The 252 mile race of the Cochise County Cycling Classic requires a support vehicle. As Randonneurs, we've ridden these kinds of distances unsupported--but the rule for the 252 is a support vehicle. Paul will ride the course and I will drive the support, or SAG car. So we're out here to do a dress rehearsal if you will, of what the conditions of the race will be like on that day.
The 252 start time is 2 a.m. so we have started about that time this morning. Our plan is to ride parts of the Arizona Brevet courses we know so well, and ride down to Sasabe, Arizona--right down to the border with Mexico--and then return.
We'll check out lights and make sure we have back-ups. I want to make sure I get the mix of nutrition and liquids for Paul the way he wants them. We've also brought spare wheels--if we have a flat, you change out the wheel and the rider keeps going--only losing a few minutes--instead of trying to fix the flat and put it back on. The crew will fix the flat later as they're in motion, and it then will be the back-up.
One year I crewed for Dave Glasgow, and another team's rider had a puncture. We were at a check point. The three man crew, none of whom where cyclists, and none of whom had ever ridden Cochise, were in a fix. An old guy came over and handed me the rider's wheel--more like shoved it in my face--and was waiting for me to do something. He went back to sit in his truck or something while the rest of the other rider's crew stood around. I think I leaned the wheel against the truck and we took off.
I will be leap-frogging Paul as he rides, and the hope is that if he does have a problem, I'll drive up behind him and we'll take care of it. Should I be in front of him, he will have to be prepared to fix the flat on his own, or put air in his tire to hold until he can get to me. I have to be sure not to drive too far ahead.
It takes a bit of practice--and experience helps--to get this right. On parts of the 252 mile course, I will not be able to turn around and go back. Cell phone service will be limited or none.
Baboquivari Peak, sacred to the Tohono O'odham.
Paul has trained well--and smart--for Cochise, mes amis...
We are close the Sasabe; half the town is in Arizona and the other half in Old Mexico.
Because we know Border Patrol will be speeding up and down the Hwy, I put on the sign you see in the photo. I made these signs a few years ago when I was on Gerry Goode's crew for the Furnace Creek 508 in Death Valley, California.
All of Brevet riders know this sign well. Its about half way on the 400 km--for several years it has been a tough one, mainly weather related--but you're on your way home. You must first ride 45 mile through remote Buenos Aires Nat'l Wildlife Refuge. It is beautiful, Gentler Readers of This Blog, but dangerous. Many border crossers, having eluded Border Patrol, perish out here sad to say. I brought extra water in case we meet them. We will share what we have.
About 12 miles to Sasabe and our rest stop. Paul is riding strong and feels good.
Sasabe Store, about a mile from the US - Mexico Border.
I'll ride with Paul for awhile so we can talk about things so far.
The Sasabe store is a very friendly place and the owners are cheerful and helpful, no matter what nationality you are.
There is a bunk house that hunters can rent that is next door.
My Trek 2.3
Paul putting on sunscreen.
Who ya gonna call?
We have a tailwind, mes amis!
I'll ride aways with Paul and then turn around back to my car.
This is heading North back to Tucson, through Buenos Aires Nat'l Wildlife Refuge.
Paul is in good shape, and I feel very confident I will be able to provide the support he needs. At the Arivaca Junction, Paul rides up to the Arivaca Store, and head back to my car.
Mexico is just over the hill on my way back--the tailwind to Arivaca was great--but now I have to work to make it to Sasabe.
Border Patrol guys are, for the most part, a good bunch. They are polite and decent fellows--their job is really more like search and rescue and not so much law enforcement. These guys were stopping in to get coffee--its still pretty early in the morning.
Sasabe isn't your typical One-Horse Town--its actually a Two-Horse Town. I talked with this young woman for a few minutes, and then her friend that had gone to the store to get their coffee. They were ranch-hands on the big spread a few miles from town.
As you get to close to the border, at least on the US side, rules start to apply to everything it seems. A few years ago when I was here, I rode right into Mexico. There were no barricades or fences--like suddenly there I was. The Mexican Border Guards were all smiles and they waved. I stopped in, we all shook hands, and they welcomed me to Mexico. I had never been in Mexico before.
I turned around and rode right back into the US--friendly US Customs Officers waved and said hello. One of the guys told me a bit of history about the historic little house, which was standard US Border House-style based on an old lighthouse. They were very proud of that place.
Just in case you're wondering where you are...
US Customs Officers said no pictures--only the US side. I said, "Are you kidding me?" No they were not kidding they said. With all their expensive equipment and gear, they didn't even notice I rode up to the station and right past them. The were pricks. Quite heavily armed pricks I might add.
Things have really changed here and this little remote crossing does not seem like a friendly place anymore.
I was messen with Photoshop, Gentle Readers... It really says, "Eat Me, Mother F..." ha ha ha, just playing!
I really pissed off the US Customs Officers by taking this picture of the border fence.
Better call in reinforcements, fellas...
America the Beautiful, Baby! I'm pretty lucky I think. This is tough place to live--not much money or way to earn a living. There's good people on both sides--and I'm sure there are the bad ones trying to get in with drugs and smuggling people--so many people crossing in--they can't catch everyone. Many die out here trying to reach Tucson and Phoenix.
While I work on filling water bottles, and check out Paul's bike, he applies sunscreen.
I'm glad my little car will work out--we can carry all our gear plus my bike. I don't think we'll carry a back-up bike for the 252 as we probably won't need it. Water, food, tools, spare wheels, and changes of dry clothes and back-up lights will all fit.
The ancient people that lived out here, and their descendants, The Tohono O'odham, still revere their God who lives in the mountain. We have been respectful, and thankful for good weather and safe conditions.
I'itoi, watches over his people from this place.
He will often come down, and take the form of a coyote. He can take the form of deer, a hawk--a man or a woman. He can become a rain cloud to cool you off with a gentle shower. He can become a tree by the side of the road and give you shade while you rest awhile.
For me, out here--I realized a vast and powerful silence. That Silence is the Power of Life on Earth--the feeling you are part of every living thing--large and small. That is a very sacred thing, Gentle Readers of This Blog.