Sunday, November 18, 2012

Royal Arch Route

Ok,  this is not technically cycling related but it does fit into the "Wanderer/Adventure"  side of Randonneuring.  This is the record of my trip around the Royal Arch Route in the Grand Canyon a few weeks back.

View from South Bass Trailhead.

Here is a brief (well ok, not so brief) report of my trip in the Grand Canyon via the Royal Arch Route.

I've had my eyes set on the Royal Arch Route for a long time. Since I was 14 actually, when I learned there was a trail in the Grand Canyon with a rappell on it. I use the word trail loosely here. There is a footpath much of the way but easy walking it is not. Last year I spent 3 rainy and snowy days in the canyon with two friends and upon learning that they would like to do another backpack trip in the canyon after that was over, well, I thought perhaps, here are two hardy fellows who wouldn't laugh me to scorn if I suggested the Royal Arch Route. They didn't, and were even enthusuastic. I realize of course that introducing two guys to canyon hiking with first, a long trip across the tonto from Grandview trail to the Kaibab trail, and then dumping them into the Royal Arch Route might not be the standard way of getting people into canyon hiking, but hey, I had waited a long time and I knew their pain tolerance was high from the first trip so it was a go!
Tues the 23rd of Oct.

We met at Jamie's house after a flurry of last minute preparation which I thought I had already taken care of. Our 5 PM departure turned into a just before 7 departure. Still, 7 PM is a lot earlier than when we left last year. We had a long way to go. I should break in here with a list of who our band consisted of. Originally we were going to number five but a few nervous wives dropped the number to three. Quite frankly it's probably not necessarily a bad thing for one of those. This was a gruelling trip. Very rewarding, but gruelling and the three of us were in pretty good shape.
Not much was open in Flagstaff at 10 PM so we snacked at Sonic and stopped for gas along Fort Valley road where we would get one of the 2 theme songs for the trip stuck in our heads. Yes, we had Bob Dylan's, "Lay Lady Lay" etched into the grey matter as the last song we heard before embarking on a 4 day Backpack trip. Dan, also got us going with Disco Inferno which he had stuck in his head most of the time as well.

I had always heard it was tough to navigate to the South Bass trailhead but honestly, if you don't muck about with entering the park and just take a left on the dirt road before the park entrance, the road takes you straight there (just about, maps are still your friend though) with a right turn made a mile or two after entering the Havasupai Indian reservation. We got to the trailhead between 1:30 and 2:00 AM with 1 truck in the lot and decided to take a "Nap" before we started the day's hike.
Wed. 24th of Oct.

Absolutely Gorgeous day. Sun was up, sky was blue. Highs in the 60's lows in upper 40's. No complaints to the weatherman this trip. Had a breakfast of Pop Tarts and then got all packed up and ready. We were on the trail before 8 and in not too long were down at the well marked trail split. The South Bass trail may not have signage like some of the other backcountry trails I have hiked but folks have setup rock paths and Cairns well to mark the junctions of the Tonto and the Apache/Royal Arch route.

Dan traversing the Esplanade.

After Caching a gallon of water (very glad we did that) I put my map in my pocket (had read lots of accounts of folks getting lost as they didn't read their map) and we started our stroll across the easy portion of the esplanade. The trail would be pretty smooth and pleasant for a canyon or two but as we approached the canyon before Montezuma point my fears of a scramble were realized as the flat portion of the Esplanade gave way to the "walk across a landslide" portion of the Esplanade. The last canyon would take us as long to cross as the previous two and then some. There were several places where we momentarily lost the trail but we never got more than 20 - 30 feet from it or burned more than a minute or two before getting back on. This section was just tediously long. The goal was to eat lunch at the east arm of Royal Arch Creek at Noon and we missed that a bit.

We made good time after rounding Montezuma point mind you, we just happened to have fatigued a bit crossing that last canyon. We had fairly nice walking back to the creek intersection but despite our best efforts it was closer to 1:30 when we got there for a well deserved lunch. Lunch made me aware that my knees were getting annoyed with me. All this scrambling was starting to cause pings of pain in my knee so I would baby it for the next bit as we hopped down the ledges of Royal Arch creek. There were side trails that meandered all over the left side of the creek to bypass a few pour offs but we opted right and got to get our hands dirty with a little scrambling and one spot where I had to take my backpack off (the front guy always has it tough as there is no one to spot him).

Dan walking down Royal Arch Creek.

We passed pools of water in the sandstone periodically which gave me reassurance. In hindsight we should have filled up at one of them but oh well, hindsight is what it is. It was a rather nice combination of walking interrupted periodically by fairly easy scrambles down pouroffs until we in late afternoon arrived at the "Impassable Pouroff" the NPS talks about in their leaflet. A lady at REI had told Dan when they went down a few weeks previously that despite their best scouting efforts they could not find the route on the right that bypassed the scary Ledge on the left. I knew that the secret was looking for the cairns 50 or 60 yards upstream from the pouroff and they were easily spotted and we got onto the easy (er) bypass on the right without so much as a pause and quickly climbed up to the next band of cliffs and arrived at the familiar "Rabbit hole" I had seen in pictures.

Dan coming through the "rabbit hole"

We passed packs through the rabbit hole and after I accidently stepped on/bent Dan's hiking pole and a quick photo op of me on the ledge (the bypass ledge, not the tippy toe one), we were off to hunt for the cairns that led you down to the bottom of the canyon. These were a bit tricky to spot but since I was looking for them we didn't miss them but if I hadn't been on the watch, it would not have looked like a way you could get down if you didn't see the little cairns.

Dan and Jamie sitting down canyon of the rabbit hole.

There is a shoulder height drop or two to a largish ledge and then a short walk back under the cliff and you then find yourself looking down a cool looking crack that takes you most of the rest of the way through the cliff band with one or two more shoulder height drops down to the talus slope, none of this is visible from above on the rabbit hole ledge though so watch for those cairns!

Paul standing on the Sissy ledge just past the Rabbit hole.

It's pretty straightforward following the cairns to the canyon floor from there.
The sun cast it's shadow on us as I waited for the others to get down and we would spend the rest of the afternoon in the deep shade of the redwall narrows of Royal Arch Creek. Somewhere in here the walk turned into a death march. This canyon went on forever! I swear it seemed like it was twice the listed mileage as we meandered through the canyon narrows scrambling over endless boulders and rocks, downclimbing periodic 20-30 ft high dry falls. Wondering what we would do for water. We did pass a fetid pool or two but the others weren't willing to drink it and we pushed on hoping to see the cairns that marked where the route left the creek so we could setup camp. Just as dusk was starting to get serious we found a spot which coincidentally was that last camping spot before those cairns but we did not know it until we had dropped the packs and I looked ahead and saw a trail up on the canyon wall on the right a few hundred yards down canyon.

