Monday, December 31, 2012

Apache Trail 221 RUSA Permanent

Sorry pardner, RUSA members only!

Ride Report

December 29, 2012

Last month Paul Layton sent out a note that he and Mike Sturgill would be riding his Apache Trail 221 Permanent. Even though it was approved last year, this would be its first official running. What is a permanent you say, well, its not a hairdo! From

"A Permanent is like a brevet but you can arrange to ride it any time, not just on one specific date established by the organizer. Like brevets, routes can start and finish in the same location, but they can also run point-to-point, and can be any distance of 200km+ (100-199km for a Permanent Populaire). You must be a RUSA member to ride a Permanent (or a member of another ACP-affiliated country organization.) A Permanent may be ridden alone or with a group."

Paul's excellent route followed the same route I rode last year with some San Tan Racers (ride report), but it was not until last week that the family schedule opened up for this event. As an added attraction, Carlton van Leuven had signed up, so I sent Paul a note and I was on the start list!


Mike Sturgill is very happy that bar is open!
We met at the SE corner of Power and McDowell roads in Mesa Arizona for a 7:00 am start. We all arrived a few minutes before the start and rolled out with our lights blazing into the predawn darkness. Temperatures were in only in the high 30s', but the route starts up with a slight uphill so we all warmed up quickly. We made great progress through town with very little traffic and reached the Apache Trail just as the wind and sun rose from the east. As were heading out of town, Paul noted that this is his third permanent that includes a significant amount of unpaved road riding, which resulted in your humble correspondent assigning him the moniker of Paul 'Dirty' Layton (Dirty Mogollon Madness and 28C's Kelvin)!

Paul 'Dirty' Layton
Our little group stayed together most of the way to Canyon Lake. Traffic was light and the views were spectacular. Paul dropped off to ride at his own pace, but we all regrouped at the first Control at Tortilla Flats. As we walked into the bar at just after 8:20am to refill water bottles, my cell phone rang. Quite unexpected as the cell tower that serves the Flats was installed just recently!

Carlton van Leuven and Paul at the Flats
Tortilla Flats was a Postcard Control. That means that Paul included an addressed, postage-paid card in addition to our brevet card that we were required to note our time of passage on and drop in the mailbox. The mailbox was not especially easy to find, but we dropped our cards in just about the time that Paul rolled up on his machine.

Paul decided that Tortilla Flats would be his turnaround point. The headwind and his lack of recent training miles combined to make it an easy decision. We thanked him for organizing the permanent, refilled out water bottles and headed back out on the trail.


End of Pavement
The climbing continued for the next five miles until we reached the End of Pavement sign that warns travelers that the next 22 miles are unpaved. Most road cyclists (and motorcyclists) turn around here. Not today, we pressed ahead and rolled onto the dirt portion of the route. The Trail is well maintained and graded often, but it is a constant up and down affair so washboards form on most portions of the road.

The first mile or two on the dirt is a nice warm up, before the big descent down Fish Creek Hill. A single lane road cut into the cliffs. When two large vehicles meet, it is a challenge for them to pass. This morning we had the road to ourselves. The down grades were in excess of 12% and by the time we reached the bottom, our forearms ached as we were on both brakes all the way down!

Starting the descent
Steep downgrade to Fish Creek

Nice pool under the bridge over Fish Creek

Resting our forearms over Fish Creek

We continued along the Trail constantly looking for the smoothest, most compact line in the dirt. With the three of us constantly riding the road from side to side, its no wonder that one motorist asked us if we were lost! Noticing we were all on road bikes, he said; "You know it is dirt all the way to Roosevelt Lake!"

Traffic was light and the motorists we did see were very courteous, even when they encountered us on the 'wrong' side of the road seeking the smoothest line! As mentioned the Trail is a constant up and down affair with steep climbs and descents with tremendous views of Apache Lake and the Superstition Wilderness. The constant washboards take their toll on riders and gear. Mike lost a bottle, my saddlebag came loose, and our arms and back ached from the pounding. Happily however, no one had a flat tire on this grueling section of road.

