Monday 20th March – Kevin Broke Astro, I Broke Kevin

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We had an alarm set this morning so we could be at the bike shop by 9am to pick up Kevin’s rental and make the most of the day, but it wasn’t to be. When I was wandering back from my morning bathroom stop, Kevin was standing at the back of the Astro and he asked if I’d ever had any trouble with the left-hand side door because it wasn’t opening and he’d heard something break when he pulled on the handle. I’d replaced the right-hand side early on in the piece, and now the same thing had happened on the other side. The handle just flapped around without purpose.

We managed to do breakfast and coffee with only one door open but it wouldn’t do, only having one door was an absolute pain in the arse so we decided to have a go at fixing it, or at least getting in to the mechanism to see what was wrong. Not an easy feat since al the trim is tucked in when the door is closed. Kevin had a bit of an attempt, but I soon took over, way more familiar with the car and let’s be honest, way more competent. I asked if Kevin felt emancipated as I, the female, was working away on the car while he, the male, watched on. It gave him no issue.

It was fiddly, but in the end, it took about an hour to get the door open and figure out a workaround so that we could operated the door latch from the inside. It wasn’t perfect, but it meant we could open the damn thing with only some extra effort. The whole process was made worse by the fact that the layers of dust have been piling up and piling up ever since I entered Arizona. It makes everything horrible to touch and we just feel dirty. Once I put everything back together, we got going.

We were at the bike shop and ready to ride at around 10am, so we hadn’t lost too much time. After another peruse at the map inside the shop, we pedalled off up Airport Road until we hit the trailhead. Considering Kevin hadn’t been on a bike for months, we needed a good warm-up so we took the easy side of the Airport Loop trail before getting into the network of trails on the south west side of Sedona. Keving was tearing it up initially, bombing it down the rocky, narrow, dusty trails. Sure he wasn’t very quick up the hills, but he still remembered his skills. We swapped the lead a few times as I stuffed up a few corners and he changed his pace, but we were having fun on this bits of dirt.

We got to a plateau that sat above Oak Creek but didn’t go all the way down into the valley, instead heading back along the way we’d come to get back into the single track network. I was happy to get on a few boulders in amongst the red dust. After the plateau, we started taking more breaks, having a long stint under the shade of a tree just before a big climb. While Kevin recovered, I had a play on his Trek 29” bright red duali. It was a completely different beast to my Giant with slower steering from the bigger wheels, great rolling ability and soft, floaty suspension.

We carried on, Kevin really slowing down on the climb out of the valley, but he pushed on and kept up his pace when he was chasing me downhill. After an hour and a half of riding, we made it to the Scorpion trail which lead onto “Pyramid”. This had been a suggestion by the bike shop guy that was a less than a year old. It was a fast trail, mostly downhill, with a 100m section of super-techy but fast downhill. The only hikers we saw on the whole trail were right at the toughest bit. I was right into it and didn’t want to lose my momentum so I blew past them, since they’d gotten well out of the way. My momentum carried me all the way through the jagged rock drops and tight switchbacks until I eventually reached the dirt at the bottom, my arms shaking and my heart beating fast. So much fun! I started running up the trail when Kevin didn’t show up, but he’d just stopped to talk to the hikers and had a good run down the rocks to the bottom. Easily the best trail of the day.

Kevin was in struggle town as we started climbing back up Scorpion. He had run out of puff and the rocky, uphill trail didn’t help things, requiring short spurts of power that he couldn’t quite muster. When we had another Clif bar break, I syphoned water out of my Camelbak into Kevin’s empty one and waited patiently for him to get going again. Exhausted, Kev was riding poorly, resulting in hitting a tree that royally pissed him off. It wasn’t a hard hit, but just a result of imbalance. After that, we’d been through the toughest section and it was an easy roll out. He was a happy man to see tarmac. We came across those hikers we’d seen and chatted to them a while and they assured me that they hadn’t minded me coming rolling past them at high speed. As with every other American we’ve met, they were interested to meet a couple of Aussies rolling around in Arizona.

We rode back to the bike shop along the road, which was an easy pedal mostly downhill through town. It was nice to get waves from the locals, always happy to see mountain bikers around. Back at the shop, Kevin told our guy that his rear brakes needed attention since they were out of pads and that we’d be back after a lunch break for an afternoon ride. They happily took the bike back and also held on to mine to save me from putting it back on the roof.