Jamie in the "Crack"  below the sissy ledge.

Since we had enough water to make dinner I suggested we get water in the morning on the way to the arch and then eat breakfast when we got back from the Arch. This was agreed upon with very little dissent as everyone was footsore and just wanted to climb into bed and lie in misery after consuming a quick meal.

Dan descending a waterfall in the Redwall Narrows of Royal Arch Creek.

Among the boulders there were patches of sand large enough for a sleeping bag or two here and there so we were seperated by 5-10 feet and Dan managed to find a tent sized patch over a largish boulder and down 10ft from where I was at. I was able to hang my hammock off a boulder and my walking sticks.
It was a gorgeous night. The few times I woke up I just stared at the brilliant stars until I could get sleepy again. Within the band of sky visible between the tall canyon walls (after the moon set of course) I could see 6 of the Pleaides quite clearly as well as make out the orion nebula as I rocked gently in the evening breeze in my hammock.

Thurs 25th October

We managed to get behind on our schedule on Thursday. Of course, this trip was slower going than originally expected but I had confidence we could still finish it in the 4 days alloted. First order of business was of course water. I scarfed a pop tart and each of us gingerly made our way down the canyon to water and not too far further, Royal Arch itself.
Being semi-fresh after a 11-12 hour sleep, the morning's hike did seem to go a little faster than the previous evening's death march. We very thankfully did hit the spring that feeds Elves Chasm at around 45 minutes of walking down canyon. We sat down and filtered and drank, and filtered and drank some more, and filled all the bottles full of water.

Dan and Jamie in Royal Arch Creek just below the spring.

The Arch of course was magnificent but I can see how people could walk right under it and not see it as the best view is from down canyon where things open up a bit and let you get a nice view of it. It towers over head and right next to it is a massive monument which has the unfortunate conincedence of being located next to the largest arch in the Grand Canyon so it really doesn't get any of it's own top billing though it is a rather impressive spectacle itself. The area from the spring down to the arch/natural bridge is one of the most beautiful stretches of the trip. Theres just something relaxing and energizing about gurgling water and creekside foliage and hanging gardens.

Monument below Royal Arch

Oh, I forgot to mention, scrambling over boulders in this section I split 1 of my two pairs of pants on this trip wide open. Yes, the long hours of sliding down boulders on my butt on day 1 had taken it's toll on my backpacking pants. I was happy Dan decided to go pickup his sewing kit before we left when I asked him about it (mental note to self, toss a sewing kit in the backpack). Fortunately, there was not a soul in this part of the canyon. We would actually not see anyone until day 3 and that was a few souls from a river party.

Dan and Jamie under Royal Arch

At camp I heated up my scrambled eggs and thoroughly enjoyed them. By the time all was said and done we didn't get out of camp until around 11. Garnet canyon was pretty much a no go at that point and we decided we'd just camp at Toltec beach below the rappell. That would take a lot of stress off of day 2 and allow us some recovery sort of.
Climbing out of Royal Arch Creek was interesting. THere was quite a bit of exposure, which we were not new to of course, having completed day 1. The path wandered among rocks and slopes on a ledge high up on the canyon wall as it worked it's way over to a slope above the tapeats by Elves Chasm. When out on the slope, after getting out into the sun we almost stepped on a Rattlesnake which warned us he was there and then quickly moved off into the brush. Glad I didn't step on him. He was about 4 feet long and a pretty impressive looking snake.


We hit the rappell later in the afternoon and took our time negotiating it. I made everyone wear a backup chest coil belay, using the rope we had brought, in case the primary rope or harness failed. This worked pretty good. It was a bit of a safety ninny measure I'll allow but this would be a very bad place for an accident. Not a lot of rescue options.
We had a few more shoulder height drops to get down to the talus slope from the base of the rappell and then we were on our way to the bottom. Dan lagged in here for some reason which I can't remember. Jamie and I cruised on down to the beach and dropped the packs and started getting lunch out.
After a late lunch we hung the food up and decided we would make a go of seeing Elves Chasm before dark as it was 4 PM and a 1.5 mile walk to the Chasm. 1.5 miles of scrambling mind you, not normal walking. We ended up doing it in aound 50 minutes there and pretty much the same on the way back. It was interesting walking in places where bits of the vishnu Schist and Zoraster Granite popped up into the strata to make things interesting and add variety to the journey and give you a break from the sharp rocks that were otherwise the norm.

Waterfall in Elves Chasm

Elves is in the top 10 of prettiest places I have been. Partly because it is such a chore to get there which makes for a ready soul once one arrives. The pink rock and the hanging gardens next to the cascading waterfalls and travertine is just beautiful and to see it in the early evening was just a perfect time of day for it. The pools were tinted turquise and reminded me a little of havasupai. I tried to wade in past my knees but the water was frigid. I managed to snap a nice picture of it before we headed back to camp.
Back at camp dark set pretty quickly but we had a much better evening as everyone was not at the point of collapse this night and good conversation and sewing projects ensued. We also discovered the mice of the beach were not very timid and had no qualms about searching packs while being watched. Fortunately we hung the food up. Unfortunately the branch of the tamarisk bush holding my food snapped during the night and the mice would get a a good portion of my wheat tortilla's. Still there was plently left after I ripped off the part the mice had got and stored the unspoiled portion in another ziplock baggie.
It was another beautiful starfilled night in the hammock by the colorado. So glad I didn't leave the hammock behind on this trip. Between boulders and my Walking sticks I really didn't need any trees and not having to sleep on the ground was very nice for an aching body.

Hiking poles and a boulder make great hammock anchors.

Fri 26th Oct

The hopes of finally getting to a trail that offered some semblence of a walking surface was a big motivator on Friday. We got off fairly early so as to keep options open, and we would need them. In the section between Toltec and Garnet (which seemed to take forever) we ran into a few river runners that had hiked up to the trail to check out a rock with fossils on it sitting by a salt encrusted pool of water. We didn't stop long. I had hung some of the underwear I had washed that morning on my pack to dry and had I been thinking about it I would have stowed it before we got to this spot. People probably thought I was weird.

Anyway, we wandered along above the river on the small footpath that went around and over every large boulder in the way, and slowly climbed up to the base of the Tapeats by the time we finally got to Garnet canyon. There wasn't much in Garnet. I'm kind of glad we camped at Toltec. in fact, were I to do it again I think I would do it the same way.

