Sunday, October 24, 2010

EOP Ride

Yesterday the San Tan team rode to the End of Pavement (EOP) east of Tortilla Flats. The weather was perfect and 6 of us made the round trip from the Paragon Bike shop in Mesa.

Its exactly 50 miles from my house to the EOP, and Paragon is right on the way, so I was able to get in a nice century ride by riding to and from the shop to join the ride.

It takes about an hour to ride to the shop, so I left the house with lights on at 6 am. The weather has finally turned cool, so I also added a few layers as well.

We pressed out of Paragon at 7. Route finding from there is easy. Take Brown to the Apache Trail, turn left and ride until the pavement turns to dirt. Turn around and return, three cue sheet entries for 70 miles of riding!
The Team at the End of Pavement
We rode in a paceline until we hit the hills then our little group split and regrouped several times (Canyon Lake, EOP, Marina for water refills).

Scott set a tremendous pace returning on the Apache Trail with us mere mortals hanging onto his wheel by a thread!

When we reached Brown on the return I bid the group farewell and enjoyed a more modest pace back home. I rolled into the garage at 1:15 pm. 

Great day on the bike!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Whitney Classic 2010 Ride Report

Whitney Times September 26, 2010 Vol. XI

Solo: This was my 11th Whitney Classic and my 6th solo effort. Normally I would hoodwink some unsuspecting person or persons (ex. Mom, Dad, Wife, Sister, Friend, homeless guy on Mill Ave.) to accompany me to California, drive the support and gear vehicle (SAG), stay up all night, and share the experience that is the Whitney. This year, however, schedule conflicts of those that were willing to SAG and my desire to ride unsupported resulted in me heading out to California alone in Debby's Suburban.

Chiraco Summit, California
Chiraco Summit, California is about half-way between Tempe and Lone Pine. I discovered this fact courtesy of Debby's Garmin Nuvi GPS unit. I know this route by heart, but thought it would be helpful to have a little company on the road, so I plugged it in for the trip. Also for a change of pace, I reprogrammed the Nuvi so it had a female 'voice' with an Aussie accent. Whenever I got a little lonely on the road, I would exit and she would come on to tell me she was 'recalculating' and then would instruct me to get back on the road! As I passed Chiraco Summit she told me I was half-way to Lone Pine!

I arrived in Lone Pine about 8 hours after I left the office, checked in with the race officials, grabbed a Subway sandwich for dinner and made my way to the Lone Pine Park for the pre-ride worship service. It was great to see all my Summit friends, meet a few new ones, and enjoy a unique worship and gathering in the park.

My Trusty Steed, very reflective in the RV Parking Lot

The main reason I drove the Suburban to the Whitney instead of my uber efficient Mini Cooper is that the Dow Villa Motel (my favorite in town) was booked. The only room that was available in town was $130 per night! So I figured I would spend about $60 extra in gas, but save $260 in motel costs by sleeping in the Suburban! So after worship, I stopped at the Joseph's grocery to pick up a few items and returned to the parking area where all the Good Samaritan RV Volunteers were parked. I slipped in between two RVs and set about getting my bike ready for the ride. Finally ready to go, I laid out my sleeping bag and pad, put in my earplugs, and easily fell fast asleep in the back of the truck.

The first rays of daylight illuminate Mt. Whitney

I woke at dawn and headed into town for a light breakfast and returned to the Headquarters to take the bike out for a quick shake-down ride. Since I had no SAG, I put my bike in one of the Summit Staff trucks and caught a ride with Ginger to the starting line.

Returning to Lone Pine after checking out the bike

A new sponsor of the Whitney, the Panamint Springs Resort, offered to serve a pancake brunch in lieu of the normal rider breakfast at the VFW Hall in Lone Pine. So we left Lone Pine and headed toward Panamint springs resort. Panamint is about the half-way point of the ride in linear distance.

Spinner and Graham chilling under the tent at Panamint

The rider brunch (pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausage) was finished by noon and soon we were wheeling out way to our next stop at Stovepipe wells. I joked that it was kinda chilly at 108 and Ginger suggested I put on her cap to to stay warm. We loitered about the store for a little while then were off to the Furnace Creek visitor center, for one last blast of air conditioning before the event.
I think the hat made some people angry!
Soon we were at the Badwater starting line. I grabbed my bike from the truck and finished putting on my gear. Ginger was ready to take my 'before' photo and I hopped on my bike to ride down to the restroom.

At the start

With the photo done, I mount up and ride down to the restroom. Ping ping ping! It sounded like I had a broken spoke! How could that be, with no SAG I figured I was toast! I checked each spoke, no, none were broken. I got back on the bike, Ping ping ping! I thought maybe the wheels were clicking from the heat, I checked the quick releases, and anyway the pinging lessened as I rode back to the start line.

