Monday, April 30, 2007


We took a shot at it and rode to the Valle controle—that’s when circumstances lead to our decision to abandon. I will tell you now that the ride was tough, and on roads that were in poor condition and quite dangerous, especially the climbing in Oak Creek Canyon. Dangerous because there was really no shoulder, and dangerous because automobile drivers, probably coming up from Phx to visit Sedona and Flagstaff, suddenly found themselves squeezed in with a few Randonneurs on the tight corners.

I believe I can tell a local driver from a Phoenician—in either case while on the bike, you can hear the car tires pounding on the choppy pavement as they’re coming up from behind. Phoenicians will pass you, albeit at 70 mph, but leave you a few feet between you and their Lexus. Dewayne Maynard, and Nola Mae Jean (probably Dewayne Maynard’s common law wife) will not be so kind. Many times vehicles passed me within inches—the empties from Friday nigh clanging around in the bed of the truck. Because they drive this stretch of road so much—making runs for beer, smokes, and white bread—they got no patience for “Turiss.”
Local Boy living the high-life, "Yee Haw!"

Randonneurs have reached a certain level of Zen awareness while riding on these brevets. The brutal climb forced us to ride slow and steady. Even though the cracked asphalt is pounding my bike and body—when there’s a lull in the traffic, and there’s silence for a few long moments—I can hear the stream flowing over the rocks in the canyon below. I can hear and see the little birds darting about the trees. Sometimes I could hear some larger bird’s song from deep down in the canyon and hear the echo below. I catch a glimpse of a mouse peering at me from behind a pine cone. That is what makes the ride worthwhile, mes amis… I think it too bad we have to live so fast, and miss these things. My feeling is that’s why we find it so easy to be indifferent to each other and the world.

Friday after work I headed up to Scottsdale. My car was loaded, and extra gear for the ride was put in the Mystery Van. Kim would meet us at the controle in Valle, at about mile 118. Because we were not sure if we would have cold and rain, we had to carry more clothing than normal. At the last second I decided to keep my hub the early morning, and not use just battery lights. Not sure what exactly I decided to bring, but my bike was heavy—that would really cause me to suffer on the climbs early in the ride. We’d take off all the gear when we saw Kim with the feeling that the lightened load would help us make up for time.

We got about 4 hours of sleep, then took off to Camp Verde for the 4 am start at the Ranch. At the Ranch I remember getting the bike ready, saying hi to Susan, Mike, Gerry, Bryan and Sal. Even though it was very dark, there was some star light and moon light—a couple of curious horses in the coral watched every move we made, and it was if they wanted to come along.

Yours on the Road...

As the sun rose up, Steve and I got into our groove, and greeted a few other riders who were out doing the 300. We caught up to Sal, from Oregon, who had stopped to take off a jacket—it was already getting hot. Sal told me how traffic was kind of scary and I joked about unfriendly Arizona drivers. Actually, here in Tucson, I’ve never had any real problems—as always, somebody talking on their cell phone and not paying attention has almost run over me. I try to avoid certain roads at certain times of the day because I know it makes it difficult for drivers. I certainly don’t drive on the main road to get back to my house in the evenings because its narrow and a bad road, and people just want to get back home after a long day at the office. When ever some one passes us close on purpose—and very fast, I always say about the driver, “I’m comin’ Mama! I got your bail money!”

Sedona at day break was beyond words, Gentle Reader. It’s a beautiful place for now. The “McMansions” are appearing everywhere you look and that’s sad. It was getting busy and people were rolling in and out of cafes and breakfast places. Guests at one pretty expensive place could sit on a balcony and sip their Bloody Mary’s as myself and the other heroes began a most beautiful and deadly ascent to glory.

We made it to the Flagstaff controle, but just barely. Sal had arrived a few minutes before us. Steve contacted Kim to give her our ETA to the Valle controle—I filled our water bottles and shed the warmers and packed them in my bags. I needed to cool down from all the climbing. Sal almost took off without his helmet—he wanted to get moving, as the next controle would be tough to make. We ate a quick lunch and headed out not long after.

I know Flag pretty well and we rode right thru the heart of it. My wife is from there, and some of my very good friends, Jim and Victoria, used to live there. We’d stay with them for a night before a trip out to the rez, or when Jim and I would go for a hike in the Canyon. Jim made the best Vodka Martinis I think I’ve ever had, and to mark the occasions of our visits, he would go out of his way to find the best cognac or wine from Morocco or Spain—and we would savor it and laugh about shit we had to put up with in our jobs, etc.

And of course, there’s the Dara Thai restaurant that we always went to before a hike or a mountain bike ride. I was happy that on the brevet, Steve and I rode past it, as its right in the heart of Flag. I should have jumped off the bike real quick and gotten a picture of it for Jim—but didn’t. They live up in Minnesota (one the most over-rated states in the country) Sorry Jim! Boy, did we every stagger out of that place a few times after all the pints of Guinness…

Humphrey's Peak from the Campus of Northern Arizona University...

I looked for, and finally saw Humphrey’s Peak, a sacred mountain of the Navajo. I can’t recall what the Diné call it but it is one of four peaks that define geographically the place on the planet that the Navajo occupy. Bev tells me that Afghanistan looks like Navajo Land in some parts she’s flown over…

Bev flies in a Blackhawk over Afghanistan...

Afghanistan / Pakistan border...

Jim told me that he flew over the San Francisco Range one time, and you could see the volcanic creators—besides being a librarian, Jim’s also an anthropologist. He said the volcanoes were very active about 1000 A.D. and that the Navajo living in the area most certainly witnessed what would have been some pretty cool and dramatic eruptions!
"Hey Bruce, turn around..." Steve and I stop after Steve sees the mountain in his mirror. I take the photo...
We're at 8,084 feet.

After climbing to 8000 feet or more, we began to descend—but we had to talk about the ride thus far. We knew we wouldn’t make the controles and we needed to rest and get to Kim and the Mystery Van, which would be waiting in Valle. One thing was for sure, I didn’t want to ride these poor roads at night—and to the Canyon we now faced a brutal head wind. It was time to pull out. Steve got news of a family emergency, which meant he would have to fly out of Phx at 6am for his flight Monday… We just hoped Sal would be okay out there on his own.

We plan a ride up to the Grand Canyon this summer, and we’ll probably leave from Prescott and ride a different route, so we can spend some time at the canyon, then ride back thru Williams. Steve knows some better safer roads—so any of you cats that want to do that—let me know!

Allure Libre!

1 comment:

Red Bacchetta said...

Hey Bruce! Awesome write up. You made me homesick (I am also a Flagstaff native). First picture of the peaks is Agassiz peak though. The second one where you are looking back is Humphreys. That is quite a sizeable bit of riding from Camp Verde to where you got to. That sounds like a brutal 600k!