Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Outside my bedroom window, so early in the day,
I peek to see the weather, It's cold and wet and grey,
Shivering, I rouse myself, and round up all my stuff,
excitement spurs my hurriedness, the August rains I love,
the cloudy sky, the tepid breeze, that blows upon my back,
the gentle dripping rain, that wets the forward track,
The sound of treadless tires, that splash through water still,
Fill my soul with happiness, and make my heart to thrill
for thinking back on burning days, with water but a ghost,
and searching for a brief oasis, with liquid for to host.
Endless turning of the pedals, while thirst does burn within,
and oft the heat withdraws from me, a grimace from a grin.
But today the dripping of the sky, removes the pain aghast,
today those thoughts are washed away, the rain has come at last
today those thoughts are washed away, the rain has come at last

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The High Country Brevet

RUSA (Randonneurs USA) decided to offer special medals to anyone who rode in a special 10th anniversary brevet held on the weekend of August 16th. So, having read about this in the newsletter I does me some thinkin. What could a fella do in Arizona to get a hold of one of these fine pieces of metal that for some reason cause people to do incredibly crazy things to obtain them. I didn't want to travel out of state. Most of the Brevet routes here in the Grand Canyon State would mummify you before you were done this time of year. So, I decided to volunteer to host a ride if Susan (our local Regional Brevet Administrator) would let me. The route I had selected was about the same elevation as this one but Susan it turns out already had a ready made route starting out of Showlow that had been sitting around for a long time. Well, I have to admit I didn't want to drive as far as Show Low at first but then I remembered how awesome the white mountains were and any brevet that rode through them was bound to be alright with me.

You see, my Dad and I used to camp in the White Mountains for a few days each summer when I was little so I was looking forward to a nice cool Brevet with maybe a few old memories refreshed. All told I didn't need to have my arm twisted too hard to convert over to Susan's point of view on this one. I mean, verdant fields, tall firs and pine trees, Quaking aspens, flocks of sheep grazing in high meadows on a 75 degree day? What more could a randonneur want? How about a nice hill you ask? Well, funny you should bring that up. It's not a route with insanity written in the elevation profile but still a healthy 6700 feet of climbing for the hardy soul. To put the candle on the cake is a peak altitude of 9100 feet just to remind folks there is another side to Arizona far above the parched desert

Of course, one of the main reasons I wanted to do this in Arizona was I couldn't afford to go out of state for this either in time or money. So I set up my base camp at Fools Hollow lake which was around 5 miles from the start line. It was a nice enough campground but I really wouldn't spend enough time in it to enjoy it a whole bunch. I got there late Thursday night and was off to get my receipt at Circle K before the sun was up.

The Rando Roost

When all was said and done I pedalled past the Days Inn where everyone would start the next morning right at 6 AM. One thing I had not noticed about the route beforehand was that the first 10 miles of it was dead on into the sun. I was glad I had my cycling cap on. I also secretly hoped that the good folks of Show Low had clean windshields and sharp eyes as these are not necessarily the best conditions to be riding in. The temperatures were perfect though. 60 degrees happens to be the border where I don't where arm warmers or leg warmers and with the tailwind I was neither hot nor cold. Just a perfect morning.
After the highway split a car passed me with a wide load sign on it with the lights flashing. Well, that got my attention and looking in the rearview mirror I saw what looked like a giant silo on the back of the truck heading down the road with the load hanging wide out into the shoulder. Well, I live under the motto of "caution is the better part of valor", and take good direction from the poem "here lie the bones of Jonothan Quay who died defending his right of way", so I had no qualms about getting off the shoulder and into the weeds for a few minutes while this guy passed me (he gave me a friendly honk as he passed). It was kind of funny though because just down the road this guy would have to manuever through the construction that had the road cut down to a single lane. I saw him disappearing over the hill as I rolled up to the front of the line of cars where the flag lady had us stopped. I had just missed the cutoff along with the 3 semi's that had just passed me.

I was kind of hoping she would wave me through anyway but since she didn't I took her picture and now she lives in infamy on my blog! I ended up waiting there for around 15 minutes while the guy with the big tube on his truck drove through and the oncoming traffic came back. I had been making really good time so I wasn't too concerned about missing the control and just enjoyed the view.

