Sunday, June 8, 2014

June 7 (Day 158) - Moving north in Navajo Nation, a discussion of my diet this year

Today was the first of what will be 4 riding-heavy and bird-thin days. Essentially, I need to transit through the Four Corners region to reach Southwestern Colorado and the next big pocket of potential year birds. My ride today took me from Flagstaff, AZ north the the town of Tuba City. I was able to find a host in this town of 12,000, and this will set me up perfectly for tomorrow's 75-mile ride to Kayenta. It is much warmer here than in Flagstaff, so I will have to get a very early start to beat the warmer temperatures that will cloak this area come midday.

What today's ride lacked in birds, it made up with scenery and habitat diversity. I started the day at around 6,800 feet in Ponderosa pine dominated, high elevation flora. I climbed to 7274 feet before begging a long, slow decent of nearly 40 miles that took me down to around 3800 feet. As I dropped elevation, I moved into Juniper donated scrub, then into open grasslands, and finally into arid, rocky desert with essentially no vegetation. Here is a picture of the San Francisco Peaks that sit just northwest of Flagstaff. I took this photo looking back to the south after I dropped down in elevation. In the foreground, you can see the juniper scrub, and higher up on the mountain the pine forest is visible. It is also possible to see some of the burned areas that I birded yesterday on the left side of the peaks. The snow-capped peak is Humphries Peak; At 12,637', it is the highest point in Arizona. 

After I got out of the juniper and grassy areas, I moved into some red-rock areas that are associated with the Grand Canyon landscape that is located just west of here. Highway 89 on which I rode today is basically the gateway to all things Grand Canyon (Hiking, Rafting etc). 

There is very little vegetation around Tuba City. It is characterized by its interesting rock formations more so than its plant life.

Upon my arrival to Tuba City, I slugged down 44oz of Gatorade just before I demolished an entire Pizza from Little Caesar's. Breakfast this morning was 2 sausage McMuffins from McDonald's. Thankfully, my hostess is preparing a nice pasta dinner to give me a break from fast food!

As you can imagine, I am very limited in what I can find to eat along the road this year. Of the fast food options, my preference is Subway where I can get a decent sized sandwich with actual vegetables for 6 bucks. I will cop to eating at Burger King, McDonald's, Wendy's, Carl's Junior, Dairy Queen, and Pizza Hut with frightening regularity. There are 3 reasons I eat so much fast food: convenience, price, speed. I can find at least one of these chains in most of the towns through which I pass, so they are convenient. They are also convenient since I can watch my bike out the window. I always get a table next to the window against which I have propped my bike. These places are clearly dirt cheap. This is incredibly important when you sum up the total number of meals I will have to eat at "restaurants" this year. To put it into perspective, Sonia and I eat out maybe once a week under normal circumstances; We do a ton of cooking for both health and money reasons. Lastly, speed is really important. Not only do muscles tense up after prolonged sitting, but in areas such as this the mercury keeps rising with each additional minute spent eating lunch. I just want to get back on the road as fast as possible. 

Lunch everyday is some sort of fast food (most frequently Subway). Breakfast and dinner routines are dictated by where I stay. When I stay with people, dinner that night and breakfast the following morning are provided in every instance (all my hosts/hostess have been great!). If I stay at a hotel, I must buy dinner, and since I am looking for the most calories for the least money, this always ends up being fast food, pub food, or diner food. I simply cannot drop $9.50 for a radicchio salad, $17 for grilled lemon chicken and parsnips, and another $5 for a tip night after night after night. An $8 large Domino's pizza just can't be beat value wise. Wait, I take that back - Chinese Buffets trump all. I crushed like 50 Crab Rangoons at the place I ate lunch in Flagstaff! If I stay at Best Western, I can get a huge, free breakfast, but if I am forced to stay at local motels then the same most-calories-for-least-money rational again applies. I also eat at last 1-2 Snickers bars a day along the road as snacks.

I know this diet is terrible. I do not have a choice given my geographical and monetary constraints. I would certainly prefer a chicken Caesar salad and pepper-crusted, seared ahi tuna to Whoppers, but it is just not possible. I can hear it now, "Eat Cliff Bars or Power Bars instead of Snickers" First, these designer candy bars do not exist in most places. Second, they cost 3-4 times more than a Snickers and have the same number of calories. Third, I do not want to buy and carry a whole bunch of them since that adds lots of weight. Fourth, they taste like crap compared to a Snickers. I simply must go with what it at hand.

I will have to be conscious to dial back what I am eating each day once this trip ends. While it is IMPOSSIBLE for me to gain weight this year, if I am not careful about moderating food intake next year when I am not biking so much, I will certainly gain an unhealthy amount of weight. I've got 7 months and about a million Whoppers before I need confront this though!


  1. Oh boy, I can already anticipate the fast food backlash comments about to fill this zone! I love the image of destroying a $5 Hot n' Ready after a long biking day. Although I try to avoid that stuff during "normal" life I would certainly be doing the same thing on that kind of a trip.

  2. What birds of interest did you see along the way today? Probably quite slow but it sounds like some interesting habitat you descended through so I'm just curious.

  3. Your biking diet sounds a lot like your normal diet during the pre-Sonia era.

    I was a little disappointed you didn't discuss your favorite condiment Tabasco..

  4. Yeah same as Mark I'm always interested in what kinds of common birds you're hearing and seeing along the way as the landscape changes.

  5. These photos are tugging at my heartstrings! I already said this was my favorite stretch of my cross-country roadtrip last fall. That scenery is just so incredible. Also I too would be all over fast food if I were you. Wendy's is my personal favorite, though I'm also a pretty big Subway fan. What's your go-to sandwich at the moment? I'm currently having a love affair with the Italian BMT with an excessive amount of creamy sriracha.