Charley’s ride across America 32. Confusion, expectations, Arizona


Day 63 march 31. 40 miles,4:30  beautiful day, end in Stafford AZ

Day 64 April 1. 60 miles 6:00 tailwind rolls, beautiful day. End at Apache casino.

Day 65 April 2. 31 miles , 5:00 two passes, gorgeous day, end near Roosevelt in Tonto Natl Forest

Total miles 2551

Dear friends and family, 

The days keep adding up and so do the miles. We are now well into Arizona and enjoying spring wildflowers and Saguaro cactus, which can live up to 150 years. Even though the mornings are still cool, things are heating up be afternoons. 

We chose to ride the route through the Tonto National Forest, which is considerably longer ( and more beautiful) than the ride directly to Phoenix on route 60, which many bikers now call “The death road”. No plans to die this trip, so up and over the pass we rode today.

Two days ago:

The day started with some confusion. I set my phone alarm for 4:40, so we had time to sip coffee, journal, and still get a six AM start at first light. I woke up, looked at my watch, and saw 5:06. Shit, my alarm didn’t work. I picked up my phone and it showed the time as 4:06. How could the phone switch time while I slept. Gregg woke up and said something about Arizona and daylight savings and certain counties have time things going on. 

“Okay, if the phone is the right time, then we can go back to sleep for an hour” I calculated aloud.

“But wouldn’t the sun come up the same, regardless of what time it was?” Gregg offered.

“Oh yeah, guess it would” my pre-coffee self answered.

“Maybe that also means that the noon wind won’t arrive till one, and we can have an extra hour of no headwinds” I thought, to totally confuse myself.

When starting any days ride, I, the accountant start the calculating for the day in my head:

Let’s see, if the first hour gained us only six miles, hmmm. Subtract time to stop, change clothes, plan, and eat, might be eight miles an hour. Okay, at eight miles an hour the next 40 miles will take five more hours. Hmm, a six hour day. Unless there are headwinds, hills, we get tired, get dehydrated, poor shoulder, flat tires – all those could slow us down and make it longer.

Or: let’s see, first hour average is twelve miles, wow, at this pace we could knock off the next 40 at three and a half more. Then we could be rested, get lunch, write blogs, really relax, walk around the town we’re staying at. Except 5hose expectations can be as false as the negative ones. In this kind of adventure one should always expect change as the day unwinds.

Yet, I still have to remind myself that the first miles are NEVER indicative of the total day AND I can’t have expectations of finishing by a certain time or what I will do immediately after that finish. Something about expectations of the future vs just riding in the present. 

Reminds me of a sailing trip in Lily, our steel Ebbtide 36 sailboat back in 1987. We had crossed the Atlantic to Grenada and now was the time to sail up-island and explore.

This first short passage was from Grenada to Carriacou, a distance of about 35 miles. With the trade winds blowing, we expected a fast passage. Once clear of the Lee of Grenada, we felt the full strength of those trades powering us north. As we approached Kick ‘em Jenny, an active submarine volcano, the sea motion became violent. The bow was dipping under with each wave and the entire boat and crew was getting salt sprayed as we beat to windward. 

As we neared the harbor of Carriacou, we were now in the Lee of that island with much less motion and wind. It had been a hard sail, exhilarating, but tiring and salty. 

“We should be anchored in about a half hour and I’m starved, what should we rustle up for dinner?” I asked Nancy as my expectations for a relaxing dinner in a new harbor in a beautiful island allowed my salivary glands to start.

“Let’s do something easy, since we are so tired from getting beat up” she answered.

“ Great idea, let’s get that anchor set and relax” I responded.

As we approached the entrance I lowered the sails and hit the starter button for our engine. She sprang to life for a whole thirty seconds before shutting down. I tried the starter again. Cranking with no ignition. She isn’t going to start. It appeared that the violent motion either mixed water into the fuel lines or dirt from the bottom of the tank. I remember reading about how to purge the system for clean fuel, but never actually did it.

Lily could sail to windward adequately, but I, the skipper, less so. To sail her through  a small entrance in an unfamiliar harbor that could be crowded inside was too much for my inexperienced self. 

I retrieved the engine manual and asked Nancy to seat pulling out charts for the next couple of islands north of us. I could bleed the engine while sailing further to find a harbor big enough for this amateur to sail into in case the engine quit again. 

Rodney Bay on the north end of Saint Lucia was very wide and deep. Anyone could sail into that bay, even me.

The problem: it was 114 miles north. What about the nice dinner plans, the relaxing at anchor the cleaning up the salt spray. All postponed.

I set the wind vane to take us north, re-raised sails and went to work below.

So, with my head in the engine compartment, hands covered with diesel, inhaling the fumes, I struggled with the bleeding by reading the manual with the boat rocking and rolling. At one point my entire set of sockets flew into the wet deep bilge below the engine. I managed over the next few hours to get the engine to start, run for a few minutes, before quitting, so I knew it was getting better, but not dependable.

 Late the next afternoon we approached St Lucia, but I wanted a morning approach so slowed way down for a dawn approach to Rodney Bay, a day and a half after my relaxing dinner plans!

I was extremely tired and nervous with the sail in. Turned out to be easy, as it was so big and empty. I approached the beach and dropped the anchor to snag us safely in the quiet bay. Relax? No, I was anxious about having a working engine so I dinghied into the inner harbor. First building I saw, other than the bar/restaurant that seemed to call to me, was a charter service office. I went right inside and asked the young man behind the counter if they had a mechanic on staff who could help with a diesel engine. 

From behind the door I heard a voice from a sunburned guy in a chair.

“I can probably help” I heard, before I recognized him as Trevor Robertson, a sailor I met two months ago in the Canary Islands, when I aptly demonstrated how stupid a new sailor can be and allowed him and Peter and Annie Hill to save me from my own stupidity. Another story that even I might be too embarrassed to tell.

“Trevor, am ever glad to see you!” I exclaimed.

Trevor is an engineer and diesel mechanic. He and I siphoned the water out of Lily’s tank ( I held the light), and he installed a water separator in the diesel line for the future. She was ready to go again and all was well.

Now, what happened with those expectations? I learned a valuable lesson on allowing myself to get too far along about what was going to happen next. Same Is true so far of sailing and now biking. Possibly more??

Years later, Trevor Robertson married Annie Hill ( she was married to Peter when I first met her)and they went on to become two of the most famous sailors that few have heard of. Trevor wintered over twice in the Arctic ( once with Annie, once alone) and also once in the Antarctic. He’s been around the horn several times and is a heavy weather expert. Annie just built herself a new junk rig sailboat in NZ.

Annie authored two books: BRAZIL AND BEYOND and SAILING ON A SMALL INCOME.

If you are interested Trevor’s blog is

Annie Hill’s blog is

Sending love,


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