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I am officially done with mountains and cold. Anything I can do to avoid them from here on out, it's done. Sorry, bye bye mountains. You are pretty but not for me anymore!

The last couple days have been pretty weird. No data connection (hence no GPS signal) on my Blackberry so far in most of AZ, so no GPS updates for awhile now. My Verizon phone has been spotty, but at least had consistent connectivity (including digital!) in most medium size towns. In any case, I'm sure you don't care too much about that...

Yesterday and this morning were sick[ening]. Sunday morning I left the South Rim of the Grand Canyon with the intent of driving around to just north of the North Rim, camping for the night, then hitting the North Rim in the morning and eventually riding out. I had almost cancelled these plans on Saturday morning when I heard that it was supposed to snow Sunday on the North Rim (as I believe I may have mentioned).

Um. Oops. I made my decision Sunday morning based off what I was told at the South Rim lodge - they said there should only be 30% chance of light snow/rain Sunday morning (should be over by 11) and a low of 31 overnight. Sounds good! Normally they close the North Rim in October but they are apparently trying something new this year and even keeping it open past the first snow/etc. for the crazy people. Hey, I'm a crazy person, let's rock and roll right?

First, the drive around to the North Rim, for most of the way, was incredible. There was a whole multiple-mile section where I was coming down off a mountain with a giant canyon off to my left... it was pretty intense. I'll just say I was sitting there coasting along at 40MPH in a 65 on a nice happy day, that's how nice the view was. As I kept rolling around and started to head up the mountains on the north side, I noticed the clouds started to look pretty bad. No biggie, rain/snow should be over by 11AM...

Around 3PM I finally start to climb the mountains fast - going from 4000ft to 7000ft in about 15 minutes of quick climbing. I start to see little patches of snow here and there in the trees, but not much. Right as I'm about to pull into Jacob's Creek to top off my tank, it starts to snow, very lightly. Okay, decision time - stop here, or keep going? I head into the lodge store, grab a coffee, and chill out a bit. It stops snowing.


Woops. I made it up to Kaibab at around 8700ft, with the last mile or so in light but consistent driving snow. There's a lodge here, no biggie... I'll just grab a room. NOT. They're closed...

Okay, I'll keep riding into the park, there's a lodge there... I made it about 500ft down the road and my bike is all over and I can barely see. There's a gas station and general store here that is still open, so I pull in there to watch things for a bit... and the extremely nice lady behind the counter tells me that apparently we are catching the tail end of a huge storm that is expected to dump snow on us all night. I'm not going to get further up or further down. Ugh.

Not to worry, there is a campground right near here. As you know I'm not totally geared for cold weather, but worst case I'll be a bit miserable - I'm not going to die in slightly below freezing temps (not like we're in the north pole here). I ride up to the campgrounds and it's closed. Sorry National Forest Service, I don't have many options at this point... carefully ride around the gate and into the park. By now there is a solid dusting everywhere - let's see how fast I can set up camp!

Pretty fast, actually. It's now around 5-6PM, just starting to get dark, and basically here's what the rest of my night looks like: hole up in a tent and try not to freeze. Weeee...

So what'd I do all night?

Read almost all of John Steakley's Vampires (finally Larry! it's awesome!). With a headlamp. Wrapped up in a sleeping bag stuffed with all my clothes. Wearing all my socks (six pairs). Until 11PM. Was constantly freaked out thinking a Park Ranger was walking around outside my tent and gonna tell me to leave. Wait, that's not a Park Ranger, that's a bear. Or a mountain lion. OR A FREAKIN' VAMPIRE!!!

(note to self: reading scary books while holed up in a tent in a snowstorm on a mountain all alone = stupid)

At one point I stood up in my tent to, um, fill up my spare waterbottle... and my head hit the top of the tent. At which point SOME CREATURE ATTACKED ME! *swiikkkk!!* *wushhhh!!* CLAWS RIPPING AT MY TENT!! I'M GOING TO DIE!! *swuuuusshhhhhh!!* *SILENT SCREAMS!* I scrabble frantically for my little pocket knife, ready to defend myself and it stops. I'm spinning around in my tent, with my sleeping bag wrapped around my lower body, my pants unzipped, holding a water bottle half full of "that's not Mountain Dew!" and a pocket knife. Ready to fight off a bear, mountain lion, or VAMPIRE. IT'S ON! BRING IT!

My shoulder brushes up against the side of the tent as I spin. *swusshhhh!!* AUGH IT'S ATTACKING AGAIN! With my headlamp pointed at the noise I CAN SEE THE MOVEMENT! I CAN SEE THE CLAWS RUNNING DOWN THE TENT! Holy crap. I am going to get eaten by a bear. Or kill a vampire with my pocket knife. Either way, my last thoughts are that if I can somehow live through this, it's going to make an interesting story.

