I’m writing from Scottsdale, AZ. I’m staying with Gerald and his wife Kat. I’ve known Gerald since I was a little kid and we roomed together in College.
I know, I’m supposed to be in New Mexico. So – how did we end up in Scottsdale?
Jillian dropped me off at the Amtrak in Kansas City on the night of the 10th. I slept on the train that night(had a surprisingly restful night of sleep) and arrived in Albequerque, NM at 5pm on the 11th.
The trip was uneventful. I met a full blooded Navajo man my age named Mark on the viewing car. He was traveling back to his home on the Navajo reservation an hour south of Albequerque. He told me that he had been traveling for the last five years working jobs all across the country and that he hadn’t seen his children for that entire time.
Mark’s stories were fascinating. He has 10 siblings, 20+ aunts and uncles and over 50 cousins. When he was 13 he went on a rite of passage where he spent three weeks alone in the wilderness of New Mexico. During that time all he had with him was a small Swiss Army Knife. He survived off the land for those three weeks. After he returned home he was presented with his new wife. At 13. Not courted, or dated, or asked for the hand of marriage. He was GIVEN his new wife after becoming a man during his rite of passage. I think he had two kids by the time he was 15. I didn’t know this stuff still happened in the modern age.
We took a brief interlude where he bought another Jack and Coke and then he started telling me stories of the Skinwalker. Skinwalkers are one of the most feared beings for Navajo. Skinwalkers are medicine men who have turned evil. Kind of like Sith Lords. To become a Skinwalker you must murder a member of your own family in a sacrificial ritual. Gruesome stuff.
Mark warned me repeatedly to be wary of Skinwalkers during our time on the reservations and in the wilds. He was incredibly ernest and sincere in the way that only a drunk man can be. He was not making up stories. He believed that the Skinwalkers were out there and that they posed a real danger to me on my journey.
When Mark was young he saw one. He was out hunting with his cousins and he saw what appeared to be a humanoid being walk behind a tree in the distance and from the other side of the tree emerged a Jackrabbit that was two feet tall, had the tail of a horse, and the feet of a man.
Mark warned me never to follow a Skinwalker. To guard my mind against dangerous thoughts of self-harm or harming others, because Skinwalkers can influence our minds. And that if I did see one that I should burn Cedar wood and rub the ash on myself for protection. And to never be in the wilds alone.
Skinwalkers are shapeshifters and can be distinguished as a Skinwalker while in animal form because the animal will always have some part that isn’t right. Human feet, or wrong eyes, or strange behavior. He told me to trust my gut and avoid places that didn’t feel right.
All in all good advice. But anyway I arrived in Albequerque and met Ryan “Kodak” Brown, my travel companion for the next 6-8 months. He gave me a ride to Andy’s house.
Ryan had arrived two days before I did and met Andy on the website “Warmshowers”. It’s like Couchsurfing.com but for long-distance bicyclists.
From my Instagram:
- jackjoneshgDay 5, mile 40, outside Albuquerque NM. Yesterday was brutal for me. My legs kept cramping and I was all tense riding through the ABQ traffic. I am very happy to leave that town behind. Camped in the desert behind a RV park and had a restful sleep. Today’s ride has been much smoother. No cramps and less traffic. Even some offroading in the desert. We’re currently at a travel center. Ate a 1/2lb DQ burger. The food aspect of #bikepacking is certainly is better than hiking. @ryankodakbrown has been a tremendous asset in helping me with all the little problems you get I the bike. We’ll try to do 20-30 more miles today! Should hit the Great Divide tomorrow. Two vlogs are now live on YouTube search “healthy gamer”. Take care everyone!!
- jackjoneshgDay 5, near Grant, NM. What a day!! Started off well enough but after we left that travel center the most hellacious wind picked up. It seriously felt like i was back on Mt Washington. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the gusts approached 60mph. It was so bad that we had to pedal GOING DOWN HILL. The uphill climbs were torture with the headwind. My knee started hurting in the afternoon and so around 4 we decided to hitch and head to the Great Divide and skip this stupid part. Oh we also ran out of road and had to ride the interstate. Not fun. A really nice man picked us up, Clyde, a full blooded Zunni native. We’re now camped on the Great Divide in a little creek bed nestled against rocks to help block this wind. It’s snowing. It’s beautiful here. I can’t wait to ride tomorrow. The challenge hasn’t dampened my spirits one bit. What’s an adventure without adversity??
The winds that day really were absurd. I’m not exaggerating when I say we had to pedal going downhill. Otherwise the winds would stop you dead in your tracks.
- jackjoneshgDay 7, Scottsdale AZ. Woo buddy have we ever made great time! All of NM in one day, new #FTK record in the books!