I was checking over my bike and this couple drove up and started talking to me in German. Of course they assumed since I was wearing a replica of the Champion of Germany jersey they thought I was German! I explained it was a gift from my son who spent a year there. They asked about the race and I told them, 200 kilometers from here to Mt. Whitney. They looked at each other in disbelief, then back at me with both thumbs up!

We had a safety briefing, prayer, then we were off. Janet Nye, new board member and riding her first Whitney, told me that my rear light was rubbing my rear spokes, D'oh! That was the pinging sound! I stopped, adjusted the light, and was off into the heat.

I let the fast movers go and settled into a steady pace into the hot headwind that would be present for most of the event.
Rolling out of the first SAG at Furnace Creek

I reached the first SAG in about an hour and had drained both water bottles. I used Hammer Sustained Energy in the first bottle and plain water in the second. By the time I got to the bottom half of the second bottle the water was HOT. When I reached the second SAG at 5:25; Dan Harbuck was there with the Enterprise truck. He was the broom wagon sweeping up the SAG gear as the last riders cleared each SAG stop. There was one team behind me, and as they cleared each SAG Dan would load up and press ahead. He would always pull over and check if I needed anything. I took several bottles of water in between SAGs in Death Valley and still became quite dehydrated!

The Dunes between Scotty's Castle turnoff and Stovepipe Wells

I had noticed at the start that my headlight was not working. Luckily, I put a spare in my handlebar bag at the start. When I arrived at Stovepipe at 6 pm, I was hot, dizzy, and in need of 4 AA batteries for my light. I bought the batteries, checked into the SAG, grabbed a Coke and tried to revive my headlight. Putting new batteries in did not help, so I gave the light to Dan, and put on my spare, and tucked the new batteries in my jersey pocket in case I needed them later. I was hot, dehydrated, and knew if I sat around I would stiffen up. So I reloaded my water, drank most of the coke and pushed out of the SAG at 6:06. I found a steady pace and made my way up the hill to the Wild Rose SAG. I arrived at wild rose at 7:40, grabbed a Mountain Dew and an extra water bottle and was on my way to Townes Pass. I reached Townes at 9:27, reloaded and was again out just a few minutes later.

It was chilly at the top of Townes, but I didn't want to put on a jacket. I knew it would be hot again in the bottom of Panamint Valley, so I rode the brakes for the first 1500 feet of descent to keep my speed down and reduce the wind chill. Once the air warmed, I was off the brakes and freewheeling down the hill at about 50 mph. Again the wind was in my face and that held me up somewhat. I bottomed out in the heat of Panamint Valley and was in and out the Panamint control in 4 minutes at about 10:10.

Normally the ride up to Fr. Crowley and Hillcrest is quite enjoyable. While the moon was out and the landscape fully illuminated, the headwind was annoying and slowed my progress considerably. Soon however, I was rolling into the fully paved and upgraded Fr. Crowley turnout just before midnight. I asked about the weather at Hillcrest, and the Sammers thought it would be about the same as Crowley.

I reached the Hammer radio relay station at Hillcrest and noted the cold headwind and decided to stop and layer up; wool socks, full leg warmers, long sleeve polypro base layer, skull cap, and long gloves. A few meters later I descended into the 'ice box' a depression in the topography that is always 10-15 degrees colder. It was and I powered through, now the headwind was actually a help as my body temp increased because of working into the wind.

Once I reached the top, the winds subsided and I flashed through the Keeler and Darwin Sag stops spending 5-8 minutes at each one to check in and reload my bottles. I reached the Lone Pine HQ Sag at 3 am and rolled over to the Suburban to drop some gear and grab a few gels. I checked out and was back on the road in 10 minutes.

Lone Pine is a pretty quiet place at 3 am, and I rolled through town and turned left up the Portal road. Soon I realized my gearing on my race bike was a little too strong and I spent much of the climb out of the saddle fighting the gears up the very steep sections to the last SAG stop just below the switchbacks. I pulled in and had a hot chocolate before I made the final push up the road.

Clearing the last switchback just before dawn

Ginger had driven down from the finish to chronicle my progress over the last few miles and shout out some welcome encouragement. I cleared the last hairpin climb/turn under the Premier Buttress and rolled into the finish line at 6:30 am!

Rolling into the finish at 6:30 am!

Very happy to have this one in the Bag!

Speaking of bags, Ginger 'bagged' me as I enjoyed a hot chocolate at the very chilly finish line Sunday morning.