The climb up onto the Tonto was interesting as we climbed the shoulder high ledges just at the top of the cliff layer that had to be conquered to gain the tonto Platform. Once on the platform we did in fact have a trail which gave us some mighty fine walking. No more scrambling over boulders and such, mostly nice walking with a few spots of exposure for good measure.

Dan and Jamie at the extreme west end of the Tonto above Garnet Canyon

I remembered folks tend to mistake other canyons the tonto meanders through for Copper canyon before getting to it so we did not fall for that. We were looking for pools of water as we had decided not to hike down to the Colorado for that night's camp and in fact were even considering Copper Canyon. We found a pool but the filter which we had broken that morning was unfixable and we decided to move on to something without mosquito larva in it.
We hit Copper Canyon about an hour before dark and one went upstream and two of us went down in the search for waterpockets. I took my bottles plus 2 garbage bags and about 30 minutes down the creek at the edge of the inner Gorge I found a nice set of pools with good size frogs in them. I filled my bottles and scooped 3 or 4 gallons of beautiful brown water into my garbage bags and was just getting ready to head back when Jamie found me. Since he was quite a bit more spry at this point (he's a personal trainer) I let him carry the garbage bag.
We found a nice spot to camp just above the trail and setup for the night and I pigged out on everything resembling dinner in my pack, since it was the last night after all.

Incidentally, Dan didn't find any water upstream, but lots of copper/turquisish colored rocks he tells us.
That night I got to use a combination of a boulder and a tree and the walking poles to hang the hammoc and it worked pretty good. The foam pad I put under me sure kept me nice and warm. Another night of brilliant stars after the moon sunk behind the redwall.

Sat 27th
Final day in the canyon. Beautiful morning. All we had to do was walk out of Copper canyon and up the South Bass, sounds easy no? In all fairness, compared to the preceding days, the last day was a walk in the park by every definition of the word, pun intended.
Tonto was good walking back to the South Bass trail and the South Bass was wonderful. Temps were absolutely perfect and the shade in Bass Canyon was much appreciated when we got there. Our goal was to eat lunch at the water cache on the Esplanade.
We spent the remainder of the morning working our way up through the redwall. In the redwall we ran into the only other people we would see in the four days. A group of hikers that originally were going to do the Royal Arch route but due to car issues had to alter their plan and were heading towards Copper Canyon that night and were appreciative of our news of water down canyon.

Good conversation was had most of the way up. Dan fell behind a bit in the last section but we waited for him where the trail topped the Esplanade and once we were all back together made short work of returning to the point we had been 3 days earlier stashing water. We hit it around 2.

I have to say the Peanut Butter, Jelly, and wheat tortillas (what was left of them) really hit the spot. Fresh water was nice too. Not that iodine water isn't the tastiest but cool clear water is always appreciated in the desert any time of year.
Dan said we could go ahead in the last section if we wanted to and Jamie and I managed to cover the last 1.7 miles in 45 minutes. Dan came trooping into the parking lot 30 minutes later. There were quite a few more vehicles in the lot this time around. After a bit of freshening up and stowing the gear we were off for Flagstaff and a giant dinner at La Fonda!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

2012 Cochise County Cycling classic.

Spaghetti Dinner before the ride at the Cochise County Fairgrounds,  Joe, Becky, and  Adela

This year's Cochise Classic was a mixed bag of experiences.  It's never fun getting a call while you are riding that your son is under the care of the EMT's with stomach aches and that he might have to quit the ride.   It's also not fun to be in a rush to make a bunch of deadlines like checking in and getting to the start line,  but sometimes life does crazy stuff to us and we have to do our best.   I suppose riding prepares us for such things.

Friday was originally planned to be a nice leisurely travel day down to Douglas, Az.   Perhaps stopping off to sight see in Tombstone.  Unfortunately Adela's birth brother recently was discovered to have a rare heart defect that was genetic and so,  wouldn't you know it,  the only day we could get Adela in for screening was our leisurely travel day.   As a result we didn't get to start our 4 hour drive to Douglas until 4 PM.  Nice.   Since registration closes at 9 that was cutting it close.  I had fears of no spaghetti dinner left for us.

Fortunately,  there was indeed spaghetti left and everyone was even able to get T-Shirts in their sizes sort of (not a lot of kids do Cochise so small adult sizes have to do).  We caught the tail end of the instructions for the 49 and 97 milers and were able to be entertained by the instructions for the 165 milers while we ate our delicious Spaghetti dinner.  I love Cochise.   This ride just has a much more homey feeling than either Tour de Mesa or El Tour de Tucson.  The kids enjoy it too and have grown quite fond of the PBAA staff.

The motel (6) was out of roll away beds (but they did give us half off our room rate to compensate) so I had to duck over to Walmart and purchase an air mattress and fleece sleeping bag liner so I could get some sort of sleep.  The kids had the giggles so it took them FOREVER to fall asleep.   This would put us behind in the morning as it took me forever to get them to wake up.   We still hadn't finished packing everything when we went out to watch the 97 milers cruise by which would have us cutting it pretty close to get to the start line by  8.

I discovered around now I had forgotten my bike shoes but fortunately I was wearing my biking sandals whose cleats are eggbeater cleats but with a little squirming I could get them to clip into the tandem's Time ATAC system.   Amazingly enough,  I told the kids to put their own numbers on their bikes and you know what?   They did it successfully!   So between them doing that and me pumping up the tires we were able to sidle up to the start line right as they started the national Anthem.

Temps at the start were just getting into the 50's when we started so I let Becky borrow my jacket.   I rode with her until we caught up to Joe and his flat tire and then she took off to find Josh.    I had Joe's flat fixed in a jiffy (no thanks to Josh who raided my tool bag in order to stock his own with my tire irons,  not a good thing seeing as I was bike patrol and he wasn't....  grumble grumble).

About 5 miles in I made the mistake of pointing out a water tower in the distance I thought was the first rest stop.    Thus,  by my own stupidity,  I started the "we have to go THAT far????", "When are we going to get there?",  "We'll never make it!",  etc,  etc.   I have a mental note made to never do that again.   Standard answer from now on will be,  "oh,  I think it's a little ways further on" which could mean anything from 2 to 100 miles.

