Well, the family road tour is over.
Arizona is indeed a beautiful place. The scenery is stunning. It’s epic and surreal in its scale. At times raw and rugged, or polished smooth, or forest covered. Desert and canyons, where a palette of fiery reds, burnt oranges and deciduous greens shift hue with each passing hour, or cloud, or retreating, last light shadow of the day. Mottled with golden aspens in the north, or spiked with prickly fingers of cacti further south.
We’ve covered more mileage in seven days than I could have hoped to do in a month on my bicycle. And although I’ve really enjoyed it, I must say I’ll be glad to get back on two wheels, self-propelled.
It’s funny. Although the car symbolises freedom for many, I haven’t felt so confined since the beginning of my journey. Ultimately, it’s the same kind of rhythm. Travel, eat, sleep and repeat. Just an accelerated one.
Yet somehow, I find the simple act of cycling gives context to everything around me. Riding from one place to the next keeps things real and connected. This last week has reminded me how much I value being out in the open air, free to stop and take photos, chat to weird and wonderful people, or quietly pitch my tent under the stars for the night. When it comes to travel, it’s each to their own. Cycle touring may not be for everyone, but for me, it’s soul food, the perfect antithesis to the stifling, airtight whoosh of cars.
I only have a couple of weeks before resuming my journey south, but there’s lots on my to do list. I should give my bike a thorough overhaul, write up a couple of overdue cycling features, and I’d love to ride Moab’s White Rim trail and visit Santa Fe. Hopefully, I’ll be giving a talk on the journey so far over at BikeTrailerShop, in downtown Flagstaff. And a fleeting return to New Mexico’s Silver City would be great too…
We didn't have much luck with the weather during our visit to the Grand Canyon, though the moody storms did make for some dramatic views. This is the incredible panorama from Shoshone Point. I'd love to come back and hike in the canyon itself.
Closing in on Monument Valley, just over the border in Utah, and the backdrop to many a John Ford western.
And as an avid fan of this film maker, it had been dad's dreams to visit the valley. We stayed in the incredible, and appropriately named, View Hotel on the Navajo Reservation. Despite its contemporary architecture, from afar the hotel is completely camouflaged amongt the surrounding rock striations. Najavo run and owned, its interior is beautifully bedecked with local art, yet refreshingly down to earth. A memorable stay, though I did notice the free campsite next door shared that same stunning view...
We arrived in time for sunset, just as a dark shadow was spilling across the valley. Keen to get out on a run, I followed the Wild Cat Trail that looped around the central, awe-inspiring redrock butte in this photo, listening to Neil Young on my MP3 player. An amazing experience...
We also made it to the San Carlos Reservation, on the outskirts of Globe. Unfortunately, our accommodation for the night was a motel adjoining the Apache Gold Casino... The windowless halls, strip lighting, slot machines and incessant, electronic noise left me numb, so I watched Law and Order reruns instead.
This is the former copper mining town of Jerome, perched high in the valley and looking out over Cottonwood and Sedona. A far cry from its boom times of the 1920s, Jerome's population has now shrunk from 15 000 to 450, a large portion of whom are artists and artisans.
The basketball court at the alternative settlement of Jerome. Note well positioned peace symbol...
"Mall Wart. Your source for cheap plastic crap."
The remains of Main Street, home to the Connor Hotel, our characterful lodging for the night. Although nowadays Jerome is clearly a tourist town, its well worth visiting for its pastel coloured, Victorian houses and red brick warehouses that have been beautifully restored. Rare in the US, there wasn't even a corporate motel in sight.
This establishment dates back to 1898. Built by an Irish American, it was billed as second to none in the Southwest.
Historical information panels bring the town's eclectic history to life. A few buildings along was Jennie's Place, built by the legendary madam, Jennie Bauters from Belgium. At the time of her murder in 1905, she was reputed to be the wealthiest woman in the Arizona territory.
Jerome is also famed for its Halloween and Day of the Dead celebrations, being so close to Mexico.
Americana detail. Guns, whether for real or hanging on a wall, are part of the American way - as seen on this beaten up Chevrolet.
And the venerable Ford F series, another photo for my collection. This is a truck that's kept me company all the way from Alaska to Guatemala...