Saturday, May 31, 2008

Where the stars still shine.

A long time ago there were stars in my sky. All I had to do was walk outside at night in the cool summer air and look up. My hometown was and is home to several observatories one of which was where Pluto was discovered at, and that actually meant something until people decided that Pluto was not a planet anymore but a planetoid. Of course the town has grown and the observatories have had to move further out of town. But the sky can still be amazingly dark at night there if you find a secluded spot devoid of streetlights.

Tonight I was aiming at escaping the lights that obscure the stars. Those abominable lights of Phoenix that pollute the night sky for miles and miles. I decided to ride all the way to the end of the pavement on the Apache trail and back.

First of all I had a flat tire before leaving which I had to fix and by the time I got my water bottles filled and the kids down to bed it was basically 9 PM so I would be looking at getting back a bit before 2 AM. I had to stop on the edge of town to get extra batteries for my light which had the same batteries I used on the 300k last February in it and they were dimming a bit.

It has been a long time since I rode this length of time at night. It was a warm night but sections of the desert were chilly. I would ride through areas of warm and cool air throughout the night. Hilltops being warm and valleys being chilly usually. Riding along the road outside of Apache Jct the traffic died down to a very rare car coming out of the night here and there. The desert was alive my friends. The constant noise of crickets permeated the air and here and there a cicada buzzed (could have been a grasshopper too). occasionally a bird could be heard singing over the darkened desert, as a lone voice in the night.

The cliffs of the Superstitions reflected the city glow and other pinnacles were silhouetted against the sky. Saguaro cacti looked like giants standing by the road ready to throw things down upon poor cyclist's heads and the hills looked like gargantuan dark creatures sleeping and not to be disturbed.

Slowly the darkness descended with the exception of the glow to the south marking the direction of town. As I climbed and descended I remembered the last time I rode this at night. It was with Steve Jewell during the Harvest Moon a year and a half ago. We were riding the Legends, Superstitions and Ruins permanent and only needed our lights as a formality for the moon lit up the landscape in spectacular fashion. Not tonight though. Tonight there was no Moon and as I climbed the stars increased in number and intensity.

At Canyon Lake were the two steel truss bridges over two inlets on the side of the lake. One steel decked and one asphalt. Riding through these was like crossing ghost bridges as the white cross members spanned the space above and to the sides speeding by with every pedal stroke.

After passing Canyon Lake the frequency of cars dropped even further. I would only see two cars before I got back to canyon lake. Climbing El Diablo under cover of darkness was something I had not done before. Dropping into low gear I spun up but even so I found myself breathing a little harder with the added effort. On up into the darkness I climbed. Not too far from the top I could see headlights winding up in the darkness far below. It would be several minutes before the car got to me. When it did I was near the end of the pavement and after he passed I stopped where I had parked my car on Monday and stared at the vast tapestry of stars in the heavens. There is something about a sky full of stars that causes the soul to reflect and deepen I think. It was one of those moments you can't really explain but occurs after you have worked hard for several hours to finally arrive at a particular experience which only comes to those who struggle.

Down into the night I sped. My light illuminating the road far off into the night. Moths and bugs dive bombing their way into my light in last attempts to seize the day. Plants and trees speeding by at 40 mph on either side. Soon I would drop out of the warm air into the frigid air of the valley which would chill me before I would warm again during the trip back to Canyon Lake.

A long slow climb from Canyon Lake would put me on top of the hill viewing the lights of Apache Jct far off into the distance. After a parting look at the stars I was off for home.

I didn't set any records. I was only 7 minutes slower than my fastest time though and I had headwinds on the way there and back and my fastest time was in daylight . With the 3800 feet I logged tonight and the 5600 on Monday I climbed nearly 10000 feet this week which I am sure is a record for me. So, it was a wonderful way to spend a Friday evening.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Epic ride.

Every memorial day I try and do a century. I missed last year for some reason and this year I didn't do a century, but I feel like I did. The Apache Trail is marked as a highway on the map but don't be fooled. It may be paved for a few miles out of Tortilla Flat, and the first bit below Roosevelt dam but the interior is 22 miles of potholed, steep graded dirt road. That being said there are few roads in the state that are as scenic as the Trail. Yes, the scenery was epic, the weather was epic, and the climbing was epic.

I decided to drive to the end of the pavement rather than starting in Tortilla Flat as I was running a little behind. As it was I didn't get the bike off the car until 5:40. The sun was just getting ready to rise from the predawn twighlight. I had a mile or so to fine tune my setup before I would descend Fish Creek Hill. I had my new bike computer which measures Altitude and also had my GPS on board just for kicks (I will be using it next week for navigation so I thought it good to test the whole system out today).

Fish Creek Hill is a real piece of work. It is one and a half miles of severe elevation change. It climbs 1000' over its course evaluating to roughly a 15% grade. I will write more about Fish Creek Hill later though since going down is not so bad. At this time in the morning there was no one on the hill and descending was a bit bumpy but nice. I kept wondering if I was going to melt my brakes again like I did many years ago coming down Mt. Elden. I was discovering one of the major differences between paved road riding and dirt road riding was the speed of descending. On a hilly paved route you can at least make up time in speedy descents. On dirt you have to control the descent so you don't eat it. Coming down this particular hill I don't think I ever got over 16 mph just due to the nature of the road and the turns in the road.

I had not been down the Apache Trail in a long time and had forgotten the beauty of Fish Creek. The cliff walls are so tall down in here that it gives one the distinct feeling of being in the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Last time I was down here Fish Creek was not flowing but today it was. Large cottonwoods filled the canyon bottom and the wonderful smell of the riparian vegetation filled the air.

