this was the day we will jokingly call, "the epic fail."
i awoke at 4 am and was ready to get moving. my girl was still shivering and i could tell that we weren't as prepared as we should have been. i covered her with my -20 degree bag and went outside to make a plan. i figured the temps would still be high enough that we would have no problems with her less than expensive sleeping bag. i was wrong. i was also wrong about not needing any pillows, wtf was i thinking? while i waited for her to get a little more rest, i made some instant coffee and started to make a plan for the day. we had a few issues, 1) we needed some more items, if it was this cold at this elevation it was going to be bone chilling on the north rim at 9,000 plus. 2) due to our longer than expected ride the day before, we were going to run short on fuel.
the original plan was to do another 200+ day of off-road up to to the south rim. i knew there was no way that was going to happen. we were only 40 miles east of payson and i thougt our best bet was to head straight to town, then work our way north to flagstaff to get some supplies. this seemed like the best bet and would still give us plenty of time to enjoy the south rim. bad news was it would be all highway for the day.
after the my girl woke up and we had a less than wonderful freeze dried breakfast (eggs don't work freeze dried) we packed up and rolled out of camp at 6:30 am and headed straight for payson.
my early morning breakfast nook...
no sooner than we hit hwy 260, i got a low fuel light. i figured we would make it, but i did not like the fact that i had to worry. fortunately is was a nice ride, no traffic, and we rolled into town without issues. we also had cell service so i was able to let the boss know we were still in once piece and hadn't been eaten by bears during the night.
once we got fuel we started to head north on hwy 87 which turned out to be an awesome ride. nice, cool mountain air with lot's of big trees. some nice twists and turns but nothing too crazy. we also started to use our headphones and listened to tunes the whole way. i can't tell you how much this made the miles easier to do. plus, i must say, my daughter was raised right and has impeccable taste in music. i had never bothered with music while riding before but now i'm sold, especially for the long hauls. we used 1 i-pod touch with a 2-way splitter and she controlled the volume and the playlist from behind.
about 40 miles north of payson we turned off onto Lake Mary Rd (Forest Road 3) and made our way to flagstaff. this was another very nice, 2 lane highway with awesome views everywhere. trees, deer, you name it. being from the mountains of wyoming but living in the dez of tucson the last 10 years i really enjoyed the change in scenery. felt like i was back home.
our original plan had taken us past mormon lake for a gas stop, with the altered plan we ended up coming around the east side of the lake instead. not what i was expecting for a "lake" but still very nice and scenic. a few miles later and we were entering flagstaff.
as luck would have it we came in on the first exit and found a wal-mart right in front of us. we quickly ran in and bought 2 camp pillows, 1 thick sweatshirt for the kid, and new lighters. somehow between using it twice that morning to light my stove, the one i had died. i had to rig it up and just use sparks to light the fire for breakfast.
after that we decided what we really needed was a real breakfast and and some coffee. as luck would have it once again, an IHOP was just across the street. i'm sure we looked like a ragged pair but it was nice to sit on a soft seat and have some real eggs. the waitress was quite excited to hear about our plans.
the next stretch was I-40 to Williams. from there we would turn north to the south rim. it was about a 40 miles stretch but went quickly. it sure is nice having a fast bike on the interstate. once we hit williams we headed north on hwy 64 and got gas.
my plan was to arrive on a monday in hopes of avoiding a bunch of tourist traffic. if this was a light day, i'd hate to see a busy one. once again though, the bike was cruising, we had our tunes, and just hauled ass up north. i was doing 85-90 most of the way and was barely staying ahead of people, gotta love indian land!
before you know it we were at he south gate and formed up in line to pay our fee. i had figured that all "organized" camp grounds would be full but swear i had read that "dispersed" camping was a $15 fee and you could go just about anywhere. well i was wrong. NO CAMPING what so ever within the national park boundaries, unless in one of their sites. the ranger told us that we could go back and camp anywhere on the national forest for free so long as we were 1/2 mile off the road. well, we didn't want to go back and figured instead we would see the sites, then head out the east gate and onto the nation forest on that side and find a site. or so we thought...
despite all the issues so far, we were looking forward to the canyon. we pulled into the parking lot (which was full) and had to hunt to spot to park. i was worried that leaving all our stuff on the bike might make it too easy for someone to come and steal our stuff, but at this point it was either carry it all or trust in humanity. we chose to roll the dice. thankfully no once messed with our stuff.
it was still before noon but the temps were almost 100. i did bring my camelback and we were sucking down water as fast as we could. it had been almost 20 yrs since my last trip to the south rim and boy things had changed. much more regulated, controlled, and limited in the areas that you could go. oh well, im not one for walking out on ledges anyways...but what a view!
we walked to all the over look sites on the south rim and decided we had better get back to business if we were going to find a camp site for the night. it was now 2:30, the temps were only going up, and we had no idea were we would end up. we stopped in the shops and filled both our camelback bladders to the fullest and headed out.
as we worked our way east, we stopped and checked at every camp site but all were full so we continued on. we figured that the park exit was only a few miles and we would have no problem finding a site.
as we rolled out the east exit the terrain took on a different look. lot's of rocks, fewer trees, and very few turn offs to go explore for a site. before you knew it, we were out in the flats with no trees. this was now navajo land and the last thing i wanted to do was pitch a tent on someone else's land. there were plenty of nice looking spots along the edge of the canyon but once again no trees for shade and no idea if the locals would come knocking late at night. we pulled to the side of the road and had a pow-wow about what we should do. so far the day had gone nothing like planned and we were tired, hot, and not in the mood. to mu kids credit, she was holding her own and said she was up for what ever, let's just make it happen.
we decided we should jump back on the road and head east. at worst we would pull into tuba, az and find a hotel. thankfully a few miles later we saw an awesome, welcoming road sign that said, "cool, nice, hotel rooms, 20 miles ahead in cameron, az." we looked at each other, gave a nod, and i twisted the throttle.
we rolled into cameron and crossed our fingers that a room was available. as luck would have it they had 1 left. we snagged it and went inside for a shower and a soft bed. i don't know i i was more happy about the soft bed or the fact that i could have a cold beer? turns out, they dont sell beer on the navajo reservation. the hostess was nice enough to inform me though that just 7 miles up the road, they did. don't think i need to tell you what i did next....
and that is how our epic day 2 ended. us in a hotel, me drinking beer, and happy to be clean and in a soft bed.
the bridge at cameron, az
more to come tomorrow...