Saturday, October 3, 2009

Autumn Journey

36 degrees! Fall comes to "Top of the World" above Superior at 4590 feet

This was not one of my best rides. The scenery was beautiful, the temperatures were ideal the bike worked good mostly, but a lot of stuff just wasn't there. I had a general lack of energy. This could have been caused by the fact I only got 2 hours of sleep the night before I think. I got to bed at 9 but the friend I told I'd help move if he needed it called up right as I was drifting off and so I had to go out and keep my word. I got home at midnight and my alarm was set for 2:15. I ended up moving the alarm back to 2:45 so I ended up getting out the door at 3:15. I couldn't find my ankle reflectors but I had my butt reflective triangle, two bright taillights, a backup light, and of course the blinding generator light of brilliance.

On thursday the weather made an abrupt change. It was in the lower 60's when I left. I knew that it would be chilly upon cresting the summit known as 'Top of the World' above Superior. I didn't know how chilly, lets just say I am glad I couldn't find my fingerless gloves and ended up wearing my winter gloves.

The trip up US60 in the dark was a grind. I was tired, my body just wasn't generating the power I wanted and there was an unusual amount of traffic out for the time of the morning. I figure the traffic was due to it being a weekday instead of a weekend when people sleep in. Many of them were people heading up to the mines I guess. The one saving grace is that the moon was setting and when it dropped below the horizon I could see the faint traces of the milky way and the big dipper was bright above the horizon. Climbing Gonzalez pass I looked back and there were lights along the entire horizon. There is no longer a seperation between Phoenix Metro and Florence anymore.

Astronautical twihlight was wrapping up and turning into Nautical twilight as I descended down into Superior and since I was good on fluids I rode right on through and set about the first major climb of the day. The 2000' climb up into the tiny hamlet of 'Top of the World'.

Once or twice I could see large packs of semi's and cars coming up the canyon behind me and I got off the road for them not wanting to die defending my right of way. It was slow going as the grades stayed between 7-8%. Soon my headlight was merging into the gathering light on the road. The morning light illuminated the brownish red rocky crags and pinnacles which towered overhead as I struggled on. The temperatures were dropping. I was getting into the mid to lower 40's as I neared the first little drop before the final stretch of the climb started. By the time I reached the top it was 36 degrees. Holy autumn morning batman!

The cemetary on the hill above Globe/Miami

I had been concerned about how I was going to navigate the construction up here I had heard they had layed the first layer of pavement down and had hopes there would be a shoulder for me to ride. I had originally planned on such an early start so even if there wasn't I could get through with light traffic. Turns out I had 15-20 feet of pavement all to myself since the new passing lane was coned off but I could ride it. Many of the construction crew made comments about me being on the easy side of the hill now. I made good time going down the back but the bridge over Pinto Creek gorge gave me a little pause since it is a long narrow bridge and the decking was all ripped up for resurfacing but I was able to make it across before the car behind me caught up and I didn't even lose it despite the deep ruts. The pavement everywhere else was baby butt smooth. It was a beautiful thing, I hope they don't chipseal it.

Shrine at edge of Miami

I passed the shrine on the way into Miami and I wondered who the patron saint of Miners was. I snapped a picture as it is really one of the major landmarks of Miami I think. Next to it is the welcome to Miami sign which I also took a picture of for. I didn't take a lot of pictures because I wanted to keep moving but I did stop for this.

The Copper Capital of the World brought to you by Bud Light lime.

I made my water stop a mile or two down the road at the 'Fast Stop'. I hadn't been in there since the end of the 300k in May which was a very similar ride to this one. it would turn out by the end of the day. I used up my first bag of powder for the day. My jersey pockets were probably full of 5-10 lbs of stuff. Down the road another mile I remembered I forgot my sunscreen. So, after a stop at Circle K I was out on the road again.

Fast Stop with mine in background

Miami and Globe are another set of towns that have kind of joined up but it hasn't been recently that they did. In fact Miami is a bit of a spectre town, it's not quite a ghost town yet, but it is not hard to see all the stores that are boarded up and a sense of a town that is not what it once was. I am sure that as cars got faster and the valley became more accessible more and more of the miners moved out of town. Perhaps more efficient mining machinery dropped the necessary number of miners. Whatever the reason, Miami is a remnant of what it once must have been.

The Smelter on the hill.

As I turned down the road going to Roosevelt lake I remembered riding through here with Tom Baker back in May. I had to push a little to keep up with him but keep up with him I did most of the day. He was very good conversation. Today there would be no conversation, no MP3 player, no support car, just Paul alone with his thoughts, fatigue, and willpower. Willpower because I didn't feel like doing this today. For some reason it was intimidating to me. The last 6 months of training had taken their toll mentally. My body knew exactly what a 12+ hour ride entailed and there was no lieing to it now. But push on I did. First to 'Top of the World' then to Globe, followed by Roosevelt lake visitors center and from Tonto Basic from which there was no returning. I couldn't turn back once I was over halfway.