Far above, the road I just came down climbs up into the sky.
Now that I was on to flatter road my speed jumped up to 18 mph for a bit leading into what would be the only easy steady climb for the day. The road going towards the Apache Lake Marina turnoff winds up a nice little canyon with large cottonwood trees growing next to the road. Also near the road is the highway maintenance yard (this must be a bugger of a road to maintain), and a ranch. Being early in the morning the feeling of solitude was wonderful. I saw two or three cars on my outbound trip but many more on the way back as the world of memorial day recreators came to life.

I got a little optimistic getting to the marina turnoff fairly quickly and thought how easy the rest of the road would be. It was a foolish thought really because after the Marina turnoff the outbound climbing really gets going. Incidentally, I was always of the opinion that the trail steadily climbed up to Roosevelt but the fact is that the end of the pavement where I parked is actually higher than Lake Roosevelt by 5-600 feet. So the majority of the climbing was actually to be realized on the way back.

Between the marina turnoff and Roosevelt lake there are around five hills. These hills have the peculiar attribute of not one of them being under an 8% grade. In fact most of them hit 10-12% in multiple places. I should have looked at the elevation profile a little closer. It was beautiful country, it is just that the road didn't do a whole lot of going back into the canyons it crossed to even out the grades. In all fairness though most of these canyons had steep walls and the places the road could fit into just happened to be that steep. Needless to say I got a good workout.

"Boy, I can't wait to get out of this crowded city and get up to the lake to camp."

Every hill seemed to give way to another one that was bigger than the one before. I would work up a good sweat mashing the granny gear of my MTB up one side and cool off carefully descending the other side only to launch right into another one as soon as I had crossed the bottom. This was rugged country and the last stretch of the road actually hugs the cliff just above the river/lake before climbing up to the Dam. This section was still in the shade when I got there. It was around this time that traffic started to pickup too.

I managed to snap a photo of myself when I got onto the pavement just before the Dam.

Getting to the top was an awesome feeling but I would soon discover that the store I was going to buy food and water at was out of business. I went down towards the marina but it's store was out on the water and it wasn't open yet. The visitor's center was my next idea but it was closed and the drinking fountain locked up. I ended up going over to the Sheriff's station down the road on the way back to the Dam.

I didn't stage this picture at all.

On the way back I took a few pictures which I probably shouldn't have as I would be getting back late. Still, I doubt I will be up this way again anytime soon with my bike so perhaps it wasn't that bad. After the permanent next week I am going to go back to training on the roadbike full time.

Ah, Margo, how do you interpret this dam? Well, Trevor, I think this dam is a metaphor, it is the fierce resistance to the forces of nature which buffet us all day to day, "Stand your ground" it says. Hmmm, well, I disagree Margo, I think it is more of a political statement, it is the icy space between the liberals and conservatives, and the water represents progress which has been brought to a halt by the immovable positions they each adopt respectively. But then again, perhaps we are over interpreting this......

For some reason I was thinking the way back would go quicker. I started to get really hungry but not so thirsty as I was ahead on hydration but behind on feeding. In the end I emptied the rest of my powder/maltodextrin (which I had brought extra of thankfully since the store was closed) to make a gel like consistency. A swig or two of this stuff every half hour provided ample energy, which was good because there was still a lot of climbing left.

The above picture doesn't really do the hills justice but it gives you an idea of what I was dealing with. These hills just kept going and going. I had to just keep settling down into a rythm I could maintain and just tell myself to keep turning the pedals and I would eventually be through. In the meantime I switched the screen on my bike computer and was amused to see that I was getting to over 4500 ft climbed and I still had Fish Creek Hill to deal with!

When they name a hill and put up a sign on it you know it is going to hurt. This mile and a half of road is why they say no 40 ft vehicles on this road. Even then there are problems. I had been pedalling easy for the last few miles to prepare for this ascent. Did I mention it was a 15% grade for a mile and a half and that it climbed over a 1000 feet? That's a lot of climbing for a mile and a half. In fact, the road hugs the cliff so tight it is barely one lane wide and I would catch up with all the people who passed me at one point since a boat trailer going up and one coming down did in fact have to stop and figure out how to pass each other. I was able to squeeze (and I do mean squeeze, I had to walk a bit and the handlebars barely fit between the car and the cliff face). I stopped to get a picture of some wrecked cars far below the road. Other than that I made it all the way to the top without stopping and I really didn't need to stop for the picture, just wanted to snap the picture (I was still hurting but I was hurting at a maintainable rate).

This is what happens when you either underestimate the law of inertia, or drink and try to drive Fish Creek Hill. I would see 4 wrecks in all lying strewn about the bottom of the cliffs under the road. It is interesting that these 2 cars fell so close to one another.

A parting shot at Fish Creek Narrows in the midday sun.
From the bottom of the hill to the top I got interesting comments from people (when you are in such a low gear that you are going 3-4 mph you can talk to people albeit in short sentences between breaths). An older coppertoned guy with his shirt off walking along the road at the bottom of the hill looked at me and asked if I was riding all the way up the road. I told him my car was parked at the top and he responded with a hearty "You da MAN!". Around halfway up the hill an SUV was passing me going down and a guy leaned out the window and said "Dude! You ROCK!". That made me feel good and was a good Morale booster. One of the weirder ones was a guy on a Harley and his Betty on back. First of all I admire his bravery for taking a Harley down this hill, not to mention with a passenger. His girl on the back got a look at me and with a surprised expression on her face just said "WOW!" (and I don't think she was referring to my manly hairy chest exposed through my unzipped jersey to avoid overheating). That was about 3/4 of the way up and getting into the thick of the steepest part so apparently I made quite an impression!

