Sunday, I rode with a Tour de Tucson training group ride of 56 miles and the upside to that was meeting someone who told me about a Thursday ride and said, "Oh, you'll fit right in with that bunch.". Didn't know what to make of that but then on Tuesday, I hooked up with an early morning group hike. The sun breaks the horizon and brings another day of sunshine. Still warm out here with temps in the upper 80's but that is going to change soon.
We followed a couple of different trails, headed to Cochise Springs. On the way, Picacho Peak way in the distance.
The 8 of us reached the spring, dry now and someone broke out salami and cheese. How about that! Finished with 10.5 miles and done by 10:00am, before it gets too hot. Hiked again on Wednesday and then.....
...headed to the Starbucks on River and Campbell Roads to join the Thursday ride I was previously encouraged to attend. It is called "Tim's Ride" after a guy who raced in Ohio for a couple of years. I think his name is Tim Caroline and he does bike fitting. Really fit looking group of cyclists, with 25 showing up for the 7:30am start and 60 degrees.
I turned and caught this image. Not of cyclists but check out the restaurant, "Zinburger" a wine and burger bar. Beth and I checked it out and it is an upscale sports bar with fantastic hamburgers. Wine list is kind of small but there is a "Stags Leap" chardonnay and so what it lacks in quantity it makes up in quality. I highly recommend it with locations in Scottsdale, Gilbert, Tucson and elsewhere.
Anyway, we shoved off and headed west, then north and then hit Twin Peaks Road. The pace is intentionally moderate to keep most together and I was amazed at the self restraint shown by many who could motor away whenever they want but Tim stays at the front and no one jumps out of the pack. Upon crossing Tangerine Road and heading up Dove Mountain, then and only then are the hounds released. I hung in until the final ramp and had to spit the bit and after reaching a roundabout, reversed course and head back for a regroup at a gas station before proceeding back to the shop, again at a moderate pace, ending with 47 miles.
Then I went hiking yet again. There are three major construction projects in the immediate vicinity, all building condos or rentals. Hard to believe the area can support the addition of hundreds of new units.
I headed off trail in to the mountains, doing some more scouting for my new trail to Bighorn Mountain. Someone told me out of all my concerns about creating a new trail, I did not think of bee swarms. Disturb one of their nests and you are toast. Every year a few people die from the bee swarms. I did see a fox sprinting away and I have reservations about entering an area that probably has rarely been disturbed. Above the barrel cactus begins to produce fruit. Below, Friday's big adventure and more to come about that later.
First, Marty did not voluntarily send me this image. As many of you know, he is not a publicity hound but I heard there was an image of him at the finish line so I applied some pressure. Below is his description of the final climb and in the interest of fairness, I am providing one of my fans with equal exposure so no one can say I do not provide balance.
This was taken just before the last rise to the finish line. The guy to my right is Chris Lyman, I have seen his name a number of times at Fondo’s that I done including a few weeks ago at the Levi Fondo. He is usually in the top 10 and was a very strong rider. He started to cramp at the top of the Green River Cove climb, I told him to hop on and he explained that he would not be able to help. I said that it was fine and told him, let’s go. As we hit the final rise he told me to go ahead without him. I am glad that I was able to ride with him, he helped me set a strong pace up the Green River climb and was very encouraging and told me that I could catch Winston.
Amanda, aka, "Corvair" for being as dependent showing up for a ride as was the car by that name. Here, she is on vacation, somewhere south, eating a less than healthy meal. Below, another food item. Amanda certainly ate well after doing a lot of hiking. I of course welcome and encourage ride/hike reports from others. Flyin Tuna used to provide a report every so often but I think I annoyed her by insisting her reports use more than single syllable words and that she should read a book on proper usage of grammar, before submitting another report. Corvair also, on occasion sent a report and I even gave her the title of "Ink Stained Wretch" but then she wanted a stipend and no one gets paid around here.
