Today was a cause for celebration, or so I thought. The day’s route involved very little Interstate riding which I have to say I haven’t really been enjoying – who does? It’s been a sort of necessary evil. Instead we were going to step back in time and spend most of the day riding along the iconic Route 66. I was really looking forward to this for several reasons. First and foremost it was a chance to experience a slice of American history. I’ve read several books about journeys along the highway and have also seen several documentaries. One of my favourites is the film of the trip that the Big Yin, Billy Connolly made. He has a wonderful talent for getting the best out of the people he met on his travels. And his trademark and sometimes self-deprecating humour means that he never takes himself too seriously.
Getting out of Gallup was pretty straightforward although there was quite a lot of traffic with people going to work. I could feel the CV shudder slightly as we approached the intersection for the Interstate then relax noticeably as we rode past the onramp and onto Route 66. I think I even heard it give a little whoop of joy! I was distracted at the time as my Garmin was misbehaving and wasn’t loading the route correctly. After a few attempts too reload the route I gave up. Today wouldn’t involve much navigation and the Route Notes had all the information I needed.
After 16 miles unfortunately Route 66 was no longer available and we had to turn on to the dreaded I-40 for the next 10 miles. The good news was that none of The Fabs had a puncture. The bad news was this was probably the worst stretch of Interstate we had ridden to date. The shoulder was very rough, to the point of being unrideable so we had to sit between the white line marking the side of the carriageway and the vibration strip which warns vehicles when they drift off the carriageway towards the shoulder. Riding on a strip of tarmac about 6 inches wide with heavy lorries passing at speed about 18 inches away was quite unnerving. Fortunately we covered the 10 miles without incident and eventually turned off I-40 for the day’s first SAG.
Once out of the SAG it was back onto Route 66 for the rest of the day – yaay. This was really enjoyable. We were in a sort of sandwich between the Interstate on our right and the railway line on our left. The road itself was very quiet – so quiet that we could ride two and sometimes even three abreast. With virtually no traffic, it was a time for looking around and admiring the scenery. Away to the right across the desert was a range of hills about 10 miles away which looked like they were covered in forest. On our left were some lovely ochre and red sandstone cliffs and bluffs a couple of miles away which had been weathered into some amazing shapes. In front of us was a range of mountains, the tail end of the Rockies which I guessed rose to over 10,000 feet.
As if the scenery wasn’t enough we were passed by a succession of freight trains. Each one was at least a mile long and pulled by up to five diesel engines often with another couple of engines at the back. They chugged by at around 40 mph and took several minutes to pass us by. I tried counting the number of container wagons on one and lost count at about 65! Several of the trains had two layers of containers, one above the other which added to their sense of power. A couple of the trains were loaded with lorry trailers which to me seemed a great way to reduce the volume of long-distance traffic on the highways.
As we made our way along the road the wind turned so that we began to ride into quite a strong headwind. To beat the wind we formed a chain-gang and did some through and offs, with each of us taking a turn on the front for about a mile before peeling off to rest at the back. At one stage when the road changed direction so that the wind was bowing onto our shoulders we formed an echelon to maximise our efficiency. After several days of being together our formation riding is now almost instinctive. What this also meant was that we could sustain a good pace in spite of the wind, so that we arrived in Grants by early afternoon.
Then it was a short distance to our hotel which, despite our early arrival, was ready and welcoming. As I wheeled my bike into my room there on the bed were my two bags, delivered as always by Itchytoo. This is one of those small details that makes such a difference at the end of a day’s riding. Finding my kit ready and waiting for me instead of having to lug bags and bike along unfamiliar corridors makes it all so easy. All I then have to do is unearth my sponge bag and clean clothes and dive into the shower so that I can wash off the road dust and grime and become human again! Itchytoo surpassed himself again this evening with a magnificent catered dinner of barbecued delicacies.
So, both a day to celebrate and a day to reflect. And another day closer to the Atlantic. Will I arrive there before my pee does? When I switched off my Garmin I noticed that today I had ridden 66 Miles on Route 66. Co-incidence or what?