Yep, I climbed her. Didn't even have to walk. Of course I was going about walking speed but that is completely beside the point!
Incidentally, I didn't mention this before but I have discovered once you get to 9% or so you can't stand to climb as your back tire spins out so a lot of the worst of the climbing has to be done sitting down. That being said I did find spots occasionally for a good back stretch and a bit of time out of the saddle.

Old red at the corral after the great hill roundup.

It was a good ride. In the end I ended up with a time of 5 hours 22 minutes. I averaged 9.7 mph over the 50 miles. Tonight I am a good healthy tired. My legs are weak, and I feel like I have really pushed the envelope this time. This marks my longest ride on my 17 year old MTB. Previously I had a 40 mile ride under the belt with around 4000 feet of climbing but this one definitely pushed us into a new arena. Will I do this route again? Probably. Next time I will plan on more time though. You really can get lost back in those canyons.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Paul's Psychadelic Journey and a Winter Ride.

Last night's ride bears an entry in this blog. I left work at 5 PM to dropping temperatures and a good steady rain. My fingers were cold folks. Not only that, my short sleave jersey was just not cuttin it, good thing I brought a rain jacket but even that was cold. My thermometer put the temperature in the low 60's and upper 50's. Definitely not late may weather for Phoenix Arizona. If we didn't set a record we were dang close. It bore little resemblance to my commute on Monday in 109 degree weather.

First off I would face the viscious headwind which plagued me all the way back to the car. Second, was the rain. Fenders would have been nice but I really didn't have any time that morning to put them on as I had to rush the kids off to their last day of school. The reason fenders would have been particularly nice is I noticed as I went down the road an interesting sheen, or color to the road surface. In addition to that there was an interesting smell. The bikelane was a spectrum of shimmering colors as I moved along. Not ever having been on an LSD trip I can't compare it but this was definitely bizarre. The wavy colors all over the road and me riding over the top of them. It went on like this for nearly 8 miles. I thought at first someone must have a gas leak but it went to far for that. It was the first rain in a long time and I think it was just washing the crap off the road. I smelled like gas. I paused to think about how everyone is mystified about how the gasoline additive MTBE is finding it's way into our water supply. Hmmm, I wonder. Getting back to the car I did something that would be unimaginable for late May. I fired up the heater. I was cold. In fact, I was cold and hungry and in need of a good furnace stoking. So off to Chik fil a I sped.

A Winter's Journey.

This morning I knew the commute was going to be a little different. I had originally planned on riding up South Mountain but determined I had been getting a little too anxious and angry lately and I needed to catch up on my sleep before my bp made me flip out (it's sensitive to poor sleep patterns). Of course there was also the fact it had been pouring all night in Mesa.

So, I arose and checked the weather on the computer. The temps were in the low 50's. Hmm. this looks like a job for "Super Rando Ninja!" (minus the balaclava of course) I thought. I pulled on the leg warmers, the long sleeve jersey, the mitten shells over my cycling gloves, and my rain jacket. I would at least be warm today. It was almost surreal commuting in. Where I have been sweating the last few weeks. On the way in today was a flashback to winter. Somewhere in the northern part of the state Snow was falling. Rain fell lightly on my jacket as I rode out of my neighborhood. I must have looked funny being so dressed up when we had such heat only days before. Around halfway in the streets were dry and the rain had stopped. I was a bit warm so I pulled off the rain jacket but I was a little chilly with just the long sleeve jersey on. What a bizarre commute.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

My tire has a hernia and other amusing commuting stories

I suppose it is a little early to summarize the week but seeing as I intend to cheat summer once more and ride South Mountain tomorrow it will likely have it's own blog report. It has been an interesting week though and I thought I would make a special entry just for it.
Monday we set a record for heat and it was 109 degrees when I left work to ride home. It did not feel like 109 degrees though, more like mid nineties. Nevertheless, it was a great opportunity to experience lifes simple pleasures of the desert. Unfortunately my front tire was not on board with the whole "embrace the heat" thing. Somewhere along the route my front tire started making a sound like a guy that's wearing rubber pants walking around. Now for the record, I have never heard or even seen a guy with rubber pants, but if there was one it would sound just like my front tire did. I didn't discover the problem until last nights commute though, but that will be addressed later in the entry.

The heat is on.

Commuting in heat is, well, uh, an experience. There is one thing that makes it better though. I was looking forward to it all the way down Chandler Blvd. "It is hot, but it's a dry heat" as I told the lady in the white Yukon who informed me it was too hot to cycle and that she does it in the morning. Perhaps the giant rack and trunk on the back of my bike appeared to be a bizarre training device to her, or perhaps she just couldn't fathom someone using their bicycle for something useful which might, heaven forebid, include them having to ride in the afternoon. Well, there was a heat advisory so I will cut her some slack. As I said it was a dry heat.

A dry heat gives us a few advantages over our humid brethren also living in hot climates. Yes, a dry heat allows me to become Paul, the human swamp thing! Oops, I mean human swamp cooler. One of the best things on this planet is arriving at a park with a drinking fountain and thoroughly soaking your jersey on a hot day and cycling off as the wind hits your wet jersey and chills you in an almost unnatural intensity in such hot weather. The park I was going to had a refridgerated fountain (most city parks don't have them, even non-refridgerated ones work but you don't get the cooling effect until you start mooving). So I sprayed myself down and a 109 degree day suddenly got chilly. Yes, I actually shivered once. I must admit I wasn't expecting it to work that well. It was a nice ride back to the car from there. Too hot to ride indeed.