590 line up for the 80 mile, 8000'+ of climbing event with many others populating shorter routes but it was in this group that Hincapie, TeeJay van Garderen, Michael Barry, Kevin Livingston and other current and former pros slotted in with the greats of Ohio cycling. While the Ohio guys and gals did not make the podium finish, three of them finished in the top 10.
The start was a bit chaotic with Jon Morgan and others crashing as cyclists were forced in to a narrower slot in the road then what they had previously been riding. Jon is ok but his frame is toast and sounds like he braked so hard the pads burned through the rims too. Above, this and other images provided compliments of Hendra P and yes, that is Hincapie on the right. From this point, Luke Russell takes over with his recollection of the ride.
There was much hubbub at the starting line as riders jostled for position and ran into friends from all across the country. Our Columbus group of about 20 managed to secure a great spot near the front, and we watched as George, Tejay, and Tom, to name a few, moved through the crowd to lead the fondo out and get the show on the road. The start was fast-paced and rolling, and held a big group of nearly 200 riders spread across both lanes. Oncoming traffic was ushered off the road as we thundered towards the base of Skyuka mountain through some of Greenville's most scenic roads. Some anxious members of the peloton were pretty aggressive with their braking, causing some big pile-ups near the rear of the group. Gus had to wrangle himself free from me in a near-crash, and Jon was tangled up badly in a big fall that destroyed his bike. I was involved in both incidences, and went down with Jon around 12 miles into the ride, fortunately not taking out Lori who was riding right behind me. I was lucky, and my bike was still rideable, but Jon had much worse luck. He is in the market for a new frame. After picking myself up I managed to TT back to the group just before the base of Skyuka.
It was a lot of work, as I said before the pace was very quick at the start. When I arrived, I saw Marty and Hendra casually move to the front of the pack, weaving their way past all but the fastest climbers as they rode the 1800 foot, 9% climb alongside the pros, allowing only a couple of enthusiastic riders to get away near the crest of the climb. Marty would later tell me that he was "just hanging onto the back". His casual, perhaps wry smile while he was climbing tells me a different story. He was playing his cards pretty well. I was about a minute and a half back at the top of Skyuka, and managed to catch Hendra on the downhill. He had stopped for a photo op at the top, overlooking a gorgeous valley of fall color. Hendra and I rode hard from the base of Skyuka towards Howard's gap, a grueling 2 mile uphill, with parts over 15%. I couldn't match pace, and dropped off as the others blew through the climbs and flew along the (very scarce) flats. I was passed by Gus who was riding like a storm with a group of 4 of the Hincapie development team riders. I heard that he got tired of riding with those guys, and ended up dropping all 4 of them a little later.
After 2 major climbs I made a pit-stop at the mile 54 rest area to refuel, and met up with Lori who was having trouble shifting. She was stuck in the small ring for a good 5 miles, and we found a mechanic willing to help us out and get us back on the road, though I think Lori lost a good 15-20 minutes to the mishap. The mechanic was nice and made sure Lori could use both chainrings for the rest of the ride. Lori and I led a group of 8 or 9 riders at a fast pace away from the rest stop, going 25 or so along rolling hills. Lori decided she had had enough of me pulling (hard), and came around me to push the pace! I moved to the back of the group and held on, as I watched gaps opening up behind Lori. I managed to close the first, and then the second, but by the time Lori had opened a third gap, my legs just couldn't keep up. Lori disappeared with 2 other guys and rode away from both of them a little later on.
