Miles 500-699 – Camp Verde, AZ – Cow Springs, AZ
Today included a long stretch (102 miles) from Camp Verde to Flagstaff, and then traveling beyond towards Monument Valley. This time section did not allow for other support vehicles so one crew shift stayed with Michael the whole way – appx. 13 hours. This stretch of road offered some relief in Flagstaff where the temperatures cooled a bit. However, the grind continues. The pedaling continues. The excitement, the strategizing, the passion, all of it continues.
After the 2018 attempt, Michael visited with many of us crew members. In these visits, it was common for him to mention, ”its funny to me to recognize, I had a totally different experience than all of you. I want to know and hear about what it was like for you.“ Much of what is written here is from the crew’s perspective, in that Michael is otherwise engaged. Every moment is crucial, every bit of energy must be conserved for cycling, we can’t just sit down and chat about his day, so we get the perspective of the crew. We all wonder often what is it like for Michael, what is he thinking, what does he want. Yes, we get to chat – while he’s riding – and he asks for what he needs, but the overall experience, its funny how it is so tightly and infinitely interwoven, yet also so very distinctly different.
Those of you who followed last time remember our late night talks with Michael. These conversations do still happen, however the communication system is being a bit finicky this time around so we are relying on other ways. One of those ways is the loud speaker system. As I mentioned, the follow vehicle is equipped with a loud speaker system, similar to those you would find on a first responder vehicle – we refer to them as “siren speakers”.
In order to keep Michael engaged and entertained, McGowan, one of our crew members, would read to MIchael through the exterior speakers. He would describe all the wonderful points of interest mentioned in the route book. Michael especially enjoyed McGowan making this effort as it was dark outside and he wasn’t able to see these points of interest anyway. “Thanks buddy for letting me know what all I am missing”.
The ‘siren speakers’ are also good for blasting blasting dance music. When the right song comes on crew are lucky to get a glimpse of Michael’s bike dance moves. We think his favorite was “I’m too sexy for my shirt (or Jersey)”. When he gets grooving, you know he likes the song. At one point McGowan, who is known for his annoying sense of humor, had to ask – through the loud speakers – “am I annoying you?”, Michael fervently shook his head. McGowan reiterated, “this seems annoying, if I think it’s annoying, it must be annoying, am I annoying you?”. Again, a distinct shake of the head. clearly riding RAAM presents a level of desperation, if McGowan’s humor is so clearly and definitively desired its gotta be rough out there.
While the trek is challenging, and grueling, there are some lovely factors. Getting to see the country at 12-20 miles per hour is eye opening. Plus, the route often takes the path less traveled, avoiding interstates and large highways whenever possible. There are many moments where the world we rarely see, coincides with this RAAM world, which is also an event people rarely witness. Instances where these two worlds collide will often leave a special spot on one’s heart like when the farmers pass by on their big farm equipment going the opposite direction and then begin applauding for Michael. It reminds us this country is vast and yet we are all so very connected. RAAM has that way of realigning one’s vision. And while all that heartwarming action is occurring we are all sweating buckets non-stop, no need for spa visits for Team Red Dragon we are getting our sweat on the natural way.
As I write this, Michael is down the road a ways already. While we thought we were out of the heat, it has crept back up into the triple digits. We just never know, we do our research, we watch and prepare, and then we just deal with whatever gets put in front of us….and Michael keeps on pedaling. Stay on the bike, that is the priority.
Moving on to Utah soon!