Video and Ride report
(Sorry about the shaky video, I need to get the helmet mount more secure somehow.)
Hmmm, where to start. This was my first Brevet of the year and also the first getting there by motorcycle. Yes motorcycle. Now I know there are many reasons not to go to these things on a motorcycle. Where do you change, where do you snooze if you get sleepy driving home, where do you put all your extra clothes to wear at the finish, how do you chow down as you are driving home, where do you put the bicycle? Well, I managed to have answers to most of those but today still finds me unable to chow down on the bike without going astronaut with a camelback..
3 am came pretty early, interestingly enough I woke up before my alarm. Due to a last minute fix I had to make to my homemade coroplast pool heater (so it wouldn't leak all the water out while I was "out") I didn't get to bed until after 10. 5 hours sleep is not optimum for driving 2 hours in the wee predawn hours I know. The excitement of getting back into brevets and rocketing along at, uh, ahem.... 75 mph... with the bike on the back kept me awake. Lest you think I am a speed demon I should probably add that I have a KLR and it is not designed to be a speed machine but it does do at least 75 up the hill to Sunset Point which is good enough for me. I was happy to note that my bike and rack affected handling much less then a passenger would and was hardly noticeable.
Brevet? Oh yeah, that is what I am writing about isn't it. Well, I got to the start line about 15 minutes before start and found that it wasn't enough. Next time I need to shoot for 30 minutes early. It takes a lot more time to setup and stow gear with the Motorcycle than a car. Lonnie "Epic" Wolf and Steve Atkins were there. Of course, being co-veterens of the "Epic" 400k of years gone by, a little wind is not a deal breaker for them (or snow,rain, hail, nannies with umbrellas, or grouchy old ladies on bicycles flying through the air). Also from Utah was Robert Owen and Pete Dusharm would bring our total to 5. Five? It seemed like a few more signed up. Hmm what was that I saw in the forecast last night about 50 mph gusts and 20 mph winds? Na, that couldn't be it. I have to say I did have a little pause about the wind though.
It's been about a year since I rode anything this long and I haven't been on the bike nearly as much as I'd like due to family issues and I'd become a little self concious. Well, dang if that memory of the hellacious 400k of yesteryear didn't come to mind with the thought of perseverence conquering all though. I figured I'd just ride at an easy pace and trust to my ability to endure a bicycle seat for long hours. A good long ride along once forgotten roads among infinite vistas spread out beneath a deep blue sky dotted with clouds, was what I needed to erase the stress of weeks of overwork, worries of kids that are working out psychiatric issues, creeping malaise and all that junk.
I got out of the start about 5 minutes after all the other guys and figured I'd be alone most of the day unless some of the no shows were just slow shows. I don't mind riding alone really. A lot of stuff comes out of the ether over an all day ride. You become yourself again. I am no longer Paul the guy who has to deliver projects on time and fix critical issues by working all night, the guy who supervises the pro wresting arena that our house seems some nights when the kids go at it, the guy who wants to help everyone yet can't say no when he needs to. No, I am the Paul that rides across the open roads of Arizona. I'm the Paul that knows wind only has power to slow you and only you, let it accomplish anything more than that. I am the Paul that is alone with his thoughts and humorous observations of the many quirks one notices while penetrating the full experience of highways from the seat of a bicycle.
Alright, enough waxing philosophical (yeah, it's built up after all those months of no big rides). We got a nice tailwind out of the start and the climb up to Ash Fork wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Through this section I almost caught Pete multiple times. We would go down a roller and I'd get in the aero bars and almost catch him and then we'd hit a hill and he would muscle away from me. It was mighty tempting to give chase but I had a commitment to take it easy since it had been awhile and it's better to be conservative and powerful than bonked and weak.
The pavement didn't help our case much, but I did find the fog line to be quite smooth which made up for it. I made really good time up into the pinions and junipers where Ash Fork lies. I think I got there just after 8 which is about what I had planned on. The surprising thing was that the gang was all there still. Every last one of them.
I hurried and got my card signed, a bottle filled, and then headed out with everyone for the exciting ride down I-40, the vast expanse of passionless asphalt. Ok, it was smooth, I'll give you that. I suppose there is something to be said for smooth. Unfortunately, garbage, pieces of old tires, auto parts, and bottles of urine strewn across the shoulder take away some of the that smooth "magic". I'm afraid folks don't respect their interstate as much as old roads full of dreams and childhood journeys. Not that that respect amounts to a smooth surface mind you, I suppose the patched expansion cracks and bumps are all just part of the dream.
The interstate in addition to being a vast land for ruined tires and a menagerie of unwanted refuse of every kind, was also where the wind became noticeable. Pete dropped off a bit as the crosswinds negated most drafting benefit but I held on most of the way along the interstate. We regrouped at the turn on to good old 66 and I confess it wasn't long before I got dropped as we started to climb. I had no issues though. Most of these guys had a full brevet series under their belt already this year and I was just jumping in after a moderate hiatus. I was just happy to have stayed with them this far.
We had a pretty fierce crosswind coming up at this point and I was a little surprised to find what I thought would be rollers was actually a good healthy hill. I also discovered in here that I had lost my brevet card when Jim Pettett handed it to me from the side of the road as I rode by. Thanks Jim you and Robin were awesome.
