LA Bound

So I’m in Los Angeles. I have the mother of all Jungian synchronistic events in my pocket. I have a million plans and questions involving Jews, Christians, Israelis, filmmakers, and superhero enthusiasts, and I am here to see how whatever the hell was going through my head on that world tour squares with actual reality and accomplish a variety of goals related to everything that popped up on the global descent into the mouth of madness.

But this isn’t a blog post about all that. I’m winding down the personal journal style posts I’ve been writing while chronicling the “Wilson Saga” adventures. This is just me showing how I got here to LA. A travel blog post.

So Greyhound requires bicycles to be packed in boxes. This consumes both time and money, if I am going to have someone pack it for me, or introduces the possibility of mechanical problems if I disassemble and reassemble the bicycle myself. With AmTrak, however, depending on the route, you can just take your bike with you as is. Phoenix to LA does not permit this, however. Luckily, Flagstaff to LA does. So any time I want to travel between LA and Arizona with my bike, I’ll be riding from Phoenix to Flagstaff to catch a train. This post shows you the ride I just took to get to Flagstaff and then LA.

Now if any of you are planning to go to Honalulu any time soon, please keep an eye out for my $3,000 grey 2022 trek Émonda SL5. All through my trip the thing had a Galaxy SmartTag hidden in it to guard against loss or theft, but, unfortunately, I had paid a shop in Amman to pack her up for the flight to Seoul and beyond. Due to the exhaustion and no small amount of insanity associated with my travels, I didn’t take the old girl out of her box in Seoul, so there she went in her box on the flight from Seoul to Honalulu…all disassembled…and without the SmartTag.

During the 21-hour layover in Honalulu, I decided to get a hotel and walk the beach a bit. The first hotel I showed up at with my bike in a box was full, so I left it there and went walking around looking for another hotel. I found one and rested up and went out for a while, thinking I would grab the bike in the evening. When I came back to the first hotel about four hours later, absolutely none of the employees I had talked to were there. In my exhausted and crazy state, I didn’t think to demand a baggage tag from a bellhop, and eerily, none of the employees there suggested any such thing to me. And, you guessed it, when I went back, my bike and backpack containing everything I owned were gone, and no employees had any idea that I or any bicycle had ever been there. Darkseid had apparently sent a squadron of parademons to fly away with everything I had in the world. This constitutes one of a long list of absolutely bizarre and usually terrible violations of the law of probability that had been plaguing me with greater frequency and intensity ever since riding through Italy on the bike tour toward Jerusalem. As I write this post, after a month and a half of rest and recovery, I’ll assess that I am about 90% to functionality, 80% to sanity, and about 60% back to mature adulthood. But regarding that time, I have to say that I have difficulty explaining a lot of my own actions and judgments from the tail end of that trip, and I also have difficulty explaining the actions of those around me. I myself have difficulty grasping how such a thing as “losing” a pro-Level racing bicycle in a hotel lobby while on a layover could have happened. I can only chalk it up to going nuts.

I tell you this to explain that the ride up to Flagstaff would have to be accomplished on my trusty State 4130 All Road gravel bike. It’s what I am riding around town on now. I opted for another bikepacking setup.

My daughter got a shot of me with the backpack before adding the rear rack. This is me showing up at her place to spend the weekend with her. There is a tent, sleeping bag, clean clothes bag, dirty clothes bag, and bathroom kit in that thing.
I added a Topeak rear rack to bring my favorite collapsible box crate on the back. Here is a shot of the crate on the rack with some cargo in it. I would end up riding to LA with the crate on the back, but collapsed with nothing in it. The crate was not for the trip, but to have some hauling capacity when I got to LA.
Here is a shot of the bike at a stop here in LA. If you pray hard, maybe an angel will tell you why the hell I added my thumb to this shot. I myself haven’t the vaguest notion. Otherwise, note I have been riding around with the rack on, but only add the crate when I want to haul some stuff around.

So the gravel bike would make a good urban rig due to its exceptional stability and 40mm tubeless Bontraeger off-road tires that can navigate most city grates. I’ll have to describe falling through a grate in Wadi Musa a couple of miles from the Petra archaeological wonder there. No, I should not be alive. Going from 15 mph instantly to zero and flying off the front of the bike onto concrete in a busy middle eastern intersection is not something I would have expected to survive uninjured. The four people who miraculously avoided running over me were also very surprised I was alive, and even more surprised that I didn’t want a ride to the emergency room. Ever since, fat tires are the way to go; I don’t care what I’m riding.

I did want to mention that I’ve found the spring-loaded wire clamp on the Topeak has come in incredibly handy. I highly recommend racks with this feature.

