Towards Mexico


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The train ride back to Williams was a little hassle to book because of our bikes. The good people running it rarely have to deal with special guests such as cycle-tourers and their numerous bags. The train didn’t take any large luggage but we were told we could put our bags in a truck used to carry larger luggage. We don’t like having our gear and bike manipulated by others for different reasons, the main being the most don’t know where to grab our loaded bikes and things might break when they lift it. After spending several minutes on the phone with one if the train company’s employee to explain we needed our bikes and luggage to travel at the same time as us, he made sure our bikes would be put on the truck so they’ll be waiting for us when we arrived in Williams.

With our train tickets booked, we walked the Grand Canyon rim track for the rest of the day. The landscape and grandeur certainly lived up to our expectations. We jumped on the train and relaxed as the Arizona desert passed by our eyes until we arrived in Williams to discover that our bikes were waiting in the luggage area, safe and sound. We hit the supermarket to top our food supplies before searching for a camp. But nature said otherwise; dark, menacing clouds started rolling in town, threatening our plan of a good night in a dense forest. We settled for a cheap motel instead. As we walked into our room, the rain started to fall. By the time we were having dinner, a deluge was underway, strong winds and temperature dropped close to 0 Celcius. Good thing we got a motel that night!

The next day marked the beginning of our ride to go back where it started, Kingman. Only this time, the wind would be in our tail! The descent from Williams was pretty awesome, but as soon as we got down, a surprise was waiting for us; the wind had turned to face us. It seemed as if we always had the wind in our face. We couldn’t believe it. By the time we got to Seligman, we were so discouraged that we sat down at a small cafe without saying a word to each other for a few minutes. We opened our bags and devour biscuits topped with Nutella like there was no tomorrow. After a quick chat with a cycle-touring couple going in the opposite direction than us, We jumped back on our rigs and found a camp behind an abandoned high school football/soccer field, somehow sheltered from the strong blasts.

We left bright and early the following day to save the winds and it paid off; it picked up only after midday, but by this time we already made 75kms, good enough to take it easy the rest of the afternoon. We had cold weather and rain with strong headwinds slowing us down to 13km\h in a 1-3% incline descent into Kingman.

The next day was the best we’ve had since we began this journey. The wind had finally died off and could finally admire the barren, arid, desert landscape surrounding us. We headed towards the mountain leading into Oatman, an old mining town set in the mountains and a popular stop on route 66. The climb up there was fantastic and the view down the valley as we gained altitude was splendid. We descended in Oatman and were welcomed by the main attraction in town; donkeys or, as they call them here, burros. They roam free on the 500 meters stretch of road 66 passing straight in town. Most of the original buildings are still standing which makes it an interesting stop along the legendary road. The long descent to Needles started. We hardly had to pedal for an hour or so. On two occasions I also crashed because I felt sleepy. Once in Needles, we went straight to the McDonalds to use their free Wifi and check the weather forecasts for the next day. Headwinds. Again. This time, they will blow between 45 and 55km/h, gusts reaching 65km/h. We found a camp in a park and see what tomorrow brings us.

Accuweather showed a warning for our area; dust storms warning with strong wind gusts reaching 65km/h. The warning suggested to travel only if necessary and pull over when visibility was reduced. That convinced us to find a motel and sit this one out. In the afternoon, the dust was so thick we couldn’t see the mountains around us. The air was filled with sand and dust. Again, rising early proved to pay off the following day, until the rain started while we rolled on a stretch of route 66 going on the highway. Not fun. After an hour or so, route 66 followed the train tracks and became quiet, something we were looking forward to. We were getting tired of roads with heavy traffic without a shoulder to give us a feeling of protection.

After passing Fenner’s only gas station where everything in its small store was overpriced, we came face to face with large signs blocking the road. The signs read “Road closed”. We kept going anyway and later discovered that a few bridges had been taken away from the rivers. For the better part of 2 days, we had route 66 to ourselves and the occasional construction worker passing by in trucks.

Days of headwinds, busy roads with the occasional dangerous driver and the absence of a shoulder melted into one another until we reached Victorville where we camped on a beautiful Nature Reserve on Memorial Day weekend. We woke up to winds blowing so strong that most of the people packed up and left, going back home earlier than scheduled. Again blowing at 65km/h, we had no desire to push against one of nature’s strength and stayed for another night. After learning we came on a bicycle, the park ranger let us stay 2 nights for free. God bless him.

The following day we almost got run over by a jeep 15 minutes after departure. An hour later a car cut right in front of me at an intersection missing my front wheel by an inch. Tiph was just behind me and saw the whole thing, couldn’t believe it. That infuriated me and set for a bad mood until we reached Cajun pass and started descending. Previous day’s bad weather brought a lot of snow on the mountains which made for a scenic view. We joined the Interstate 15 highway to make the pass and to start the descent, a heavily used road with 4 lanes seeing cars flying by at a mind-blowing 70 miles per hour.

We arrived at Devore Heights and stopped at a petrol station to top our water when a car pulled over and invited us to stay at her place. Karen was a Warmshower host and gave us her address before notifying her partner Simon that we were coming. We pitched our tent on smooth grass and enjoyed their hospitality for the night before heading to Los Angeles. We took bicycle paths most of the next day until we reached Wittier Narrows Recreational Area and set up camp. We finally reached Santa Monica the next after going through downtown LA, Hollywood, and Beverly Hills, marking the end of our journey on route 66. From there, it was southbound, following the bike path cutting in the sand from one beach after another. We reached a friend’s place, Marianne, exhausted but relieved. She and her husband Mickey hosted us for two days during which we made some bike repairs, groceries, emails, photo backups and went to a VIP night in Hollywood for a project Mickey worked on.

We set the wheels towards San Diego well rested, following the coast and the beaches most of the way. We passed Orange County and it’s multi-million dollars houses and mentions sticky out from the steep, high cliffs. We were passed by Mercedes, Tesla, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Porsche, Maserati, Lamborghini trucks – we didn’t even know those existed – and Bentley cars. These were ever present until we rolled in San Diego a few days later, after climbing and descending steep hills. We visited San Diego for a day before making it to the border with Marie, a French cycle-tourer we met back at Cardiff-by-the-Sea hiker-biker site. Marie is also going to Central America so we joined forces to cross into Tijuana, Mexico.

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Author: Pascal Lachance

I'm Pascal, cyclist, travel lover, software developer by trade and an enthusiastic photographer. I'm now cycling around the world, take the time to visit as many places as I can!