We left our hotel in Needles bright and early this morning intent on making progress on the next few days’ series of hills.
After only a few minutes in the cool morning air, we entered our second state, Arizona.
The topographical maps that we printed from Bikemap.net did not bode especially well and indicated the vertical climb between Needles and Kingman is about 5,000 feet over fifty miles. So we weren’t especially pleased about that prospect.
Shortly after setting out the wind whipped up again, making our ride across the state line and the next few miles all the more difficult. The I-95 until the turn onto the 66 was fairly harrowing in the wind as there is neither a shoulder nor a bike lane so we were relegated to the very edge of the road. With the two bags on our front racks and two on back we operate in the wind like a sail which is not ideal when the wind is blowing directly at either side. Being buffeted by a strong wind may make for strong arms but it also makes staying in a tiny lane all the more challenging.
We turned onto Route 66 (Bordercone Rd.) and slowly started making our way uphill. This was particularly challenging for Milo because their front derailer stopped allowing them to change gears, leaving them with access to only 7 of my 21 gears. Some of the steeper hills required Milo to dismount and walk their bike up.
We struggled onward for about 20 miles, weighed down by our loads and heavy hearts after learning of a family tragedy during one of our breaks. There isn’t much between Needles and Kingman and we were still about 40 miles from the nearest bike shop, so things were looking pretty bleak. That is, until a little truck with a washer and drier in the back chugged passed us then swung around to investigate our situation. The driver was Dwayne, the fire chief of Oatman, which was our next stop, and he offered to stick our bikes in the truck next to the washer and drier and take us up the hill to town.
Oatman is a charming old mining town full of ramshackle buildings and surrounded by some of the most interesting rock formations we’ve seen so far. We pulled into town in front of Dwayne’s store and had a chance to look around a little. After hearing about Mi’s bike trouble, he called his coworker Conrad over to take a look. Conrad, a new transplant to Oatman, is originally from Alaska and is mechanically inclined so he hefted Mi’s bike, bags and all, into the back of his truck and took us up to his place so he could try to fix the problem. He lives even farther up the hill over a winding dirt road with some dogs and some tortoises, which Kelly and I promptly befriended.
Although he couldn’t fix the bike, Conrad helped us out even more than we had hoped for by packing all our gear into his truck and taking is the remaining 40 or so miles to the bike shop in Kingman. The terrain was extraordinary. Jagged spires of red rock soared up above us and below us the canyon was as breathtaking as we had imagined Arizona’s geology to be. The road was narrow and wound passed a gold mining operation, a trippy mural, and more cacti than we have seen so far. It would have made for a beastly ride which would have probably been fun (even if only in retrospect) if my bike had been in better shape.
So Conrad dropped us right outside the bike shop where Mi went in and about two minutes and five bucks later the bike was good as…well as good as one would expect a used bike that has already been through over four hundred miles of desert would be. It may not be pretty but at least it works now.
When we were outside suiting back up and preparing to head to a grocery store and then to a motel the bike shop owner, Ran, came out to chat with us about our ride. He offered his spare room and we took him up on it. It turns out that he is probably one of the coolest dudes we’ve ever met. Not only does he own the bike shop in town but he is also an avid outdoorsman who bikes and spends most of his time outdoors, a former English teacher with great taste in literature, and who lives similarly to us without a microwave, tv, or clothes drier.
Ran’s dogs Watson and Oakley.
But wait, it gets cooler. He is also a falconer. In giving us the grand tour of his home he introduced us to his two dogs and his Harris hawk. She’s a beautiful bird with auburn feathers and a white band on her tail.
Ran’s Harris Hawk
All in all the day turned out very differently than we had planned. We feel like we did cheat a little by taking a ride to the next town and we’re a little disappointed to have not explored Oatman as thoroughly as we would have liked. But we did ride about 25 miles, had a chance to meet some really amazing people, and get some much needed recovery for body and bikes.
Next, we are headed to Peach Springs and we’re closing in on the Grand Canyon. We should be there within the week.
As always, thanks for reading and for all your support!