Going Our Separate Ways

Tom Packing UpUnfortunately, the road rash burns on my right buttocks and upper thigh proved to be more problematic than first thought. The doctor told me that it could be 10 days to 2 weeks before I would be able to comfortably sit on a bicycle but was not sure I would be able to pedal for 8-10 hours a day due to the stretching of the skin in the burned area. It has now been 10 days since the wreck, and I do believe the doctor spoke with ‘straight tongue’.

Tom On The RoadAfter a week of sitting in a rental car following Tom around it became painfully apparent that I was not going to be able to ride before the scheduled completion date of our trip. Sooooo, after some discussion we agreed that it would be pointless to continue spending money on a car rental, rather, I would drop Tom off in Dell MT and then head on back to Billings MT.

Certainly, the ride did not end the way I hoped it would, but there were a lot of positive things that happened along the way. We saw a lot of beautiful country as we pedaled from the flat cactus covered southern Arizona region up through the hilly tree covered area of northern Arizona. Along the way I was able to meet and spend time with some wonderful people.


There were my relatives and friends in Tucson that gave us a bed to sleep in went out of their way to make us feel welcome. Then there was JoE, the wonderful lady that drove us from out in the middle of no-man’s-land when the side road literally disappeared into a brush and rock pile back to the interstate entrance ramp. I got to know Tim & Deb Hall (Tom brother and sister-in-law); two wonderful people that treated me just like a family member. Their warmth and hospitality was a cherished spot on the trip.

Two people that really left their mark on my life were Randy and Dean. Immediately following my bike wreck, while cars were whizzing by at high rates of speed, Randy pulled over to help. Even though he was working under a time constraint he helped out without reservation, acted as though time were no issue, and shared the story about life long heart issues and his recent heart transplant. The next day Dean came to my aid and gave selflessly of his time in getting me a rental car. Both of the individuals and their ‘no questions asked’ acts of service made an indelible mark on me.

grand-canyonMy long suffering riding partner (Santos Tomas, Too Thin Hall, Tom the Fast) is always a critical part in making these trips fun and memorable. A ride of this magnitude would not be near as enjoyable without Tom pedaling along with me. We have stimulating conversations, we have dumb conversations, and we swap stupid jokes. As a matter of fact, when I got back home I was somewhat disturbed to find that there were still major problems going on the world; I thought we solved most of the world’s problems while riding our bicycles through some of the most beautiful county we have seen.

A big thanks to all that supported me on this trip, be it through thoughts & prayers & blessings, generous acts of kindness, or the endured anxiety on the home front when communications became limited. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Blessings to each and everyone of you . . . . . . . until we talk again . . . . . . .

Days 9 & 10: Angels and Hitches

ForestWe left the church at 5:00 am sharp, on the nose, right on time. As we headed out of town there were some beautiful wildflowers growing along the road side just as we entered some road construction. Fortunately for us, they had not begun work, and we were able to move along through it at a pretty decent clip. After exiting town we entered a pine forest interspersed with beech trees. Between the sights and smells and sounds it was quite the nice morning.

Holy Dove ChapelJust as we exited the pine forest into a meadow area there was a small chapel called Chapel of the Holy Dove. It was small, but open to the public and had quite a few of the San Francisco Mountains. The chapel was completed in 1962, but burned down in 1999. A local college student raised the money to rebuild it in 2000.

Burned Out Rest StopSeveral people had told us about a Chevron Rest Stop about 18 miles out of town so we decided to use that for a morning break. Unfortunately it had burned down so the stop didn’t happen, but the area is in a meadow with the San Francisco Mountains in the background. The tallest peak is Humphrey’s Peak, and it still had patches of snow on it.

8,000 FeetAfter leaving the meadow area we began a climb up through another pine tree forest where, at one point, we reached 8,000 feet. The road sort of plateaued along this elevation, at one point reaching 8,061 feet before beginning a descent. This was the hight elevation that I have ever bicycled at and showed. Both of us were laboring somewhat with our breathing when doing the climbs.

We finally saw the sign we had been looking for: a truck heading downhill with the words 8% grade next 3 miles. Unfortunately, this is where my hitch-in-my-get-a-long began. Just as we were approaching the bottom of the hill my front tire blew out. There are lots of good news and bad news that started at this point.

Good News: I was only going 15-17 mph. Bad News: the bicycle immediately flipped sideways and skidded down the pavement. Good News: I didn’t break any bones or injure my head. Bad News: I did end up with severe road rash over much of my body. Good News: With cars whizzing by us right and left an angel in a pick up truck named Randy stopped to help. Bad News: This is a ‘G’ rated blog so I am unable to show the 9 photos Tom took showing all of the different areas of the ol’ bod that were beat up.

