He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40: 29-31. (A good passage as I was riding through Native land on Sunday.)
Sept 30 48.2 miles to Chaco laundromat
This could be fairly lengthy, but I need to set the stage for you. For the next 120 miles we will be riding through land that is primarily Navajo. There is some BLM land, 1/4 and 1/2 sections, but they are very difficult (i.e. impossible) to find. So the maps tell us that finding a place to camp is the primary challenge. Some bikers, they say, have been able to camp behind the couple of little markets on the way. The first store was at 27 miles, and the next not till 48 miles. We were hoping to make the second one, but a nasty headwind came on and slowed us to a crawl. The road is basically "flat", but that means you go up a hill and then down. WIth the headwind, we were struggling to pedal downhill. At about 30 miles, a nice young Navajo man stopped and warned us to be careful if we were camping on the side of the road because it was Saturday night and all the revelers would be out looking for trouble. That concerned me more than the bears and mountain lions. A couple more miles, we came upon a Baptist church. It was a short day, but it was already 3:30 and we were beat because of the wind, so we pulled in, hoping maybe to camp behind the church. We figured that would be safe. The church was in a little fenced in compound with a couple trailers. We had seen a woman go into one of the trailers, so we knocked on the door. No answer. She didn't answer after we knocked repeatedly. Either we looked really scuzzy (which we probably did) or maybe she didn't even speak English. Anyway, we struck out and continued down the road.
We were making such slow progress that we were sure we wouldn't make it to the "store" at 48 miles, if it even existed (our maps have been known to be wrong). We were actually looking at gated trails to private property, thinking maybe we could knead out of site of the Saturday night troublemakers. We were exhausted but pushed one, not having any other choice. We were both praying for a safe place to stay, thinking of something off the road with a lot of vegetation to hide us. About 5:30, a car of young native people slowed down and handed a can out of the window for us. My first thought was that he was giving us a beer and that the partying had begun. But it was a Dr. Pepper, so we thanked him very much.
It was now 6:40. It starts to get dark at 7 PM. Time for drastic measures. We saw a church, with a house and vehicles around. Great. But it turned out to be a LDS (Mormon) church. Of all the churches I'd like to knock on the door of that would be the last. However, it was better than being attacked on the side of the road. I waited there a minute while Jon pedaled up one more hill to see if he could find the 48 miles store. What he found was a laundromat. So we tried it. We called the owner, Herman, and he said "no problem". So we set up camp behind the laundromat. The whole place was fenced in and locked up at night. Plus it had pay showers and bathrooms that were open till 9:30 and again at 7 AM. Our prayers were answered. Not only did God provide a safe place, but He provided a locked and gated yard with hot showers and flush toilets to boot. What a blessing.
To go back--about 5 miles before the laundromat, we were picked up by two puppies, maybe 4-6 months old. Cute with brown/black/white mutts, not very big, and almost identical. Jon saw a third one, but it ran for the bushes as soon as he saw us. These two followed us the whole 5 miles. We tried to get rid of them by yelling, bopping them on the nose with our flag and throwing pebbles, but they would not be deterred. Afton also tried chasing one away. I hate to be mean to an animal, but if we were hiding out in the bushes on the side of the road, all we needed was two stray mutts giving us away. I'm sure they were strays or the litter was dumped on the side of the road. They followed us to the laundromat, where there were about a half a dozen other stray dogs of all sorts. The attendant says that strays hang out there and he feeds them. They hung around us all evening and in the morning. During the night, we were disturbed several times by them or the other dogs getting into disagreements. One dog chewed the top off of the water bottle we use to mix Gatorade. Probably tasted good. We were afraid the pups (I called them Cheech and Chong) would follow us the next day, but they decided they had a better life at the laundromat.
There seems to be a lot of stray dogs in this area. I feel bad, because they have to fend for themselves and have no one to really love them. I thought of this as my dogs ride along in their trailers, get their feet treated and their hair brushed, and snuggle in our sleeping bags at night.
Oct 1 48.6 miles to somewhere on the side of the road
Today was much like yesterday, only no laundromats to camp behind. In fact, the landscape is empty, dry and brown. The rivers are dry gullies. We ride through canyons of rock formations and come out onto dry grassy plains with scattered small bushy trees. The temperatures have warmed up again-high 70s to 80. Lander and Afton grew their winter coats while we were in Colorado and now they wonder why. Lander's is soft and wispy, sticking out from underneath his silky overcoat. Afton's is coarse, clumpy and curly, so that with her color, she looks like a little buffalo.
This afternoon, we met a Navajo man who stopped and gave us cold water and watered our dogs. His name is Galen Pinto. His ancestors traded in Pinto horses, thus the last name. He is a big game guide was out scouting elk. We learned a lot out the Navajo nation from him. They believe bears are their relatives, so they will not kill them. He will guide white people on bear hunts, but they have to gut and clean it themselves. The Navajos have about 19 million acres of land-one of the largest in the US, and about 300,000 people. They have so much land because they have always been peace loving, so when the white people came, they did not fight and thus were given large pieces of land. Some of the more militant tribes back east were either relocated or given very small reservations. We are seeing the homes and people that are better off. Many Navajos live way off the road with no water, no electricity, no cars and no jobs. Poverty is a big problem. The young people are leaving for the cities where there are jobs. We wondered why there seemed to be so many local people using the showers and the pay phone at the laundromat last night. They just don't have them at their home.
We couldn't find any BLM land and no stores to camp behind. All the land was fenced in and the gates were locked. So we pulled off a side road-one of the only ones we saw, and camped just off the shoulder of the road. There were only a few trees, we were not hidden very well. We were right across from a "mine" (I think Uranium). Come 6 AM, all the workers started coming in. If they looked very hard, they could see us. I'm sure those crazy bikers were the topic of the breakroom discussion.
Oct 2 25 miles to Grants, NM
Just got into town and have not found a place to stay yet. Internetting at the local community college. Grants is a larger town than we have seen in a long time-11,000 people. Kind of a culture shock. I hear there's even a WalMart in town. I was hoping to go the whole trip without seeing one of those. I'll have to shut my eyes.