The final big climb was a long 9% grade with 17 switchbacks. It was tough and I rode hard uphill, passing a lot of people on the ascent. Eventually the climb opens up and flattens to about 3%, and that's where Lori and Marty do pretty well. I think on the overall segment including the 17 switchbacks and then the 3% grade up to the summit, Lori clocked the fastest female time ever, and Marty was 2nd fastest overall. No messing around here in Ohio. After the summit is a long, gradual descent for 7 miles and I tried to gain as much time as I could, hoping that I would catch Lori if I went fast enough. After the descent, the road flattens for a couple of miles along the Saluda river valley until a final 1.5km climb to the finish at Hotel Domestique. I arrived 2 minutes behind Lori, and rode as hard as I could. Marty would finish very near the front, missing out on the podium by a very small margin, and was there to greet us after a nice shower and change of clothes. Hendra finished not far behind Marty, after what sounds like a mostly solo effort. Gus finished a little later than Hendra, powering through the course. Todd Delay came in a few minutes after me, and soon thereafter, Rick Miller arrived. Meredith, Allison, and Maya, rode together and crossed the finish after sticking with eachother the whole way. Meredith told me it was the hardest ride she has ever done. 80 miles, around 9000 feet of elevation, and with intensity to match the Thursday New Albany ride, it is a tough ride to match anywhere in the world. That's why we all decided to go climb Paris mountain the next day for "recovery". No rest for the wicked.
Marty finished 5th, Billy Campbell *who I still count as an Ohio guy) was 7th and Hendra 9th. Marty rode hard and said that is as good as he could do, besting last year's time. Farther down the list but not by much was Pete Czerwinski at 44th, Gus Cook at 64th, Lori Nedescu at 104 but 6th overall in the women's division and that with a 15-20 minute mechanical, Luke at 110, Todd Delay at 119, Cornel at 137, Meredith, Maya and Allison riding together and finishing mid 300's. I could not find a time for Rick Miller and Tattoo Dude Wes but no doubt they finished high on the list.
Tick-tock, tick-tock we await word out of Greenville on how the guys and gals performed. Above, the hopes of Ohio are pinned to the jerseys of these four, Allison, Maya, Meredith and Lori on the ladies' side of the field.
I joined a group on Thursday for the weekly Blackett's Ridge fitness hike. Kameron above, set a torrid pace and then at the halfway point, wanted to take a short break so I joined him, which cut in to my finishing time of 59:37. Kameron is from northern Iraq in the Kurdish region. He's looking for a wife. His sister urges him to come back to Iraq but most of the available woman around his age are on the front lines fighting ISIS. He likes it too much in Tucson, buying and flipping houses, to return.
Saguaro cactus with a lot going on. These guys would be 200+ years old.
I did some scouting for the new route to Bighorn Mountain on Friday and then joined a group ride out of the Bicycle Ranch bike shop on Saturday. Good group of 25, all but a couple are A and B.
They roll out together and then things sort themselves out on the road. We went west on Ina until reaching I-10, went north on a road that parallels 10, then turned right on Twin Peaks and the hammer got dropped. Twin Peaks is an 11 mile, constant 3-5% climb that upon reaching Tangerine Road, crosses and keeps climbing up Dove Mountain, ending at the Ritz Carlton resort. I hung in there until just before Tangerine, #12 in the group, formed up with some guys coming up from behind and....
...stopped at the resort for regrouping. Nice descent to Tangerine where we headed east and eventually back to the shop with 48 miles. My Garmin shut down so not sure of the avg speed but these guys are the real deal and I'm glad I found a good option for Saturday rides, other than going all the way in to downtown Tucson for the "Shootout" ride.
7:00am and running a little late for a hike in the Tortolita Mountains, which are behind me and not what you see in the image above. If you look carefully, you'll see a balloon rising above the distant mountains, middle. I arrived at the trail head, grabbed my stuff and began walking toward the group when I heard someone say, "Oh, that guy. He practically runs up the mountain." and someone else said, "Yeah, he was on a hike I was on and he is fast." How about that. The hike was rated intermediate + so people are encouraged to attend who can at least make that pace, which is defined in the description when the hike leader sends out the invite.
I get a little ahead of the group but there they are, coming down from a climb, nine of us in total.
I wait while checking out this view. We take a quick break and I saw something I have not previously seen. A guy just out of the army lights a cigarette. That's a first for any ride or hike, I kid him about it and he laughs good naturedly.
