I ended up staying with a very nice couple in Red Mesa who both work as nurses in the clinic. Tom had some good stories of when he rode mountain bikes around South America for a year with some friends after college. Around noon I headed out hoping to cross into New Mexico but had no set plans on where I would stay. Wispy white clouds marbled the bright blue sky. I was only twenty or so miles from the four corners monument and I could clearly see the mountains of Colorado to the north. I stopped at the Teec Nos Pos trading post for an ice cream sandwich and sat in the shade returning zombie like stares from tour bus enthusiast heading to the four corners. It felt both exciting and exhausting to start a new state. I’m not one to believe in superstitions, but it was a little strange how a black cat chased me across the border meowing like I stole his only can of Weruva Paw Lickin’ Chicken. When I got to Beclabito I called the Pastor from Shiprock around 5:00 pm. He was getting ready for the Wednesday night service but had a trailer I could stay in if I could make it.
I actually slept pretty well in the shower room and headed over to the main office in the morning. Breakfast was waiting in the cafeteria. Mr. James Brown was in a meeting and I realized it was 9 am not 8 am due to the time change. Fortunately the people in the cafeteria were nice enough to box up and save a breakfast for me. After eating my rubber keash and cereal I was finally on the road. I tend to move slowly when I don’t have set housing and no particular city to reach. Today was one of those days. An old dictionary lay on the side of the road and I ripped out a page from the H section. I read the whole thing. Reading a random page from the dictionary is kind of like run camping. When run camping you never know where you’re going to end up: a wild life refuge, a fancy hotel, a shower room etc. Even though the words are alphabetized, you still get some random meanings from the funny looking Heron bird to Herodias. The story goes that Herodias was married to King Herod’s brother before King Herod married her. John the Baptist told them this was wrong and that made Herodias have some sort of grudge against the guy. Long story short, John’s head ends up on a plate. You can read about it in the book of Matthew or the H section of the dictionary.
3/13 I stayed with Kent and Irene Orr in Red Lake. They proved to be very helpful on a stretch I had anticipated to be incredibly difficult. Kent helped me patch up Ruby’s right tire and for the time being it seems to be as good as new. It was 49 miles to Kayenta and I had every intention of covering the distance in one day. Unfortunately my body disagreed with me. The stories I will wait to share later in life seem to be adding up. However, I will say that the constant mix of different foods and the extreme mileage leaves certain pastimes uncomfortable and messy. If you are ever traveling up highway 160 through Red Lake do me a favor and don’t look behind the left foot of the elephant feet rock formation. By my fifth stop I was getting good at anticipating the sudden eruptions and took a small amount of joy and satisfaction in the fact that I was no longer completely ruining my running gear. Despite my muscles and insides completely hating the days activities my eyes were fascinated on the extraordinary new landscape. Patches of pure white snow lay on the cliffs equally revealing the vibrant red rocks.
I reached Tsegi Canyon an hour before sunset and was able to enjoy the suns rays finding holes in the breaking clouds as they shone down on the truly beautiful painted canyon. An old sheep dog slowly walked up and sat down next to me. I found comfort in his innocent approach and enjoyed the company. We sat together appreciating the unique moment when you can watch God’s beauty unfold.
3/12 After a great continental breakfast, Grandma and Grandpa drove me back to Gray Mountain. It’s hard to believe how fast the terrain changes in this area. Flagstaff mountains used to be volcanic and these people’s financial success is due to their large amounts of cinder. They have red and black cinder for making cinder blocks. Supposedly the black cider is more expensive due to its strength.
Now that I was a good distance from the mountains, these trees stuck out of the desert like a rare two-story house in this area. I had housing in Tuba City, 33 miles or more ahead of me. The road was busy since it was the only main highway through the area. I felt safe as long as the cars kept a wide shoulder. Randomly every couple of miles, the shoulder would appear and disappear Without the shoulder it felt like I didn’t belong and nearly every car passed too close for comfort. Over the past month a little mustache has sprouted beneath my nostrils. At first I picked up the habit of sticking out my bottom lip and rhythmically puffing air through it as I ran. Today I noticed my habit has changed to slowly parting the hair down the dead center with my tongue and carefully placing each half on its appropriate side.
