Today was all about soaking in the warm company of family. We spent the day cooking, eating, walking, swimming and chatting, but I won’t bore you with detailing our wholesome activities and familial love nor will I betray my family by describing slight annoyances. All I will say is that I feel incredibly grateful for our time together.
Carsten and I had a short riding day today. We were simply biking into Tempe to meet up with our parents who had flown out for Papa’s spring break to spend Easter together as a family.
Carsten still being in high school means that this biking trip left Papa and Mom as empty nesters for the first time. We arrived to numerous warm hugs and a fridge filled with our favorite foods. After an initial bout of catching up, they whisked us off to a nearby farm-to-table restaurant for lunch.
Easter is still two days away, but the easter bunny was feeling impatient, so in the afternoon Carsten, Nalani, Papa and I vacated our rental, so that the easter bunny could do her work. None of us minded feeling like kids again as we searched for incredibly well hidden chocolate bars and Carsten’s college acceptance letters that had arrived in his absence.
We spent the evening eating our Easter chocolate, while looking at photos from our trip and telling stories of our adventures.
Carsten and Nalani had a slow start to their biking day. Less than five miles down the road Nalani got a flat tire. The small pump that we carry with us on our bikes was behaving badly, so Nalani and Carsten gave me a call and asked me to bring them the bigger pump that lives in the car. Well passed nine they started biking again, which is fairly late for starting a biking day in the desert.
I drove ahead to our next campground. My drive was beautiful, following curvy roads through the mountains east of Phoenix. I’ve learned that a full day of biking translates to roughly an hour in the car, but I drove for well over two hours to reach our destination. A little confused I pulled out my phone and tried mapping today’s route. To my surprise my phone said 90 miles with thousands of feet of climbing – almost double the climbing of any other day. As the instigator of this trip, I map out our biking days. Somehow I had made a mistake. Nalani and Carsten thought they had 60 miles of biking with only moderate climbing.
I went into a panic of worry and guilt. 90 miles! And over a mountain! Carsten and Nalani are going to die! Or at least they are going to run out of water! Then I tried to think more reasonably. They aren’t going to die I told myself. They will simply call me if they run out of water and I can go and pick them up. But the panicky side of my brain wasn’t that easily quieted. But Nalani’s phone was low on battery this morning, what if it is dead? And who knows about Carsten’s phone. And even if their phones aren’t dead they surely won’t have service way out there in the middle of nowhere. They are going to die! They aren’t going to die I told myself again. There were plenty of cars on that road. They can always wave down a car for help. So they aren’t going to die, the frenzied part of my brain finally conceded. But they will kill me for making them bike 90 miles in this crazy heat!
I pulled out my phone and tried calling Nalani and Carsten. Both of their phones were off. I sent them a series of rambling, apologetic text messages. Then I mapped the route again. Somehow this time it said 77 miles instead of 90. 77 miles felt more reasonable even though it was still almost double the amount of climbing of any other riding day. I went back and forth on whether to drive out to find them, but I made wait. Carsten and Nalani were perfectly capable of taking care of themselves.
Around 6pm Nalani and Carsten arrived at camp. They were both flushed from the ride in the heat, but they were in reasonably good spirits. Carsten had run out of water, but Nalani had a little bit left. When I told them how far they had ridden and how much they had climbed, neither of them were mad. Instead they high-fived and celebrated their accomplishment. I told them to shower and hydrate while I made them dinner.
This morning my knee felt much better, so I decided to give biking a try again. Nalani made me promise to call if my knee started hurting and that she would be happy to relinquish her driving day to me if need be.
After three days of not biking I was thrilled to get back on my bike. The first five miles were fabulous. I’m biking! I’m biking and my knee feels okay! But then my mood and internal dialogue shifted. Why did I miss this so much? Literally all I’m doing is sitting on my ass and pedaling. What’s so great about biking? For the first time on the trip I got bored of biking. Previously I’d found the hours of biking relaxing and meditative. I’d enjoyed simply watching the scenery go by, but today I felt antsy and couldn’t find a sense of flow. My muscles felt weak and I was compensating for the uneasy feeling in my right knee by pushing down harder with my left leg. The result was that my left leg tired out quickly. I biked frustratingly slowly the whole day and Carsten often had to slow down to wait for me. We didn’t arrive at our campground until around 5pm, a full three hours later than I’d expected.
My low mood diminished, however, as soon as we reached our campsite. Nalani had set up camp directly on the shore of Lake Roosevelt. Every bush in the campground seemed to be in full bloom. Brilliant yellow and orange flowers contrasted beautifully with the stunning blue of the lake. Saguaro cactuses full of woodpecker holes dotted the shoreline and just before dinner I spotted a Gilded Flicker dart into one of these holes. After dinner we watched the full moon rise over the hills on the far side of the lake.
