For the first three hours only five other people resided in the cell besides the bike criminals. The most talkative of the bunch was a man who called himself ‘New York’, who spoke with a long island accent, always hand one of his hands down the front of his pants, and fancied that he knew the prison/legal ropes as though they had bordered his childhood playpen.

“You know if I were going to go looking for a lawyer, ‘know what I’d ask him first?� Mr. New York pauses to affect his rhetorical question. “Whether he’s spent any time in jail! That’s how you know you’ve got a good lawyer, if he’s got any experience as a criminal�.

A Mexican man with a long curly mullet was attempting to grill New York on his knowledge of parole violations. Unfortunately the man’s English wasn’t so coherent; New York would shine a perplexed grin around the room directed at anyone who might have a try at translation.

A large Navajo man, arms covered with ancient tattoos of worn colors would sit up from his lackadaisical sprawl across cold concrete and relate his tragic tale.

“Man I’d just been paid t’other day, and handed my wife the check; the full check. I only take out like twenty dollars for myself, and she looks at me, takes the twenty an’ hands me a ten. So I buy a Steel Reserve 22… and man I ended up hooking up the blueberriest weed you’ve ever seen.� The Navajo man’s eyes roll into the back of his head as he conjures the heavenly image. “I just had a tiny bit…� He makes a small ‘O’ shape with his index finger and thumb. “…and I had stuck it in my pocket before fallen asleep. Then I was woken up by the man.� It took three or four accounts of the story before I discovered that his parole officer had burst unannounced into his house, immediately frisked him, and discovered his stash of heavenly blue.

“That’s why I’m always telling my son; you don’t keep your weed on you… you hide that stuff far from your body when you’re about lying and crashing.� His advice for the rest of us held less appealing wisdom. “You know what though… G (glass) is much better than smoking weed any day. It don’t have any smell, and it’s easy to hide in your arse and eat in prison.�

If a lady were dragged into one of the holding cells across the hallway, New York would holler, predict a free strip tease and say something crude like; “why is it that only white broads get suicidal in prison�. Curly mullet man, determined to charm the ladies, would stand up and fix his collar (he, like us, still had on his civilian clothes). Most everyone else plastered their faces against the tinted windows till one of the deputies shouted to decease. At some point we were forced to evacuate the cell whereupon some inmates washed down the concrete floors and crammed in fourteen hard plastic porta-cots, leaving not a pinch of space to walk. Most of us threw our thin sheets over our heads and tried to ignore the blaring phosphorescent lights; New York stayed up late, placing a call every two and a half minutes to his ‘old lady’ –whose telephone, he had informed us before, wouldn’t except collect calls anyway. I heard New York whisper the same pathetic pleas into the phone piece some thousand plus times: “it’s me baby, please pick up�. Finally, when the inevitable Friday night drunken crew began filing in New York had better conversation to occupy his time. A truck driver from Texas was describing a rather fascist system of justice in a tiny town of Morton, where the Sherriff assumes the role of judge and mayor.

An obese man stood over the steel toilet clutching what he could of his enormous belly. He moaned low, gasped for breath and eventually demanded emergency attention form the night watchman.

“That guy had his act dialed�, speculated New York, “He’s gonna get whatever he want’s to eat down in the infirmary. He pulled that off well�.

A man from Las Vegas staggered into the cell, tripping over the first porta-cot immediately. He was unable make any unassisted movement without falling to the floor. My instinctual response toward the chaos posed by these fetid bodies was to bolt upright on my cot so as to be ready to brace myself for collision with the teetering drunk –and to be in better position to dodge any projectile vomit.

In the morning the cots were taken out but more people were crammed in to the already congested cell. Our tiny concrete room housed twenty four people for at least five hours; all the ‘pods’ –boot camp like dorm rooms- were at full capacity. Finally, after twenty six hours in that chamber of incessant boredom we were issued prison cloths, wrist band identification and whisked away to a luxurious pod. One could gaze stupidly at a T.V. set all day, or read a slim selection of Christian literature; one could even shower –although after noticing revolting cases of foot fungus on some of the drunk-tank regulars I decided against it. We were served some chewy mystery cutlets for dinner –chicken fried butcher’s discards rolled in bread crumbs. I had fasted for the time in the drunk-tank but was feeling dizzy, I ate the weird meat –it’s still with me after a week.

Our Pod was largely inhabited by Navajo men which made me feel slightly uneasy when I observed a group of five, eyes glued to the television, watching Kevin Costner Indian convert in Dances With Wolves. The American Movie Classic channel was kept on till ten –when the lights were shut off- and oddly, every movie included some ridiculous prison scene -Keanu Reves and professional football cohorts sing Gloria Ganor’s ‘I Will Survive’, and perform an amusing line dance behind bars.

We were able to sleep well in the pods, because they actually turned the lights out –even though they were put back on full force at five in the morning. Our legal savior Dave Bednar picked us up when we were finally released, and drove us to our Flagstaff home.

Upon reentering the real world as free men I’ve noticed a few changes in the appearance and behaviors of myself and my former bike crew. I find myself out of breath after performing even the most mundane of tasks –like walking from couch to toilet- and borderline the obese. Goat has a jarring tone of apathy in his voice while discussing any matters of future plans, his waistline is much like an ancient dam ready to collapse and gush forth a wave of doom for all that lies in its path. Jacob’s eyes are bloodshot and vacuous. He’s really only fit to sit on cushions and stare at the blue glow of a computer screen. I fear he’s in the throes of Internet addiction. Often I wake up in the middle of the night in cold sweat and involuntarily cry the words: “they’ve got us�. Luckily we’ve been consoled (more times than we can count) by local wisdom the saying: “it’s all down hill from here�. Every single instance of this advice before has turned out to be bogus, yet the law of averages dictates that the tide will turn… it must!

Secret Agents Ride Bikes Too

24 hours in Old Pueblo pops up in the desert near Oracle and operates as a Mecca for bicycle enthusiasts all over.  Within a period of 24 hours, the desert landscape blossoms with RV’s of every size and shape.  In this temporary bicycle utopia, people do not walk, that is unless their bike has a flat tire.  People know you by your bike more than by your name.  When you meet somebody, you try to subtly check out their bike, looking it up and down as you talk to them.  In short, it is a bicycle party.

We wandered around from campsite to RV supersite and hung out with folks from all over.  Some people were there to seriously compete, but most of the people were there really just to have a good time, ride some laps and meet good people.  Our home was at Hobo camp with the eccentric crowd from

Flagstaff, right above the town’s Pay-N-Take trailer where coffee and brew flowed freely. 