Cactus on the way to Roosevelt

The climb up the pass before Roosevelt was not as bad as I remembered it. I kept pushing on and eventually I got to the top. I took a few pictures near the top and then I cruised down the backside. There was a semi pulling a large trailer with a wide load sign on it and a big piece of construction equipment down the other side which I caught up to quickly. I passed him on the shoulder and realized I would not have any cars behind me until we got to the passing lane a long ways down the hill. It was just me with the lane to myself as I bombed downt the hill at 40 mph. Still I was careful. Bruce told me some friends of his who are also doing Cochise crashed last week and this being my final ride it would not do to lose the war before the final battle.

Lovin lips of light! (what are the chances of catching the reflection from my rearview mirror right there?)

The next section of road was where I nearly had an unrecoverable disaster. There is a rather large and destructive lip on one side of the bridge at the bottom of the hill. I tried to do a light bunny hop but the rear tire caught a piece of it. I kept going for another 1/2 mile or so and then I had that sinking feeling on the back wheel and suddenly I was riding the rim on the sidewalls.
I remember Gerry Goode advised Bruce not to lose it if small stuff happens which it will when you ride Cochise. I figured this was a good place to practice, so I sat down by the guard rail and analyzed the tire. I figured I would practice a quick fix like I'll do in two weeks so I pulled the tube out of my seatbag. A tube covered in patches. Hmmm. I then discovered it wouldn't hold air so I decided to just patch the current tube which had 2 snakebite punctures. I put on of the larger patches across the two holes and used my CO2 to pump the tire up.

I figured this was a good opportunity to regroup which was also some advice Gerry had give to Bruce. I took off my windvest, my legwarmers, applied sunscreen, and then picked up my trash and took off.

Crossing over into Roosevelt lake area.

Down the road about 3 or 4 miles I got that sinking feeling again. My tire was low on pressure so I stopped and thought to myself that it was not a big thing, unfortunate but not a big thing since though I didn't have any CO2 cartridges left I had my pump. Yep, that wonderful and dependable Road Morph which had dug me out of many a scrape. The pump which was lieing where I had left it, on the guard rail, 3-4 miles back down the road. I had several options, I could wet my pants, I could scream and jump up and down, I could walk the few remaining miles to the Roosevelt Lake vistor center and call my wife in abject defeat and beg a ride for unspeakable promises of domestic servitude, or I could start walking back and hope it wasn't as far as I thought it was. I'd lose an hour at least I figured.

Because I didn't want my bike computer recording me walking for the next bit I stuffed it in the crack in my seat so it wouldn't pick up the signal and I began to walk. I kind of hoped that someone seeing a cyclist walking on the side of the road would have pity and stop. Like the annoyingly many who stopped when I rode my first solo double century and I got 14 flats in the rain. Perhaps it was the miserable conditions that had brought out the kindness in all those people, or perhaps the people of Florence are just a kinder breed than the tourists of Roosevelt lake. No one stopped. I kept walking and then I had a bright Idea, I noticed there was still some air pressure in the tire and if I leaned heavily on the handlebars I might be able to move along without pinch flatting the back wheel again. So I mounted up and rode along standing up with hunched over the handlebars riding along. Somewhere in here I remembered my bike computer and discovered it was gone.

Yep, I was having a winner of a trip out here in the middle of nowhere. First a lost pump and now a bike computer. Nothing I could do about it really so I pressed on looking for that Guardrail which hopefully had my pump. I passed 3 of them before I finally got to the once which caught me mid 'A freakin crap Dang.....' when I spotted the pump and calmed down. So, 8 miles later I was sitting at the exact same guard rail sitting on the ground with my back against it pulling out a tube riddled with patches that would not hold air (the patch on the other tube didn't hold as the holes were two far apart for one patch and too close for two. The old patched tube had three holes in it. After which I had 4 patches left. Hopefully it would last the rest of the day now that I had come within a hair's breadth of a most inconvenient sag.


An hour lost I was back on the road and soon found my bike computer before I got to the visitor center no worse for wear. I had originally intended to make it to Tonto Basin before refilling but I was low on fluids and the visitor center was quick and easy. I bought a root beer and restocked my supply of water and eliminated another bag of drink mix from my jersey pockets which were filled to capacity with my wind vest and gloves and such.

I chatted up a guy there for a few minutes and he said it made him tired just thinking about what I was doing today. I'm afraid it made me tired doing it. As I left he wished me luck and I was off to the Dam and the Dam Bridge.

Under the bridge arch.

It is always pleasant riding along the lake. The temps were in the 60's the sun was shining and there was a HEADWIND? Yep, but it wasn't too bad and watching the water for the telltale signs of the wind (which I knew from my sailing days) the wind was lighter further up the lake so it wasn't a big deal.

There were campers in the coves, fisherman here and there and few boats. I figured the boat traffic was low because it was a little chilly for watersports this morning. Perfect for riding though. I had the faint hints of sweating under my cap but nothing else. It was a beautiful morning for riding, even if the legs were not the happiest to be out there.