Part of the group. The red haired woman brushed against a Cholla and doing so, a portion of it clings to her shirt. Instinctively she grabs to pull the clump but that's a mistake and the needles sink in to her hand. Someone has a pair of pliers and pulls the needles. Fortunately, she is not a bleeder. The woman in front of her has a daughter at Dennison and moved from Gahanna, another small world moment. Lot of Ohioans out here.
Nearing the end of the 8 mile hike. Good day hike with fun people and all done way before lunch.
Saturday, this Saturday and not to be confused with any other Saturday past or present, Jeff S is leading a ride out of Granville's Wildwood Park (west side of Granville as you enter the village) at 9:00am. Jeff will not have maps so click on the below link and print or sketch something on a napkin, whatever you prefer. 64 miles with shorter options that will be immediately obvious after glancing at the map, or at least to my practiced eye, the short-cuts are obvious.
Have fun and send me an image or two if you are motivated to do so.
First the important stuff. Jeff S is leading a ride out of Granville's Wildwood Park at 9:00am on Saturday, going to Bladensburg. I'll have the gps file for the route later. Meantime, the forecast was 10% chance of rain and I had decided to take the day off (Saturday) to watch football and then this comes rolling in with heavy rain for a couple of hours. There were some people on top of one of the mountains who were caught out in it but all made it back ok.
Next morning, all was back to normal with some lingering clouds. The peak on the right I have visited a couple of times and left my name in the register at the top. The middle peak, "Bighorn Mountain" has no trail to it and few have visited it. I had planned to hike the right peak, go off trail on the left ridge, hit the basin and up the next ridge to the top if Bighorn but then it occurred to me, heck, I can just create a trail that goes directly from the valley to Bighorn. Maybe they would name it after me like "Mark's Folly". It would be time consuming and I could not take tools and alter the landscape but it is ok to scout a trail and place cairns at regular intervals to show the way. I'd be walking in areas never walked so who knows what I run in to and that is a concern. Have to think about this some more. Wandering in to a den of rattlers, mountain lion home, pack of javalenas, bobcat, etc... would be bad news.
There is a 3 mile loop that I would use as a springboard for my route and so I scouted it to see where I should leave that trail, if I pursue my plan. Along the way I found a bird's nest in this warren of cactus.
And then this gruesome looking type of centipede. Well, back home to catch up on work.
Pretty exciting stuff for those who are going to the George Hincapie Gran Fondo, as reported in VeloNews at :http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/10/news/armstrong-former-usps-riders-reunite-weekend-gran-fondo-hincapie_349986#OEKV1ih4QmvhX1Ru.01. Marty Sedluk, Luke Russell, Lori Nedescu, Jon Morgan, Allison Nuovo, Meredith W. G., Gus Cook, Maya Wei-Hass, Todd Delay, Rick Miller and others headed to Greenville for what will be a very exciting event. I should have a ride report for the enjoyment of everyone from one of the guys. Would be great if one of the ladies chipped in with one too.
A local club put on a tour from Sahuarita, a few miles south of Tucson call the Tumacacori Century, which went through Green Valley, Arivaca and then in to Tubac, a town packed with art galleries, shops and restaurants.
In Arivaca, a crossroads rather than a real town, there were two active restaurants, one the Cow Palace with a cow on the roof and across the street.....
....the other restaurant with a steer's skull defining the entrance. Don't see that every day. As I was taking a break, I saw something I had not previously seen and so scrambled to put all my stuff on, jumped on the bike and sped off.
It's an elliptical bike called an "Elliptigo". She was doing about 15mph and said she did a century ride in Los Angeles and yes, receives strange looks all the time. I would not think it to be a climbing machine but Luke Russell claims he has bought one for this weekends George Hincapie Gran Fondo. Luke was the popular choice to unseat Marty's dominance in these events among local cyclists but knowing what Marty has been doing recently and knowing Luke's crushing work load well, I don't see how Luke can pull it off, this time.
