Tuesday, 5 March 2013

AMERICA'S HIGHWAYS AND BYWAYS

Since my previous post, Leana and I left the city of Phoenix in a North-Westerly direction. It had taken us more than 50 km from the outskirts to the central hostal where we stayed. Again, we cycled more than 50 km before we were on the open road out of Phoenix. Fortunately we could follow the cycle path along a canal out of the city, and a cyclist (Jorge, formerly from El Salvador) escorted us all the way to the exit highway. The canal route is obviously a popular place for the "down-and-outs" to camp, and some of them showed an interest in all the wonderful gear on my bike. (Later we learned that a body had floated up in the canal, after some days underwater). We were in an unusually cold spell for this time of year in the US, but we headed North anyway, hoping to see the Grand Canyon. In the process we found ourselves on the longest remaining section on the historic trans-American Route 66, a crazy look into the past. We headed North in the direction of Flagstaff, and then the weather hit us. We were snowed in at Prescott, the former capital of Arizona state, for a number of days. Even after we left, the chilly air burned our ears off (or at least, it felt like that). We also stopped in at the small former mining town of Chloride (after battling into the wind). We stayed in a motel which is the converted miners quarters of days gone by. An interesting thing in some of these small Arizona towns such as Chloride, quirky people collect junk in their yards to the point where it is affectionately described as "junk sculptures". In the area, I'm sure that old Caddilacs outnumber teeth in some of the villages. Also, crazed-looking men walk out of shops and bars dressed in full cowboy-regalia (including real guns!). The main hassles on the road were the periodic head wind, the cold, and only a few moderate hills and passes. The railway ran alongside Route 66 at times, again lengthy stacked container trains. Also, the Colorado river gorge below the Hoover dam was rather impressive in the late afternoon when we reached there. We discovered a thing called BLM property where we could camp (Bureau of Land Management, no facilities, just sign the guest register). Coyotes howl in the night, and in the current weather our water bottles inside bags in the tent iced up. When we got to Lake Mead (Hoover dam lake) the campsite was full, but Tom (a Salmon fisherman from Alaska) in his camper van arranged for us to share his camp site (in picture with Leana). I've already mentioned the Hoover Dam, wow, what an impressive structure built in the 1930's! The recently built bridge bypassing the wall is also fairly impressive. We cycled to the dam wall via the railroad which brought construction supplies to the dam, via a number of tunnels (now no more tracks, it is just a cycle path). And then we hit SIN CITY, Las Vegas. We could spot the strip through the desert hills from some distance, and then we had to cycle into town. We found a reasonable motel on THE STRIP, heading for our third night here now (thanks to Leana). Thanks also to my sister Olga for her continuous financial support (her friends Martie and Piet have offered to get me good tyres which I'll be getting soon, thanks!). Anyway, now we've looked around this crazy place, mostly elaborate hotels, casino's, wedding chapels, shows, and so forth (a huge theme park!). From here we intend to proceed West into California and head towards the Pacific coast. Daily distances cycled since my previous post are:- Phoenix city 29 km; Wickenburg 103 km; Peeples Valley 50 km; Prescott 67 km; Ash Fork 85 km; Seligman 44 km; Truxton 84 km; Kingman 63 km; Chloride 38 km; Lake Mead 105 km; Hoover Dam 38 km; and Las Vegas 55 km. The distance cycled in USA since crossing the border from Mexico is 1 189 km, and the total distance cycled on this journey is 105 815 km.

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