We were hoping to snag a spot in the race, and ride legitimately on the trails.  But had no luck.  We spent a good amount of our time volunteering to help get the race in order.  Dug holes, put up fences, constructed tents, etc.  They gave us lots of free food, but the race director, Todd would not let us into the race. 

Since we had gotten there 3-4 days before the race, there was plenty of time to ride the trails without having to share with hundreds of other racers.  The trail was very smooth and flowy, without any serious technical sections, except for one drop at the end of the 15 mile loop.  A steep rock face with a small drop at the end, then multiple boulders to dodge on the flats below.  Easy enough in the daytime with plenty of sleep, but potentially difficult at night or after 24 hours of riding.

Sean was riding some laps a day before the race, and went down the rock face smoothly enough, until he hit one of the boulders.  He would have probably just pedaled right over it but his head tube completely snapped off and sent him rolling across the ground in front of hundreds of onlookers.  His Dean Titanium frame saw its last mile.

Within a matter of minutes, Scooby, from Fetish cycles hooked Sean up with a Fetish frame for only 50 bucks and the Fetish mechanic was building it up from the broken Dean.  In about two hours Sean was back on his bike riding again.

We really couldn’t have been having a better time at the race, unless we got a spot in the race.  We watched the chaos of the lemonds start with a couple hundred bikers running to get their bikes.   Our friend Fuzzy, who won the Single Swizzle in an absurdly inhuman time frame, was won of the first guys out.  Bryce from AZ bikes out of

Flagstaff calmly walked towards a beautiful Coconino Cycles cruiser that is proudly displayed in the Pay-N-Take.  With a great big smile he got on and pedaled his way toward the single-track horizon.

And then I noticed Goat chattin’ up with a couple who claimed they were freelance journalists there to cover the race.  They were regular pedestrians without bikes, which should have given us concern, with hindsight.  However, we were just so elated to be at this huge bike party, we didn’t think twice.

 “We are here to cover the race, and saw your bikes, thought there must be a good story,� Todd, the “journalist� said.  His hair was cut short and he was wearing trendy department store clothes.. 

Goat entertained his comment with a brief summary of our trip, “We rode them all the way from


 “Can I get a picture of the three of you?� He asked, looking around for the Sean. 

“I’m just a freelance journalist, don’t work for any specific newspaper, but would shop around and find a good paper.�

Sean came over for the quick photo and was about to walk away, against the wishes of our “benevolent� media source.  He wanted another photo.

Somewhat paranoid about the media folks writing inaccurate and misleading articles, I wanted to know a little more about his intentions, “Who are you thinking about sending….�

I was interrupted by Todd and his lady friend pulling out their necklace badges.   They started reading out our names, including our middle names, and handing us a 20 page pamphlet of paper titled, “The United States of America vs. Jacob Thompson�

We stood there dumbly as he explained that we were given a summons to show up in federal court in 4 days.  And he wanted to know if we had any questions.

 “Wow. So is this usual for you guys to go undercover and track people down for riding their bikes?�  I asked incredulously.

 “Eh.. well. No.. not really.  We usually only deal with felony cases.�  He replied, as he looked over at his female co-worker who seemed un-amused by our humor.         

 They wanted to make sure we would make it to Flagstaff, “We can store your bikes and give you a ride to the greyhound station.�

My field of vision seemed temporarily shattered, like the sky had cracked and tumbled into pieces.  All I could see were these two federal narks standing in front of me with the rest of the world blurring away.  I tried to reserve my frustrations, “These bikes are everything we own, you could probably understand that you’re about the last person on earth right now that I would trust with my bike.  Hmm.  Why don’t you give us a ride up to Flagstaff?�

 “That’s not part of my jurisdiction.  I am only supposed to deliver the summons, offer to take you to the greyhound station and store your bikes.� He said in a robotic tone as if he had pressed play on a government tape.

 “Wow.  That’s swell.   So you want us to bike back a couple hundred miles up hill to

Flagstaff?�  I asked.

 “Yep.  If that’s what it takes.� He replied.

 “Well it was real swell meeting you.  I hope you have a real nice day.� I said while clenching my teeth “you gonna stick around to enjoy the race?�

Mission accomplished.  Our secret agent friends vanished into the crowds.    

A Little AZ Desert Sand

We got a ride back to Phoenix, got our bikes and gear back in touring shape, and continued our way along the Arizona Trail. I had yet to get used to the trials of the desert trails, and managed to get at least one flat every day for a period of two weeks. And yes, I tried putting Stan’s in my tubes, but can’t afford to replace my tubes every time Stan’s inevitably fails. So I spent a lot of time with just my wheel sets and hand pump, laboriously airing up the tires with a minimum of 150 pumps


During our travels, we have become accustomed to following directions which are sketchy at best, sometimes. Thru-biking the AZT by Andrea Lankford seemed like an easy path to follow. But we had our difficulties. It’s possible our odometers were all incorrect and inconsistent, because we repeatedly had to stop and look around for a road/turn that didn’t exist. For the most part, however, the guide was really easy to follow and an amazing blessing on a route so new and often unwelcoming to fully loaded touring bikes. She does a good job of keeping us off paved roads and moving south. But, it sure sucks to get lost in the middle of the desert with just the cactus and little water.

There is something disturbing about a cactus that apparently jumps out onto the middle of your bike trail. The jumping cholla constantly terrorized our path with their natural caltrop buds strewn about the desert landscape. No matter which way they land, there is a spike directed straight up and into your tire. Even easy trails became rather technical in order to avoid the cactus.

The other challenge inherent with crossing 100’s of miles of desert is all the sand, which can quickly reduce you to pushing your bike. However, I would say that the AZT does a pretty good job keeping you on your bike. Some of the other off-road routes we’ve blazed have kept us pushing for up to five miles at a go.

The Arizona Trail is a remarkable phenomenon, 800 or so miles of incredible trails winding its way through some of the most beautiful and surreal scenery imaginable. Unfortunately, we have not gotten to experience it in its entirety. North of the Grand Canyon was super snowy, and barely ride-able even on the highways. South of the canyon we had two broken bike frame extensions and were unable to ride the trails. It wasn’t until past Flagstaff when we were able to actually begin the trail and we were able to take it all the way to Tucson.

