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!


Dan Trued said...

Completing a ride that tough is an accomplishment, regardless of the time control situation. Maybe lights are the way to go on something like that. I saw you and Steve headed south on Oracle, in the morning, can't miss those rando jerseys. I was headed north, trying out some new pedals. Good story.

Red Bacchetta said...

Nice. You've bagged one of the toughest climbs in Arizona and done it in the middle of an ultra distance ride to boot! One of these days I am going to climb the lemmon. Maybe if Susan does this ride again next year. I know what you mean about sunsets. Some of the best sunsets happen during brevets I think.

Anonymous said...

To finish is the goal. You did. The never say die attitude that you carry on these rides inspires the rest of us.