Southwest Day 37: Mather Campground to Flagstaff

September 29, 2021. 81 miles, 2395 feet of climbing.

Last day of biking. More mixed feelings about it than usual. I’m lookin forward to a lot of things about being home, but less ready to be done with the trip than on previous tours. I think the culture shock had a different profile on this trip. The first couple weeks were harder than usual, but the end is a little more sad. Maybe it just took longer to get into it than usual. I am ready to not have to wash out my clothes every day and pack everything up almost every morning.

Today was the longest (mileage-wise) of the trip. There was even a respectable hill in there. It was hard, but not that hard. There haven’t been any days on this trip that really compared to the hardest days in Patagonia. A few that took persistence and patience to get up hills, but nothing like getting through Torres del Paine in the wind.

Anyway, I left the campground and spent the first 5-6 miles on the (paved) train to Tusayan. I’ve biked on a little of the AZT I guess, even if I went the long way around the canyon.

The first 30 miles or so were very much rolling hills but mostly down. I left the forest and was back into high desert scrubby dry land.

In a few hours I got to Valle, which would have been my option for a place to stay if I wanted to break up today’s ride. It would have worked, but wasn’t very interesting. There was a sign with “minutes to Flagstaff”. It gave two options (different routes?), but both were very wrong.

I turned onto 180 to head to Flagstaff. The road started out nice, but lost its shoulder very quickly. Still better than 89A. There was a very small shoulder occasionally, and much less traffic. I think most of the cars probably take the interstate. It was the “sometimes no cars for 5 minutes” level of traffic, which is nice.

I knew that there would be a long climb on 180, but it was hard to tell what the grade would be like (Google, of course, claimed it was “mostly flat”). Turned out that it was mostly not too bad, with one stretch of a couple miles that felt like a real climb. The scenery through the San Francisco peaks was much nicer than the morning though, so it was worth it.

I finished the major climb section, at which point my phone’s GPS went haywire and it got harder to figure out when I would hit the downhill into Flagstaff. It kept feeling like I should get a downhill, but there would be a long stretch of (actual) “mostly flat”.

Mostly flat (with a headwind)
Mostly flat (with a headwind)
I think 8000 is about as high as it gets, right?
I think 8000 is about as high as it gets, right?
Weird numbers on elevation signs are usually a good signal.
Weird numbers on elevation signs are usually a good signal.

Eventually (after the odd number on the elevation sign) I hit the real downhill. It was long, and consistent, and really nice to end the trip on the joy of coasting downhill for miles on end. I didn’t take pictures, because why interrupt the fun? It was downhill pretty much all the way through Flagstaff and to my motel.

There's the endpoint, I guess.
There’s the endpoint, I guess.

I have a room at a really cozy motel for two nights. It’s older, but very comfortable. My room is a cute suite with a living room and probably the most comfortable bed of the trip.

I did a load of laundry so that I don’t have to smell myself for the whole train ride, ordered a pizza, and curled up inside to listen to the thunderstorm that considerately waited until I was done biking to arrive. I even saw a double rainbow on my walk back from the store.

Bronwyn Woods