Also around here I got the call from Sheila saying that the EMT's had Josh in their care and he was complaining of a stomach ache!   Augh!   I don't know if I have shared with you fair readers about my son,   but he seems to relish being treated by EMT's and has an uncanny knack for telling them what they want to hear.   Today he didn't feel like he could finish.   I'm pretty sure he went out too hard and overdid it a bit.   Anyway,   I pulled up in a few minutes and got briefed on the whole situation and found the EMT's had got him on oxygen but hadn't taken his heart rate yet.   I reached in and felt his pulse.   A very calm, resting heart rate of around 85 ish for the young lad.    It didn't strike me as being the heart rate of a body in duress.   So my decision was to put Josh on the back of the tandem for a few miles to let him recover and see how he did, while his younger sister pedaled his bike.   If he was still feeling unwell we'd call it quits and head back in.

Less than a mile or two down the road he was energetically mocking his brother that he was getting beat by a girl.   The heart rate seldom lies my friends.   Learned that one from the Seawolf although I hope I am a much more merciful and loving mentor than the terrible sea captain, but that is a neat trick which works well on Josh.   That kid has been to more emergency rooms lately when nothing turned out to be wrong with him. From this I have learned that cat scans and ambulance rides are expensive,  Josh can act really well sometimes,  and let the kid out of your sight only at your wallet's peril.  That being said, one of these times it could be real so I am always second guessing myself just in case.  This time though,  he recovered quickly from whatever he had, real or not and I am thankful for that.

By the time we hit the college he was ready to get back on his bike, and Adela,  who hates his bike,  was ready to get back in the lap of luxury on the back of the tandem.    One amazing thing was we actually caught a few of the border patrol crew at the stop.  I think it was a husband and wife or boyfriend girlfriend.   He was on a road bike and she was on a mountain bike and they were wearing border patrol jerseys.   He said later on (we'd play tag for the rest of the ride)  that this was only her 7th ride since she was 9.   She did awesome.

The boys took a little inspiring to get  to the next rest stop up at the top of a long hill but they started passing people and that helped a lot.  That and Sheila was on the side of the road periodically cheering them on.   Between those factors and a few "Scooby"  snacks they made it to the top just after 11.   I knew if they could make it this far they would finish before 1:30 which was the cutoff for the 49 mile riders.

Joe.   I love the kid but I wish he would learn how to not ride his brakes downhill.   I think he descends slower than he climbs.    I am sure he will get over it someday so I am patient but darn it makes for excruciating descents!   The border patrol couple left us in the dust in this section as they did not have any issues with fast descending and pedaled along at a wonderful clip.  The last guy even caught us just as we were leaving the rest stop at the bottom,   I think he stayed for awhile though as he finished about 20 minutes behind us.

The last 10 miles were a bit of a slog for the boys but after we turned onto  highway 191 the helpers there said Dan McGehee was on his way and would be passing us soon and that got the boys excited so they started pedaling hard.   Sure enough about a mile down the road Dan came roaring by and yelled words of encouragement to the boys.   The guy has been blasting the watts for nearly 7 hours over 160 miles averaging over 24 mph and he can still cheer on the little guys.  Dan's a class act my friends,  wish all racers were like him.

After that the boys got the border patrol couple in sight and passed them with about 2 miles left to the finish line.  It was funny to see the boys jockey for position down the closing stretch but in the end they crossed the line together at around twenty after one.  I'm a proud Dad.  Waiting patiently at the finish line was Becky.   She had finished an hour and 20 minutes earlier.   I knew she was ahead but I didn't think she'd be anywhere  close to that far ahead.  Her secret to success?  She didn't stop. Not once.  " Except when She fell down" she tells me.  Dang!   Don't get that girl mad fellas!

Cochise Classic Video

Monday, October 8, 2012

of Pulling Teeth, and Watching Them Grow

Well fair readers, I don't know how many of you will have any common ground to this post but then again, maybe you will, it is a post about struggles after all and that is at the essence of successful Randonneuring. Often times I feel like I fall into a small niche. Someone who would love to be a serious Randonneur or a fast cyclist but often finds his responsibilities as a father interfering with training and his ability to ride with others. My number of Brevets I can run have dropped and my number of rides with the kids has risen. Interestingly enough, the challenges remain although they differ in many ways.

Today's kids and tomorrows Randonneurs face a lot of challenges. They live in a world determined to make them Obese and as inactive as possible. Everything cool is aimed at keeping them firmly in their chair and out of the elements or anything active. Part of this is television/ipods/video games and part of it is perceived safety issues and part of it is real safety issues (let's face it, drivers aren't getting any smarter or safer). Add to this multiple school schedules seemingly designed to make it impossible to get a morning ride in and you have setup a number of challenges which could make an otherwise difficult task nearly impossible.

These are the demons I have fought the last 3 months or so. Want to see something scary? Try and get 4 sleepy kids out of bed before daylight so you can get a measly 5 mile ride in before the bus arrives to pick 2 of them up just before 7 am. The 2 that wouldn't otherwise have to wake up that early can be pretty vocal about fairness and how it should allow them to stay out of the whole affair. Many comments ensue about the unfair tyrant of a Dad who tries to prepare his kids so when the day comes for the ride he signed them up for they will not fail to complete the ride in under the 5 hours allotted for 49 miles. Frustration peaks many times after pumping up 10 tires and discovering how quickly the awakened have fallen to recidivism as the clock ticks and the zero hour speedily approaches, as well as any chance for a suitable workout.

I have to say, that training others I have endured more and harder challenges than trying to train myself. I can push myself to the brink without second guessing myself. If I fail to make a workout there is no one to blame but myself and the resentment is processed effectively without fear of damage to relationships or tender feelings. This is not true for trying to help another accomplish great things. One must coach at their pace and mental competence. I have developed a large capacity to suffer and work hard on the bike over the years and often it is difficult to work with kids that have many years ahead of them to learn these lessons and gain this kind of self control. Then there is the self doubt, have I pushed too hard? Have I not pushed hard enough? I fear the former more than the latter and probably err on that side.

Saturday is the ride (Cochise Country Cycling Classic 49 mile). This year it is 49 miles and after all the miles of training we opted to put my youngest on the back of the tandem, the plan is to let her still ride her own bike at El Tour though (42 miles). To be sure, I feel her contribution a lot more after all this training than in the past when she did all her training on the tandem with me as opposed to riding her own bike, Saturday was her first tandem training ride and we only did that as I wanted to iron out any tandem issues that might arise. I believe they will all finish under 5 hours. I believe that it will be a good day too. The boys are a lot more stable mentally this year, not to mention they ride faster as well. How much of that is riding with the Two Wheel Jones Juniors and how much of that is we have ridden more I don’t know but I think it’s a healthy mix of both. Maybe someday they will ask me to do the 165. A man can dream can’t he?

