Dog Days in the Desert 4
So, let’s see, we were in Durango, loitering, as per usual. Do all my blug posts start out this way? Stink finished up the last post, we charged phones and pods and such, then eventually dragged ourselves out of the refreshing atmosphere of a REAL coffee shop (sorry McDonald’s, I’m actually NOT lovin’ it), and headed to, where else, but a grocery store. We were preparing to head in to what we figured was a food desert, so wanted to stock up on cans of beans. Chili beans, black beans, refried beans, pinto beans, you name it. Yes, our tent does have an unsavory smell, why do you ask?
As we were locking up the bikes outside (we have been very consistently locking our bikes ever since staying with Larry & Becky in Fayetteville, AR, as they told us their horror story of having their bikes stolen just two days from completing their cross country trip. So, every time we stop, we say, “In remembrance Larry & Becky” and lock up our bikes accordingly), when this gall rolls up and starts talking bikes with us.
She’s got crazy blue eyes (like, I seriously had to say, lady, your eyes are the exact color of your coat, which was straight aquamarine), her husband and her own a bike shop in town, and they’ve done bikepacking trips around Colorado before. I’m gunna say it again, we meet the coolest folks. Or, rather, it’s probably just true that most people are just generally cool people, once ya get to talking with them.
Anyways, we part ways, head inside, and start loading up on beans and apples and probably cookies knowing me. Around this time, Stink realizes that there was another package at the post office that we should have picked up, but alas, it’s evening and it’s closed by now. Dang, so we need to find a place to stay in town tonight, so we can pick it up in the morning…
Cue Blue Eyes. We lightbulbed that somewhere (hopefully still in the store) was this gal who would have biking connections and probably know of a warmshowers host we could stay with last minute. So, we haunt the aisles, scoping for her blue coat and eventually find her and I have to awkwardly/embarrassingly stumble out the words to asks if she knows a place for us tonight.
And she’s cool. Sandhya (we get her name now) calls her husband and assures that we can camp out at their place tonight, then invites us to share burritos for dinner with them. (We, too, were going to be eating burritos for dinner that night, but more of the cold beans straight from the can smeared on cold tortillas variety…). So we pick up some additions, avocado, tomatoes, tortilla chips, and meet her outside. Joey, her husband is out there now so we get introduced, then we bike out following Sandhya to get some cat food before heading home. I go in the pet food shop too, to get my dose of tiny kitty lovings, and then we’re all biking away to their house, like a parade of comically overloaded bicycles (she’s got groceries, plus a full bag of cat food strapped to her scoot).
We get to their house & it’s lovely, obviously, and showers are immediately offered (I wonder why…). Soon, we’re all cleaned up and delicious real food smells are wafting throughout the little house. We chat, eat burritos (which are as good as they smell), and snoop in their bookshelves, like ya do. Sandhya even happens to have vegan chocolate chip cookies and almond milk for dessert, so I’m in heaven. Also, they let us to laundry; double heaven. We set the tent up on the back porch and it’s this lovely crisp (the prefect adjective for it) fall night, with a few stars peeking through the clouds, and the high ridges of mountains encircling this cold Colorado town with their rocky arms. It’s a pleasure to live outdoors, I tell you.
In the morning, we’re up and packing out tent, making oatmeal inside, and trying out fine whole leaf tea, courtesy of our hosts. Eventually, we all bike out together and head in our separate directions. We hit up thee post office, where Stink’s Auntie Beckers has sent a small padded envelope containing none other that the lost and terribly missed Davey Crockett! (Also, some sweet goldfish stickers for me, totally going to apply them to my scoot).
Then, we head to where else, but the coffee shop, as we have plans to stop at the thrift store (need warm clothes) and Joey’s bike shop for a spare tube, and both of these fine establishments don’t open til ten, hence, loitertime. There’s a dog outside that we fall onto, with pets and coos, and talk with his human too. He’s a rescue from the rez, where there’s a lot of strays, which I’m both excited to see, and unexcited at the prospect of finding them hit on the side of the road, like I know we will. Once time has come, we head to the bike shop and find Joey & his friend puzzling over frame dimensions and doing trigonometry. They’re really into it, & I can tell Stink wants to join in.
