Not long after I got into bicycling, I started to get into bicycle touring. Not long after I started riding around touring on my bike I got an app called Strava that I use to track where I go. Before long I got the paid subscription where I could upload videos and photos and get more detailed with my routes and rides. I started to get into it with a fair bit of intensity and enthusiasm. Noticing this, my stepdad suggested I do some kind of a travel blog.
On another front of my life, though, I’ve been trying to shed a period of life that has lasted several months in which I wasn’t able to accomplish much of anything due to conflicting ideas about what I should be doing with myself as well as trying to meet various obligations given to me by family and what few friends I maintain. During that time I produced very little writing. Lately, though, I’ve embarked on a number endeavors, and with that produced a flurry of writing to describe the incredibly odd life I’ve been given to live.
I’m currently trying to simultaneously go to a language school in Israel and figure out how to convert to Judaism, and I’ve been fighting the forces of evil who are currently trying to give me visa problems for the trip to that country. Of course I am cataloguing the battle in writing. While doing all this I am preparing to go to Alabama for my sister’s wedding party at the end of September, and in the interim ride my bike around.
Finally, I decided to go ahead and publish my book. It had been languishing for a year in the hope that there would be some resolution between me and some of the people that the book describes somewhat villainously. Those people hate resolution, though, and all attempts to communicate with them fail. As a cautionary step, I decided to self-publish it and maintain the copyright over it in case some sort of legal issue turned up.
With the book in print, I thought back to the end of 2021 when I wrote a poem that accompanied a promise I made to go show my book to seven filmmakers who inspired me, really in a lot of ways, but ultimately I credit them with my desire to write stories. Now I know nothing of the business of how films get made much less how to meet filmmakers. Especially the world-famous ones that have captivated my imagination and admiration for much of my life.
At this point the movie The Straight Story by David Lynch came to mind. It’s about an old man who could barely walk who thought he had some sort of winning lottery ticket to claim at some kind of office on the other side of the state he lived in, so he decided to ride to that office on a lawnmower. To see how that endeavor ended, you’ll have to watch the movie.
All of this came together for me -my new bicycle touring hobby, the new writing I was doing, the promise to give my book to filmmakers- to give me the idea to ride my bicycle to California and pass out my book in the same spirit that the old dude rode his lawnmower to collect his lottery jackpot, and of course, along with my stepdad’s suggestion, to write about it.
So with that incredibly tedious introduction out of the way, this post is going to be a break from the Wilson Saga that I am writing about the demonic forces of Israeli Border Control to be my very first travel blog post about my trip through Arizona on my bike.
To begin with, I rode this route during the summer. With the level of phsyical ability and knowledge that I had at the beginning of the trip, the first of its kind for me, I did not feel comfortable taking a direct route west to Los Angeles through the desert. I ended up riding through a lot of desert. Intense desert. But to avoid death by heat exhaustion I vowed to only ride a few hours per day in the very early morning before the heat came out to cook me, and due to the myriad possibilities for mechanical problems with bicycles doing this sort of thing, I committed to the route I would take having a gas station or some form of civilization every thirty miles. I just didn’t want to risk having to walk for several hours with a busted bicycle over my shoulder in that kind of heat. The result was a route that turned north up to historic Route 66 and then down to Bullhead City on the border with California, at which point I would have to take a bus to Los Angeles, as the California desert was just too foreign and apparently treacherous for me. In retrospect I wish I had done much differently with the route, and nothing turned out quite like I originally planned anyway.
So before I start to describe this route around Arizona and what I did day to day, I’ll say a bit about packing and preparation. Luckily I have a video to describe how I packed.
As for the bike itself, I rode my Alubike Revel R700 gravel bike which was only modified with the addition of a water bottle I had gotten in Mexico, tubeless tires, lock and chain, and a bike rack. The bike rack allowed me to snap on a collapsible box crate, and in that I stored my tent, sleeping bag, and a rack-mountable shoulderbag in which I stored some ritual items and a set of clothes as per the video. Most people who do bike touring use panniers for the majority of their storage rather than a snap-on box crate. I’ll take a moment to say that most people are smarter than I am. The box crate made my center of gravity very high, making the additional weight of the loaded crate much more pronounced in screwing up my ability to ride. Hills were murder.