Roosevelt Dam
Finally traffic started to pick up as we neared Roosevelt Dam. Quite suddenly around a bend we are greeted with sight of Roosevelt Dam and the return of pavement. We paused to take a few pictures before the final climb around the dam and the left turn on AZ-188
Mike resting, comfortable on pavement!
Very happy to be at the end of dirt!


We had been on the road nearly 5 hours and covered only 53 miles. We considered detouring into the town of Roosevelt to get something to eat and refill our bottles, but we were concerned about making the time cutoff at the Jake's Corner Control. We checked our bottles and decided we had enough fluid/food on our machines to avoid the detour and continue on route to the Tonto Basin Grocery store 17 miles up the road. The wind had shifted to a crossing tailwind and sharing the work, our trio made great time as we rolled into the grocery about an hour later. We ate a little food, refilled our bottles, and were ready to roll out when Larry on a mountain bike rode up to us to find out what we were doing and where we were going. He seemed interested in joining us on a future ride, so Carlton told him to go to to check out the 2013 brevet schedule.

We always meet interesting people on these rides!
We left the grocery refilled and continued on the gently rolling highway for the next 11 miles to the official Control at Jake's Corner. We stopped in to get a receipt and top off our bottles. Maybe it was the cold, or maybe the company, but we ended up buying some solid food and enjoying it on the picnic table inside the store!

Jake Corner Store and Control

Snow on the hills surrounding Mt. Ord

I bought an extra water bottle, since there are no services between here and the end of the ride (except a possible detour to the Marina at Saguaro lake). Rolling out of the Control, the temperatures continued to drop as we climbed our way to the high point of the ride, the saddle below Mt. Ord at about 4,500 feet. We stopped at the safety pullout. Carlton added a layer, I chowed down two Honey Stinger Waffles, and hopped on Mike's wheel for the long descent, it was quite cold already, and descending at over 40 miles per hour made it very cold indeed. There is a short false flat where the temperatures warmed before the descent into the Sunflower area. ADOT has improved the highway shoulder so we were able to stay off the highway the whole way from AZ 188 to the Saguaro Lake exit.

With the cold temperatures our water strategy worked well. Leaving Sunflower, there is a steady 3-4 mile climb with a constant 6 % grade. We stopped near to the top put on our lights and to grab a snack. I used my extra water bottle to mix up some more Sustained Energy and eat my last waffle. We rolled easily to the top and with Mike blazing the way we bombed down the Beeline Highway to the Bush Highway exit into an outstanding sunset!
Descending the Beeline Highway at Sunset


The route is generally downhill as we passed the Saguaro Lake Marina and the Salt River Recreation area and working together we made great time over the rollers on the Bush Highway. The ride's final climb is up the dreaded "King Kong" climb. Actually it was so dark, we were halfway up the climb before we realized it! With the climb behind us, it was only a few short miles to the finish control.
We rolled into the control 11 hours and 32 minutes after the start. We covered 137 miles (22 on the dirt) and climbed about 11,000 feet on this outstanding route. Riding into a beautiful dawn at the start and a stunning sunset near the finish reminded us that the Apache Trail 221 is no ordinary 200k!

We all agreed it was an outstanding day on the bikes, with great friends, on one of the best routes in the state!

Steve Atkins

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Heart of Arizona 200km Brevet

Ride Report
November 3, 2012

Leaving Bagdad AZ
I really enjoyed last year's Heart of AZ 200km Brevet so this year's edition has been on the calendar all year. The Bullshifter's Cycling Club puts on this awesome event. There are three rides held on the same course, a 44 mile up and back to Yarnell, a 100 mile Century, and the 200km (124 miles) Brevet. All are on a great course, with outstanding support. Last year, the event was held in the midst of a winter storm. This year the weather was perfect!

Carlton van Leuven called earlier in the week looking for a carpool partner to share gas and keep each other awake on the drive to Congress AZ. I told him that I planned on riding an easy pace, and if he didn't mind waiting around for me at the finish, I would love to join him.

