Up high, down low

We had a broad plan for our holiday. Ed needs to have a plan and I do know that he finds me ‘mildly irritating’ that I don’t have the same planning coding as he has. Me? A general plan, knowing that a) we have flights and b) bike rentals are sorted, is great. Nay, perfect for me. 

This attitude / personality trait frustrates the hell out of Ed. 

I just want a holiday. I don’t want to have to think.

So, I had to buy Mr Map Man a brand new Michelin Map. Oh, the excitement of the Amazon parcel arriving and being able to leave the new green map on the breakfast bar in pride of place. My contribution and effort to our holiday is done. All I need to do is turn up with my driver licence in my hand. Ed makes damn sure the passports are packed! 

I thought what Ed said before we left was actually quite cute. Words to the effect of, “I don’t take my wife on holiday, I take my biking buddy.” (Don’t expect me to make many decisions though!)

We (*read, Ed) had a broad plan. What we didn’t bargain for, was how broad and flexible that plan had to be.  Arriving into Vegas was fine. It was after that that things got a bit off kilter. It was all down to the weather at the end of the day. Something odd had happened, along the lines of the gulf stream cocking things up and into the bargain the temperature plummeted. We should have packed thermals FFS! Even the locals in the various places we visited were moaning at the unseasonably cold weather. We didn’t plan for low single figure temperatures for days on end. We do realise though that it had a great deal to do with the altitude we were at for the majority of the time. 

The altitude in itself caused one or two issues. A shortness of breath was an understatement, getting reading in the morning was an effort:

Put socks on. Breathe. Deeply.

Trousers….. one leg at a time. Breathe.

Have a seat to recover. Pack bike up, slowly. 

Sit down. Recover. 

Everything was done in slow motion. The locals, who were used to the altitude did everything slowly; walking and talking. Even Ed, who’s pretty fit, was having issues, that made me feel slightly better! 

For the two weeks we were on the road there was very little respite from the altitude and the cold. It was therefore quite tiring. A late night was 9.30! 

All our accommodation was fairly good. We based our stay around somewhere convenient to eat, somewhere within walking distance. We liked the diners with their casual atmosphere and comfort food on the menu. There were even diners that we ate in that didn’t serve….. wait for it…… alcohol. Holy poop! One evening we got brave and had Mexican, which isn’t our favourite, however, we had it on good authority that the alternative eatery, a Chinese, had given guests food poisoning. Never trust a fart. The Mexican was really good. Still didn’t trust a fart! Quality pinã coladas!

One day after we had had another cold start, we had been to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The weather had set in and by the time we had been to check out the spectacular view and ridden back out to the main road again, I was pretty tired. Ed can always spot it. I slow down (good thing) and generally my face forgets to join the party. 

We were in the middle of nowhere in Arizona, so we were lucky to see a place called Cave Dwellers Lodge. It had a petrol station with a shop. To cheer me up, Ed bought me a box of wine. There were no rooms available there, which was a shame. The setting was lovely and the staff friendly. They had a diner too. Oh well, onwards. Luckily, we found a room only a few more miles down the road. Marble Canyon Lodge. The area is also famous for the Vermillion Cliffs. We checked in just in time before the storm that had been following us, hit. Thunder, lightning, hail, the lot. Oh, the power went out too. I stood and watched the weather, hugging my plastic cup of Pinot Grigio. 

Dinner was, well, an epic fail. We loved the sound of sharing some chicken wings. We were both hungry. The wings arrived, served by a fairly miserable waitress. Bit in. Spat out. The chicken was freezing cold on the inside. So, we sent them back. 

They came back hot, however, before we were finished them, our main courses were unceremoniously dumped in front of us. We’d ordered steak, however, it was served with green beans (frozen variety- boke) and chips. Everything on the plate was cold. Not good. By this time, there was a semi-switched on waitress on duty. I called her over and she listened, and then handed me an order pad and begged me to write my comments down (we got the feeling there were issues with the chef). I opted to write on the paper placemat. It gave me more space. It wasn’t going to be a brief note. 

The manager (Barry) in fairness came and spoke to us. He gave us our meal and wine free of charge, however, I did say although comping the meal was very nice, and appreciated, he needed to sort out the walking, talking time bomb in his kitchen. I was still bloody hungry! 

Oddly, our omelette breakfast the next morning was great. Must have been a different chef! 

Scunnered with the weather, Ed was replanning our route, seeking interesting roads and sunshine, albeit we knew that didn’t mean ‘warm’! 

Our route took us to Flagstaff, and an optometrist for me. I had a very sore eye. Yep, I was run down and knackered before the holiday and the eye issue had a snotty cold to keep it company, (thanks to the guy who sat next to me on the plane)! We were originally going to the hospital, and then I had a moment of brilliance whilst we were having lunch. What could have set us back a substantial amount of money, cost us less than 50 bucks. Antibiotics 12 bucks. All by going to the eye doctor. Sorted. 

By this time, I was well and truly used to my bike. The Triumph Tiger 800 cc triple was a great choice. From the first turn out of the car park in Vegas, I liked it. The riding position Is very similar to Smoggy and it was a lowered bike so suited me literally right down to the ground. Ed had exactly the same bike, however, could have done without the lowered version. 

The only things that I had to persevere with were the gear box and the clutch. Coming up to a junction, which means a STOP sign in USA, I found that the bike wasn’t moving out of the gear I was in. It was pretending. Block-changing to start with was out the question. Occasionally getting the damn bike into first was a challenge! The photo above was taken in Utah, the surface you can see, just add gravel. It was Ed’s classic short cut of the day. I’m glad at this point I’d sussed out the bike. Yep, there’s a road up there. I wasn’t made to feel better by the ‘unimproved road for 5 miles’…. it was great fun though! 

Eventually, after perseverance, I realised the friction point of the clutch was about 1/3 of the way in. Once I had that sussed it was great and made gear changing smoother and quicker. In general I’ve really enjoyed riding it, especially slow manoeuvres, where getting the bike on a full lock turn was a surprisingly easy thing to do. Also, the bike preferred a sustained throttle in a gear change too. Yeah, it took a couple of days to get all that sorted. I have to say though, I have thoroughly enjoyed riding the wee bike. It did well. 

So, that’s that. The next blog will be a summary about the frankly whacky and amazing places we have ridden through. This is being posted in Las Vegas. We have a few hours until our flight, and have to say after a chill in Palm Desert, I feel very rested. And, only 3500 miles for me.

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