Instead of staying at the Grand Canyon for a couple of nights as planned, I had contacted Taylor and arranged to arrive a day early. He was flexible and so after eating some breakfast in my tent and finding a good few inches of snow having settled outside, I packed up, said my goodbyes to Olly & Amy and got on the bike. The snow was still falling, but it wasn’t very heavy and I didn’t want to give it the chance to become so. I headed out of the park, a little frustrated to have not been able to go hiking, but aware that it would let me split the Flagstaff -> Prescott ride in two making it much easier.
I had camped at around 7,000 feet and for about an hour or so until I dropped down to 6,400 was in light snow. After getting below that I was out of the snow and although it wasn’t sunny felt a bit warmer. I pulled into the ‘town’ of Valle which is situated at the junction of the 180 and the 64. The 180 is the direct road that goes to Flagstaff while the 64 heads south to I-40 and the town of Williams. I asked about conditions on the 180 and was told that it often closes and would go up to 8,000 feet. The suggestion was that I try to catch a lift, but that didn’t really appeal.
I checked my e-mail and found that C was heading up to the Grand Canyon and so would be coming along the 180, that made my mind up. I would head over it and then get to see C briefly. If it hadn’t been for the snow, it would have been a wonderful climb. With the snow however, it was a bit chilly. It also meant that the view from the road was restricted to snow on the ground and on the trees. The apparently beautiful scenery of the San Francisco Peaks was hidden in the clouds and so I just focused on the climb.
This was my first day of riding in the snow on the tour, but also one of my few days of riding in the snow. My only previous experiences had been short rides when I lived in Japan and Korea, so the ride reminded me of my time in Japan. The difference was, I don’t remember my spokes getting covered in ice back in Asia. Looking down I could see ice forming all over my bike, from my water bottles where the water had turned into slush, to the underside of my mudguards where snow was accumulating and solidifying.
After a couple of hours of work, I made it to the top, but the enjoyment was short lived. Descending is all well and good, but it’s a good amount cooler. Instead of working hard and going up at 6-10 mph, I was coasting down at 30 mph which meant for a fair wind that was making me get cold. I was happy then to see C coming up the other way and so I could get off and jump in the car to warm up. We spoke for about 30 minutes and caught up on what the other had been up to since parting ways. It was bizarre but awesome to see her, as when we said our goodbyes in St George we hadn’t known when we would see each other again. She offered me a lift into Flagstaff, but I turned her down and had to head out as the sun would soon be setting and it would be getting even colder.
I headed over to my bike and tried to head down the hill, but found it barely moved. I figured my brakes must have been rubbing so looked down and noticed that the mudguards which had been accumulating snow and ice had got so full that it was impeding the movement of my wheels. After giving the mudguards a good whack, I was back on the road. The rest of the ride down was a fairly nice downhill and before long I found myself at Taylor’s where I enjoyed an evening of Chili Verde and good conversation as well as my first shower and bed since Zion – the glory of warmshowers. I also learnt ‘haboob’, the Arabic word for sandstorm which has apparently found its way into the local vocabulary.
Summarising the day