Carlton likes it!
Carlton arrived at the appointed time at 4:15 am, we loaded my bike and gear into his van, and we made great time to the race headquarters at the Sierra Vista motel in Congress. We arrived earlier than expected (light traffic at 4:30 in the morning!), about an hour before the start time of 7:00am. We picked up our brevet cards and this year's event 'swag;' some toasty wool arm warmers.

17 Riders signed up for this years brevet and most of us rolled out at 7:00 am. We started 30 minutes before the 60-70 century riders. The basic route is a heart-shaped loop that starts in Congress AZ, joins the US93 Joshua Tree Parkway, and heads north past the Santa Maria River. The route follows SR96 toward Bagdad then heads east to Kirkland and Wilhoit. Finally heading southwest back to Congress via Yarnell.

Russ Cummings in Bagdad
Russ Cummings, Carlton, Louisa (a century rider and USAC racer that needed to start early) and I formed a small group off the front. Russ flatted in the first few miles and dropped off. The first 28 miles are generally downhill and winds were light, so it was easy to average over 20 miles per hour! The three of us worked well together and arrived at the first SAG stop at the base of the climb to Bagdad. This stop featured some tasty roasted potatoes that Jim Pettett prepared for the event. It was too early to eat, so I put a half dozen in a baggie and tucked them in my jersey pocket for later!

Kurt Smith in Wilhoit AZ
We rolled out of the SAG just as another group of riders rolled in. Once the climbing started I excused myself from the group as Carlton and Louisa powered away. Russ flashed by to join them and I continued at my own pace to the official control in Bagdad. To my surprise, Carlton and Russ were still there, so I quickly checked in, mixed a bottle, and joined them. On the descent I was able to eat half of Jim's pocket potatoes as we rocketed down past the second SAG stop. We stayed together until the climb to Hillside. Again I settled into my own pace and watched as Russ and Carlton headed up to the next SAG with some century riders in tow.

Descending from the first Checkpoint in Bagdad
When I reached the SAG, and Carlton and Russ were enjoying a sandwich. I was looking forward to the last of those potatoes, so I mixed a bottle and headed out of the SAG to enjoy my lunch on the road. A few minutes later Carton rode up and we headed toward Wilhoit. The wind was picking up, and with Carlton doing most of the work on a very rough road, we rode through Kirkland AZ and soon reached the base of the 6 mile climb to Wilhoit. The brevet course again leaves the century route and we made our way up to the last control at the Wilhoit general store.

We rolled in and picked up up some water and drinks, and enjoyed the very comfortable porch benches as Kurt Smith and some other USAC racers rolled into the checkpoint. We left together for the descent back to the course and the last climb to Peoples Valley and finally Yarnell. We shared the work, but once the climbing started again, I dropped off to continue at my own pace.

Last Checkpoint - Wilhoit General Store
As usual the wind picked up in People's Valley on the approach to Yarnell, but it was nowhere near as strong as last year and I was able to generate good power and enjoy the climb into Yarnell. The best part of this brevet route is the DOWNHILL finish descending Yarnell hill. Even with the headwind, it is easy to exceed the posted speed limit of 35!

I caught Kurt Smith on the descent, he was held up by a driver that was being especially cautious on the tight corners. Luckily, we reached a passing lane, made our way around the slower car, and continued our descent. Once the hill flattens out, it is just a few short miles to the finish. We rolled in at 3:00 pm, exactly 8 hours after we finished.

The Bullshifters know how to add an exclamation point to a great event. Cold beer, drinks, and hamburgers hot off the grill are provided to riders and volunteers at the finish. We enjoyed our meal sitting in the shady yard of the Sierra Vista Motel. Russ and a few of the other brevet riders rolled in, we share stories, completed and turned in our brevet cards, and headed back home.

Good friends, fantastic weather, and a great ride!

Steve Atkins

Saturday, October 6, 2012

2012 Whitney Classic Ride Report

September 30, 2012
Just in case you didn't notice the heat!

