Well, I found myself on Tuesday thinking that I had nothing planned on Wednesday, no interviews, no one had posted new jobs, and I needed some time out in the countryside. I needed something like the following (the best commercial ever in my humble opinion).
That commercial always reminds me of Randonnuering. I am sure Lance has never ridden his bike through all that in one day. A Randonneur does face all that in one day often. A brevet/permanent allows one to live a life in a day. Starting a bit nervous in the morning with a full days work ahead of them. Then slowly, turn by turn they build the miles and progress through the route, facing winds, heat, rain, whatever and they overcome it. Finally, tired and sore, late into the night they limp into the last control and get that precious signature and a receipt that shows they completed the journey and now have a well deserved rest after a good guilt free helping of the food of their choice.
Tuesday morning I emailed Mike Sturgill and asked if I could run the Yarnell 300 permanent the next day. Being the swell fellow that he is he emailed me the control card info and the cue sheet. I was setup to start at 6 AM the next morning at the corner of 32nd street and Union Hills. I didn't start at 6 AM. I got out of the house late and it was a few minutes before 6 when I turned into Mike's neighborhood and saw him ride by aways ahead leaving for work (at least I assume he is the only bike commuter in his neighboorhood that was up at that hour heading off to work). Making quick work of getting on the road I bought gatorade, sunscreen, blistex, and energy bars at circle k and then I was out at 6:07.
It was still dark out but the eastern horizon was starting to get light. I rode through the gathering twighlight and on my way over to Scottsdale road grabbed a fistfull of creosote on my way by a creosote bush and enjoyed the scent of the leaves (smells like a desert rainstorm). At Scottsdale road I saw two mobile homes pulling into the parking lot that were marked "Ride for Semper Fi". There were some guys from the Brumbys involved in this and I gave them a wave. They were probably surprised to see a guy with a Brumbys jersey riding around on this end of the valley at this time of the morning on a Wednesday.
On Scottsdale road I would meet Mr. Dingus for the first time today. He was a guy in a big diesel dumptruck that worked for a landscaping firm. In the construction he let me know his IQ with one long blast on his horn, I gave him a wave (and used all my fingers even though I was tempted to wave with 1). This happened to be right in front of a motorcycle cop but he was doing paperwork and kind of gave me an apathetic look as I pulled over. I pulled over because I wanted to get my sunglasses out so I could put my rearview mirror on to see people like Mr. Dingus. The Construction ended just past there so I didn't have to contend with anymore drivers, I do get the feeling drivers up in Scottsdale are a bit more high strung than drivers in the east valley. I have gone years without a horn honk and today I had two. Ok, they were by the same guy but still, it was a little annoying even if I don't make a broad generalization.
Cruising up Scottsdale road I am amused to see that someone has tried to turn it into some sort of automobile nature trail by labeling plants on the side of the road with signs too small to read when passing at high speeds. I enjoy the few signs whose plants I don't know and am amused at the specimen they chose to represent the Ironwood "tree" yes, it was supposed to be a tree but they put it on one that looked like a bush. Up the road I see a rider on a bike that looks very much like Steve Jewell's but he is past before I can see if anything else bore a strong resemblance. I don't even know if this was Steve's stomping ground or not.
The temperature is still in the lower sixties and I am a bit chilly but not bad. A wind is picking up and slows me to 10-12 mph most of the way up this road which actually climbs a lot more than one would think. By the time I am up to the top my bike computer says I have climbed over 700 feet already. I turn down the carefree hwy and not too far down the road am honked at again by the masterful mr. Dingus. Fortunately this would be our last encounter.
It is a fast ride down to the next turn and I am again crouching down into the aerobars as the headwinds climb into the upper 20's. I slowly climb up into the hills south of New River. I am looking for the pointy mountain that I know New River is located next too. I look for a long time and the wind forces me low. I hate climbing in aero bars. For Sale signs are blowing horizontal and some have blown off their mountings. At long last I see the hill which looks like a severed fish head with it's mouth pointing into the sky. Not too long after I am at the RoadRunner cafe.
The RoadRunner cafe reminds me of the Boars Nest from the Dukes of Hazzard. The lady that worked in the little shop inside was not anything like Daisy duke I must say. She was not wearing little tight shorts, which was good as she was a heavyset lady. Her voice had the hoarseness of a thousand cigarettes. She asked me how the wind was treating me and I told her my next stretch was downwind. When she learned I was riding up to Yarnell on the bike she was incredulous. Heading out to my bike I refill my bottle and look for a garbage can but can't find one. Back inside I find she is gone, and I eventually find a bucket on the porch which has some trash in it so I use it.
You might think that the fastest speed of the day would be descending Yarnell grade. Well, I have to say surprisingly it was over the next stretch down to Lake Pleasant. I can hear you now wondering where the big hill is heading down to lake pleasant. Well, there isn't one. It has a slight drop in elevation but not anything to write home about. I had a roaring tailwind pushing me at that speed. At 35 mph the air felt still but the bushes tossed and turned in a frenzy as I shot by. I would not drop below 30 mph over the next 10 miles and most of the way stayed above 35. 42 mph would be my top speed.
