Thursday, September 02, 2004

Day Fifteen

Start: Gallup NM (23311)
End: Kingman AZ (23670)
359 miles

Today, I'll take a little time for sightseeing. I'm making such good time on this return trip that I can have an easy day today! Let's see, pull out the map ... Arizona has some lovely, lovely places. I'm within easy reach of a Grand Canyon detour, but I've seen it before. Instead I decide to visit the Petrified Forest National Park and the Painted Desert.

The Painted Desert InnI take the loop road off I-40 and pay the entrance fee, and stop at the visitor's center, spending some time to chat with the usual friendly volunteers there. From there it's a lovely ride through the park. I stop to have a long look around the Painted Desert Inn, a marvelous building constructed in the 1930's. The design of the building and the interior frescos are simply wonderful. There's a busload of elderly tourists getting ready to head out as I arrive, and a few ladies greet me, and take a look at the loaded bike and ask me how far I'm traveling. I can tell they're slightly appalled & slightly elated at a single woman on the road. They make me grin.

Riding through the park reveals vista after vista of spectacular scenery. I am heading north to south, which takes me first through the Painted Desert and its wonderous colors, then into the Petrified Forest area of the park. I stop and look around a pueblo area, and then at a petroglyph site. I park near a U-Haul that I've been seeing on I-40 for a day and a half. It's funny how you'll see the same cars & trucks over and over on the road. I'll pass a slower vehicle, but need to stop for gas much more frequently than it will, so it will get ahead of me again while I'm at a gas station, so I end up playing leapfrog with some vehicles all day long. This particular U-Haul is towing a car with Minnesota plates. Walking up to the petroglyph overview, there are two pair of people there, a youngish couple who are leaving and what looks to be a mother & daughter. I overhear the mother talking to the daughter and the accent could be straight out of the movie Fargo, so when I say hello to them, I say, "You must be the ones with the U-Haul and the Minnesota car." It's good for a laugh and we strike up traveller's conversation. The daughter is starting college and they are on the way to getting her moved in for her freshman year. I congratulate her and ask her where she's enrolled. "USC," she says. "Oh, very good school, but I did some undergrad work at UCLA," I say, laughing, "so don't hold that against me." "Are you from Los Angeles?" asks the mother. "Yeah, I'm heading back home to Sherman Oaks." More smiles ... amazingly, that's exactly where they're headed! The kid already has a room rented somewhere in my town. I guess it is a very small world, indeed. We talk awhile longer, then wish each other a safe journey. I head further south. Painted desert gives way to stark landscapes dotted with piles of petrified wood. It is strange-looking and very raw. Wind is kicking up by the time I reach the south end of the park. Time to get back on the highway and make miles.

I work my way back to I-40 and continue west. Oh, the wind gets fiercer and fiercer, and I'm not too happy about it. It's difficult riding, gusty and tiring and so dry that I feel like the moisture is being dragged out of my body with every breath. I am buffeted by trucks and fight to keep my lane. Something's not right ... the wind noise is incredibly loud and getting louder. Then, my visor breaks. It won't stay closed, popping open a half-inch to let in an unbearable roar of wind blasting straight into my face. I swear quite a bit and slow way down, and pull off at the next available stop, which is a highway rest area. I examine my helmet & find that I've lost one of the little plastic screws that hold the visor, and the remaining three are loose. I tighten them, which fixes the popping-open problem, but it's temporary at best. I resolve to stop at the first likely place to buy a replacement.

That place is Flagstaff Harley Davidson (actually in Bellemont AZ) which charges me a few bucks for a set of three fasteners emblazoned with the HD logo, which I find amusing ... somehow, I don't think that's what Shoei intended, but hey, whatever works. Next door is the Route 66 Roadhouse Cafe, which seems like a good spot for a late lunch. It's mostly empty, since I am there during off hours midweek. The setup there is that you order ... burger or steak or hotdogs or whatever ... and the waitress brings you your meat and you cook it yourself on a huge stainless grill at one end of the room. This would have been better if I hadn't felt so exhausted from the tough riding, but I've already ordered so I just go with it. Cook, eat up, and leave. (Later, I found out that I had missed running into my riding pal Jen there, who was on her way to Colorado, by mere minutes. Again with the small world!)

I come down out of the mountains and cross western Arizona, and it's a fairly miserable day, with the wind and all. I knock off early in Kingman AZ and get a room for the night. I had thought to make it to the California border, but it's just been too tiring to fight gusts all day. It was actually a wind advisory in effect today, but tomorrow should be better weather.

Next: Day Sixteen

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