Afterwards, it’s on to the Methodist Thrift Store, which is a wonderland of cheaply priced items. Stink finds some cozy clothes, and I grab a pair of pink jeans (whut) and ask about gloves, which for some crazy reason are only sold after Halloween. Bum, oh well. Finally, finally, we leave town… actually, after one more stop at the grocery store for snackies, and immediately we are climbing mountains.
It’s gorgeous, it’s chilly, it’s steep, it’s long, and I’m in love with it. I have a great panoramic video of some of the peaks, but Stink it making throwy-uppy sounds in the background so I think i may just keep it to myself. We climb for hours, and get little drizzles here and there, and work our way through some road work zones (we tend to get the “dead lane” all to ourselves in these one-lane-open road projects, so I’m cool with it).
Eventually we pull into Mancos, and stop at a grocery store/pizza restaurant. The rain looks like it’s ready to really break loose so we get the bikes under cover and while away the time sipping hot tea and Stink maws on these incredibly perfect and fragrant slices of pizza. I’m droolin. We hit Mancos at the perfect time, because the rain does come pouring down, and it’s no longer the fun warm ran of summer; it’s fall baby, and that means chill bill.
Eventually it lets off, ad we clamber back on the bikes and ride out to Cortez. We see a fellow tourist in the park at the beginning of town, so naturally we go bug him & see what he’s up to. Kyle, biking from Flagstaff, AZ to Mesa Verde (which we had just biked past that day, no wanting to go the 30 miles out of our way to actually see the place). We shoot the crap for a bit, then head on our way. We flip and flop back and forth over biking on, or finding a place to sleep in Cortez (really heading into desert country now, so we have to be careful about water) and eventually we go find a church and get “permission” from the choir practice folks to toss our tent up there for the night. Which is great because there’s porch lights and I can read, and Stink goes on a night walk to make a million phone calls.
We’re up early in the morning, as the church folk requested, and go to the grocery store near by to sip coffees, eat breakfasts, charge phones, and read in their little deli eating area. It’s nice, but we do eventually have to go back out into the cold, so we put on our brace faces and face the heat. Or lack thereof. But hey! I had scoped the map and there was a casino about 13 miles out, so, with that spurring us on, we scooted along to collect our free coffee an complimentary beverages.
It’s gorgeous out here, still, and, as we’re on the rez, I’m day dreaming of dogs all day. I’m missing little Beef (who I’ve decided his little rat ghost is accompanying me for the the trip) and really missing having the fellow to take care of. So I adopt this imaginary dog, who I’ve named Oto, and can pretend he runs along next to me and ponder ideas on how to keep him comfy and such. Turns out, imaginary dogs and ghost rats get along quite peacefully.
At the casino, it’s better than expected, and after plunging through the smoke filled lobby, we get to the free doughnuts (I can’t wait to get home and go get a vegan doughnut from Voodoo…) and coffee, an even find Gatorade on tap. We load up on liquids in preparation for travelling the rest of the day without water stops, and head back out into the desert.
We enter into Utah at some point and bike on until we reach Bluff. It’s been a full day of riding (75 miles or so) and sight seeing, and we sit down and gobble our beans. We read for a bit too, but then we’ve got to head out before it gets dark to try and find some place to stay for the night. Which turns out, is really difficult in the flat, thorny, fenced off landscape surrounding our lonely desert road.
As the sun is setting, we see a national parks campground sign and agree that we may just have to cough up the cash for camping tonight. We roll down a steep hill (a little begrudgingly as we know we have to climb back up tomorrow), and check out the pay kiosk to see if we can get hiker/biker rates (usually around $5 a night per person). As we’re scoping that and finding none posted, a gal the campsite across from us yells over and invites us to just pitch a tent in their spot, as it’s likely there aren’t any open ones left anyways. Sweet! We roll over and meet Gena, from Tacoma, WA who is super nice and offers to let us go back into town with her if we need, as she’s got to go get wifi to send an email. While the prospect of a nice car ride did sound lovely, we were plain tuckered out and opted to throw up the tent, munch on snacks, and whip out the flashlights for a little light reading at the picnic table before totally zonking out.
In the morning we got to sleep in (noon check out!) and make oatmeal (not quick oats!) and tea and chat more with our host. Her husband was meeting up with a couple friends to motorcycle tour for about a week and she was gunna road trip it for that time. We shared our tea with her and had good conversation with a fellow PNWer.
