Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Open Desert -- Owl Head Ranch Ride

The Great Owl.

I felt the need for a long ride, a ride in the open desert--a ride where its just me riding with the wind and gliding with the wind. If you can quiet your mind and leave everything behind--which is possible because suddenly there are only saguaro, the monsoon skies, and hazy mountains--your eyes open to this place. The moment is fleeting sometimes, and hard to tell you about--but a moment is enough. You realize that somehow you are everything--and nothing. This mysterious feeling is exhilarating. A type of meditation--difficult to get there, and takes practice.

On my way, Gentle Readers of This Blog...

I don't take a 70 mile ride through a very remote stretch of desert lightly. Its July and very hot. I've spent a few days thinking what I will need, when to leave--but really, just mentally preparing. There's no stops for water, and no cell phone service. There might be a few cowboys drive past if I were lucky.

Secret Air Base--oops, did I say that?

I roll out at 6:30 a.m. and start thinking I should have left at 5:30--already its hot and very humid. There's a very fast 6 mile descent from Dog Mtn heading West to freeway. When I get to Interstate 10 and turn on the Frontage Rd to head North, I take hold of a strong tailwind that sends me sailing at 22 mph with hardly any effort at all.

Picacho Peak.

As Picacho Peak quickly appears, I'm almost to Park Link Rd. Be careful because you can ride right past it if you're sailing along on the tailwind. Its hard to believe I'd ridden 22 miles so quickly mes amis!

Picacho Pass.

The Frontage Rd, or basically the road that runs along the Interstate, is the old stage coach line going back to the 1850s. It goes through the pass and then heads due west to San Diego and on to San Francisco. At Park Link, I turn and head due East. As you can see in the photo I snapped above, the roar of the hwy quickly fades, and now I'm heading into the Desert. The next 18 miles are the point of no return. I press on, Gentle Reader.

Just a brief glimps of the Owl's ears up ahead!

Hot and dry, silent and supple--and the heat...

It is not even 8 o'clock in the morning, and so very hot. I stay a bit cool just by moving through the air--still the Sun is beginning to blaze right into me.

Miles of open desert all around me.

The air is thick and muggy. I have just a slight tailwind pushing me along at a comfortable pace. I'm thinking about my lunch stop at the half-way point at Cattle Tank. Suddenly there seems to be broken bits and chunks of glass, like hundreds of diamonds on the black road. And I see what looks like a piece of black twisted metal--but then the stench jabs me in the face. Its a dead cow hit by a car. It makes me gag--I mean its like 90 degrees and humid and the thing is rotting right there. That rancid smell tags along with me on the tail wind for about half mile until it finally fades away. Holy Cow! That was pretty awful, mes amis!

Cattle Tank. Time for a quick rest and a bite to eat.

I carried two frozen water bottles in the Carradice Bag, Gentler Readers of This Blog.

Cattle Tank is the half way point in this loop. I ate an apple, a cliff bar, and finished off the remains of my first two water bottles. I was only stopped for about five minutes as stopping meant rivers of sweat pouring off me. Best to keep moving...

The frozen water bottles I packed slowly melted, and that ice cold liquid tasted like Heaven.

Man, it is HOT out here! Keep moving...

The watchful giant gaze of the Great Owl.

Picacho Peak is at a distance behind me, with millions of cars streaming past non-stop on Interstate 10--while I am the only person for miles and miles--the only one!

This is from the road, without a zoom--the Owl Head Ranch is about 8 miles South of where I am here on Park Link. Millions of saguaro blanket the foreground in all directions, but the biggest ones seem to be on the South side of the road towards the Owl's ears.

Hwy 79 at last.

Before I knew it, I was at Park Link and Hwy 79. This is not an easy road to ride on. The shoulder is narrow, traffic is heavy and people drive fast--and worst of all, there is a very tough climb that about breaks you down. I have 9 miles to ride before I reach the junction of Hwy 79 and Hwy 77, or Oracle Rd. Once I reach the junction, I have a fairly easy 25 mile ride home back to Dog Mtn.

Almost half way on this 9 mile section, there's a sudden and much need descent for almost 4 miles. Thank God! I have to report that for once, I made the summit with both lungs still intact. I credit this to my training with Boss Man and him getting me to train with a heart-rate monitor--and stop mashing in the big gears--and ride at a higher cadence. What I've done, I think, is trained my heart muscle and gotten it stronger, instead of all the reliance on the brute power of my legs. Still, Gentle Reader of This Blog, I am very tired. I have no water left. I need to get to the McD's in Catalina as soon as possible. I will tell you that I was being plagued by hot foot at this point in the ride--that is painful. I need to get some water, and get off the bike for a short rest.

Pusch Ridge, the mountains of my morning commute. I am happy to see you guys!

Up there is just a few miles outside of Catalina, Arizona. Past those yellow signs is the town, and the McD's where I can get an ice-cold coke, and fill up my water bottles, and take a short break.

See that pick-up truck out there in the parking lot?

"I'm proud to be an Okie from Muskogee, USA
A place where even jerks can have a ball..."

This guy was talking on his cell phone to the person in the truck and they were arguing about what somebody wanted--nuggets or something stupid like that. Being from Oklahoma myself, I could hear the way he was talking with that Okie accent. I didn't feel any sense of tribal or regional affiliation with this big tub of goo--I had to listen, as did everyone else in this dinning establishment, to him flap his jowls with the person back in the truck. I was thinking, "What's wrong with yer legs such that ye caint come into the place and order fer yer ownself?"

Monsoon time in Tucson--here comes the rain up and over Mt. Lemmon...

Callie takes a break from Guard Duty now that I'm back safe and sound!

I had a good ride, mes amis--a quick shower, more than a couple of cold glasses of water, and I have the early afternoon to sleep and rest a few hours! Thanks for reading and visiting my blog! Cheers! Bruce


Sir Bikesalot said...

Nothing like a dry bottle to emphasize the true value of water and remind us the desert is still boss.

Dan Trued said...

Tough one in the summer, you must be in good shape. Especially that climb on 79 at the end there, would really test you in that heat. No need for a sweat lodge, just do Park Link.