Your humble correspondent, 'in the bag!'

I lingered for a few minutes then said, "I think I need to get off this mountain!" I put my bike in a Summit truck and rode down to the HQ with Kelly in one of the staff cars. Kelly offered me the shower in one of the staff rooms at the hotel, I showered, put on my compression gear, and crawled into the Suburban for a nap. I woke a few hours later, retrieved my bike and headed back to the Lone Pine Park for the pizza party and post-ride awards.

Collecting my awards for top individual fund raiser!

I am happy to report that after 11 years I finally finished first! I was the fastest solo rider (OK I was the only solo rider) and the top individual fund raiser.

Thank you! As of this writing we are over my goal of raising $10,000 for Summit. With a matching donation from the Dell Foundation (Thanks Mary!) that will arrive later I think we have a shot of exceeding $12,000! Summit really needs a strong Whitney to supplement the cash flow in the winter, and many of you on my support team have been loyal supporters year after year. Thank you!!!

If you have not made that donation yet, there is still time, click here, and indicate Atkins WC in the purpose box.

Last thoughts: I have ridden many events that are longer than the Whitney, but few match the challenge of riding through the heat, night, and hills, of the Whitney. The uphill finish and cold at the top really add an exclamation point to the ride. But the support, encouragement, and connection with a ministry that I love draws me back to Lone Pine year after year. Yes, I am already making plans for next year....

Park Tool Pizza Cutter was one prizes I received at this year's Whitney!

Steve Atkins
Phil 4:13 "I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me."

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Whitney Classic Fund Raiser

Yes, its that time of year again…The 29th Annual Whitney Classic Bike Ride, Summit Adventure’s main fundraising event, will take place on September 25th-26th .The Whitney is an adventurous 135-mile bike ride that starts at 3:00 p.m. at Badwater, Death Valley, California (282 ft. below sea level), continues through the night and finishes the next morning at the portals at Mt. Whitney (8365 feet above sea level). The ride includes three major climbs of 17 miles, 13 miles and 13 miles, two of which by Tour de France classifications are considered “Out of Category” which to you and me means “really, really steep.” Total elevation gain for the ride is 15,300 feet.

This is my 11th Whitney! What, are you nuts? Yes, nuts and addicted to this awesome ride. I love to ride, I love Summit Adventure, and I love this event. Nothing matches the awesome course, camaraderie of the participants, and incredible support from Summit Staff and volunteers. Many of you have been loyal supporters of Summit all these years. I cannot thank you enough!

Each year is a different challenge; this year will be my 6th solo ride. My reasons for riding solo are two fold: 1) In preparation for the 2011 Paris-Brest-Paris Randonneur and 2) I am running of prospective teammates!

In the past ten years, through your generous support, we have contributed over $100,000 to Summit Adventure! Thank you! Here’s where you come in: I have set a goal to raise $10,000 for this year’s Whitney. Our course income provides for only 45 percent of our budget. The rest comes through fund raising events such as the Whitney Classic. I served as a member of the Summit Board of Directors and know how critical a successful Whitney is to the financial health of the ministry. Debby, Mark, Michael and I have all participated on Summit courses over the years and have been deeply impacted by this great ministry! We all love Summit. That’s why I ride!

Please join my support team and send in your donation today! (Donate online by clicking here and indicate ‘Atkins WC’ in the purpose box on the following page).

Please pray with me for a safe, successful event. Thank you and God bless!

Check out our web page by clicking here Click here to check out last year's pictures!


Donations are tax deductible.

YES, Steve you are crazy and

· I WILL SPONSOR YOU AND SUMMIT FOR; $2,000 $1,000 $500 $250 $100 $____


Please send your gift via snail mail with this stub to Summit Adventure. Thanks!

PO Box 498, Bass Lake CA 93604

Friday, June 18, 2010

Oregon Blue Mountain 1000 Brevet

Ride Report
June 2010
Steve Atkins


One of my ride goals is to return to the Paris-Brest-Paris 1200 in 2011. Due to the increasing popularity of the ride, and randonneuring in general, the organizers in France have indicated they may somehow limit the number of riders (there were over 5000 starters in 2007). The event is held every four years. While an exact formula has not been finalized to establish each country’s ‘quota,’ there are two things an aspiring 2011 participant can do to increase their chances: 1) ride a full super-randonneur series (200, 300, 400, and 600 kilometer brevets) and 2) complete a 1000 kilometer brevet in 2010.

