House and mountain on the Carefree hwy.
We had a rehearsal for the caroling group that are working to raise money for the copperstar theatre group that my sister in law is involved with (they roped my wife into the role of rehearsal pianist and thus they pulled me in as the do anything guy depending on if they needed a Bass or Tenor that night). The rehearsal didn't end until after nine and by the time I got all my ride stuff ready it was nearly midnight. I was a bit regretful at this point that I didn't request a later start time but it turns out I needed the extra time anyway due to complications. I ended up with around 3 hours sleep since my wife's coughing fit kept me up an extra 45 minutes or so.
I had thought I had arisen with plenty of time to get going but discovering a flat on the front tire slowed me a lot since I couldn't find a new tube and the old tube split when I tried to take it out seeing as it had fused with the tire. When I finally was in the car it was at around 5 to 5 and including a stop to McDonalds for breakfast meant I wouldn't be on my way until 5:05. I had a 40 minute drive ahead of me if I speeded and a 5:30 start time. I must say I did speed a bit and when all was said and done I got a start time of 5:47. So I started behind and would have to hurry to the first control a mere 20 miles away. Turns out I didn't need to worry so much but the hurrying kept me warm on a very cold morning (for Phoenix anyway).
It was 35 degrees out and I was freezing. I wasn't wearing as much as I had up in Utah as I knew the day would warm up a bit. I had a spanky tailwind for the first bit which about 10 miles down the road would pull into a headwind, then a crosswind, and a just couldn't make up it's mind wind. Mike's cue sheet was spot on and led me in and out of housing divisions and eventually out onto Deer Valley road smack dab into rush hour traffic. Deer Valley road has bike lanes much of the way but there was a mile without them where I got passed by a bus (my old nemesis,) which gave me some pause.
Since I foreshadowed a problem with my wardrobe I bet you are dying to hear about it. Well, I was just tooling along, trying to get to my control on time when I notice my upper thigh is starting to feel a little sore around where it contacts the seat. I kept readjusting my shorts and moving in the seat but nothing was working. Somewhere in the middle of all the adjusting I look down and instead of seeing nice black shorts, I notice there is a sizable patch of fleshy white. That's a problem. Not only because it hurts over the course of a 125 mile ride as you rub the flesh off your groin, but also because a guy walking around with a hole in his shorts right next to his naughty bits could attract the wrong kind of attention.
I decided to get to the first control which I was only a mile away from and assess the situation properly. Upon dismounting I noticed that my massive thighs that make it so I have to wear spandex shorts when running to prevent chaffing hid the rip from all but people with x-ray vision, which was good. Even with the late start I had banked 45 minutes.
I had a few options I figured. I could ride back and call it a day. I could soldier on and deal with the pain and likely have to drop out anyway when I started smearing blood on my lovely white bicycle seat. I chose the latter. I figured I'd figure something out. I thought about stuffing a plastic baggie down there or anything that looked slippery on the side of the road. About 6 miles down the road I thought about my leg warmer. I could pull it all the way up my leg and that would shield my leg from the seat.
The leg warmer solution was a bit better but I could feel it restricting blood flow as it was too tight. I was going to have to find a needle and thread somewhere. I stopped at the first shopping center which had target supercenter which turned out to be closed. After further delay and searching I found a kohl's department store and a home depot open. Kohl's did not have a needle and thread which I found amusing seeing as they sold clothes which of course are stitched together. Home Depot did not sell patch kits either (I was figure awning repair or something like that). They did in fact have a pair of scissors though which I was able to use to snip the top of my leg warmer so It wouldn't choke my poor leg.
I suppose at this point I should mention the blistering headwinds. At this point I think I know why Sturgill is such a strong rider. Of the two permanents of his I have rode both have had really nasty winds in the morning. So I had the winds to deal with and as I moved along the leg warmer was helping a bit but the rubber grippy stuff was irritating my leg too. Not as much, but I figured over 6 or 7 hours it would be bad. So again the search for thread and needle continued.
I finally found a thread and needle. At the 4 sons gas station just east of I-17 on the carefree hwy. I asked the attendant about a "travel" sewing kit and wonder of wonders they had one. They let me bring my bike inside where they could watch it while I went into the restroom and became RandoTailor. It was not good as new and my stitching was not as clean as the flat stitching on the original shorts but I do have to say it was a pretty good stitching job if I do say so myself. All in all I got 3 extra miles in and lost about an hour I figure. Next time I am not going to wear any old shorts I think, I also think it's time to retire the pair I wore Saturday, after all, they're only about 7 years old.