Not too far down the road in Vernon I bought some peanuts and chatted with the lady in the store and she mentioned the heatwave when I told her how great the temps were. 85 degrees where I hail from these days is a winter's day! Of course growing up in Flagstaff, 85 degrees was a hot day. I didn't chat for too long and was off. The first thing out of Vernon is a nice hill, and just so you don't feel bad about that big climb visible a mile or two ahead there are a few patches of beautiful Sunflowers to take your mind off it.

Sunflowers below Vernon
Sunflowers weren't the only beautiful thing along this stretch. I had originally kind of dreaded this first part of the ride because I was afraid it would just be Juniper wasteland. That open land covered in Juniper was also covered in very green grass. It made the landscape into a vast blanket of rolling green hills.

Looking back at the town of Vernon

Riding into Springerville featured even more green hills and from the high point of this leg (7500 feet) you could see miles upon miles of rolling green hills out into the distance. If it weren't for a hill blocking the view of Springerville it would have probably been visible 15 miles away.

Springerville is not a very big town but the interesting thing is, it is really the only thing happening in this corner of the state. To the east it is well over 100 miles to the nearest anything, to the south there is a gas station called Alpine (ok theres a restaurant and a few houses too). And of course, 50 miles to the west is Showlow. So Springerville small though it may be is the last sign of civilisation really.

So, at the last Circle K on the way out of town, I stood looking into the vast nowhere. A place so desolate that they put the stateline on the mileage signs as a point of interest. I mean, have you ever seen a kid come up to his Dad and say " Hey Dad! Why don't we go see the state line today? Can we please? Can we pretty please?!?!". Yet, there it is, the only place of note in an endless string of large rollers heading off into the middle of nowhere. I finished my Bananna and the remainder of my gatorade and headed out.

I, for some wierd reason thought that it was flat from Springerville to the state line. In reality it is a set of 200-300 foot high rollers. Down, and then a slow climb up, repeated several times. Still, the 13 miles seemed to go fairly quickly. Excepting the last few miles of course. That is kind of where the "Watched Pot Never Boils" effect kicks in. And yet, suddenly off in the distance, looking like a "chain up your tires area" sign, a mountain grades ahead sign, or some other kind of non-construction informational sign looms the welcome to New Mexico sign. I failed to see how it was any more enchanting than the Arizona side of the line. Perhaps it was supposed to be the change in pavement color.

Hey folks, what color is more enchanting than yellow?
I mean, yellow really says New Mexico to me :)
Personally I think their state symbol would have
livened the sign up a little more then a few peppers. Maybe both?
I better shutup now before my Sister inlaw from New Mexico reads this.
After the turn around things started taking a turn for the worse for me. First off I had been forgetting to purchase sun screen at the last two stops and I think I burned a bit in this section. Second, I was starting to develop exersize induced asthma which would continue to get worse for the next 50 miles or so. I managed to make pretty good time back to Springerville but from there it was a real battle. I remembered to stop at the Safeway since Circle K was fresh out of SunTan lotion. After safeway I rode by the Springerville hospital. It really isn't any bigger than an urgent care but a little known fact is that it has the only x-ray machine for hundreds of miles other than Showlow.
When I was a lot younger, my Dad went to Philmot Scout Ranch for some training and the whole family got to go. It is over by Taos New Mexico for those of you not in the know. I was goofing off on a rail waiting for dinner and fell and everyone thought I broke my wrist. Well, wouldn't you know it that the nearest X-Ray machine was over 100 miles away in Springerville Arizona! So I remembered that hospital amazingly enough, it hadn't changed much. Incidentally I only bruised the bone, so no bragging rights there.
The climb out of Springerville meanders through some farms and ranches as it gently climbes at 2% up to the foot of the mountains. The asthma was getting worse and as the oxygen in my system decreased my muscles fatigued a lot faster and I was cut down to going to 7 mph or so. By the time I was getting close to the base of the mountains the shady junipers trees on the side of the road were calling to me and I succombed. I lay down under the tree, finished my peanuts and drank my water all gone. I lay there for half an hour watching the clouds collect into thunderstorms south of where I was. The fierce headwind I had been fighting was blowing them east so I was safe for the present. Every once in awhile a cloud would cover the sun and things would cool off a bit. I had set my alarm for an hour in case I fell asleep but after half an hour I was ready to go again. I had one bottle of gatorade left to get over the hill.
The hill starts out at 8% and I had enough energy to get up that before I was once again forced down into my granny gear (which is very low due to a mountain bike cassette on the back) to weakly continue up the climb at 4-5 mph. I was very glad for that low gear. I typically don't use it but in situations like this, where I couldn't get enough oxygen in to run things, it was perfect. As long as I had time and fluids I could continue. Interestingly enough I ran out of gatorade before the top. I had thought about stopping at Sunrise but it was downhill from that turnoff to Hon Dah casino so I figured I would push it through.