The aim of the box and shoulderbag in the box was flexibility. While riding in town I could leave the box and heavy backpack somewhere while just carrying a few things in the shoulderbag. Conversely, when taking a shopping trip, I could just snap the box on the back and load it with groceries or other items I may use at a particular stop. This would allow me to save on food expenses, cooking my own meals at hostels, for example. But yeah, the ultra flexible setup made for some extremely painful riding at times.
Concerning tools, I brought a multitool, a valve converter allowing me to fill my presta valve tires with the standard hoses designed for cars found at gas stations, two sixteen-grain cannisters of gas, a digital tire pressure gauge, and for some strange reason, a pedal wrench. I did not bring an air pump. I did not bring a tubeless tire patch. Concerning the former, my thinking was that minor flats from thorns and shavings are rare on tubeless tires, and I would just walk the bike to civilization if I got a bad flat. I should have gotten a tire patch, though, as you will see further below. But for now I’ll show a few pictures of the bicycle packing configuration.
So having stated the above about the bicycle and packing, let’s dig in to the daily rides.
Day One: From Scottsdale to Wickenburg
While it looks like I am heading straight to LA, I’ll head north after this day. I started at dawn and was on the road for just over four hours, riding a total of 56 miles. This would be one of the longer daily distances I cover. The road was generally flat, and I was riding generally straight distance on the shoulder of a highway. It was open desert. I ended up getting into town just after 10 AM and staying in a hotel in town. No camping yet.
Day 2: From Wickenburg to Yarnell Hill
Here is where I start to head north. The terrain got a bit more hilly, and when I got to Yarnell Hill, well, there wasn’t really much difference between that and Dante’s 6th level of hell. So Yarnell Hill is a famous riding landmark in Arizona, particularly with motorcyclists. It has an incredible number of curves. I rode it back in 2007 on my Honda CBR600RR with my stapdad and his Ducati ST4S. Again, on a motocycle it’s paradise for extremely tight corners with deep leaning (“knee dragon”). I saw tons of motorcyclists riding the hill. I also saw a few other bicyclists, but all of them were riding down the hill. I was the only one with the temerity to try riding up it. With a freaking box crate over my rear wheel.
When I got to the top I found a diner where I immediately pulled over to guzzle water and orange juice. A number of the patrons there told me they had driven past me on the way up and were concerned that I was going to die climbing the hill. They were relieved I made it.
In the end, the ride ended up being 26 miles in three-and-a-half hours, from 6:30 AM to 10 AM. This will make for a shorter day, but the hill made it a very tough one. I was barely able to keep to my schedule of being done by late morning.
Day 3: Sabbath in Yarnell
In town I stayed in a room on an RV park for two days. I’d arrive on the sabbath and was not going to want to travel the following day. So I ended up staying two days in Yarnell at the top of the hill, and that Saturday would be my only break from biking during the whole trip. I hung around with some locals at the only restaurant/bar in town, and many of them told me they had always wanted to try to ride up the hill, but had never gotten the nerve to do it. My ego was getting stoked.
An interesting thing happened while there. After riding up the hill in the hot sun (it was hot even though I was faithful to my plan to ride at dawn and finish by late morning), there was a bizarre hail storm that knocked down seven telephone poles. To paraphrase the Sepher Yetzirah: not six telephone poles; not eight telephone poles; but seven telephone poles. This caused a power outage for the entire town from Firday night to Saturday night. Many Orthodox Jews won’t use electronic devices on the sabbath. It’s a difficult practice to adhere to while riding around all over the place, but this sabbath the practice was mandated for me.
Day 4: Yarnell to Prescott
Folks, going downhill is much easier than going uphill. There were lots of beautiful views on this leg of the trip. It was a great ride. Originally I had planned for a rather long ride all the way along the scenic Highway 89 and through the town of Prescott to another town north of it called Chino Valley. However, I made a GPS error. Because of the power outage in Yarnell I hadn’t had a shower in a couple of days, so I set as my destination the Anytime Fitness in Chino Valley.