Of course, I did not do the century ride. Kind of pointless knowing what awaits me in Ohio so I did the 71 option, which finished with the long climb on Continental & Mission Roads before a nice 5 mile descent on Helmet Peak Road.
It's an hour+ drive to Canyon Lake in the Superstition Wilderness but well worth it. Oddly, the day was overcast but that's good for hiking since I don't have to drink and carry as much water. Nevertheless, I brought 3 liters with me for this 10 mile hike.
Once leaving the parking lot, it is a long and fairly steep ascent but the Canyon Lake trail is in good shape and wide, as if someone had laid cobblestones. Above I near the summit.
Dang, wish the sun was out but without it the scene is kind of eerie with Weavers Needle prominent in the background and Battleship Mountain center-left. Upon reaching the top of the climb, I found a young guy from Toledo laying on the ground. Kind of odd to be taking a nap at 7:30am but oh well.
A short walk later, the valley to the southeast opens and shows me where I am going. Upon reaching that creek bed at mile 3.2, I go off trail to the left of Battleship Mountain and towards that triangular peak in the distance.
I reach the creek bed, LaBarge Creek, wide and pebbly at first but soon the canyon narrows and narrows, the rocks give way to boulders and.....
...Battleship looms above me to the right.
There are some cairns to show the way but they are infrequent, probably the recent rains washing many away
How about that? At mile 4, I begin to run into pools of water but they are avoided by bushwhacking around to the right or left. Lots of frogs jump into the pools as I near and as usual, I am ever watchful for snakes. Getting bitten out here in the middle of no where would suck. I watch where I place my hands prior to pulling myself up and over boulders, watch ledges carefully, the usual stuff.
Almost at mile 5, the canyon approaches a vertical wall. I know from reading hike reports that the canyon becomes very narrow and shoots sharply to the left at this point.
I enter the narrow zig-zag corridor. Smooth rock lines the narrow base with water rushing through it but there is enough space to walk alongside it.
A stupendous experience in this narrow, twisty corridor with the walls soaring above me on both sides. During heavy rain, the last place to be and as I contemplated taking a snack break, it began to rain. If I continued forward, I would exit this narrow corridor, it would open up and around mile 6, the Calvary Trail would cross the creek and I could loop around but I didn't want to chance missing the trail and intended to turn around at this point anyway so turn around I did. Soon, I discovered the Toledo guy sleeping on a rock. Weird. He woke up and I briefly spoke to him but did not linger. Why would a guy who was, by his own admission, oblivious to what lay ahead (the zig-zag corridor) go off the trail into a creek bed, lay down and fall asleep?
I traipsed back down the canyon, located the trail, climbed out of the canyon, looked back, wow.
Later, I came across this guy but he was harmless. Small diameter but very long.
The clouds began to move out and brilliant blue sky approached. Finished with 10 miles and 3000' of climbing in just under 6 hours.
Big weekend coming up so just wanted something light to burn some calories on Thursday so I drove to Catalina State Park, about a mile from our place to do the Romero Trail. It goes 2.5 miles to the pools and then if so inclined, you can continue on to the Romero Pass way, way up. What an odd sight. I've never seen water in this wash but people had brought lawn chairs out, coolers, kids were playing in the water and making sand castles. The trail crosses this just a few feet from the parking lot.
There is about a mile of sand walking, kind of boring but the views are great. The trail summits at that ridge in the background, around 12 miles from the start.
Then there is some fairly steep climbing, following an easy to follow trail. No route finding needed on this trail.
Finally, the trail drops into a canyon where the Romero Pools exist. Goof flow and a few people had made the trip to soak in the cold water flow. I headed back, greeted by some neat views to the west. I signed up for the 13 miles LaBarge Canyon Lower Loop trail but so conflicted am I....I'd miss the Buckeye game. Don't have DVR out here. With about 23 people coming, if we move at the pace of the slowest, I could miss all the Saturday games. Argh!!!!