The Team

How this year's Whitney Classic team came together:

Michael Atkins - Mike had been dialing up his training miles  and riding some competitive races this year. He even joined me for the Casa Grande 200km brevet at the start of the season. Somewhere along the way he asked me what additional training he needed to do to ride the Whitney solo. I told him to add some event specific training (climbing, night riding) and he would be good to go.

Daniel Tansill - Daniel has ridden the Whitney several times on a team and has a cross-country ride under his belt. He wanted to take on the Whitney solo.

Ryan Snow - Ryan, a college buddy of Daniel, is preparing for the Ironman Triathlon. Ryan graduated from ASU and is living in Tucson.

Carton van Leuven - Carton and I have shared many brevet experiences over the years. I sent him a note that described the Whitney: Ride 134 miles, starting in the extreme heat of Death Valley, riding through the night, climbing 15,300 feet on three sustained climbs, and finishing in the cold at the trailhead to Mount Whitney. His response: "I'm in!"

We named ourselves Team Holy Spokes Audax. We would ride solo, but stay together as a team. We recruited Mike and Kathy Rollinson (Whitney Classic veterans) and their son Mike to be our Support and Gear (SAG) team. With 5 riders, one SAG team would have been tough. Luckily, Ruthann van Leuven and Natalie Aleman could not resist the siren call of the event and also agreed to stay up all night with a bunch of smelly cyclists and form our second SAG team.

Daniel Tansill, Ryan Snow, Calton van Leuven, Michal and Steve Atkins

The Training

Ryan lives in Tucson, and while he was training and fund raising for months, he could not join us for any of our team training rides. Even though he was in contact with Daniel, the rest of the team heard very little from him and we referred to him as Ryan "Mystery Man" Snow!

One training ride included a ride from Superior to Globe via Winkleman. It is about a 45 minute drive from Tempe. We arrived and were getting ready to ride when Daniel realized he left his shoes at home! Debby, our SAG driver for the ride, drove him back home to retrieve his shoes and they rejoined us part way through the ride. Now he was Shoeless Dan Tansill! Michael earned the moniker Metronome Mike for his perfect cadence and pacing on our many training rides up Usery Pass.

I guess the rest of the team must have been respecting their elders, because Carlton and I never were tagged with a nickname. Although I was accused on more than one occasion of being like a high school girl taking pictures with my Blackberry all the time!

The Trip

We met at my house in Tempe at 1 pm on Friday and were on the road to Lone Pine California by 2 pm. Because of work and school requirements, we were not able to leave early enough to arrive in time for the Worship Service that marks the beginning of the Whitney weekend. With out late start we drove straight through, and with a burrito break in Redlands CA at Chipotle and two stops for fuel, we arrived at the Dow Villa Hotel at about 11 pm.

The Event

We were up early and found the event organizers at the Lone Pine VFW Hall for the event volunteer meeting. We checked in and were able to visit with many of our Summit Adventure friends that show up at the Whitney year after year!

Mike, Kathy, and Little Mike Rollinson met us at the McDonalds for breakfast and we were able to finally have our whole team together; riders and SAG support. Soon we were on our way to Panamint Springs for the rider brunch and meeting hosted by the owner of this very remote 'resort' in Death Valley National Park.

After stops in Stovepipe Wells for supplies, and Furnace Creek to put on our kit, we arrived for the 3 pm start in Badwater, some 300 feet below sea level.

The riders
Rolling out of Badwater
 It was a typical start for the Whitney Classic. About 110 degrees with a light headwind out of the northwest. We soon organized into a nice paceline and made our way through the first 45 miles of the event. The event profile gives the impression that this portion of the ride is relatively flat, however it is deceptively hilly as the road traverses up and down the slopes of the valley floor. By the time we would reach Stovepipe Wells 45 miles into the event at the base of the big (17 miles, 4,000 feet) climb we already had over 1,000 feet of climbing behind us!
SAG team serving water and ice!