A Windswept Paul.

Well, with the heat subsiding, the other effect of a massive cold front was immediately apparent on my commute yestereday morning. I had a 25 mph headwind much of the way in. You know it is windy when the water in the canal you are riding next to is white capping. Usually these kind of days give you hope of a better world, folks at peace with one another, free money falling from the sky, all because there will be a tailwind of equal size that evening. Well, around here usually the wind shifts mid day and that hope gets dashed into a world where people honk and cat call bicyclists and people speed along oblivious of each other in a compassionless race to see who can cut who off and save a few seconds to arrive at the next red light, all caused by a callous headwind when a tailwind should have remained. Well, today was different.

I left work with winds between 20-30 mph from the west with gusts up to 40. The bike just kind of pedalled itself but I had to stop off at performance for my new bike computer/altimeter, some new gloves, a tube for my mountain bike and a seat wedge for it too since I am riding it more and switching back and forth from the roadbike is annoying, so I was in a bit of a hurry. I didn't have a functioning computer installed on the bike so I had to estimate my speeds by the lap timer on my watch and the traffic lights on the 1 miles blocks. I figure I kept 25-27 mph most of the way back to the car. It's a pity I didn't have anything recording my average speed for the ride I am sure it was a record. Anyway, about the bike tire with a hernia.

Remember that rubber pants sound I was talking about? Well I found out what it was. At one of the stop lights I examined the front tire and noticed some funny bumps on it. Figuring I couldn't stop there I determined to check it out back at the car. The bumps were rubber seperating from the next layer of tire in. The tire was an Armadillo that I had had on this bike for over a year and over 6000 miles easy. I had almost worn the top layer of rubber out and it was cracking in spots so an evening session with the steed was in order. My back wheel had been slowly showing signs of imminent retirement as well and it was pretty flat across the tread with cracking rubber as well as the threads were almost showing through.

A few months back I purchased a couple of tires for $8 each at performance that were kevlar belted figuring I would give them a try. I wasn't too crazy about the raised tread in the middle (usually a marketing gimmick for those who don't know a no-tread pattern is actually the most efficient). Anyway, I got 25c as I like the comfort more than the 23c and I don't notice much speed difference. These tires were a lot smaller than either the Armadillo or the Gtorskin that I pulled off which is funny because usually the companies mark a bigger tire lower instead of the other way to appeal to the skinny tired, fashion fetished roadie crowd, who live by the law of Fernando- "It is better to looook gooood than to feeel Goood.". I also installed my new bike computer as well.

This morning I was off to fight the headwinds again and time will only tell if world peace occurs or the headwind switches directions. But now I have new tires and a new toy on the handlebars so all is well. New tires are kind of like new shoes, life is just a little cooler for a bit with them. I don't know if I will be winning any races on them but they seem to work and they were dirt cheap so we are good. Is that thunder outside?

My tire has a hernia and other amusing commuting stories

Well friends, it has been an odd week for commuting. I guess I am a bit presumptuous writing a weeks summary entry before Friday but tomorrow I am heading for South Mountain again to cheat summer one more time while this incredible cold front holds out. So, tomorrow's ride might have it's very own entry.
Monday was an interesting day in that we set a record for high temperature that day (and today or tomorrow we may set the lowest high record interestingly enough). It was 109 degrees when I left work to ride back to the car. I found it really odd because it did not feel like 109 degrees. It felt more like low nineties to me. Anyway, it was a good commute. At one point a lady in a big old yukon pulled up and told me it was too hot to d oie9OU

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Whoa red, whoa old boy, I said whoa.......

If you have been reading lately you know I am trying to get some miles in on dirt to prepare me for the Dirty Mogollon Mormon Madness permanent I will be riding in a few weeks up on the rim. This morning's adventure would be climbing the Hewlitt canyon road up to the Woodbury Trailhead. I had originally intended to go up to the Roger's Trough trailhead but I ran out of time. Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself.

I had a terrible night sleeping. I woke up constantly. So, when 4:30 rolled around it wasn't hard to get out of bed. Fifteen minutes later I was in the Jeep and speeding down the road sucking on a juice box (yeah I know, breakfast of champions). D'Net had a recital we had to setup at 10:30 and a dance recital for our two daughters right after that so I had to be home around 9 ish. Well, I had to get out early to get a good ride in. Let me tell you it was a good ride. Maybe a little more than I bargained for in fact.

I opted to park at the fork in the road where Hewlitt Station road meets Hewlitt Canyon road to get me in the thick of things quicker since I would be short on time this morning. Dawn was in good progress at 5:30 in the morning as I got the bike ready and headed off up the road. I was not able to maintain a very fast speed due to a few factors. The lower part of this road is a fairly constant 4-5% grade with big dips down into each gully and creek. Also contributing were my "slicks" (treadless tires for mountain bikes for greater efficiency on the road). I had the slicks mounted as I figured they would be the most efficient on the forest roads of the rim. I currently am re-evaluating that assumption as it is much hard to steer the bike in dirt going fast, and the rear traction is not as good with the slicks.

A few miles from the car I had my fall. It was kind of a stupid fall really, my front tire caught some rocks wrong and I couldn't unclip fast enough so down I went. I just received a scrape or two and stood up and rode on again, remembering to be more careful. Everytime I should have been enjoying a good descent (however few there were going up) I always had to put the brakes on because the front wheel was just too squirrelly. I am sure I lost a few mph on average over the course of the ride due to this. As the sun came out and I moved farther up the canyon I hit the hill below. I had to walk down this one, and had to walk up it coming back.