This year also marks the first organized ride my oldest has ridden in all on her own power. I finally got over feeling bad about neglecting taking her out on the bike for a few years while I tried to be a good rider. My wife told me that whether she wants to ride or not at this point I should just make her go as she needs it. So sign her up and make her go I did. She has been vocal at times, but as of late, she has been almost supportive and agreeable. Strange behavior this is, coming from a teenager. She even had several likes when she posted we had done a 35 mile ride on facebook. Maybe I’m not so overbearing after all, or maybe the bearing I am doing is good bearing.

Anyway, I’m excited to be taking the kids down to Cochise this week and ride bike patrol in support of them and any other riders in need. The day will come I am sure when they are off leading their own lives and I will have all the time in the world to train and try to be the best rider I can. Maybe even get to Paris one of these years to ride the Randonneur Super Bowl de France. They will always have these memories of riding with their Dad and how he would push them to accomplish things none of their friends did, and work with them and teach them not to take the easy way out but rather to strive and push and finish the ride and do their best to have fun come what may.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

High Country Brevet 2012

Yours Truly.

It has been a few years since I rode this ride.  2 years ago my Dad died a few weeks previous and I decided I needed to spend more time with the kids,  last year I decided that although that was a noble thought,  I needed my sanity rides too and was going to ride but someone else on my team beat me to requesting that Friday off and my boss had to deny me the day off.  This year,  with a fantastic new route planned I was not going to be naysayed come what may (say that last part five times fast!) and asked for the time off in January.    That's not to say that issues did not arise to make things difficult mind you.  I would not be pulling into Show Low after 11 o clock at night on a rainy night if that were the case.

Rainy nights cause one to reconsider his decision to camp out and save some money.   Reconsider his decision not to bring a tent instead of a hammock.   Reconsider the past......hmmmm,  nope can't change the past.   Future?  Well,   Walmart is open late in Show Low and a tarp to go over the hammock would help salvage at least some of a good night's sleep (although many would argue "some" of a good night sleep no longer qualify's to use the word  "good" in it and I suppose they are right).

Sooooo,  after 5 and a half hours of fitful sleep with the rain pitter patting all night on the tarp and occasional wind gusts splashing my face,  I stopped putting myself back to sleep and got up and off to the parking lot after a quick stop at Circle K for a pre-ride doughnut for a 15 minute late start.

Storms over the high prairie

The streets were wet but the rain had in fact let up shortly before I got to the start.   It was a rather lonely start but it always is at this event for me.   Lonely is good sometimes.   Lonely means no boss,  no Layton kid "Team"  bike mechanic duties.  No flat tires to change for feral kids that insist on riding in the gutter.  No chains to put back on sprockets.  No insescent  bickering.   Don't get me wrong,  I love my kids,  and my job's ok too but breaks like this are much appreciated and I am often too stupid to realize I am in need of them.

The clouds were still thick and the sun was  held at bay much of the day for me as I rode off out of Safeway.   I actually felt pretty good despite the poor training schedule I have.   I figured I'd ride at a moderate pace so as to not blow up before the big hill.   Vernon arrived surprisingly fast and wonder of wonders it was open.  I think they open early on weekdays and open late on weekends.   I bought some ibuprofen for my back and was off fairly quickly.   I knew there were going to be storms today and I'd prefer to at least be off the mountain before they started.

In a departure from years past the valley outside of Vernon was not filled with sunflowers but due to the fact there were cows in the field I think maybe they had become lunch at some point.    Traffic was moderate but not too bad.   I never got honked at or harassed.  It was just a beautiful morning to be out among the rolling green hills and further,  to be heading towards Springerville without so much of a breath of headwind like I had seen in years past.

Rolling into Springerville, the sun would come out for about an hour and a half.   Just enough to nudge the temps up into the 70's for my climb.    I topped everything off at the Circle K in Eager and then was off to the big hill of the day.    I did have to make a mental note in here to correct the cue sheet as I noticed the signs on the road did not match the map I used.    I was bound and determined to climb at a sustainable rate today and not blow up before the top of the hill.   In hindsight I probably could have pushed harder but oh well.   It was a nice climb of 2000 feet in 8 miles which was a little warm near the bottom but things cooled off once I got to the top and the sun went back behind the clouds where it would stay until I was rolling into Show Low.

Steve Atkins, Michael Atkins, Kevin Arps, and Carlton van Leuvan on the Saturday ride.

The ride across the rolling prairies and forests to big lake is beautiful as long as you are not the sort of person who becomes pre-occupied with irritations and pain.   Pain like having a bicycle forcibly rammed into your backside every 10 seconds.   Being easily distracted,  I thoroughly enjoyed the scenery,  and also due to a nearly complete lack of traffic,  I could ride like I owned the road out in the middle too and avoided a lot of the cracks that way.    Hopefully the Saturday folks were able to do a little of that too.

I made really good time across to Big Lake and was pleased to find I had a lot of energy despite having done quite a  bit of climbing already.   It was kind of funny heading back to the big lake store as you keep coming around corners and seeing the store but then find the road ducks back into another little valley instead of sending you straight there.   Of course the fact a lake is in the way might have something to do with that.

I basically just refilled on water at Big Lake and then was off as the clouds were getting really dark and foreboding.   I managed to ride ahead of the storm but did break out my jacket just past Crescent lake as I felt a few drops but it was off again in a few minutes.   The prairies and forests were gorgeous with the storms forming all around.   Of course the fact the pavement was nearly glass smooth also contributed greatly to the enjoyment in this section.

Michael Atkins, Steve Atkins (and Carlton though he is not visible)

I had decided I was not going to ride hard through the White Mountain section and just enjoy the ride.   Still I didn't make too bad a time even for being in smell the roses mode.   My Dad and I used to camp up here every summer and the memories came back in great quantities.  

Passing the Sunrise General store I noticed I was nearly down to one bottle left but seeing as I had only used 4 bottles on the whole trip so far I figured 1 would be enough to get me back if I mixed in more powder.    It seemed like the section between the store and the highway went really quick and I was soon descending the hill.   A few miles outside of McNary I had good reason to put my jacket back on as I was deluged with an extremely hard rain.   The bright side was all I had to do was to stick out my tongue to get a drink.  That storm lasted about 20 minutes at a really high intensity.  I was tempted to stop for fry bread in McNary just to get under one of their shelters but I pressed on.

The rain let up until the Casino where I would once again get thoroughly soaked.  I didn't mind though.  I mean I live in Mesa where it has been 115+  the last few weeks and rain on a 64 degree day felt really nice,  soggy socks and all.   Still,  by the time I got to Show Low the sun was peaking out and I had outrun the storm.   At least ridden out the side of it.