That day while riding we went up and down some serious hills, both fun and challenging (depending on which side of the hill you were currently at), and had some monumental views. Heh, literally. As in we road through Monument Valley, and my favorite, Valley of the Gods. We stopped at the welcome center in Monument Valley for a break, but just as soon needed to get back on the road in order to find a place to camp that night (still difficult). Within a mile we found ourselves crossing the Arizona border, which folks, means that we are only TWO states away from completing our 48 state goal. That’s another month and a half of riding, but damn, it’s getting closer.
We ended up having to ride another 21 miles out in Kayenta, where we pulled across a cattle grate to the first church we came across. No one was around but a gal was sitting outside her house across the way so I went and asked her if she thought it’s be okay with we slept there. We’re kind of cautious about our camping right now because we’re on Indian Reservations and don’t want to overstep our bounds. She figured it’s be fine, so we went ahead and made ourselves at home. Some big booms were going off further in town, and a dog came scampering in to the pavilion to hide, and we wondered how good of sleep we’d be getting that night, with cars continually pulling up and voices carrying all around us. I just rolled out my sleeping bag and crashed on an old van bench seat (so comfy! doesn’t deflate!) and soon enough zonkerd out, while Stink was kept awake with sounds of the dog gnawing on something, someone apparently digging a hole till midnight, an upset horse calling out across the way, and full and lengthy domestic dispute about child custody floating into our sleeping quarters. I heard the argument, and the hose, but slept through the rest. Stink says she can’t sleep as well at night because she knows I would never wake up to any alarming sounds. Sorry, I’m a really heavy sleeper…
In the morning, just before my alarm was to go off at 7:02, a car pulls up and we hear people heading into the church and begin vacuuming. We’re quietly packing up out tent to try and get outta there in case we weren’t exactly welcome to sleep there that night. But right about as we’re ready to roll out, a lady comes outside and asks us if we’d like a shower or coffee; the most pleasant of surprises. Her name is Sharon and she taught the Sunday school there, and was doing some cleanup before heading on to take her daughter (ho was there helping out too) to her volley game that morning. We quickly showered then sat and drank some coffee and chatted.
Sharon and her family live 45 minutes out of town, without water or electricity, with no complaints. She grew up without it, and has successfully raised her kids the same way. Much respect to her for that, as well as her just being a really nice person. She told us about the grocery store in town, and of a hardware store where were could get tubes if needed; it was like she was predicting every need we might have, which was really cool. I think they probably often find people sleeping outside the church, with how non-pulsed and prepared she was upon seeing us that morning.
After coffee, we rolled further into Kayenta to internet loiter a bit at McDonald’s and to hit up the grocery store as well. Folks were being really nice and I felt very welcome there. Turns out, the booms from the night before were sounds from the homecoming football game, of which the Kayenta Mustangs emerged still undefeated in the season. There must have been a parade too, as I saw candy in the streets on our way to McDonald’s. That day was another of desert and beauty and not so many water stops. We did come across one gas station and spent about three hours there trying to woo these two precious dogs who were rummaging about for food.
The first one was this very sweet little lady dog, with huge paws so that we wondered how big she was going to grow up to be. We fed her scraps of bread and Stink whipped out some chips and tortillas too. So we basically just fell in love with this dog, and really really wanted to take her with us, and probably would have too, it we weren’t so positive she had people waiting for her at home in the housing just past the gas station. After awhile of lovin on her (whom Stink named Howdy), another , more timid, little dog approached, who we soon started calling Little Brother and doing our best to coax him over and feed him to (he was quite a bit skinnier). We then found out he liked peanut butter on his tortillas and soon fell to calling him Peanut Butter Little Brother, and he just about broke our hearts with how sweet and timorous he was. We never got him close enough for petting, but did gain his trust bit by bit through various foods.
It was hard to bike away while these dogs kept hold of our hearts… seriously, if I thought they didn’t have people, I would absolutely be doing everything possible to take them with us. For now, my imaginary dog must do…
We rolled on into headwinds, and at one point came across another tourist, heading in the opposite direction. We stopped and talked with him, and found that he followed our instagram page (there’s is here). So that was cool, we’re real! His name was Jeremiah and he had scooted out from Ohio to LA, met is dad there, and they were biking around (can’t remember where to). His dad, Scott, soon pulled up, and we happily talked of all things tour (what we could each expect from the road ahead, camp styles, foods, and dogs to be found waiting at gas station).