We hadn’t decided last night if today was going to be a rest day, but we also didn’t set an alarm. With the hotels heavy curtains blocking out the sun, we managed to sleep in until 9am, which is very late for us. I didn’t want to bike because I felt that I should rest my knee for another day. Carsten and Nalani didn’t want to bike because they were exhausted from biking 112 miles yesterday and 77 the day before. Moreover 20 to 30 mph winds were surging from the west, which none of us were in the mood to contend with.
We decided to take a rest day and take advantage of the casino hotel special again tonight. Carsten was eager to have a whole day to work on his English. We spent the day alternating between “independent work time” and activities we could find to do around the casino resort, such as playing in the pool, doing laundry, taking a walk through the golf course, exploring the casino and watching tv.
Tuesday mornings at casinos are kind of sad. There is none of the festive vibe I expected. Instead it is mostly middle-aged people playing the slot machines by themselves. We walked through the casino area, but were not tempted to linger.
Today Nalani and Carsten were planning on biking 43 miles to Safford, AZ. I drove ahead to Safford to pick out the least sketchy RV Park I could find and to get an oil change. I then waited for Nalani and Carsten in a café. They showed up around 11am and we ate $3.50 breakfast sandwiches as an early lunch. Both Nalani and Carsten seemed fairly lethargic and we didn’t talk much over our food.
We then parted ways for them to bike and me to drive to the RV Park a few blocks away. On their ride to the park, Carsten and Nalani decided they wanted to keep on biking. Their reasoning: Carsten felt too lethargic to do his English, so they may as well keep going.
The next lodging option wasn’t for another 70 miles because we were about to enter the Apache Reservation. Moreover the next lodging option was the Apache Gold Casino and Resort, which sounded expensive to me. I decided to call and see how much it was before deciding whether or not to have Carsten and Nalani keep going. It turned out that the resort was running a special, so it was cheaper than any other hotel we had come across so far. Apparently they entice you with cheap rates in the hope that you will blow a lot of money gambling.
With a bit of trepidation Carsten and Nalani restocked on food and water and hit the road again. I made them promise to call if they needed anything. I spent a few more hours in the café writing and looking at job boards for this fall. Then I stopped in at Safeway to buy Carsten and Nalani hard apple cider and coconut water as post ride treats. I assumed they would need them after biking 112 miles.
I passed Nalani and Carsten when they had just over 30 miles to go. They restocked on water from the car, but assured me they were okay. It was 88-degrees and there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky.
I checked in at the casino resort and waited for Carsten and Nalani. Finally just after dark, they arrived. Nalani threw herself on the bed and announced she wasn’t sure if she would ever move again, but then a minute later she was up and showering. Both of them seemed much more chipper than at the café this afternoon.
Today Carsten and Nalani had a 77-mile ride, during which time they did not pass by a single town let alone a gas station. It was simply 77-miles of open desert.
When I first woke up, my right knee felt stiff. Throughout the morning the stiffness morphed into active pain and I started to walk around with a limp. On my way to the camp bathroom sometime after Nalani and Carsten had hit the road, a woman waiting by the laundry machines stopped me. “What did you do to your knee honey? Do you have an ace wrap? I can get it wrapped up for you if you would like. I’m a nurse.” I told the woman that I had a neoprene brace in the car and that I would go and put it on. She encouraged me to go and get it checked on, noting that it looked swollen to her. My knee didn’t appear swollen to me, but maybe she was right.
After putting on my brace, I went back to the woman and asked her if she knew of a walk-in clinic in the area that I could go to. She gave me directions and then started chatting with me. When she found out that I was from Indiana, she grew excited: “My daughter lives in Wisconsin. She works for the Wisconsin FBI. I’m really proud of her. She always reminds me not to tell people that she works for the FBI, but I just can’t help it because I’m so proud of her. You wouldn’t believe some of the cases she had helped solve through her mastery identifying fingerprints. Do you remember that killer in Colorado?” And she told me about one case after another. I finally interrupted her, thanking her once again and explaining that I really had to go if I was going to get my knee examined.
I waited at the clinic for an hour and a half. When it was finally my turn to see the doctor, the receptionist told me that no radiologist was on duty that day and that I should go to the clinic at the hospital instead.
I was tired of waiting and I knew that Carsten and Nalani were probably almost done with their ride. I decided that I would take the next few days off of biking and if my knee didn’t improve I would go to a hospital then.