I woke up and packed up the tent. Often this is a bit of a pain as you have to lay it out to dry, but in the desert there is almost no dew at all. I rode into Needles and had a fine breakfast at the Wagon Wheel – which describes itself as an old west style eatery, obviously with plenty of wagons, with and without their wheels. I bought a route 66 sticker too for my panniers.
One of the things is about this place is the cult of the car that is made more obvious by the fact that old cars don’t rust away. Thousands of old cars were driven through here in the 30’s in the hands of desperate migrant farmers like the Joads in the Grapes of Wrath. Many of them didn’t make it and some are still here. Old Model T fords and Chevvy Trucks amongst many others.
Now Route 66 is so famous that it is a bit of a surprise to discover that lots of it doesn’t exist any more. The old ‘Mother Road’ has been replaced by freeways in quite a few places, here it is under Route 40. Often it is literally underneath the new road, sometimes you can see it at the side, and then here and there it is still in use. There is a great loop of it between here and Seligman in Arizona which I want to ride. It takes a winding route down out of the Plateau to the Colorado river valley, and is great fun. The towns along the way make a big show of the route 66 thing, and everywhere there is automobile artefacts and americana.
Now from here I was planning to ride out to see the Grand Canyon. It is a long way through Arizona – something like 230 miles. So I settled in for a long day in the saddle. Grand Canyon is amazing, and you have to see it, but it is quite literally in the middle of nowhere. And once I had ridden there, I had to ride back again.
I wanted to come back on the north side but that meant going down almost to Flagstaff then up to Lake Page and the Glen Canyon Dam on the Utah Border. It is another 100 miles or so. And Highway 89 runs through Navajo Nation territory. It is hard land, and the I’d love to talk about the stark beauty of the place, but it just felt grim.
Page, Arizona is located on top of a vast Mesa, and the ride up is very impressive. I slowed down to take in the view, which was fortunate. I’ve not seen many police on this trip, but I passed one in a lay-by here, just about slow enough to not get in trouble. My plan was to Camp in Page, but I rolled up to the campsite to be told it was full. Booking.com didn’t offer me any decent options either. I had Barbecue, which was fine but not great, and I’m clearly tired and a bit grumpy now. I decide to shake the dust of this crummy town off my feet, which is a slightly odd decision when you are in a place which is reckoned to be among the most remote in the United States.
So what followed was another long ride in the growing darkness. I was amazing actually, and I would have liked to see more of the country I was passing through. Utah has a really different feel to Arizona, all gulches and prairies and canyons. A properly wild west feel. But obviously there isn’t anywhere to stay, nor is there any phone signal to speak of. I really should have tried harder to find a campsite, or even just pitched up somewhere and slept. But no, I rode on. Along the 89, through the brilliantly named Fredonia, stopping for Gas and eventually finding a signal, and managed to book a hotel in Mesquite, only 100 miles further on. By this point that didn’t seem very far at all so I rode all the way back to Arizona. Ultimately I rode something in the order of 550 mile in a day. Mental.