Date: April 6th, 2017
From/To: Seligman, AZ/Kingman, AZ
Daily Mileage: 70 miles
Total Mileage: 2180 miles
Current Elevation: 3410 feet
Conditions: Sunshine, mid 60s and south winds at 5-10 mph
It was an easy day on the saddle. 70 miles seems like nothing in the grand scheme of things. I had a quick breakfast with mom in a cafe across the street from our hotel. Everything in Seligman was walking distance. It was a town built on Route 66 and there wasn’t much aside from the main strip. I had some eggs and toast before setting off on my trek. I started on Route 66 but I ended up taking a more direct route (might’ve been the interstate) to Kingman to shave off 18 miles that would’ve been added to my ride had I taken Route 66.
I wanted to see the historic sights but by this point I’m shooting for efficiency over sight seeing. The roads were pretty nice most of the way. I had plenty of shoulder room at most points, I even had my own lane in construction areas where one lane was coned off from drivers. I was told my two construction workers that I could take the lane they had coned off because they hadn’t started working on it yet, that was lucky. I had about 10 miles of road to ride on car free, it was biker heaven if I’ve ever seen it. As I neared Kingman the road quality worsened. The pavement went from fine to coarse and choppy with cracks in the roads. I had to slow my speed significantly because it was so shaky, and I couldn’t avoid much of the road debris unfortunately either. I had two flat tires today which really should’ve been one. The first one happened mid way along my trek. I stopped and routinely disassembled the front wheel (much better than a rear flat) and examined the puncture. It was another piece of fine metal wire from a truck tire. I could’ve fixed it right then and there, the only problem was I didn’t bring my tweezers with me, they were in the car with all my other repair gear. I had my pocket knife so I took that out and tried to work at the wire but apparently I didn’t work it enough. If you’re ever going on a tour, take a pair of tweezers with you, you’ll need them. I patched up the inside of the tire and it got me within striking distance of Kingman. The front went flat again about 5 miles out from the hotel so mom came out and rescued me. I was out of spare tubes, not that it mattered because my tire had a puncturing piece of metal that would ruin any tube anyway. We made our way to the nearest bike shop and I bought some spares and fixed the tire. The bike was set to go once again. Luckily there was a shop around, that’s not always a luxury I have.
After grabbing some lunch at Cracker Barrel with mom, I showered back at the hotel. We decided (mostly me) to visit an Alpaca Ranch this afternoon. It was 15 miles out of town, going back the way I’d biked in. When we arrived we saw the gate was closed. It was 3:45 and the tours had ended at 3:30. We sat there for a while waiting to see if anyone came out, we also called the number we found online but nobody answered that either. We didn’t need a tour we just wanted to see some Alpacas! Finally we turned around in the driveway, right as a car was pulling up. It was the owner, Ron, and his grandson. “You lookin for a tour?” he said us. We told him we just wanted to see some Alpacas but he insisted on giving us a tour even though they were closed. It’s the second time we’ve lucked out on an after-hours tour! We quickly realized how passionate Ron was about his business. He’d been breeding and raising Alpacas for over 14 years now. He was full of information and very interesting to listen to. He opened up the conversation by talking about how the business has changed over the last decade and a half. “Government is trying to stamp out small businesses.” He talked to us for a while about the hardships he’s been battling with, like fighting government penalties for certain regulations he now has to abide by. He came from Utah to Arizona years back and it took nothing more than $55 to open and license a business. Now it takes tens of thousands of dollars to meet ADA requirements alone. Ron said it’s gotten to the point where many small businesses are getting flushed out by big business. He understands the intent behind government regulations and equality, but he believes things have gotten out of proportion and it’s evident based on the number of small business that have failed over the last decade. He can only do so much with the income he makes off his business, yet he’s expected to do more.
We asked Ron why he has pigs. “Pigs eat Mohave Green Snakes…” Ron turned to me saying, “Don’t camp out on the side of the road around here. If one of those snakes bites you out here, you’d have a 50/50 chance of making it. We’re far from the hospital. If you do get bit, swallow a lot of Benadryl and hope you get the $6,000 anti-venom in time.” I didn’t sense any sarcasm in Ron’s voice, he was more of a facts guy than a comedian anyway. I asked him how far I’d need to go to be in the clear and he told me about 10 miles into Nevada I should be out of their territory. In his experience these snakes have mixed personalities, some flee when they see you, others chase you. I wish I could take one of his pigs with me. The conversation then turned back to alpacas, but mom and I were focused on the ground for the next 5 minutes or so.
Some things I learned from Ron about his business:
- He does around 1,700 tours per year at $7 per visit.
- Tour fees pay for the feed and maintenance of the animals.
- He makes his living off the products he’s able to produce with Alpaca fur, reeling in around $15,000 just from the yarn he sells.
- He makes about $1,000 off each Alpaca per year.
So what’s the big deal about Alpaca fur? It’s very fine in diameter; 20 microns compared to human hair that averages around 125 microns. It’s extremely durable. It’s quick to dry without the need for a dryer, and the fine/smooth filaments prevent dirt from locking in which keeps Alpaca fur stays cleaner than other fibers. Mom mentioned that I have a pair of alpaca socks I’ve been wearing on my ride and Ron chuckled to himself. “Socks are one of the most challenging articles of clothing to engineer for human use. They withstand full body weight and pivoting shear when we turn, stand up, and push forward. Many people don’t think much about the thought that goes into socks, I spent many years in R&D trying to get my socks just right.” He wasn’t kidding around, he ended the conversation by bashing the main athletic socks on the market, including Nike’s “high quality” performance socks… pretty much all I wear. I guess alpaca is where it’s at, I ended up buying a pair so we’ll find out. Either he’s a good salesman or I’ve been doing it wrong all this time.
After our tour of the Alpaca Ranch we made our way back into Kingman and found a cool microbrewery to test out some local beers. We also ordered some food and sat out on the patio of the brewery for several hours before returning to the hotel. I packed up all my trekking gear because mom leaves for home early tomorrow morning. She flies out of Las Vegas at 11AM, six hours before I’ll be arriving to stay the night. Wish me luck at the blackjack table.
Enjoy The Ride,