The only thing about riding a bike from Portland to Phoenix is that in-between there is something called... NEVADA.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Snow Returns

We had thought that sub freezing temperatures were behind us. This was not the case we found, awaking in the dump to frost on our bivvies and a brief hail storm. Driven to complete
our slow approach to Kingman, AZ by dwindling food stuffs we pressed on. Under heavy skies we rolled across the shoulderless expanse for another 20 miles.

A broken, grass-colonized shoulder appeared just in time for the crest before Kingman. The spinning ascent was met by fluffy flakes that followed us all the way into town. There we resupplied, feasted, and prepared for the final leg towards Phoenix.

Loss of a Dear Shoulder

Drenched with sunshine upon awakening and faced with a four mile climb back to the highway, we first prepared a big pot of chocolate tamarind rice. Following a digestive nap in the sunshine, we were ready to go. Spinning up the long, winding hill brought the first true brow sweat. Despite being a climb, the road was missed as the quiet and lack of car exhaust were broken as we rejoined the highway. Scooting along a wide, smooth shoulder we soaked in mile after mile. After a burger break at a flamboyantly alien rest stop, we continued.

Unfortunately the good times came to an end. The shoulder of the road, that special strip of pavement outside the white line, dwindled to a crumbling mess. At least there were two lanes in our direction, and motorists gave us a wide passing distance.

Discouraged by the road conditions, we retired early near a turquoise building advertising jerky and wild honey, in what must have been an old dump judging by the amount of rusty metal strewn about. The lights of the highway traffic looked strange through the branches of the creosote brush, but we soon fell asleep on the sandy ground.

A Tale of Two Lake Shores

- Part 1: The Pitted Hub, The Yogurt Bar, and The Midnight Hotsprings.

Expecting a treacherous obstacle course escape from Las Vegas we were surprised to find clear skies and clear bike lanes. We summoned enough energy to attend to a gritty hub on Laura's front wheel. Could we find a shop that would let us use their tools? A quick search found a few bike shops on the route out. Denied by the first, we continued to JT's Bicycles in Henderson. Thank you JT for trusting us with your cone wrenches!

Turns out the cones on the hub were just pitted and no bearings destroyed. Repacked with fresh grease we headed over to the Frozen Yogurt Bar next door for some fuel. There we indulged in protein-sugar slurry and met Haleigh, with whom we reminisced of Oregon. The need for real food hit and we retired to the sunshine with curry-tofu-bean-kimchi tacos.

On a whim, Dillion stopped by to visit his sister at the yogurt bar. We swapped stories of Oregon and our journey. Next thing we knew he had tantalized our taste for hotsprings with Goldstrike Canyon, a mile before Hoover Dam. Dillion jumped at the chance to share this magical spot with fellow Oregonians.

On the cusp of a new state we were happy to be able to discover another bit of Nevada before leaving. And what a bit it was! Agreeing to meet Dillion at the trailhead we set off on a rails-to-trails multi-use path. It took us outside the city, above the clogged freeway, through beautiful scenery, and a sunset. We arrived at the trailhead after dark and began the descent to the springs. The full moon led us down an ancient river bed as the canyon grew taller.

Suddenly the trail ended in a 5 meter drop. I switched on my headlamp and saw the cryptic signs: a skull to one side and an arrow leading over another set of rocks. Quickly our thirst for adventure was sated as the trail became more of an obstacle course. Following the arrows we dropped down with ropes, traversed steps cut into massive boulders and finally heard the sound of running water. As we began to explore the different pools Dillion caught up to us.

We slid into a toasty pool and relaxed. Dillion had mentioned a secret cave and we followed him, swimming under a narrow point in the rocks to surface in a close room made of gargantuan stones coated in smooth mineral deposits.

Later we made a strange dinner. Hijiki-kelp seaweed, mushroom buckwheat noodles with curried broccoli and silk worms topped with kimchi. Basking in the moon and candle light we dreamed up Cycle Tour Alaska. After midnight we followed our new friend out of the canyon and back to our warm sleeping bags. Resupplied with water, fudge, and stove fuel we were finally ready for Arizona.

- Part 2: A Fine Dam Day.

Nestled between the canyon walls we awoke to clear skies and sunshine. Today was the day we would cross the Hoover Dam. Ascending from our rocky hideout we were met with a line of slow-moving cars; dam tourists clogging the road. Luckily we had left our mobility box long behind and so were able to skim by on the shoulder. About 500 or so cars later we stopped to take in the view. Indeed the river had been delayed with a dam impressive structure!

Satisfied with our dam experience we proceeded along the closed road (shhh don't tell homeland security). This section of road is now trafficked only by baby strollers and a few pedestrians, cars are required to doubleback for the newly built bypass.