With the approach to Cave Creek road the climbing would start and would not stop until about 20 miles before the end of the ride. Yep, for the next 60-70 miles it would be up or down but no flat. On I climbed up into the funky town of Cave Creek. They have made they're town so "Old Westy" it crosses the line into tacky in my personal opinion. There was no shoulder but it wasn't too bad. People don't go to Cave Creek to drive fast.
Before long I was up in the more sensible town of Carefree. The cue sheet recommended a stop at the last Shell station since it would be over 2 hours to the next store. You know what? It was right! Mike must have ridden this before :) . I bought some dasani flavored water to mix in with my drink mix to make it taste batter since I hadn't had any koolaid on hand to mix in. I have to say with the sweeteners in the water and the sweetness of the drink mix it was almost too sweet. Like drinking a strangely flavored ice cream.
There was a lot of climbing in this part of the route. The long hill up to and through Cave Creek continued at 3-4% . As I looked back I could see the valley far below and all the mountain ranges of the Phoenix metro area. There were a lot more houses up here than the last time I was through here. Kind of a pity as the mountains were pretty.
There was still a bit of traffic climbing up to the Bartlett lake turnoff but I figured it would stop around there. Mike said since I was riding on Friday (have to burn off some vacation time or I lose it) I should have the roads up here all to myself. He was right. After the turnoff (yeah, to get the extra miles in he takes us up to the end of the pavement on Cave Creek road), it would only be the very occasional car that would pass me.
At one point a golf cart was cruising along on the golf course next to me about as fast as I was climbing. Mr. Polyester fancy pants was hardly working pushing that little peddle and here I am panting in the freezing wind busting up the hill. I have heard it said that cycling is a bit Bourgeois. Compared to golf it's a pauper's sport I think. I don't need to pay exhorbatant green fees every time I want to spend a weekend in the hills. Cyling also crosses many genres even homeless people ride bikes. I will admit though to ride at the randonneuring level requires a bit of an investment. Once invested there are not many fees to go out and ride though and Mike didn't charge me a cent to do this ride. Figuring I got ATM receipts at most controls I didn't buy much either. but I digress.
There were climbing rollers heading up into the hills. Some were pretty steep topping out at 11%. The turnaround was at around 3200 feet which was what the highest elevation for the ride was despite the majority of the climbing still ahead. I managed to reach the information control at the turnaround with an hour still in the time bank. My main concern with arriving late was making this control on time. I should have also been concerned about the next one.
Though the big hill dropping down into Bartlett lake I had heard of and knew it for a long moderately steep grade, I was not prepared for the long climb before the long descent. I dropped into a little canyon right off the bat and then it was a long slog up a 6-7% grade for 3 miles. I just kept pedalling along though. Hills are not conquered in a moment and one will have many a discouraging moment climbing them. The drops on the other side were nice. I say "drops" because there was a small climb in between them. The last drop was long and bittersweet. Sweet as it was a speedy descent with a pretty lake in the foreground and bitter because I knew I would be coming right back up it in a few minutes.
The convenience store at the marina was just a portable trailer amusingly enough. They did sell water though which is what I needed. So, a quick receipt in the bag and a filling of the bottles with a few swigs myself (gotta keep drinking, even with the cold dehydration will not do! and this dumb wind was pumping the water right out of me).
As was expected it was a very long and painful slog up the hill. I was warm for the first time today though. The headwind was now at my back and moving along at the same speed I was. I was working up a good healthy sweat as I would pedal my legs into exhaustion then stand for a bit to work different muscles. I was tempted to stop but knew at this point I would be pushing my luck on getting back on time. You see, I had to go carol at the Biltmore at 6:30 and figuring for the drive home and a shower, I would need to be done by 4. Hence I didn't stop for anymore pictures after the Marina.
Hill after hill I slowly fought my way back the 13 miles to Cave Creek road. I knew from there it was all downhill. Or at least I thought it was all downhill. It was very sweet travelling at decent speed again going down Cave Creek road and onto Pima. To get the last few miles to make it a 200k Mike had steered us east on Dynamite. Well, I thought Dynamite was a flattish road since my memory of my last time shooting past it was in a car. In actuality it's a 2-3% hill for the 3 miles to the control. A parting shot across the bow if you will. It was a little frustrating at first but then again, whats a few hundred more feet of climbing once you have already gone over 6000? I was in and out of the control quickly, It was after 3 and I was racing the clock now.
What goes up must come down and it was a nice descent going down Alma School parkway and then through all the twisty sideroads back to the start. I finally got back to the start at about 10 after four. Not too bad, it could still work. We ended up arriving 3 minutes before we were supposed to sing, with me having binged half a load of bananna bread on the way over. Singing? It was not without it's problems since it was the first time we sang outside together and it was tough to hear each other. All in all though it worked out.