Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Spirit of the West

Old abandoned ranch house East of I-10.

This past Friday, I had a 10 o'clock in the morning meeting in the city of Casa Grande, exactly 50 miles Northwest of my shack in Dog Mtn. The meeting would last until 2:30 or 3 in the afternoon--so I would ride down on my Mighty Trek, and then hopefully return by Dark.

I'm riding on the old Butterfield Overland Mail Stagecoach Line, which is now Interstate 10. Actually I'm riding on the Frontage Rd, which is between I-10 and the rail road tracks.

The Butterfield Overland Line was the southern route through Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, ending up in San Diego--then going up to Los Angeles and ending in San Francisco. This route bypassed the snow of the Rocky Mtns and northern routes. In the 1850s, Tucson to San Diego took about 82 hours. I read that the stagecoach ran at break-neck speed, non-stop 24 hours. Only brief stops to change horses... Sounds like a controle on a brevet does it not, mes amis?

The ears of the Owl Head Buttes off in the distant cold morning air.

In the morning, there's a strong wind coming out of the South-east--and I planned to catch on to that tailwind all the way to Casa Grande. If I needed to, I'd make one stop at the Picacho Peak Dairy Queen to get coffee or water.

Riding fast, non-stop, with the tailwind!

Picacho Peak, and Picacho Pass are icons of this area. The stagecoach line went through the pass, so I've read, and then headed West to San Diego. Actually 25 miles up further in Casa Grande, Hwy 8 does just that. There was also one Civil War battle here at Picacho Peak--more like a skirmish--in which a Union Army patrol happened upon the Confederate lookout post there. Kind of a botched affair on both sides really--the Union patrol retreated, and the Rebels ran back to Tucson to warn the Southern-leaning Tucsonians that the Union Army was on the way.

Eventually the Union Army did show up but they met no resistance as the war was about over. When I worked at the UofA Special Collections, I saw the the hand-written documents that Union Generals made some of the predominate citizens of Tucson sign--having them pledge their allegiance and loyalty to the United States--in a way the letters seemed a bit humiliating, as they were probably somewhat coerced.

Its a moderate hike up to the top, mes amis! The views are spectacular!

I have been told that there was a stagecoach stop very near the present location of the Dairy Queen. I also read recently that the Union Lt. that was wounded and died in the fight at the Peak, was buried in an unmarked grave near the present day railroad tracks.

If that is so, may he rest in peace--they are putting in more tracks and and my hope would be that if the soldier is found, he might be moved to rest in a better place--I mean the hwy is fast and the cars and trucks blast and thunder past, as do the freight trains on the tracks on the East side of the hwy. I had my IPod on full-blast to try and drown out the noise--and the wind roars in your ears too!

I left my place in Dog Mtn right at 7 am, and with the tailwind on the way to Casa Grande, I arrived at the Casa Grande Public Library (53 miles from my front door) just before 10 am. That's a pretty fast ride, mes amis! The meeting was fine--my colleagues were pleasantly surprised. They all knew I was a cyclist, but this feat of 50 miles was beyond their comprehension. Everyone wanted to know the route I'd taken--through Picacho, Eloy--towns they really didn't know existed, towns that go past in the blink of an eye--at 80 mph on the Interstate...

The meeting ended early, and I was changed back into my bike attire, and ready to roll back to Tucson. The parking lot was windy and the trees were swaying and bending in the cool breeze. It was going to be a long, hard, windy ride back home.

Pushing pretty well in the headwind through Eloy, Arizona.

Picacho Pass. I'm about 12 miles into the ride back with maybe 20 or 25 to ride to Picacho Peak there on the right. The wind is really picking up--blowing about 25 mph. I can only ride about 12 to 13 mph.

The big corporate farm right on the edge of Eloy, right before the town of Picacho, AZ.

There are several huge pecan groves that you pass driving up to Phoenix--you pass by them so quickly that its hard to imagine their size and scope.

I still have some miles to go, as you can see.

The head wind is very strong.

Gentle Readers of This Blog, I decided to give my son Ricky a call, and have him meet me at the Picacho Peak Dairy Queen... The wind was howling--and I was feeling very tired. I just didn't feel like riding in the dark for two hours in the headwind. Ricky had just got out of class, and I figured that we would arrive at the DQ about the same time. So he was on his way.

87 takes you down to La Palma--which is really just a spot on the map to buy beer. It had closed down but recently my friend Dan reported it was open again.

Entering Picacho, AZ. The little town, or what's left of it, sits right on the Frontage Rd, just East of the Interstate.

