Riding Route 66: A grand day at the canyon

Published 12:05 am Friday, June 24, 2016

Editor’s note: Rowan County resident David Freeze is off on his latest summertime cycling adventure. This time, he’s riding the famed Route 66 from California to Chicago.

It was an unusual morning. The sun was up and the heat was rising and I was not on the road. Thursday was my scheduled train ride to the Grand Canyon. It seemed that I should be way down the road but there would be no pedaling today.

Things started off with another gunfight with only one horse thief getting killed. The Williams Sheriff showed up and got thing under control. With that, we were able to load the train.

It was less than 60 miles to the canyon and the ride was entertaining all the way. We had a Glen Campbell lookalike singing country songs and lots of instructions on how to make the best use of the park when we arrived.

I took a bus tour to some additional sites before returning to the train depot and looking around with some additional information. The Grand Canyon is 1,904 square miles, 10 miles wide, one mile deep and 2,757 miles in circumference. It is the most visited and most photographed national park.

The Grand Canyon is absolutely amazing! I will return and spend more time, especially at sunrise and sunset. I can see how spectacular those sights would be. My next trip will include hiking the length of the Bright Angel Trail, the same one that the mules take down into the canyon. There was a group of about 20 college freshmen who did the whole trail this morning and were absolutely whipped when they walked out. Going down is easy and coming back up is very hard.

The Grand Canyon Village has a hotel, a lodge and plenty of historical sites. But mainly it has the unbelievable scenery. Mixing the canyon and the train ride worked great for me. I am typing this daily update as we go back down the tracks toward Williams. Word is we are going to have a banjo player entertain this afternoon and there has been a history of train robbers on the return trip.

Ponderosa pines smell like butterscotch and vanilla according to our conductor and that smell is all around the Grand Canyon. It is similar to the Maine and Oregon forests where I started two of my previous rides. Our conductor for the Grand Canyon Railway is Amber Rose and she wanted to make sure I got her name right in the paper. She certainly was the life of the party.

I forgot to mention yesterday that this part of Arizona does resemble Oregon and the last two days had scenery that looked like Montana, the big sky country. Fifty miles to the horizon wouldn’t be much off the mark and I do love the scenery like that.

Tomorrow, it is back to the bike. I should have some serious climbing in the morning and then will reach the highest point of the whole Route 66 adventure at about 7,250 feet of elevation. After what could amount to a long day, I should arrive in Winslow where I plan to stand on the corner. More about that tomorrow.

Coming up in the next few days will be the Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest, and then entrance into New Mexico. So far, this trip has been everything that I expected. There have been lots of good people, wonderful scenery and plenty of stories. I am excited about all that is still ahead. And it has been great to hear from so many of the readers. I feel like you are all riding along once again.