The top of the hill seemed to never come as you cleared one fake top into the high meadows, but then continued up repeating hills through the grasslands bordered by spruce, fir, and aspen forests. I spied a large heard of sheep grazing down in the valley by the ski area and stopped to take a picture. I also was pleased to find a trailhead with facilities. Unfortunately the facilities had no water (well, there was a swampy pond next to it but I wasn't that desperate).

The other interesting thing near the trailhead was the sign declaring this wolf country. I didn't know they roamed this far west. I knew they lived over in the Blue Range primitive area to the east but did not know they were out here. Hopefully they would not think a lone Randonneur limping across the prairie would be a nice snack!

Wolf Country

Fir trees near the Railroad Grade Trail
(you would think they could come up with a more interesting name than that, I mean, for goodness sakesall the boring gated communities have more scenic names than that)

After the stop I had around 15 miles downhill to Hon Dah. It is amazing how long 15 miles downhill can last when you have no power and can't breath. Outside of McNary I was limping along wishing I could get a full breath but rather having to take little tiny breaths to keep from coughing. It was around here that I remembered that last time I had this Claritin seemed to clear it up. So, rolling into McNary I stopped at the store. Kind of a Mom and Pop, sell the fisherman worms and beer type place but they did have Claritin, PowerAde, and Motrin. I sat on the ground out front and downed all three.
While sitting there a small group of Apache children came across the highway to the store on their bikes. They were walmart bikes but these kids were blissfully unaware, it was a bike and that was freedom to them. They got something out of the store and came out and started riding through the mud puddles. It was kind of cool to listen to them. The Apache language is almost musical to listen to I think. They reminded me a lot of my kids. Anyway, from here it was few miles down to Hon Dah and by the time I got out of Hon Dah I had turned a corner.

This is what the back of one of those flashy, led display
casino signs looks like.
From Hon Dah I could breathe deeply and my limp along sub 10 mph pace became a healthy 30 mph pace as I cruised down the hill towards Lakeside and then Showlow only being stopped by a few lights. The last leg went quick but I was a bit concerned by frequent lightning strikes I saw over in the vicinity of the traffic light we turn at in Showlow. I got there before the storm did and was Ordering my dinner and end receipt for proof of time finished at Arbys when the sky let loose. It poured, then Hailed, then poured some more, and then hailed and Poured. I had carried my rain jacket all day only to have the rain start after I had finished the ride.
Of course, I still had to get back to camp, so I finished my Giant Arby's sandwich, my large curly fry, and my large orange vanila swirl shake, and put on my rain jacket. By golly I brought this thing and I was going to use it! First thing I noticed was that unlike a few minutes ago when it had been 80 it was now 49 degrees, I paused, but then determined that it was only a few miles to the camp ground. As I left the parking lot the hail started up again and around the corner I kept hitting fog banks. It was several wipes of the sunglasses later that I remembered my cap bill was up and that if I just flipped it down I wouldn't be getting water on my glasses.
I pedaled through several streams up to my pedals and past a golf course white with hale that had collected out on the greens. Soon I was in the state park and almost to the campground. Pulling in I noticed a strangely familiar truck. It seems that Susan had decided to camp too and had setup at the next camping spot over next to the family that seemed to enjoy being noisy late at night. I showered and then headed out to get the goodies for everyone tomorrow. I was back for a well deserved early bedtime at 8:30.
Incidentally, 6 miles into my commute this morning my derailleur cable broke right by the derailleur. How is that for timing? I managed to use Mike Sturgills stick in the derailleur method to get me at least three usable gears using the front for the rest of the Commute. Tonight I am off to Performance Bike for a new cable.

The following are some pictures of other Randonneurs I took on the way while I drove support.