Anytime Fitness is a gym that has five thousand locations all around the world, and when you sign up they will give you a key fob that will open any one of them, 24 hors per day, seven days per week, regardless of whether there is staff on site or not. One benefit of being a member of this gym is that every gym is going to have a shower. So in the USA and most European Cities, and also in Guadalajara and Mexico City in Mexico, I have access to a shower in the event that I just want to camp on the side of some road somewhere.
The problem is, on the day of the ride I accidentally set as my destination the Anytime Fitness in Prescott and not Chino Valley. To boot, when I arrived, the Anytime Fitness in Prescott was situated right across the street from a charming lake with an excellent campsite. Exhausted, I decided to take my shower and camp there. This would mean that my ride to Prescott was shorter than the originally planned ride to Chino Valley, and the following day on the ride north through trecherous Arizona desert was going to be quite long.
So from Yarnell to Prescott I rode 40 miles in just a few minutes under four hours starting at 6:30 AM and ending around 10:30 AM.
Day 5: Prescott to Seligman – Historic Route 66
Waking up from the campground I headed straight north to Interstate 40 where at the town of Ash Fork one has the option to head east toward Williams, Arizona where there are a lot of tourist points of interest for the Grand Canyon area, or you can go west and head out basically into nowhere. The terrain is a mixture of desert and pine forest, and the road is mostly straight and flat.
I was actually debating on stopping at Ash Fork due to my distance calculation error and night in Prescott. In the end, though, I powered through and made it to my original destination of Seligman, Arizona. I ended up staying in a motel where the owner was a lady who looked exactly like a Reformed Rabbi that Itook an Intro to Judaism class with in Phoenix a couple of months prior. Since Seligman is a Yiddish name, I thought the Jewish connection was interesting.
So I started the ride at 6:15 AM and rode 74 miles in just over six hours, arriving mid afternoon. Yes, it was hot. I rode right through the heat of the day. I guess the benefit is now I know I can do that. In preparation for this ride I did some afternoon riding in Phoenix in temperatures over 100 degrees, but never more than 30 miles. So this was a bit of a daunting day, but it was a challenge I made it through. I kept to the itinerary and made up for my mistake the day prior.
Day 6: Seligman to Peach Springs
This was a ride along Route 66 through the Hualapai Native American Reservation. The ride itself was boring, though peppered with some funny road signs someone had put up on the route. I suppose to make it interesting.
Having spent more time (and money) in hotels that I had wanted, I decided to pull a roadside camp, though not at any scenic campground by any means. I actually found a patch of ground between a garbage dump, a hotel, and the railroad tracks that went through Peach Springs and pretty much made like a homeless person. The place was chosen for being close to urban facilities but completely hidden from view in an area nobody would go. I thought I was smart for doing that until the freaking trains that ran through the town every hour kept me up all night with their thunderous horns and clanging of wheel on rail. It definitely wasn’t hard to be up at dawn to continue to my next destination, Kingman, Arizona. I barely slept.
As for statistics, this ride was a 40-mile ride that took me just over 3 hours. I started just after 6 AM and got into town before 9:30 AM. Heat wasn’t too much of a problem because I kept to my early morning schedule. In Peach Springs Ihad some good Native American food, which is like Mexican food but not quite the same. Fun day, though I wish I had gotten better sleep.
Day 7: Peach Springs to Kingman
This would turn out to be an interesting day. I was of course up early, but with tearing down the campsite and prepping the bike I still didn’t get on the road until 6 AM. Heading to Kingman, I got a flat in the town of Antares, Arizona. This is a point to remember. Now Antares was not much of a town. Just a few trailers people were living in and one convenience store. I pulled over to get something to drink and something in the driveway of the convenience store gave me the flat. With tubeless tires, the regular thorns and sharp objects you find in nature usually aren’t going to pose a problem for your tires unless you are doing really hard riding and slam down on a jagged rock or something. I hadn’t had the slightest problem with flats on the entire trip. But something man-made, something industrial, was on that driveway that gave me a hole large enough to prevent my sealant from closing the hole.
There was sealant splattered everywhere on the bike. It was a pretty significant hole. After rotating the wheel for a while in the hope that any remaining sealant would close the hole, I popped a gas cannister to refill the tire, but the hole was still there. The flat was not fixed. I found some road workers and asked for a ride to Kingman, and they told me I could have a ride at 5 PM when they got off work. Luckily, a woman named Tory, her daughter Jen, and Jen’s son Bubba came out of one of the trailers and were just coincidentally heading to the Jack in the Box in Kigman where Tory worked. They gave me a ride.
