Wednesday 22nd March – Hangover Epic

Only four hours sleep, but we had plans to ride the mountains of Sedona a second time so we were up with the sun. Dan and I were anyway. The luxury of Air Force One was keeping Kevin comfortable a bit further into the morning. Dan and I emerged from the van to find that Darth Vader had returned so we retrieved our bits and pieces from his camp area and retreated to our vans. Kevin slept in while Dan cooked us all breakfast, his egg/bacon/potato specialty, a second time. It was perfect hangover food and made our alcohol-damaged bodies feel better.

We reminisced about the activities of the night before and compared the seedy feelings we had before eventually packing up camp to set off for the day. Dan was heading to Jerome to see if he could find Tool band members in a record store and Kev and I were off to the bike shop to pick up his usual rental bike. On top of breakfast, Dan surprised with me flowers before we parted ways, I’m sure we’ll meet again. Luckily, as we drove out of camp, Kev and I realised we had Dan’s car keys so we drove back, just as Dan was running towards us as he’d realised the same thing. Bye for now Dan.

Late again, we got to the bike shop and were bike ready at 10am. We had the same plan as Monday, to do a morning riding stint, then a rest that involved a nap to catch up on the sleep we’d missed, then an afternoon session. Despite our hangovers and dehydration, we were both keen to hit the trails and sweat it out. I was keen as mustard. We explored the North West trail network this time, starting on Adobe Jack and venturing out to Thunder Mountain and Chimney Rock. We came across many happy hikers and a few other riders, one of which gave us some advice about the rest of our ride. We went from flowy, slightly rocky trails on red dust amongst the trees to cliff-side boulder rolling with epic vistas into the valley below. At a trailhead, we watched as a guy navigated his jeep up and down a rock formation, just to show that he could. Sedona really is a playground for all sorts of activities. We skirted the cliffs, hopped the boulders until we were on tarmac near Chimney Rock. Keivn had plenty of energy, as did I, so we decided to carry on for another hour or so. This is where the morning/afternoon routine went to shit. We were venturing out to do a figure-of-eight loop that had been suggested to us and it was longer than I thought so our ride quickly turned into an all day epic with us only carrying two Clif bars each. But oh was it worth it.

The Mescal trail was the highlight of our ride. Literally riding on the skirt of a cliff, we were high on the side of a mountain on narrow track, trusting that the rubber of our tyres would keep us attached to solid ground. By taking the highest line possible, we came crushing down the side of the mountain towards the end of the trail to get back down to the plateau. It was an unreal experience, to be riding on such a narrow platform, then to bomb down slippers boulder and onto a rocky track to bring yourself back down. Having descended in front of Kevin, I’d struggled to pull the bike up in time and stood at the end of the trail, in awe of what I’d just ridden. Unfortunately this meant that when Kevin came down behind me, he had nowhere to go when he couldn’t stop in time, so he came off right at the end, thankfully just missing the spikes of cactus bush. Ouch.

We sat and rested a while as we tried to relish the experience, looking out at the view before us and waving to a big group of young riders that passed us by. Still with enough energy, we completed the loop, hitting the Chuck Wagon trail to get us back to the middle of the trail network. This trail had some super fun flowy sections through forest and over rock. We couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces. At the turn-off for Devil’s Bridge, we decided to be tourists and do the quick one mile out-and-back to see a unique rock feature. The trail was well travelled by tourists on foot so it was nice to ride past them, right up until the trail turned into massive uneven stairs. We stashed our bikes in some bushes then carried on the rest of the way up the hill, following the crowds.

The Devil’s Bridge is a natural arch with not a whole lot of material forming the bridge at the top. Kevin was aghast that people were walking out onto it, having their photo taken. He wasn’t having any of that and nor was I, thanks to the queue that had formed beside the bridge for people to get on it and have their friends take a photo of them. It’s a cool rock feature that for sure will not be there forever.

Crushing the rocks back down the trail was a lot of fun on the bikes and we surprised a lot of walkers by doing so. Yep, it’s better than walking! We got back on to Chuck Wagon and at the end, decided to take a short section of road to get to the singletrack that would lead us back to the highway. I was wary of Kevin’s fitness, worrying that he was going to hit a wall, but every time I asked, he was keen for more singletrack and so, singletrack is exactly what we got! The last trail, Girdner, was not great. Meant more for horses, it had a lot of sandy, rocky dry river crossings and a lit of technical, pumpy climbing. Not features that are easy to overcome when you already have 40km under your belt. It was disheartening, but we both soldiered on. I feared for Kevin. I was feeling a bit tired and I’ve been riding a lot recently, he must have been knackered, which he was.

When I saw the end of the trail, I almost shouted for joy. By the time we cruised along the highway back to the bike shop, it was nearly 4pm and we’d ridden 50km. Damn! Kevin had said that he was coming to America to have a relaxing holiday… He assured me he’d been happy with the epic ride and I agreed with him that we should take only the best parts out of it, doesn’t matter about the last trail and how crap it was. I got straight onto making lunch while Kev caught up with Claire, then it was straight onto showers. I forgot to mention that the day was overcast so the temperature had been perfect for riding but now it felt a bit cold. In the bike shop carpark, Kevin braved cold water to have a shower while I was a sissy and heated mine up. It still made it hard when the cold breeze blew.

All clean, all we wanted now was a camp spot. We said goodbye to Sedona and drove north towards Flagstaff. The drive through the canyon was pretty as we climbed a few thousand feet in elevation. When we came upon a National Forest campground with only a couple of patrons, we didn’t even have to consider whether that would be our camp or not. We parked up next to another couple in a van whoe had a huge fire raging, but we didn’t end up striking up conversation, we were on a mission: Food, then bed.

Kevin cooked up a dinner of steak, mushrooms and eggplant. All the while, Kev gave me some tips and tricks (that I’ve already forgotten) for getting steak cooked perfectly. The steak was divine, melting in my mouth. After dinner, Kev did the washing up while I dried, never leaving the warmth of the van. Having gained the extra elevation and it being a rainy-ish day, it was going to be a cold night in the forest. After a round of hot chocolate and brushing of teeths, we were in the van for the night. Kevin went straight to sleep while I stayed up, watching the violent flash of lightning coming towards us. Around 9:30pm, the storm hit us with small balls of hail hammering the van making a huge racket. I was thankful for the steel roof over our heads.

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