Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mines to Pines, Mr. Popeel's brevet.

First climb of the day.

I'm here to talk to you today about a 300k brevet. How much do you think you would have to see to finish a brevet like this? Mines? Pines? Yes, you have the mines and the pines. But my friend, I'm here to make a deal with you, this brevet also includes a 20 mile lake front ride by scenic Roosevelt lake! How does that sound? But wait! Theres more! Ride now and we'll even throw in a few creek crossings through a beautiful mountain creek! Still not sure? Well, what if we were to throw in 10, 400 feet of climbing! If you ride now, we'll even throw in a free Jinsu knife!

Seriously though, this brevet had everything other than an ocean front ride and I'm afraid that Arizona may have an extreme amount of variety but it has no ocean views so we settled for a lake. I was eager to ride this and I have been training for it ever since I helped on the 300k and Tom Baker said they were cooking it up. I have been working my way back from a knee injury and this was one heck of a ride to make my long distance comeback on.

Salt River Peak pass

I was suspicious of the 6000' feet of climbing estimate as put it in the mid 8000s so I trained with 5000 foot climb rides figuring that would prep me. Of course all climbing estimates were off, including mapmyrides. You never really know for sure on elevation though until you get an altimeter out on the course.

Due to road construction I didn't get to the Miami start point until 10 till 6. I found the men's restroom at the park was closed due to vandalism so Tom and I ended up using the Lady's room which didn't look like the model of cleanness or good repair either I might add. Still it was private. We finally got off around 5 after, which wasn't too bad. It was a beautiful morning. light breezes and temps around 60 degrees. We kind of just eased down the road at a pleasant pace. Past the scenic tailings piles (really, they are! you should have seen them before the mines cleaned them up and planted stuff on them).

Turning off of US60 we meandered down into green fields through an open valley between the mountains on either side. It was cool having someone to talk to as I often find myself riding alone usually. Tom pulled ahead when we hit the hills and I would catch him on the flats and downhills. I think this was due to the fact he had a handlebar bag and I didn't. Still I think he is stronger than I am and he might have just been humoring me most of the day to have someone to talk to. I have time though. One does not become a fast distance rider in a matter of a few months.

At the top of our first 7% climb of the day we descended the otherside down to Roosevelt lake. Tom kept asking how many brevets give you a beautiful lakefront ride like this. Not having ridden a brevet out of state I don't know. I do know this is the only one around here and it is awesome. It was a beautiful ride in the cool morning air and the lake smooth as glass on the right hand side. It was still early enough most of the boaters were awaking to the pain of their hangovers from the night before and not out on the lake yet.

Just after 8 we arrived at the visitor's center which had just opened. We got our cards signed and loaded up on water and I mixed some more maltodextrin up. I was determined to stay on liquids until lunch and then switch over to some more solid foods. It was a strategy that worked pretty good.

Roosevelt lake marina

Roosevelt lake is an awesome place to ride a bike. The shoulders are wide, you have lots of cool stuff to see including one of the few suspension bridges in Arizona and what used to be the worlds tallest Masonry dam until they encased it in concrete and raised the lake level. I had ridden acrossed the bridge by bike before (when I rode the Apache Trail) but I had never ridden the length of the Lake.

It was beautiful meandering back into the side washes and crossing the bridges, looking at the bluffs in the distance and the Sierra Anchas behind them. Ahead was Mt. Ord with it's firetower on top, and next to it, Tom made a point of saying, was Baker mt.. Being a Baker he makes a note of these things he says.
Past the lake we wandered into more green fields and a long set of rollers. There were farmers in one field using horses to plow the field. I have never seen a horse plowing a field. My wife's Grandpa has all the stuff to do it by the side of his house but he had used a tractor for years now (not that he farms anymore as he is getting on in years). It was cool to see farmers doing it old school.

There weren't any really big hills in here but there were a bunch of smaller ones all tending to move you up higher in elevation than the previous ones. It was starting to warm up a bit as the temps climbed up through the 70's and into the 80's. The rest stop by the highway was a welcome sight.

The rest stop has been closed for some time but the water is still on and it is cold water. There is nothing like splashing cold water on yourself on a hot day. Wash all those salt crystals out of your cap and hair. Soak the jersey a bit to get that "evaporative" cooler effect we can enjoy here in Aridzona. I make a note while we are here we have accumulated 3000 feet of elevation gain already and we still have the majority of the big hills ahead of us. Still I am feeling strong (which is good because there was a long way to go!)

Bikes bikes! Come and get your bikes! Big bikes little bikes, motor bikes, sissy bikes!
Just passed Rye we faced the biggest hill of the day. It was around 1700 feet high and stayed around 6% all the way up. I got into a good rythm with my triple and worked my way up the hill. Around half way up I was still feeling strong and passed up Tom. I kept going and figured I would wait for him up at the turn around if he didn't catch me first (which I expected he would). The climb was hot but it did feel cooler as we got closer to Payson. The hill seemed like it went on forever but with hills like this you just plug away and enjoy the moment by moment and don't think too much about how far there is left to go.

Payson was bustling the way it usually does on weekends. I figured I had half my water left so I would just keep cruising and out to the turn around. Nearing the other edge of town my little voice of doubt kept nagging me though. I ended up giving in knowing that if you fill up you will have it if you need it, and if you don't, then you could get stuck in a bad way, so in to Texaco I rode (on the wrong side of the road unfortunately as it is a bear making a left turn pulling out with all the traffic).