Tuba City is considered the painted desert and the Navajo Indians have occupied it for some time now. Every five to ten miles I would see a booth set up on the side of the road with a lady trying to sell her crafts. They make beautiful jewelry and of course I stopped at every booth. Not to buy but to talk. Ten miles to Tuba City I turned the corner to find my answer as to why this city is considered the painted desert. Bright red jagged rocks stretched out in front of me. The dark blacktop against the overly saturated landscape of rocks and sky was a breathtaking view. It was one stretch of land I did not mind running through.
Lowell dropped me off at mile marker 430 and I was off and running. It was a bit cold and windy out but at least it was at my back. Rumor had it that my uphill troubles where over, at least for the time being. It would be easy rolling from here to Gray Mountain. I believe Ruby has come down with a leaky tire illness. For the past couple of days I would find the tire flat in the morning. There is a chance that it’s from the cold air but it’s more likely a small hole from some piece of glass, barbwire or rock that I forced through her over the past 600 miles. It was 27 miles to Gray Mountain and with the mile markers available I decided to put a watch on the run and see what my marathon time was. Joyce had given me the rest of the peanut butternut cookies, and at mile six I decided to award myself one cookie every two miles. I would save the one and only white chocolate and almond cookie that had rave reviews from Lowell for mile 26. Along the way I was able to push Ruby to a new mile record of 6:30! It was a good running day and I stopped the clock at 3:55 after mile 26.
My Grandparents came up from Phoenix to stay with me at a hotel they had reserved in Flagstaff. After they found me we headed back West where they where having another snow storm. If it wasn’t for that lady from On Star we would still be looking for the Sleep Inn. It was great to see some familiar faces. We had a fun time complaining about the dry pork at Buffalo Wild Wings and trying to find something wrong with the Sleep Inn. They were as crazy and fun as ever and did an excellent job spoiling me
Thanks for coming up!
The snow started falling again today. I tentatively planned to take the day off but after realizing it’s 70 miles to Tuba City, I decided to get in a few easy miles. I left from the house and headed up Hwy 89. The plan was to run 10 miles then the Stump’s would come pick me up again. A few miles into the run my legs reminded me the importance of my days off. The snow kept falling and throughout the day I experienced white out conditions. The Stump’s and I had been talking about the thin air and if I had noticed the elevation. To be honest, the thought didn’t cross my mind until today. I would describe it as eating wafers for dinner, no matter how many you eat they don’t leave you satisfied. It was a short run so its hard to complain about anything because it ended before anything crazy happened. An easy day running is as good as a day off to me. I can’t say enough about the Lee’s and Stump’s hospitality. This stretch through the mountains may have physically and emotionally pushed me over the edge if it wasn’t for their help and kindness.
3/8 The snowstorm had passed and sun made the freshly fallen snow sparkle like diamonds. The roads were plowed and for the most part I was able to put together a good route to Flagstaff. The Peaks of the mountains disappeared into the clouds leaving me to guess their sheer magnitude. The Stump’s lived on the East Side of Flagstaff right off Hwy 89 in which I would later take north to Tuba City. I made decent time and my legs felt strong. There is something about a mountain town that makes the homes look perfect all nestled in-between the white peaks. As I approached the area of the Stump’s I heard a sharp whistle and looked to see a man waving. This must be it! After introductions Joyce put on an early dinner for me and we feasted on roast beef, rolls, vegetables, rice and more! After dinner they were preparing for their weekly trip to the nursing home. Joyce plays various hymns and praise songs on the piano for the residents to sing along to. The Stump’s had a guitar so I went along and did my best to keep up with Joyce’s flying piano fingers. We had a great time.
3/7 This Sunday the Lee’s and I went to a small Methodist church a few blocks from their home. I counted 35 people in the congregation and felt incredibly welcomed by all. Unfortunately with some of the bigger churches you can slip in and out unnoticed. The 100 year old church looked well for its age. The people of that congregation were raising money for a new bell tower that would echo throughout the mountains. Instead of making a long 35 mile push to Flagstaff through the snow, the decision was made that I would run to Parks about 15 miles down the road and then come back and stay with the Lee’s one more night. I left Ruby behind to rest and only took a fuelbelt to carry some water, the GPS and my cell phone.
The snow fell in large wet flakes and made the small town tucked away in the mountains the perfect photograph for a postcard. In a matter of days it was strange to go from the desert to a snowstorm. The snow reminded me all to well of my Wisconsin training runs leading up to this event. I overshot my first turn by a half mile. When I got back to the turn I realized why. The road was basically non-existent. If there was a road it was under three feet of snow and behind a barbed wire fence. This road connected up with a dirt road in a mile and a half and I decided it would be safer to trudge through the snow then be on slippery I-40.
