Rapha Continental -The Navajo Nation Ride by Dave Wyman
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Rapha Continental -The Navajo Nation Ride
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It was my privilege to serve as the "host" for the Rapha Continental ride, which wound its way around, through, up and down Navajo country, in North Eastern Arizona.

The route began from the parking lot of the Thunderbird Lodge, at the mouth of Canyon de Chelly National Monument. We rode through colorful red rock country, past a variety of Navajo communities, including Chinle, Many Farms, Round Rock, Tasile, and Lukachukai.

Much thanks to Jean Ray, who both drove much of the way to and from Arizona, and who served as the support vehicle/photography vehicle driver.

Technical Note: All photographs made with a Panasonic Lumix TZ5 digicam, which was compact and offered a terrific zoom range, from wide to telephoto.

Riding toward the Thunderbird Lodge - the End of the Trail
The final five miles or so were a welcome downhill run past the mouth of Canyon de Chelly.

Mileage: about 105 miles (depending on whose cyclocomputer we were reading), with just under 5,000 feet of climbing registered on my altimeter.

We coasted to a stop back at our rooms at the Thunderbird Lodge, took quick showers, and then made our way into Chinle for dinner. We dinned on a variety of Navajo dishes including Navajo tacos, Navajo fry bread, posole, and mutton stew, as we reminisce about the day which, at least for me, lived up to the Rapha motto: "Glory Through Suffering."
Junction of Monument Canyon and Canyon del Muerto (Canyon de Chelly)
Posing at the Antelope Ruins Overlook
West Toward Canyon de Chelly
Now we skirted the northern edge of Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The canyon, with its sheer, 1000 foot cliffs, is home to Navajo ranchers and farmers. It's also the site of several cliff dwelling ruins built and - and abandoned for reasons not completely understood - hundreds of years ago by the Anasazi, the Indians who inhabited the area before the arrival of the Navajo.
Roof Butte from Tsaile
We hung a right onto Highway 64, at the little community of Tsaile.
On Indian Route 12
About 35 Miles or So to Go
With Hahn soling behind us for a while (due to another flat), I led the way for a while, and then stopped to photograph Cole, Pierra, Kansas and Dominick cycle by me, as we made our way toward the Junction with Highway 64 and the final 30 miles. Left to right: Cole, Pierre, Kansas and Dominick.
Pierre on the way to Tsaile, AZ
Dominick in Front of the Ice Machine - Temperature in the 90s
Dominick gave me a couple more electrolyte tablets. They revived me again.
New Navajo Friend
Pierre, Albert and Kansas Hanging Out at the Totsoh
The lower reaches of Indian Route 13, which had taken us from Lukachukai up to Buffalo Pass, were blasted by a dust storm as we made our way back to the Totsoh Trading Post. We took a short break as the winds died down.

After arriving at the trading post, I thought perhaps I should climb into the van. I knew I could finish the century, but I didn't want to hold up the Rapha riders. Everyone encouraged me to continue - at my own pace - and I did. One or even all of the riders always stayed with me, or let me escape up the road for a while.
On the Sandstone
Perhaps the view was the reason someone put those cuts into the rock.
Diverting Ourselves with a Little Climb
This photograph was made as Cole made his way down a sandstone slab, into which some shallow cuts have been placed for reasons unknown. I had earlier followed him up the slab, much to my discomfort as my bike shoes began to slip close to where the slope leveled off.
Its a Dogs Life
Runt of the Litter
Kansas Attacks a Navajo Taco
Navajo Chef
A beautiful, young Navajo woman, Roberta Nez, prepared our lunch.
Navajo Food Stand Just Below Buffalo Pass (8,400 Feet)
Lunch Break
After gaining the summer, which included views out into New Mexico, we dropped own several tight turns to a Navajo food stand.
Pines Instead of Sagebrush
The terrain began to change rapidly, the landscape losing it desert sage, but gaining pinyon pines and then ponderosa pines. Eventually we broke through the phalanx of sandstone monoliths, and climbed onto the pine-covered slopes of the Chuska Mountains. Pierre was in front, the rest not far behind him, and I trailed in the rear, keeping my own pace, keeping the cadence going while listening to music on my mp3 player.
More Locals in the Chuska Mountains
Beginning the Climb to Buffalo Pass
We began the second half-century; the start of the climb led through a series of massive sandstone monoliths.
Departing Lukachukai
Pierre was King of the Mountain, the first to summit Buffalo Pass.
The videographer took a break with the rest of the group.
I Am Revivified with a Navajo Pickle
Rarely have I been as tired on a long ride as I was when I rolled into Lukachukai. With my legs feeling like blocks of wood, and the climb to Buffalo Pass just ahead - 2,000 feet or so with a series of grades that reached at least 16% - I wondered if I'd have to accept a ride in the van. (I also wonder why I'm willing to show this photograph, made, I believe, by Kansas).

However, chomping down a violently salty Navajo pickle, downing half a bottle of Gatorade, resting 15 minutes or so, and ingesting two electrolyte tablets, compliments of Dominick, brought me back from the edge.
In the Tatsoh Trading Post, Lukachukai
Approaching Lukachukai
Kansas leads the van into the community of Lukachukai (in English,"Many White Reeds"), at the 50 mile mark - about halfway - into the ride. I was glad for the break, as my legs had been cramping, on and off, for the past several miles.
Bruised Cyclists Legs
I'm not sure how Hahn banged up his legs - I was too tired to think to ask.
Round Rock Trading Post
Cole Purchases H2O for the Van
At Tsé Nikání (Round Rock)
The van followed us into Round Rock, where we took a short break before turning south, toward the base of the big climb of the day, up to Buffalo Pass.
He Should Have Been Riding with Us
Everyone we met on the ride was friendly, including this cyclist near the junction of Highway 191 and Indian Route 12.
We Meet Another Local
Approaching the Round Rock Trading Post
After our fast-paced beginning, and the short climb below the mesa, I was beginning to tire.
Past the Mesa
This mesa and it's accompanying badlands marked the northern edge of our ride.
The Road Turns East
After a long pull to the north, our road began to head eastward, toward a short climb and the community of Round Rock. For the most part, roads were devoid of traffic.
Flat Tire Break
Flat Tire Repair
Other than a few flats, we encountered few problems during the ride.
Riding by One of the Local
Near the little community of Many Farms (Dáʼákʼeh Halání in Navajo), AZ
Early Morning Thunder Clouds at 25 mph
As we headed toward the base of a distant mesa, our speeds reached 25+ mph - far higher than I'm used to pedaling for any sustained amount of time. It probably wasn't particularly fast for the Rapha team.
Time to Ride
Our 7 a.m. departure turned into an 8:30 a.m. departure, with the sun quickly warming the desert landscape. The predicted high was 94 degrees, but an unusually early cloud bank kept temperatures down for a while.
First Things First - Breakfast
Rapha Van
Unleashing the Rapha Steeds at Thunderbird Lodge
Dave - The Videographer
Velodramatic Revealed
Michael Robertson was out early making photographs of the Rapha riders.
Velodramatic - The Team Photographer
Velodramatics blog, with his amazing cycling blog, is here.

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