Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Les Routiers

Picacho Peak at Sunrise.

Over the Holiday, Steve and I set out on bikes from Dog Mtn on a crisp Friday morning—to ride through the desert for Muledale. This is one leg of our famous Marana-Scottsdale-Marana ride we try to do every so often. The trek is right at 130 miles one-way so says my bike computer—but really—it’s a sun up to sun down journey.

I live in Dove Mountain, Gentle Readers of This Blog. It has some fame as being the place where the affluent, having an architect or two in a shirt pocket, create gaudy eyesores on the landscape and rub shoulders with Tiger Woods—when he’s here once in a blue moon to hit golf balls.

Riding through Picacho, Arizona... an old ranch house that's seen better days.

I wouldn’t say these homes are worth millions of dollars— just that they have taken millions of dollars to construct. I also wouldn’t call them homes because wealthy people don’t live in them really. The desert—and in particular this once pristine area—is a place for them to crap out their excessive wealth in piles of wood, glass, and steel. Workers buzz around these creations like flies around shit.

A faux Double Wide for the Horsey Set.

My place is quite modest—and I mean that. I live in the “Villages” section of this opulence, mes amis. Villages might sound quaint, but it has a bit of a--let's say--condescending charm to it—don’t you think, Darling?

Post Office of Picacho, Arizona.

Okay—so what I’m getting at is that my friends make fun of where I live and instead of calling it Dove Mtn, they call it Dog patch (After the hillbillies of the Lil Abner cartoon) but Dog Mtn pretty much stuck as the handle.

An abondoned buisness--one of many to be seen on this stretch of road.

Steve leaving the domain of Picacho, Arizona. This is part of the Brevet Route, and all of us Randonneurs dreaded being chased out of town by the pack of dogs. Sadly, most of the dogs are dead--killed and run over chasing cars.

Scottsdale; sometimes they like to call Dove Mountain the Scottsdale of Tucson. When you say Scottsdale, Arizona, you’re saying MONEY. When you say Dove Mountain—people are like, what? So you must say it’s like the Scottsdale of Tucson—and then they’ll go—Oh… Wealthy people actually live in those million dollar homes in Scottsdale. Sometimes they’re outside in their gardens or walking their dogs. Often they will wave good morning and say hello.

Offspring of these Scottsdalians drive mommy and daddy’s Lexus or Mercedes quite recklessly, so that’s what blokes like me got to watch out for while attempting to arrive in Muledale and Steve, The Star of the Blog’s shack.

Ah! Muledale… It’s actually Scottsdale but every time I’m up at Steve’s place—the local farmer’s mule brays out “HEE HAW HEE HAW HEE HAW!!!” So you’re standing there and thinking to yourself—what the Hell was that? A mule? And Steve says, rather dryly—“Yep…” I just think it ironic that all these Scottsdale people (in Steve’s neck of the burb) think they got it make, and while they’re watching their big flat screen TV out on the Ramada—they suddenly hear this mule hackin’ up a lung!

Right after we leave from a short break at Picacho Peak Plaza for a quick cup of coffee, I have a flat tire. As I didn't seat the tube right, I go about a mile and have flat number two.

We ride thru what's left of the town of Picacho, Arizona, as stated before--now we enter the town of Eloy, Airzona.

Jesus es Senor in Eloy, Arizona mi amigos!

We had a Black Breakfast on Black Friday in Casa Grande. We didn't go to IHOP this time and tried a place called BJ's again--it wasn't the greatest place--wish we could find one. If anyone reading this can tell me--please leave a comment and the location!

Soon we are on our way to charming Sacaton, Arizona. For the most part, the Indians there are pretty friendly. If you're out riding and need help or water--go to the fire station. Cyclists are always welcome. At the store, the only one in Sacaton, sometimes they can be kind of coarse to white people--but this time everyone was friendly.

This is what it looks like on these back roads. Open desert forever. When its hot, the wind blows like a blast furnace. When its cold, like it was this ride, the wind is relentlessly biting and chilly.

Steve and I take a break at the Sacaton Store and gas station. Steve made the comment about how the Indians aren't usually too cordial to white people. My reply was simply, "Why should they be?" This land out here is not an easy place to live. The white people took all the water and best farm and grazing land.

But they do respect us for riding the long distances--in the cold wind, and in the blazing heat.
White people think we're crazy.

We are out of Sacaton and this marks about the half-way point, Gentle Readers.

