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The First Seventy Years: 124 - The Grand Canyon

Eric Biddulph, touring the Western USA on a bike, paid a chilly visit to the Grand Canyon.

Ericís book The First Seventy Years can be obtained for £10 by contacting http://mary@bike2.wanadoo.co.uk or telephoning 01484-658175.

All the cash raised by the book goes to a water aid project in Malawi.

The next morning I rode some 30 kilometres to Bullhead City where I was able to buy a replacement tyre. The shop owner was a cyclist. He forewarned me of a 20 kilometre climb to reach the summit of a 1500 metres high pass en-route to the Grand Canyon. I purchased a one gallon container of water and filled up my three bottles attached to my bike before tackling the ascent. Although it was only late April the searing heat posed a real challenge. Riding conditions would have been unbearable in mid-summer. Regular stops for a drink became the order of the day.

Towards the end of the day I made the short descent into Kingsman. I'd had enough; five weeks in the USA and no rain. All this was about to change. The next day arrived with a vengeance. A strong tailwind for the first 40 kilometres suddenly changed into a vicious headwind. I realised that I was soon to experience a prolonged thunderstorm. The heat of the past few weeks disappeared. A piercing cold wind began to blow. I struggled on until I managed to reach Hualapoi Lodge, a Hopi Indian owned hotel. A new experience for me on this tour; drying out clothing and luggage.

The following morning I came upon a nostalgic building dating back to the 1930s. I had perchance found myself riding on Route 66. I did not attach much importance to the route number until entering this treasure house of history. Highway 66 was the road running all the way from Los Angeles to Chicago; a distance of over 3000 kilometres, rather like the Great North Road in English folklore, it enjoyed its heyday between the two World Wars and during that post-war period before the freeways were built.

I rejoined the freeway at Siligman. I suffered on a long, tough climb until I reached Williams. The road levelled out for the final 50 kilometres to the Grand Canyon. I caught up with a young American guy from Chicago. He had recently bought himself a second-hand mountain bike to do a spot of touring. Graham invited me to pitch my tent alongside him in the woods of the Grand Canyon National Park. I was somewhat reluctant in view of the low temperature at 2500 metres but agreed.

We purchased some food in the local store and set about cooking a shared meal. Owing to the cold we both took to our sleeping bags at 8 pm. It was however, to no avail. The cold air penetrated every nook and cranny of my bag; sleep was impossible. Graham was left in no doubt about my intention to abandon camp the next morning. I booked for two nights at a motel. A room was provided with two single beds. I invited my new found friend to join me. It would not cost any more. It would give him the chance to have a shower.

The next two days were spent visiting this region of natural beauty. Several reels of slide film were used in recording the numerous views spread over a huge distance; taken at various times of the day. One of the great natural wonders of the world.


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