A day or so south of Phoenix we were hit by a thunderstorm late in the night. Prior to that, we had mistakenly believed that it doesn’t really rain in the Arizona desert and had opted for open skies rather than the claustrophobia of our tent. When I felt a light sprinkle and a swift gust of wind in the middle of the night, I calmly and confidently assumed it was temporary. The rain swiveled on and off, like the windmill we were sleeping under. Until a crash of thunder signaled the sky to dump itself onto us. Instantly all three of us jumped up and grabbed our soggy sleeping bags and began the struggle to set up the tent. It was too late by the time it was up and everything that needed to be dry was completely wet.

The sky continued to pout the next morning and kept everything soggy and lowered morale. We didn’t get going until about 2 in the afternoon. We only covered about 15-20 miles that day, but got to ride a nice downhill section through a beautiful box canyon where the rocks seemed to change colors at every turn. I lost my favorite brown fleece hoodie and rode miles back to look for it, and found nothing.

Camped at the Gila River and began a gradual ascent towards a town of Oracle. From there we had another day’s worth of climbing over
Mt. Lemon and figured we would descend from there down to the 24 hour race. The day was getting late and Oracle began lighting up in the distance. It was going to be a really late night, the dirt road would spill us out onto a highway just after sundown and we would have a good 8 miles of road riding into the town. But there was a pizza place in town, and we were not going to miss out on that.

Then I saw a sign that said “Bicycle event in progress� just before a quick-up tent filled with race info pamphlets.

“The race coordinators are just down that road about a mile away. You should go check it out.�

I was a ways ahead of the others and went to check out the scene. The party had already begun, with the tent/RV city taking shape. I rounded up Goat & Sean and we set up camp.

Single Swizzle 07 – Followup

            Waking up in front of the gates at Agua Caliente park, nestled at the outskirts of Tucson actually made me want to puke. With 3 hours of restless sleep, I was not prepared to jump on my bike and seek masochistic Zen with 50 other riders. In between dry heaves, trucks with bikes strapped to their roof, or crammed into their camper shell passed through the gates eager to find the camaraderie of the pre-race parking lot scene. Some waved at the bedraggled few, pathetically lounging next to their oddly long bicycles and makeshift campsite. Others merely stared, and missed the turn, only to come back and stare a bit more as they entered the Single Swizzle Race.

            Single speeders are a proud niche of the de-evolution of bicycles. Out with the fancy advancements of gear shifting technology. In with the simplicity of “One F-in Speed� as a bumper sticker put it so eloquently. Some bikes go another step back in time to a fixed gear, where the wheels turn simultaneously with the cranks, AND they do this on technical single-track. These die-hard riders, unburdened by the distractions and complications of shifting gears have found a whole community of cyclists who strive to reach back down Darwin’s step-ladder and come up riding just as hard as geared bikes.

            Exactly what the hell we were doing there was anybody’s guess (including ours). I looked over at my bike with its rear cog set mutilated with only 1 only one proud cog left. My derailleur was stretched to its limit to keep the chain tension tight enough for the chain to stay in place. Sean had shortened his bike and it looked more appropriate for a single speed race. Goat’s rig however, was the anomaly. A fixed gear Xtracycle that left most everybody shaking their head in disbelief. We did not look like we there to race. Which made sense, because we weren’t.

For the most part, bicycle tourists are not extremely fast cyclists. Their day consists almost entirely of riding, but when you’re carrying 100 pounds of gear, the temptation to flip into the highest gear possible and mash up a hill is largely ignored. You get used to taking it easy while touring on a bike, taking in the scenery. It’s a different kind of riding, it’s not competitive race training. I experience enough “burn� in my legs on a daily basis, and was not inclined to melt them on such a fine day. We had traveled about 5,500 miles on our bikes and had pedaled with just a handful of folks and we were really just stoked to have the opportunity to ride with 50 other people.

            After signing in and feeling bad that I didn’t have money to donate to the organizers for all their effort, we were rolling out of the park. A couple miles of neutral riding before the ride really began. Hanging somewhat precariously out the backside of a SUV was a guy videotaping the event. His camera was pointed at the mass of cyclists who had taken over the road, and forced the cars to yield to the riders. It was a beautiful sight. After countless miles of “sharing� the road with those 4 wheeled bike killers, it was nice to be a visible mass of riders. Most laws state that they need to leave anywhere from 3-5 feet in between cyclists, and anybody who has ever dared pedal their bikes on the roads knows that law does not exist in reality.

We reached the starting point and get a glimpse of our fearless leader, Dejay, the race coordinator, as he explained the course. He attempted an impossible feat: to give us directions and then claimed we were responsible for knowing the course, but, all I really heard was, “This race will surely test your mind, body, and spirit.� I was pretty sure that the trinity he spoke of was wholly consumed with not puking.

            The race begun uphill, and remained that way for a long time. A quick check in with Goat, verified that he shared my same passion for keeping the breakfast where it belongs, inside our stomachs and not on the ground. I slowly meandered my way up the hill, and was mildly taunted by the camera at various sections of the mountain road. Eventually, I realized, “These single-speeders are freaking nuts,� and wondered, “Just what the hell I’ve gotten myself into.� With only gear they would just stand up as if they were on a fancy road bike and grind their way up the hill. Compensating the lack of gears with pure pain and a bit of insanity. They were fast. I was slow.

            The top of the hill offered a temporary oasis of water and beer. Just watching the riders down the fizzy, foamy beer made my stomach turn. Through the gates was an hour of single-track marked by pink ribbons. A few turns of incredible trails settled my stomach as I pedaled with my only pathetic gear through half a dozen different types of cactus, ever mindful of the torture they can cause to both me and my tires. Within 5 minutes I stopped to see if a rider needed help patching a flat. 15 minutes later, everybody was stopping to see if I needed help patching my flat. “Oh No.� I told them. Seemed easy enough; simple pinch flat. Each patch I checked would inevitably fail, since my tube was filled with Stan’s, the flat-healing liquid would leak through the hole and penetrate the patch. I thought I would just need to put on another patch. Nope that failed. Then I tried ripping them all off and starting over. Failed again. Two complete patch kits later and about 20 or so people I waved by, I knew I was screwed. I was pretty sure all possible help had been flagged by. Fortunately, I was actually not the last person.

