From January 26, 2010

Arizona to Texas.... Not Necessarily an Easy Ride!

written by: Ward
edited by: Jacky

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

You probably thought we never left the Grand Canyon. Send out the search and rescue squad! Because we have a lot of information to report, we will do this in 2 e-groups (aka e-newletters) . The second e-group will come within a couple of days. We recommend checking out our website. We have new updates and changes. The blog is updated through Key West, Florida and also contains a link to ALL of our past e-groups (e-newletters) . Pictures of New Mexico and Texas are posted with Louisiana and Florida pictures to come shortly. We have some new inspiring stories under our "inspiring others" icon. If you have been following us through our SPOT (by clicking on our globe on our home page) you may notice that we have been staying in the same area. After returning to the Orlando area from Key West, we are hanging out for 2 1/2 months as we wait for the weather to warm up along the east coast. In the meantime we are helping our friend work on her house and trying to get temporary jobs. More to come on that later.

Arizona Through Texas; not Necessarily an Easy Ride

As I write this we have achieved another goal, most notably we have touched our 3rd corner of the Continental United States, Key West, Florida. (More about that later.)

Leaving the Grand Canyon was rewarding and yet sort of a let down. Our next deadline was to be at the Dallas Fort Worth Airport by November 18th. We had approximately 2000km or 1240 miles to ride. We were racing against the weather and the potential for early winter storms in the mountains of Arizona and New Mexico. The weather won.

The early winter blizzard that hit Arizona and New Mexico forced us to hunker down in Albuquerque for 3 days. Schools were closed and route 40 (our route just east of Albuquerque) was also closed. The 7000 ft elevation also made our daily riding temperatures to never even reach 40 degrees. (Prior to the trip we had set a guideline that we would not ride in temps <40 degrees. Guideline broken.)

Well, lets back up about 500 miles. As we left Flagstaff, AZ we were able to ride a large portion of "Route 66". This historic route from Chicago to Los Angeles consists of both In terstate 40 (I40) as well as the original "Route 66". Many of the towns tried to hang onto their history by having points of interest and buildings maintained as they were. As we traveled through the area we noticed the prevalence of dilapitated buildings and a general sense of maliaze in the towns and economy.

We had a surprise as we were leaving Winslow, AZ. Coincidentally, as we were heading east on I40, Uncle Larry and Aunt Chrissy were heading west on I40 on their way to San Diego. We met for coffee at the Navajo Truck Stop (where Ward and I camped) at 6:30 a.m. It was such a treat to see family faces.

The camping options became less available as the campgrounds were closing for the winter. Also, the towns were frequently small and did offer many options. Jacky and I resorted to camping behind hotels in the weeds, in the dirt parking lots of Truck Stops and on the paved parking lots of Elk Lodges. There were mornings when we woke up to temperatures as low as 12 degrees. That was tolerable because the daytime temperatures would reach 65 to 70 degrees. When the night time temperatures dropped to 20 degrees and daytime temperatures only hit the lower 40s, we switched strategies and found cheap, cheap hotels for refuge.

The route to Dallas was a mixture of Interstate 40 (I40) and "Route 66" and then Highway 84 in Texas. I40 became our enemy and we wanted off of it in the worst way. Arizona and New Mexico have thorns and many goat heads on and along their roads which cause numerous flats. Our tires contain a kevlar belt to help prevent flats and we also use liquid tire sealant and even put liners in our tires. Nothing worked against the small bits of wire from the steel belts from the blown truck tires. We had 11 flats in 3 days. One morning we were taking down the tent and I said to Jacky, "No hurry. We have 3 flat tires". The next morning we had 3 MORE flat tires. I began to think we were stuck in the movie, "Ground Hog Day". (side note: as of Jan. 19, 2010 we have had 77 flats.)

The route to Dallas was suppose to be downhill from the Grand Canyon (Elevation: Grand Canyon - 7200ft, Dallas - 562ft). However, long mountain passes and headwinds were there to torment us. The landscape had some strikingly beautiful areas but it was primarily large open spaces of scrub brush and desert. When we hit Texas the scenery switched to cottonfields, ranches, oil wells and windmills. It was flat!

A new realization for us was that we entered the bible belt. Religion and conservative politics were the course of the day. This was okay with me because I supported a lot of their perspectives. Jacky was more challenged by this. Although my daily "carrot" required a bit more planning. Let me explain it to you folks from Wisconsin. You see in Wisconsin you can get a beer on just about any intersection. Well, in the bible belt they have "wet" and "dry" counties. "Dry" counties do not sell any beer, wine or alcohol. So, in many "dry" counties people just drive to "wet" counties to buy their beer. For us to have a "carrot" at the end of the day would require hauling it from the previous "wet" county. Way to heavy and not a good idea.

On November 18, 2009 we made a short trip back to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving. We visited family and friends and gave school, church and Rotary presentations in Medford, WI. and also Cresco, Iowa. Then we headed to Davenport, IA for the Budweg Christmas (celebrated early). We returned back to Texas on 12/1/09.


1. Mark Morton, Rotary President of Muleshoe, Texas. Mark and his wife love to hunt exotic animals all over the world. We were served amazing wild game chili that was literally worth $400.00/lb. Their grand room was a trophy room and a walk through it was a hunter's dream. Mark hopes to come deer hunting in Iowa in 2010.

2. Steve Burda, a cyclist from Fort Worth, Texas was our "warm shower" host. (Warm Showers is a hospitality organization for bicyclists) He treated us to a Sunday afternoon steak fry while watching the Packers vs Cowboys football game. Yeah, the Packers won.

3. Paul Lucas, Rotary District Governor Elect from Bedford, Texas is also a cross country bicyclist and 5 time Ragbrai participant. Paul organized many Rotary meetings for us to attend and hosted us at his house 3 nights.

4. Darrel and Betty Braunhagen from Desoto, Texas. Darrel is formerly from Decorah and has done many Ragbrais in the past. They arranged to have their bike club come over that evening so that we could share some stories with them and answer their questions as some of them are considering a self-contained trip in the future. Its great to see old friends from Ragbrai.

5. Gary and Marty Summerall from Corsicana, Texas. Their local Rotary Club lined up a stay at the Summer's Bed and Breakfast. Marty is quite a southern belle from Mississippi and she knows how to put on the charm. This charm is also expressed in their quaint rooms. It was neat to stay in the room that Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman stayed in when they were together.

6. Malte and Courtney Bruegman from Houston, Texas showed us a special time. Malte was a Rotary exchange student from Germany that stayed with me in Decorah in 1991. It was great to see him again and the path that he is now taking. He, along with his father and brother have created a multinational plastics business. Malte has become an airplane and helicopter pilot as well. A very special treat for us was to have a scenic helicopter ride through the high rise skyscrapers of Houston.

From the Grand Canyon to Houston we had more snow and bad cold snowy weather than any other portion of our trip.

Now to the Gulf Coast. Stay tuned for part 2.

Ward and Jacky