I completed the Casa Grande super-randonneur series this spring and was looking for a 1000k event. At the same time, Debby has been helping out her mom in Oregon with many trips to Coos Bay. She noted the great scenery, abundant riding and said I should look for a brevet in Oregon. Instantly I was on the RUSA (Randonneurs USA) website and found the Oregon Blue Mountain 1000. I signed up immediately! It fit perfectly into the summer schedule, and Deb could visit her mom while I did the ride.

I arrived in Portland, collected my bag and bike box, picked up my rental car and headed toward the start at the Motel 6 in The Dalles, Oregon. It’s only a 45-mile drive, but it was packed with great views of the Columbia River Gorge. I stopped at the Bonneville Dam, Generating Station, and Locks about halfway to The Dalles. I was surprised at the security checkpoint before proceeding to the dam. Once in the compound, the security check made sense. The access road is directly adjacent to the generating station. There was no boat or barge traffic in the locks, so I wandered around, took a few pictures and headed down the road.

I checked into my room at the Motel 6, assembled my bike, and was soon on the road for a little ‘shake down’ ride to make sure every thing was working on the bike, and to ride the first few miles of the course. I headed out, with a great tailwind, thinking I shouldn’t go too far since the return will be into the wind. When I crossed the Columbia River about 7 miles into the route, I decided to head back to my room and find a dinner spot. When I spun around, I had my first of many views of Mt. Hood!

Just outside of town I noticed the HiWay House restaurant. Kind of dumpy on the outside, but the parking lot was full, with lots of dirty pickup trucks, so I figured it was a prime target. Bingo! It was a great pre-ride meal with local brew, great chicken pesto pasta, and homemade bread. Even complimentary peppermint ice cream. The HiWay House has been in the same family for many years. At one time the founders lived in the apartment above the restaurant, my server told me. They have long since passed away and the children run the place, but she is convinced the place is haunted. All I know is was a great place to enjoy a pre-ride meal.

I stopped at a convenience store to pick up a chocolate milk (for breakfast) and Coors ‘Tallboy” (for a nite-cap) and returned to my well-appointed room at the Motel 6.

Day 1: The Dalles to North Powder

The ride start was 7 am in the registration parking area of the opulent Motel 6. I checked in and chatted with a few of the other 25 or so participants. We rolled out right on time and by the time we crossed the Columbia River a small group of riders formed at the front and I decided to bridge up and join in. We were at the first control; 57 miles in three hours. While we were moving fast, it was very evenly paced.

Our group was out of the first control in Roosevelt (mini-market) and back on the road in no time. We continued at a very even pace in a double pace line. The course was following the Columbia River upstream, winds were calm, and the temperature was perfect. We were in the next control at the Umatilla Tesoro Station in another three hours. 107 miles in six hours is a great pace.

I did a quick reload of my water bottles (with Sustained Energy) and downed a chocolate milk and was ready to go. Three of us left the control and headed out of town. As we climbed out of the river flood plain we were greeted by an annoying headwind. As the climb started I dropped back and let the two other riders go and started the 60 mile climb to the next control at Tollgate Pass at my own pace.

The ride went through very interesting farmland. A good portion was following a creek upstream in a deep ravine well protected from the wind. I think the temperatures were in the nineties, but with the headwind, it was not so bad. Two riders (Robin and Eric from the Seattle Randonneurs) caught me and we rode together as we climbed out of the creek onto an exposed plateau with some serious rollers and a strong headwind. Along this section, you could see the wind currents on the surface of the wheat that was planted as far as the eye could see!

Robin and Eric were going at a pace a little too hot for me, so I dropped off and rode into the next town (Athena) alone. As I rolled into town, Eric yelled hello from a bench outside a grocery. I stopped, commiserated with Eric about the heat, and reloaded my bottles as he headed out of town.

The grade steepened for next 25 miles to the Tollgate control. The climb was a steady grade through beautiful farm and forest land. I was at the Tollgate control as the sun set and the temperature was dropping like a rock! Happily, the organizer had hot soup at this indoor control. So, after a Coke, and a bowl of hot potato soup, I layered up and headed down for a 2600 foot descent along a water course to Elgin.

After Elgin, it was 40 miles of flat, dark, and generally unremarkable riding to the controls at La Grande and Union. The last 10 miles to the overnight included a little climb that would be nothing at the beginning of a day, but was something after 230 miles of riding. The course went though a pass shared by a Union Pacific rail line. So riding alone, no moon, billions of stars, it was me, and a Union Pacific train grinding up the hill. Many of our brevets in Casa Grande AZ follow rail lines. I am always impressed by the noise and power of those great machines.

I was happy to hear the squealing and grinding of brakes from the train as the rail bed (much higher on the slope) reached its summit and started its descent. Soon I was bombing down the hill into the darkened town of North Powder (the lights were out since 11 pm due to a car crash into a power pole). I rolled into the control at 1:23 am Sunday morning.

