Friday, January 28, 2011

Into the Great Wide Open

Into the Great Wide Open

Funny name for our blog since we just left the desert and are now high up in the mountains, but it totally fits. I can't tell you what a treat it was, though, on our long and windy climb up the mountains, when the cacti became more and more rare, and the bushes started to grow into real trees!!! Real trees, I tell you! I hadn't realized how much I missed trees until we got to actually see them again. And we even got to camp in the midst of them one night! As cold as it was, as hard of a day that was, nothing compares to finding a good spot among trees to camp in for the night, even if you are surrounded by snow and Elk poop.

But it seems the trees were just a passing comfort and we've reached a new terrain. AZ terrain has been funny. We've had desert littered with Cacti, changing into high altitude desert with some bushes and plants, changing to high altitude pines(my favorite) and now, we're not really sure... maybe you could describe it "like the moon," as Adam says. Is there such thing as high altitude grasslands? That's where we are, thus the title of our blog.

With each terrain comes different issues. The cacti in the desert made for uncomfortable ground to camp on. The towering pines blocked the sun (our only warmth up here in the mountains). And the grasslands have kept us from being able to do much camping. When you're camping, you definitely want to find a place very hidden from the road as there is a strong sense of vulnerability when bikes are your only mode of transportation.

So we've basically been alternating one day motel, one day camp. We've still been able to keep on budget, surprisingly, because we really don't spend a lot for food. $20 per day is more than enough for three scrumptious meals. Usually consisting of oatmeal in the morning(this is our new favorite), French bread with a block of cheese and maybe, if we're lucky, some meat and a yogurt for lunch, and for dinner, the ultimate Kraft Macaroni and Cheese dinner with hot dogs or pepperoni or something. One of our weirdest concoctions has been cold hotdog and cheese stick wrapped in a tortilla. We had to find something to do with the Tortillas!!

So when we reached these new grasslands which we weren't expecting, we had 43 more miles until the next town and had already gone a good 30 that day. Thank goodness the wind was at our backs and we were able to cruise. Adam kept stopping for photos since we were riding at sunset. Best time for photos, not very cool for riding into the unknown cold. You might be able to see my angry face beneath my face mask in this picture!

We made it to Holbrook and had a choice, $22 tent site on the far side of town, or $30 room right when we biked into town. The room was a little smelly, but Sue, the manager was so nice and we couldn't resist the temptation to get out of the cold. We made our dinner in the room, took a fairly warm shower, and slept in our sleeping bags on the bed instead of climbing under the smelly covers. It was all worth it when we were set to leave the next day and we saw Sue on the second floor making tortillas! Indian-style, spicy tortillas! She kept offering us some tortilla balls which we gladly accepted.

We kept that day short since the day before was our longest by far, 75 miles, and stopped at the entrance of The Petrified Forest National Park.

A store owner, or should I say, The store owner(only store around) was offering free camping and even offered for us to camp inside one of the ply-wood tee-pees to keep a little warmer. Genious! Even in the grasslands we were able to find cover! And we were able to fit our bikes inside the tee-pee, too. Definitely one of the cooler places we camped even though Adam was grumpy with having a bum knee and needing to bend down to get inside the tee-pee again and again.

Since Adam's knee has been bothering him from our 75 miler, we again had to take it easy yesterday. Biking north through the park was pretty, but we were frustrated. Adam's knee was bothering him, but I think what got me yesterday wasn't the cold or the winds, but the fact that I'm always the one who stops for a snack or says we need to stop for lunch. When we stop for a snack, he's always happy to share a Clif Bar with me, but I want my own!!! Why isn't Adam ever hungry when I constantly am??? When I asked him that he told me, "What do you mean? I almost ate you out there!" He has since reassured me that he is always hungry and would stop 10 times as often for a snack if he could.

So I'm not sure what was more frustrating yesterday, the fact that we went five hours without eating, or the fact that when we finally got to the most beautiful part of the National Park, the Painted Desert, we we're so grumpy from hunger that we couldn't enjoy it as much as we'd have liked.

