Bicycle Touring in the West – Day 14 – Kayenta to Towaoc
“Take a breath of the new dawn and make it a part of you.”
~ Hopi proverb
Today is a longer day for us, and we’re on the road before dawn. We’ve got a little over 107 miles to ride today, and if the wind’s not kind, it could be a long 107 miles. We feel confident that we’ll be able to find water every 25 or 30 miles, which puts our mind to ease that worse case, it’s just a long day.
At first we’re a little disappointed that we’re not on the road 30 minutes before we are because of the long day ahead of us. Riding east out of Kayenta, the landscape around us explodes into magical shapes and beautiful pre-dawn colors. As the sun washes across the mystical hills and rocks to our north, we stop often to take pictures of the breathtaking sunrise. By the time we’re 10 miles down the road, we realize how lucky we are that we didn’t leave earlier, or we would’ve missed a spectacular sunrise show.
Once again, I’m struck by just how much I treasure the early morning on a bicycle. The remainder of the day happens – sometimes good and sometimes less good. But dawn is universally spectacular, sometimes mind-numbingly so. This morning is one of those mind-numbingly beautiful mornings.
We have no wind at all for this morning ride. We think our first water stop will be at 40 miles, but it turns out there is a little town of sorts at Dennehotso. The town is off to the north of the highway, and I don’t actually go into the town, but it seems sizable enough to have some sort of c-store if a person needed it. At the very least, someone would have a water tap a person could use.
At about 45 miles, we stop at Mexican Water to eat breakfast. There’s a diner and a c-store, so we eat at the diner, then pick up a few calories and water for the road at the c-store. I eat a massive milkshake with my cheeseburger covered in chilis, and as a result, nurse an aching belly down the road for the next couple hours. I’m not sure why I insist on stupidity as a natural course so often – I know without a doubt that pouring a milkshake into my belly on a hot day when I have work ahead of me is really stupid, but I do it anyway…
While it’s hot today, like yesterday, it’s not dangerously hot. Like yesterday, it gets barely above 100.
After breakfast, we’re treated to a nasty crosswind for the next 2 or 3 hours, all the way over to Teec Nos Pos. About 13 miles east of Mexican Water is the town of Red Mesa, where there are lots of supplies. I suspect there’s a motel there as well, though I don’t notice one.
After another 18 miles, we come to Teec Nos Pos, where we’ll turn north and get this crosswind behind us. Dave and I are both pretty tired out as we sit in the shade at the trading post, taking in calories and fluid. We’ve developed the habit of picking up a package of Fig Newtons to share at most stops, as we both love ‘em. It’s a little tradition I look forward to as we pull up to every stop.
One thing both Dave and I have observed is how much we stand out as different. Since we’re wearing cycling gear, we generally stand out as a little different in most places, but as we’ve crossed Indian lands, our “difference” has been really stark.
I don’t get the impression they see many cyclists coming across the highway. I also suspect that most of the non-Indian travelers who’re moving through the area don’t stop much at the diners and the c-stores. At least that’s been our experience, as we’re almost always the only non-Indians in a place, and we almost always feel that we’re standing out like a sore thumb.
Not that standing out is necessarily a bad thing, and I’ve certainly never felt any sense of danger or animosity at the difference. It’s just that I’m a typical white middle-class male, and have never had many times in my life when I’ve stuck out as “the different one”.
Gives me a new appreciation of the experience of being different. I’m enjoying the education, and can see clearly how it would be more difficult to assimilate into a culture when you’re constantly reminded of your difference.
Our last 30 something miles for the day are with a glorious tailwind. We go past Four Corners down a screaming descent, across a river, and start a gentle grade up that will last the rest of our day. But with the tailwind, it’s a perfect ending to a wonderful day.
An observation that hits me as I ride is how different Dave and I are when it comes to the effect of the wind on us. I started the morning out with what seemed like a bit more energy than Dave, staying out in front most of the morning. We had no wind at all in the morning. Then, after lunch and my milkshake debacle, Dave spent the next few hours waiting for me, as we bucked a nasty crosswind. Once the wind was at our back again, I was off and running with the wind, waiting for Dave.
And it’s not just that Dave is taking it really easy with the tailwind – he’s working hard and worn down, while the tailwind has poured new life into me. Dave, on the other hand, is like a machine when the wind is in our face or crossing us. We’re both working hard against the wind, but it doesn’t seem to bother him as much mentally. He just keeps laying down the pedal strokes, with apparently no mind to the wind.
We end the day in Towaoc, where the Southern Ute Indian Tribe has constructed a wonderful casino. Dave and I take advantage of a room that is really cheap but pretty darned nice, shower, eat dinner, and head back to the room. Dave and I have talked about the whole gambling thing before many times, and as we make our way through the casino, we’re struck by something we’ve both noticed many times before:
Nobody looks happy.
I don’t get it. Nobody’s forcing these people to come to the casino. They know they’re most likely going to leave the casino with less money than when they came. And while they’re there, nobody seems to be enjoying themselves. Somebody’s gonna need to explain this one to me…
We settle in to our room, knowing that we’ve got a short day again tomorrow. While we couldn’t find anyone else smiling in the casino, I’m pretty sure Dave and I are both smiling after a long day and a great supper.
“In the house made of dawn.
In the story made of dawn.
On the trail of dawn,
May their roads home be on the trail of peace,
Happily may they all return,
In beauty I walk.
With beauty before me, I walk.”
~ Part of a Navaho chant