Since power was out, I had to hang my headlamp over the shower pole (lucky the hot water was from natural gas!) to clean up. I had a nice meal of a turkey sandwich, hot soup, and enjoyed a campfire with the owners of the motel that was our control. I inserted my earplugs and then slipped into my assigned bed (with another rider already sleeping) for three hours of sleep.

Day 2 : North Powder to Mitchell

I awoke at 5 am, so I slipped out of bed and dressed in the motel laundry room so as not to wake by room and bed mates. I had a nice breakfast at the control (the power was back on) and was on the road by 6 am.

Riding alone, and about 10 miles into the ride, I noticed a rider coming up from behind. Suddenly, BANG, something whacked my helmet. It felt like someone threw a water bottle and hit me in the head. I turned around expecting to see a rider, but it was hawk setting up for another pass at my helmet. I ducked, yelled and waved my arms and she veered off. She followed me for a few hundred meters making all kinds of noise, and then she returned to a tree I had just ridden under. Good thing I had my chin strap on, or my helmet might have become a mobile home for some hawk family!

Once the climbing started I pulled off to take off a layer or two and slather on some sun screen. A pace line of 6 or so riders from the event approached, made sure I was OK, and then on were on their way. I thought about chasing them down for about 2 seconds, then decided it would be a good day to ride alone and enjoy the mountain scenery.

I rolled up to the Phillips Reservoir and pulled off for a little break and some photos in a picnic area. In between the loud roar of motorcycles (there was a motorcycle festival in nearby Baker City); it was relaxing to sit and listen to the birds and the sound of the breeze blowing through the trees. With many miles to go, I saddled up and headed to the next control at Austin House.

Just a mile before the control, spring water was available from this pipe. I filled up both bottles and arrived at the control a few minutes later. The group that passed me earlier was still there, but preparing to leave. I bought a chocolate milk and can of chicken soup and sat down in the shade. This combination gas station, store, restaurant was hopping.

Of course there were about a million motorcyclists! Another group of cyclists from Davis California was also there. They were touring and riding with full panniers and heading in the opposite direction to Baker City. We visited for a while, and then I rolled out for the third climb of the day!

I rolled into Prairie City with a great view of the Strawberry Mountains. The route goes around the mountain and includes some great climbing and scenery. I made a wrong turn just outside of town and ended up adding 6 miles to the day. I rolled into the control at the Parish Cabin Forest Service Campground, had a Coke, and was on my way. From here the course drops into to the town of John Day. I stopped at the Dairy Queen to pull on my night gear, have a hot dog, fries, and a chocolate milk. The course follows the John Day river to the next control in Dayville. Although it was downhill, the headwinds made most of the ride seem uphill!

I arrived at the Dayville control at 2300. This is a staffed control (a volunteer staffs the control) and there was more of that great hot potato soup. This control is at the base of 25 miles of climbing, before a fast steep drop into the town of Mitchell.

The sleep monster had been absent on the ride so far, but on the climb he decided to make a visit. I kept him at bay by stopping, turning off my lights, and enjoying the star-filled night sky for a moment or two. With no moon, no city lights, and no cars, the stars were breathtaking and the Milky Way was clearly visible. Once I was fully awake again, I would start back up the hill.

As I continued up the hill, with the sleep monster nipping at my heels, I noticed a tree up ahead that looked like there were hundreds of pairs of eyes staring at me! My first thought was; am I dreaming? Then as I got closer; are those birds or bats? When I pulled up, I stopped to take a closer look. With the wind, the ‘eyes’ were swinging back and forth and it was more than a little spooky until I realized there were hundreds of running shoes hanging in the tree. The ‘eyes’ were the tabs of reflective material on the shoes that really lit up from my LED headlamp!

Check out this website for more on the Shoe Tree:

Soon I was blasting down a 6 percent Grade into the town of Mitchell and the overnight control. I rolled into the Oregon Hotel about 2:30 am Monday morning, enjoyed a great dinner of chicken pasta, with a side of blueberries (excellent anti-oxidants), showered, and was assigned a bed in a room that was just ‘opened’ (no room or bed mates, yet!).

Day 3: Mitchell to The Dalles

I again awoke before my wake-up call and feeling rested after three hours of sleep, I decided to get going. No bed mate, but since I had a roommate I slipped down the hall and dressed in an unoccupied room, then headed downstairs to the control. 5 riders were preparing to leave. I did not want to ride alone today with the headwinds, so I decided to skip breakfast and pounded down a coffee and a gel to be ready when they left. Since there were a couple of floor pumps around I decided to check my tires. I am glad I did, they were down to 60 pounds of pressure! So I pumped them back up to 90 and left the control with Sofie, Jan, Bob, Eric, and Robin at 0700. Our little group would stay together for the whole day.

