Outbound To Sedona: Solo Roadtrip with the Bikes

Head West Young Woman and Ride Your Bike When You Can

I wasn't going to write a post about this trip, but then I was so bombarded with questions that I realized it just would make sense if I did. There's a few things to make clear before we start, OK? 

1. I don't have plans. No really, I have very few plans. I have goals but plans... those tend to happen day of, week of at best. So if you read this, you aren't allowed to then ask "when is your plan to do x, y, z". No! Just assume I don't have a plan! Please! 

2. I love Michigan. I have the option to not spend winter in Michigan this year. This does not mean I don't love Michigan or that I'm weak or that I don't like snow. It means I have the option to not spend winter in Michigan. That is all! 

Alright, now we can get started! 

After spending two weeks at the Ish house in Ipsheming, MI in September (... that trip probably deserves a write up too...) and having an overall fantastic time, I knew I needed to semi-permanently travel more while I am child-free and have the opportunity with my job. 

For winter,  I wanted to go to the Southwest with my bikes for some sunshine. I asked David Jang for advice on where he would go in Arizona if he could live anywhere for a month (pro tip: David Jang literally always gives the best bike related advice. Always. Thank you David for my Allied, my bearclaw, for teaching me how to build my bikes, and for...) and he said "hands down, Sedona". 

Carly Rae Packed - two bikes in there! 

Thus, I booked an Airbnb for a month in Sedona. Yes, it was that simple. Well, my mom wanted me to stay till Christmas, so booked the rental for Dec 29. 3 days of drive time is enough, right? Sure, why not. I packed all my possessions (living out of 2 suitcases since pandemic...) and two bikes in my Honda CRV (Carly Rae). I bought a rooftop tent (Roofnest Sparrow, yes, I know it's expensive, take your judgement elsewhere. Yes, I bought the tent before I bought the car. #Priorities). 

I left at 5 AM Saturday the 26th from South Haven, Michigan in 4 inches of snow and 26 F. What was the plan? Drive south. Drive as far south as possible so that I don't freeze to death when I try to camp in my tent. Well, this "plan" immediately backfired as I drove south and the temperature dropped more (shit!) hitting a low of 16 F south of Chicago. OMFG what will I DO?! 

Chilly ride around the block with Brenda in Illinois! 

Oh, I should add, in the immense state of planning I did for this trip, I texted my childhood best friend's mom (Hi Brenda!) the night before at like 10 PM that I probably wouldn't stop but I would be driving through Champaign, IL. Brenda happened to check her phone that morning and said she'd love to see me / do a RAD (Ride-All-December) bike ride with me. Well, how could I turn that down?  In these COVID times, it was nothing but joy to see friends who are basically family at this point. We biked in the like 20F temps and laughed and caught up for a while. Then... I was off! More South! 

I hit Missouri and the temperatures suddenly climbed to like 45 F. Also, the Arch is so pretty in St. Louis. They got warmer and warmer, and I got twitchy. My legs were starting to cramp from sitting and my heart was starting to yearn for the sunshine. So, again, no plan, I found the nearest state park, got off the highway, stopped, took my bike out and made a loop (~30 miles). Sweet perfection was Meramac, Missouri, what a delightful 2.5 hours before sunset we had together. Except I saw a deer get hit right in front of me -- what's the opposite of a silver lining? 

Meramac, the unexpected beauty of the trip! 

But then the sunset set and the temperatures with it. By the time I got back to the car, it was 35 F and I was VERY cold. I had a choice - keep driving or camp at the state park (it was 6 PM). I opted to stay - this seemed like a great location, virtually empty and by a river and I probably wouldn't find better. I made my camp meal (vegetarian backpacking meal!), boiled my water with my stove, and then put on every layer and crawled into my sleeping bag with a nalgene full of boiling water. It was 31 F when I went to bed. 

Good morning empty campground! 

Cold doesn't begin to describe it. Actually, this will - when I woke up the next morning, my nalgene had rolled out of my sleeping bag. It was partially frozen (half ice inside). Brrr. But I survived! I packed up the tent quickly (only takes about 5 minutes) and hopped in Carly Rae. Off again! 

This time I did have an idea of where I wanted to go - Bentonville, Arkansas. I had heard the most amazing things about their trail system, so... to Bentonville! After 4 hours of driving (re: me singing to myself and listening to an audiobook Marisa gave me about a young woman from Michigan named Lois who works at a tech company as an engineer out West... no you can't make this shit up, I kid you not, it's called Sourdough, look it up), I'm in Bentonville! I make another camp meal in the parking lot, pull out my bike, and ... off we go!

Magical Bentonville 

Bentonville was all that I had heard it was and then some more. The trail system is massive, flawless, interesting, challenging, and extremely well marked. I thought I would stay an hour or two but I ended up biking for 3.5 hours and could have kept going for a lot longer. My heart was a little bit sad to leave Bentonville (also, in all of my extensive planning, I texted a co-worker on the way out of Bentonville who lives there - "hey! Was just in Bentonville! Thought of you!"). 