Susan riding in front of the Sunflowers. (There was
a much thicker patch earlier but I missed the shot)

Susan Approaching the first hill of any size on the course. I originally was taking a picture of Bruce taking a picture. The picture of Bruce didn't turn out as he put his camera away right when I snapped the picture so I decided rather than putting a picture up here of what appears to be Bruce touching his butt, I would Put a picture I didn't even mean to take, evaluating the picture of Bruce I noticed in the upper left corner of the picture was a pretty good shot of Susan and the hill which would look good on here.

Here is a shot of Tom Baker and Kris Kaufman having just climbed
into the part of the hills where the Aspen Trees start at around 8400 feet
Here is a shot of Mick McCoombs just below where the previous picture was shot.
I was hoping to get the picture of the tandem next to the sign but this works too. It is a lot harder to take pictures of moving cyclists than I had thought.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pelaton of Lost Souls

It was a dark muggy morning in a city that knows how to sleep. The long hot night was about to turn into a long hot day and folks would wake up to spend the day huddled in their homes to avoid a sun that knew how to shine down like a terrible bright and shiny hot thing. Not even the cars were awake, but pedalling through the darkness was one soul, searching for riders in a darkness, losing the battle to keep it's grip on the city. That's me there. My friends call me Chain, Chain Tool, finder of lost souls.

It was a lonely night, not a person was about but the occasional car speeding off to work some awful job which keeps them up at these lonely hours of the morning. Off in the darkness, I knew the mob was gathering, ready to take the roads of Mesa and Apache Jct. in their cruel grip. Who would fall prey to their cruel onslaught? What poor souls would be left bereft and friendless in the wake of their oppressive sweep of all that lay before? Who indeed.

Suddenly a light penetrates the darkeness and is gone again. A solitary figure on a bicycle going the wrong direction. Naught but a tiny pawn in a bigger conspiracy. Today there were larger fish to fry. Following another figure in the darkness I know I am on the trail, a trail to what is the question. I notice the figure's tiny poorly aimed taillight was a sure sign this was no ordinary cyclist. No, this was a person not so concerned about the strict legality of the system, this was a person who lived above the strict safety of the law, possibly someone even not above sliding through a stop sign in an abandoned intersection. A person who rode with the elite scum of the east Mesa roady scene. Yes, this was a person who must be under the protection of the mob.

Riding like a wolf in the night I trailed him through the darkness. Then, like something that is suddenly not there, he is gone. I pedal on searching the corners and alleys until suddenly, like a thief in the night I am caught but he mistakes me for one of his own. Apparently he did not see my makeshift headlight or my dirty frame, dusty and oily from a thousand commutes, loyal, yet so neglected by a man undeserving of it. The rider makes chit chat as slowly the group grows and grows. Like a little thing that is enclosed by a much larger thing, I am enfolded in the arms of the mob.

As the mob moved up the first hill it was quite clear to me who was in charge. Yes, today the mob had obviously been handed into the control of a man known as "Mr. Fast". He was a sadisticaly cruel man who joyed in driving many a rider to madness and gasping oblivion in his wake as he ruthlessly dropped them into the lonely darkness of the night.

Nearing the top of the hill a poor soul is lost to the night like an old barnacle scraped off the bottom of a speeding boat. I am hard pressed to hold the pack and not alone as the pack is soon split and the elusive "Mr. Fast" speeds up the hill with his gang of seedy cohorts, the Pelaton of Lost Souls.

They would not stay lost for long. Though "Mr. Fast" smug in his knowledge he had broken the pack, was not ready to let us go so easily. No, in his devious delight, he had pulled one of his cruelest tricks out of his hat. For waiting beyond the drop on the hill was the regroup just beyond the summit. Speeding down the hill we were like lambs before the butcher, knowing that somewhere out in the morning dawn was another hill, waiting for "Mr. Fast" to inflict another serving of a cold dish of filet mignon. A dish made entirely of animals too slow to avoid the butchers knife, sidling along in helplessness awaiting the day of reckoning, unable to flee but awaiting the doom of being served up on a platter to the victors of the day.

Halfway across town, another handful of riders fall victim to "Mr. Fast"'s awful fancy of frenetic fastness. It seemed as if none could withstand the fury of the fastness. Just past a little joint called the "Dash In", a store of, shall we say "convenience" If you know what I mean, he has escaped my clutches and speeds off into the morning sun, having left me like something that was part of a lot of things but is ruthlessly left behind.