Used to be that some vicious dogs lay in wait--often just sleeping in the middle of the road so as not to miss anything approaching. My first experience with this road came when I was with Dave Glasgow and John Heller. We got to Red Rock, decieded to go a few more miles--but as we entered Pichaco from the South, the dogs viciously chased us off and we made a hasty retreat--some narley piece of shit dog snapping at my heels is about all I remember.

So the dogs had their day for many years, chasing randos and blokes like me--until Susan RBA had to change the que sheet to have us go around. One time when Steve Star of the Blog and I were riding up to Scottsdale, we thought we'd give it a go through town. We started speeding up and suddenly there was this tiny yippy-dog yapping at us. I laughed and said something about him being not so big--and git or we're gonna run yer ass over, Fido--ha ha ha ha. But then up the road about 50 yards were the pit bulls. They had the last laugh as they chased us all the way out of town.

Last year, the old security guard that I had met and chatted with a few times at the DQ, told me that he accidentally ran over and killed one of the last mean pit bulls. I was a l little sad, but I have to say that riding through Picacho, I'm still wary of them--it still feels like they're waiting in ambush. Since I had a bit of time, I thought I would roll a bit slower through Picacho and get a few photos for you.

Not much left...

I believe at one time many palm trees ran on both sides of the road here, before there was an I-10. Most of the town either burned down, or the wind and heat gradually disintegrated all but the most hardy palm trees.

This building probably houses artifacts of the long ago residents of this town. Its some sort of antique mall, or so the sign says.

Little by little, the wind carries things away.

Some kind of old barn.

This place has re-opened. Most of this side of the street had burned down a few years ago.

Post office and a few palm trees left standing. In the back ground you can see the big farm buildings, but it appears that most of the town between here and there has been erased.

The old sign remains but most if not all of the motel has disappeared. The palm trees sway in the wind like hula dancers, and the the dead leaves swish like grass skirts.

Palm trees at the end of town.

I have no idea what that tank was for--maybe railroad related?

There is a motel turned apartments here--it is very seedy and run down.

Another old motel sign. Most of the hotel looks like its gone.

Horses here looked pretty healthy--they also had a bit of that winter fuzz left on their hides.

I-10 is always under some sort of construction. That green sign says Red Rock 13 miles, Tucson 47 miles.

I met Rico at the DQ and we rode back up to Dog Mtn. There were some left over sandwiches from the meeting, and they gave them to me and I packed them for the trip home. I was starving, so while Ricky drove, I stuffed my face--I was so hungry! The wind rocked our car as we drove down the Interstate.

Tiger Woods did not show up for Match Play up in Dog Mtn this year. Everything about Dog Mtn and the Match Play turned where I live into a circus for the super-wealthy. Every local po-dunk business and slime-bag realtor was out in force to try to suck something out of the spectators. Many of the spectators bought expensive homes up here so they would have a place to shit and sleep for four days and watch golf. They cared nothing for the little people, in particular speculators desperate to make a deal.

Game over, now the stampede.

Should you not own a one or two million dollar shack up in Dog Mtn, you can park six miles away and get bused up to see the Match Play.

I have nothing against Tiger Woods, or the sport of golf in general. The West has always been one big Real Estate Deal anyway. My thing is--how many golf courses do you need in Dog Mtn? There's like six. These guys only play here four days--is it worth it to build six golf courses so you can build expensive shacks around them? And charge more just because Mr. Woods breathed the air in the vicinity?

Cheers! Bruce

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Back in the Saddle

The Mighty Trek...

Rode the long 27 mile commute into the office and all was good. My Layton Light had shown particularly bright as the moon must have been sleeping in this morning. The big Match Play—sans Tiger Woods—is underway up where I live, and although it was 5:30 a.m., there were many trucks and TV crews out and about.

Once I got off busy Tangerine Rd, after three miles of steady climbing, I turned onto rural Moore Rd—without so much as man or machine in sight—and beheld the Heavenly stars above, mes amis! Tucson, twenty miles south, lay in what looked like a dim orange glowing lake.

I surprised a coyote crossing the road. Coyotes don’t like surprises, let me tell you—and they seem belligerent if you make eye contact with them. Like if you realize that somebody sees you scratching your balls or putting your finger in your nose or something—you just want to disappear. You want to say, “Hey! What you looking at, Buddy?”

Alan had commented on our last ride that I seemed to be riding a single speed—and he’s right. I have this habit of mashing away in my big ring, and I just heave ho. He suggested I try more the middle ring (I have a triple) and shifting more—and he noted the stress on the chain the way I’m riding in my gears makes the chain very tight. Not good to break you chain in the middle of a brevet, Gentle Readers of This Blog. Evac can be a long wait and your remote location bewildering to the wife as you try to explain, “See that mountain over there? Okay… Well, I’m on the other side of it…”

Later in the afternoon, Gentler Readers...

