So, arrived at La Buzz, a popular cyclists meeting point at 8:00am on Thursday morning but no one showed. Probably 37 degrees and heavy fog deterred them. Now what to do....drive to Kitt Peak, about 65 miles but I enjoy the drive around the region, mountain views, can't get enough of it. From a distance, I can see, barely, the Kitt Peak National Observatory.
Upon reaching the intersection off #86 that leads to Kitt Peak, I take another image that gives a little clearer image of the observatory. Very cool and only 12.5 miles from this spot. I drive the car all the way to the top, awesome. The final mile had lots of sand on the road and it was steep enough I wondered what I would do if the car started sliding backwards. Got out, looked around, walked into the visitor's center and asked what the current temp was...28 degrees. Drive back down debating what I should do and about a mile from the bottom, wave down a police cruiser and ask if it is ok to park my car at a pull out off #86 and he says, "Sure, don't sweat it."
My original plan is to just burn some calories and ride to the 1st or 2nd pull-out but upon arriving there, keep going and upon reaching mile marker 4, think, well may as well go to mile #5 but that sign is missing and soon I arrive at #6. About here, I get this view of the peak. So far, the road started off at 2-3%, goes to 5-8% and stays there for mile after mile. The road continues to work around the mountain and so far I have had amazing views to the north and west. My legs feel great and upon reaching mile #7 I suddenly think, "Heck, maybe I can make it to the top?" To be frank, I have been very disappointed circumstances have prevented riding all the way up Mount Lemmon and don't want another failure on my record. I am re-energized but then the grade steepens and stays at 7-10% for mile after mile until reaching the grounds of the observatory, where it slackens a bit before ramping up to 9-10% and a head wind hits.
Around mile #8, snow begins appearing along the road, spotty at first then more consistent, then deepening, deeper, ice on the trees and brush and the road continues to go around the mountain and I get great views of the south and then the north. I've gone 360 around the mountain and it's cold but having the full force of the sun moderates the chill somewhat. Here, the Catalina Mountains can be seen in the distance.
What a great climb. Not as long as the Lemmon climb but much steeper and not one foot is down hill or flat. All uphill, every single mile. After reaching each turn, I hope the top is in view but it keeps going up and then up and then come around an area in shade with lots of black ice and yahooooooo!!!!! There is the parking lot and I give a quick pump of the fist to celebrate. 12 miles, 3600' of climbing, 1:36 climbing time from route #86.
At the top is an impressive array of telescopes and support buildings. I hear the sunsets are spectacular from here with night time tours of the facilities included. Although cold at the top, the bright sun made it seem much warmer and I coasted down. At ground level, it was sunny and mid to upper 50's but I was cold and had the car heater going full blast for many miles before the numbness left my fingers. This is a classic climb that I hope to do again and the collection of views is definitely top 3 from everything I have seen.