It doesn't look that bad in the picture, but let me tell you, I saw trucks slowing to 2-3 mph on this thing and they were still sliding. This road is recommended 4wd not because it is a bad road per se, but because some of the grades on this road are really nasty. So why was I out here? Good question. Well, I uh, hmmm, I guess this really is a much harder road than any I will be riding up on the rim but...., well...., dang it sure is pretty.

Apart from the occasional truck or ORV it really did have the feeling of solitude out here. In the desert one often sees windmills out there standing as lost sentinels forlorn and forgotten, no longer worrying about pumping water for the cattle. I spotted one though that was spinning and it was actually pumping water. Next to it was a corral that looked like it had been maintained lately. There must be a ranch up in this here neck of the woods.

A little while after passing the windmill things started to get tough. The road was steep but at least it was rideable unlike the above hill which had too much scree on it. Still on some of the steeper pitches I could feel and hear my back wheel spin in spots. Checking out the elevation gains on my map software the last 2 miles of this ride climb around 1000 ft. Grades go anywhere from 10% all the way up to 20% in spots. Let me tell you it was hard work. There was one spot where my heartbeat was throbbing so hard in my ears I had to stop and let it slow a bit.

Reaching the fork in the road where the Woodbury trailhead road turns off I realized I had a command decision to make. I had to turn around in 15 minutes and I had 3 miles of road left to get up to Rogers Trough, combine that with another 800 feet of climbing and it didn't look like 15 minutes would do it. The Woodbury trailhead however was only a mile and a half so I figured I would knock that one off and call it good. I still had 350 feet of climbing to go though. I knew I had done some good climbing this morning when I noticed the Saguaro cacti were gone and here and there I could see Juniper trees. Of course there was the cooler air and the fact my ears had popped twice too.

Upon finally reaching the trailhead I noticed that I was on the edge of the Superstition wilderness. Bicycles and Hangliders not allowed. I knew I should have left my hang glider at home.

Just down from the trailhead old red was parched, and being the good old steed that he is I thought I would oblige him with a drink at the trough before we headed back.

Good old red. We've been through a lot together. I bought this bike around 17 years ago right after I got back from Japan. Suspension was just being invented then, and rear suspension was not even a twinkle in anyones eye yet. It was kind of a mid range bike back then. It was the first bike that I owned that I really rode a lot on. Every kid has a kids bike. This was not a kids bike, this was my first real bike. The bike I rode to all my college classes on. The bike I rode to the top of Mt. Elden in winter in the tracks of a snow cat and melted my brakes on the way down. The bike I road from my house to the inner basin and back on. I rode this thing everywhere. After I got married and graduated I stopped riding it. I moved to the valley and it sat forlorn in my parents garage until we moved into our house. It is only recently that I have started paying attention to the old boy again. Fortunately old friends are quickly forgiving. He may be a little small for me but hey, he's my buddy.

On a side note, I should have been a little more wary when the bike shop guy said hey, we have a last year model bike that is exactly your (and every other customer we have tried to sell this thing to) size!

Descending down those steep roads on old red I am reminded of a time last time I was on a trip with him. I had to put old red in the trailer (it was a boy scout trip where we were doing a mountain bike trek on the Arizona Trail from Flagstaff to Payson) due to a broken spoke and had to pull the bike out that my brother in-law lent us to use as a spare in such a situation.

No one in the camp wanted to ride up to the railroad tunnel just under the top of the rim so I went up alone. The trail/road had similar grades to what this road had. It was raining slightly making the stones slippery and on my way back I was cruising a long when suddenly the bike was out from under me and I gave the ground a big hug with my right shoulder. The ground was not very receptive of my affection and cracked one of my ribs and seperated my shoulder on that side. The ride back to camp would have been a lot less painful with some suspension.

Today I was reminded of that and took it easy. I would have been much faster if I had left the knobbies on instead of using the slicks. I made a mental note to ride old red on the commute this week with slicks one day and knobbies another and see exactly how much they slowed me down as this being super careful business was also a pretty hard blow to average speed.

Yup, that is the road in that picture heading right down the bottom of the canyon. Even after all the steep grades it was still slow going as I nearly ate it a few times hitting little holes full of loose rocks. I was seeing traffic increase on the road and as I descended it was getting warm. Almost too warm actually.

I stopped to take a few pictures but it was getting awful close to 8:30 and that is the time I had to be at the Jeep if I wanted to get back in time. In the end I made it 6 minutes late. Not too bad.

Well, I didn't wander into any ghost towns this time. I got between 2500-3000 feet of climbing in (topo usa says 2500 but it doesn't account for all the dips into the washes), in 20 miles. Not bad for a mornings work. I think I might bag the idea of using slicks for my adventure up on the rim. The knobbies absorb more shock, steer better, and grip better on steep climbs. If they are not that much slower then I am going to put them back on to avoid another cracked rib. In the end I averaged just under 8 mph and had a ride time of 3 hours.

Friday, May 9, 2008

100k Breakfast

Mmmm. Bacon, Eggs, do I catch a whiff of Sausage? Yes, definitely sausage. Smells assault me as I ride down baseline road. Yes, I could afford the calories but I would be feeding elsewhere this morning. Out before the sun I make my 26 mile approach to the mountain, yes, the same mountain I climbed last week. This week I am out a little earlier. I am more rested this week as well. Tomorrow is a busy day but that matters little now. I continue the ride down Baseline until I am at last turning onto Central Ave. The lady at the park entrance tells me they are filming up on San Juan road so that road is closed but the towers are OK. Apparently the towers are being closed tomorrow for a time trial.

