Stunning scenery, challenging riding conditions: Flagstaff to Sedona

10/11/21

Wowww, what a day.

First, let me say that in my lovely Oak Creek Village host’s house, just south of Sedona, I am warm and comfortable, but outside I can hear the wind howling. (See my screenshot of the weather alert from this evening.) The forecast seems to have been moderated quite a bit since I first started rearranging my plans to accommodate it: the temp here is 61 at 9:40 pm, and tomorrow should be a partly-cloudy high 55/low 41. A bit chillier than I would hope for, but so much warmer than the original forecast, and so much more pleasant than Flagstaff’s forecast: rain and snow tonight, then windy and 43/25 tomorrow. Yikes! I’m so glad I decided to come down here today, rather than taking the extra day in Flagstaff I had originally planned, and biking down here tomorrow.

However, although today’s ride scenery was absolutely breathtaking (I’m sharing the first part today, and I’ll plan to share the second part—Sedona area—tomorrow, because there were just too many amazing views to put all in one day, and I’m not planning to get out much tomorrow) the conditions were probably the most physically challenging that I’ve encountered so far on the trip.

First, it was a bit chillier and windier than I would have liked when I set out this morning, around 11. The temperature did remain manageable throughout the day: I sometimes wore my fleece zipped up over my T-shirt, sometimes unzipped, but never did end up needing the rain shell I kept tied around my waist all day just in case, nor the gloves in its pockets that I had feared I would need.

But the wind was unpleasantly strong for most of my 6+ hour day on the road, and it was mostly a headwind.

In addition, it turned out that yesterday’s gravel-road snafu was good training for today: Google Maps routed me out of Flagstaff via a gravel bike path that stretched for miles. It was very scenic, amid ponderosa groves—and the trees sheltered me surprisingly effectively from the winds, which I noticed when the gravel finally gave way to pavement—but it is much more difficult to ride on gravel, vs. a smooth surface. That relatively short portion of the trip took me dramatically longer than I had expected, and required quite a bit more physical exertion. It was also scary at times; I nearly skidded and wiped out on three or four occasions, riding downhill and/or over deep ruts.

Once I got onto Hwy 89A, the scenery soon turned incredible, but there were also long stretches with hairpin turns and minimal shoulders, and pretty heavy (and often impatient) auto traffic along the road. I had to pull over at almost every opportunity I got, to let streams of cars past. (One of the drivers honked angrily as they did so—how dare anyone take up road space on a bike, and slow them down for a couple of minutes? I was glad that at least they didn’t spit on me or lob any projectiles; I’ve heard stories from other touring cyclists. Perhaps I will enjoy those pleasures later in my trip…)

But for all the challenges, this 40-mile ride today was possibly the most beautiful ride I’ve had so far on this trip, which is really saying something. Again, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves:

On my way out of Flagstaff, I stopped at its one all-vegan restaurant, a Thai place called Red Curry. I picked up a delicious eggplant-broccoli-carrot-tofu-basil dish, which I carried in the trailer all day since I had just had a satisfying oatmeal breakfast at my Flagstaff hosts’ place. I enjoyed the Thai meal once I arrived at my destination at my local host’s home.

Sometimes on this journey there are definitely challenges. And at the end of each day (and often throughout) they are so worth it.

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