I knew it this would be a hard ride - 100 miles in the desert. I didn't know if I would find any service along the way, so I had to carry lots of water (about 8.5 liters, or nearly 20 pounds) and food for all day. With a lot of climbing on a very heavy bike, I knew it would be a long day, but I wanted to get to the eastern part of Arizona, and this was the only practical way to do it. There aren't many roads out here and the only other route - taking 89 down to 160 is much longer and and would be much less pleasant riding. Both 89 and 160 busy roads, while 98 has only light traffic. This route, although difficult, is the best route.
As it turned out, there are two places to get supplies. The first one, the indian town of Kabito, is about 40 miles - almost all of them uphill <grin> - from Page. The second one, a Navajo service station near Black Mesa, is 80 miles from Page. If I had know about them, I would have carried half as much water and food. Neither place offers any services other than food and water, although I suspect you could get permission to camp in Kabito. Spending the night in Kabito would make it a lot easier to get to Kayenta from Page, but still would require a lot of climbing. Of course, if you are touring out here, that isn't unusual.
UT 98 near Page, looking at the huge, coal burning, power plant
I got an early start - as early as I could get breakfast at the motel - and rode briefly south on US 89 before turning east on UT 98. Page is not in a pretty area, and the three stacks of a hugh coal burning power plant spewing smoke into the air didn't improve the view! There was no wind at the start of the ride and the temperature was a cool ,by AZ standards, 70 F.
UT 98 goes right by the power plant and passes over an electric railroad track that is used to bring in the coal - more on this later. None of this is very pretty, but the view ahead does improve after a few miles.
UT 98 turns south and then climbs steadily, reaching 5000 feet 12 miles from Page, which is at 4200 feet, and 6000 feet before it enters the Kabito Valley about 20 miles later. There is some up and down on the long climb, but after reaching Kabito Valley, it is just hilly riding across the valley and then some more hilly riding peaking at almost 6800 feet. To put the climbing in perspective: It took me 6 hours of actual riding to cover the first 50 miles. That is hilly riding!
When I reached the Kabito valley (Kabito is a river as well as a town) I thought I had only a few miles to go to reach a potential place to eat. I'd snacked 20 miles out Page and I figured I could make to to Kabito without snacking again. I was wrong. I did see what looked like a water tower way on the other edge of the valley, but I still thought I'd be reaching Kabito soon. An hour or so later I still hadn't reached it and, having already crossed several valleys within the larger valley, in each of which I expected to find Kabito, I had to accept that not only was I going to cross the big valley, I was going to have to ride up and out of it before reaching Kabito. I stopped and ate some dried fruit.
When, after a long climb out, and over the top, I did see a sign for Kabito, The sign had symbols for gas and food. Yes, I'm going to get lunch! Kabito was off the main road a bit, but fortunately no climbing was required to get there. As I rode up, it was obvious that something big was going on in town. There were cars, pickup trucks, and people, mostly Navajo, everywhere. It was the day of the monthly fair in Kabito.
I ride through, checking things out. I did not see a restaurant, but I did see a big general store/gas station/ etc that may have served food. It was really busy, so I went back to the center of the fair and stopped at food place. I had corn stew, fry bread , and coffee for $5. I also had a good visit with a Navajo man whose wife was doing the cooking.
I had noticed a sign for the Iron Workers Union - and I used to work at a union plant where that was the union - when I came on to the reservation. The fellow I visited with is a journey man in that union and works of big construction projects, mostly in Arizona. He has five kids, but spends most of his time away from them, making a living. Since the projects he works on can last a year or more, his wife used to move with him, but with five and most of them in school, that has gotten too difficult, so he just comes home between jobs and on long weekend when he can. He likes his work, but is worried about Bush's attempt to introduce lower paid 'guest workers' in the US.
After lunch, the hills continue for another ten miles - coast down into a valley and crank up the other side. There was a pretty cliff a few miles south of Kabito, and the road ran around the neat rock at the of that cliff. I was having tummy troubles, so I stopped several time in the next few miles, including a stop where the road and the cliff met. It is impressive to see something miles away and then when you get up close, to really feel just how big it is. These rock are BIG. The end rock that was a tiny bump compared th the rest of the cliff was huge when you got close to it.
Finally, I reached the high point of this ride and was able to head, mostly down, to UT 160. It was a nice down hill till it got to the valley. Of course, UT 160 was on the other edge of this big valley and there where several canyons to cross in getting there. On of them even had a, almost dry, river in it. Hundreds of feet of steep (8%) climbing were required to get out of each of those canyons within the valley.
I stopped for a food break and rest in sight of 160. I used a cattle guard which was fine for the resting and eating, but I shouldn't have tried refilling my water bottles on the cattle guard. I dropped one of my two remaining black Sigg water bottle tops and had to leave it in the bottom of the cattle guard. I had three water bottles, one with the old style white cap, so I'm still OK, but now I only have two usable water bottle. I have been carrying my extra water in Platypus Water bladder - I have two, four liter bladders - but I'm now in country where I can get away with using just the two bottles if I tank up at every opportunity.
As I rode down (and up) toward 160, I had a strong cross wind coming from the southwest. Once I got on 160, it was a good tailwind, at about 12 mph. 160 is MUCH flatter than 98 and also much busier. It was easy riding, even though I was exhausted. It wasn't fun riding and the level of jerk behavior was quite high. After almost 8 hours of riding with no issues about other vehicles, I was really annoyed to be passed into, brushed by, yelled at and honked at. None of it was really dangerous, but lots of it was annoying and completely unnecessary rudeness.
Remember that electric train line that 98 crossed back near the big power plant in Page? It runs alongside 160 heading northeast. There are BIG silos about ten miles from 98 with an elaborate conveyor line running from the silos across the road and up onto a mesa. I hadn't seen any trains so I assumed that this system wasn't in operation. When I rode under the conveyor where it crossed the high way, I could hear that it was running. I guess they fill the silos continuously and load a big train from the silos regularly. After I passed the convey mechanism, I saw signs for Peabody Western Coal company. Now Mr Peabody is conveying Black Mesa away to feed that power plant and pollute the air of north eastern Arizona.
The final 20 miles of this ride is mostly downhill. It was fast, and easy riding except for the traffic. Kayenta has three motels, all upscale 'resort' versions of mainstream US chains, I picked the one that was a mile off of 160 on the road to Monument Valley. I got a small, expensive, room, but at least the 'continental' breakfast was good. I'd say two stars by continental standards <grin>.