Randy was quite the amazing man in his late 30s. He recently received a heart transplant and had taken up bicycling for the fitness aspect. Randy was on the road at this particular time looking for Derek, another heart transplant recipent, that does triathalons to help others with their medical issues. Randy had driven a long way to meet Derek but was not too busy to stop and help. We loaded our bicycles in his truck, climbed in, and he took us the remainder of the way into Valle’.

Listening to Randy’s story about developing heart problems early in life, living with the problems until his heart finally gave out, using an artifical heart for a period of time, and finally receiving a donor heart was very inspiring. He credited his ability to make it through all of this to his faith. He is certainly a testament to God’s love and the strength He gives all of us to bear up under our trials.

Randy dropped us off at the hotel in Valle’,  and we parted ways. Unfortunately, with everything going on I failed to get a picture of Randy for this blog. I cannot thank this road Angel enough for the kindness extended and time taken. Later in the day, at the Flintstone Diner, I did meet Derek and his two companions and learned that Randy had found him shortly after dropping us off. THANK YOU RANDY!

Bedrock CitySpeaking of the Flintstone Diner. They have a Flintstone Amusement Park, diner, campground, etc. located in this area, and it is for sale. Yes, you can purchase this business opportunity for $2,000,000. It was really very interesting to wander around; it was sort of a return to the 60s .

The next morning I realized that I would be unable to ride the bicycle, at for the short term, due to a large patch of road rash on my, to be blunt, rear end. I could probably get along with all of the other skinned up places but I do have to sit to pedal. After some discussion with Tom I decided to try and get a ride to Flagstaff and rent a car for a week to see how the healing process comes along. Enter the second angel.

DeanThere is no public transportation service through this area so I began asking people if the were headed to Flagstaff; the general answer was no, they were headed north to the Grand Canyon. Finally, Dean stopped and asked what I needed. After some explanations he told me to jump in and off we went.

Dean works for the park service helping people plan overnight stays inside the Grand Canyon. He also does a lot of bicycling, both touring and riding around. He was very understanding about my injuries as he recently overcame his own bike injury problems.

I didn’t realize that renting a car in Flagstaff was going to be a major ordeal. First we went to the Avis/Budge officet: sorry Charlie, no cars available until Sunday. I then called Enterprise and viola, I rented a car and received a confirmation number and was told where to go to pick it up.

Dean then drove me to Enterprise where we found out that there were no cars available, and they referred to my confirmation number as ‘tentative’ based on whenever they had a car available. Finally he drove me all the way to the airport where we went through Alamo, Hertz, Enterprise, and Avis in that order. The people at Budget took pity on me and my road wounds and provided a car that had just come in, even though I did not have a reservation. THANK YOU BUDGET!

I cannot thank Dean enough for all of the time spent driving me around the Flagstaff area. He was a great guy to talk with, and I wish him safety on his upcoming trip. THANK YOU DEAN!

Bicycle DisassembledTom and I disassembled my bicycle, loaded into the car and for the next week I will be a SAG (support and gear) driver for him. Hopefully thing will improve in the near future and I can switch back from SAG Driver to Riding Partner. I cannot say enough about how generous Tom has been through all of this. He has been a friend, confidant, and true blue buddy. THANKS TOM!

Even though there were some hitches in my day, there were more than enough angels to overcome the problems. How blessed can one guy be! And then there is my long suffering wife, Margie, who has to put up with all of my comings and goings. THANKS SWEETIE!

Until we talk again . . . . . may the good Lord bless your life . . . . .

Day 8: On To Flagstaff

Tom - Rick - Deb - TimDay 8? In case you have been following our ride from Day 1, you may be wondering what happened to Days 6 & 7. We spent those two days in Cottonwood AZ with Tom’s brother and wife: Tim and Deb. It was a wonderful relaxing time. Their backyard has fruit trees, vegetable gardens, a KOI fish pond, a berry patch, a fire pit & barbeque stand, and 4 chickens clucking their way around the yard. When you throw a cool breezy porch into the mix I don’t know how much more relaxing the stay could have been.

4 Square ChurchTim is the pastor at the Four Square Church in Cottonwood AZ, and on Sunday morning I was able to meet some really nice people. On Sunday evening Tim and Deb had a cookout for the congregation which allowed me to meet other members and find out more about their lives. What an amazing ministry Tim/Deb have developed here.

On Monday the four of us drove to Flagstaff to check out the road conditions, look over the town, and catch the lastest Jurrasic Park movie in the afternoon. Tom and I had planned to take the scenic route (89A) through Sedona to Flagstaff, however, after seeing the road conditions we decided to pursue the interstate. It is not that the road itself is in bad repair, but rather the road is narrow, twisty, and has minimal shoulders in many spots. It is the scenic route but seemed to be quite busy.