            Two guys arrived and were able to give me a replacement tube. After about 300 pumps from my pathetic little bike pump, I was back on the trail, but my morale was low. The trail was incredibly fun. Then it went into a wash that switched from thick sand or endless boulders, that proved difficult (if not impossible at times) with the long Xtracycle frame. I was struggling towards the end of the loop trying to get traction on tiny but steep climbs. Having to push more than I would were I to have all my gear on the back. Eventually, I caught up with other riders and was able to enjoy the solidarity of this challenging event. I rode with one of the guys from Surly for a bit, and discovered that he had helped design the Pugsley, a bike I dream about every night and at various points throughout the day. “Whoah.. So you created the Pugsley..� I stammered while catching my breathe, “so….basically…you are my hero.�

            “You guys are my hero,� he said, “you came all the way from Alaska, huh?�

            I was too star struck to respond, “so is it true? Can you really ride on the snow??�


            “Yeah. In about 8 inches of snow you can turn a nice figure eight.�

            I got a few more flats.. and then…there was Milagrosa. A trail that could easily demolish your spirit, and possibly your bike. Endlessly steep rocky outcroppings smashed together into a tight single-track of drops, turns and impossibly narrow passages. A few dozen switchbacks into it I smashed my pedal on a rock as I careened down, lacking the control/skill to operate smoothly. All that remained of my left pedal was a 1�4� shaft of metal. The rest of the trail I spent trying to keep my feet from bouncing off the pathetic remnant of pedal, which at one point painfully found its way into my shin. The Xtracycle worked well enough for most of it, though because of the long wheel base, it would high-center on some rocks and I forgot to take off the kickstand leaving it to snag snag on rocks and stop my momentum instantly. Even with the broken pedal, I only had to dismount/walk less than tenth of the trail, which was quite an accomplishment in my book.

        I rode in with Beer Brad who waited around for me after he heard my agonizing scream during the altercation between my shin/pedal shaft. He was riding solo in the 24 hour race next weekend and was asking if we were going to be there. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.� I told him.

Piles of pizza awaited us among a cheering crowd of racers who were happy to see that the Xtracycle made it back. Everybody headed to Dejay’s house for the post-race awards ceremony and slideshow. The event was sponsored by Fat Tire Brewing company and nobody was left thirsty. The awards ceremony was unique, with shwag being passed out based on criteria that had very little to do with anybodies performance in the race, “who got hit by a car the most recently?� or “who drank the most during the race?�


A critical mass of single speeders developed at the house and rode through the city to the Surly Wench for an after-race party. Riding through a town with 40 other bikers was a highlight of my week. The evening did not wind down until after 3 AM, far past my bedtime, and I was practically falling asleep waiting for the mob of bikers to crash out back at Dejays.


The guys from Minneapolis (Surly folks, and Hurl from Cars-R-Coffins) stayed up listening to punk rock and attending their drinks until the wee morning hours. Single Swizzle 07 was an event you would hate to miss. It was the first time I’d even pedaled a single speed bike, and would happily do it again just to hang out and participate in such a cool ride.

Hanging with the Ghost of Al Capone

Ten miles southeast of Camp Verde –known in recollection only as a gas depot off a major highway- we hit mud. The clay in the ground had the patience of a potter shaping a ceramic disk around our wheels. For two hours we toiled up a gradual hill, and then began a gradual descent as chunks of mud hit teeth, tiny pebbles or sharp stones bombard chest all the way to the flats. And the Flats ride as though you were still climbing, and eventually I catch up to Jacob who is standing his bike up with one hand and thrusting his fingers at the large accumulation of mud between his brake mounts and rims. His tire won’t move at all, and he ceases work momentarily to vent his frustrations. Just as I’m about to leave on account of his heavy complaints he gestures to a car completely stuck in the mud, ditched by its owner on the wayside. The sun was near about finishing up its work with this chunk of horizon, usually we find camp by dark yet I had an unusual ambition to reach a most intriguing destination. It was also the first instance in nearly three and a half months of the temperature not plummeting exponentially with each minute past sundown; it was a pleasant motivation factor driving us to be a little more audacious in night riding. In another six miles we were supposed to hit the Verde River hot springs, where one could rub shoulders with the ghost of a most notorious gangster. Al Capone, and perhaps a whole entourage of depression era hipsters, used to hang out and bathe at a resort built around the Verde River hot springs. As always, going was much tougher than then mileage would have us predict; a real ‘workout’ of a climb for three miles culminating in a near vertical drop of some fifteen hundred feet. All the while spinning out of control down the descent in pitch darkness I couldn’t help but dread the insanely steep climb in store for me in the morning. Toward the end of hill I caught sight of a sign with my headlamp: ‘Absolutely no Nudity’. Then I saw lights, heard faint music emanating from the bottom of the river valley; the possibility that someone down there might actually take that posted rule seriously nearly eclipsed my dreams of having a soothing evening in the mineral baths.

In front of an ancient hydro-electric power station we set up camp, and ferociously ate a pot of oatmeal. Some campers nearby informed us that the springs were a bit difficult to find, especially at night, and that it would be better to wait for another camper –who was planning on making the trip shortly- to lead the way. The man and his frisky dog arrived at our camp and immediately began wearing our ears down to stubble with his rants. He must have been infatuated with the sound of his own voice because he rarely paused long enough to imply a desire for a response. A brief river crossing was required to make it to the hot springs. Our guide carried his dog across the cold water –a soggy dog would be an unpleasant cuddle buddy in a small tent. Of course it was a futile effort, as soon as we arrived at the pools the dog jumped right into the water; a fine layer of dog hair floated on the surface of the lukewarm pool (98 degrees). The second pool was a blissful hundred and five degrees plus. Unfortunately the hot pool was blocked off from view of the moon rising above the mountains by walls covered with graffiti. Concrete foundations of the old resort still commanded walkways around the pools, and two towering palm trees imparted their malady of tropical invasiveness. Long after everyone else had made the trek back to camp, I remained soaking my bones, hypnotized by the pale moon light that had finally ascended above the reach of the graffiti covered walls. Luckily I refrained from passing out right there in the pool, although it was a most tempting crash pad.

We were trying to shoot for the town of Payson the next day, some fifty miles away. In just two days time we had an appointment to meet a friend from Flagstaff at the trailhead leading to Four Peaks –some hundred and twenty miles away. In parting, our guide from the night before informed us that it was all uphill to the town of Strawberry. It was encouraging news considering the dirt trails were still soggy with mud. We climbed the steep switchbacks that we had breezed down the night before. Then there was a short flat section where we might as well have been climbing with the resistance of the mud. Then there was a fifteen mile hill where one could see the switchbacks wind up nearly four thousand feet above… an infinite maze of cuts angled into the mountain side. Around mile eight I set into my lowest gear and spun my legs just fast enough to keep my speedometer from falling asleep. I had been biking the entire day without any shirt or socks, but when I crested the summit of the hill the sun was already dropping low, the temperature fell with it, and the road (once again) returned to snow pack. Already I missed the warm weather spell.