I felt really good at the end.   I even had enough energy to go swim a few laps at the Aquatic center after dinner so I could take advantage of their showers.   The swim felt really good.

Kevin Arps on Saturday ride

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dream ride.

Looking up at Mt. Graham from grocery store at bottom.
 So it has been a rough couple of weeks.  I've been working on a project that I can't figure out and everyone is on me to get it finished and wondering why I can't.   Well, 3 weeks of no day's off and working night and day do things to a chap so I broke down and determined I would take the 4th off.  I mean really  off.   Kids and everything.   I've always wanted to climb Mt. Graham and so at 4:30 am I was on my way out of town to do just that.  Couldn't have chosen a better morning either.

Glad I left my tandem at home.

Weather was cloudy all the way from Mesa to Safford but the sun was burning most of it off when I got on the bike at the highway junction.   Temp was a very muggy 79 degrees.   The plan was to be to higher elevations before it got really hot and then coast down but the sweat poured off me for the first 90 minutes or so because of the humidity.   Weird thing was it was brown/orangeish sweat.   Can't figure that out,  maybe it was the lighting.   The other annoying thing was gnats.   I had hundreds of gnats attaching themselves to me until I got up the hill a bit.

Entering the forest,  well, technically I guess.
 The hill gives you a nice warm up of 2 percent for a mile and then launches you into your first 5% pitch.   5% is about the easiest there is until the top.  Most of it is 7-9%  with a spot of 11%.

Hill climbing is a very therapeutic endeavor.  You don't need to concentrate on where you are going too much because your speed is slow.   It's just you,  your aching muscles, and the stress which quickly melts away the further you climb and the more accomplishment you develop.

Road construction.
The road was nearly deserted.  I think I only counted 2 or 3 civilian cars on the way up.   7 or 8 convoys of hot shot crews coming down but hardly anyone going up.

I must confess I was sweating so profusely it felt like rain on my legs for the first bit.  I took my helmet off for a bit and let it rest in my Aero-Bars.  As I climbed higher though the temps cooled down and I put my helmet back on.   

Nearing halfway I started to enter the cloud layer and had mists swirling around me.  When I got higher I had clouds racing up the mountain around me.  It was very cool in both senses of the word.

Around the cabins I saw some people but they didn't even wave at me.  One group at a cabin had a Utah license plate and that kind of made me laugh.  They drove all the way down here to get to country that probably wasn't that different from country up in the mountains above where they live.  Of course their mountains are not a sky island so I guess there is that.  Besides  who am I to judge?  I just drove 144 miles for a 40 mile ride.

Mists swirl all around me hurrying up the mountain to make a storm.
Passing the elevations signs is a huge ego boost.  To folks in cars they are "Well what do you know we are at 8000 feet kids isn't that amusing?".  But to a cyclists climbing a sky island its a "Flip yeah!  Boo ya!  Coo coo for Cocoa Puffs,  Tarzan/Captain Caveman yell"' type moment.
Nearing 9000 feet.
The scenery nearing the top is epic and even the townof Safford is barely a smudge on the vast expanse far below as seen in breaks in the mists.

9000 Feet.  Yay!
The 9000 feet sign was a welcome sign to me.  I'd felt strong until just over 8000 feet but was getting pretty fatigued by the time I hit 9.  The grades going up Graham are steeper than Lemon and the places to rest are very rare.  Temp was a chilly 57 degrees.

A roadie's best friends.
They picked kind of a ho hum place to end the pavement but I didn't really care.  It was nice to be to the top.  I did it.   In the bag.  I accomplished something.  Going down I almost biffed it on several switchbacks due to gravel and the love of speed but fortunately I saved it.  3 hours 29 minutes up and 54 minutes down.  This is my new favorite big climb.

Yours Truly.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Grand Canyon 300k

Yours Truly

It's been awhile since I have had such a challenging ride.   There was a lot of factors that added to the difficulty of this ride for me.  Due to having to go back to the house for a forgotten tire pump and a detour getting out of town and various other family issues I ended up with 3 hours of sleep Friday night and would end up hurrying out of the lot after the group as I saw them leaving the lot out of the corner of my eye at the start line.  I ended up forgetting my rearview mirror in the process but that would turn out to be the most minor of the inconveniences.

One reason I really wanted to do this ride was that I grew up in Flagstaff but was not a road cyclist when I lived there so I was looking forward to seeing the sights from a bicycle seat and cruising through the old haunts.  One big difference I noticed right off the bat is that the hills don't seem to be nearly as big as they did back when I wasn't in as good of shape.  The other thing that was apparent pretty quick is that everyone else was in better shape than me and I soon got dropped just before we got to Cheshire.

I rode aways behind a local for awhile but he turned to climb up to Snow Bowl so I was off into the woods all by myself.  I took notice that we had already climbed 450 feet before arriving at the city limits.  Perhaps the 9000' climbing estimate would be accurate after all.

The lowest temperature I found in the stretch just after the sun rose was 38 degrees.  Temps at the start were in the low 50's so I had left my jacket behind.  I ended up being fine othere than some frozen fingertips.

The morning was quite enjoyable.  Especially after the sun came up.   The ride through the pine and aspen forest was beautiful.  Kendrick park was pretty as well, in the early morning sun.  Theres a few more houses out in it these days but it's still far short of being covered with them.  The miles between Kendrick Park and Valle were quite nice and mostly downhill.  The only downside being the pavement was a bit spotty.  I didn't hit any potholes so all is well that ends well.

For me the Grand Canyon is forever tied to Fred Flinstone.  Fred is the symbol of the term "Tourist Trap"  for me.  I incessently asked my Dad to let us go in to the Flinststones but he would not,  always telling us it was a "Tourist Trap".   They must get some people in there though as they have been around as long as I can remember and at this point that amounts to 40 some odd years.

I ran into Kerin and Dan at the control where I bought some solid gold sunscreen,  at least it seemed like that is what it was after I saw the price.  For some reason Valle had higher prices than both the Grand Canyon stores and Cameron.  Must be Fred's influence I guess.

There was a tailwind most of the way up to the canyon and I would see 5 bicycle tourists loaded for bear in this stretch.  Temps were getting warmer and I would start to really feel two of my challenges in this stretch.   One was my stomache felt sick and the other one is the dry air was starting to kick my asthma off.   I slowed down a bit but I did see kerin and Dan leaving the General Store when I got to the canyon.

