Hey, sorry for the lack of awesome hiking images but I continue to prepare for a cycling event on 10/2 and then, back to hiking, honest. I ran my car through the wash as my and everyone's vehicle continues to pick up bug remnants at an unprecedented pace.
Typically, when I take a break during a ride, I just sit on the concrete in front of a market. I must say, with all the dead bugs laying around, it's probably not the healthiest environment. So, I was glad to stop at a market that had nice seating.
More rain moved through and with it, cooler temperatures. Looking up at the front range of the Catalinas, I see clouds lingering around Finger Rock. I wonder how over grown the route to the base of that formation has become.
One evening, the temperature cooled into the 60's so I started a fire in Amy's outdoor fireplace. We really enjoy sharing a fire and between my indoor fireplace and her outdoor version, we'll have many opportunities.
I was going to try out a new cycling group called, "Master's Cyclists" but it appeared rain was not going to move out by the 6:30am start so I bailed on that but then Sunday's group ride with Cyclefit was washed out too. Monday morning arrived and with it an awesome forecast as we enter our glorious fall, winter & spring seasons. It was great to not have to get inside by 10am as I rode 61 miles around Oro Valley.
A scheduled start of 6:30am so I arrive at the intersection of Oracle Road and Willow Springs Road shortly after 6am. Hmmmm, no one around as I check out yet another amazing sunrise. This was to be my first ride with the Cyclefit group of which there are 170 members and each of us has to buy a kit (jersey and shorts) to qualify. I followed the sizing chart but when my shorts arrived, I'd have to be 12 again if they were to fit and the jersey, kinda tight too but wearable.
The 6:30am start was more like an arrival time so now I know. I was glad to know a couple of people in the group from hiking or cycling so that was good. One of them, Jere, does tech support for Garmin and was helping a guy who was calling from Ohio. When he learned she was from Tucson, he said he had a friend in Oro Valley, Mark Wilson (me). Small world moment.
Our group of 15 start and stay on Willow Springs Road for the duration of the 40 mile out & back route. The road passes "24 Hour Town" which is the location of a famous mountain bike event held every spring. This being my first ride on my gravel bike in almost a year, I thought it best.....
....to turn around at mile 10ish. The fit of the gravel bike differs from my road bike and I thought I might be pushing it a little if I did all 40 miles. Sure, working the same muscles but not exactly the same with the different bike fit. Finished with 22 miles and 1100' of climbing. My legs felt fine so guess I should have done all 40. It was a good first ride with a friendly group.
The Early Bird
My cycling mileage is now getting in three, 40-50 mile rides each week. That requires getting on the bike no later than 6:30am. The longer rides means I work in a break mid ride where I enter a market, grab a Gatorade to refill a bottle, get ice for the bottle, buy a snack (I've become partial to the pepperoni/cheese rollup thingys) and sit on the concrete in front. I enjoy people watching like the above couple. The man was patiently explaining to the woman how to activate the gas pump.
I also work in a short recovery ride the day after longer rides as I did this morning. Smoke from the CA fires is again having an impact on our views.
Another day, another early start from my home as I note the long shadows. The pavement around Oro Valley and Marana is awesome so that's where the majority of my rides occur. But, I've built up enough endurance and with an eye on a bike event in early October, it's time to ascend Mount Lemmon. Grinding up that beast is really beneficial if also painful.
Catalina State Park Hike
Rather than ride, we made a last minute decision to drive the 2 miles to CSP so Jack the Dog could get some exercise. It was a good idea. We met a woman who has trained her horse to do a variety of tricks, including taking a bow.
The monsoon fueled growth of every form of plant has transformed our landscape. I've never seen it so lush and green.
It really is like walking through a jungle as plants along the trail have been cut back to allow passage.
Typically, the saguaros and other cactus are the lone representative of the color green but visually, they are a bit lost for now.
We reach a point on the trail that opens to the wash. Wow, a decent flow. Surprising because about a mile down stream, there is no visible flow. We continue up stream a little farther and....
......Jack excitedly enters the water, scampering around. We go off trail and begin to hike downstream.
Beautiful but the flow is broad enough that I can't avoid soaking my best pair of hiking shoes.
Toward that knob there is the "hidden falls". I should schedule a hike to that gem while the water still flows.