Of course this meant upon turning on Lake Pleasant road the crosswinds were fierce. Just before getting to the lake my cue sheet blew out and was gone. Fortunately I had a spare and the route was really simple for the next 100 miles so I wouldn't need to consult it for a while. The wind was ruthless as I started up the hill on the other side of Lake Pleasant and then for some reason died down a bit. No longer was I struggling to stay on the shoulder. The next stretch was a longish stretch into the middle of nowhere as I finished the climb out of Lake Pleasant. I found I could gain a bit of speed if I rode on the white stripe to get off of the bumpy asphalt. The only trouble was the traffic was annyoingly abundant today so I had to take the shoulder often crossing the rumble strip. I was grateful for that 28c tire on the back.
Turning up to Wickenburg (what kind of a name is that for a town anyway? I mean is it full of witches or something?) I am eager to arrive and have a nice big Burger King lunch. Halfway up the road I see a ghost bike off to the right marking a location where a cyclist met their demise at the hand of a careless driver. I have heard of them, never seen one though and it gives me pause.
A bit of a tangent here. Heading into Wickenburg I see a sign some rural gentlemen has put up saying people who vote for Obama are like chickens voting for Colonel Sanders. I won't say anything here about who you should vote for. I only say to study your candidates, both of them. Read their policies. Make your own decisions. Don't you dare decide you know enough about the candidates by listening to the propoganda either of them barf at each other. If you do, like millions of other Americans you are misusing your voting power and are essentially an enemy of democracy and a witless peon of their multi-million dollar marketing engine. Educate yourselves folks. I don't care who you vote for, just make sure they are what you think they are. Incidentally, one of them mentions the bicycle in their energy policy. I find this important as it is the most efficient vehicle man has invented to date in terms of units of energy to move a person from point a to point b. It should be considered as part of the solution in my mind.
Ok, enough rhetoric, on to Burger King and the big Daddy size club sandwich meal. I couldn't finish it fair readers. I had an inch of the sandwich left and had to throw it out as I was full after the super fry and the giant drink. I spent about 20 minutes at Burger King eating and reviewing the cue sheet (and getting my control card signed, can't forget that). Then I was out into the wind again. I was having to re-blistex my lips every hour or two the wind was so present. I figured I had about 3 hours to Yarnell with the speed I was able to keep in the wind and the climb and such. It was in here that I dug out the mp3 player as I figured I was bound to cross a vast wasteland of desert scenery. Not that I have anything against desert scenery, I had after all just ridden through 80 miles of it. I just needed some variety at this point.
About 4-5 miles out of congress I see the occasional reflection on a car window shining down from the side of the mountains about 10 miles ahead. A few miles out of Congress I can actually see white specs that are semi-trucks coming down the grade and making note of the time from when I see them reach the bottom of the grade to when they pass me 6 minutes later I figure I have around 5 miles to the grade. In congress, I opt to fill a bottle with gatorade. It is a warm afternoon and I still have a full bottle but one can never be too careful. I figure I have about an hours climb ahead of me if I keep 6 mph or so up the hill.
The hill is a constant 6% grade occasionaly going up to 7 and 8 % in a few stretches. At 100 miles into a ride it is a little more taxing than it otherwise would have been. Still, I find myself able to hold the effort level most of the way up the hill. My knee has been hurting since Congress and I am glad I have the 32 tooth cog on the back. I am able to spin up the hill although I find the hill pressing on my psyche as I turn the corner at the top and see more hill. Still, it is only a few more turns until the real top.
The store right at the top turns out to not be the one specified on the cue sheet so on into Yarnell proper I go. The grocery store the sheet specifies turns out to be closed as of 15 minutes ago. So back to the top of the hill I go. An eskimo pie and a scooby doo push up pop later I am ready to head into a descentalicious 25 miles to Globe. My goal is to be in Globe by 5pm. Which I make. I have decided that a giant milkshake is just the thing to get me to Phoenix and upon Jack and Diane's recommendation I stop at the Tastee Freeze, but there is no one out back with a hand between someones knees. I have to confess that I remembered it being a lot better than it was. The shake/malt had too much cherry syrup in it. Still, it is good energy and I almost finish the whole thing (it was a really big shake).
Off to Phoenix I go. My legs are starting to get fatigued now. My speed stays under 17-18 mph and slowly drops the further I get. Not too long after the turn to Lake Pleasant the sun sets creating surreal swirling colorful whisps in the clouds to the east. I stop to turn the lights on and then am off again. It seems like the road goes on forever. The darkness deepens and I plod along through the darkness. After a long time a stoplight is visible in the distance and upon passing it I am in darkness again with no further signs of civilization for some ways. As I near the next stoplight my back tire is squishy. I lean over the handlebars to get the weight off it and work to get to the light. I have no small backup light for working on flats other than the one attached to my handlebars so an overhead light simplifies things.
Their is a piece of wire from one of the thousands of tire shreds I had passed during the day. I eventually get it pulled out but that is not where the leak is and my respect for the tire goes up a bit. The wind howls as I listen for the leak. Incredibly enough I find the leak and patch it making sure there is nothing in the tire to cause it again and with a puff of co2 I am off once again. Soon I am into Phoenix proper and the streets are still way above the count I am looking for. I need 107th street and I am at 193rd. I pass Bell Road, Thunderbird, and still I go south. I am way past Union Hills and finally I see the convenience store just up from where I turn.
After getting my card signed and a milkshake drink I am off into the night, I turn and am once again in direct conflict with the wind. Wandering through the neighborhoods I am at Union Hills and begin the long slow push across town into the wind. I hold roughly 13 mph across town. A mile or two from the end there is one last hill to challenge me and then I am done. 16 hours after my start I have finished the journey I set out to make. I have accomplished something in the midst of so many weeks of rejection and failure during my job search. It feels good.