Typical meal set up! 

Then I drove... I was SO behind any sort of schedule at this point. I had driven 800 miles and had 1200ish to go to Sedona and it was 4 PM on Dec 27th... I need to lay down some miles! So I drove... bye Arkansas, hello Oklahoma. Sunset on the turnpike was stunning. Tulsa was gross. More miles happened and I recruited Liz to help me find a campsite (thank you, sweet sweet Liz). Together, while I cracked and ate two Impossible Burgers from Burger King (I was really hungry) at 8 PM, we found a campsite at Foss State park, about an hour away.

A beauty from Foss State Park 

 I hustled my butt and arrived at Foss State Park, where, again, I was just simply flummoxed that there was no else who wanted to camp in December in Oklahoma when it's a balmy 38 F outside. I pulled into my spot of choice by the lake, paid my camp fees, set up tent, and put on every layer. I passed out pretty quickly and awoke at sunrise (more than 10 hours of sleep!). 

Re: 10+ hours of sleep -- this is a phenomenon I have had happen to me before in extended winter camping. A day or two is OK, but after several days, my body goes into a hibernation mode and I start sleeping from 6 PM to 6 AM or later. It's like it's so exhausting to keep warm that I can't keep up, and my body just shuts down and sleeps as soon as it gets dark. A lot. 

I go for a quick bike ride in the state park (RAD 28!) and it was stunning. Absolutely magnificent. I saw the sun rise over a lake as I tackled some gravel trails in the park. I got back to the car just as I was getting cold, packed everything up (~10 minutes!) and hit the road! Still a little behind tracking to the goal, but not too bad! 

What a way to stretch legs - Tucumcari, NM

I hit Texas, and I take a stop near Canyons up there to make a lunch. It's cold, windy, and I'm almost out of water because all the faucets have been turned off (because winter) at the campsites. A nice member of the cleaning staff at this Texan rest stop saw me looking dejected with two empty gallon jugs and showed me a secret closet that had a water spigot ("I swear it's not too toxic" "sure..."). After a brief, masked, and pleasant chat and lasagna backpacking meal for lunch (this one is the best, fyi), I was off! 

Unfortunately on day 3, my leg cramps were happening more often (~2 hours). What fixed them? Biking / walking. But mostly biking. After I crossed into New Mexico, more leg cramps set in, so I randomly stopped in Tucumcari, NM. There was a mountain in sight and I figured I'd bike to the top. La la la. 

Well, I pulled over on a dirt road and started heading to that mountain, but it was private land. So I biked on some other nearby roads, made a 20 mile loop, and returned back to the car, happy. I then cracked again and got Taco Bell (!) talked to some friends for a while as I ate my nachos (happily!) and then... BACK AT IT ! 

A snowy, dark, and cold ride in Albuquerque. Definitely unusual weather... 

Liz, mercifully, found a place for me to camp at in Albuquerque (hipcamp house) that had a shower I could use. She knew it had been a few days since my last shower and I had been biking quite a bit... so this was a kindness. I pulled in around 6 PM, showered (OMG SO NICE!), ate my backpacking meal, and then... literally passed out. 7 PM. 

Unfortunately, a cold snap hit that night, taking Albuquerque from 50 F when I arrived to 28 F and snow in in the morning. I snuck in my RAD that morning on bike trails Liz recommended, froze, and then hopped in Carly Rae again. I made the mistake of having work meetings that day, so as I drove across New Mexico, I took work calls. But, I had a time block open just as some leg cramps were setting in... at Gallup, NM (which Liz also suggested!) 

Gallup school of hard knocks festival 

This is getting long, but the trails at Gallup beat the daylights out of me and Felicia (my Thunderhawk). First off, they had snow on them. Second off, they were rocky. Third off, they were hard. I somehow cobbled together a 7 mile ride in 2 hours, but OUCH that one hurt. It was beautiful though! 

Off again! More work calls... a fun call with friends... and I'm in Flagstaff! Leg cramps set in again (they were quite frequent by the time I got to Sedona) and so I went for a delightful snowy walk at Walnut Canyon. Refreshed, I cruised down from Flagstaff into Sedona... and I was in! Dec 29 at 4 PM with a check in time of 3 PM. Perfection! 

The Promised Land! 

What was the first thing I did? Wash my bike (can you believe it?!). Second thing? Go inside and take off all my clothes. They smelled! 

I'm in Sedona for a month working remotely. No, don't come visit, I don't want COVID and I've been living with my parents for 9 months... the quiet is refreshing. But I'm here and happy and will keep you all posted if I ever get a plan!! Suggestions welcome since clearly they are an excellent compliment to my lack of planning :) 

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