Rolling hills brought us into our third state, a strange new land. A turnoff promising water lured us into a hair-raising descent 4 miles down to Willow Beach. At the bottom, barely recovered from the disappointment of a closed shore-side store, we were gifted citrus and chocolate from a couple with a midnight flight home to Minnesota.

The smooth concrete floor and low walls of a nearby overlook seemed all too cozy. We feasted and fell asleep to the 'psst-psst' of a mysterious animal and nocturnal avian fly-bys.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The First Cycle Tourist

Yesterday walking the chaos of the strip we spotted a familiar sight unseen so far. Another cycle tourist!

TJ had rode from the East coast to San Diego and shared many stories. He tipped us off to a super cheap grocery store where we found some gems.

Today we're headed out to Hoover Dam and the Arizona border.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Urban Ecology, Las Vegas

Finally escaping from the hotel and its labyrinth lobby around 12:30 today, a walk around town brought many plant-centric surprises. A date palm growing just outside the front door littered the ground with fruit. A dioecious plant, we found both males and females. Further on, small date palms were growing up in untended sections by sidewalks -palms as weeds? Truly a desert oasis! Rosemary was sculpted as a giant hedge along another sidewalk. Beside date palms and fan palms, a pine with long needles bundled in pairs was common. The predominantly pavement-sealed ground (endless wide roads, sidewalks, and parking lots) was broken by gravel patches, bare sandy ground, and scattered patches of manicured grass.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Perks of Traveling by Bike: A few select favourites

1. Immediacy of environment - hearing birdsong while sailing through on a silent bike, spotting herons and the occasional peacock.
2. Easy conversation starter - people want to know what you're up to and aren't afraid to ask. Don't know how to chat up the cashier/server/truck stop patron? It's easy: "I rode my bike here!"
3. Can camp anywhere - pulling over is easy, a bike goes everywhere you do
4. Edible fuel - YOU are the engine

Christmas in Vegas

Waking in a desert wash to overcast balmy weather, the previous day's flight from Tonopah like a strange dream, we soon hit the road to polish off the last 80 miles to Las Vegas. In just three miles we came upon an alien rest stop, where we met people from both Seattle and Tucson. With a headwind developing and many miles yet to travel we left reluctantly, wondering what the south desert had in store. Ten or fourteen miles later, after a slow climb up a gentle hill, yellow roadside flowers called us to a stop. Discovering a butterfly, grasshopper, cacti, several mysterious shrubs, flowering creosote, and rocky ground warmed by sunshine, we were satisfied that we had found desert, at last. After cloud and sunshine admiring, the energy to push on was found to be critically lacking, unable to be restored even by 86% cacao dark chocolate. Maybe someone traveling south... with a pick-up... it is Christmas after all... Still in the desert brush, I threw my thumb at a passing white truck, and seconds later we had our ride. Manny, going to Las Vegas to visit his family, gave us a quick lift and a fabulous Christmas present. Thank you!
We spent the next few hours remarking on the city environment, eating at an amazing Thai restaurant, wandering around the lobby of the hotel, and planning tomorrow - a rest day!

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Goldfield Road (Updated)

2 inches of fresh snow covered the ground as we left Tonopah, NV. Climbing the hill out of town was like crawling into the heavy, grey clouds. The road turned South and we followed into the swooping downhill curves.

With a tailwind we flew into the valley separating Goldfield and Tonopah. Dropping out of the cloud layer, snow, and cold we were drenched in sunlight. The climb into Goldfield was a breeze, literally, as the wind pushed us up. We seemed to be the only things alive in the ghost town until we came upon a general store that looked as if it was from 1901.

There we met Preacher Bill and a few other locals. Bill told us of the dangers we would meet in Vegas and blessed us on our journey. After a quick lunch it was time for the final climb to what I had been calling the Golden Line.

The Golden Line, Cheri in Hawthorne had told us, was where we would start seeing higher temperatures and lower elevations. Cresting the ~6000 ft pass we caught a glimpse of the imminent 15 mile downhill and took the plunge. Riding the white line only the hum of our well tuned bikes could be heard. We raced the floating dried petals through the wind in silence and sunshine.

We had entered a new land, one where the daytime temperatures stayed above freezing and the color green was normal. In the daze of speed we stumbled upon an abandoned gas station whose rusted vestiges stood against the wind for us as we ate. Into the sunset we rode. Just when we thought it couldn't get any better... surprise steep tarmac into twisty canyons! Oh and a whole turkey on the shoulder.

Slope and tailwind joined forces to aid us through this new land and bring us 123 miles closer to Las Vegas in a single day, breaking our personal records. The comfort of the roadside finally called. A passing drainage looked all too cozy and again we fell asleep under the stars in the brush.