I pass the guy that was visiting with the girl before I drove up and he lets me know my blinky is still on. Soon I see the helicopter flying all over the valley with it's camera bubble on the front. At the junction with San Juan a guy in a shiny black car sits. I think he is the guard to keep people from riding down the road and goofing up the filming. On I press up the hill. About now there is probably some big film producer looking at the footage saying "Hey, wait a minute! What is that little yellow and blue speck there in the background? Blow it up. Wow, look at the physique on that guy, we need to make him a star!". Soon I would be looking eye to eye with the helicopter as I climbed further up the hill. Just before I turn the corner to the saddle I see the helicopter in hot pursuit of the black car heading down to the park entrance. It must not have been a guard after all. Soon the copter is gone. Must be off for some more gas. On I climb.

7-8 years ago I climbed south mountain by bike for the first time on a GABA ride. I remember thinking how terrible breakfast would taste after it came up in the last section of the first major climb before reaching the dobbins lookout road. I remember thinking that I was at the top at dobbins lookout road and that the radio towers were just a quick hop skip and jump over a few rollers. I remember trudging along having blown myself up on the first hill and then turning onto the radio towers road and beating myself more over the rollers and thinking I was almost there when I saw the towers loom overhead. Then I turned the corner and saw the 13% grade just under the towers. I thought my heart would pound right out of my rib cage as I stood and hammered, breathing oaths not to stop until the top. I made it but I had to lean on the bars and heave my lungs in and out for a good 4 or 5 minutes. The road surface was rougher than many dirt roads I have ridden on and on the way down my frame pump was jarred loose and broke on the pavement. It was a long weak ride back to the parking lot among the slower group on their way back from San Juan that I caught on the way back. That ride came in at 35 miles or so. I was spent for the rest of the day.

Today I pass the dobbins lookout road pedalling strong and climb up the radio towers road without even getting my heartrate into the 80% range. I am starting to breath a little but not super hard when I get to the top and give the garbage can a victory slap. Were it not for the hazy cloud of the valley I could probably pick out the area my house is in to the east. Today I would have to just settle for seeing the mountains that are around my house off in the distance.

On the way down I have some extra time so I head down San Juan road as I have never been out there. I am surprised to see that it goes down right off the bat. I risk 2 miles of descent down the road and decide I am out of time and that if I am to get to work I need to turn around now. Apparently I had a few more miles to go. The climb back up is not too bad. I think I am a little slower just due to the fact I climbed the towers just before this. At the road junction the helicopter is back and filming the landscape around here. Down in the roadside parking area the filmcrew is sitting outside their cars as I whiz through eyeing the police officer and trying not to whiz too whizzy if you know what I mean.

Soon I am on Dobbins and heading back into this little burg we call Phoenix. The smells of breakfast are gone. Which is ok as the time to eat breakfast is gone too so I will make due with the raisin bran that awaits me in my desk. Breakfast of Champions.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Swooping Ravens of fury.

Once upon a lunch hour dreary, I was jogging, weak and weary,

Over many a drab and tedious road outside my back door.

While I stumbled, nearly crapping, suddenly there came a flapping,

As of strong wings quickly flapping, flapping above my bald head poor.

'tis some garbage' I muttered, 'Flapping, above my bald head poor'.

Only this and nothing more.

Ah, quite distinctly I must say, Twas on a gentle day in May

And each separate passing car, all wrought cool wind upon my face,

Eagerly I ran from sorrow, that I might some fitness borrow,

That I might run fast tommorow- Less weight gain for to stay.

For the intrusive thing called weight gain for to stay.

But of this more I cannot say.

And the quiet flapping air uncertain, from a large black talon'd curtain,

Thrilled me- Chilled me with fantastic terrors never felt before,

So that now I heard the beating wings to start, I glanced retreating,

'Tis some dumb bird entreating perch upon my bald head poor'

Some big black bird, entreating perch upon my bald head poor'

That's enough and nothing more.

Presently the bird grew stronger, hesitating then no longer,

'Caw' he said, 'Caw Caw', and tried to make my poor head sore,

'Dang bird better stop that flapping! Or busily I'll start a slapping'

I yelled to the swooping bird hoping he would fear my roar,

'Don't you try to chase me further ' I said in a voice I used before,

just "Cawing" there, and nothing more.

Down the road I went a peering, Turning my head ever fearing,

The winged assault, cawing and flapping I had heard before,

"Surely" said I, "Surely I've passed this birds nest by now",

He will likely not chase me further down here anymore,

No, he has given up and returned not to flap anymore,

To his nest, to fly and nothing more.

then behind I saw a flutter, and through my person I felt a shudder,

and at me flapped a black raven, an in flight raven with fury sore.

Not the least reluctance showed he, not an instance stopped or stayed he,

But with eyes of fury, focused, focused, on the patch on my bald head poor.

For to perch on with talons of malice, just atop my bald head poor.

A 'caw' he spat and nothing more.

Round the corner, post retreating, Spied a stick I saw for beating,

Beating, at this deranged bird, with enflamed zeal and talons sore.

'Bring it on' I began to yell, 'I'll smack your raven butt n' make it swell',

hating the bird fell, hoping at last i'd even the score.

But trees, and air I saw, only trees and air as those I saw before,

Only this and nothing more.

Sorrow is such sweet parting, I thought once more starting,

To run back through all those roads of which I'd gone before.

But as I returned to pace, I saw a shadow before my face,

Soaring from a hidden place, with flapping fury as he had before,

and regardless of my stick, at my sweaty bald spot his claws tore,

just a flapping felt, only this and nothing more.