The most notable part of the section was the hill with the Juniper and the basalt cliffs alongside the road. Also of note was a poor squirrel who just couldn't get away from me as I chased him for quite aways along the road before he found a nook to dive into. This was where the Burma Razor signs started. I looked them up on wikipedia and although Burma Razor no longer advertises, they advertised heavily in the 30's, 40's, 50's, and 60's. They were known for signs with progressing messages you read as you sped by them. Today these signs stand alongside this part of route 66 as monuments to nostalgia of years past, of those who rode in the back of station wagons and eagerly looked out the windows to make a message of the ever present signs strung out alongside the road when travel was magic and not a chore. I must confess in the context of riding a bike along the road I had a sudden urge to look behind me when the sign spoke of Death drafting. I've heard he's a horrible wheel sucker, but I've also heard it's better to let him draft than to let him take a pull.
Seligman is a very colorful town. I must confess I was thinking Winslow when I originally thought of Seligman. Yeah Winslow will rise again I am sure. It's just that last time I was there I could see why a guy standing on the corner would get into some girl's truck sight unseen to get out of there (I kid I kid, but there is a bit of truth in there). I was very surprised at Seligman and will have to get through there again when I have more time. Seligman was reinvented awhile back as they found a way to harness the nostalgia of a generation. You could say this town was rebuilt on nostalgia but that wasn't why I was there. I was there to set my sights on the infamous "Road Kill Cafe" of which I have yet to taste of their fine cuisine.
I arrived at the road kill cafe which was on the opposite end of town to see that the whole gang was still there. I needed a few minutes there so I let them go. I needed sunblock and ibuprofen, the latter was for my back which sometimes gets a tinge in it. Still I didn't stop for long. Had a PB & J, filled the bottles and I was off into the wind.
The road to Peach Springs is a long one. You pass a butte that looks like it came right out of southern Utah and then you are on the edge of a valley that goes on forever. You can see the road go straight out and turn into a tiny speck of a line far off in the distance. Much like Picacho Peak it also seems like the far end of the valley just sits out there and never gets nearer. Strong winds only accentuate this effect. Just before entering the valley I spied a water bottle on the road and picked it up to give to Jim when he came by again so whoever dropped it would have it. This was a long windswept and lonely place and to be caught with only one water bottle would not be good.
I was amazed at how green it was. Yeah I know grassland is supposed to be green. Well, that's not always the case in Arizona. Sometimes grasslands only turn green after the summer or winter rains which are sporadic at best. I looked at the sky and thought how awesome that stretch of road must be with the stars out. Other than the occasional car I really only had one encounter with people out there which was with Jim and Robin when I gave them the water bottle. I guess I also waved at the touring cyclist who went by but that was about it.
The set of rollers beyond the valley got really tedious. The wind was howling in my face and I was getting tired of the endless rollers. After passing Grand Canyon Caverns and the turn off to Havasupai I eventually did find myself peaking over the final drop into Peach Springs only to see Robert, Steve, and Lonnie just cresting on their way back. I figure I was about 30 minutes behind them. I did not relish the thought of climbing back up that hill, but the thought of perhaps getting a little downhill and a slightly less in your face wind were tantalizing.
Pete was still at the control when I pulled in and after a cookie and a refill we were off and he promptly dropped me climbing out. I Figured it would be easier going on the return but I still had a long way to go and a sore knee. I'd raised the seat a little bit awhile back but the cat was out of the bag now and I had to baby the knee.
Things did in fact go a lot faster on the way back and several places I actually could actually see Pete out ahead but never caught him. By the time I got to the butte above Seligman I had a strong tailwind blowing and I cruised down into Seligman at around 30 mph. Excited by the tailwind I was determined to make it a short stop and so I did not join the guys at the roadkill cafe so that I might take advantage of this fickle wind while it was favorably disposed towards my endeavor.
I made really good time heading back and only saw the other guys aways behind me as I got onto the interstate. This stretch was the one where I almost hit a bottle of urine and dodged a lot of other garbage. Smooth pavement isn't everything I'm afraid. By the time I got to the control in Ash Fork the other guys had pretty much caught me.
We hung out there and talked for a bit and let Robert take advantage of Jim's floor pump as he fixed a flat. We left together but it wasn't long before we hit a hill and I got dropped not wanting to push hard still. I kept pushing through the rollers heading up knowing that anytime I'd hit the top and the rollers would tend down from there for a long time. When I finally did get over the hump I passed Pete heading down one of the hills. He looked pretty tired. I am sure the headwinds weren't helping at all either. I was down in the aero bars and was enjoying the downhill even if the wind was bleeding the speed off.
When I got to Paulden the sun was dipping below the horizon and I turned my lights on blink for safety. I knew the finish was basically uphill from there. Not too long after that I pulled my sash out of my seatbag and put it on, finally admitting I wasn't going to make it before sundown. I wasn't too far from Chino Valley when it set though. I was rather annoyed at the number of stoplights in Chino Valley and the person who decided to build a hotel on the wrong side of town. I finally arrived at 1 minute after 8. I didn't beat 14 hours, or my best time of 11:57 which I got down in Casa Grande last year but I believe this was actually my second fastest 300k time when all was said and done so I am happy. I'd be happy anyway, it was a beautiful day.
I guess I left one of the motorcycle questions unanswered, How do you snooze on the way back? Well, you pull off at the Black Canyon City exit, turn off on a non-descript road near a trucker doing what you are about to do, find a spot out of the way and discover how comfortable motorcycle clothes are to sleep on the ground in because of all the pads. It was like wearing a sleeping pad. I didn't intend to sleep for long but I was so comfortable I was out for an hour and a half!