Friday, 10 April 2015

Route 66, a Swarm of Bees and Wild Camping

Location: Williams, AZ 86046, USA
So after the amazing lunch at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and Restaurant in Kingman, Sophie and I headed North-East on Route 66 towards Seligman, Williams and further to the Grand Canyon. We had no set locations to camp but after the training we had in the desert with Mary and Dan we were feeling confident that we could find a safe, comfortable place to sleep.

It was really nice to get back on the bikes after the extended stay in Henderson with the fantastic Mary, Dan and Rosie.  We were full up after the sizable late lunch we had and just wanted to get outside of civilization to find a spot of land, a good distance from the road where we could do our first bit of wild camping alone.  It was a fairly daunting task because the houses along Route 66 seemed to just keep going and going.  In pretty quick succession two unexpected things happened.  The first was that we were enveloped by a swarm of bees.  It happened so quickly that all we could do was tilt our heads down, close our mouths and carry on riding.  Thankfully we came off completely unharmed and managed to brush off the few bees that got caught in our clothes.  Carrying on a little further our path was blocked by a car completely across the shoulder.  The driver rolled down the window and asked where we were going.  After a brief discussion Valerie invited us to her home that was only about a mile away to stay in her camper van.  Never wanting to miss a night in an actual bed we headed off to her home to meet her husband and son.  Further to the bed we were welcomed with ice-cream sundaes and sports drinks.

Another chance to wild camp was foiled but the days ahead meant we should have plenty more opportunity to test out our skills.  The following day was some beautiful riding through some hot weather towards Seligman; being a paled skinned northerner I think I got a wee bit of sunstroke so we had a very long lunch break to get me out of the heat of the day.  We charged on towards Seligman but we knew we couldn't cover all the miles so, again, we started looking for the perfect, secluded spot to pitch our tent.  Tired and hungry we found a closed, dirt road near a train line and a wash that looked okay.  After scouting around we decided to lay up between a tree and the railway.  We'd seen a few, very long trains trains on that stretch of rail but thought we could deal with the disturbance. It is in these moments that I really love our naivety.  I am not sure, because of broken sleep and the funny, surreal nature of dreams, but I am fairly certain that the rush-hour on freight trains on this line is between 10pm and 2am.  During this time the whole ground shook, the tent was lit up with the head lights and no amount of ear plug would cut out the sound of hundreds of tonnes of freight being moved about 20ft from the tent.

As it does, morning came and the trains died down.  As we were packing up a van came down the dirt track towards us.  We were nervous about this interaction because we are both fairly afraid of authority and being told off.  So the window rolled down and the railway workers looked us up and down and said "You know to stay away from the tracks, the trains can be dangerous?".  Can be?  We gave a little laugh and a comment and they moved off.  We headed into Seligman for breakfast and hit the Interstate to Williams.  There was a fair amount of climbing but we made it fairly easily and arrived at the Tourist Information centre to ask about camping.  They gave us the Arizona State Map and pointed us to free camping area within the Kaibab National Forest before our final section on towards the Grand Canyon.

After following Route 66 for a couple of days you can see the hills and mountains that make the "edge" of the Grand Canyon so we were excited, and a little nervous, about the climb into the canyon. We set off early and had a tail wind so were going pretty fast along the flat, desolate desert.  There was mile markers along the road so we were timing ourselves and hitting 15mph.  So we pushed hard and aimed for Tusayan for lunch.  However we misplaced Tusayan on the map and needed to peddle a further 10 miles than we were expecting, and this was after the wind had dropped so our speed had suffered.  When we finally made it to Tusayan we were feeling fairly despondent; the riding had been boring, the shoulder was horrid and the traffic was constant, all making for not very enjoyable riding.   We ate and headed on for the last section in low spirits, made worse by the big signs saying that all the campgrounds were full in the Grand Canyon.  When we arrived at the gates we decided to buy an Annual Pass to all the National Parks since we were now planning to go to Zion, Bryce, Yellowstone and Glacier it worked out cheaper.

After the rather horrid journey up we were pleased to find that the Grand Canyon has hiker/biker sites and that thy were  unoccupied so we had a place to camp for the night.  We set up, chilled out and headed out to see what all the fuss was about near this featureless desert.


  1. A word of warning about sleeping near railway lines...waking up to answer the call of nature, you could end up wandering onto the line ...Mr P

    1. It was up a rather steep embankment to the rails, it was safe but noicey