The rides start at dawn around here. I have to waive my rule about not driving to a bike ride if the clock begins with "6" when I'm out here. It is 6:00, the sun is just coming up and the temp is 66 degrees, going to a high of 92.
Another GABA (Greater Arizona Bike Ass) ride so a C+ pace of 50 miles. About 10 miles in to the ride they are still riding at a conversational pace, I'm becoming increasingly exasperated so I leave them and solo the next 11 miles to the top of Pistol Hill. I wait and take pics. In the distance, our home is at the left base of that far mountain range. I am on the south side of Tucson in the vicinity of Vail.
Cyclists approach and I expect my group but wait!!!! Soon 20 of them summit the hill and stop to regroup. I talk to some of them and they are the "Sabino Devil something or other" group that starts out of LaBuzz at 7:30!!!!! They look like the real deal. Start as a large group and then break into two. Surely I can hang with one of those??? Will drop in with them next Wednesday.
Soooo, after Saturday's hike, I relaxed on Sunday, laying around, soaking in the spa and watching football. Then Monday, I slotted in with a group ride out of Udahl Park off Tanque Verde Road. Mostly C+ cyclists but the first half of the ride was good, riding Spanish Trail, past Saguaro Park and then up Pistol Hill.
I kind of easily outpaced the rest but otherwise hunkered in with the group and behaved like a typical C, talking about food, alcohol and gambling. OK, just kidding about the talking points. We descended the hill and then got on to a boring sequence of bike paths and city riding. I welcomed the end at mile 60 but how about that blue sky and sun!
Now on to important things. The view of the mountains from my patio, while sitting, is becoming obscured by fast growing trees. If I wanted to look at trees I'd have stayed in Ohio. I'm certain the HOA will not endorse tree trimming so I walked to the maintenance building and find a extended limb trimming thingy. I have one so know how to use. However. the rope that operates the manual slicer is cut. I drive to Home Depot and buy rope, return and fix the thingy. I need to get this done quickly and without witnesses. I dash to the base of the tree, cut, cut, cut, cut, scamper to the trash bin with branches, return thingy to the building and return to the patio. Better, but still not good enough to round 2 tomorrow.
First off, I'll go in to far more detail then any of you will probably want to read. I refer back to these posts for information for later hikes and again, 20 years from now I'll probably get a kick out of rereading these. Leading up to this hike, it was suggested that a high clearance vehicle would be needed to navigate the 20 miles of Navajo Nation roads once the turn was made off #89. Currently, while rough, a car would make the trip if driving slowly over the scraped dirt roads. Navigating the roads is very difficult because only a couple have signs and there are many dual tracked paths that lead off them that serve to confuse. We got off track and if Joe, one of the two people going with me, had not had a GPS devise, we never would have found the trail head. But, we made it and discovered another group was there too, making a modest 3 mile hike to the Little Colorado River. Well, at the time I thought it was modest.
Our goal was also the LCR but upon reaching it, we would hike an additional 5 miles to where the LCR merges with THE Colorado River, referred to as the great confluence and a place few have visited. We descended from the trail head, following a path that meandered towards the Salt Trail gorge.
And then we reached the edge of the gorge and it was freakin spectacular! Gosh I love it here and once again, the image does not begin to do justice to the view, It's a long story but our hike leader, "Peter" was a no show and someone who had previously hiked with him, one of the two twenty-somethings with me, had forecasted this outcome. Not to worry, we plunged in to the abyss.
There are two ways to look at this. A close up of a pebbly surface or a view from afar of boulders the size of houses. Yep, is the latter and the trail, such as it was, was like this all the way to the river. Far more difficult to navigate then the 6-7 other GC trails I have hiked/backpacked, it made route finding slow and challenging.
Looking back at the rim, I could not help but dread the return. It was going to come when we were most tired. Amy and Joe, climbing down, down, down.
After the initial climb down of about 1500", we skirted the gorge while walking along this ledge, which had some exposure to significant drops but not too bad.
