Southwest Day 33: Marble Canyon to Cameron

September 25, 2021. 72 miles, 2951 feet of climbing.

I expected today to be a long day, which it was in terms of mileage. But I made really good time and got to Cameron in early afternoon. I was still tired and happy to be finished, but it wasn’t as a challenging a day as I expected.

I got up early and got started soon after it got light. The early morning light on the cliffs was really beautiful, and perhaps demonstrated where they get their name.

Just down the road from the motel was the bridge (well, two bridges, actually) over the Colorado. I think this is officially the start of the Grand Canyon (or pretty close to it at least - maybe that’s Lee’s Ferry). It’s not nearly as grand here, but it’s still definitely a canyon. I wasn’t regretting not having to bike up from the bottom at the Ferry. I walked across the (now pedestrial only) Navajo Bridge and took photos. I probably could have stopped as much as I wanted on the highway bridge that early in the morning as there was barely any traffic (yay!).

As I crossed the river I entered the Navajo Nation. The most confusing (though not that relevant for me) part of this is that the time zone is different than the rest of Arizona because of daylight savings time. My phone got pretty confused about the time in this area - I assume just depending on what tower it was finding. Luckily for me, it really doesn’t matter what time it is on this trip.

The first half of the day was mostly up, and started with a long stretch to get around cliffs on the east side of the river.

The shoulder on 89A never reallty appeared, and I was really glad for the lack of early morning trffic. I guess it takes a while for anyone to get to this part of the world from most places where they would be staying overnight. Nevertheless, my first mental goal was mile 18 or so when I finally got to say good riddance to 89A and rejoin 89.

89 had good shoulder when there wasn’t a passing lane. Every few miles the shoulder would shrink to make room for passing lanes on one side of the road or the other. A few of these got a little tight, but compared to 89A it was still a big improvement. And at least when there’s a passing lane there’s still more space on the road.

Google Maps biking directions attempt to show elevation profiles, which often seem pretty accurate. But sometimes it will persistently claim the route is “mostly flat” and not show anythying. Even for routes with thousands of feet of elevation change. Someone should really work on that algorithm. In any case, I knew that the first half of the day was mostly up and the second half of the day was mostly down. I wasn’t paying really close attention, but then saw a sign for Cedar Ridge after a relatively long climb. I hoped that indicated the high point, and it turned out that it did. Things got easier after that.

I stopped at the (only) gas station along the route for a cold iced tea and a short break around mile 45. Other than that I barely stopped the whole ride. Partly I think the grades weren’t very intense, but I think I also just wanted to get the miles in. I suppose the not stopping bit is probably what got me to Cameron so quicly.

Anyway, the day was mostly through fairly empty and desolate landscape. The traffic increased throughout the day, especially after the road joined coming from Tuba City. There were periodic Navajo craft stands along the road, and a fairly consistent scattering of rural homes and ranches too. It wasn’t as empty as I imagine the road though Utah that I skipped would have been. But still pretty empty. It also got sandier and sandier throughout the day.

I saw Cameron from a few miles away, and was definitely ready to be done by the time I got there. From a distance, it looked like a couple of buildings in a bunch of sand, but it turned out to be a nice little oasis that was very comfortable for the afternoon and evening.

The Little Colorado 'River'
The Little Colorado ‘River’

The Cameron Trading Post had a giant gift shop with a small food shop and a restaurant. I bought some drinks and chips and ice cream from the shop and a takeout dinner of prickly pear BBQ ribs from the restaurant (they were delicious!). My room was on a corner of one of the hotel buildings, with nice windows and a view over the (clearly very irrigated) garden.

Cameron is defnitely in the middle of nowhere, but it’s a very comfortable stopover point, especially after a long day of riding.

Bronwyn Woods