Eventually though, we had to head back into our headwind and they into their tailwind and we rolled along. About 20 miles later we found another gas station/grocery store/post office/laundromat and filled up our waters. We sat out front for a bit, eating our respective cans of chili beans for dinner, and perhaps also some junk food, because… because. By the way Cracker Jacks have h absolute worst “FUN” prizes inside. It’s always just a sticker of some baseball team logo, but it does make for a convient way of knowing how many bags of Cracker Jacks I’ve eaten along the way, by just counting the stickers plastered to the seat stays on my bike (four, by the way, if you’re curious. Though one bag was like, a two pounder…)
After that bit of fine dining, we had to get back on the road to try to once again find somewhere to sleep. We rolled along till we cams across a huge lump of rocks just off the road and an unfenced drive leading into the area. We took out chances and rolled our bikes across the cattle grate and dragged them through the sand and tried to avoid the goat heads (goat heads are the bikers worst enemy in the desert. These spiny thorn have no qualms about puncturing your tires, or even stabbing into the soles of your shoes).
We leaned the bikes up behind one clump of rocks, then proceeded to clamber on up them and scope the place out. The highway was quite visible, and there were houses out in the surrounding desert, so we tried to remain inconspicuous (once again, on reservation land and weren’t sure how welcome we were to just plop our ten wherever we pleased). We saw some bike tracks in the sand as we climbed around, but didn’t think too much of it. After a bit, we just slayed out on some rocks out of view and enjoyed a spectacular sunset. I rolled over and looked at it upside down for change of perspective and it was even better.
We scrambled back down after a bit to read books before sunlight was totally out, and then this big Navajo dude just bikes up outta nowhere (he had been the one leaving the tracks!) and so we started talking with him & he was super cool. Martinez (or Mike, “like bike”) fixes up bikes and such, and had made all these different routes around that he biked, climbing up these crazy rocks on two wheels. So we just kept talking and talking (one thing that sticks out: I brought up the blood moon/eclipse that happened a couple weeks ago, and he was watching it too. Per tradition, he wasn’t supposed to look at it, and should have been fasting for the duration, but as we all laughed he said he was sitting there eating a big meal right in the middle of it, wondering why the moon was looking so crazy, till he called up some friends and asked) till it was totally dark out and the stars were crazy blazing, and eventually we said bye so that he could bike home. He had this teeny little light he turned on, but then we could see him like clambering up the rocks with his dog running along behind, so that was like magic.
After he left, we went to climb back up to sleep at the top of the rocks, but halfway we hear this sound & Stink thinks it’s a bug, but I’m like, nah, sounded like a rattle, so she flips on this little flashlight and we’re scoping around, and then there, there’s this little rattlesnake on a ledge right close to us & Stink’s quite afraid of snakes so she kinda just is rooted to the spot but eventually we get back down (checking for snakes along our way) and grab the tent as snake barrier (though we were really hyped to cowboy camp that night). But then Stink can’t decide if she wants to climb back up there or not, like, you can tell seeing the snake has kinda tripped her up, but eventually we just decide to throw the tent up right by the bikes, climb in, & zonk out.
In the morning, we crawled out and enjoyed our view once again, and biked twenty-two miles out to Tuba City. We were in no hurry for the next couple days, as we were ahead of schedule for meeting up with Stink’s Ma & Grandpa at the Grand Canyon. In Tuba City, we stopped at the Brasha’s grocery store, loaded up on goodies and 98 cents a pound fuji apples (score), then headed out to find the McDonald’s.
As we climbed up a rather large hill, for it being out of our way, we asked ourselves, was it really necessary to go to McDonald’s? Yes. The answer was yes. Our gadget’s batteries were dying slow painful deaths, and the instagrub page was left stagnant and neglected. We scooted up the rest of the hill and headed in. Only to find no outlets. Dang. I opted to scope around for other more chargey loitering opportunities, while Stink hung about and made a few phone calls. A block down the road, there was an internet cafe. For real. With desktop computers. I had found my place. Stink came on by later to take advantage of the better loitering opportunities. And coffee. Needless to say, we were there for a few hours.
