Sunday, June 8, 2014

June 8 (Day 159) - Fantastic scenery, Juniper titmouse, 7,000 miles

I arrived in Kayenta, AZ after a moderately challenging, 73-mile ride from Tuba City, AZ. The first 54 miles of this ride took me gradually uphill (2300' climbed). I had hoped to have a nice decent into Kayenta after my climb, but the gusty northeast winds effectively cancelled out the downhill. Pedaling a bike to make it go downhill is the absolute worst. The prevailing winds in these parts are from the southwest, so it was a major bummer to be fighting headwinds today. These winds will also make tomorrow's ride to Bluff, UT more difficult than it would normally be. I am not terribly excited about it.

73 miles to go over 7,000 of 2014!

Although the wind made the ride quite unpleasant at times (another flat tire also contributed, #20), the scenery through which I pedaled was fantastic. Leaving Tuba City, I slowly climbed up onto a flat topped mesa. For the first time in weeks, overhead power lines were nowhere to be see. Isolated dwellings rarely interrupted the low shrubbery that lightly coated the ancient red rocks. There was very little traffic at this early hour, and with the winds mostly quiet at the time, there was hardly a sound to be heard anywhere. I cruised along hearing little more than my bike chain and my moderately labored breathing. It as as though I had entered into a surreal state of animation where the only purpose the road served was as my personal path to yet more spectacular scenery.

Morning scenery - road so new and smooth it didn't 
even have lines painted on it yet!

This experience reminded me of one I had as teenager many years ago. I was actually on a night SCUBA dive in the Florida Keys. Together with the other divers, I turned off my dive light and set my buoyancy compensator to hold me steady in the water column. The water was so warm that is was difficult to feel the difference between it and my body. As I held my breath, I essentially heard, saw, and felt nothing. For those few moments, all I did was exist: nothing more, nothing less. It was an incredible feeling that has since been replicated only a few rare times in my life. I was able to revisit this too rare suspension of real life today for a few brief minutes. There were no birds to find, and no miles to be covered. There was nothing beyond me and my existence for those precise moments this morning. Hopefully, I'll revisit the feeling at additional points on trip.

For the first 3-4 hours of the ride, there were essentially no birds. The morning list consisted of raven, a Horned lark, and 2 mockingbirds. As I climbed, I reached a juniper dominated habitat. I was able to add Lark sparrow to the day's list, but as the wind picked up it was impossible to hear anything singing along the road. I did observe a few birds flying by from the bike, but the winds whipped most of them along before I could get any sort of ID. Finally, a small gray bird perched in the top of a juniper in decent light. My short but decent look confirmed my hopes: Juniper titmouse (#465). I am sure many of these birds wheeled by me today, but this was the only one that wanted to actually leave his mark on the year list! Later in the day, I managed to hear and see a single Gray vireo right next to the road. I forgot to mention that I also saw on of these birds on my decent from the San Francisco Peaks yesterday. Otherwise there were no birds yesterday (a couple people asked about this).

As the wind picked up, I abandoned birding altogether. Generally, once conditions get challenging, my ability and desire to bird completely shuts down. All I want to do at that stage is get to where I am going as fast and with as little physical pain as possible. Birding by bike is incredibly awesome when conditions are good, and completely miserable when they turn. Much of this year is not fun. The riding is challenging and when the conditions are bad it becomes torture. This is all part of the game, and I did not expect anything else. Most of the year will be great, and the really awful times don't stand a chance of ruining the rest of it. Scenery such as this does help distract a person from the physical pain.

I may actually ride right through Monument Valley tomorrow morning, but this will depend on road conditions. I am aiming to make it to Bluff, UT tomorrow, so that would be state #21 for the year!

I had to walk 3 miles to get dinner tonight. Not fun.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing! Random questions for you to consider in future posts: do you wear your binoculars while riding? If not, where do you keep them for easy/quick access? What do you do with your bike when you need to leave the road to bird? Do you have a lock? Do you just stash it? Do you worry about theft? What's your routine like when you arrive at your destination for the day? Keep the posts coming. I look forward to them every morning.