We went back down the road to Starbucks for some rib wraps in the carpark before heading in for a coffee/smoothie and a planning session. For a few days we’d been throwing around ideas of where to go and what to do that would allow ourselves enough time to get back to Phoenix in a week and we ended up with a vague plan to hang around in Sedona another few days to maybe get some climbing in and another day’s riding. It was about 3:30pm by the time we head back to the bike shop.

Kevin just wanted to follow, so I took point and navigated us back to the same trailhead as the morning, but this time we did the tough side of the Airport Loop trail that also happened to offer sweet views into Sedona valley. The first half of the trail was absolutely knarly, ride on the edge of the cliff with cactus lining the trail, meaning little room for error. I came upon Kevin about halfway and found him in the bushes below the trail, just having a look apparently. He’d lost his balance and fallen off, but nothing serious. It was his second trip off the bike, he’d had a minor over-the-bars (OTB) in the morning.

The second half of the Airport Loop was brutal. It was a slight climb on narrow trail that was absolutely littered with medium-sized rocks that made momentum super hard so it was mostly hike-a-bike. Once we got to the peak though, the rocks were no longer an issue and neither was speed. We had a wicked run down. The trail had taken us most of half an hour. We carried on on the high side of the South West network, stopping a while to talk to a hiker who gave Kev some tips for places to see a rattlesnake, then we were off like rockets to get as much ground in as we could before return time. We made it to the head of “Skywalker” but ran out of time to do it, so we went off trail to find our way to the streets. It was a bush bash with a fence, but once we were over it, we were right into a residential area and then out onto the highway and back at the shop by 5:30pm. We booked the Trek in for Wednesday (since it wasn’t available for tomorrow).

Kevin needed a shower (he’s so fussy about his showering) so he had his first bottle shower in the carpark of the bike shop. He used twice as much water as I usually do, adding too much soap, but it was an otherwise successful mission. I followed him while he filled up our water containers at the shop. All clean and dressed up, we drove into the city to find the Open Range Grill & Tavern. It was a restaurant Mikey and I went to when we came to Sedona over a year ago and I remember them having an absolutely devine steak so I was keen for round two.

When we parked, one of my water containers fell out of the door and broke, spilling water all over the road, but thankfully not in the car. Another breakage that Kevin can take the blame for. In the restaurant, it wasn’t too busy, but we had a drink at the bar while we waited for a table with a view. Being a bit over beer, I started with a refreshing cocktail that was a nice change while Kev had the normal brew. We’d finished our drinks by the time our table was ready and when our waiter came over, we ordered a steak to share with an entrée with another round of drinks. The view really was spectacular, especially with the fading light. Just a shame that you can’t see any stars in the city thanks to the manmade light.

The steak was just as good as I’d remembered. Once we were done, we both full (of drink and food) so made our way out after paying the outrageous $85 bill. Nothing but home-cooked food and beer cartons from now on! To our great amazement, a few meters out of the restaurant, or waiter followed us out, calling out to us. Initially I thought I must have left my card or something, but he just said that service hadn’t been included in the bill. Here I’ll admit something you may not know about me. It is a known fact that tipping is expected in the US, at a rate of at least 15% ,because service staff are not paid enough and so rely on tips to supplement their income. This is bullshit. People should get paid for doing work and tipped when they go above and beyond. And so, I never tip. Judge me as you will. And so, when the waiter came out and explained that we had to pay a tip, I just told him that where we’re from, we tip when we receive exceptional service. Even when he explained that he doesn’t get paid, I didn’t budge. With that, we walked off, crumpling the receipt and mumbling profanities under his breath. As Kevin said, if you’re not getting paid, get another job. We just couldn’t believe that he’d stalked us out of the restaurant chasing a tip when he hadn’t done a thing that was beyond normal service.

Kevin drove us out of town and back to our Angel Valley camp spot. Instead of going all the way down the hill, we stopped at one of the small alcoves not far from the highway since we weren’t on for a fire so didn’t need anything more than a park. Kev hung some wet clothes on the nearby fence, we had a quick beer for a nightcap, looking up at the stars, then we were in bed, keen for a sleep in the next morning.

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