The last six miles of the 28 mile stretch in the park were torturous as we could see the restaurant and almost smell the food, but the road swung around and out and over and under before finally turning back towards the restaurant.

There are always tough obstacles we face, but we are certain to find a positive in each day. After we were well fed at the restaurant, we easily cruised 22 more miles of flat grasslands to the only hotel in 100 miles. Even the flat tire didn't get us down. There is no feeling like flying on a bike, knowing you're heading to your next destination. Adam had it right yesterday. He said, "I like how simple it is. All we have to do is bike."


  1. "All we have to do is bike" I love it and know exactly what you mean. This trip will change you profoundly. The stuff that used to be such a big deal, will no longer seem so.

  2. These blogs both make and ruin my day at the same time! I wish I was there with you guys. Take care, stay safe, and write again soon - Damon

  3. Don't know whether this will help, but thought I'd pass this on anyway:

    Knee pain is usually associated with a seat position that is too high or low or far forward or back. Improper bike shoe or cleat position can also cause knee pain.

    A seat that is too high will cause pain in the back of the knee.
    A seat too high will also cause your hips to rock side to side, which may cause discomfort.
    A seat that is too low or too far forward may cause pain in the front of the knee.
    Improper foot position on the pedal (or improper cleat alignment) can cause pain on the inside or outside of your knees.
    Individual anatomy may also result in knee pain. Cyclists with slight differences in leg length may have knee pain because the seat height is only adjusted for one side. Shoe inserts or orthotics can help correct this problem.

    Another cause of knee pain is using too high a gear. Try to use a gear that allows you to pedal quickly, from 70 to 100 strokes per minute.

  4. Also, a good rule of thumb is that for every 20mi of riding, you burn just about 1000 cal (slightly more when it's colder). When I do multi-day rides, I'm pretty anal about counting out the calories that I carry and consume to save on weight and still get enough energy.

    One thing I started trying last season on my multi-day rides was to carry small sandwich bags of protein powder. The calorie/weight ratio is really good compared to other forms of food.

    I'd divide up the jar of powder and put 500 cal of protein powder in each bag. Then I could easily mix a bag with one of my water bottles (or add a few to my 70oz Camelback bladder). I would finish drinking a bottle every 20mi (I ate solid food as well to make up the other 500 cal).

    Sometimes the flavor and texture would take some getting used to, and I'd tire of the same flavor after a few days, but I switched brands and flavors regularly. I found that almost all the stuff on the market is pretty effective, and if you drink the mix half the time, and regular water half the time on your ride, you'll reduce those hunger pains and prevent any bonking. Then the solid food along the ride, and the meals you eat when you've stopped to rest or stopped for the night will be more effective at helping you recover and refuel.

    And I found that a lot of the powders on the market give you good calories/$$. It may be tough to find some of this stuff on your route, but hopefully there will be bike shops along the way that carry something!

  5. Great post Christy! I hope it warms up a little for you and that Adam's knee gets better! On our ride across country one of us also suffered from knee issues. We were going up a slight grade, following a river and riding in 8th gear. Lowering gears definitely helped. Thanks for all the pictures!

  6. I love the thought of you guys scurrying off the road and setting up camp out of sight! Sounds so cool! Take care of that knee Adam! An update from back home : we had Lanies first birthday party today! More snow coming this week they say! I've had 7 days off this month! Crazy! The blog is looking great...I always look forward to the next post! Good riding guys!

  7. Thank You guys so much for the comments! Eric, I tried moving my seat back since it was the front of my knee hurting... The pain has gone from a 5/10 down to a 1 or 2/10. Very helpful! I owe you a huge THANKS! I have also been pedaling at a higher RPM or cadence, I think this is helping too. Christy and I really are eating well... and we are getting more and more creative about what to eat. I think she was just trying to stress how incredibly hungry we constantly get, so we are always eating a ton of food. Thanks again everyone, We love reading your comments, keep them coming. Please don't be shy and let us know if you want to hear about part of our trip or have a question for us that we could answer in a blog. -Adam

  8. Amazing photos. Wow.