I knew that perhaps today was not the day to nail "Mr. Fast" to the wall. He had won today but I swore I would catch him someday. I needed to save some energy for next week. I was helping an old friend organize another ride. She was a nice lady, didn't hang around the east valley mob much, but she really knew how to organize a bicycle ride if you know what I mean.

Although "Mr. Fast", was gone, the trail was still hot. I mixed among a couple of lost souls meandering in the wake of the pelaton when I spied one of "Mr. Fast"'s henchmen off to the side of the road. It seems he had some problems with a rough customer named "Ace", full name Dura Ace. Mr. Ace was a complex character strung together in an intricate connection of links. Well, of course, I pulled over. Stalled and forlorn on the side of the road, this creature of the speeding pelaton was reduced to a walking shell of what he was. I of course was familiar with the work of Mr. Ace, having had dealings with him before. It seemed Mr. Ace in his intricate wonder had sprung a link and left our friend a lost soul in the desert. Intricate though he may be, Mr. Ace often has a weak link and I knew exactly what it was. Before long and a bit of "coaxing" I had gotten what we needed out of Mr. Ace and our friend was on his way. Even if he was a henchman of "Mr. Fast", a man has to take pity on a lost soul. After all, that's my job, Chain Tool, finder of lost souls.

The sun was hitting me like a searing hot thing, and I knew if I didn't move it out of there I'd be as dead as a thing that is really dead. This was a cruel town, and a man without water finds his life is not worth something that is worth absolutely nothing. Pursuing the trail of "Mr. Fast" I am passed by a group of forlorn lost souls going the other way and I take up pursuit but am soon lost again in the wake of the henchmen of "Mr. Fast". This group obviously was led by "Mr. Fast"'s right hand man "Sprinty".

A man like "Sprinty" may be fast but I knew his weakness. He had a thing for stores of "convenience" as I mentioned before. I knew that before long he would show up at the "Dash In" looking for beverages to sooth his burning thirst. The likes of "Sprinty" aren't seen around holsum places like drinking fountains, but like their sports drinks cold and full of electrolytes and served in the seedy stores of "convenience" like the "Dash In". Sure enough he was there, suddenly we were off like a bullet shot out of something that would make it go really fast.

"Sprinty" pulling the "Paceline of Lost Souls" across the good town of Apache Jct at 30 mph. He pushed the limit and we all struggled to stay on. On and on he raged across the landscape. I doggedly held the wheel not to be dissuaded again. Then suddenly, a gap opened in front of the guy in front of me, it grew wider and wider. We were getting dropped by "Mr. Sprinty" at long last. Firmly swearing under my breath that I would not allow another lost soul I pulled out my trusty friend I call the "pacemaker", my trusty aerobars, and I sped to pull another lost soul back up to the paceline. Rejoining the paceline we had broken the pace of "Mr. Sprinty" and everything slowed down.

I turned onto a lonely avenue to head for home. I had not caught "Mr. Fast", but I did manage to help two souls left for lost by the Pelaton of Lost Souls. After all, that's my job. Chain Tool, finder of Lost Souls.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Tractor pull

Well, I thought I would chime in about today's commute. For one thing, my father in-law is back so I am down to morning rides in again. Last night was a really muggy 103 degrees. I did have a guy on a mtn bike that I caught up to pacing off me for awhile though (he was doing really good for a fat tire type at 20 mph). Anyway, that was yesterday's commute not todays.

Today I was excited because I was able to catch the new canal path I discovered on the way home on Monday, but going the other way. I am finding this route cuts out a whole bunch of stoplights and the path is smooth as a babies butt. Not that I go around feeling babies butts mind you. Anyway, the path is nice and the temperature near the canal tends to be a few degrees cooler.

The big event of the commute happened after I had turned onto Chandler blvd. I was just cruising along minding my own business when this HUGE front end loader cruises by me at around 25 mph. His little fan on the back was whirring as fast as it could go, and the thing was rocking along with the engine maxed. So, I thought to myself, here we have an opportunity for someone who might want to hop on for a motor draft. The next car was a hundred feet back, I had enough speed so that a firm pedal push or two and I would be on. In the end, I took the opportunity. Sitting in the wake of this thing I would only need to pedal occasionally. I figured it wouldn't last long as he was probably just going around the corner.