Maybe from this image you can judge how difficult was the going. Steep, rocky, boulder hopping. We began discussing how it would be impossible to complete a 16 mile hike through this environment, especially since the official start time was 8:00am, two hours after sunrise, in October with limited daylight. Just a poorly planned event by our no show hike leader.
Finally, we reached the final descent to the LCR, marked by two rock piers.
We reach the river but the recent rains have turned it in to a muddy brown rather than the usual beautiful blue/green. It took us almost 3 hours to hike the 3 miles to this point. No way to make it to the confluence and then back before sunset. I was bummed.
It would take about 10 hours to do the hike and with our late start, just impossible so we trudged out. I was in good shape and quickly distanced myself from the others, not because I wanted to but just because I set a quick steady pace that for some reason I can maintain going up hill for a long time. Must be that cycling.
Then, I made a bad decision. Maybe from being tired but I lost the trail on the final ascent, climbed a 15 foot wall and boom there was a huge boulder blocking my path. I turned around and, crap, could stare 3000' to the river. I kind of froze and sat down on a pebbly slope and swore if I got out of this I would start playing golf again. One of my companions walked close by but they were out of water, dehydrated, had to keep going and nothing they could do for me anyway. I took my pack off, dropped it to the base of the wall so it would not catch as I tried to climb down and how about that! Made it, regained the trail and finished with 6 miles which sounds so inadequate but if only you could appreciate the difficulty you would understand.
Couple of notes, the 4 bottles of fluids and the 2 in the bag I stashed are no where near enough. Should carry a gallon jug, as inconvenient as that is, to the base of the final ascent and leave it for the return. Also, ditch the hiking pole, it is helpful at times but too often gets in the way.
The rain moved out but some clouds lingered over the Catalina Mountains in Oro Valley. Well, time for the 5 hour drive north but instead of the usual I-10/I-17 I took an alternative route that kind of parallels those highways. It added about an hour but the scenery was great.
Clouds lingering to the west and it actually rained on me north of Payson, a very cool town with some interesting villages north and south of it like Strawberry, AZ.
North of Flagstaff, with mountains to the west, grassy plains stretched far to the east.
I arrived at the Cameron Trading Post that has a hotel on the property which is not bad and located on the edge of the Little Colorado River.
Of course. as you head to the west, the LCR gorge deepens rapidly.
I stopped at an overlook and pretty cool views.
There below is the LCR. Doesn't look that far but it is and deeper yet, farther west where I will enter on the opposite bank. Can't wait.
Geesh, my first full day in AZ and look at this.. A tropical depression moved through the area out of the Pacific, the 3rd such event in the last month. AZ has experienced a very nice monsoon season, exceeding the usual amount of rainfall for both the season and year. While waiting out the rain, I unpacked the yellow/black Trek, which will become the AZ bike and packed the old grey/black US Postal Trek to send back to Ohio.
The sun sets right at 6:00pm so at 3:00, the rain stopped and I made a dash for Sabino Canyon, about 16 miles away. The parking lot was nearly empty. I exited the parking lot at 4:00 and headed towards the Blackett's Ridge trail, usually a popular destination as a fitness hike. Above,Thimble Peak is an obvious landmark, but Blackett's Ridge is the bump just to the right of Thimble. Reaching the trail end under an hour is considered a very good time.
I reach the top in 52 minutes and looking back, am treated to some great views of the valley with clouds interacting with shafts of sun and some rain curtains seen too. It would be a bad idea to linger with the clouds assuring an early dusk so I shoved myself off a rock and headed down. About halfway, it began to rain, not violently, just a good steady soaking rain that stopped, just as I was soaked of course.
Some breaks in the clouds approach from the southwest.