I credit Steve, Star of This Blog, for blazing the route from my house to his house in Scottsdale. These are forgotten back-roads we are traveling on, where people are poor and their lives difficult. We start in Dove Mountain, where its pretty clear people are wealthy--and then we ride 100 miles through the harsh reality of the Native Americans and the Mexicans, until we end up winding through affluent Scottsdale, Arizona where people have money and status.

Kim, resident gourmet chef of Chez Jewell, has a pork roast, waiting for us on the table. And beautiful ruby-red wine just cryin' for my lips to taste!


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hugging Terra Firma

Susan spent four days the week before last at my place recovering from a spill she took on Mt. Lemmon. I still can't believe what happened to her--as a crash going down Mt. Lemmon at 30 35 mph certainly means major injuries--guys go to the hospital for that.

But Susan made it through the "shredder" as she said, with only superficail wounds. I am still amazed she wasn't hurt worse or even killed, mes amis.

I will relate her story here:
As the RBA for Arizona Brevet and Randonnee, Susan is the brevet official the day of the rides. It is a lot of work and I owe finishing tough brevets to her tenaciousness. She rides the courses to one, create them, and two to make sure they're safe and do-able. Then she must ride the brevet solo and unsupported the week before so she can get credit for the brevet--and then the next week run the brevet for blokes like me.

Coming down Mt. Lemmon the week before last, she hit something unseen in the road--and at 35 mph--she tumbled down scenic Catalina Hwy, hugging Terra Firma along the way.

She told me she rolled--and rolled--and then rolled some more. Cars stopped and everyone piled out to her rescue. But after a moment of catching her breath--it appeared nothing was broken. She was bloody. Her jersey and arm and leg warmers and shorts were ripped. But no broken bones.

She picked up her bike and proceeded to mount the thing, but stunned witnesses of the crash wouldn't have it and she and her bike were driven down to the shopping center at the base. Gerry Goode, rock star of Randonneuring here in the USA fetched her and drove her back to my house.

She said they talked for two hours non-stop about Paris-Brest-Paris on the trip home--probably the toughest PBP of all time. This makes him a hero in my eyes and any other randonneur that has attempted that super-human contest!

I was riding with Steve in Scottsdale, and I had no idea what had happened to Susan. When I got home Saturday night--I was quite floored when I saw her and heard the tale of her crash. Again Gentle Readers, I was amazed that she was even able to walk away from the accident--

As the days followed, she slowly recovered but it looked painful for her. I made a few trips for gause and bandages for her. She took a few days off from work but soon on her way back to Phx. And there she was at the start of the brevet strong as ever!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Spirit of the Randonneur, or Mt. Lemmon Brevet of 200 KM

Steve and I faced a good many challenges climbing Mt. Lemmon. We realized we would not make the 5 p.m. controle cut-off time at the base on our return, this as we rolled in at mile post 20 and seeing Susan at the Palisades Ranger Station. We needed to rest and re-fuel.

Rather than abandon the brevet—we decided we would continue the last five miles of climbing to Summerhaven, drop off our postcards as evidence of our reaching the Post Office of that tiny village, and then make our way back. It mattered more knowing we had completed the course even if we came in past the time limit...

This pre-season warm-up brevet of 200 KM started down the street from my house. I was glad I didn’t have to drive that long lonely hour to Casa Grande for the start of a brevet this time, mes amis! But how unfortunate for my fellow Randonneurs—there happened to be a crash on I-10 in early hours of the morning. Steve called my cell at 5 a.m. “Dude, I’ve been sittin’ here just North of Casa Grande—for half-hour. It’s a dang parkin’ lot!”

The bet was other riders coming down from Phoenix were held up too. I let Susan know this as she set up her bivouac at my place Friday night.

My fellow Randonneur et Randonneuse, if any of you have ridden in an Arizona Brevet, you know about Susan’s famous wraps that wait at the controle lunch stops. As the controle approaches, you get those wraps on your mind—and you pedal faster—and faster. It seems to take forever. Finally you arrive, get your brevet card signed, and stuff a delicious wrap in your mouth. I always take some to go, Gentle Readers of This Blog. They fit perfect in a jersey pocket. I know I’m in trouble on a brevet if I can’t eat a wrap—they are to ride for!

If you look closely, my dog Callie is helping out with the wraps. Susan is her new best friend!

We leave at 7:03 a.m.

20 miles of the course are my commute route into the office. East on Ina, which turns into Sunrise and then Skyline. Skyline contines on to Sabino Canyon whereas on commute days I turn South down Swan. The bike lane is wide and smooth, but traffic is haul-ass fast. I ride this stretch two to three times a week.

