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After a rest day yesterday it was good to be back on the road and CV seemed to be rearing to get the heck out of Flagstaff. Yessiree, we’re getting to grips with lingo hereabouts. As we rode out of Flagstaff I caught a glimpse of the San Francisco Peaks that define the landscape on the north side of the city. They are the remains of San Francisco Mountain which was a volcano until it collapsed following a spectacular eruption some 200,000 years ago. The highest mountain now is Humprey’s Peak which rises to 12,600 feet. Before the eruption the parent San Francisco Mountain was another mile higher than today.
The Peaks are very important to the culture and spirituality of a number of American Indian tribes – the Navajo call them Dook’o’oosliid (the summit which never melts). The other major tribe in the area, the Hopi, has named them Nuva’tukya’ovi (place of snow on the very top). Today the range is a popular with skiers and there are a huge number of cycle trails to explore. There are even some local sages who assert that another eruption is due!
Our regular quartet, Dave, Emil, Pete and me (the Fab Four?) formed up pretty quickly as we left Flagstaff. Pete accurately described today’s stage to Holbrook as transitional i.e. covering the greatest possible distance by the most direct route. Unfortunately this meant that we were back on the Interstate (I-40) for most of the day, although we were following the line of the historic Route 66. With a strong tailwind we made great speed, rolling along at 20-25mph. Shortly after joining the Interstate I led us up what would normally be a very short, gentle uphill stretch – almost too gentle to call a climb. As I was riding up I noticed that my breathing was getting slightly laboured and a quick peek at my Garmin revealed that we were at an altitude of 6,800 feet. With the massive open landscape all around us it is easy to forget we are quite high up – well, high for me compared to my normal terrain in East Anglia. Fortunately the route profile showed that over the next 50 miles we would gradually descend to about 5,000 feet.
After our little entertainment it was more of the same – back on the Interstate for the final 15 miles to Holbrook and the end of today’s stage. That darned side wind didn’t let up. If anything it swung around a tad so that I was riding into it slightly. We stopped at a Dairy Queen fast food outlet for a milkshake about half a mile before our hotel. When I got off the CV my right hand was numb and my forearm was quite fatigued from the effects of holding the handlebars fighting the side wind. But rest assured, within an hour of arriving at the hotel and after a clothes wash and a shower I felt great again. As the hotel, which is quite comfortable, doesn’t provide dinner, Itchytoo had been deputised to order in vast quantities of pizza for a party. When I popped over the road to the gas station to buy some beer for The Fabs, the attendant commented that he had sold more beer this evening than he had in the rest of the year. Bring it on!