Friday, July 29, 2011

Life Amid the Red Rocks

Buttes behind Red Rock State Park
Went on vacation this week with the family and of course that meant taking the Coy Mistress along for those escapades at dawn when no one is awake.  Many of the roads in the vicinity of Cornville, Az where our timeshare was are zero shoulder roads but many were rideable and quite beautiful.

Cathedral Rock near Red Rock State Park
I only really had 2 objectives to do this week and that was to ride to Sedona and also to climb Mingus Mtn. .   I ended up forgetting my helmet, gloves, and cycling cap but since I brought the family's cycling gear along I had an extra helmet I could use.  On the first day I forgot to bring water on my way out so it was pretty critical I make it to Sedona so I could buy water and calories of some sort.  The morning was beautiful and I didn't sweat too much on the way up so it worked.

Red Rocks near Red Rock State Park
Most of the Journey from Cottonwood/Cornville up to Sedona is rolling fields of green mesquite and catclaw but nearing town you enter a land of red buttes and Canyon walls.  Many come from far and wide to see the rocks or if they are particularly wealthy,  move in.  I only had one behave stereotypical at me and honk and tell me to get off the road.  I waved at him as he spead off.

Oak Creek below Red Rock State Park
I opted to ride the Red Rock Loop on the way home to see what Red Rock State Park was all about having never visited.  I had been to Red Rock Crossing a lot but never downstream to the park.  Having only about a half mile of paved roads it wasn't much for a road biker of course.  I did get about a mile of dirt in before I got to the park as the Loop is not entirely paved.  I purchased entry into the park when I got there so the Fam could come back later and see it.

Sign says it's open 24 hours!
On Thursday I had decided to climb Mingus Mt.   I was going to do it with the local group that does it on Thursdays but through emails I found out no one would likely be there so owing to insomnia and waking up full of racing thoughts and angst (hate it when that happens),  I decided the Coy Mistress and I would work all this out on a 3000' climb an hour earlier.  The Coy Mistress is a good therapist.  Earlier also meant less traffic which is good since there is no shoulder going up the narrow winding road through Jerome and up the mountain.
Curves, Mountain grades sign on the way into Jerome city limits.
I've always wanted to climb Mingus mountain since it is one of the larger climbs in the state.  Add to the fact there is an awesome city built on the steepest part of the climb and you have a fantastic ride.  I found myself climbing most of the way through Cottonwood in the hour before sunrise and occasionally would be passed by a cement truck or a work truck speeding busily on to the days work.  Temps were in the mid 70's and it was as near a perfect morning as you can get.   Working my way through the Cottonwood and Sycamore trees was beautiful but soon I was working my way up the dry climb to Jerome.

Corner just before entering Jerome proper.
Jerome is an interesting town.  It clings to the side of a steep hill.  It clings hard.  In fact,  it's so clingy that despite the mines having shutdown 60 years ago it is still there.  It prides itself as a ghost town and as a tourist destination being full of shops and boutiques, and mining Museums.  Theres a state park there too which I'd visit later with the family.

Highway leaving Jerome and climbing into the hills.
The funny thing about Jerome is you go from a nice 7% grade heading into town, to a 10% grade through town.  If you walk,  then you walk in plain site of all the people who might be out at 6:00 in the morning.  I did not have to walk.  Although if I did there was only 1 guy out sweeping or something like that.

The climb up Mingus from Jerome was a beautiful climb without too much traffic. There were spots that were 62 degrees and of course it is always nice to get up to the pine trees. I was surprised that the steepest part was actually inside of Jerome.

Every tall hill has at least one fake top that is REALLY convincing as you see it ahead for a mile or two before you hit it. Of course, the fake top is usually within a mile or two of the top, This climb was no different. Once I was finally at the top though it was nice to see the sign saying I was over 7000 feet and a nice picnic area which I would later bring the family up to for a cool lunchtime picnic.

I ended up getting back at 9 or so. Not too bad for a big climb and a ton of scenery. I can see why the local folks climb it once a week


Now, I hurried on this blog post because I need to get it posted before I get Saturday's ride done. Saturday, the two Mikes (Sturgill and Enfield) and I will be riding the Dirty Mogollon Mormon Madness 200k. Those of you who have followed my blog for awhile know that this is a special ride. This year I hope to have my helmet cam and a better still camera along. The scenery is epic, the roads are epic, the elevation is challenging, and it looks like we might have thunderstorms. It promises to be a challenging yet rewarding ride. We will see.
You can get anything you want here I understand.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Three Hill Tandemania

Who is the youngest rider in RUSA?  I'm not sure but I think Joseph is close (his brother is 2 months younger so he's at least #2).  Not having completed a 200k he is not an official Randonneur of course but as of yesterday,  he has results recorded in the annals of RUSA.

A few months back I determined that although the R12 was a bit of a stretch for this time in my busy life as a father of 4,  the P4 was absolutely doable due to the fact that many of my Saturday rides are over 62 miles.  With the advent of the shorter 100k rides and my determination to keep up the younger three children's interest in cycling, I signed Joseph and Josh up in RUSA owing to the fact only RUSA members can ride permanents or ride with someone riding a permanent.

Originally I had my doubts about being able to ride the whole way and keep over a 10 mph average with a kid on the back.  In the end,  despite complaints about sore backsides, we made it with an hour and a half to spare even with the heat rising.