Wildy I swung my bow staff, trying for his life to quaff,

Swinging, stinging, my ears ringing, at this bird of forgotten lore,

Flew he then upon the lamp, far above my head so damp,

Cold black talons to slowly stamp, upon the lampost fore,

Sitting staring, cold eyes glaring, from the lampost fore,

Only this, and nothing more.

Ever more I looked behind me, wondering if he would find me,

Looking away from his taloned fury, he held back in store,

But still and solemn he stood, Upon the lamptops hood,

Bidding farewell for good, to my balding head so poor,

Sitting laughing, insolence strafing, upon my head so poor,

humbled by fury, only this and nothing more.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Left turn to nowhere.

Arising at 4:30 AM I was mired in odd jobs I had to accomplish before I would actually get out the door. The front wheel needed truing on my dapple(my 17 year old mountain bike). I needed lots of water/drink. I also needed to get a doughnut for breakfast. All told I was out the door and on the road at about 20 after 5. Since I am riding my new dirt road permanent in a few weeks (Dirty Mogollon Mormon Madness, it is 200k of backroad fun in Northern Arizona) I have been looking for dirt road routes to ride in the meantime for training. Today I would be looking to make a loop of Queen Valley to Ajax Mine Road to Hewlitt Station road. Not all was as expected though. I headed out to the highway from the start of Hewlitt Station road with my trusty GPS logging away. Soon I was out to US60 and riding along until I would take a right out into the desert to head over to Ajax mine road. One of the construction workers inquired what I was doing on their brand new road and told me there were big trucks up ahead but when I told him I was turning soon he was cool about it.

The road heading south had a warning on it saying their would be artillery fire in this area ending today. Hmmm, that's a little unsettling, yet still I pressed on. The road was a little bumpier than I expected (especially seeing as I was using slicks on the tires since I am training for a long ride on dirt roads and not harder stuff). I kept climbing up into the foothills, up and up. After awhile of climbing through the desert and passing a few turns to the west I figured I had to be getting close. I didn't know for sure as I had forgotten to download the route into my GPS. After climbing up into a few hills I found a road I thought would take me up to Ajax mine and then into Superior.

The road quickly descended into the river bed and worked it's way up the canyon. Occasionally a bird would fly away frightened but other than that it was dead silent. On I pressed, up the non-descript desert wash pedalling through sand, gravel, and rocks. Just when I thought the road would never leave the wash I saw a road turn off to the right and climb out of the wash. Tire tracks continued up the wash but in my desperation to get out of the wash I turned right and climbed up the road and into the ghost town of Reymert. I saw the remains of what I now know to be an old processing kiln up ahead. Small roads headed off in all directions but the main one headed off to the right. I had not gone more than 30 feet when a dog started barking and I noticed an old beat up blue pickup ahead with it's hood up. Could it be a ghost? A loony desert dweller? A smuggler? Judging by the honda generator next to the truck I eliminated the ghost. When a rather oldish and weatherbeaten lady came out and called the dog off. I asked her about the way to Superior and she made a comment about nothing in here leading out of the valley and the BLM closing all the roads down.

I thought perhaps of all these roads leading up around the hills one must at least go somehwere. The first one I tried went up to a mine. The second one ended around the corner of the hill. Another leading straight up the hill had small paths branching out off of it which all came back around to the same path. At the top I found a road cut through the side of the hill and knew that this had to be it but it dead ended a hundred yards away. I have no idea why anyone would cut a road through solid rock and then end it. Anyway, I had just blown 40 minutes wandering around what I now know to be the remains of the mining town of Reymert, which had about 75 people living in it in the 1890's, and was bulldozed in the 1970's. I dropped back down into the creek.

At this point I knew I wouldn' have enough time to get up to Superior even if this was the right road. Heading up the creek further I slowly reached the conclusion that I shouldn't have used slicks for this little expedition today. I also decided that if this was the right road I would likely not ride this again as this sand was a major pain in the kiester to pedal through. I finally turned around when it was pretty clear this road would not leave the wash until it hit the end of the canyon and I barely would have time to get back if I did turn around now.

Descending the canyon hammered my hands pretty hard even despite my new ergo grips. I have to admit sometimes I wish I had suspension on the front. I had climbed a bit more than I thought as I emerged from the canyon and headed down the main road to US60. By the time I got back to the car I had 22 miles logged and I was back into civilisation 25 minutes later. What ghosts await me on my next ride to call me into the middle of nowhere?

My ride may have been a bust but if you have to wander into the middle of nowhere, wandering into a ghost town is pretty cool you have to admit. What did the people that live there do? It is hard to believe that all that barren rock and roads had tents and buildings all over it and even a post office. Then one day they all left and the only thing left of all their thoughts, hopes, and dreams was a burnt out old building and a mine shaft up the hill in the middle of nowhere, sitting forlorn through the years and waiting for people who don't want to be found, and the lost souls of misguided randonneurs wandering in the desert.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

King of the Mountain

Well, the early bird gets the worm so to speak. Having to take my kids on a church campout tomorrow my chances at a long Saturday ride were nil. So I decided to do an early long ride before work. I figured 55 miles should do it, I also figured this ride should include climbing so I could get some more use out of what I now call my humility gear. I call it that because many cyclists for reasons of vanity push a gear in the hills that does not allow a proper cadence and thus promotes anaerobic effort. Well, I myself prefer a good spin to lugging the engine with a tortured look of pride on my face.

