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.