One of the 'Flat' spots in the Valley

Our Sag teams were ever present giving us water, ice, and food bottles on this portion of the ride. We were able to make great time through the valley and were on the big climb up to Townes Pass.

Early on the climb up Townes Pass

The Team Splits

The event was taking its toll on our team. As we were leaving the SAG stop at Stovepipe wells we dialed our pace back, shifted into low gears and began the grind up the climb that would take about three hours to complete.

The suffering begins!
In a classic Whitney conversation, Daniel asks me; "Hey Steve, what should I do if I feel like I need to throw up?" I say, "Pull over and throw up, you'll fell better!" So with the rest of the team cheering him on, Daniel follows my advice and gets back on his bike and we continue up the hill.

Daniel was suffering from a cold he had not quite recovered from and determined there was no way he could recover on the climb up Townes Pass, so while we put our lights and reflective gear on he decided to take a break and hopped into Carlton's van.
Steve, Mike, Carlton, and Ryan in full Rando-geek reflective gear!

The team continued up the hill, but I could not keep my heart-rate under control and keep pace with the rest of the team. By the time we reached the Wild Rose Pass SAG, the team was stopping and waiting for me to catch up. Not wanting to quit, but also knowing that my slow speed was making it more difficult for the team, I told Carlton, Mike, and Ryan to continue with Ruthann and Natalie as their SAG. I would continue with the Rollinsons providing my SAG.

Riding alone I was able to climb at my own pace and control my heart-rate, but my neck started to give me trouble. After a few stops with Mike Rollinson providing some massage relief, I decided to get to the top of Townes Pass, grab some food for the descent, and see if I could recover on the run down to Panamint springs.

It is a blast descending Townes Pass, and even with the slight headwind, I reached speeds of 55 miles per hour! After nine miles on 6-8% down grades, I was able to get some food and drink in my system. Reaching the floor of Panamint Valley, I told Mike and Kathy to go ahead to the SAG stop some 6 miles up the road.

Riding up the road, my neck continued to bother me and I really wanted to rejoin the team. Rolling into Panamint Springs, I decided to abandon the ride. I climbed out of my kit, put on my compression gear, and climbed back in the Suburban to chase down the team. We caught them half-way up the climb to the Father Crowley SAG stop.

Back together

After a few leapfrogs we rolled into the SAG stop at the Father Crowley Lookout/Rest stop. This stop is near the end of the second hill where the climb eases off significantly. It also where the temperature begins to drop significantly. 58 degrees does not sound cold, but with a headwind, and your body still trying to throw off heat (it was over 110 degrees only a few hours ago), it is easy to get chilled. This year, the organizers planned to have hot potato soup at this stop. With the team sprawled out on the ground and changing into dry gear and putting on layers, I asked the SAG stop volunteers if there was any soup left. There was, but only because they had not cooked it yet!!!!

I asked them to fire it up and made hot drinks for the team while it cooked. Soon the soup was ready and our team was shoveling it in. It was clear at this point Ryan and Michael were really suffering and that Carlton had dialed back his pace to encourage them and keep the team together. Daniel was feeling better and decided to get back on the bike and ride with the team to Lone Pine.

We rolled out with a four-man team on the road and stopped once more a few more miles down the road to put on leg and arm warmers for the cold run into Lone Pine. Once we were over Hillcrest, the team made tremendous progress over the next 35 miles, only stopping for bottle refills along the way.

The Real Suffering Begins

Reaching the Lone Pine SAG stop is no small feat. 120+ miles and 11,000+ feet of climbing is behind you. But there are 12 more miles, uphill on the steepest part of the route, to the finish. Daniel had used the last of his reserves to get here and decided to get off the bike and help SAG. Carlton was in great shape leading the team, and basically put Michael and Ryan on his wheel and headed up the hill.

Michael had been suffering with a sore neck (wonder where he got that from) since Father Crowley and had to stop often while we massaged it and encouraged him up the hill. Ryan had settled into his own pace and would ride on ahead a few hundred meters and wait for the team to rejoin. Carlton stayed with Michael pacing him and encouraging him up the hill.