Strawberry has but one attraction: a small inn/restraint that sits betwixt two highways. While waiting for my touring buddies to arrive I sat outside and shivered, trying to savor –what I mistakenly believed to be- the last of our cold weather. It was all you can eat Fish Fry night at the Strawberry Inn, much to our delight. Two different fires were blazing in the restaurant, yet the room was still in the frigid grip of Al Capone’s flesh deprived spirit fist. We ordered hot coffee and all you can eat fish plates. After plate number three was set down, the waitress’s pace reduced to that of a gang-banger suffering a minor flesh wound, slowly losing consciousness. At plate number six, the waitress non-apologetically told us she was clean out of fish. Well this information did not go over well at all. Starving and emaciated, we were in right mood to cause riot over the indecency of the situation. Luckily some nice folks from a town even smaller than Strawberry invited us to spend the night at there home. The lady of the house expressed unreserved enthusiasm, while the husband requested a peep at Jacob’s driver’s license (not without a sense of humor). We made poor mileage that day, yet we managed to climb well over four thousand feet in twenty five miles. Our rendezvous at the Four Peaks would just have to wait.

The next day we breezed through Payson and arrived in the town of Rye just in time for happy hour. Rye consisted mainly of an unattractive bar, yet there was a wonderfully back woods creep heap of a junkyard piled high with all kinds of weird pedal bikes and motor bikes. It was a museum as much as a junkyard, and had on display Big wheel tall bikes, two wheel drive dirt bikes, a tandem fixed gear, exercise bikes from the 60’s, tricycles, an antique rickshaw, a shiny recumbent with a CD Radio among all kinds of bright front and rear lights and running lights along the frame among thousands more mesmerizing contraptions. Jacob was looking a little too closely at a cruiser bike with stick-shift like gear throttle when the owner of the place emerged from a rusty pile of steel and nearly wrung his neck limp.

“Don’t you be touchin any of that� says an older man with a long mane of graying hair blending into a flowing white beard.
“I was just looking�. Jacob defends himself.

“Well if you were just looking, than there’d be no need for your hands to moseying so close to the bike.� He fumes out his agitation, and seems like he’ll be quick in cooling down a bit, but suddenly he burst out in fumes once more. “Some guy was over here two days ago and broke the accelerator to one of my motorcycles. He wouldn’t take any responsibility for his actions and I was about ready to break his fingers.�

A good majority of the stuff in his yard looked decrepit and ready to shatter at the shrill cry of a baby, but we weren’t ready to argue with the man. He calmed down once we started asking him questions on the origins of his collection. The man had been collecting parts and buying up whole bike stores for many years; he most likely had a monopoly on the trade for miles around. He offered Goat a job doing handy mechanic work; I was a bit relieved when Goat just laughed off the suggestion, it seemed he had very likely leaped right off the last peak of purgatory with excitement over the endless possibilities of freak bike production.

We lay about and napped a bit in front of Rye’s bar, and by and by some old jolly man, shaped like St. Nick came and grilled us about our bikes. He was accompanied by a much skinnier man wearing glasses and sporting mutton shops of very sparse but very long hair. Our new acquaintance let it be known that his name was ‘Bear’, and that he was into collecting, shaping and selling gem stones. I could tell that his skinny friend John was eyeing my Gun case with interest. I cracked open the case and brought out my guitar much to his delight –it was good for the rest of us as well because Bear wouldn’t stop jabbering away about various disconnected thoughts like our trip, the merciless landscape, about the recent loss of his driver’s license. John picked up the guitar and picked away at some blues standards. He tried teaching me some different tunings; showed me what was proper for slide guitar, and told me about some new folk musicians to check out. I must have been spacing out on account of the good music because suddenly some thin old lady was standing right next to me making small talk with John.

“That wouldn’t be rock music you’re playing there.� She looked disgusted at having had to pronounce the word ‘rock’. “Ain’t none of that is worth listening to, its all just noise, plain and simple.�

John just kept on strumming and said real calm, “Well I admit most of what’s being played on radio and what’s mainstream isn’t even decent, but you can easily pick out some good stuff�.

“No it’s all bad. You can’t even dance to that noise.� She turns to me and asks: “Can you actually admit to feeling like dancing to that rock and roll?�

“Well, I…â€� didn’t know exactly how not to offend her but still keep her engaged on this eccentric rant. “Yeah, I can easily dance to Rock, and do so on a regular basis.â€�

“Yeah, and what do you do… the chicken hobble.� She brought her wrists to her breast and waved her arms like a chicken, trying to make me feel the absurdity of Rock dancing. “The only music worth dancing to is good ole’ country music. But not the country music you hear on the radio. Boy, whenever I find myself in a place where there’s music I don’t care to hear, I stick plugs in my ear; I carry them around with me wherever I go.�

I tried to get her to explain what style of country she listened to, but received no satisfying answer. She had a face that exuded a character like out of a Mark twain novel; I signaled to Goat to get my camera out’a my bag on the sly. Right as I was about to take a candid shot, the old lady started to take off.

“Wait, I would really like to have just a photograph of this moment.� I tried coaxing her to stay. “My memory’s horrid, and I just think this a moment’s something special.�

“Sorry sonny, I don’t do photos.� She patted my shoulder and looked all too scared that I might snap a shot on the sly. “Might have the F.B.I after me for all I know.� She was off already down the dirt road.

The big man ‘Bear’ bestowed upon each of us a smoky quartz necklace before we took off. Apparently they were stones possessing special powers dealing with friendships and the like. That night we climbed the snowy slopes of the Four Peaks with Ryan, our Flagstaff friend, and slept out in view of the sprawling mass of Phoenix, glowing with its eerie urban energy.

Riding the Spine into a bit of Trouble

The Grand Canyon National Park is a treasured part of the American landscape that draws an enormous crowd each year. In 2004, there were 1,336,505 vehicles counted at the South Rim alone. Because of the extensive crowd of visitors each year, particularly in the summer, it is necessary to enforce regulations that maintain the safety of the visitors, while preserving the area for future crowds.

Recently, the Arizona Trail has been symbolically finished with the hammering of a golden stake. With about 800 miles of non-motorized trail from Utah to Mexico, it will be an impressive trail system offering plenty of challenging single-track. The route heads through the Grand Canyon, offering its tremendous vistas and challenging hikes to the adventurous travelers.