Haha just kidding. After breaking camp and man-handling the bikes over the barbed wire fence we rode back to a small gas station next to I40. Even that small ride irritated my knee and I could tell that further riding on it was just going to make the problem worse.@ryankodakbrown thinks that I most likely need to adjust my seat back more. The problem is that I’m out of room so I’ll need to buy a new seat post.The phrase of the day was: “Improvise and Adapt.” My knee hurt because of a series of bad decisions: going on this long ride before I had properly fitted the bike, not doing conditioning rides, and pushing too hard in the beginning. There’s no sense in making a bad situation worse by bull-headedly continuing with a plan just because that was the original plan.
My top priority is to not get seriously injured this early on during the journey(or ever). So at that gas station I started brainstorming. I thought “maybe I’ll just hike the AZT then bike the easier portions in Utah on.” Then I remembered that my friend Gerald and his wife Kat live in Scottsdale, AZ. So I called up Gerald and asked if we could hang out for a week while I fix my bike and go on some conditoning rides.
After that we hitched back to ABQ(after all that trouble leaving the place!!) and picked up a mini-van rental. The bikes fit perfectly in the back of the van and 8 hours later we were in Scottsdale.
We made a brief pitstop in Pie Town, NM to pick up some packages(that would have been our next stop if we continued the original route) and got to see the continental divide and the CDT path. It’s a beautiful area, I can’t wait to get back there on foot!
So now we’ll spend about a week resting and doing conditoning rides in Scottsdale before getting dropped off at the southern terminus of the #AZT. I really like this plan. It actually puts us ahead of schedule and I think having a week to let my knee heal will be crucial to the long-term success of this trip. Plus I get to hang out with my friends for a week and see Scottsdale!
- jackjoneshgOh I forgot to mention the guy in the first pic.That’s “Forest”. He lives out of this old RV and we saw him in the gas station playing his drums. As we walked up to him another man handed him some cash and a baggie of weed. Forest said people had been giving him drugs all day. He was headed to ABQ to the Gem Show to sell jewlery that he makes by hand so we offered to buy him some gas if he’d give us a lift. Well turns out that one of his tires was flat and after spending a good hour and a half trying to fix it we gave him a few bucks for gas and hitched. He was still there playing his drums and waiting on AAA when we came back through with our rental. All told probably for the best that we didn’t ride 80 miles in a beat-up RV with a flat tire driven by a hippie high on god knows what. Nice guy. “One love” was his parting words to us.
- jackjoneshgAh forgot the last pic too! I clearly didn’t get enough sleep last night. That’s Clyde. He’s a full blooded Zunni who gave us a ride out to the divide two days ago after the hellacious day of riding into the winds. Super nice man and works as the supervisor of a “Hot Shots” crew, which is an elite wildfire firefighter crew. He told us his story of hitchiking from Minnesota to Oregon and then down the coast of California to Santa Monica. When he arrived at the pier he laid down his hat and started playing his guitar. He did this everyday to feed his alcoholism. He was helped by a man who came down, bought him two bottles of Jack Daniel’s, added air time to his cell-phone, and told Clyde to call him when he hit rock bottom and was ready to quit. Clyde drank both bottles of Jack and the next day went to the man’s house. From there the man took Clyde to his first AA meeting. Clyde has been sober since 2012. He said that something in his mind told him today to “pick these two guys up because they need some help and I need some help getting through today.” I took that to mean that he was still struggling daily to control his urge to drink and today he picked us up so that he wouldn’t pick up a bottle. Neat guy. Told us a lot about the reservations we were passing through. You never know who you will meet or what stories you will hear on these kinds of adventures.
So now you’re mostly caught up. Today we returned the rental, bought some groceries, and went to a local bike shop. I had my bike adjusted and increased the height of my handlebars by about an inch. Then we rode in a nearby mountain bike park for about an hour for a small taste of what the Arizona Trail will be like. It’s going to be hard! But also really fun. Arizona is BEAUTIFUL. I’m looking forward to getting on the trail finally.
My knee feels much better today already and only gave me some slight pain on the ride. It’s not stiff and sore like it was the two previous days.
I’ll play it by ear but we’re shooting to be on the AZT by next weekend. It all depends on how the knee holds up to the conditioning rides this week. Kat made Paella for dinner and it was great. She thought we couldn’t eat it all. We proved her wrong.
I’m updating my Instagram more frequently than these blogs, so if you want the latest and more photos you can check http://www.instagram.com/jackjoneshg Kodak is also updating his Instagram and you can see his perspective of the trip at http://www.instagram.com/ryankodakbrown
Thanks for reading. I’m having a blast! This already feels like more of an adventure than the Appalachian Trail. This trip feels more unknown, more raw, and more uncertain. I love it!
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