Day 8 – Cottonwood to Flagstaff

Distance – 47 miles

Today was official ‘weigh day’, our CrossRoads duffel bags that is, not the riders.   Before coming to tour, Tracy had promised to buy ice creams for all duffels that managed to come in at under 25lbs, although the official weight limit was set at 30lbs.   I spent some time yesterday evening going through my duffels removing anything that might cause me to go over the 30lb limit so I was quite confident that I would not be named and shamed this morning.   As it was, my two bags totalled 29lbs so although no ice cream for me, I was pleased with my efforts the previous evening.

Todays ride was a relatively short 47 miles although we would need to climb 5,500′ to reach Flagstaff, and the end of the first week of tour.   We were all looking forward to a well deserved rest, which I think we all needed after the somewhat hectic past few days.  The ride out of Cottonwood at 07:00 was along the busy 89A, with false flats continuing to be a feature that we had all become accustomed to.   Like previous days, the first 10/15 miles had me struggling to find my rhythm and my butt was extremely sore and tender.   Nevertheless I soldiered on and after 19 miles we hit the beautiful town of Sedona, famous for its’ red rocks.   We found a nice little coffee shop where I consumed a Banana Berry Smoothie and a Blueberry Muffin, giving me much needed calories for the hard climb that lay ahead.   Sedona really is a pretty town, with many old buildings and beautiful views over the gorge to the red rocks beyond.

The next 2 hours saw us climbing up the gorge away from Sedona and I took the opportunity to take several rest bites along the way to take photographs.  The climb of 8.7 miles was not intense but was energy sagging as the temperature in the valley was quite warm.   I stopped short of the steep final part of the climb at a little cafe for a chocolate milk to provide the necessary energy to climb to the SAG which today was situated at the top of the mountain at the Native American Craft Market.

The final climb went on for 2.2 miles,  not excessive but challenging but the views were amazing.   The road was similar to those found in the Alps, switchback style with tight curves that immediately went into steeper sections before levelling out once again.   There were plenty of photo opportunities looking down on the road below and seeing the route that had just been climbed.   I reached the SAG where the usual recovery food was excellently provided by the CrossRoads staff before riding the last 13.2 miles into Flagstaff.   Those last few miles were testing, roller coaster style, ups and downs that required a high gear for the downhill stretches before requiring a much lower gear for the short uphill parts.   It was a very busy section with lots of traffic which made it less pleasant but we were soon arriving on the outskirts of Flagstaff which is situated at just under 7,000′.   There was still a little bit of snow on the mountain top overlooking the town and the weather was changing very quickly with thunder and rain in the air.

Arriving at the Drury Inn, I quickly signed in and booked my bike in for a quick tweak of the rear gearing which had got a little sluggish over the past couple of days.   Rik, the CrossRoads mechanic soon had it sorted and then I spent 30 minutes cleaning the bike which meant one less chore on rest day tomorrow.

Dinner tonight was at the hotel, a buffet style arrangement which featured one of my favourites, macaroni cheese (sorry Sarah), but it was delicious.   Final chore of the day was to the hotel laundry, another item ticked off the list which frees up time tomorrow to relax and chill out.

So, week one completed, 533 miles in the bag and whilst I feel really tired (and sore), I am pleased to have got through the first week of tour.   There have been times when I have doubted my abilities but the encouragement and support of the CrossRoads staff has been amazing.   Things are a little more relaxed now, with time to stop and explore places along the road and I am looking forward to week two which sees us leaving Flagstaff and heading to Santa Fe in New Mexico.