There was a bit more climbing than I remembered heading out Houston Mesa rd. Fortunately the scenery makes it all worth it. Traffic was fairly light. I discovered a little further back (just when my legs were getting a bit tired) that I had forgotten a hill with an 11% grade tucked back in there by the East Verde river/creek (where there were lots of people out playing in the water). I couldn't stop though, I was determined to get to the turn around and then to soak my feet in the mountain creek up near the turnaround. I must confess the 11% climb took a bit out of me getting up it. I was nearing 6000 feet of climbing already (the turn around was almost exactly 6000 feet) and I also needed to eat something.

Ahhh! The blessed turnaround, no it really was blessed! It was next to a church!
At long last I had the turnaround in sight. I found the stop sign appropriate. I made a mental note of the time and the answer to the question on the card and was off heading back the other way. Within a mile I spotted Tom coming my direction and let him know I was planning on waiting at the creek crossing.
The creek crossing! I wasted no time finding a suitable rock and putting my legs in the water.
I had a few toes that were numbing a bit and a good soak did them wonders. Theres not too much better stuff in life than a good foot soak and a cold mountain creek 100 miles into a ride. Drivers kept asking me if I wanted them to splash me as they drove through the creek. It would have felt nice but I had a cell phone in my back pocket.

The ride back was a rewind of all the rollers we had climbed to get here from Payson. I was starting to think 8000 feet of climbing might even be a touch low for an estimate. I was pretty tired through here and had to soldier on through fatigued legs. I was looking forward to downing a large chocolate milk or something at the Bashas Tom had mentioned.

I ended up taking down a quart of strawbery milk, some chicken, and mac and cheese. I started up with the endurolytes in here here too since I was starting to feel the muscle cramping coming on. The ride out the beeline was awesome since it is nearly all downhill to Rye. There was one spot where the shoulder stopped and we had to ride out by the traffic but there was only one guy who honked his horn since he had such a hard time switching lanes to go around a vehicle that was only going 10 miles or so under the speed limit. I got a few funky wiggles in here from crosswinds causing a little concern but mostly it was a smooth descent into the desert.

The ride back up to the rest stop was a bit more of a climb than I had noticed going down it in the morning. By the time we finished the altitude climbed had notched up to just under 8000 feet and we had the last major hill of the day ahead and lots of rollers. Temps were in the 90s as we slogged up the 4% grade to the rest stop at the turn to Roosevelt. The water at the rest stop was much appreciated when we did get there though. A brief respite from the afternoon heat. I'm glad the water was still on, and that the states budget cuts don't turn off the shade coming from the trees.

My legs were fighting through a good healthy fatigue now and I was very welcoming of the Tonto Basin supermarket 15 miles past the rest stop. We refilled water, and I downed a vanilla milk drink and a frozen dryers fruit pop (I still had some lunch gurgling down below so I didn't want to take in too many more calories). We had a good sit back in the restaurant and then it was time to get back out into the heat. A lady made a comment about the heat to us as we left funny enough. Like we didn't know it was hot.

This part of the ride was where I entered zen mode. That's the moment when you are tired and you get overwhelmed by how many miles lie before you. That is the time I live in the moment. Enjoy the journey and look around me to see what there is to see.

Evening approaches

We hit the lake just as sunset was about to begin. The setting sun brought out a lot of contrasts in the mountains to the north. I was hoping we would hit the bridge so I could get a good picture of it at sunset but I figured it would be close and likely we'd miss it.

Riding along in the shadows of the hills I ride over a bridge and I catch movement in the corner of my eye. Down below me is a family of Mule Deer come down to the lake for an evening drink. I pedal on into the peaceful hush of evening. When we get to the bridge it is nearly dusk and the shadows make it too dark for a good picture.

The ride along the lake has been beautiful. The evening falling upon the water makes for a peaceful transition to nightfall. I get a last picture of the dam before we take our final water stop at the visitor center which is closed. The drinking fountains are still on though the bathrooms and vending machines are tucked in for the night. It is time to don the nighttime reflective apparel. Soon many a driver will be wondering what the heck that shiny blinky thing is up head.

Tom pulls ahead pretty much off the bat as we are climbing for the next 10-15 miles. I also have to make a stop to fix my light after a crossing of the rumble strip shakes the LED lens loose and I have to wedge it into position with rocks from the side of the road. It held together for the rest of the night I am pleased to say.
I was dreading the climb up Salt River Peak pass as Tom called it. I got about halfway up and then I had to start "one more" ing myself. One more corner and I'll take a rest, no maybe one more mile marker. "Did it look like that cars taillights crested a hill? I'll ride that far and see." All in all I only stopped once and that was more to get a good look at the stars, though it was good to get the heartrate down a bit. Climbing in the dark is an interesting experience. You can't see anything ahead and the only way you can tell where you are going is the path the car headlights/taillights take. Eventually after who knows how long you are to the top. Night riding is a timeless endeavor. Time passes in a different fashion than during the day. You are not as aware of hours passing.
Eventually I make it to the top and enjoy the brightness of my generator light down the other side. There are rollers in the last 10-15 miles but once you pass that summit everything is a victory lap from there. I munched down a power bar (the kind made out of cereal and nuts not the gross ones). I was a little hungry but I was close to the end and I figured a 300 calorie snack would pull me in. Toward town I passed 3 police cars with people pulled over.

Pulling into the finish Tom was just coming out of the restroom having changed. I set my bike down under a light and took a look at what the final verdict for what the climbing was. We had climbed 10,400 feet in the course of the day. Just a tad over 6000 :) . I was glad I had mixed some higher intensity training in the last few months..

Head down, the feet go round,
Eyes directed toward the ground.
Wheels roll, and ever pull,
The dying day from tired soul.
On I ride, the wind has died,
the cool of eve is on my side.
Setting sun, the ride is run,
The finish awaits, and I am done.

1 comment:

Bruce's Bike Blog said...

Hi Paul! Nice 300 write up!

Cheers! Bruce