Day Sixty-One

Prescott, AZ to Seligman, AZ

This started out as an easy day and ended up being not-so-easy.

For once, my late start wasn't my fault. Last night I kept getting a busy signal when I tried to go online, so I had to download my mail and upload new photos this morning instead. At least it had warmed up to almost 60 degrees by the time I left at 10:30. Most mornings in New Mexico and Arizona started out in the chilly mid-forties and rose into the seventies. It didn't give me much motivation to start out early.

The first miles were easier than I expected because with the headwind on Thursday I hadn't noticed that I was also going uphill most of the way from the 89A junction to Prescott. It didn't take long to get to Chino Valley, about 700 feet lower than Prescott. Since I didn't have chinos to wear, I kept riding. I saw the Primrose Inn, and it was easy to see why it had been full the other night--the only motel in this town of 5,000 people had at most ten rooms. By the time I stopped for extra water and a Philadelphia cream cheese snack bar at the north end of town, I had covered 17 miles in only one hour.

I continued to make good time to Paulden, but after that my day became more difficult. The last 24 miles to Ash Fork were hilly and beautiful. SR 89 carved a path through Prescott National Forest and briefly through Kaibab National Forest. On this trip I went through five of the six national forests in Arizona. Most of the hills weren't steep, but several were pretty long. By the time I reached Ash Fork, I had climbed back within 100 feet of Prescott in elevation.

I felt strange about returning to Ash Fork and Old Route 66. I drove this road in a car more than eleven years ago, and I don't like to repeat routes. However, there weren't many options for crossing the state, so it was almost inevitable that I would end up here, especially since I planned to stay north of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. I discovered that the road I pedaled over seemed very different from the one I remembered driving. It definitely seemed more flat in a car! Things in Ash Fork had changed somewhat--the Route 66 revival has gained a lot of momentum since 1990, and many stores in town advertised Route 66 souvenirs. On that previous trip I bought all kinds of things, but not this time. It wasn't just that I was on a bike. I just didn't have the intensity of interest anymore.

I could have stayed in Ash Fork, but it was only 3:00, so I figured I would go 22 miles to Seligman. When I passed under Interstate 40, I saw two individual hitchhikers.   I went to a gas station and bought a bottle of Coke.  Interstate 40 was built directly on top of Route 66 in some places, and since there was no other alternative, I got to ride my bike on an interstate for the first time. As I turned onto the ramp, I saw one of the hitchhikers on the corner. Hitchers made me nervous so just in case, I had my pepper spray within easy reach. I brought it to discourage bad dogs (though I never used it), but if this guy made a move toward my bike, his eyes would be burning. As it turned out, he was busy writing something on his sign and didn't even pay attention to me as I went past.

In Illinois, every interstate ramp has a big white sign with a litany of banned vehicles, including bicycles. The ramp to I-40 only had one small sign with a symbol for " no pedestrians." As I reached the end of the ramp and merged onto I-40, I saw an amusing sign that advised cyclists to stay on the shoulder. As one who had traveled I-40 before, I considered this to be restating the obvious. I remembered how insanely fast the truckers went on that road in Arizona and New Mexico. The speed limit was 75 mph for all vehicles, so the trucks were going 80-90 mph. There was no way I'd be straying off of the shoulder and into a traffic lane!

Riding the interstate wasn't actually that bad. The wide shoulder was relatively clear of debris, and the trucks flying past sort of sucked me along, making it a fast five miles to the next exit. Right after I got onto Crookton Road, I spied a green tent set up in a wide sandy clearing beside the road. There was a bicycle leaned against a fence beside it. I could not imagine camping in a tent by the side of the road like that. No offense to people who tour that way (some purists would argue that camping is the only way), but I was definitely more comfortable with staying in motels at night. I don't think I would sleep well without solid walls around me.

I saw a lot more motorcyclists on old 66, and  today it made me nervous. That was because I had read a newspaper headline about how three bikers were killed in a shootout at a casino in Laughlin, Nevada. Laughlin is just west of Kingman, so these eastbound bikers were most likely coming from there. I saw a peculiar quote from a biker later on CNN Headline News: " It was a good time, except for the shooting."

I was amazed at how poor my memory of this area was from when I drove it. For example, I had completely forgotten about all the hills on Crookton Road. On top of that, what had been mostly a tailwind all day from Prescott to Ash Fork was now a crosswind and slight headwind from Ash Fork to Seligman. I was getting tired, too. Although I had made good time heading north, this was still by far my longest day of riding since my " motel closed on Sunday" surprise two weeks ago.

Aside from the hills and the 5,700 foot marker, the only thing to see on Crookton Road was the Crookton Overpass, which crossed the Santa Fe mainline tracks just past halfway between I-40 and Seligman (note: I know that Burlington Northern merged with Santa Fe to create BNSF, but I will refer to these tracks as the Santa Fe for tradition's sake). There were actually two bridges, the older  of which was closed and blockaded.

Further down the road, the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona had placed a series of signs for a Burma Shave message:

Proper distance

To him was bunk

They pulled him out

Of some guy's trunk

When I finally reached Seligman, I took a ride up and down 66 to check out the motels. Several had changed names already compared to the names I found online. I saw three guys sitting on benches in front of the legendary Angel Delgadillo's Barber Shop, so I stopped and asked them for a recommendation. They said they were staying right next door at the Deluxe Inn, and that it was the cheapest place in town. I was a little leery, but I felt like it would have offended them to choose another place, so I went to the office to check in. The rate was definitely good--$25 + $2 tax for the night. The room was, ah, interesting. For example, there were two doors at the back of the room. The toilet was behind one door and the shower was behind the other. The sink was in the main room. While it was unusual, I could imagine it being handy for a family. The TV was an old Goldstar with knobs instead of buttons. At least there was cable TV, but several channels came in poorly, and the screen got snowy whenever a commercial showed a white background. Everything was rather worn, but clean. My room was located on the end of the building, just a few hundred feet away from the busy Santa Fe mainline tracks. To top it off, the couple next door was having a loud argument. This wasn't quite a sleep-with-your-knife-in-your-teeth place, but it was the closest I'd come so far.

Although the motel owner favored another place further down the road, I walked to the nearby Copper Cart for dinner. It was a very satisfying meal. I had the old standby, a bacon cheeseburger, but of course it was called a " Route 66 Burger." The patty was exceptionally lean and tasted  great.  It came with one side, and I chose cottage cheese, a nice change of pace from fries. For dessert, I had one of my favorites, rice pudding topped with cinnamon and whipped cream.

Totals for the day: 77.54 miles in 6:02:19 for a 12.8 mph average.

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