After a Sunday evening spent listening to stories of the day’s ride to the Grand Canyon or Sedona (having nothing to contribute from my day of idleness), we started back on our Route 66 Challenge 2008 on Monday morning. When Tom and I woke at 6 am, having lost several hours sleep due to a party inconsiderately held in the next door bedroom at 3 am, the outside temperature was only 2 degrees. Nonetheless, by the time we were ready to leave, it was warm enough to go around in just a T-shirt, provided you stayed in the sun. Experience told that it would be much colder on the bikes – after all, like Denver, Flagstaff is a mile high at 7200 feet – so we donned our rainsuits despite the cloudless sky.

Sunrise over our bikes in Flagstaff AZ

Sunrise over our bikes in Flagstaff AZ

An hour later, we stopped for coffee and to remove the rainsuits. And then onto Seligman. This small town has become something of a tourist trap – while we were there, there were at least three busloads of of French tourists, all intrigued by the crazy Irish people on their motorcycles.

Seligman - activity on Main Street
Seligman – activity on Main Street

On then to Kingman, we were stopped for lunch at another Denny’s – for the first time, we were able to get a table for all the group to sit together – and the lads flirted shamlessly with the waitress, Miranda, who was well able for them! But we got magnificent service – and Miranda got a great tip!

Lunch at Denny's Kingman AZ - taken by Miranda, our waitress

Lunch at Denny

Under a little time pressure, we made our way across a barren desert plain to cross the mountains at the infamous Sitgreaves Pass. Sitgreaves has long since been bypassed but early settlers often used to pay locals to drive their cars through the pass for them, since it was so dangerous. In many cases, the cars had to be reversed up the hill – as reverse was the only gear capable to managing the grade! We avoided the use of reverse gear, and made our way to the pass without mishap.

Irish 66ers making their way up Sitgreaves Pass

Irish 66ers making their way up Sitgreaves Pass

There we waited for the other groups to join us – having arrived first. Our purpose at the pass was to place a memorial to brothers Dave Yost and JB Norris, who had planned to join our roadtrip in Chicago. Sadly, both died in June, within 5 days of one another. Their mother had asked Chief Roadcaptain, Tony Toner, to carry their ashes on a final bike journey across America and to place them at Sitgreaves Pass. So we held a brief and moving ceremony – sadly, the occasion was marred by the discovery that a memorial left to mark the passing of John McLaughlin, a 2004 66er, who died before he could take part on the 2006 Challenge, had been removed – it had been there only weeks earlier. Who would do such a thing?

Watching the ashes ceremony at Sitgreaves Pass

Watching the ashes ceremony at Sitgreaves Pass

Then down the mountain, into Oatman, an old mining town that has maintained the ramshackle facade of yesterday, underneath which lies a slickly-run tourist machine. Burros (donkeys) roam the street (there’s only one!) at will, cadging carrots (available for a dollar a bag at any shop) from visitors. In the absence of carrots, the burros will eat most anything else – one tried to eat the Irish flag flying from the radio aerial of my RoadGlide!

I bet he wouldn't try that with an American flag!

I bet he wouldn't try that with an American flag!

Rested and refreshed, we made our way across more barren territory to the town of Laughlin, in Nevada, departing slightly from Route 66 in the search for accommodation. Our beds for the night were in the Golden Nugget Casino and Hotel in Laughlin, which, being across the state border in Nevada, is a gambling town – at least six casinos, all bigger than the Golden Nugget, itself large – and surprisingly busy for a Monday night. A lovely dinner, served on a deck overlooking the Colorado river, with fish visible in the clear water below, as well as ducks and raccoons on the riverbank, loosened roadcaptain Gerry Barry’s tongue sufficiently for him to reveal that the next day, Tuesday, was his 50th birthday – a fatal mistake!

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