Monday, September 22, 2008

Marana to Scottsdale, Back to Marana

The Dairy Queen--and the first cup of hot coffee--are 28 miles from my house...

Think of this ride as Tucson to Phoenix, then back to Tucson the next day. Each way is about 116 miles. We leave from my house in Dog Mtn--ride to Steve's place in Scottsdale, then ride back the next day. Total miles will be 226 miles as we found a short-cut on the trip back.

We'll have breakfast in Casa Grande, and probably a quick lunch right in Phoenix. Scottsdale will be about another 10 or so miles Northeast of Phoenix.

The Frontage Road is actually the old stage coach line from the 1860's. A hundred years before, Father Kino knew this area well and wrote and commented on Picacho Peak while working with the Indians that lived in the area. While working on projects at the University of Arizona Special Collections, I have held books that Father Kino and his associates brought over with them from Spain and from Rome--probably carried in their saddle bags as they traversed this same area of desert on horseback. Is that cool or what?

In my saddle bag I'm carrying a change of clothes for dinner in Scottsdale; I've strapped on a pair of shoes to the bike rack--I've got extra water bottles just in case they're needed. Commuter lights, sunscreen, camera battery charger, toothbrush, spare tire (folded up) pencil and notebook, tubes and patch kit--about $3.00 in pocket change--other stuff I probably didn't need but always carry. I'm also riding my 1977 Raleigh Super Grand Prix--the one I rode all last week to work. This bike is still my workhorse, even when I'm out just riding for the love of riding.

There are two stores at the Picacho Peak Dairy Queen. The DQ and then the new place that's more like a gas station and store. I have been told that the stagecoach stop was at or very near the same location.

The Town of Picacho, if even that, is a few miles down the road from the Peak. It used to be that pretty mean dogs would chase you out of town. These dogs were so fierce that RBA Susan Plonsky would direct Brevet Riders around the town a few miles to avoid them. When I've ridden the Brevet course with Steve and other Randonneurs, we would all vote and see if we'd take the detour or save a few miles and try to sprint through town.

Even though the security guard/maintenance man at the DQ told me he accidentally ran over and killed the last mean dog in Picacho--I am still wary of the pack and their haunts.

An old motor lodge from many years ago, now a ruin.

After Picacho, we need to take this turn to head West through Eloy and then on to Casa Grande. On a few of the brevet routes, you can go straight to La Palma, and then head West into Casa Grande. The store at La Palma has since closed down.

Entering Eloy, and taking a last look at the way we've ridden. Picacho Peak fades into the distance as the morning sun climbs into the Fall sky.

Eloy is an agricultural area and traditionally Mexican in character.

On the last leg of the 400 km Brevet a few years back, I almost collided with an intoxicated patron of this saloon as he staggered out the door and stepped off the curb. I remember it was so close that I cold smell the alcohol on his breath. Steve and I were finishing strong, and riding about 22 mph. That would have been a show-stopper fer sure--for him and me!

Right at 50 miles when we cross under the I-10 Overpass and into Casa Grande.

Breakfast at IHOP.

We've had breakfast and made our way through town. I believe we were heading West on McCartney to get to the Maricopa Hwy. Not long ago, there was nothing here at this corner. Now there's a huge Mega Fry's--and a McDonald's. We'll stop here for breakfast on the way back. The IHOP is on busy Florence Ave and a bit dangerous for cyclists.

Here we will take the Maricopa Hwy, and ride over I-10. If you go straight, you will go to Central Arizona College in Coolidge, Arizona--but we'll take a left after a bit of a climb and head to Sacaton.

This is reservation land and open desert.

Sacaton about seven or eight miles to the Northwest. There is one Shell gas station and store--if you are riding through here and need water and the store is closed--go to the blue water tower. Sacaton's Fire Station is there and the Fire Fighters say cyclists are welcome and can get ice and water.

Reservation housing. These are the Pima Indians that Father Kino visited. Their descendants still live here over 200 years later.

Shell gas station and store--sometimes not open. Staff can be coarse--locals are friendly and will say hello. There's not much out here--the people are poor and the desert harsh and unforgiving.

We get what we need for then next stretch. Here Steve is turning to head North on Hwy 587. We rode a lonely eight mile stretch West out of Sacaton. Now we have about a 15 mile stretch to Chandler, through some barren reservation land.

Temperatures are reaching 100 degrees. This is a long stretch and we need to make it to Chandler before we run out of water. I think I had a few swigs left when we did reach the store and gas station at Alma School Rd and Riggs Rd. We did come upon two other cyclists as we neared the stop. The woman was in trouble--they had gone out, way out, with not much preparation--and had used all their water (or didn't stop like they should have) and the limped into the store. The woman was very pale and they probably should have called for a ride. But being "A" types, they were determined to get ahead of us and got going once water bottles were filled.

Heading West on Riggs Rd for a long haul. It was windy and hot--the two riders we met at the store were no where to be seen. Hopefully they pulled off to take a rest, or a shortcut.

This is South Mtn and the TV Towers, which Steve and I have climbed many times. We won't be going that route but we will be heading a bit North of the Wild Horse Pass Casino in the foreground.

About 15 miles or a bit less from Steve's place in Scottsdale. This is the bike and pedestrian bridge that runs over Hwy 60. It will put us in Tempe, Arizona.