However, “Bicycles are not allowed on any rim hiking (foot) trails or on any trail below the rims.� (GRNP 1988 Backcountry Management Plan, Section H (15), Page 12). Trails in the canyon are incredibly steep and narrow, and well used. Rules like this are intended to ensure the safety of trail users, and in wilderness areas, to prevent environmental impact. Bikes can potentially damage the soil and cause erosion which has a lasting and negative impact on the environment. In the Grand Canyon, the trails are crowded (especially in the summer) with mule trains and hikers each day, and with cliffs plunging hundreds of feet alongside the trail, bicyclists are incompatible with mule trains and hikers, due to the risk of spooking the animals or losing control of your bike.

Fortunately, if you are trying to complete the Arizona Trail, there are options to legally traverse the canyon with your bike.

1. There is Trans-Canyon Shuttle service that runs between the North and South Rim once each day and can carry your bike across while you hike across with the rest of your belongings. Unfortunately, there are not facilities on either side to store your bike and you will have to make arrangements for someone to pick up your bike. Reservations are required and it costs $65 dollars to get your bike across. Call 928-638-2820. This is not an option during the winter season.

2. It is possible to hike your bike (strapped onto your back) across the canyon without ever letting the wheels touch the ground across the canyon as well. It is advisable to get in touch with the backcountry ranger’s office if you are going to attempt this. It is possible they can help facilitate your needs and steer you in the right direction so you do not violate any park regulations.

3. There is also a (paved) 171 mile detour around the canyon that is possible. These roads are considered dangerous by most cyclists.

You can get in very serious trouble for violating the National Park Regulations. In 1995, 5 cyclists from Sedona got caught red-handed riding their bikes down the North Kaibab Trail. They were apprehended, searched and found to have marijuana and illegal mushrooms. A helicopter evacuated them out of the park and they had to pay 240 dollars for the helicopter ride. This made national headlines. With a plea bargain, they got the drug charges dropped and a 250 dollar fine was suspended. They were forced to give up their bicycles, which are said to still be down in the ranger’s station on rollers.

             The Riding the Spine team was also caught riding their bikes in the canyon, and camping without a permit (Class B Misdemeanors). Two undercover federal agents followed us to the 24 Hours in Old Pueblo race to serve us a summons. We are required to donate $500 dollars to Grand Canyon Search & Rescue Fund, spend 2 days in jail, we will have 5 years of unsupervised probation, and we will be banned from all National Parks for 5 years as well.

                During the 5 year probationary period we are not allowed to use any images or descriptions of biking/camping in the Grand Canyon on any internet site magazine, newspaper, or any other publication. We were required to withdraw all photographs, video footage and journal entries about riding our bikes/camping in the canyon. Furthermore, we have to publish this entry on our site describing the penalties that we incurred, as well as conveying the ethics and reasons why cycling in areas such as the Grand Canyon/wilderness areas is prohibited.  The judge was also real keen on having us take a picture in front of the court and post it somewhere on the website.

I was browsing the web and came across a really thorough article on mountain bike trail ethics that I wanted to share with the readers. It comes from the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association and was posted February 8, of this year. They are located online and their web address is:

Mountain Bike Ethics

1. STAY ON DESIGNATED TRAILS to avoid trampling native vegetation and fragile desert soil. Minimize potential erosion to trails by not using muddy trails or shortcutting switchbacks.

2. SHOW COURTESY AND RESPECT TO ALL TRAIL USERS. We’re all members of the trail family seeking quality experiences. We must learn to share. Our motivations are not different than those of other trail users regardless of our mode of travel. Show concern for a clean, quiet backcountry experience.
Keep the trails as natural as possible.

3. YIELD THE RIGHT OF WAY TO OTHER NON-MOTORIZED RECREATIONISTS, and allow adequate room for motorized vehicles that may need to pass you.

4. SLOW DOWN AND USE CAUTION when approaching or overtaking others and make your presence known well in advance.

5. MAINTAIN CONTROL of your bike at all times.

6. DO NOT DISTURB wildlife or livestock.

7. DO NOT LITTER. Pack out what you pack in, and pack out more than your share whenever possible.

8. RESPECT PUBLIC AND PRIVATE PROPERTY, including trail use signs, no trespassing signs, and leave gates as you found them.

9. BE SELF-SUFFICIENT. Destination and travel speed will be determined by your ability, equipment, terrain, and the present and potential weather conditions.

10. DO NOT TRAVEL SOLO when bike packing in remote areas. Leave word of your destination and when you plan to return.

11. OBSERVE THE PRACTICE OF MINIMUM IMPACT BICYCLING by “taking only pictures and memories and leaving only waffleprints.”


Enjoy the trails and remember to keep the singletrack single!


Rez Country

We searched around for internet hoping to establish our plans with the Grand Canyon. My conversation with the park ranger in the region above the Canyon was dismal, offensive even. Just uttering the idea of fixin’ to reckon on thinking about possibly attempting to access the North Rim, forced him to treat the conversation as if was made collect from an asylum. The next plan was to call him up pretending to be a cross country skier, interested in playing in his forest on my winter friendly sports gear. This ploy gained nothing useful from the ranger who picked up the phone and said patronizingly.

“Well, if you look up the weather for Jacob Lake, that should tell you everything you need to know.�

“Can’t you just look outside and tell me how much snow there is on the ground?� I Pleaded.

“I don’t know, can’t say for certain.� He replied dumbly.

“Well do you know if there was anywhere that we can get some food supplies in the town.?�

“Jacob’s Lake Inn has some food, you can give them a call at 7232.�

I gave up on the ranger, unsure what mental blockage prevented him from saying anything useful. Jacob Lake claimed that they could not sell us any real groceries and that there was a good foot to two feet of soft powdery snow that would prove quite difficult to plow through on a bike. The collective decision we made a few towns back was that we were just going to head to the south rim, but I wasn’t ready to give up yet. I had resolved to cross the canyon solo and meet the others later, and with such forceful resolution I helped sway the decision to go for it. We had arrived at a few ultimatums to help us decide. Both of which we patently ignored. “Okay so if there is more than a foot of snow or if we can’t get food in Jacob Lake, we’ll bail and head to straight to the south Rim.� I decreed.

“So there is 1-2 feet of snow and we’ll have to carry our food all the way from Page. Shoot. We should flip a coin.� I said.

“If it lands on heads, we use ‘em and skip the canyon, tails, we bust ours and go for it.� I said with a quarter in my hand.