I jumped the fence and charged into the snow. It was fairly firm but every couple of steps my legs would break through the surface and I would fall in over my knees. It was slow going at best and extremely exhausting. I laid down in the snow and listened to my heart pumping, my body not wanting to go on. Eventually I forced myself up. About a mile into the route I came to a creek that was flooded with run off from the mountains. I looked for a thin place to make the jump but as I approached I broke through the snow up to my waist. I felt both of my feet and ankles break through into the icy mountain water. I jumped out just as fast as I fell in but it was too late, my feet were soaked. At least now I had no reason to not walk across the creek. I picked up the pace knowing I had to keep my body temperature warm. I finished off the non-existent road with one more hop of a fence. I was then on a plowed muddy road. This road lead into old Route 66. I could see my destination a quarter of a mile away as the wind made my wet body freeze. I turned off my brain and forced myself to keep a pathetic jog. The black top of Hwy 66 turned to gray then to white as the snow accumulated. I could no longer feel my body as I burst through the doors of the Park’s gas station. It was a rough 15 miles and I was thankful to have the Lee’s on their way to pick me up.
Solo and Unsupported Run across America blog rerun. Posted every weekday at 8am. Buy the now complete book and full story at www.abrahamlouis.com/runningwater
The only road to Williams was I-40 so for 18 miles it was me vs. the semis. In the distance snow capped mountains began to peak over the pine trees. The scenery was beautiful! From Ash Fork to Williams the elevation rose about 3,000 ft so it was either flat or uphill the entire day. Patches of snow hid in the shade of the tall pines and the air noticeably got cooler. My legs burned as uphill miles started to add on. At the top of one hill I had a bit of a scary moment with Ruby. I had pushed Ruby to the side of the road and turned to take a picture of the valley. The wind had been gusting down the mountain all day, and I made the mistake of not putting the parking brake on. My heart skipped a beat when out of the corner of my eye I spotted Ruby rolling backwards down the middle of I-40. My adreniline surged as I quickly looked over my shoulder for one of the many semi trucks that had been by me at 75 mph all day. I had seen four dead elk in the ditch on the way up that had attempted the same reckless behavior Ruby was partaking in. There was a gap in the traffic and I ran out to save her. I grabbed her and darted to the median as traffic flew over the hill. My heart was racing thinking of how things could have ended.
Williams was an awesome little town 35 miles from Flagstaff. The elevation was 6,700 and snow capped mountains towered over me. Williams was the home of the Grand Canyon Railroad which used to be the only way for people to see the Grand Canyon. It has since become a tourist attraction and transforms into the polar express for Christmas. Kids from all over come in their PJs to ride the train 15 miles out of town to Santa’s Village. It was a hard 18 miles, and I was glad to have a nice family waiting on the other end.
Solo and Unsupported Run across America blog rerun. Posted every weekday at 8am. Buy the now complete book and full story at www.abrahamlouis.com/runningwater
I stayed with a very nice couple in Seligman last night. They invited the assistant and head coach of the girls basketball team over because they had just gotten 4th place at the Arizona state tournament. Their high school only has 70 students and everyone on the team will be returning so I’m betting on Seligman Antelopes to take the title next year! It was a nice sunny day and the road to Ash Fork was good until the end. There is a lot of open range out here and if you’re not on a main road it’s common to see some sort of livestock wandering around. As I came over a small hill there was a large black cow standing right in the middle of the road. I didn’t see the animal at first and was surprised by his presence. I stood watching him, wondering what my next move should be. After a few minutes I was able to pass seemingly unnoticed.
With a mile to go until Ash Fork the road ended and turned into a cattle field that had a barbed wire fence surrounding the area. I have quickly developed a pet peeve for barbed wire fences. I unloaded Ruby and threw her over with a thunk. What I thought was a road on the other side turned out to be railroad tracks with another barbed wire fence on the other side. I repeated the process and finally made my way to the Ash Fork Inn. For only $29 they gave me four walls, a roof, a two channel TV and some dirty towels. I filled up the bathtub and relaxed for a good hour watching the steady dripping of the faucet. I’m no expert on loneliness or homesickness but I felt alone and trapped. The initial excitement of the run has worn off and the miles are endless and hotels or camping is lonely.