Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Widows Remorse

Out in the desert in the cool of the morning, the sun shines,

yet she is in darkness.

She is howling at the merciless sun of the burning desert,

for the gentle orb of the night cannot hear.

She mourns the loss of her mate for life,

gone in a moment.

For he is on the road, lifeless and still,

and the vultures peck and gather.

On she wails mournfully in the cool morning,

the dogs mock her song.

and to the perpetrator, tis but a passing thought.

I think it is wildlife week in Arizona. I read a day or two ago about Bruce rescuing a rabbit on the side of the road and then today I have an interesting experience on my way out to Tortilla Flat.

Just past the Canyon Lake marina, around the first corner I saw coyote who had just been struck by one of the cars that must have passed me earlier. This wouldn't be so uncommon but it's mate was in the bushes on an outcropping by the road howling mournfully into the morning activities and all the dogs in the campground below the road on the left were barking back. A turkey vulture had just discovered the carcass and flew away as I passed but resumed it's activity immediately. When I would come back through here there was at least 20 or 30 vultures swarming in here, it was really something to see. I almost hit one as it tried to hold on until the last second when I was about to pass and it flew off right in front of me.

The main goal of the day though was to do some major climbing since the Mt. Lemmon ride is coming up in 6 weeks or so. There is around 6-7000 feet of climbing on that ride in around 126 miles. Today I would do almost 5000 feet in 70 miles so that is not to bad training in my book. Most of the grades are similar to Mt. Lemmon which has an average grade of 5%. A few spots notched over 7% but for the most part the trip back to the end of the pavement is very similar albeit split up into several hills as opposed to one 20 mile slog.

Today as I was not riding with anyone I determined I would ride just a touch slower to save some energy for a repeat on the last hill after Tortilla flat that I call El Diablo. It is over 1000' high in just under 4 miles of riding. A spunky hill to say the least. I was the first person up it but I got passed by a couple of guys wearing ironman gear just before the top but I didn't mind as the hill I was climbing was bigger since I would turn around and climb it again seeing them cruise by on their way home while I was making a good start on my second round of climbing. In the shadowy crannies on clifs of the hill purple and yellow wild flowers were growing in defiance of the desert sun it was kind of cool to see them. I kept thinking of that coyote on my second attempt. I never knew Coyotes hung around with mates. I always thought they either went it alone or hung out in packs but apparently most mate for life and are often seen travelling together. Kind of crazy what hurrying to save a few minutes can result in. Not that the people who did it likely gave it a second thought but still.

I was amazed I had plenty of energy arriving at the top the second time and rode back to the end of pavement sign just to make the turn around official even though the top is actually a mile before getting to the end of the pavement. I had energy for a third repeat but I am glad I didn't take it. After stopping for a refill at canyon lake marina and climbing out in the rising heat I didn't have a whole lot of energy left cruising across Apache Jct in the headwind. At one of the lights I thought I saw ZZtop but it was just a couple of old desert dudes. I thought I saw them again at another light, same story. I think ZZTop should play Apache Junction some day but they might get lost if they did. They really have that AJ look down.

Anyway, back at the house I had averaged almost 14 mph over 5 hours, 79 miles, and just under 5000 feet climbed. Not bad for a mornings work.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A break on the beeline.

I haven't been cycling a lot lately. Mostly just the commute into work but the weekends have been either devoid of riding or a small ride or two. This is because I am studying hard for job interviews so I can get a new job quickly after I get Laid off on Oct. 10th. Incidentally if anyone out there needs a Java developer and knows of a job please email me. Now, back to the blog entry. I was eager to finally get a good Saturday ride in since I had not had a good ride in for many weekends and job interview or no it was time for a good ride. After all if you don't loose the bow once in awhile it loses it's spring. That being said, wanting to go riding the next morning on a Friday night and wanting to go riding at ten to five AM on a Saturday morning are often two different things.

Fortunately the cyclist prevailed. I would be late but the group usually hung around for awhile and since one of the guys had a flat they hung around a little longer than usual and I met them before they left. Todays route would takes us down across the Salt River bottoms to the Beeline highway and then up the Beeline to the Saguaro Lake turnoff and back. Surprisingly enough I was able to hang with them up the first hill this time (the hill where I had been dropped most heinously last time we went this route) although, technically I was in a split off group that came off the back. I count it as staying with them because another guy and I managed to catch them before they got to the gas station where they stopped to top off bottles. I was glad they stopped as I was intending to go a little farther than they were today. Afterall, I had not had a good ride since August. So, leaving the gas station outside of the cliff castle casino we headed up the beeling and I actually hung on for a few miles but a few miles from the turn they dropped me and a few of the previous dropped people passed me as I was totally shot and was doing some pretty serious recovery pedalling at this point.

Further up the road they all waved to me from the top of the over pass at the turnoff. I hadn't realized there was going to be a regrouping but no matter, I had decided I was going to head up the Beeline further this morning and since I had plenty of water having topped off a few miles previously I entertained the idea of going further (besides, I had hung with them for almost 30 miles which is pretty dang good in my book). At first I was thinking of doing a repeat on Usery Pass since I needed to start mixing hills in again in preparation for the Mt. Lemmon ride in Nov. Then it occured to me that the hill between the four peaks exit and the next exit would give me just as much elevation if not more. So, in the name of further exploration and beautiful scenery I pressed on from the four peaks turnoff.

The beauty of the hill after four peaks is that you get to climb 400 feet up a 5% grade and then you have to go down the other side as there is no way to get across to the other lane since it is divided highway so down you go down the otherside. I have seen a lot of motor homes over turned just over the top of this hill as people misjudge the turn but interestingly enough the accident was at the bottom of the hill this morning. A motorhome had rolled over just past the turn at the bottom of the hill. I didn't stick around but it looked like the police had things well in hand. Climbing the backside of the hill there is almost no shoulder but on a Saturday morning the traffic was very light and everyone gave me plenty of room. On a Saturday or Sunday afternoon though you probably couldn't pay me enough to ride this stretch of road.

My legs were feeling the pain a little as I had really blown them out earlier chasing the Brumbys. Still, I kept at it. I was going to have a good longish ride dang it! Even with legs a little tired I managed to stay out of the granny gear the rest of the morning. I went back by way of Saguaro lake and saw a few cyclists heading up towards the Beeline but I was surprised not to see any climbing the backside of Usery pass. I saw a few Mountain Bikers but no roadies. Usually this area is crawling with them on a Saturday morning.

Anyway, at 9:40 I pulled into the driveway having covered 72 miles in just over 4 hours having an average speed of nearly 17 miles an hour with 3200 feet of climbing. It was not a shabby way to spend the morning. It's good to be back on the bike. Today my legs are a bit tired but tired in a good way.