Steep Hills and Cheap Foods

Wow, it has been so long since we have updated! We have had our sights so set on the Grand Canyon that time got away from us, which is a refreshing change from the daily grind. Most of the time we hardly know what day it is, which is one of many desired outcomes of this journey. To stop counting the days that go by makes it easier to live in the moment. We are happy to report that we have made it to the Grand Canyon, our first major destination (tune in for updates tomorrow!).

We are updating from Janice and Geoff’s home in the Grand Canyon Village, friends of Ran (from Kingman). Of course, they are more amazing than we could have imagined. Janice is a wildlife biologist and Geoff is an aspiring backcountry ranger who currently works at the dog kennels. They have two beautiful black labs named Pico and Laila. We love them, which could be said about every animal we meet. We have spent almost as much time befriending animals as people on this trip.

After getting the much needed adjustments and accessories for our bicycles at Ran’s store, Bicycle Outfitters in Kingman, we hit the road once again. We left Kingman rather late in the afternoon due to heavy emotions. Kelly’s cousin Whitney unexpectedly lost her 2 day old baby, Kai Edwards Fournier. We spent the better part of the morning absorbed in shock and sadness. RIP little one, this trip is now in memory of you.

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Baby Kai Edwards Fournier. 4/1/12 – 4/3/12 RIP

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We rode about 15 miles out of Kingman, before we spotted a classic route 66 bar. With one look at each other, we agreed we could both use a drink. As we expected, Mike’s Outpost was full of old timers drinking the afternoon away. We walked into the bar and all curious eyes turned towards us.

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At Mike’s outpost in Valle Vista.

Similar to every other place we stop, we encountered a barrage of questions. Where are we going? Where are we coming from? By bicycle?! Etc. We enjoyed our first beers, when the topic of conversation moved to where we would be staying that night.

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We told them we had intended to camp a few miles down the road, but we were warned for the 3rd time that the closer to the Hualapai reservation we got, the more dangerous it would be. Not yet having met any Haulapai, all we had to go on were these forewarnings. However much we believe in the inherent goodness of people as evidenced by the incredible kindness we have experienced along the way, we still adhere to the saying “it’s better to be safe, than sorry.” As the entire clientele of the bar discussed our options, ranging from turning back towards Kingman, to camping at the bar, the motherly bartender Berta, who was especially invested in our safety, provided the most viable option. She offered her and her husband Troy’s spare room for us. Thankful to spend the night out of the elements, we happily followed Troy down the dirt road behind the bar that led to their beautiful home and their two playful toy poodles, who we also naturally befriended. We had dinner while Berta was still at the bar, so Troy broke out his Harley maps to describe our coming route and the outstandingly scenic rides he has taken.

The next morning we were ready to go at sunrise, when Kelly found that a goat’s head had punctured her back tire. What is a goat’s head you might ask? We don’t really know more than they are seeds with viciously pointy thorns, that are hard to avoid in this area. Ever the doting mother, Berta escorted us into her warm garage, where she at 6am got her hands dirty helping us change the tube in the tire. Berta was so accommodating that she even offered us extra camping blankets, that we had to turn down because we already have too much stuff.

At 8am we finally got on the road for a 50 mile ride through the Hualapai Nation to the Grand Canyon Caverns. The wind was against us, and the hills were steep. The fresh food selection also became scarce, which for two vegans began to wear on our moods. Being so conscious of our diets, any processed foods we consume, we feel; especially soy products and bread, which have been our only options in a few towns between Kingman and the Grand Canyon.

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General Store in Hackberry, AZ

We stopped at a General Store in the middle of nowhere hoping to find some snacks, but it was still too early in the morning.

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The store in Hackberry wasn’t open yet but we knew which door to use 😉

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Despite the contrary descriptions from people we’ve met along the way, all of the Hualapai we met were just as friendly and interested in helping us stay safe on our journey. Over a couple veggie burgers at the Hualapai Lodge we met a few Hualapais who gave us advice about upcoming roads, shared their history, and wished us safe travels.

After letting the soy burgers settle in our stomachs, we rode to the caverns to find that they had closed for the evening. At first we thought we would make it to the caverns for their final tour at five, but we were misinformed about the number of hills between the lodge and the caverns. This is all too common when recieving topographical advice from people who are strictly drivers. Terrain is a very different experience for drivers and cyclists, as what drivers call rolling hills end up consisting of some pretty serious climbs. Arriving at 6, we were tired and in need of a warm shower, so we checked into the caverns inn. By morning we thoroughly regretted that decision as the rooms were cold, dirty, and way overpriced.20120411-062158.jpg

Soon after we left the “hotel” we found a petrified log that was more comfortable than the bed we slept on the night before.

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We rode the 1 mile from the Inn to the caverns and took the earliest tour available at 9am. We were the only ones on the early morning tour which meant we had the undivided attention of the tour guide who graciously answered all our questions and took photos of us.

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We of course enjoyed the geology but were disappointed to see that there was a $700/night hotel room right in the middle of the cavern, which destroyed the scenic value.