I ended up riding 29 miles that day, just over half way to Kingman, which was originally supposed to be a 50-mile ride. Right behind the Jack in the Box was a bicycle shop which had no patches for tubless tires, and only one set of tubless gravel tires as a replacement. They had a weird style of no treat whatsoever and white walls. I took what I could get. Ultimately I paid $120 for the tires, service, and sealant. An expensive day. Thankfully Expedia had a really great deal on a Motel 6 for $30, so I took it.
To the Bus
The trip was originally supposed to be an 8-day trip, with the last day being a ride to Bullhead City where I would catch a bus to LA. I was pressed for time concerning my schedule in September, wanting to spend a week in LA and needing to be in Alabama for my sister’s wedding party by the end of the month. Not being familiar with the California desert, and still contending with summer temperatures, I I would just bus from Bullhead City to LA. However, when in Kingman I started looking around for all the bus stations and stops in the area and how to get a ticket and whatnot. As it turned out, the best route to LA was actually from a Greyhound Station at a truck stop south of Kingman. So I never went to Bullhead City. I just rode a half hour down the road to the truck stop. My eight-day ride was really a seven-day ride.
So this is the story of my first inter-city bicycle tour.
So if that was the story, why the separator seaprating the lengthy introduction about my personal life and the separator between the end of the narration about the bike ride and this text I am writing here? And what’s with the title “Everyman’s Ride”? Well, I do want this site to have a travel blog post on it to show I can write that kind of thing, but my site is a literary site about poetry, sprituality, and philosophy. So I wanted to include a bit of philsophical matter in this post as well.
So the reference to “Everyman” is a nod to a medieval story, maybe by Chaucer, I can’t remember. It’s a famous allegory. “Everyman walked down the road of life” was an allegory about all of our lives – that we are every man, and the road we walk down is our life. Allegory in fiction and literature is a common way to convey thematic meaning in literature.
What I want to convey here is the idea that this is not merely a matter of fiction, but actually that our real lives have allegorical and metaphical meaning. Let’s take my bike trip, for example. To begin with, I mention in my introduction that a variety of disparate cirumstances in my life lead me to take this bike trip in the first place, almost like a confluence of coincidences.
From there, though, let’s look at my stops. First, the ride ended up being a seven-day ride. The Jews have a doctrine that the history of the world will comprise seven thousand years.
So in our lives we often find ourselves going through long stretches of nothing, like my ride to Wickenburg, and we find ourselves slogging through life as a miserable uphill climb, like my climb to Yarnell Hill. These desert stretches and uphill battles can make you feel powerless, like my stay in Yarnell with the strange summer hail that knocked down seven telephone poles.
But we come to a choice in life, like the ash fork the prods us to see if we are cooked or not. When this happens, we can turn one way and go to the pit (the grand canyon) or we can head toward the angels (Los Angeles). If we head toward the angels, it will be a tough trek, but we will be blessed people. Seligman is Yiddish for “Blessed Man.” If we become blessed men, we will live fruiful lives in the desert, like my stay in the town of Peach Springs. It’s while on this path as blessed people that we will encounter King Messiah, and we will become Kingsmen. Though this won’t always be an easy path, such as my flat in Antares, and we will have a hard time making it alone, but with help from others, we will get to the Kingdom.
Now if you are trying to do more tan being a man of the king, then you are being bullheaded, so remember that you don’t really need to go to Bullhead City to get to the angels. Your quickest ride is with the king.
What I am trying to say is that my bike trip, with its unplanned emergencies, power outages, flat tires, rides from strangers, and unexpected bus stop ultimately ended up being a story of metaphorical value.
Everythong you do, and everything that happens to you, and everything you see around you, is a story of metaphorical value. This can only be the case if all of reality, the whole universe, history itself, and your very life, is a story written by perfect and infinite intelligence. And it is from this meaning that we see in our lives that we derive the proof of the existence of God.
So that’s why the little addendum after my travel blog post. I hope it gives a little philsophical edge.
Such a beautiful, thoughtful story of your trip.