There it is, sunshine approaching. Looked for a rainbow but did not see one. Funny how it takes me as long to descend as it does to ascend but the trail is very "bouldery" and rough and with the rain making the rocks slick, I didn't want to fall and get my stay off to a bad start. Tomorrow (Thursday) I have to buy a raft that I can take with me to float across the river on Saturday's hike. Not sure if one of those cheap floaty type things you find at Walmart is suitable or not. May have to do some research. Also should take the bike to "Oro Valley Bicycles" to have them check the tension on the reassembled bike fasteners. I found a very small diameter "O" ring that came from the bike but was not reinstalled. It must be important, maybe from the front brake assembly. Well, much more to come.
I had a blast at the Levi. I showed up early and ended up in a pretty good spot in the staging area. Just like in previous years, you still have to catch up to the lead group and somehow it seems like you have to pass thousands of riders. The lead group was a few hundred and rolling along pretty fast, I was working my way up to the front on each hill or lull. I probably had 200 riders in front of me and 300 behind me in the front group followed my another 7,000.
Then on the Graton hill, Lucas Euser who races for the United Healthcare team gives it the gas and the group gets strung out. I feverishly start passing people and there is a big gap by the time I get to the top of the hill. About 50 riders form a chase group and we seem to be making good time but we cannot see the break of about 50 riders. After another 10 miles we hit the Kings Ridge climb and two guys ride away from the group. I join them but they have no interest in working together and they both soon tire out and I end up spending most of the ride passing guys that are cooked from trying to keep up with Lucas Euser, Neil Shirley and Brian Finnerty ect…
I thought that I would have a really hard time staying motivated after missing the break. Chasing down the two guys on Kings Ridge ended up being all that I needed for motivation and I stayed pretty motivated for most of the ride. This year I finished in 5:09 which is slower than last year’s 5:05. Last year I was with the fastest riders until Kings Ridge and had more people to ride with until later in the ride. I still had time to enjoy the scenery and I had forgotten just how amazing the scenery is in that part of Northern California. I heard that they may change the route next year, I hope they don’t change the 100 mile course. It is a difficult and dangerous course with lots of cattle crossing, steep descents and hazards. They had two riders that needed to be air lifted. I heard that one went off a cliff and that they needed a helicopter to get him out because he was so far down the mountain and it was too steep to carry him back up to the road, I was told that he was recovering and lucky to be alive.
This year played out differently than I expected. Neil Shirley was the first finisher the last two years and he was the first finisher of the Beverly Hills Fondo last weekend and that Fondo had something like 11,000ft of climbing with super strong competition. Neil was the 6th finisher this year, there was a group of 4 pro riders that finished together for first and Neil finished several minutes behind them coming in solo. Lucas Euser ended up in 9th place coming in solo, I finished 12th.
Sunday, a glorious weather day for paintball. Cloudy, cool, windy so I could layer on the sweatshirts to provide some protection from hits. Below, hundreds of us gather to be marched to various areas of the acreage where we wait for instructions to attack. I know, it's kind of goofy but if you enjoy running around in the woods shooting at people, it's great fun. I know too, you think I hang back and take pot shots, a follower but no, I am at the tip of the paintball spear. However, I am somewhat of a "wiper". I got hit square in the chest once, I turned to someone and asked how it looked, he said, "It appears to only be a flesh would." so I kept going, wiping away the smear.
I know, I know, I too missed the routine of going to the Thursday New Albany ride, mixing in with some very cool and nice people followed by a good bike ride. I can't put into words how thankful I am that I have an alternative coming. In one week, I will be standing on the rim of this.....
.....and hiking down to the below, the point at which the Little Colorado River flows in to the Colorado River. The flow rate of water is very high from all the rain so need to bring a floating type thingy so I can paddle across the river to continue the route. It's a 16 mile round trip hike and supposed to be a great adventure with 3 other people. Meantime, tomorrow is the Fall HOOT tour but OSU kick-off is noon so probably do a trail run instead and then Sunday is the "Big Game" a paintball extravaganza at Splatter Park in Mt Giliad. My son and I are going but I suspect he invited me to go just so he could "bonus ball" me. You know, when you are not looking someone who is supposed to be on your side takes a shot at you.