Roosevelt Lake

Just past the lake is Tonto Basin and from Tonto Basin starts the area where things get a bit pastoral with farms and horses and such. I passed one pasture with something that isn't seen much by the desert dwellers of Phoenix metro. A tree in splendid yellow colors of Autumn. Standing under it were a few horses. I of course had to take a picture so you guys would believe me that fall has indeed arrived at a place not too far from the valley.

Trees and horses in a land of seasons.

It was around in here that I was starting to fatigue for real. I had already ridden over 120 miles on legs that were not keen to be out today and a mind exhausted from lack of sleep. I tried not to think about how late I would be getting back or how much my butt hurt but concentrated on making it to Jakes Corner where I could refill and refuel.

Outside the store I chatted up another one of the locals who I told about my ride. He asked where my sleeping bag was assuming I was splitting it into two days. He was surprised to hear I was doing it in one and as a training ride no less. I felt a little dread leaving the store knowing that I was at the bottom of what would be 15 miles of pretty severe hill work on legs and mind that didn't have much left.

The beeline highway I have ridden before on my trip to Payson a few weeks ago. I had forgotten how much crap there was on the shoulder though as the grades started to increase. There were cinders all over it and sometimes it even sounded like I was riding on something other than pavement. I ran over a good chunck of glass and for a minute thought I had thrashed the tire.
The hill up the Mazatzal divid is in two parts both very brutal hills. You climb the first for 3-4 miles of 7% and then you drop down a large portion of what you just climbed. At this point you face the brutality that is your climb up a steep canyon with semis gearing down next to you and cars in the fast lane passing the big trucks which are now only going about 20 mph. They are working as hard as you and you can hear them whine.

I was in my lowest gear with cadence shot out the window slowly grinding up the 7% grade. My legs were very unhappy. My mind was exhausted and it was all I could do to push on. On and on, slowly ratcheting up the hill, no seemingly signs of progression until at long last, after one has given up hope of reaching the top the road turns across the top of the canyon and I know I am getting into the last 2 miles to the top. It is still hard work though and I cannot see the top and it seems like the road is climbing up to the sky and my spirits are descending into the depths of misery.

Cresting the hill is a great relief but having to descend a shoulder strewn with debris is not as enjoyable as a good descent should be. When I rode this in the wee hours of the morning over a month ago I could take the lane due to low traffic. Today the road is busy and I keep the brakes alternating to keep my speeds safe. The descent is long. I am aware I will be pushing the 6 pm deadline my wife has as she is helping to conduct at the production of 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' and she needs to be there for curtain call. A brief plan forms in my mind.
When I can get into Cell range I determine to call her and have her meet me out on the Bush hwy somewhere and then we might just be able to make it. The trick is getting to where my cell phone works. The crappy coverage of my pay as you go phone with AT&T is one of my primary reasons for making a switch to my new cell phone and company. Of course the new phone had not arrived yesterday so I was stuck having to hurry through exhaustion to get to the intersection of the Beeline and Bush hwy where I knew my phone would work.

There was one last hill to be reckoned with. It was not as big as the other ones but since I was nearly spent it was a long hard slog. Half way up I got a toot of the horn and a big thumbs up. That lifted my spirits a bit. Just a bit of unlooked for encouragement. At last I reached the pass and knew that from here it was pretty much all downhill with some rollers out on the Bush Hwy.
My wife informed me she would not be able to leave until 5:30 and I advised her we would probably meet up at Granite reef if I hurried and she would be able to be back in time. I pushed. I was out of Fluids and hungry but I knew there was a ride out there in around 20-30 minutes. I made my way down the hwy and drew on my last energy to ride through the rollers and down into the river bottoms by Granite Reef. Right as I approached the bottom of King Kong hill my wife pulled up. I must admit I estimated pretty good. Down to the second pretty much.

So, the summary of all this is I ended up with 184 miles, in 13 hours of riding time with 10000 feet of climbing. It wasn't the time I had hoped for but then again I think I did good just to stay on the bike today. This is the last ride of my training. Next Saturday will be a shorter taper ride of around 70 miles or so. I have ridden 1600 miles with over 70000 feet of climbing on my new bike since July. It has stood by me and taken the strain and distance. The 11% grades, the steep descents, the early mornings, and now the cold morning, the summer desert heat. Today it goes in for the final tune up over before the big race. It deserves it. What do I deserve? Well, last night I had a big meal at Sonic on the way to the show, and then afterward, since no one wanted to drive home with me, I took my son who was helping me to stay awake over to the local Frozen Custard place and had a large cup of the most calorie filled type of Ice Cream. I figure I burned about 12000 calories. It's Custard time.

1 comment:

Bruce's Bike Blog said...

This was cool, mon vieux!
You have trained well.
Keeping your wits is the best--that is the difference between the posuers and the Randonneurs.

Allure Libre!