Sean had temporarily bailed on the idea and was going to meet us at the South Rim if we made it.


There we have it. Our fullproof oracle has spoken and our fate certain.

Sean couldn’t resist missing out on the absurd plan and somewhat begrudgingly offered to join us.

At the visitor’s center we met Ron Watch, a Navajo native who owned and operated the e-café and visitor’s center, which also doubled as a community center. We had missed a Navajo metal show by just a few days. The building was a round patio with a huge double fireplace and open roofed center. It was called the Shepherd’s Eye due to it’s circular architecture. Ron had long black hair, and dark eyes that burned with intensity. Past his stern appearance, he was an incredibly kind of and thoughtful individual who offered to let us sleep in the courtyard. It was supposed to drop down to -4 that night and we wished nothing more than to secure a bit of warmth for our near future.

We took the opportunity to do some laundry that desperately needed attention. My socks were so crusty that I could actually stand them upright, as if my foot was still in them. We were not the only ones eager to restore a bit of freshness to our clothing as we squeeze our way into the frantic Laundromat filled with Navajo kids who seemed to all but spin themselves silly in the “there’s too much chaos in here for me to sit still� cycle. One girl was dragging around her friend with short hair and two pierced ears, maybe 5-6 years old, erupting in spontaneous fits of “rolling on the Laundromat floor.� The girl with pierced ears did a spiraling maneuver with a great big smile and twirled out of the girls grips and disappeared behind an aisle of washing machines.

Sean’s birthday was on this fateful evening and we did our best to celebrate the occasion. Since we were in Navajo country, there was no alcohol to be found for hundreds of miles (unless you know the right people in the town, of whom we did not). We got 10 dollars worth of beef “slabs,� a mysterious cut of meat that did in fact resemble a steak in appearance, particularly if you kind of cross your eyes and blur your vision as if you were looking at one of those “seeing eye� posters. Strapped for cash as usual we also opted for the cheapest barbecue sauce we could find, and completed the meal with random veggies.

Campfires are a rarity in our world and grilled food is tough to beat, so we were drooling with anticipation for the feast.

The fire was roaring and we gave a good long thought to sleeping near it. But when the time came to go to sleep, we went straight towards the heated bathroom and rolled out our tarps and pads in our own respective stalls. I imagined that Sean would have never guessed at any point in his entire life that he would be spending his 23rd birthday sleeping in a bathroom in the small Navajo town of Kayenta. We couldn’t sleep right away and spent a good amount of the night’s bathroom slumber party with nonsensical comments.

A long chilly ride towards Kaibeto was blessed with a tailwind and relatively flat riding. By the end of the day, I was far ahead of the others and too cold to stop. So I rode towards a nearby ranch house, disturbed their dog and horse until I found a path towards the home. An older man waved at me and jogged towards his house, which after 77 years of life, assumed a pace less than hasty. On his porch step he motioned me towards his house and I followed. A wave of heat consumed me as I stepped in his house, smiling and nodding my head to acknowledge his wife busily making a basket by their blazing stove.

“Hi, I am on a long bike journey and am hoping to get permission to camp on your land.� I said quickly.

The old man smiled and poked at my back. My Camelbak was underneath my coat so it wouldn’t freeze and made me look like a hunchback.

“It’s cold. Do you have a tent?� He asked.


“You gonna build a fire?�

“Ehh.. probably not. We’re probably just gonna go right to sleep.�

He turned and spoke to his wife in Navajo for a minute. “You want to sleep inside?�

“Ehh…. Of course, it’s darn cold out, but we don’t want to impose. There are three of us.� I looked around at the lack of space and could not imagine them being comfortable having us over.

“How about you sleep in traditional Hogan?�

“Wow.. That would be incredible.�

“Follow me.�

I said goodbye to the woman and followed the man outside.

I started to get worried that my companions would pass the side road I turned, and I would end up having to chase them down the road all night. “Mm…I gotta go flag down my friends, I don’t want them to pass me.�

“Over here.. Follow me.� He said as if he didn’t hear me.

He stepped over to a huge 10 sided building with a conical roof and turns a key in a padlock. The door swings in letting in a stream of sunlight. He turns and says to me, “This is church Hogan. People come pray here for all night. Always wood for fire in here. In times of war, like these days, lots of prayer.�

“It’s beautiful. This will be amazing. I gotta go wave down my friends. If they don’t stop here, I’ll be chasing after them all night.�

I rushed back to my bike and found them quick enough and brought them back with tremendous enthusiasm to the traditional Hogan. The expected low of -5 was sure to be unpleasant without the kindness of Henry, our hospitable Navajo friend.

Inside the Hogan was a large wood stove with a pipe that stretched into the roof of the structure. A generous pile of wood lay in front. Around the edges of the structure were pieces of carpets numbered 1-10, lining each edge. There was a calendar of Arizona Golf courses, a photo of a bald eagle, and a couple broadhead arrows over the doorframe. There was also a plaque from a coal mining company, a bag of herbs and a list of family members who signed in at a gathering in April of 1996. A stack of sheepskins were piled about waist high, which we assumed were for sitting/sleeping on.

Henry came back in and brought a shovel full of coals. “You guys know how to start a fire?�

“Oh yeah. I suppose.�

A heapfull of burning coals sure helps, and within minutes the fire was stoked and the Hogan was heating up. He asked where we were from and told us a little about his kids and life.

“I have retalives (relatives) in California. I work natural gas pipeline in Los Angeles, to Bakersfield all way up to Oakland. My kids are in military. Marines. I went school at Riverside when I your age.� He said.

“I’m seeeveeenty seevennnn years old now.� He said, heavily emphasizing his age with pride. “That was long time ago.� He concluded.

After the fire had heated up the place sufficiently, he wished us a goodnight. He put his hand on a latch and said as he went out the door, “Here is lock, to keep out the witches.� He laughed.

We brought in a big hunk of coal and the fire kept up until about 3 AM when Goat got up and put some more wood in there. It was the first time we could sleep in our bags without all our clothes since we left Moab. After sleeping soundly, and all encountering remarkably vivid dreams, we woke up oddly refreshed. I hadn’t realized how poorly I had been sleeping in the cold weather until a night in the comfort of warmth.

We reached Kaibeto early the next day and decided on an off-road route after attempting to extract any useful information at the trading post. Up the road we were looking for route 201, and by the time the sun had set we still had not found it. I approached a car exiting a dirt road and asked him about it.