As luck would have it, my neighbor Bruce was close by the Desert San having his hair cut, and he offered me a lift home, the bike stowed in the back of his truck.

You may recall that Bruce’s wife is Heather—the one who texts while driving? Not only that but she is on her cell while driving their huge SUV, having mind-numbing conversations with her girlfriends… Well, as Bruce and I drove home, she called his poor ass about seven fucking times! This meant that Bruce was on the his cell phone the entire trip back, as he had to call someone, and then call Heather back to tell her what the previous conversation was about—on and on and on.

Unlike Heather, Bruce drove very slow—we crawled down the road like a couple of retired snowbirds. Other drivers were passing us, going around us, like we were standing still. I just wondered to myself if this type of bull shit meaningless cell phone talk could wait.

Then Bruce had to make a stop at the grocery store, and take a few more calls from his charming wife about which brand of cereal to purchase.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Flying Tigers

Alan and I just past the Town of Oracle, ready to descend into the town of Mammoth, AZ.

We didn’t have a New Year’s Day Ride back in January this year—but why not a Chinese New Year’s Day Ride? And a super ride to boot! Alan invites me to ride with him to Mammoth, Arizona—an old mining town about 45 miles North East of Tucson. This will be a training ride for us for the 300 KM Brevet the end of the month. Since it’s the Year of the Tiger, and I’m a Tiger according to the Chinese lunar calendar—This should be a good vibe. And of course it was, Gentle Readers of This Blog.

The ride to Mammoth is on Hwy 77, which is Oracle Rd through Tucson and then the Town of Oro Valley, and then up to the Town of Oracle. At the top right where the town lies, Hwy 77 begins its long descent, at a 7% grade. Mes amis, you can fly down the road at high speeds for almost 18 miles uninterrupted—what a blast.

Oh yeah, I rode with my Schmidt generator hub--some drag but I think I did okay with it and all the climbing.

It was still cold for us in the morning but we did the climb to Oracle, and then began the downhill leg. I wish I could tell you it was fast, but we did have a bit of a headwind on the way—still, I reached 35 mph and maintained that speed for many miles. Alan soared ahead, as he is great on descents—I’m gaining more confidence as I ride with him. I’m just afraid that my bike will suddenly fly apart or something like that—but having a scientist along to explain the physics, and then experiencing how those physics apply, makes me relax and enjoy the ride.

There’s not much in Mammoth and for us, the turn-around is the Circle K for water and to shed our jackets.

Our Lady of Divine Tailwinds Back Up Hwy 77.

Just past the Circle K about half a block, is this quirky shrine. Most likely put up by the miners asking for divine favor from the hazards of their often dangerous jobs. We pay our respects, and of course we ask that our climb back out of Mammoth be swift and safe.

Heading back to Oracle, you can just see Mt. Lemmon off in the distance, covered with snow.

Alan felt strong, and lead the way up and out of Mammoth. Our pace was solid and I have to say that there seemed no wind at all. Usually as you ride, you have that roar of the wind in your ears--this time, as we climbed up the hwy--there was barely a sound in the morning desert air. Traffic, for the most part, was no where to be seen or heard--there were long stretches of stillness and silence. Mt. Lemmon's snow glowed in morning light, and the other mountain ranges and valleys opened and spread out before us.

I'm still working on getting my nutrition right...

Alan and I climbed surprisingly well, and in no time the landmarks of the Town of Oracle appeared--and did other cyclists. We had a tailwind descending back down into Tucson and we flew back in now time at all. Our fellow cyclists out this morning were having a stiff headwind we could tell--and then at one point as we got closer to Oro Valley, we had the headwind. I could tell Alan was feeling pretty good, but even as I descended down the road, I could feel leg cramps coming on. "Drink!" Alan kept telling me, "Drink more!" Besides that, I'm still not taking on enough calories.

Alan and I split off as he went his way back home, and I headed West back up to Dog Mtn. I pushed through a headwind the entire way back and had enough fluids and gel to get my body back up to speed. At home I had a bagel, took a quick shower, and then slept for about two hours. The day before on Saturday, I had done all my chores, including ironing shirts for the next few days, etc etc.
Sunday afternoon and evening to relax, cook a good dinner for me and Rico--and then go to bed early. A great way to start the new year!

Cheers! Bruce

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


My Birthday today. We're going out for a few beers. Have one on me, Gentle Readers of This Blog!

Allure Libre! Bruce