5 am is pretty early for a 9 year old but Joe was eager to go.  We couldn't find his bike shorts (need to order some more before we do this again) so he wore normal shorts.  5:20 found us at the store and getting some donuts for our receipt.  The first ten miles are all uphill so you have to work a little to beat the clock but we made it with 15 minutes to spare and were on our way back down where we discovered we would have headwinds out of the south.

Heading east to the Superstitions we ran into the Two Wheel Jones group watering up.  I chatted with one of them and mentioned Joseph was going to ride for the junior team this year and he said it looks like they might have 40 kids and a real coach this year.  That's psycho.  I think a little structured training will be good for the boys.  Their average speed has been increasing lately but on some things they need a second person giving them the advice for it to sink in.

Turning south Joseph wasn't sure about things and wanted to head home but I convinced him to keep at it and this morning and even yesterday at the end he was glad he did.   I wonder sometimes how much of the headwinds he feels on the back of the tandem.  Up front they are annoying but the wind gusts don't slow you as much on a tandem due to shear weight.  He was contributing but not a whole lot at this point.  We managed to hold 15 -19 most of the way across the valley down to the San Tans.  I went ahead and turned music on on my phone for Joseph as the section down Ironwood gets a little tedious except for the motorcycle track where folks were out jumping and racing much to the delight of Joe.

Pushing back through the hills to San Tan park was difficult for Joe and his backside was really hurting but I promised a long stop since it was the last control and it would be good to stop and sip some cool water. I must say I was starting to feel it a bit in hear.  It's one thing to ride a 100k but it is an entirely different thing to ride 100k with an 81 lbs 9 year old on the back.  By the time we were heading into the final stretches of Ellsworth I was feeling it and felt like I easily had 100 miles in my legs.  I must make a note that it is possible to get satisfactory training in and spend time with the kids at this point.  Just have to be careful not to burn them out.  I think I'll wait another year before stepping them up to 200k.   We'll let them do the full Tour de Tucson first.

After finishing of course, there is nothing like a big cup of frozen custard to get the body recovering.  There are not too many times when it is safe to do the custard thing but after a ride of 5 hours or more I have no qualms and must admit it is a powerful motivator for me.  We ended up doing 112k with a moving average of 14.3 mph and over 1200 feet of climbing.  Not too shabby for a guy and a 9 year old I think.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Some things can't be shared.


Lightning striking and playing among the clouds at night for one, is something that cannot be shared.  A camera might catch a piece of it but the full experience must be witnessed to be realized to it's fullest.  So too is the first rainstorm in the desert.  The smells cannot be duplicated,  the sounds of your tire splashing the water as you ride through the gathering torrent,  the silhouettes of Saguaro's flashing in the lights of the midnight storm, none of this can ever be recreated but is a piece of a moment.

Occasionally life's wonderful moments coincide and create an evening like tonight.  After the storm had finished showing off it's big haboobs the time had come for me to set out for my evening ride (didn't get a morning one as I took the kids out for a ride with them).  I thought it might just be  bunch of dry lightening but sure enough after a bunch of crazy winds the rain started about halfway up the hill as I reached the edge of the city lights.

What a cool opportunity to be out in the first rain of the monsoon on a bike climbing Usery pass with lightning flashing all across the valley and occasionally up on the mountain.  Also cool was the descent and the rain stopping but leaving the temperature at a nice 74 degrees.  I'll take 74 over 95 any night.  I could hear the wind rustling the creosote and saguaros after I turned around and started my repeats of the backside.  Lightning would flash over four peaks and over the top of the pass and out in Fountain hills about every 10 -15 seconds.  It was truly a great night for climbing and enjoying one of the few Summer nights that was absolutely pleasant.

On my way home I would come up to the top of Las Sendas and way out over South Mountain the giant moon was setting behind a curtain of rain from a distant storm.  It was a very sublime moment and I stopped and leaned over and rested on the aero bars and just soaked it in for a few minutes.

Adela at the river.
Here are some pictures from earlier in the day when I took the kids out on a ride to the Salt river along the Bush highway.  

Boys waiting for Dad.
It was well over 100 degrees by the time we were back to the car.  Fortunately the river was cold and we had a good soak before we got back on the bikes to head back.

Is it time for ice cream now?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Two Rides, Cool and Hot

The Layton Train
So I slept in Saturday, to 6 am.  I decided since I was planning on going long on Monday I'd take the kids out  and then do a Usery loop after that.  It's amazing how more excited kids are to go riding early in the morning if they went to bed before 10 pm.  Lately I've been trying to get them to up their pace a bit by offering them a shake every time they notch the average speed up 1 mph.  Wednesday they hit the 11 mph mark and today they did 12.2.  Of course it was pretty flat but still....

Happy Stoker
So the destination was Freestone park.  For some reason the kids like the rides to the parks even if they don't have a lot of time to play.  They haven't been too hip on doing usery loops lately but then again they haven't ridden a lot lately so flat and to the park it is.

Yeah,  I eat 18 mile rides for breakfast
I had orginally thought we wouldn't be back until after 9 so when the kids got back just after 8:30 I was surprised and glad I might have a chance at doing the loop before it got too hot.  Ha.  Although there was wispy clound cover in Mesa, Usery Pass was in full sun and the temperature was a lot higher up there and on the other side.  Usually it is the opposite.  There were a few people ahead of me but it was the time of diminishing returns and most cyclists were heading in to call it a day.  Can't say I blamed them.  I was suffering a bit heading down the Bush Hwy and almost stopped at Granite Reef to get in the river to cool down.  I made it though,  but I was pushing it.

Dad pays the piper after the kids ride.  115 degrees on the bike computer.  It was probably around 105 on the backside.