He claimed about a 4 miles up there was a road that we could take, it would bring us all the way over to the 89, cutting underneath Page. I saw one of his dogs underneath his wheel sniffing the tire; shocked, I warned him, “Whoah.. your dog is under your wheel.� I scrambled to scare the dog from out of the car.

“Ohh that’s Mano.� And he revved his engine up.

Sean pulled up and showed the man our map, and he confidently pointed out the route. As he was passing back the map, Sean stumbled back over his Camelbak and scared the dog into the road where it was swiftly hit by a passing car, offering a thunderous sound to the desert landscape.

Sean looked over at the owner who appeared unphased and said, “Holy shit. You just see your dog get hit.�

The owner just laughed and casually shrugged. “You want me to take it off the road?� I asked.

“Ehh.. yeah.. Just drag it over there.� He replied.

I waited for the traffic to clear up, hoping I wouldn’t have to witness any further gruesome mutilation to the poor creature’s body. I grabbed ahold of its limp front legs and pulled it off the road, trying not to think about the situation.

We continued our search for the 201 after it got dark and found ourselves desperate enough to take a random off road route, thinking that it must lead us to one of the main roads. Our depth perception was off and the sand was thick. We slid around the road dangerously through the night, keeping slow enough to avoid a serious crash. We crossed the electric train tracks, the same ones that the Monkey Wrench gang sabotaged in Ed Abbey’s book. We were lost. Our maps sucked. And we were terrible at navigating. Especially in the dark. So we set up camp and decided to deal with it tomorrow. Fortunately, a rancher passed through that night and we flagged them down for directions. They pointed us down a road, said it went about two miles and would T at the main road. That main road would take us to the 89.

“Heh..You guys are WAAAYYYY off!� He said as he drove off into the night.

We were faced with the reality that when you go off paved roads in the desert, it will be sandy. Not only will it be sandy, but it will be…shall we say, less than conducive to bike riding. So instead of riding many sections we pushed, or maneuvered a track stand stall/crawl, inching our way towards the next foot of ground that would hold our tires with a bit of luck. There was a good mile’s worth of sand that we could not ride over and were forced to push our bikes through. Slowly and surely, we carved our way through the windblown sand. My arrowhead obsession had continued so I scanned the ground constantly, and by some miracle, actually found one. The main road was much more rideable, but that doesn’t say much for riding across a desert. All the while, I dreamed about the Surly Pugsley bicycle with it’s 4� wide tires, thinking about how nice it would be to float over the sand. Not only was it difficult to merely pedal across flat/uphill sections, but even going downhill, you had to maintain full concentration so you wouldn’t crash. By the end of the day, we all had at least one good spill. It was always humorous to see the tracks (there wasn’t an inch of surface on the road that wasn’t painted visibly with our tread patterns) wend and twist when somebody lost control. Often you could even see a body impression as if it was outlined in chalk marking the fall.

Eventually we reached our half way point and were guided by some Navajo which direction to go. The map looked clear enough to follow, but there were so may people living out there, that roads often crisscrossed our route, leaving us to constantly question which direction to go. Driveways stretched for miles towards their houses, hidden in the distance. Petrified sand rose up aside the road, layered inch by inch of varying colors and shades, morphed into orblike shapes, twisting and swirling as if it was captured in an exotic lavalamp. Some trees managed to puncture their roots through the smooth rocks and lived in a seemingly impossible location, leaving their profile protruding above the horizon. About 35 miles into the sandy washed roads, we saw a turnout for a Baptist church. About 10 miles later we even saw a school bus tromping through the sand. A few minutes before we thought we were in the middle of nowhere, but that was hardly the case. We were in he middle of Navajo reservation land. “Rez country� as a teenager a few towns back described. I was about 50 yards from Goat at one point, and by the time I pushed my bike up a long steep hill, I could look down for miles at a lengthy hill we would descend. He was about a mile ahead. I figured I’d catch him on the hill. But the further I went down, the more space he made between us. Riding in the sand, I would begin to get a bit of speed and then my front wheel would catch and send me wildly sliding to the other side of the road where I would regain my traction and attempt to veer myself back down the hill. At other points I would just sink and stop in the sand. Each time I would see Goat’s tracks somehow perfectly cutting through the sand. I was amazed.

The hill leveled out for a couple miles, and was fortunately much less sandy. I heard bells in the distance and saw sheep being herded by dogs around a nearby rock monument. Next thing I knew I was being chased by dogs, for a good mile until they lost interest. We hit the road and instantly found ourselves on Antelope Pass with a about 14 miles and 2500 feet in elevation to drop until we reached Lee’s Ferry. It was one of those incredible ear-popping out of your mind hills that left you feeling like the elevation you climbed was actually worth the downhill (which can be rare). On each side of us were steep cliffs towering into the sky.

The Grand Canyon Challenge

Until we get access to an internet connected computer that costs less than 15 dollars an hour, small updates will have to suffice.

We were able to get to the North Rim via the closed Highway 67. Prepared for a three day struggle through the snow, we were fortunate enough to encounter hard packed snow we could ride on. (We were told there was up to 5′ of soft powdery snow and that it was impossible to get to the N. Rim). We reached it in one day.

Since we couldn’t get backcountry permits to camp in the canyon, we had to hike from Rim to Rim in one day. We descended the N. Kaibab Trail and put our bikes & Xtracycle on a frame pack and carried them up to the South Rim via Bright Angel Trail. I forgot my headlamp and had to hike a good hour or so in the dark up the snowy/windy trail. Overall, it took us a solid 12 hours to get across the canyon.

We now have to go back down the canyon to retrieve the rest of our gear and hike back up again.

Goat’s Xtracycle snapped about a mile into the N. Kaibab Trail (he lashed sticks to support it for now), so unless we get that fixed in the Grand Canyon Village, we won’t be able to continue the Arizona Trail until after Flagstaff.

Soon we will have a lengthy update and a bunch of new pictures. Check back in a few days.

Cold Weather Update

Real real cold over here in the high Arizona desert of the Navajo territory, dropping down to -4 at night. We have been trying to arrange the logistics for crossing the Grand Canyon. Highway 67 has 1-2 feet of soft powdery snow and presents a formidable 45 mile foe between us and the beginning of the North Rim. And then, of course, there is th Canyon itself.

Goat and I just flipped a coin to see whether we were going to go for it, and the oracle of shiny George Washington has chosen our fate in a rather dramatic slow-motion type moment: TO THE GRAND CANYON it is.

We do have some journal entries to post and will get them up there soon. Within a couple weeks we should have our journey up to speed. Check back often for updates.