Day 3 has the fewest miles but the most climbing of the event. The start from Mitchell was a nice uphill grade to warm-up on and soon we were on a 10 mile descent back to the John Day River. The geology and rock formations were spectacular and totally different from the first 2 days. Our little group worked well together as we powered up and down the first 4 climbs of the day.

We stopped at the cafĂ© in Antelope for a light lunch and were soon on our way to Shaniko. For the majority of the day, the headwinds had been light, and somewhat refreshing as the temperatures increased during the day. When we left Shaniko and hit Bakeoven road, we faced headwinds we estimated at 20 mph, gusting to 35 mph. In fact the headwind was so loud we could not hear a motorcycle approaching from behind. He ‘buzzed’ us at high speed, gave us the one finger salute and accelerated up the road. He must have been frustrated because we had formed a double pace line echeloned into the wind. About an hour and a half later, we came upon an accident scene. The deputy sheriff waved us through the motorcycle debris spread all over the road. Next to the officer was the remains of a deer (beheaded from the impact) and about 200 feet from there was the remains of the motorcycle that passed us earlier, in the ditch next to the road. We found out later the rider who greeted us so ‘kindly’ earlier was enjoying a LifeFlight to Portland!

We continued our descent into Maupin and decided a Pizza from Deschutes Pizza Co. was in order. The slice of pie and a Coke was just the jolt I needed to cover the last two climbs of the day. Cresting the last hill, about 30 miles from the finish, we were again greeted with the huge headwind/crosswind. We stopped and I put on all the clothes I was carrying and was still freezing as we made our way back to The Dalles.

We found the last information control on the edge of town and rolled into the Welcoming Motel 6 at 2343! We turned in our cards, checked into our rooms, and made a beeline for the 24 hour Denny’s just down the road for a post-ride feast!

Click here to view all my pictures from this ride.


John Kramer and Dave Reed of the Oregon Randonneurs organized this outstanding event.They put together an awesome route that was both physically challenging (36,500 feet of climbing over 622 miles) and ascetically breathtaking! Their team of volunteers made an excellent brevet even better.

Sophie, Jan, Bob, Eric, and Robin made the last day of this event even more enjoyable. Their humor, strength, and riding skill made a difficult day of riding very fun indeed!

Most importantly, Debby, who puts up with my riding addiction and suggested I find a brevet in Oregon this summer!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Camp Verde to Flagstaff Training Ride

Camp Verde to Flagstaff Training Ride

May 15, 2010

I have ridden this route a number of times. This is one of my favorite Arizona rides! Generally when it gets hot in the Valley and I want to get some climbing and altitude I head toward Camp Verde. Susan Plonsky, our Regional Brevet Administrator suggested I modify the route to make it 'permanent' worthy. That is, find a start/finish with a commercial business that can print a receipt to document start and finish times. I pulled out the old Topo USA program and went to work. If I moved the start from the Clear Creek RV resort back to the Historic Downtown Camp Verde, that would be just over 300k to the Flagstaff city limit sign. So I packed the Mini Cooper with my trusty steed and I headed up the big hill toward Camp Verde. I left the house at about 0415 and was in the downtown area just before 0600.BINGO! A 24 hour Circle K is right downtown. I parked across the street in a big strip mall and got ready to go. I went in, bought an extra bottle of water (the first 'checkpoint' is 40 miles away, I figured I would need three bottles to get there) and got a receipt. Time out 0615!
Here at the top of hill, looking back at the 6% grade warning. I took my time today enjoying the climb. The view back toward Sedona was great:
Its about 32 miles to the top of the Mogollon Rim where you reach a 7450 elevation marker. Then AZ 87 narrows, but a nice downhill takes you to the first checkpoint at Clints Wells. There is a post office (more like a shed), Mustang convenience store, and restaurant here. As you can see below, it was hopping Saturday morning:
Water here is available at this tap, no charge for two water bottles! I topped off my bottles, bought a chocolate milk and headed out toward Mormon Lake. Its just a few tenths of a mile for the left turn onto Lake Mary Road.
The road widens again and has a great shoulder. There are lots of rollers from here to Flagstaff. Clints Wells is at 7000 feet and we will climb up to about 7500 just past old Happy Jack before descending again to Mormon Lake. Here is the ranger station that is closed in old Happy Jack:

Just a little more climbing from here, then a short descent to the next checkpoint at Mormon Lake. There are all kinds here; cyclists, bikers, horseback riders, 4 wheelers, ATVs and lots of folks just trying to get out of the heat. I grab another chocolate milk, water, and a receipt and I am on my way.

