Gates Pass. It was for this that I had been spinning easy all day. I knew it took a lot of energy and leg strength to get over it and I was pleased to see that when I got to gates pass, despite not having ridden this far on the roadbike in years, it was not too bad. In fact, it was a lot easier on the roadbike than the recumbent (I knew this though, as the first time I climbed this was on the very first 300k when Arizona had it's innaugural brevet season. In any hase I climbed it and had not completely destroyed my legs in the process (not that they were anywhere near fast during the day but at least I didn't feel bonked for the next hour or two as I had in years past). I had my top speed of the day here hitting 40 on my way down.
Around the corner on kinney road Susan was waiting with a truckfull of food and this was the lunch stop (well, maybe Linner as it was 4:30, hey I told you I wasn't riding fast. I figured this wasn't too bad considering I hadn't even trained for this). Being a little tight on funds as of late I had resolved to eat as much of Susan's food as possible this go round as opposed to stopping at stores. I must say that the wraps tasted mighty good and I took one for my jersey pocket to eat later as well. I didn't stop at lunch too long either as I knew it was going to be a late night, a little later than I expected even.
So, bidding Susan adieu until Casa Grande (Oh my, is it really 74 miles away?) I was off to finish the climbing for the day in the next few miles through Saguaro National Monument. Fair readers, I must tell you that the wolf did not appear to be on the haunt today. Perhaps the cold had kept him in. In any case I did not see him, I do know that I was cold and I was wearing a long sleeve jersey so knowing the wolfs tendency to not wear tops I figure he was haunting or roaming inside today.
Cruising through Picture Rocks I was happy to be in the 17 -20 mph hour range, unfortunately that would be the last I would be up there for the rest of the day. The winds were playing their havoc once again and were keeping my speed down. I was at this time well into a ride which I had not necessarily prepared adequately for and my speed reflected that. I had the endurance to keep pressing on, just not very fast. It was in here that I discovered my problems with my lights was a little worse than I thought.
My superbright homebrew LED light had a severed wire which I managed to finagle back together but it would flicker for the rest of the night. My faithful Catey el500 which was my backup light and had served me faithfull come hell and highwater was flickering on the point of uselessness as well. So, the evening was foreshadowed in a bit of an ominous way. I figured I had my cell phone though so if worst came to worst I could call Susan the "Wonder RBA" who is always ready to help poor Randonneurs in distress. I also took this opportunity to take off the sunglasses and put the jacket back on figuring it would be more than adequate for the temperate night time temperatures. Ha ha.
I didn't really start to get cold until I was at the store in Marana. I bought a strawberry milk and Something else to eat I can't remember. I started to shiver as I gave my lights one last try to make them work a little more reliably. I figured I would stop at the picacho peak gas station and stuff some newspaper in my jacket if I got too cold (idea I read in Bruces first 600k ride report). I looked forward to that newspaper all the way down the frontage road because I was freezing. This was pretty much my lowpoint in the ride. I was going slow, I was cold, and the wind was blowing pretty hard. Time seemed to slow down. I could see the powerplant in the distance but it never got closer, as did the radio tower near picacho peak after I had passed the plant. Eventually, freezing and full of hope I pulled in to find the gas station closed. There were some credit card application on the pumps but I didn't think those would work so well, so, off into the night I went figuring there would be something at La Palma where I would need to stock up on food.
It was another cold long haul to La Palma with the exception of a few warm spots on the way north into La Palma. I regret not stopping at the gas station in the town of Picacho (Eloy jr.) where we turn north.
La Palma historically is my favorite stop. It is a nice place for a tired randonneur to sit down for a bit and pause before taking that last ride into Casa Grande. I knew of course that it would be too cold to sit outside and contemplate life the univers and everything, but I had rather hoped to buy a chocolate milk and warm up temporarily before heading out on the last leg. Fair readers, I must tell you it was quite a blow to not see the bright streetlight shining over the dirt parking lot of the La Palma market, and more distressing was to see the building lieing in shadows without a soul in sight and the wind blowing tumbleweeds across the desolate landscape (ok, so it was missing the tumbleweeds but you get the picture). It was at this time that I decided the ride report would have it's current name as this piece by the reverend Blind Willie Johnson had pretty much captured that feeling in the song of the same name (which, even more appropriately is flying out into the outer reaches of the solar system, in COLD dark space on a gold record on the Voyager spacecraft). So, feeling a bit glad I had snarfed that poptart I had stuffed in my pocket earlier in the day and hoping that my water would hold out, I steered my Old Lady towards Casa Grande.
I pedaled in the dark with a flickering light (it had been flickering for many hours now). Time was no longer a continuum but seemed to be slowing further and only the thought of being so near the end made things more bearable. Somewhere in here I saw a pretty impressive shooting star. My spirits started to perk up after passing 11 mile corner seeing a sign that said 6 miles to the I-10 interchange (which is really the end of the ride for me mentally as the cruising through town stuff is pretty much just a victory lap). Six miles, I can ride six miles. Even if I am completely blown out I can ride six miles. I can ride six miles really cold even. Time started to speed up again. I could see the new shopping center on this side of the freeway in the distance and it was a while before it started to appear bigger but who cared, That was the end! This ride would be in the bag. I was now happy that I pressed on and didn't call Susan from Picacho with some kind of stupid excuse about hypothermia and crappy lights. I had the ride in the bag. Despite all that I didn't have going for me I was done. All that was left was to go wake up Susan and turn my car heater on. Susan must have seen me come into the parking lot as she got up and signed my card (last time we came in this late we knocked on her window and startled her).
On the way home at the first sign of mental fatigue I pulled into a shopping center and nodded off for an hour and a half before getting home.
Post Mortem- good ride, would have been easier with more training but hey, it worked. I think I need to raise my handlebars up a bit if I am going to keep doing this on the road bike. I also think that it was good of me to have a little extra food and water on hand seeing as the Marana to Picacho without services leg turned into a Marana to Casa Grande without services leg. It was a cold but good day all in all.
Post Mortem Addendum 12-17-07
I am happy to report no soreness and I had energy to commute in today. There must be something to this spinning thing. There also might be something to eating something healthy like Susan's wraps as a recovery meal as opposed to Whatburger I think.