At Roy’s Café on Route 66, I was greeted very warmly by an elderly man with a gun on his belt. “Welcome to the Wild West”, I thought inwardly.
“Unfortunately, only salt water comes out of my tap. But you can take as many water bottles from the shelf here as you need. Anyone who is travelling out there in that brutal wind on a bicycle gets my full support” he told me.
“Oh great, thanks a lot!”
Not 100 meters (330 feet) further down the road I saw an old Volkswagen approaching me.
M&M, Magda and Monica, two German ladies. Both of them were over 70 and had
been travelling around the world for many years in their little motor home.
They simply rocked.
We chatted until the next day and I pondered the idea even further: “When I’m 70 and still as hungry for life experiences as those two, then I’ve done everything right.
Hats off girls, you’re super! “
Ghost towns, old cars and a few weirdos – but the rusty flair impressed me out here in the desert.
In Needles I met a Canadian “snowbird” couple first. Snowbirds escape the cold north and travel during the winter to the southern states. They gave me $10 to spend for dinner.
Awesome, isn’t it?
The area around Oatman was fantastic – red rocks, cacti, loneliness and a really exciting Wild West atmosphere. There were even cowboys with spurs on their boots – unfortunately travelling in 4x4 Jeeps instead of horses.
The light atmosphere in the evening was enchanting – and the stars were close enough to touch. Even the coyotes were howling and, somehow, the world seemed to belong to me alone. It was just awesome out here.
A guy stopped and wanted to take me with him; but he was the kind of person you couldn’t really trust right away. He was the only person far and wide and he showed up a total of three times. In the end, I was able to convince him that I needed neither a ride nor a break in his house.
In Kingman, another town on Route 66, which consisted only of tourist cafes and the usual junk food restaurants, I was completely exhausted. Tired and weak, I desperately needed a break – a longer break, not just two days. But how and where, I still had no solution.
After 4 months of sleeping in a tent, for the first time I decided to stay in a hotel that evening.
Negotiating with a man from India, I was able to get the price down to $30 and immediately
fell into a deep sleep.
It really wasn’t far anymore to the Grand Canyon. I wanted to see the South Rim of the canyon and from there, head to the Arizona Trail – a hiking and mountain bike trail that runs all the way through Arizona. But, somehow, I just couldn’t go forward.
I didn’t feel sick, but I was tired and it was a torture to push forward meter by meter through
the empty landscape. While I was trudging along, I began to read the book that I had gotten
from M&M. A family drama during World War 2.I “swept” through the countryside at 5 kilometers (3 miles) per hour. The wind was gusting and roaring and I was inwardly more underway in the world of the book than in America.
It was one of those days where I just thought, “Why?”
On the road I met George. George, 65, from Oregon, travels every year with his bicycle in the USA and was a really nice person to talk to. We chatted for hours on the roadside and enjoyed our brief encounter very much.
I was looking for a place to pitch my tent. But as it was so often, everything was all fenced in again. There was nowhere that I could camp out on the road.
Shortly thereafter, I took the opportunity to talk to a man who was coming out of his driveway
and was about to lock the gate behind him. I wanted to ask him if I could maybe set up tent on his property.
One hundred excuses later I said to him, “OK, well, forget about it.”
Not 200 meters (650 feet) further, I met a Mexican, whose house wasn’t enclosed in a high fence
and who warmly received me into his family and allowed me to camp out on the balcony.
They warned me that I should avoid the native Americans in the area because they were always drunk. The white Americans, on the other hand, warned me repeatedly to avoid the Mexicans.
And so, one warns about the others and in the end they all barricade themselves behind high fences and barred windows. Isn’t that just really sad?
I finally arrived in Peach Springs. At the church I asked the lady pastor if I could stay overnight
there and was warmly received. I had a room with a toilet and kitchen to myself and I was really
happy and accepted without objection that the lady wanted to casually persuade about their faith.
She also warned me about the Indians and told me I should never open the door if someone
The Indians, whom I had met previously, were all absolutely friendly. In the morning, I felt completely sick, so I dragged myself to a shop on the other side of the street and thought seriously about accepting an offer from Ron, who had several times offered to help me and pick me up. Ron was one of my fans from Flagstaff, Arizona, 120 miles from here.
But I struggled with my inner demon, because which cyclist would want to get a ride in a car?