Amy recently bought a device called, "Chuckit" and it does a great job leveraging your arm speed to increase the velocity of a ball. Actually, it can hurl a ball so far that Jack is unable to track the ball so I dialed back and Jack loved the chase.
A family with 4 children approach so we turn around and go back to where we entered the wash and return via the trail. We were warned that a rattlesnake had just been spotted about 30' from us and sure enough, there it was, coiled and rattling. Dang, I had not bothered to bring my hiking pole so not much I could do with it. It was under some brush and I would have liked to have coaxed it elsewhere as it was a danger to the many dogs and people who frequent the trail. Maybe after we left, it calmed and slithered away.
Ugh, up at 4am, out the door by 4:30 and on my way to Willcox. AZ for the Willcox Flyer bike "race". For liability reasons it's not promoted as a race but pretty much all 300+ who show up are there to compete against everyone else. I participated in this event the last time it was held, 2 years ago, and like that time, I came woefully unprepared. My longest ride in several months was 45 miles while the Flyer is 66 miles. Driving through Willcox on my way......
....to the historic downtown from where we would launch, I passed a Dairy Queen. A memory came flooding back. It was me, 2 years ago, finishing the event and during the 3 mile ride to my hotel, I had to turn into the DQ so I could sit in the shade at the back of the building! Painful day and so this morning I had an epiphany; ya know, I could ride something less than 66 miles!!!
I arrived an hour ahead of the 7am start and that was about right considering the time it took to pin the race bib on my jersey, register, etc... There was a strong group of cyclists representing Bicycle Ranch and one of this group would win the event with a 20 mile solo from a small, leading group, finishing with a 24.8mph average. Other groups well represented with quantity, if not quality were Sabino Cycles, Cyclefit and Christian Cyclists.
I was still planning to do the full route as we were called to the start line, the Star-Spangled Banner was sung and then we rolled out. I got in with a good group but was burning too much of my very short wick so at mile 7, with a decent 23mph average, I dropped anchor so to speak and began a solo effort.
At mile 18, I crested a hill after a 10 mile climb. I decided that when I reached mile 25, I would turn around. During a descent, a group of Cyclefit people caught me and I enjoyed a few miles of drafting in their group but upon reaching mile 25, turned around.
At about mile 34, I reached a refueling point and then really enjoyed the 10 mile descent off the hill. I finished with 50 miles, 1800' of climbing and a 16.5mph average. I have no regrets about not doing the full 66 mile route. This will kick start a September of much more riding as I prepare for the Sky Island event in Sierra Vista, early October.
A Day Off
Amy, Jack the Dog and I drove a ways up Mount Lemmon to check out the green scene and water falls. I've ridden by Rose Canyon Lake many times but never checked it out so....
....we checked it out. Lots of good camping spots and a stocked lake that attracts quite a few anglers. Amy is now 2 weeks from knee replacement and way ahead of schedule, including....
We paused at Windy Point Vista and took in that always awesome view as behind us, clouds were building for another round of storms.
The view holds so much more green than is typical. It's almost like the Appalachian Mountains.
We also checked out Seven Cataracts parking area and saw a healthy flow of water.
And of course, paused at Thimble Peak Vista. On to the Willcox Flyer ride.
Riding Too Little
I have to keep it in perspective. If I was in Ohio, during a winter and got in 100+ miles a week....well, I would not be in Ohio during a winter, ha, ha. I signed up for the Willcox Flyer bike event and am ill prepared, unfit, etc... but I really need to get in a good ride. So, I've been riding and admiring the effects of our glorious monsoon.
I ordered two new cycling shorts and went bold on one, black/red. I'm kind of a low key dresser so not sure how frequently I'll be wearing these.
Riding from the east side one day, I visited the Tanque Verde wash and it had a.....
.....healthy flow. A couple of sheriff SUV's were there and they had just rescued someone who decided to try to drive through. Lot of that going on. The 3rd wettest monsoon on record has invigorated.....
....jungle-like growth. OK, also initiated outbreaks of flies, mosquitoes, caterpillars, butterflies, Colorado River Frogs, etc... but it's worth it. I have often said that a summer here is far more livable than a winter in the midwest and that is so true and thinking back on the last 90 days, despite all the rain, probably only 3 days have kept me indoors. The good news is, it's now September and we are on the cusp of glorious weather.