The ride from the Arizona line to Flagstaff Arizona included both geographic and emotional ups and downs. We started the section by staying indoors in Page while a cold front with some rain blew through. We had to stay at three different hotels because it was a busy tourist weekend. Unfortunately just before midnight at our last and most expensive hotel Sue found a bed bug crawling on her right shoulder. A little investigation uncovered two more on the pillow. I called the manager and we were quickly moved seven rooms away and never saw another bug.
The next morning we awoke a little tired but the sky was clear and the sun was shining. The views as we rode were beautiful and included Lake Powell, Glen Canyon Dam, the Colorado River and endless colorful rock formations. We spent the first two days cycling across “The Navajo Nation”. The rock and sand formations were magnificent but the land was dry with minimal vegetation. We saw a few sheep and cattle grazing the reservation along with a number of makeshift jewelry stands that look more like jumbles of scrap lumber. Income producing options seemed limited on the reservation.
The standard of living on the reservation sadly appeared to be at the subsistence level. The homes were predominately trailers in poor repair. As I was fixing a flat on the side of the road I noticed that one of the trailer’s roofs was covered with old tires. They appeared to be holding a sheet of plastic in place to make the trailer more weather tight. At the Gap Trading Post we questioned a Navajo woman working there about life on the reservation. She spoke slowly and softly in a gentle manner and had some difficulty coming up with the appropriate English words to express herself. “Well, it took us forty years to get electricity. We finally got it a few years ago. Some people here still don’t have electricity. Some use propane, some solar. Others have nothing and want it that way. We still don’t have water (municipal). My brother built a (canal) from the spring to our house. We just got a cell tower. Before that I would have to go up on top of the mountain to use my phone. That wasn’t (convenient).” Surprisingly throughout the conversation her tone was soft, matter-of-fact like, without any signs of frustration or anger.
We took two days to bike across the reservation and wild camped each night. An hour before sunset we carried our bikes across the sand and around the cacti to tuck in behind a hill. With the last rays of the light the hills turned golden then the sun would suddenly disappear behind the western peaks. By midnight the sky was glowing with stars and the Milky Way appeared like a river of light running across the sky. It was so beautiful that I slept with my contacts in and the tent door open so that I could look at the stars anytime I awoke during the night.
The most challenging part of our introduction to Arizona was the shoulder. It ranged from a narrow shoulder with rumble strips, to no shoulder and rumble strips only. Part of the time the shoulder was dangerous enough that we just dismounted and walked our bikes on the soft shoulder and cringed each time an RV or car passed. It wasn’t until after Gray Mountain Arizona that we finally had a dependable shoulder and the miles of 6% uphill grade that followed were a joy to ride in comparison to the previous stretch as it included a nice, wide shoulder.