Tuesday, 13 April 2010

On the road to Kingman

Day 1

This is it!!!!

What the hell am I doing????

I left the hotel around 7am for the 35 mile ride to a campsite on the shores of Lake Mead. After about 15 minutes I had gotten the hang of riding a fully loaded touring bike (thankfully!)

I had checked the route on google maps back on my sister's sofa last week. It only involved making one right turn, followed by one left turn. What could possibly go wrong? 60 minutes later I was in the middle of the desert (sorry, Las Vegas wetland nature reserve) on a dirt track heading in a direction that could be almost right. Not having a bike equipped with off road tyres meant that my speed was greatly reduced. As I wasn't in a rush, this was a good thing.

An hour or two later I appeared out of the desert and into the Las Vegas Lake Resort. A quick question of “where am I?” followed by “which way to lake Mead?” and I was on my way. Turns out I was only a few miles from the park entrance...sweet!

An hour later I was at boulder beach campsite. Due to the lack of water in the lake the actual beach was 800m away. For $10 a night I had a pitch, shade, a concrete picnic table and access to a toilet block that didn't have any showers. Yep, there's only about 5 tents here but many RV's.

When dusk came along I went gratefully to bed...

Day 2

I was up with the sun and a few hours later I was on my way. Leaving the campsite I turned left and headed to the main road a mile or so away. Halfway there the road's gradient increased and I quickly found out that my legs had no energy! Walking up the slope (and this wouldn't be the last time today either) I made it to the main road that lead to the Hoover Dam. This road's gradient was okay and so I cycled the few miles to the dam.

For some reason the dam looks bigger on the telly! Still it was a photo opportunity. Once over the dam I looked up and saw the road ahead of me...bugger! 20 minutes later I had gotten to the top and in one go I might add. A quick rest and a liquid refill at the café and I was off, hopefully downhill.

The downhill bit lasted about 4 minutes and for the next several miles it was mostly uphill, very slowly. On all of the steeper and longer bits it was a case of cycle for a bit, then get off and walk for bit. I would like to say that it was because I didn't want to stress out my ankle too much. That would be a lie, it was because I am an unfit fat bastard with pathetically weak legs.

Finally I cleared the last pass and the valley opened up before me. Its underlating road stretching out before me. The next place to get a cold drink of anything was 20 miles away and my energy levels were low. The fucking strong headwind was helping things either.

Two hours later I was still at least 30 minutes away from sweet beautiful shade when out of the heat mirage I saw a petrol station appear...and it was real! It also had an RV park and a bar (which was sadly closed). I decided to stay the night here and after chatting to the owner he mentioned that for $40 I could rent a static trailer for the night!

Its now early evening and I still have 5 ice cold beers from a 6 pack left. Tonight I will be sleeping in a bed after drinking the rest of the beers....well I am 40 years old today!!!!

Tomorrow I have a 50 mile ride across the desert to the town of Kingman or I wake up late feeling sore and weak and decide to try again the next day!

Day 3

I awoke just as the morning sun peaked over the mountains on the eastern side of the valley. The cold desert air chilled me in an invigorating way but no matter how glorious the day was my legs said no!

The trailer has a soft leather sofa which is just long enough for me too lounge out on. Cue cold drinks, movies, games and dozing the day away.

Day 4

After another great night's sleep I was once again up at dawn (or 05:45 to you). Just after 7am, after my usual breakfast,  I was on the road to Kingman. It was easy, cruising along at an comfortable 10 mph but after 20 minutes the headwind picked up and my speed dropped by 30% for the rest of the day...bugger!!!!

Thankfully the 1st five hours in the saddle were spent under a overcast cloudy sky, great conditions for crossing an arid landscape. Every 10-15 miles or so there were little rest stop shops for cold drinks and an ice cream. By midday I still had about 20 miles to go and with the gusting headwind my road speed was down to a measly 7mph (and that was on the flat bits). Still, it wasn't like I was just going to stop and give up! I carried on along the road, now under a blazing desert sun, head bowed down and with my eyes looking only several feet ahead.

For 10 miles the road was straight enough to make a Roman proud and when I finally came across a corner, with only 5 miles to go, the road went skyward. The climb was 2 miles long and sadly the last mile was spent pushing the bike, my tank was near empty and I really couldn't be arsed to drain it completely. Once over the pass (3737feet above MSL) it was down hill into the town of Kingman.

After a quick tour around the old town (why would I want to go the the new bit?) I checked into a motel 10 minutes walk away and crashed out in the chair with my naked feet on the stool and my hand holding a very large bottle of water...good times :)

The evening, after a Chinese, was spent watching TV, drinking the odd can of beer and massaging my ankle.

Day 5

Following a leisurely wake up I bimbled around the old part of “Historic Kingman”, founded in 1882! I had breakfast in Mr D'z diner complete with its fluorescent green and pink seats and then checked out the local “Route 66 museum” before wandering back to the motel room for some bike maintenance and looking at maps in the afternoon.

My original plan was from here, to go to the grand canyon and then head south to central Mexico. As you should know by now my plans change with ever increasing irregularity and as such I am now heading to Mexico's Baja California instead. Lets face it I could cycle (the 300 mile round trip) to the grand canyon but what would I do when I got there? Look over the edge and say “that's a big hole!” I wont be going trekking or riding any beast with 4 legs...so what's the point!

From looking at the map it will be a roundabout route because I ain't going to be cycling on the Interstate (even if it was legal) and sometimes it looks like that is the only road from point ?A to point B.

So, the 1st few days on the bike were as enjoyably hard as I knew they would be and the 116 miles I cycled so far is only just the start...

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