Tom - Tim- RickTuesday morning (Day 8), as we were getting our bicycles ready Tim/Deb insisted on driving us part way. You know me . . . . . I am quite susceptible to pain and the thought of them twisting my arm was more than I could stand, sooooooooo, Tom reluctantly agreed (yea, right) to go along with their plan. Anyway, all of us and our equipment piled into their truck, and they dropped us off about 25 miles from Flagstaff.

7,000 Foot ElevationThe distance, 25 miles, sounds like the makings for a rather short day, however, there was a lot of climbing involved (more on the climbing will come later, including a popular church song and potential lynching). Over the past few riding days we have passed the 3,000 foot mark and also the 4,000 foot, 5,000 foot, and 6,000 foot sign. Well, today at 2.8 mph we crept past the 7,000 foot sign.

Roadside FlowersAs always, there were a lot of sights, smells, and sounds to enjoy while moving along at 4-5 mph. Even though the trucks/cars rumbling by created quite an obnoxious noise we could still hear birds singing away in the trees. There are large pine stands on the hills in this area and their pungent sweet odor created by the heat made a fragrent aroma for us to smell. The area does not have a lot of wildflowers  but in one spot there we noticed some beautiful red and yellow ones.

Different SceneryInterstate 17 terminates in Flagstaff with exits to the town and I-40 east & west all in the same place. Some of the exits were on the left and some of the exits were on the right which creates some amount of difficulty for bicyclists because of the tremendous difference in speed (75 mph vs. 5 mph) and the tremendous differences in size (semi vs. bicycle). At one point we had to back track a 1/4 mile to make the correct exit. Finally, all was well, and we found ourselves in the town of Flagstaff.

FlagstaffFlagstaff is the home for Northern Arizona University, and most of the town area is very bicycle friendly with wide lanes and clearly marked signs. It has a lot of really cute shops with people coming and going and sitting outside drinking coffees and eating sandwiches.

FlagstaffOn the way our church for the night we had to cross the BNSF railroad tracks and the miryad of signs could potentially give one either a headache or send you in the wrong direction.


Bicycle GraphitiOne of the local bicycle shops has quite the graffiti billboard on the side of their business. I wish I was able to zoom down the road as fast as he kid on the building.



Logging TrainLogging, and the logging trains, were big business in the area because of the nearby pine forrests so the town has preserved a lot of interesting things related to railroading including a statue of a worker driving rail spikes, the old terminal, and a steam driven logging train (this one is for you, Wayne). The Arizona Lumber and Timber Company put this locomotive into service in 1917. The Baldwin engine has been on display since 1999.

212 Foot ClimbBack to the climbing, hymn singing, and lynchings that I mentioned earlier. Our church tonight is called Trinity HEIGHTS Methodist Church. The name should have been the first clue. The church is very nice and well cared for, however, it is located at the TOP of 4th Street; the VERY TOP. We had to climb almost 220 feet in 6 blocks.

Breath of LifeAbout half way up I was in granny low gear on the bicycle, my thighs were burning, my heart rate was in the mid-150s, I was sucking wind like the little engine that could, and an old hymn, Nearer My God To Thee by Sarah Adams Flowers, suddenly began sounding off in my mind. Incidentally, Nearer My God To Thee was the last song played before the Titanic sank. Just as I was sinking and on my last breath there suddenly appeared a Lutheran Church named the Breath of Life; things often come to our aid in the most amazing ways, don’t they. Well, I can tell you for sure, their shady parking lot certainly allowed the breath of life back in my beat up ol’ body.

They say that the third time is charm, and it was a good thing on the third attempt to get up to the Methodist Cchurch we made it. I was seriously considering lynching the person that reserved our accomodations (there were certainly enough stout tree limbs hanging around), unfortunately I couldn’t figure out how to make a workable noose from my spare 26″ inner tube.

Trinity Heights Methodist ChurchThe church has a beautiful view from its location. They have trees, natural grasses, flower gardens and walking paths through the property. We were greeting by Shelly who provided a key to the front door and showed us around the church. Thanks, Trinity Heights Methodist Church, for the extreme hospitality.

Even though the mileage was less today (25.4 miles) we climbed 1475 feet, and averaged 6.2 mph rolling time. Tomorrow our ride winds more northwest as we head towards the Grand Canyon. Our goal is to reach the south rim sometime on Thursday.

Talk at ya’ later if the good Lord’s willin’ and the creek don’t rise . . . . . . .