Well, to my surprise we kept going, and going, and going. We cruised through stoplight after stoplight only getting caught at one, but I was succesfully able to catch on again. This was like catching the eternal wave my friends. He just kept pulling me. It was a beautiful thing. Everytime I heard the engine pitch up a notch I knew he was slowing and could easily brake in time. This was the perfect vehicle to motor draft. Everyone ought to have a front end loader. After 5 or 6 miles, I am afraid we had to part ways. I giving a wave to the driver in a token of thanks, and proceeding down the road. I found I had to warm up again after all the resting in the wake of that massive beast. I rode the last 2 miles easy as it didn't make any sense to get warmed back up again only to stop. May I find another such opportunity soon.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Water is Life

Paul awakes, hmmm, seems awfully light for a quarter to four....Doh! Yes, indeedy in my thorough preparations I had forgotten to turn the alarm on after so carefully selecting the time to wake up. So, seeing as the Brumbys were now a good ways up the beeline I had to select a ride for myself and deal with the fact I might have to shorten it somewhat due to the heat which was building with every minute I delayed. There really was one choice in the matter if I wanted to include some hills (which I did). I would be heading out past Saguaro Lake and maybe even up the beeline highway a bit if I felt spunky.

I had 2 26oz water bottles on the bike and figured whenever I got close to running out would mark where I turned around and headed back to Saguaro lake. It was amazing how many cyclists were out today. Even in the later parts of the morning. Having loaded up on water and waffles before leaving I found I didn't need to start drinking until I started the climb up Usery Pass and i wouldn't need to eat all morning leaving my bottles to contain only water.

Water is one of those things you take for granted. It comes free out of our taps, some prefer to buy it. It falls from the sky. It is a resource often forgotten. Although, any desert dweller who has not been abstracted from their environment will tell you that water can be worth more than gold. Water is life, as an endurance run up on the Hopi reservation states. Without water there is dust, and most things without water return to the same.

Climbing up the hunt highway past Saguraro lake I find my last bottle slowly getting empty. Turning up the Beeline I have less than a half bottle left and the temperature is 93 degrees. There's not much life left in the bottle. I keep a look out for a place to cross over to the other side but find none. Right at the top of the hill before the four peaks turnoff I decide I have pushed it as far as I am going to push it. It's a good call. After wading through the brush in the scenic median I am cruising down the other side back to the Hunt Highway exit. By the time I get there I am out of water. Good thing it is downhill to Saguaro lake.

Saguaro lake is one of those Water'n holes out in the desert, an oasis for dehydrated cyclists to stop and refill their bottles. Last time I sauntered into the Marina I filled my bottles out of the faucet on the back of the restaurant. Thinking that perhaps some a little more sophisticated as a drinking fountain may be present I ride around the building and find the restaurant does indeed have have a REFRIDGERATED drinking fountain. More than that, it has a bench overlooking the lake. I sit at the bench and look over the lake and the many boats in the marina below. For some reason I get the song "Brandy" stuck in my head (I guess it doesn't help I have been learning this song on the guitar since a picture of the sea in my inlaws house reminded me of it). Of course in this version of the song there is a jet ski, a powerboat, and Brandy works in a restaurant I guess. Good thing the guys that wrote the song didn't live in Phoenix (incidentally the group is "Looking Glass", probably the most famous song no one knows the band name of).

I downed both refilled bottles before leaving and filled them again. The climb out of the marina clocked in at a healthy 9% grade. For some time now I had scaled back the exertion due to the rising temperature (it would be over 100 degrees by the time I got home). It is truly amazing how much better the human body is able to cope with heat when it has plenty of water in the system. I kept seeing the temp rise on my bike computer and still felt fine if I didn't push too hard.

Descending the hill down to water users a motorcycle club passed me. What I took for a small rock getting kicked up by the motorcycles and stinging at first, mysteriously stung again, and again. Hmmm, odd sort of rock I thought. Odd sort of stinging painful stupid &%&%&%$# rock. Upon reaching down to remove the rock I crushed something that felt like an insect. I was going 40 miles an hour at the time so I couldn't see if it was a wasp or a bee but I think it was a wasp. I had a very painful nasty welt to show for my wisdom at descending the hill with my jersey unzipped. Fortunately the pain subsided a bit down the road.