Now I'm frozen. Headlamp off. Waiting for it to attack again. My adrenaline is pumping so hard I'm shaking, twitching with the power of it. Come on, let's go.... COME ON. My inner Arnold is yelling "AHM OVUH HEAH! COHM UND GEHT ME! AHM OVUH HEAH!" but I'm dead silent, not even breathing, listening. Trying to hear where it is, where it's coming from. If it gets through the tent... come on. COME ON. Thinking of Jack Crow in Vampires, chanting "Rock and Roll!" before going in to take on the vampires. Yeah. ROCK AND ROLL.

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Maybe whatever is out there was responding to the light? Or my movement? I turn on the lamp, carefully. Tense. Waiting. ROCK AND ROLL. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. I slowly turn my head, casting shadows with my hand. AHM OVUH HEAH! Nothing... Okay, either it's gone or... I poke the tent, gently, with my hand...

*swiishhhhhh!* ROCK AND RO... wait and minute. What the... Oh. My. God. IT'S THE FREAKIN' SNOW! ON MY TENT! SLIDING DOWN THE SIDE OF THE TENT. WHEN I TOUCH IT.

You laugh. You think I'm stupid. So do I. However, to be fair... the above scene REPEATED ITSELF OVER AND OVER ALL NIGHT. At one point I was so convinced I heard footfalls outside, I was completely frozen and I could HEAR it. *whisk* *whisk* *whisk* After half a minute of pumping, insane, heart pounding adrenaline I realized the noise was actually MY EYELASHES on the SLEEPING BAG when I BLINKED.

Needless to say, I am finishing Vampires in the security of my hotel room tonight, where hopefully such nonsense will not haunt me. Ugh.

And for the record, when I woke up in the morning, I found that I was, in fact, correct. CREATURES had been around my tent all night. I could see tracks circling my tent, leading away from it, and leading to it. Quite clear in the snow. So, I was sorta justified in being afraid. Although, full disclosure, they were in fact bunny tracks... Okay SHUT UP. IT WAS SCARY!

So, this morning. Monday morning. Dawn early and not so bright. Mild flurries. 4-5 inches of snow on the ground. Hoorah. I'll be brief - packing up was a huge hassle, but I succeeded. Bike didn't want to start at first, but eventually it did. Thought that riding out of the campground in 4-5 inches of snow over gravel in twisting up and downhill roads that I couldn't see would be a nightmare, it actually wasn't too bad (though quite a bit stressful mentally). SAW MOUNTAIN LION PRINTS in the snow a couple camping spots over on the way out (so there!). And made it out to the road, which was not plowed.

Puddled down the road to the gas station/store and said hello. The nice lady was there and put on a pot of coffee for me and told me she had been worried about me all night and was glad I was okay. Said the snow plows usually make it through around noonish (it's 8AM). In the course of chatting, I found out that normally at this time they would have been closed and gone. Apparently Saturday was a special "final hunting day" and they stayed up Sunday and Monday to do inventory before leaving Tuesday morning... Eep. Got some good trip karma there, as well as some help with planning a route down and away from the cold and towards south AZ where there's some cool stuff to see.

Plows came through at around 9:30AM! More good trip karma. They turned back around and headed down the mountain around 10AM and I followed them out. 24 miles to Jacob's Creek at around 30MPH in mild snow on icy mountain roads - with some beautiful snow filled meadows.

(yes I am wearing underarmor+t-shirt+fleece+hard shell jacket+motorcycle jacket)

Had an awesome burger at Jacob's Creek and geared back up. 30 more miles down the mountain, when I finally saw a sign that said "6% grade next 3 miles" I started doing maths in my head as I tooled along - let's see, 5280ft in a mile, 6% of that down is 300 or so feet, so in the next three miles I'm dropping 1000ft... YAY. +more of the same.

Eventually, I made it down. From 8000 to 4000ft in around 30min again, watching the snow on the side of the road decrease and decrease and decrease, until eventually it was just a cold rain and wet... and I was so happy. From there, another 60 or so miles on cold (but not freezing!) mostly straight sorta wet half rainy roads to the happy town of Hurricane.

Let me tell you something. Rolling up to Hurricane was so awesome. I see a sign that says "Hurricane 5 miles" and another sign that says "Elevation 3800 feet." Then I go over a rise, see a bunch of warnings... and a nice steep mountainside. DOWN! Hurricane is in HURRICANE VALLEY. EXCELLENT! What an awesome descent, a couple thousand feet further down and I could just feel the air getting warmer and warmer... to where I arrived at the bottom and 60 degrees felt like I was baking directly in the sweet sweet warmth of the sun...

Grabbed a motel room. Took a Christina-hot shower. Rolled out to a movie (Eagle Eye, not bad, but why do crazy supercomputer AI thingies always have to have such visually fancy hardware?!). Came home. Wrote this.

Finished reading Vampires. Went to sleep safely and securely. Rolled out SW towards Vegas. "Teh end" of Day 13.


Anonymous said…
We laughed so hard, after we were through worrying. Like father, like son. Do you remember your father's stories about being the young boy in Baguio, going to the movie theater for the scary movies and spending most of the time in the restroom peeking his head out to see if he could come out or not because of the monsters?

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