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After the tour, we had another veggie burger before we got back on the dusty trail.

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But not before Milo expressed a love for their favorite period in earth’s history: Before humans.

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Again, the wind was against us on uphill terrain, and we had cheap food not settling well in our bellies.

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Taking breaks regularly to apply more sunscreen, exchange thoughts and enjoy the scenery.

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25 miles later, we found ourselves in Seligman where we finally crossed paths with the Occupy walkers. We had been tailing them since Amboy, CA and had been very excited to meet them and hear their stories. We decided to stop and camp with them. Had we been a day later, we would have missed them as we would be finishing up our tour of route 66 and heading north soon after to get to the Grand Canyon.

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Occupywalkusa.org !!!!

An eclectic group of people, the Occupy walkers told us of their incredible experiences on the road and their more recent days with the Hualapai people. The Occupiers were invited to an Easter picnic on the reservation, and the Hualapai would be there the next day at noon to pick them up in the back of a pick up truck. The Hualapai invited us as well, but because we don’t eat meat or celebrate Easter, we continued east on the 66.

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Leaving Seligman late in the day, and not very happy about the steep hills to come, we stopped a few times to enjoy the tourist attractions. Original buildings renovated to be curio stores, restaurants, and museums, we spent a couple hours bummin around. The 66 was really well paved until it was parralel to the I40 (much like between Barstow and Ludlow). Once we were in sight of the freeway the road quickly degraded to a red asphalt road that was pitted by time and neglect. It seemed almost post-apocalyptic to be riding on a red road dodging cow poop, potholes that we’re more like craters, and even prairie dog burrows right in the middle of the road. Then, the Cormac MacCarthy-esque road degraded even further to a rock-studded dirt road that eventually ended at the train tracks .3 miles from Ash Fork.

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This road eventually turned to dirt. Then, it turned into train tracks.

We are pretty adamant on never backtracking so we lifted our bikes over the barbed wire fence, lugged them over the train tracks, then through another barbed wire fence to continue on a barely visible dirt path. We stopped for the evening due to another flat caused by another goat’s head, and because the next 18 miles to Williams was a 1500ft vertical climb.

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Bright and early the next morning, we began our morning of constant steep hills on the I40. Between Ashfork and Williams there is no choice but to share the road with big rigs, campers, and morning commuters, all of whom are not used to sharing their domain with cyclists. To be fair, drivers seem to respect that we are obviously on a long trip with so much gear and move as far to the left as possible. Now if only all drivers respected all cyclists with such enthusiasm, we could be safe cyclists in our home town!

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It took us 3 hrs to get the 18 miles to Williams, where we took our time, stopping at the first legitimate grocery store we had seen since Kingman. We have decided that all stores claiming to be grocery stores but sell only processed packaged foods with nothing fresh should be renamed “junk food marts.”

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We loaded up on the nori, avocados, hummus, vegetables and fruits, then hit the road for about a half a mile where we found an Irish pub/Mexican Restaraunt called Poncho Mcgillicuddy’s. Naturally, we stopped, stuffed our faces with great vegan food, and had a drink. We were tempted to each have a second but didn’t want to risk a BUI, or worse, especially because our already low tolerances have been dramatically reduced.

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Poncho mcGilliecuddy’s

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Poncho mcGilliecuddy’s

We left Williams at 3, where we bade farewell to Route 66 and started north on the 64 towards the Grand Canyon. We stopped at the Flintstones-themed Bedrock camp ground in Valle, 30 miles outside the park. We set up camp, cooked rice, each took a 3 minute shower (due to the lack of quarters in our pockets), ate sushi, then passed out around sunset.

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Once again, but certainly not the last time, we woke and left camp at sunrise.

We rode 27 miles to Tusayan where we had another burrito that was not nearly as good as the day before, but none the less, a burrito. A couple hours later, we used the special directions given to us by Geoff and Janice that helped us bypass park fees and major traffic to their apartment. Janice took a few minutes off to give us the grand tour then headed back to work to study birds. We organized our belongings, put them neatly on the balcony, showered, then started updated this blog. 3 hours later, we are done!

To conclude this entry, we have had almost a week to reflect on the loss of our first nephew Kai Edwards Fournier. We have dedicated this trip to Kai and to all the other children who lose their lives due to various but preventable reasons. Kai’s death couldn’t have been prevented and he did not die of malnutrition or lack of food security, but he is a reminder of how many children we can help with a simple donation to Action Against Hunger. Children who cannot change the situation they are born into are forever grateful for the generous contributions from people more fortunate than themselves. We thank all the donors who have helped us reach our first fundraising goal of $500. Our next goal is $1000. With your help, we can help prevent more unnecessary deaths and help more children grow up to a brighter future.

We will update again tomorrow with pictures and daily events at the Grand Canyon!!!

What You Can Do:

Click Here to donate to Action Against Hunger!

You have one lifetime to make an impact. What will your legacy be?

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