Monday, December 11, 2006

The Harvest Moon (Ride report from October)

Well, the Harvest Moon was extremely bright. In fact, if not for the occasional car we wouldn’t have needed lights at all for the ride. The night was still a good test for the new light system though. The system though held together temporarily with zip ties held up fine over 130 miles. My backup light was another story and I am glad I didn’t have to use it. Anyway, on with the ride report!
Steve stopped by the house at around a quarter to 10 PM and we were off much to the chagrine of my 2 4 year old sons who learned to ride bikes last week (they wanted to come too but 16 inch wheels are just a bit too small for a 200k distance I think). A quick stop into Albertsons to get our cards signed and we were off to Tortilla flat. The ride out of town was pleasant enough but entering the usually dark areas of the outskirt deserts was wonderful. The Flat Iron (mountain on east end of Mesa) was plainly visible in the moonlight and visibility was also sufficient to see the Weaver’s Needle off in the distance as we moved off of the false flats and into the steeper climbing. My light did just fine despite the slow speeds getting only a slight flicker due to the magnet spacing in my dynohub. Steve had a low tire after the first climb for some strange reason (he didn’t lose any other air the rest of the night). I sped a bit ahead during the next section as I really wanted to see how far I could push my light (it gets brighter as speed increases due to having more LEDs than the dynohub can fully support by design to prevent melted electronics). I found 37 mph very comfortable, and might have been able to go faster but that is really as fast as I like going at night anyway and the roads were too curvy to push it further. Wrapping around the curves of the lake shore I could see Steve a half mile back highly visible from his E6 light and chainstay lights. I was amazed at being able to see reflections of the cliffs in the water of the lake. It really was the best night of the year for cycling. Soon Steve was back up with me and we made our way back to Tortilla Flat. Just past the second bridge we startled a family of what we figured were raccoons scurrying off the road. We pushed the last hill thinking we were close to the time cutoff but in reality we had plenty of time as the control didn’t actually close until 12:48 AM. We popped the postcard in the box at 12:36 and took a break on the boardwalk.
The climb out was not too eventful, just a lot of climbing and gorgeous views of desert under the moonlight. I had to admit the hills took a bit of a toll on my legs but not overly so. I could feel the fitness I had lost over a slacking summer though. We got back to Apache Junction and stopped at a Circle K with a lonely store clerk who followed us out for his smoke break after we finished in the store. He was interested in the difference in our two bikes and our endeavor for the evening. That was one of the funnier sides of this ride. Usually you don’t run into people who think you are crazy in the middle of the night on a 200k. Traffic heading down Vineyard road was a lot busier than the roads we had previously been on but not excessive. We made good time down to Ocotillo. From there though things kind of slogged along in the fuzzy hours of the early morning. We soldiered on across the flats though and eventually got to ride through all the recently mowed down desert that was soon to become the newest Anthem community for people who feel a need for long commutes and high gas bills so they can live wall to wall with another person who wants to move out to the country. Ok, done with my rant, this is a ride report after all but the loss of desert when there are two perfectly good urban wastelands nearby to further ruin kind of bugs me.
Riding down Attaway road was fairly uneventful until a double trailer gas truck blew the stop sign just after we had turned onto Az 287 and shot across 4 lanes of increasingly busy morning traffic. Luckily he managed to choose a good break in traffic to fall asleep. He slammed on his breaks on the other side of the highway after he woke up. He later passed us a few miles later after he managed to turn that thing around on what was a narrow country road on the other side, he must have actually had to drive a bit of a detour to get around as you can’t really back a double trailer.
In Coolidge we discovered that the mail slot on the mailbox was sealed shut. Kind of weird. Anyway, there was a lady there who agreed to take our postcards and mail them down the road for us so we took off again into the night as unlike last year we had plenty of fluids to finish the ride on due to the cool evening. Did I mention we were wearing arm warmers and leg warmers? We actually put them on at the gas station as the descents had gotten a bit chilly. We basically left them on for the rest of the ride much to the amusement I am sure of other cyclists out after sunrise. After Crossing the Gila River on the way to Chandler the mantra became, Breakfast Buffet, Breakfast Buffet, Breakfast Buffet. Our speed picked up a bit for that last stretch interestingly enough.
On the hunt highway we stopped for a bit and saw one of the Gaba club rides approaching. Thinking they were the fast group we let them pass and were surprised to catch up with them quickly (must have been the slow group) and pass them again so late in our ride. Of course, they didn’t have a breakfast buffet waiting so perhaps it wasn’t a fair race.
The last section was a bit of a push for me but not too bad. The breakfast buffet of course was fabulous. What a recovery meal! What a ride! We harvested a 200k under the harvest moon. Then to home and a nice bed.

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