So coming to LA on a gravel bike warranted a gravel ride. Phoenix to Flagstaff on gravel should be a wonderful trip. You have Jerome, Sedona, and I’d even hoped to hit portions of the famous Black Canyon Trail that runs through that part of the state. However, my entire month of recovery with my mom in Scottsdale consisted solely of melting into the couch and reducing my IQ down to single digits to combat the terrible state of constant overthinking everything that I had taken on while facing the incomprehensible during the last month in Jordan, and then slowly returning to a normal thought process thereafter.

Yeah. Don’t tell my mom, but I hadn’t done any MMJ treatment since August of 2022, so the beginning of May consisted of massive efforts in psychoactively induced relaxation. The rest of May consisted of retuning to a state in which I could remember my name, and then returning to a relatively normative program of cognition.

I say this because I was in a large way still getting my sea legs in terms of recuperating from the world trip, so a four-day gravel ride through the Arizona desert and northern pine forest was actually my first reacquaintance with the concept of things like challenges, obstacles, overcoming adversity, and things such as that which adults deal with in their normal lives.

Remember this scene from Pulp Fiction? I was in exactly Lance’s mood when that gravel trip came at me like a desperate gangster with a dying chick in the passenger seat. The ensuing chaos and frustration experienced by the hapless stoned heroin dealer perfectly characterizes my reaction to the challenges of the voyage.

Day One: Black Canyon City

That little noose thingie dangling off to the left was one hell of a wrong turn.

So I got a GoPro for the trip. While I am nowhere near pro-level Strava tourist, and the footage is all raw, I’m thinking I’ll include the links to the actual Strava activity in this post like I was doing for the travel posts during the bike trip. Here you go. Have fun with that. Otherwise I’ll just say that nothing particularly terrible happened, but I was just psychologically unprepared for the trip. Day one was a wakeup call.

Day Two: Camp Verde

Here is the Strava link for the second day. The map only includes the stretch of the ride until my phone died, and I lost GPS tracking capability. Neither the commentary nor the photos do this day justice. Except for maybe a couple of the later pictures where you can see that some of the trails could barely be called trails. The pictures and videos are from the more fun part of the route. But as mentioned in the commentary on Strava, my route planning app has a tendency to put gravel bikes on tough trails. As a result, I was going very, very slowly for large parts of the trip. And as the trail continued, it got rougher and rougher. So the first thing that happened is that I ran out of water. Then all the electronics started running out of battery even with the power bank I always take with me. Because I was without electronics, I didn’t get any pictures or videos of the later, and tougher, portions of the ride. Folks, I was out of water and lost in the Arizona desert. Wondering which way was North kind of situation. I was hopping fences into barren fields and looking for civilization.

Ultimately I stumbled on an abandoned farmhouse which had a water pump from a local well in the front yard by which I kept myself from suffering dehydration. I then went up to a landfill and got directions. I finished the day on the road. No more gravel for Jonathan. At least on this trip. A highlight of that decision was that I did find an absolutely splendid stretch of downhill on I17 on the way to Camp Verde where I swear I was able to get up to 50 miles an hour. My phone was still dead and I couldn’t record it on Strava. I did by that point think to put the spare battery in the GoPro, so I do have a video of the last stretch of that downhill on Strava. Had my phone been working, I’m sure I would have beaten my top speed record on Strava as well. (It’s currenty 38 mph.)

Day Three: Sedona

Again the Strava link. No more gravel for little Jonny. Just get there. Comfy ride to Sedona on pavement. Fun and easy peasy. The Strava activity doesn’t include a video I made of my camp site that I put together in an abandoned lot on the east side of town.

I just threw this in because I haven’t shown any camp sites. This is similar to what I did on the whole trip, though. Water and electricity are wonderful things. I would always camp in or near a town, but I didn’t stay in any hotels.

Day Four: Flagstaff

Here is the accompanying Strava link. Again, I rode on pavement. It was a good ride, but I was already getting tired, and so just wasn’t having a lot of fun bike touring.

Day Five: Train Ride to Los Angeles

So it was a four-day bike trip plus an 11-hour train ride to Union Station in LA. I spent too much money and got a cabin.

The video I took on the train was horribly underexposed, so this is what you get for day five. Sorry.

Overall, the trip to LA was adventurous, but annoying, and at times a litte dangerous. Most of all, though, it was a shock. A bucket of cold water, as a kind of a first jolt back to the world of sanity and functionality after the freefall through Alice’s wonderland that came before.

Here in LA, things are going. I’ve been here for a week, and things are going. They’re not going fast. They’re not going effectively, either. But things are ramping up. None of that belongs to the subject of this post, though. I hope you enjoyed hearing about the ride. There are some good pictures and videos hidden in the mess. I’ll be riding a similar route, but heading south, and down hill, the next time I go to Arizona. I assume I’ll be more up for the ride at that time and hope to include some cool scenes of the Arizona countryside. Maybe I’ll include a trip to Moab (Moab, Utah – I’ve already been to the actual land of Moab in Jordan), or maybe even…Zion (…again in Utah…).

Until then, vaya con Dios.

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