This in on the Brad Gorman Memorial Hwy, from the controle out of the intersection of Catalina Hwy and Tanke Verde Rd.

Steve, Star of the Blog...

The ride begins.

The first seven or so miles up Catalina Hwy are the most difficult. It's getting hot fast, and we have three water bottles with us--we should have had camelbaks; that was one mistake we made this ride. I carried two bottles and carried the third empty until the controle. Even with three full bottles, we were both quickly running out of water.

I'd say here we're about 10 to 12 miles into the ride up to Summerhaven. I have no water left and it will be milepost 20 where Susan will have water and lunch. Steve said we will have to beg for water--and we did. At Windy Point, which represents the end of some of the most difficult climbing, I ask two young men getting out of their car if they can spare any water. The are happy to give me a cold jug, which I offer to pay for, but they say no way.

I fill up the bottles and take a long cool drink. Steve arrives and does the same.

The radio and TV towers on top of Mt. Lemmon--they're getting closer--but it is still a difficult slow climb, and a bit unseasonaly warm for November. We ride steady and into the pines. Finally it starts to cool down.

We still have about four miles to the lunch stop--and those wraps!

Mt. Lemmon

At mile post 20 and the Palisades Ranger Station (where there's water) Susan is there to help us out. Really at this point we thought we needed to abandon. It was pretty clear we were having a difficult day. I had cramps in my legs, and I was feeling weak. The wraps helped, and some caffine and sugar from a Coke perked me up. But really I needed to rest a bit, as did Steve.

Susan, realizing we were cutting it close with the time cut-offs, pressed us for our next move.

I'm thinking first we should turn around now, because the ride back in the dark will be perilous; it will be Saturday Night on one of the busiest roads in Tucson.

As I thought I'd have to carry my better lights with me for the final ascent to the top, I only brought meager clip-on lights. Mes amis, I was not looking forward to the ride back--not in the dark.

Steve pretty much summed it up: we had come this far, and although we were pretty worn down, we could--and should ride to the top. It didn't matter now if we missed the controle cut-off time. The thing was to press on regardless, go to the top, and ride back to the finish.

When we informed Susan of our plan, she was glad. She would wait for us to return from the five miles up and five miles back, and we'd get out lights, get water (I'd grab a few wraps for the road) and we would get our asses off the moutain. Riding down Mt. Lemmon, on Catalina Hwy in the dark--utter suicide. I don't care if I had to ride through Eloy in a freakin' dust storm--nothing could be more dangerous.

Okay, let's get going! Hey. Look! 8,000 feet. Just a few more miles and we are there!


November at 8,000 feet means its cold on Mt. Lemmon. When we arrive--to the amazement of the wandering tourists--I'm freezing. But there is another problem. Steve, Star of the Blog has lost his postcard--and his brevet card! Losing your brevet card is some randonneuring circles is immediate DQ. I tell Steve to write that he lost the card on my postcard and we'll send.

I wish I had more to tell you about Summerhaven but it was time to go, and we really pushed on those five miles back to get our lights. The sun was warm when it hit the road, but when blocked out by the pines it was frigid. So riding through the hot air, and then cold was kind of like your big sister slapping you when you were kids. "Don't!" slap, "Hit!" slap, "Ya Baby Brudder!" smack boink!

Going down with some urgencey was kind of cool. More of an adrinealin rush. The sun was setting, the descent was fast--but suddenly, Gentle Readers of This Blog, suddenly I realized how beautiful the sunset was--strikingly beautiful! And you're going down and through three of four different environments--The pines, something else sans pines, more like aspens, and then as the sun begins to blaze orange and red--the saguaros. The saguaros seem as if they're coming to life. They're like people streching up their arms, streching like they're going to sleep--after a long day of watching the cars and cyclists go back and forth and up and down.

On a Saturday at Sunset, right then and there, was one of the most beautiful days I've ever known since living in Tucson. No cars for the moment--just the wind--and I'm flying on my bike down through the light.

"Dude! Dude! Hold Up!" Steve suddenly cannot find his wallet. Why is this bad? Number 1. Arizona is tops for identity theft. Number 2. Keys to Mystery Van are in the wallet. Number 3. Thinking about Number 1 and Number 2 makes you think you're gonna Number 1 and Number 2 in your shorts!

We both try to make calls to Susan but we got no bars on the cell. We hope the wallet is in Steve's drop bag. Finally I reach Susan with my phone and tell her the situation. After a few long minutes she calls back with good news--the wallet is found!