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|