Mormon Lake Lodge, Restaurant, and Store

Its about 7 miles on Mormon Lake road before you rejoin Lake Mary Road for the final push to the Flagstaff City Limit. I was jotting down my mileage at the turn when this dude rolled up. He had a buddy from Flagstaff that was riding with him for this leg of his journey. I thought I was riding a long way today. My ride is nothing, this guy is riding to Oregon. He recently had a knee replaced and this ride was his rehabilitation! We visited for quite a while, then I was on my way.
About a mile after the turn-around at the Flagstaff City limits sign, you can reload again at the Lake Mary Country Store. There is a great picnic table out front so I bought some lunch and plopped down. One of the guys working came out and joined me while I had a little lunch. We talked about boys and toys. We talked about bikes, his friends race car, and then he pointed out this grader parked a few yards away. He collects the Yellow Iron as his hobby and does earth moving side jobs in addition to working at the store to help pay the rent!

As I rolled out of the store on my way back to Mormon Lake I stopped at this overlook on Lake Mary. The butte in the distance is just west of Mormon Lake, the next checkpoint.

Soon I was back at the store at Mormon Lake. I considered going into the restaurant, but decided to head back, so one more chocolate milk, and I was on my way. Then this guy, Dublin Driscoll rolls up on this motorized Chinese bicycle and kid trailer.

Dublin is on his way to New Mexico. His rig gets about 100 miles to the gallon. The only drawbacks; on steep hills it has a tendency to stall and his trailer has about 80 pounds of gear! We were heading the same direction, I would catch him on the hills, but he would pull away on the flats. On the climb to Happy Jack he stalled out and turned around. He called out; "I've changed my mind!" I rolled up and decided to take a break and visit with Dublin. He had come to the conclusion that his rig was better suited for the shoulder of the interstate where the grades were more consistent. This 'short-cut' was just a little too steep. Also, we discussed how little shoulder the AZ87 has, and how his trailer would be hanging well into the highway.

He was wearing a faded hi-vis vest and his flags say "Jesus" "Died" "For" "You." I told him good luck and "Vaya con Dios," which he shouted back to me, and we went our separate ways.
I pulled into the Mustang Market with the sun setting and the temperature dropping, I pulled on my night gear (with my nifty new WalMart Hi-Vis vest), arm and leg warmers, and tossed down the last chocolate milk for the day.

This next section can be a little intimidating. The road is narrow, but traffic was light, and before I knew it, I was back at the 7450 elevation sign and ready to bomb down the 87 to toward the AZ260 turn. The sun had set and I pulled over to take this photo:

The moon and stars were out and traffic was very light. Soon I was on the big descent toward Camp Verde. With my Schmidt engaged and a slight headwind, I don't think I reached much over 40 mph on the descent!

Riding past the Clear Creek RV resort I thought, if you had started here, you'd be done now. As it was, I still had 6 miles to the finish in Historic Downtown Camp Verde! Its slightly downhill, except for the last half mile into town, and went by quickly. Actually, it was probably better to spin easily for a few miles before climbing back into the car for the ride home.

I bought a big Mountain Dew and pulled a receipt at the Circle K. It was a little after 9, and the only place open was the Circle K. I packed up and headed home.

This was one of the most enjoyable days I have spent on the bike. Great route, awesome scenery, perfect weather, and interesting characters. Hopefully next time I ride, it will be a RUSA permanent!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tombstone 600K Brevet

April 2010
It was a busy week before the 600 so I packed most of my gear earlier in the week. Friday night, the Corona High School Band and Arizona Wind Symphony held a concert lakeside at Tempe Town Lake. Since my son Michael plays in the Corona Band and my wife is a flute player with the Arizona Winds, I knew I would be rushing around after the concert, packing last minute items, and trying to get some sleep. With a 3:30 am wake-up; I only got a few hours sleep, and my story begins:

With a coffee in hand, I pointed the Suburban towards Casa Grande and reached the WalMart parking lot just before 4:30am. I was together and ready to go for the pre-ride meeting where Lonnie Epic Wolfe and I were visiting and comparing lighting systems. Lonnie and I rode together on many brevets, including the Epic 400.