We decided to stay the night in Tuba City, then bike just 25 miles out to Cameron for the next night, then the day after that, we’d meet up with Stink’s fam on the way into the Canyon. After thoroughly loitering inside the coffee shop, we headed to a nearby park to read and kill more time. I went to the bathroom at one point and found a certain lack of stall doors. Just as I was about to drop drawers in the furthest stall, a little boy walks in and tells me he has to poop… I gestured to the stall next to me and said, “well… okay.” …
Anyways, as we we’re sitting about in the boiling sun, Stink slyly asked me when the last time we had eaten at a restaurant. Well, it’s been since Santa Fe when my cousin Daniel had paid for our meal at Vinaigrette. There happened to be a restaurant across the road that happened to have fry bread, so we happened to decide to eat dinner there. We both got burgers, veggie and beefy respectively, on fry bread buns, and took our time munching hot food and writing letters. Soon though, the sun was preparing to set, so we had to kick rocks and go find ourselves a campsite.
This proved a bit difficult, as we were still on the rez, but eventually we found a sneaky spot out behind the junior high school, in a large hilly field of sand, rocks, and desert flora. We threw up the tent as night fell, and climbed in. Dogs barked all night, among other more ominous sounds, but at least one of us was able to successfully sleep through it all.
In the morning, we headed back to the internet cafe to kill time, charge, read, snack, drink coffee, and the like. After doing that for a few hours, we went to the grocery store, and I headed off to post office on a bumpy dirt road. All this desert landscape really makes me want to take up off road biking… Anyways, turns out it was Columbus day, as ironic as that was, so the office was closed. I met Stink back over by the grocery store, and not long after a fella comes by and starts giving us bits of advice, like to suck on a piece of dry corn placed in between your lip and your front two teeth if you’re going to be hunting all day, and then you won’t go hungry.
After he left, a little boy came by, playing with his lasso. He started telling us about his roping classes, and competitions he’d been in (and won). He lassoed my foot with ease, and at one point was surprised that we couldn’t speak Navajo (he was saying “calf” in Navajo and we were like, what?). He said he always talked with his grandma in Navajo, and it was fun. This was all really cute, by the way.
Eventually, we had to leave town to bike out to Cameron, and so did. There was a trading post just as you entered town, and we hung out there reading and such, then around sunset we set out to find somewhere to sleep. We pulled off the main road and ended up at this one missionary church. We asked this teensy old lady if we could camp out there. She asked the pastor, and he reluctantly agreed; it’s not exactly the safest place and he didn’t want to be responsible if anything happened.
We rolled the bikes out back, and set up our tent. The lady, Juanita was out at work, chopping weeds out of the sandy loam with a pick ax, so as soon as our camp was set up, we lent a hand. All three of us worked together till nightfall and made a slight dent on the relentless population of thorny desert plants sprouting out of the ground left and right.
In the morning, we headed back to the trading post for coffee and fry bread breakfast, dragging out our loiter as long as possible. We left around noon and started the ascent to the Grand Canyon. We stopped at one viewpoint for a few hours to give Stink’s mom time to catch up with us, as we’d all be entering the park together. But at some point, Stink found out there’d been a few GPS… miscalculations on their part, so they wouldn’t be arriving till after nightfall.
Just as well, we hopped back on the bikes and continued the climb. We arrived outside of the park entrance just as night was falling, and elk could be heard in the near distance calling out in the brush. We sat and bided our time, then as dark had completely taken hold, a car of joyful company pulled up. We haven’t seen Stink ma in over five months! Hugs all around, then unloading the bikes in the the back of the car (which filled it entirely up), installing a new bike rack for the first time in the dark, and then strapping those bad boys to the back of the car.
We entered the park laughing at all the signs for viewpoints in the pitch dark. We headed to the Yavapi lodge registration center, got our room keys, and headed to the tavern for dinner. After a timely wait, we were served our food and ravenously fell upon it. Afterwards, a quick drive (in a car!) to our room, unpacking, and long awaited showers, and we hit the hay. Tuckered out but glad to all be together!
I’m gunna leave it off there, as A) that’s a full week of baloney, and B) speaking of tuckered out, I am, and it’s time for me to zonker out. (Currently finishing up this blug post at the lodge computer with heavy eyes) (Okay, also, p.s. we’ve had terrible luck with wifi lately and haven’t been able to upload many pictures… so forgive. one day… one day we’ll have reliable internet) (p.p.s. they’re playing enya in here. I’m 2/3 asleep)
Okay pals, keep it cool,
-lizzy, beef’s ghost, and oto