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-