About 6 miles from the finish the grade tilts up beyond 10%. This is the moment of truth. With warm vehicles nearby, it is very tempting to make suffering stop and give up on the climb. The team put their heads down and kept grinding!

At this point, you simply pick a spot up the road and ride to it. Pick another spot a few tenths of a mile up the road and repeat. Michael's neck was killing him so at each stop I would hop out of the truck and massage it! Soon we reached the last SAG stop about 3.5 miles from the finish. The team pulled in, crashed on the carpet in front of the volunteers RV, and we served hot drinks.

Mike Rollinson wisely suggested we keep the team moving and encouraged our riders to get it done!! There are several long switchbacks to reach the finish. The grade leaving the SAG is over 12%! We yelled, screamed, and beat the lid of a cooler with a pedal wrench, and generally did anything we could to distract the riders from their suffering and encourage them along.

Carlton was in non-stop story mode talking and pacing Ryan and Michael up the hill!

Incredibly, it typically takes 45 minutes to an hour for a solo rider to clear the last 3.5 miles to the finish!

The Finish

The climbing finishes just below Premier Buttress and rolls gently to the finish, so once the riders made the last turn we told them the next time they would see our flashers will be at the finish! We rolled ahead to the finish to cheer them on.

Carlton, Ryan and Michael crossed the finish line at 5:52am, 14 hours and 52 minutes after the start in Death Valley. A fantastic time for this grueling event!

At the Finish!

Thank you!

This year's Whitney was an awesome event. Carlton, Ryan, and Michael finished in outstanding form. Carlton basically putting team on his shoulders and dragging them to the finish. Our new SAG team members Ruthann and Natalie who started as SAG rookies but finished providing support like SAG Whitney Classic veterans! Mike, Kathy and Little Mike Rollinson looking after me on Townes and especially Mike Rollinson, staying with the team up the Portal Road and encouraging Michael and the team to keep going.

While the whole team didn't make it to the finish on our bikes, we were all there supporting and encouraging each other to the finish. Michael was awarded the "God, Gear and Guts Award" given to a Whitney rider that suffers through with exemplary perseverance! Ryan may have started with the nickname of "Mystery Man", but he finished as Ryan "Hard Man" Snow! Carlton finished in classic randonneuring style helping other riders to the finish.

I wouldn't have traded this year's Whitney for any other!

Thank you for supporting our ride financially. We have raised over $8,500 so far and have pledges that will take us over our goal of $10,000! There is still time to support our ride and send in your pledge to support Summit Adventure. Click here to donate online! (indicate S.Atkins WC).

Click here for more photos.

Thanks again for your support!

Steve Atkins

Phil 4:13 “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me”

Thursday, September 20, 2012

2012 Whitney Classic Fund Raising Appeal

September 2012

Riding through Death Valley in 2010

Yes, its that time of year again…The 31th Annual Whitney Classic Bike Ride, Summit Adventure’s main fundraising event, will take place on September 29th-30th .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 13th 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 the Summit Staff and volunteers. Many of you have been loyal supporters of Summit all these years. I cannot thank you enough!

This year I was able to convince 4 other riders (Michael Atkins, Ryan Snow, Daniel Tansill, and Carlton van Leuven) to ride uphill, in the heat, and through the night to join me for this suffer fest! All are experienced riders, but none have ridden the Whitney Classic as a solo rider. This year will all ride solo for the ‘Full Whitney’ Audax Style (together as a group). This will be my 7th Whitney solo effort!

In the past twelve years, through your generous support, we have contributed over $125,000 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. Course income provides for only 45 percent of the Summit 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 ‘Steve Atkins WC’ in the donor comment box).

Please pray with me for a safe, successful event. If you have any questions, or would like to just catch up, please call me at 602-549-5331 or at home at 480-775-1682. I would love to hear from you. Thank you and God bless!

Check out Summit’s web page by clicking here             

Thank you for your continued support!