I wouldn’t have felt comfortable to knock at the church door again, but for anything else I was just too exhausted. Finally, I allowed myself to be picked up and was at the end very happy about it!
Ron was like getting the winning number in the lottery. He offered me a warm home, a cozy mattress, a full fridge and an invitation to stay as long as I wanted. Paradise.
Ron was an extremely nice guy, even though we had a few heated discussions about politics and religion, but that didn’t change the fact that we got along very well.
From an American living in Germany I was given a tip not to discuss politics and religion in the United States – he said it would lead to nothing. Unfortunately, I didn’t do what he said, and I have to admit that I’m just too curious how people think about not addressing these two, often critical issues.
Patriotism is the keyword. Of course, for me as a German, I find American patriotism totally silly,
because in my opinion it is far too excessive. But then, most other nations find it equally silly that
we Germans hide and batter ourselves for what happened in the last century. I’ve heard that so
often now that I can mention it here with a clear conscience.
I still find it strange to see the American flags being displayed at so many of the homes. The American Flag cannot be without light in the darkness, therefore they must be brought into the house every night. Also, they cannot touch the ground and Ron found it a complete surprise when I had to grin widely about that.
Afterwards, I googled the internet about it but found that the same rules apply to the German flag. The only difference is that the Americans are taught about it in school, while I had never heard anything about it before.
In the meantime, I’ve even become a little proud about where I come from, and the longer I travel, the more I know that I appreciate my home country. But I would never even dream about travelling with a German flag attached to my bike or be careful whether it touched the ground or not.
For me it’s just a flag; for most Americans, it’s the symbol of their origin, of their existence, of their faith – an identity. Most Americans seem to love their country and some still appear to believe that they are the greatest nation on earth. Even that is taught to them at school.
Both ideas are extreme, and extremism is never good. The golden mean would probably be the more acceptable solution by far. Several nations spontaneously come to my mind who deal with their national pride in a more healthy manner – something that I always noticed very positively on my travels.
On Halloween, we played “Trick or Treat” with Ron’s grandchildren. I was completely impressed with the extent that the Americans had all decorated their gardens for Halloween.
Everywhere lights were burning and the kids really got some candy at every house.
But nobody ever had to perform any kind of trick. Somehow, I find the name a bit misleading.
Unfortunately, it had become very cold. Flagstaff is located at 2300 meters altitude (7600 feet)
and during the first nights, the temperatures were already dropping to minus 10 degrees.
It snowed again and again or it hailed and it really caused me to think about getting back
on the road.
Ron took me across the highway on the other side of town and we parked in the parking lot
of a school. I had barely gotten my bike out when a man came quickly toward us and very
roughly said to us: “What are you doing here?”
I did not understand initially what it was all about, but I was very surprised at the strange,
“I just got a call and I have to do my job by controlling what is going on”.
Whereupon I just said, “You can’t be serious! You’re telling me that you think an older man and a lady travelling around the world on a bicycle are suspects in an attempt to blow up a school?”
Somehow, something here is taking place that is a little bit wrong. I especially view the fear-wave that has come from the United States over the last few years to Europe as a negative development.
I already felt sorry for the so-called “helicopter kids” who are no longer allowed to go into the street alone. Unfortunately, the media world has far too great of an influence on us.
Of course, I know that sometimes something happens in the schools in the US – but, please, you could remain normal about it and not overreact just because two people park in a school parking lot.
It is supposedly the land of infinite possibilities. XXXL country. Even though I have been
here so many times before, it is really difficult to figure out the mindset of the Americans.
I must also say that this time I view the United States from a completely different angle travelling on a bicycle. As always, I’m closer to everything and many things become apparent to me because of that, than if I were travelling by car rushing past everything and only travelling from national park to national park.
But I love the extremely wide open country, which the USA has to offer. The diversity in nature is simply gigantic.
From Flagstaff, it was only 125 km (77 miles) to the Grand Canyon, which I easily managed in half a day thanks to my break at Ron’s place.
I had already seen the Grand Canyon several times. But every time I stand here on the edge of it,
I am overwhelmed by the incredible size of this canyon. The dimensions are not really tangible for me.
Somehow the canyon is too huge for me in the end and it is simply inconceivable as to how a river
could carve such a monstrously humongous place.
I was especially surprised by the countless number of visitors, which is still far too many, even in the winter for my taste. It seemed as if the entire world was meeting here at the canyon rim.
nation they come from. Travelling is an education.