The stretch from the general store to Desert View is where things really went south for me.  My stomach hurt and I wasn't able to breathe.   My throat would dry out almost instantly and it felt like I was choking on phlegm and I would start coughing but it wouldn't do any good.   After some suffering I finally figured out if I breathed through my nose then my lungs and throat didn't dry out as fast but conversely I didn't have the air I needed to climb the hills.   Still, it's better to spin up the hills slowly than to not go up them at all. 

At Desert View I took awhile dealing with some results of the ongoing gastrointestinal issues and taking a few pictures.   All told I spent close to 40-45 minutes there.   

I've never been on the stretch of road from Desert View to Cameron before and I thoroughly enjoyed the scenery.  Part of this enjoyment might have been the tailwind,  and some of it might have been due to the fact it was almost all downhill.......  Na,  couldn't be.

I took a quick stop at the Little Colorado River Gorge scenic lookout.  The gorge is really impressive.  It is amazing how stark the rim is compared to the surrounding scenery.  The canyon is just a notch that interupts an otherwise unchanging landscape of plant covered sand dunes.

Just before Cameron the road angles east and in that stretch I started to notice the sand stinging slightly as it blew into me from the side.  That was not a good sign.

Kerin caught up to me just before Cameron and She elected to press on while I elected to stop at the gas station.  I was now riding in heat mode in addition to asthma mode.   I was taking it easier than normal,  I was stopping at every opportunity to top off on water.  I also was making it a point to pour any extra water on my jersey to give my body some free cooling.  I think all told my strategy worked for me.  It didn't get me back to town fast but it did eventually get me there.

It was so tedious climbing out of Cameron.   It was worse than the frontage road in many respects.  The peaks just sat in the distance for hours and hours and never seemed to get nearer.  It was like I was frozen in time.  Constantly pedaling at 7-8 mph into howling wind and never seeming to get anywhere.  I kept telling myself if you keep at it you will eventually get there.  The 2006 400k taught me that very important lesson.  If you just keep going you'll eventually get there.

 I ran into Pete in Grey Mountain.  He was sheltering from the heat.  I chatted with him for a bit and then made my way across the street to resupply and water down.   There was an older Navajo lady there that looked at me funny as I poured water over myself.   I suppose in some schools of thought it might be thought of as a waste of water.  In my mind, if there is not an issue with supply on the water side, a bottle of water poured on the jersey saves water in the long run and sure feels good as it cools the core down.

That would turn out to be the last open store before Flagstaff as Antelope hills was closed when I got to it.  I was a little concerned my fluids wouldn't last me.    Dan called it quits in here ( at least for this 7 mile section which was dangerous for bents due to the angled shoulder and rumble strip),  managing to flag down a fellow in a pickup towing a water tank to get a lift up to better shoulders.  The guy in the pickup made the comment that I had a long ways to go as I passed.  Thanks pal.  The winds blowing,  the legs are blown,  the stupid mountains won't get any closer,  and then I have a guy in a pickup telling me I have a long way to go.  I pressed on.

I found the big hill very intimidating as it seems like it took the car lights forever to get down it and finally get to me.   There had to be at least 4 miles of visibility or more.  I had very little enthusiasm in this stretch.  In all fairness I had lost enthusiasm shortly after Grey Mountain so I don't think that can be blamed on the guy in the truck.   I did yell at the wind a few times in here though.  I had expected it to wind down around sunset and it sure took it's sweet time doing so.

About a mile and a half from the top a truck pulled over and two guys got out.   It turned out to be Pete and the guy that picked him up.  They offered me a ride but I figured since the winds were starting to die down and I was almost up I would press on.   I did ask for water though and Pete gave me the rest of what he had,  which was much appreciated.  Very much appreciated.

Watching taillights go up the hill and then disappear around the corner at the top for 45 minutes was maddening but I eventually got there.   The downhill that followed was much appreciated but I no sooner entered Doney Park than the wind picked up again just as strong as ever,  from the same direction.   I must say it was not a very imaginative wind and I made it a point of telling him so very pointedly as I went into raving derelict mode for a few minutes.  I nearly regretted letting Pete and the man pass me up several times between here and town.   I hadn't exceeded my DNF qualifications (possible safety/life threatening situation) but I was pretty much blown and a comfy ride in a car was extremely tempting.

At this point my sleep deprivation and exhaustion was leading to some strange experiences.  I kept having really bad Deja Vu.   I think it was related to the fact I drive this stretch late at night peridically on family vacations and I kept thinking I had biked it before at night which I never had of course.   I kept thinking how quickly this stretched seemed to pass last time I rode it and how slow it seemed to be going now.

The trip through Flagstaff was interesting.  I saw a lot of cyclists out but for some reason none of them were wearing helmets.  I entered raving derelict mode again as a few extra strong gusts hit me.   Either the wind drowned me out or the officer across the street was more interested in writing a ticket than checking out an exhausted cyclist screaming into the wind.

Back in college I worked as a security guard on the night shift and so it was rather interesting to revisit areas I had to check on my job again in a sleep deprived state.   Particularly strong came the memories as I was passing through the Gore Campus on 4th street as I headed down to Butler,  I spent many a sleepless night at that facility.  The ride along Butler featured more as I passed many business which I had to check several times a night while on patrol at another security company.

Entering Brannen homes on Lone Tree I passed by what was my best friends house back when I was 12 and memories attack me like thugs in a back alley as I wind my way through the darkness to knoll something drive and on to the hotel.

The hotel is a lonely place.  I rode around the parking lot a few times but didn't see any sign of Ryan.  In all fairness it was 10:20 and no one had likely come in in several hours.   I packed up the bike and headed over to Del Taco soon to be followed by a short search along Lake Mary road for a nice spot to throw a sleeping bag and drift off into exhausted sleep.

This was a brutal ride for me starting at around 85 miles in and the last 50 or so were extremely brutal.  I'm probably dumb enough to do it again even if I knew I'd face all the same issues but I'm kind of a glutton for punishment sometimes and I tend to forget pain quickly.

Helmet cam video-

Sunday, April 8, 2012

24 hrs in the Batalion

The Batalion sans sleep deprivation
 Well,  first off let me say,  if your expecting an awesome tale of randonneurs attacking the world clad in Super Ninja Turtle pajama bottom's,  you need to check out the write up of the other team.  Although, having forgot my socks I did have one white ankle high and one green el Tour sock that I found on the car floor so i guess that was a bit adventurous.  The stores along our route did not have so much as a beanie when the cold night pulled it's punches.  However,  if you are here looking for a tale of studly gentlemen attired in matching dashing jerseys designed by some fashion genius,  then you have come to the right place.  Well, perhaps the fashion genius part is a bit of a stretch but we all did have matching jersey's to commemorate the occasion.

