They say, at least in Phoenix, if the high temp on Memorial day is going to be less than 90, it is indeed a federal crime to not do a long ride. Not wanting to go to Levenworth I decided I would ride to the end of the world and back, but as I thought about it some more I thought I would just go over the end of the world to the Florence Kelvin highway and ride my 28 C's Kelvin permanent. I've always wanted to ride this but never got around to it. Was it foolish to walk in to a 200k ride with 5300 feet of climbing with 1/3 of it on a 20 mile stretch of dirt road on a lark without training for it? Maybe, I have a good healthy hurt on right now, but half of that is my ribs which are pulled or cracked or broken (gonna check in with the doc tomorrow, it's been 4 days and they're not getting any better so it's not a pulled muscle). The other half is a good hurt although it would likely be less so if I had re-applied sunscreen at lunch.
It would be 4:30 by the time I got my receipt at the start. I'd put a time of 4:15 on the card so I hoped I wouldn't need those extra 15 minutes. Turned out I was fine. I purposely skipped putting a control in Florence to give folks that might be a bit slower time to catch up if they haven't made up the time from the slower portions on the climbs and dirt road. Truth be told, I had plenty of time in Florence even.
Even on Memorial day there wasn't a whole lot of folks out at 4:30, of course I guess most folks sleep in on Holidays. Not your avid cyclist in a Phoenix summer though, we have to get out in the cooler parts of the day like all desert creatures. I was annoyed to find part of my route was detoured due to construction but that wasn't unexpected. What's an extra mile or two between friends huh?
East Apache Jct brings a fun set of rollers on the way to US-60. The Superstitions loom large and are beautiful with the Sun trying to peak out from behind them. On US-60 the sun would come out for good as I rode on the shoulder avoiding the expansion cracks on the shoulders between cars. Traffic was definitely picking up. Folks were heading out of town to recreate at their locations of choice in parts east of the valley. I bet all the folks that went up to the pines for camping were freezing their tookus's off. I was. It was 52 degrees, can you believe that? This has not been the typical May in the Sonoran Desert. I almost wished I had brought my wind vest and knee warmers at a few spots.
I pulled into Superior sometime after seven and got my receipt at the Circle K. I had an hour in the bank for the next section. We had the climb up to the end of the world and then all the glorious dirty fun of the Florence Kelvin Hwy.
It was a beautiful morning east of Superior. The birds were chirping, traffic was light, the temps were cool, all was right with the world. Of course there was that 10% grade before the long downhill. I confess I walked part of it. I was determined not to blow myself up before getting to Lord Kelvin's piece of work down below with multiple 10-15% grades.
When I finally got to the bottom of the big hill (drops 2000 feet in 8 miles with several 10% sections), It was time to take my piece of the Florence Kelvin Hwy. The town of Kelvin was as bustling as ever, with a dog barking as the only sign of life. Below Kelvin the Gila river was flowing pretty good. I stopped for a picture and stared at the daunting task of the next mile which looked like a wall at the end of the bridge. It's a nice stretch of 15% grade. What was it with these miners/stagecoach roads and their love of steep grades? At least the first bit was paved. I have to feel for those poor horses of yesteryear.
|Me and the Gila River at Kelvin|
At the top of the hill and the end of the pavement I stopped to pull a little trick an old mystic medicine man taught me.... lower the pressure in your tires for dirt for better control. Having 28 c tires on the Coy Mistress meant I could go down to 70 lbs without fear of pinch flats and I must admit it was a nice ride. Nicer in fact than when I rode this stretch on my commuter bike awhile back. The vibration absorbing technology in my carbon frame and the large tires made for an awesome combination for absorbing washboards and other dirt road fun. The 28c's were a close fit but I had about an 1/8th of an inch clearance and knowing I had an Aluminum crown on the fork I was good.
After the first hill, you scrub off all that elevation you climbed and go right back down to the Gila. You don't get a chance to look at the Gila of course thanks to the Diamond Ranch and their private property but you lost all your hard earned elevation nonetheless. Descents on dirt are slower on a road bike by nature, at least the nature of not wanting to biff it and comb rocks out of your skin. It's tough to make up your time on the descents.
From the Diamond Ranch there is a 5 mile climb that rises around 1400' and has multiple sections of 7-10% grades. Being on dirt makes this a little harder even. The country you climb through though, is beautiful and you can see mountain after mountain behind you rolling out as you get further up the grade. The road seems to go on forever as I work my way back and forth across the road seeking out the parts with the most firm surface.
The really beautiful part of the Florence Kelvin highway is the traffic, or lack thereof. I think I saw a car ever 20-30 minutes or so. Of course this adds to a sense of the remoteness. I was glad for the collapsible water bottle I'd filled in Superior and lugged in my giant seat bag of holding. I was also glad for the cooler temps. This climb would be an absolute beast in the heat and the likelyhood of running out of water before reaching Florence would be high. Even with an extra bottle.
|Stopped to take a picture on the big climb|
At the pavement I re-inflated my tires and headed off for the long headwindy stretch to Florence. The first bit of pavement was almost rougher than the dirt humorously enough. I would play tag with a large truck pulling a trailer and another pulling a tricked out Jeep. Tthey had to stop and add some gas at one point so I passed them again.
The stretch down into Florence seems to take forever. Especially when one is hungry and there is a burger and fries waiting somewhere down there. I knew there was a McDonalds but if I stumbled on a Sonic perchance, I would be a happy man. I gotta have my Cherry milkshake.
I sat down for Lunch right around noon. There was a Sonic and I had a wonderful lunch but I should have got the single burger instead of the double. It would haunt me down the road an hour or so. Heading out into the farms North of Florence I got really sleepy and a little nauseous. I overdid lunch I think and perhaps I was just a touch behind on water. The water issue I could deal with, the other I would have to ride out.
This section used to have a lot more farms but Anthem and the lads decided it was just the place to put a master planned community. Of course the master's didn't plan on a housing bust. Anthem seemed to still be in business but the lads to the North lost their shirts. There are whole neighborhoods fenced off with streets and streetlights, parks with play equipment, but no houses. Ghosts that stand as a reminder of the housing bust. I could never figure how these neighborhoods so far from any jobs could ever succeed anyway with the price of gas being what it is. If I went rural, at a minimum, I would not want a homeowners association.
It seemed to take forever to get to the Gantzel market. When I did I was please to note I had several hours until the control closed. The headwinds had really taken their toll on me and I admit I really wanted the ride to be over at this point. Still, there were only 20 pretty flat miles left so off I went into the traffic and monotony of south Ironwood road. This course is 80% awesome. This last part of course is the miles you need to get back to the car after experiencing the awesome and of course is the price you pay at the end of a long day. Still, it is not without it's scenery as you once more approach the Superstitions and tired legs turn on to Baseline road and lead you back into Mesa from whence we started so much earlier in the morning just before dawn.
I would finish 11 hours after I started. 10 hours on the bike and 5296 feet of climbing and 140 miles on the odometer. Tough but beautiful day and another one of my unridden permanents knocked off.