My Hózhó Bicycle Tour

Bryce Canyon, Utah

Climate Change—
It’s been a long time coming.
It’ll be a long time here.
If we don’t heed Mother Nature’s tears.

This morning the NY Times (9/29/21) was an article based on US officials reporting the extinction of 20 species and that, if Climate Change is not acted on soon, we are looking at losing another million in the near, on-rushing future!

Hózhó is a Diné (Navajo) concept/word often translated as “balance and beauty,” but it goes much deeper than that. Hózhó stands at the heart of the Navajo spiritual belief system and way of living, encompassing their cosmic view of life, Nature, and what is important in life. It also stands at the heart of my 2022 bicycle tour or, more humbly, what I am shooting for: beauty, balance, and harmony.

On a more complex, deeper level, Hózhó is a concept about harmony and wellness. Its “beauty” is not the surface stuff of our Western, W.E.I.R.D., culture. Its beauty encompasses all of life in its many dimensions as a way of living. Navajo art strives for hózhó: balance, harmony, beauty. It is a philosophy and way of living of wellness and wholeness.1 Among other things, Hózhó is about honoring Mother Nature’s tears, about Nature’s wellness.

My goal for my upcoming September 2022 tour, is for it to be a Hózhó journey: One of balance, harmony, beauty, and wellness. I will, I’m sure, have trouble remembering this as I bust my ass getting up the many mountains, through the strong headwinds, and bad weather. This tour for me is above all a spiritual adventure, and probably my last great adventure. This is especially true of the first third of the journey, some thousand miles, through sacred American Indian canyon country of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.

I plan on spending a couple of days at least at each of the canyons, which include, Zion, Bryce, Glen, Valley of the Gods, Canyons of the Ancients, Canyon de Chelly, and Chaco; and numerous National and State parks and monuments. This is pretty much unseen territory for me and would make the tour just to complete this portion down to Silver City, NM. This is the ancient (and current) country of the Anasazi, Navajo, and Pueblo.

Geographically, my tour can be divided into three major sections, each of about one-thousand miles. Whew, and on a bicycle too! The first third, as mentioned above, will be through Sacred Canyon country of Utah, the four corners part of CO, New Mexico; the second, through my great native state of Texas beginning in El Paso and through the desert mountain of the . Texas is a BIG state. I’ve crossed it many times during my lifetime but that was in car, plane, or on my Harley, not on a fucking bicycle! (I’ve got to be going crazy in my old age, no? Possibly.) The last third leg is through LA, MS, AL, and FL. Again, driven the SC through Dallas, TX, portion many times, but on a bicycle? Yikes! I’m scaring myself here. Let’s move on.


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My Last Great Adventure?!

I’m excited!! My old SEEKING emotional neural circuit is really humming. Pumping out that dopamine and adrenaline it is. What is it I am so excited, pumped about? Glad you asked. This is hot off the press, so to speak: My bucket-list desert Southwest bicycling tour is back on! It It has transmuted to a two-month, cross-country bicycle tour going from Tempe, AZ to St. Augustine, FL, some 2,168 miles, plus side trips. It crosses both the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts! Cool. (No, actually probably still pretty hot in September.) I’ve got it scheduled for starting September 17, 2022. More on this below.

I had the bike tour idea about two years ago, even got me a nice touring bike, an R.E.I. Adv 1.1. Covid-19 got in the way. I had been riding and training at first on my old road bike and then got the touring bike, even had a lower gear put on it for the hills around here. Lots of mountains (e.g. Rocky Mts) where I’ll be riding. COVID hit and I realized it would be very difficult for me to take an extended touring ride for a number of other reasons. There were a lot of things in the way back then. Even during this period I continued to train though. After over a year of self-training and in consultation with folks again at R.E.I., I decided to switch to an e-bike (e for electric), one that I could tour on, a Cannodale Synapse. It had an advertised range of 150 miles for the battery between charges. However, that depends on how much weight it is carrying and the terrain. Wind would also be a factor out where I am going. I figured though, I am only shooting to average 50 miles per day. So even fully loaded and going uphill, I should be good. Just have to make sure I have a place to recharge it when needed. Don’t want to get caught short of juice. I love the e-bike, but felt like a traitor or cheating for switching to an e-bike. I still have the Adv 1.1 at this point and am torn between taking it or the e-bike. The Adv 1.1. touring bike is a much more comfortable bike, but, oh those mountains!