Incidentally,  before anyone gets on me about the spelling of battalion on the jerseys,  I used one of the flags of the original Mormon battalion  for art work and most of them weren't horribly well educated.  Our name was chosen mainly because Carlton pitched this originally to 3 Mormon's that he happened to know and hooked 2 of us.  I thought the selection of the name "Mormon Batalion"  for the team was catchy and signed on.  Now, before you point out the fact we had a 4 man team and I mentioned only 3,  being a bunch of Mormons (one of whom is a Bishop so no sneaky stuff was allowed from the other two), our team needed a designated drinker and someone to down coffee to keep us all awake and so Steve was brought on board.

Carlton, Steve, and Curt heading up 68th/College

The "Target"  for this Fleche/French Arrow was Boulder's in Tempe.  Our route was going to do a Robin Hood and bounce our arrow off a bunch of stuff in a loop before it hit the target unlike the other team which was going to shoot at it straight from the Grand Canyon.  Our team met at Boulder's.  By the time we got our receipts and collected together it was 11 and we were officially behind schedule.   On the other hand, we had chosen the minimum distance because I haven't done anything longer than a 200k this year and most of my rides before this were in the 40 mile range.  So assuming we didn't have too many issues and rode at any sort of a comfortable speed,  we had plenty of time.  Even so with the city traffic and lights and such we got to the first control a little closer to the closing time than we would have liked.

Curt and amusing roadside decor courtesy creative roadside landowner mad at the the city of Scottsdale.
 We had a really nice ride up through Scottsdale.  I don't know if it was the fact we had the word "Batalion" on our backs or something else but drivers were in general a lot less vocal than most.  We were stretched out for about 1/4 mile heading up among the buttes around pinnacle peak.   We took our first stop at the store at the top of 9 mile hill and I downed a fresa popsicle and some smart water and we were off for a nice jaunt through Fountain Hills.

Your's truly and Curt heading up to Pinnacle Peak
 Denny's was our control.  From hearing Carlton talk,  it sounds like Denny's is a popular stopping spot on Fleche's.  It's probably the 24 hr nature of the place.  Although, it might be that 5 star dining too,  one can never be too sure.  Anyway, the guys refueled on clam chowder and I had a bit of eggs, hashbrowns and pancakes (I'm not a big seafood fan).

Carlton and Steave in Fountain Hills
 The headwind we had through Fountain Hills was a tailwind on the Beeline and we had a nice ride up one of the last hills of the ride.  It was a beautiful day to be on a bike.  As always the Bush Highway was beautiful heading out past Saguaro lake and all the picturesque cliffs along the Salt River.  Curt started to struggle a bit in this section between the rollers and the backside of Usery pass.  Steve and I hung together heading to the top of the pass and waited for the other two to come up.

Heading out to the Beeline
 After watering up at the visitor's center at Usery Park we headed out across the east valley to the Superstitions where night fell.  I put on all my night stuff at the Dash Inn and we were off to the Red Sage in Gold Canyon for dinner.  Of course, Steve got the first flat of the trip just as Gold Canyon was in sight.

The three Amigos or the Tres friends.
 During daylight hours, 4 guys wearing matching jerseys are just guys out for a ride,  but as soon as that sun sets,  those same 4 are now extraordinary gentlemen doing something everyone should ask about.  We got to explain what a" Fleche" was,  well actually Steve, got to explain what a Fleche was 3 or 4 times at the restaurant during the time we were there.

Steve near Saguaro Lake
  I actually started to get drowsy just after the restaurant.  Perhaps it was the non-drowsy benadryl I had purchased.   Whatever it was I was really sleepy most of the way into Florence.  Maybe the road down into Florence was just a little too smooth and pristine.   Despite that we were ahead of schedule when we hit Florence and determined we needed to burn an hour somewhere and fortunately the good folks at Burger King let us sit in their lobby for an hour before they finally fully closed for the night at 11.

Getting ready to drop to the Salt River
 It took me about 10 minutes to stop shivering when we started again despite my full jacket.  It was me that was the slower one through here.  I was just on autopilot and sleepy as all get out.  I was really struggling and the anticipation of 80 more miles of this was really discouraging.  I determined to at least make it to Casa Grande and take a good nap in Denny's though.  Sometimes some food and a good nap can work wonders.  I was amused to wake up in Denny's too see everyone else with their heads tilted back and mouths open sawing logs.   I don't think the owners were too happy with a bunch of snoozing Randonneurs in their dining room, being a 5 star Denny's and all but they didn't kick us out.  

Water Stop at Usery Pass visitor center.
 The rest at Denny's was enough to move me on.  I was not bubbling,  but I was mobile and not propped up in a hotel room snoozing away a DNF, which was something.  I headed out alone as Steve had another flat and I told the others to catch up since I was the slow one and they were happy with that.  The roads were nearly deserted when I got out the west side of town.  I was able to ride the lane most of the way,  although there was nothing wrong with the shoulder in this section, it had to have been repaved recently.  I prefer the car lane so as to avoid flats which is a big reason I use a mirror.  On a night like this you could see a car coming several minutes before it passed.

old paint at the hitchin post
 The John Wayne parkway was even more deserted than Stanfield road.  It was also where I was finally caught by Steve and Carlton.  They rode with me for a bit and then pulled ahead at first sight of Maricopa.  I managed to get a bonus mile in as I overshot the control and by the time I got back both Curt and I pulled into the Circle K together.   We had a wonderful rando party on the floor of the Circle K much to the amusement of the workers.

Steve and the Superstitions after sunset
 Not too far North of Maricopa the sun came up as well as the traffic.  It was also the third flat of the day as Curt unfortunately was the recipient of some gift of the shoulder.  My spirits started to perk up with the rising of the sun and I was enjoying the ride again although the sore seat wouldn't have been unhappy for a quick ending.

Curt fixes a flat on a cold morning.
 Carlton's house was a wonderful sight,  or lack thereof I should say.  It is tough to see someone's house through closed eyelids with soft furry carpet beneath your tired shoulders.  After an hour or so of really intense dreams we awoke and made the discovery that our control was no longer in business (the Bagel Nosh next to Carlton's house).  So off to taco bell,  oops,  closed too,   better make it Arby's,  we went for a bit of breakfast and a receipt.

At the edge of Chandler we turned to Steve to guide us safely through the traffic of Tempe to help us make a safe arrival at Boulder's moments before team Grand Canyon showed up to join us for a wonderful breakfast and blow our minds with their awesome pants.

Paul , Curt, Steve, and Carlton