Climbing Usery Pass despite taking it easy I passed a guy who looked like he was struggling. He was drenched with sweat and breathing hard and I made a mental note to make sure he made it to the top before I would head for home. I did double back to check on him but there seemed to be quite a few cyclists out considering the temperatures. He probably would have been OK anyway. I chatted with him for a mile or two and he said he has ridden around 200000 miles since the early seventies when he started riding to work in the first gas crisis. I felt funny for wanting to go back and check on him since he is a lot more seasoned than I am. Still, I remembered a few years back when I got a pretty good case of heat stroke on this same hill in similar temperatures.

Heading for home I chased down one guy I thought might be a Brumby but it wasn't. I enjoyed the descent down McDowell and then Power. Pulling into my driveway the temperature was 100 and I was just downing the last water in my bottle. All told, I drank around 160 oz of water and rode 55 miles. A little shorter than I had been planning on but it was a bit later and hotter than I had originally planned too.

Friday, August 1, 2008

velo inferno

Well, normally I get a ride home on hot summer day's with my Father inlaw who works 4 miles down the road. Now, I hear those of you out there who cower at a little heat, thinking that 4 miles is a long ways to go in 110 degree heat. Well, it is a lot better than 25 miles! My Father inlaw though is gone this week so I decided that although I did commute both ways on Wednesday, and though it would be quite an adventure to spend a few hours riding home in record heat, I did want to ride with the Brumbys tomorrow and wearing myself out just wasn't wise. So I compromised. I drove in to the park and ride and rode from there. That still gets me a spanky 15 miles each way.
What I was not expecting was the heat on the way in. Apparently we very nearly set a record for the hottest night and I could believe it as I rode my bike at 8 in the morning with the temperature a healthy 97 degrees! I was not looking forward to the ride home to say the least. In all fairness though I did get to stop by performance on the way home and pick up my new set of bibs and the new tire I had ordered(I have been buying these kevlar tires from Performance for $8 a tire and they hold up amazingly well and I have had no flats in 3000 miles on them).
Heat makes a rider take on different strategies. Out in the desert things sit in the shade and take it easy all day. Our brothers to the south call it a siesta. The point is to be lazy. 110 degrees is not conditions optimal for a best time. Not even for a good effort really. Easing off the throttle a little bit the breeze blows past and cools me down enough. Not cool, but cool enough. My frozen water bottle slowly melts and my bottle full of ice and water is slowly warming up. It is a race to see whether I will get the water down before it gets warm. I win. The other bottle has almost thoroughly thawed by now and I sip the cool refreshing memories of a chill far away. I think back to shivering my poor bones along the frontage road in February with Steve Jewell in the late hours of the evening at the end of a long day. Man that was cold. Perhaps this winter I will remember today's journey through the inferno of the streets of Phoenix in the summer. The asphalt that is buckling from the traffic and the heat. The waves of thermal energy rising from the backs of cars making the air blurry. The empty streets, full of cars but devoid of people. The people who have found cool hidey holes to sit in and be lazy. Folks smart enough to listen to the Heat Advisory.
It is possible to be alone in the city. On a day like this, riding down the road, there is no one in sight apart from the cars. Occasionally a poor person waiting for a bus is visible and fades from view again. Riding along the bikepath there are only ducks, begging me to join them in the cool water. Not a soul in sight. Just me, the ducks, and the, hmmm, cows. Yes, cows. There is one spot along the canal that goes by the last farm in Gilbert. Some stubborn old farmer is holding out and mocking the development that has surrounded him and walled him in. His poor cows are standing in the field, very still. They must be hot. Looking down at my bike computer I notice the temperature next to the canal is about 3 degrees cooler than other areas. It is a nice cool 107 degrees. I guess if the cows have to sit out in the heat, this is probably the best place to do it. Past the cows I see a cat lieing in the mud by a puddle. If a cat is lieing in a mud puddle you know it is hot. If I had a fur coat on in this heat, I'd be laying in a mud puddle too I think. I'm thankful for a nice cycling jersey that doesn't hold in the heat. Theres a headwind, but I am almost to the car. I feel like I could ride farther but my water bottle is about spent and the water is hanging on to it's last bit of coolness. I chug the last cool drops and pull into the parking lot to load up my bike, stow my gear, fire up the air conditioner and drift off into a cool dark hidey hole of my own.