Between COVID-19 and the other obstacles, it looked just too much. I got discouraged and gave up on my idea to do one final grand bicycle tour, cut back on my training regime. Besides the hills around here were tougher than I was. After a year of training, they had gotten easier but were still a challenge. Enters the e-bike. I had abandoned my tour idea. During the ensuing months, several things worked themselves out and I got the e-bike. But I still had abandoned the idea of the tour until a few days ago when a synchronistic (C.G.Jung) event occurred. I got an inquiry about the A1.1, “Was it still up for sale?” I said, “Yes,” with mixed emotions: I really liked that bike!

I really like riding the Adv 1.1. It is a well designed bike and rides smoother than the e-bike. The e-bike is classified as a road bike, and is just not as nice a ride. It also can’t carry the weight like the Adv 1.1 can. But, by gosh, it will do those hills/mountains! If the Adv 1.1 doesn’t sell, I may yet use it for the tour. But going up over the Rocky Mountains, that pedal assist would really be nice. As you can tell, I’m torn. As long as no one offers to by the Adv 1.1 for what I want to sell it, I have the option. Even if they offer to buy it, I still might turn them down.

The e-bike is what is called a “pedal assist”. I can determine how much “assist” I want. It has four levels. I mainly stay in the lowest “Eco” level around here. On hills, I’ll kick it up to the next level, “Tour.” Had it up to the third highest level for about five seconds once getting away from a dog. Never tried the highest level, but I understand it really scoots. Of course, the higher the pedal assist, the more power it draws from the battery, which means it is draining the battery faster, etc. I ride it around here a lot of time without the pedal assist even turned on, but on the hills around here, it is really nice. I have a nice Buel bicycle trailer for it. Right now, I mainly use the trailer for when I go grocery shopping. It can carry up to 100 lbs and a lot of camping gear for my tour. I already have the camping gear I need for the trip. So, I am good to go for touring.

How did I get back on track again for this great adventure? It is a combination as I said above of Jungian synchronicity colliding with recent and ongoing changes at this time in my life. Let’s talk about the synchronicity first. Then, I’ll get back to more about the tour.


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Sunday’s Bicycle Adventure

I took the two dogs out with me on Sunday on a short bicycle ride: only did about 1.5 miles. It didn’t take them long to get tired. Neither are used to be doing this much exercise. But, let me set the scene before I get into the story with the dogs and our adventure.

My dogs, Lacy (white) and Morgan. You can see my bicycle back behind them.

I am still working on my bicycle touring, trying to increase my distance and endurance, and working out what works for me. I had decided I wanted to be able to do some dirt/gravel road travel in addition to touring on the asphalt. While I had my bike in for a repair (a bent rear derailer) and upgrade for the back gear cassette, I consultated with my favorite bicycle repair person, Ben, at R.E.I., about the dual touring I wanted to do. He talked about ‘off-road’ tires for the bike. My bike is not a mountain bike. It is a big touring bike. They are heavier than mountain bikes or even my road bike, but still I had read some people who do touring also include dirt/gravel road riding. If you are in a third world country, often there are very few paved roads.

Ben said he wanted to do a little research first to see if he could find ones that would not require me to take off my fenders, especially the back one where there was little clearance. During the week, he ordered me some that should work both on the asphalt and dirt–dual purpose tires. My current ones, which are essentially brand new, are great road tires, but not for dirt/gravel roads. When they came in a week or so later, I took the bike in to get them changed out. (Yes, I could have done it myself but there were some other factors we had to make a decisions about.) Off-road, dual purpose tires are wider and have special treads on the sides to help stabilize you during turns on the dirt/gravel.

I was delighted when I got to R.E.I, The tires had brown sidewalls which went nicely with my new Brooks leather saddle (seat)–and not so bad with my handlebar bag. Then, Ben had the audacity to tell me I could also get brown leather handlebar padding when I got ready to replace them. Vanity, vanity, vanity. I know where part of my R.E.I. rebate is going next year. Okay, back to my story.

My R.E.I. Adv 1.1. touring bike with new tires and saddle, sans touring bags.

Got the bicycle with its new tires back home, but the rear tires was leaking a little air. The tires can be run tubeless. You just add a sealant inside the tire so that if it gets a puncture and it self seals. Now, I know several tricks for remedying air leaks, but it was still leaking. After trying all my tricks, and getting a few more from R.E.I. bike shop people, I still had a slow leak. I decided to put the tire up to pressure and take it for a couple of mile ride to see if that would seal it. So I did, and it helped. But, alas, still a tiny leak. So, another ride. This time it seemed to seal. When I got up the next morning, it was still reading 60 lbs! Bingo, problem solved.


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