Soon we were on our way and into the pre-dawn darkness of Arizola road. The usual suspects formed a fast group and I tacked on to the back. Once the group accelerated on Jimmy Kerr Road, I let them go and decided not to join in. Soon Rebbecca, Scott and Ryan caught me from behind and we formed a nice little group that stayed together all the way to Mile Wide Road. Lonnie and Joe from Utah also joined in so we were able to spread the work around.
Here we are at the first control. Rebbecca is phoning in her blog update. Very Cool. Soon we were heading up Sandario road and Scott (I think) had a loud clicking sound coming from his rear wheel. We pulled over to discover that a nail had lodged itself into his armored tire and did not puncture!Lonnie and I at Picture Rocks very early in the ride. Lonnie was riding with his 'wing man' Joe Schoney from Utah. We had great conversations all the way to Mission Road.

I was planning on skipping the sleep stop in Elgin, and since Lonnie and Joe were planning on sleeping there, I decided to pick up the pace a little and left our little group. Soon I was in Green Valley at a convenience store picking up some lunch. At this point the winds were moderate and the weather was perfect. Soon I was heading up the climb to Sonoita. There was a slight tail wind that made the climbing a little easier. I remembered to pick up an extra water bottle at the Road Runner Market on Houghten road in Tucson. The last time I rode this brevet, I ran out of water on the climb... not recommended.
I rolled into the Elgin Community Club to find Susan Plonsky hard at work making dinner. I changed into some dry clothes, had some food and was soon on my way to Tombstone.

As I was heading out I noticed this cattle guard warning sign. About half the cattle guards on the ride had gaps in the rails big enough to consume an unsuspecting rider's wheels (see training ride blog entry below!). If only the guards in Maricopa County had the helpful warning like these did in Cochise County!

Soon I was on the main road toward Tombstone. Downhill with the wind, the sun setting on the Cochise Stronghold Mountains, and feeling pretty good, the ride was going very well. Leaving Mustang corner (about 15 miles from Tombstone) I started seeing the first riders on the return trip. I rolled into the Circle K at sundown and grabbed a Chocolate Milk and a receipt as this is an official control point and turn-around.

Now the blessed tailwind was a cursed headwind. But with the sun going down, it eased off. What didn't ease off, was my fatigue from lack of sleep. It was only 7:30pm when I left Tombstone and 9:00pm when I arrived back at Mustang Corner. I grabbed a milk, sat in a chair out front and dozed off holding my cue sheet. A few riders came through, I think, while I was dozing. I got back on the bike hoping my power nap would revive me. It didn't. I rolled back into the checkpoint in Elgin at about 10:30. I ate some dinner changed again into some dry clothes and decided to nap. Problem: it was very cold in the unheated Elgin Club and I tried to sleep on the floor with only my clothes and a towel. Eventually I used some cushions from the couch that got me off the cold floor, but with my sleeping bag back a the start, I could not stay warm.

After waking up several times I decided that it would be warmer to get on the bike and get going. I am not sure when I left Elgin, it was probably about 3 am. It was a spectacular night, nearly full moon about to set, lots of stars, no cars on the road, but plenty cold. I rolled into a Border Patrol checkpoint where I visited with three very bored officers. We chatted until I started getting cold, then I said thanks, and headed up the last mile of the climb out of Sonoita.

Soon I was barreling down the descent into Tucson. I did not get sleepy again until the sun came up. Lucky for me a brand new McDonalds was open at the I-19 highway so I rolled right in for a Big Brevet Breakfast!

Fully nourished, I was climbing Helmet Peak stripping off layers and slathering on the sunscreen. I noticed that yesterday's tailwinds were becoming today's headwind! As I continued on the winds would increase for the rest of the ride.

Soon I was at Ajo highway where traffic was stopped for the Tour of Tucson Mountains Bike Event. I crossed the route and headed into the Saguaro National Monument, which was spectacular! Our route continued to Sandario road, where I rejoined the race in progress. There were many riders strung out on the route. I must have joined at the back of the race because I was passing many riders and a number of them jumped on my wheel for a free ride.

I left the 'race' in Marana and stopped at the last official checkpoint, grabbed a coke, hot dog and chips and took a nice break. While I was eating my lunch I had a great conversation with a Harley rider who was sharing the shade. He was off to Maricopa to visit his sister.
One last stop in Eloy at the Circle K because my knee flared up. I was icing it down when Tom Baker rolled through. He had left Elgin several hours after I did and was making great time. He left while I was still nursing my knee. I made one more stop for Advil, then made the final push into the WalMart parking lot.

I found Susan in a sea of drop bags:

I completed the paperwork, visited with Susan for a little while, grabbed a Chipotle burro, and headed home. I was feeling good, except for my knee that flared up 12 miles from the finish, I could have turned the bike around and kept going. I was also very happy to have this one in the bag.

The tale of the tape!