Thursday, April 17, 2008

Moon of the Popping Trees

I was down in Sierra Vista, Bisbee, and Douglas, Arizona--not far from the border of Old Mexico--on business. I found myself on the Cochise Classic 252 course. The course I did in 2005, and John and Cathy did last October.

The 252 mile race starts at 2 a.m. Saturday morning in Douglas, Arizona, Gentle Readers, and about the time the sun comes up--say about 65 miles later, you find yourself in Benson, Arizona. From there you will ride East to Road Forks, New Mexico along the shoulder of Interstate 10, then ride south on Hwy 80 back down to Douglas.

Starting at 2 a.m. in the morning, and it being pitch-black, you don't see how difficult the climb is to here. This is the famous Mule Pass Tunnel. You have left Douglas and climbed for 13 miles to this point through Bisbee. This is the hardest and first leg of the trip. For me, that morning, I was sweating and making my way up to this tunnel. Sweat was pouring out of me and I was cramping and struggling. I'm driving the car and taking some shots while driving... Anyway, mes amis, it was one of the most difficult climbs I've ever done. Seeing it during the day, the climb seems to be impossible to attempt on a bike. Had I gone out and driven the course in daylight, I would have never have done the 252--it is insanity!

Out of the tunnel and down this road (Hwy 80) for an eight to twelve mile descent. And I do mean descent--I reached top speed of 55 mph. Yes it is true. Mentor and Coach David Glasgow told me to be prepared for this part of the course. I had every light I could carry with me and had them all on to light the road. I was able to read my computer--55 mph--in total darkness. Had I done this during the day, I believe I would have been too scared and slowed myself way down. But Dave told me to hang on and sit tight and I would be okay--I was, but I held on the handle bars of my bike so tight for the 12 miles at 45 to 55 mph that my arms actually locked up and cramped up. And I couldn't even let go until daylight. The pain of gripping and not letting go of the handlebars was beyond my writing ability. This is certainly the razor's edge, and I can say with humility that I have known that thin line on the 252. Pure fear and adrenilne, mes amis...

Today I'm driving the car--AC, some of my favorite CD's playing. Reflecting on my naiveity and mind-set at that time in 2005. I was probably the most fit I've ever been in my life that October. I'd done a brevet series and trained all summer just for this one stretch of road in Cochise County.

On the way to Tombstone, Arizona.

A ranch on the way to Tombstone. I did not see this open country as it was still dark. Had some miles to go until Benson and sunrise.

Spinning like a missle, down the backroads, in darkness--slowly recovering from the cold morning air--talking to myself and trying to let go of my handlebars. I was afraid if I did let go to shift my hands and arms, I would crash.

A bit more climing for a few miles--I have to remind myself while driving that I did these climbs and stretches of road in the dark. It was a moonless and starless night, mes amis.

80 - 82 All my Randonneurs pals know this story. This is where, right out of Tombstone on the 600 KM, that I missed the turn to go West on 82, and instead went straight on 80, which is the Cochise Classic course. Here are the signs, but the left turn is about 100 yards after the signs and not easy to see--even during the day. That night on the 600, I was exhausted, and it was freezing cold. Even with all my lights, I didn't even see the sign.

Realizing I was in trouble that night, as it was so bitter cold and I was out of water and food. I had to find the monastery to take shelter. I was way beyond rescue from RBA or Steve or anyone. The monastery would be my only hope to keep from freezing to death in the open desert and mountains

I knew from the Cochise 252 that when I saw the Dream of the Rood, I'd be in St. David and not far from the Benson Official Time Station for Cochise--so I least I wasn't lost. On this night of the 600, at 2 a.m. I looked in vain for the cross--I must have ridden past it in my weakened state. Luckily, I did find a store open, and was rescued by the clerk working there and her husband. Half frozen and exhaused, they drove me to Benson and got me the last hotel room in Cochise County.

Driving down through St. David, I looked for the landmark--and drove past. I thought it best to turn around, and this time actually set foot at the monastery. I'm not Catholic--or religious or much of a church-going fellow. But, hey you need all the help you can get, right?

It was evening and things were shut down. The whole place was rustic. My car, and my tie and Italian sunglasses seemed about out of place. I went through the doors there, and all the monks I found reading, praying, and reflecting. They didn't seem concerned about me being there--in fact I don't think they even noticed I'd come in.

My only real thought to ponder in such a holy place was, "God, I hope my cell phone dosen't ring..." And low and behold it wasn't even in my pocket. I left it in the car. Okay--I could relax.

I pondered a few things in my life, and really, if God does have a plan for me, then I hope I can live up to his expectations. I asked that he look in on us once in a whlie, and keep us safe while we're out there on brevets, commuting, or just out for a ride.


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