Bruce made a mention of riding up South Mountain in the comments in my last post, and well, goll durn it, I haven't been up there since they put that new fangled "pavement" in. Last time I was up there I broke a frame pump when the extremely rough road jarred it loose and the head snapped off on the road. I would not have that problem today.

The first reason I would not have that problem is because the road is now wonderfully smooth. The second reason I discovered about 2 miles from home. I had forgotten my pump. Well, I knew I would be pressing my luck if I continued seeing as my back tire has over 6000 miles on it and it is getting close to the end of it's life. Well, I was a punk that was feeling lucky with a tight schedule so I took the gamble.

I love riding in the hours between dawn's first light and sunrise. It seems the traffic is lighter and the roads are mine. They also tend to be less windy. I had a wonderful trip across Mesa deciding to bite the bullet and ride Baseline instead of Guadalupe to save 2 miles and around 7-8 minutes as I thought I might need them.

For some reason it seemed like I hit every traffic light in Mesa, but as I drew near to Tempe I found I was hitting more and more lights. I think I had a slight tailwind and that was keeping me up around 20 mph most of the way. After I crossed under I-10 I headed up baseline to where the canal path joins it. I like taking the path even though it is a bit slower but having no pump I noticed several things on the path this morning. Behind one of the new subdivisions some genius decided to plant thorny bush's next to the path, the street crossings are a pain as there is gravel and dirt you have to go through to cross the road, and then there is all the Billy Bob Bottle fragments one occasionally sees (and I did stop to check my tire after the larger patches).

When I finally got to Central Ave the traffic died down as I drew near the park. At the guard station I chatted up the worker there a bit, he has been a roadie before but is a bit rusty. He offered me some bottled water but I was still good on liquids so I thanked him and headed up into the park past the infamous scorpion gulch, which faces another historic building but I guess if one old building looks like an old abandoned bar/fruit stand it gets fenced in and hung with a no trespassing sign. Now, if an old burnt out building has stone walls and a little character and a spiffy name like "scorpion gulch" written on it, well then, that is something worth being proud of people! All it is missing is an old cowpoke laying in the doorway drunk as a skunk with empty whisky bottles laying around him, of course they couldn't be glass whiskey bottles as those aren't allowed in the park.

Climbing up further into the park I have to hit humility gear once or twice on the climb up to the turnoff to San Juan. It was in this stretch that I got passed by the only car I saw between the bottom and the radio towers (andI would later see him parked up at said towers). I also noticed up the road a cyclist climbing up the mountain. Would I be able to catch him? Would the secret weapon humility gear be any match for him?

The answer is yes but seeing as he was on a squeeky old mountain bike I didn't chest thump or call him a sissy girly pansy or anything like that (fact is there are many sissy girly pansies that could serve me a nice cool dish hill dust seeing as many sissy girly pansies are of smaller build and therefore make better climbers). He was the only bike I saw climbing up the mountain (I would see one more on my way down). It was a beautiful morning, the sun was shining, the feet were spinning and all was right with the world.

Cadence you ask? What was my cadence? Well, readers, I am proud to say I did not drop below 75-80 RPM or so all the way up including the bit of 10% grade near the top. I did not go anearobic at all and was in a nice aerobic range most of the way up. I like this humility gear thing.

Passing the rollers at the top I sped back to the turnoff to the towers. I climbed the first couple of blips that remind you your are still climbing, and try and fool you into thinking this is it, you are almost to the top and it is easy to believe them as the folds in the hills hide the bit of the hill that really kills people. Nearing the base of this hill I can look up at the towers and over on the knob next to them I can see a tiny hanging garbage can sillouetted against the sky. Time for pain.

In the end it wasn't bad despite being a 13.5% grade for a quarter mile. My heartrate monitor was beeping me sure, but since I had my upper range set conservatively I can't have been much over 82% of my maximum heartrate. I will say it again, I am really loving this humility gear. I was a little out of breath at the top but not gasping by any stretch of the imagination.

I rode my victory lap around the parking lot and gave a hanging garbage can a good victory slap and I was off to descend and get to work which as the crow flies was only a few miles away but as the Randonneur rides was over 15 miles away.

Going down I saw 2 cars and as I was passing the guard station another cyclist going the other way. Yes, I did have the mountain to myself, yes,I used all the real estate I could get in the corners as I descended and no, there was no park speed enforcement out since it was just lil ol me up on the hill. It was a beautiful thing fair readers.

The ride back was nice and all but compared to the main attraction was dull and similar to my regular commute. Is this route a keeper? Yeah, I will ride this baby again. At 3 hours and 50 minutes of ride time (including lights) I will need to get out just a touch earlier next time though.

Boom ba boom boom.....boom ba boom boom.....

A weathered randonner went out one sunny day,

and on his way to work, he found a brand new way

He figured that he'd find a hill and make the rubber fly,

He set his sights upon, hangin' garbage in the sky...

Yippy yi yayyyyyyyyyy, yippy yi Yooooooo

Hanging Garbage cans........ in the sky.

Now many an old roadie, has climbed this hill so steep,

and panted out his lungs til he thought he'd pass to sleep,

Those big ol radio towers, how they taunt you from on high,

just yards down the road, from hangin' garbage in the sky.

Yippy yi yayyyyyyyyy, yippy yi yooooooo

Hanging Garbage cans........ in the sky

Now our weathered randonneur he spun fast with his poor feet,

And he climbed upon that hill those mocking towers for to meet,

He spat upon the last steep grade n' let out his fearsome cry,

He'd beat those cursed towers, and that garbage in the sky.

Yippy yi yayyyyyyyyyy, yippi yi yoooooo

Hanging Garbage cans......... in the sky.