Tempe and the other “A” Mountain on the Arizona State University Campus. This smells like a college town, Gentle Readers. Students are laid-back, and young women wear flip-flops.

ASU was playing Georgia, and I have to tell you that Steve and I arrived by bicycle right into the heart of Mill Ave when fans from both football teams were arriving at the stadium. There were thousands of people—a sea of yellow and red for ASU and waves of Georgia fans in red. It was a fun party atmosphere for all—and Mill Ave was bumper to bumper traffic. There we were, Mill Ave, thousands of people, mainly young college kids, and two dirty and gritty Randonneurs—100 miles on our legs.

The bike lane was clear, which was amazing, and we glided right through the mass of cars and people. I needed to be a bit careful so I didn’t get any shots for you, mes amis. But I will tell you it was quite different seeing all that humanity compared to what its like at dawn’s early light, when not a single soul is stirring, and Steve and I silently riding like phantoms though this street.

On the return trip, it was early and still in darkness. As we came through, now an army of men and trash trucks were cleaning the remains of what must have been one hell of a party—beer cups, beer bottles—all kinds of trash and litter everywhere—everything smelled like stale beer, restaurant grease, cigarettes--a hint of reffer--and soot.

Steve said Sacaton by 6 a.m. and he was right on the mark.

We made it to Steve’s place in Scottsdale—un-packed, cleaned up, and went to dinner. We were tired but really we felt like we rode strong and with gusto. From Dog Mtn to Casa Grande, we had a tailwind and averaged 18 mph on that leg of the route.

Of course we knew it would mean a stiff headwind on the way home—but for now it was good to sit down in an Italian place Steve knew, and have the all-you-can-eat pasta dinner. The real tough part of our 116 miles was that the high temps for Phoenix and Scottsdale were 102 degrees, and that makes the last miles exhausting.

With 100 degrees or more forecast for Tucson/Marana, it was decided that we would leave by 4 a.m. so we could finish the return trip and scoot in under the heat. I must say that it was easy to get to bed by 8 a.m. Saturday night. All packed and ready to go, we looked forward to the ride back. Steve thought he had figured out a short-cut that would take us from Scottsdale down to Chandler Blvd, and then to Alma School Rd and the Hunt Hwy. This new route was successful and we took 6 miles off the return trip.

Ira Hayes was from Sacaton. He was one of the Marines that raised the flag on Iwo Jima. The park is across the street from the Shell gas station and store. I do not know who the other fellow was--maybe another Veteran held in high regard by the people who live out on the reservation.

On the outskirts of Sacaton, past the park and store, groggy rez dogs chased us out of town. It was still a bit early for even them—I could tell they were sleepy, but they still showed their teeth and made half-hearted attempts to bite. We climbed out of Sacaton and could hear the last rooters crowing as the sun got higher and brighter.

Steve on the Frontage Rd, we're past Casa Grande, Eloy, Picacho--homeward bound.

What can one say about breakfast at McDonald’s? The place was brand new, spotless, and employees were reporting for work. Mostly young, said employees stared at us and our click-clack shoes as we walked to take our seats, fill bottles with ice and water, and wash our hands.

We got curious glares from stiff looking seniors—the ones that look old as dirt—and one woman told me her brother was some kind of bike stud now. He retired, got a bike, now he rides all the time and has turned back into the jock he was in his youth.

Picacho Peak.

Lunch at Picacho Peak Dairy Queen!

Dog Mtn in the background--this is looking East and we are about to start the six mile climb up Tangerine Rd, which starts at the I-10 and Tangerine Overpass.

From Picacho Peak, it is about 28 miles to my house up in Dog Mtn. This last leg is difficult for two reasons—number one is that the temperature has reached well over 100 degrees by Noon. We arrived a little before that hour at the DQ, and got our cheese burger and chili-cheese dog fix well before the rush.

Number two is the last nine miles of the ride. We get to the Marana Exit and the Marana Circle K, the Life Giving Controle on the Brevet Routes. We mentally prepare, and make sure we’ve plenty of water. Now the six mile climb up to Dog Mtn…

The light at Tangerine Rd and Dove Mtn Blvd. Mt. Lemmon is in the background.

100 or more miles on your legs, and 100 degrees or more with the sun roasting you is no way to end a ride like Marana Scottsdale Marana—but this is how it goes, Gentle Reader of This Blog.

Surprisingly—and I really mean surprisingly—this time it seemed effortless. Even though I had ridden now, for the week, over 400 miles—I made steady and strong progress up Tangerine Rd. Steve was right by my side.

Steve Star of The Blog, climbing strong up Tangerine Rd...

I cannot tell you how many times I suffered exhaustion and humiliation trying to crawl up these last six miles. If I wasn’t cramping or fixing a flat tire, it was just rivers of sweat pouring from me.

This was a good ride and we felt strong and satisfied with how things went. I took well over 200 photographs, and it took me way too long to edit and chose the best ones to give you a feel as to what we did and how the route made its way.

I took two days off and drove the car--I needed a few days off... But driving a car is now something I rarely do anymore. Thanks for reading my blog!




Ryan said...

Hell of a ride, guys, and a good story as well.

Thanks for the photos.


Dan Trued said...

What an adventure. Endurance riding in that heat, is something else. Like the ASU game part, that would have freaked me out for sure.