Sunday, April 8, 2012

2012 Arizona Fleche of 360k

or How I spent Good Friday with 3 great Mormon Guys!
Ride Report
6-7 April 2012

What the heck is a Fleche? It is a 24-hour team Randonneuring event held on or around Easter weekend. No rest stop may be longer than 2 hours. Allowable start times are from noon Thursday through 10 AM on Saturday. A minimum of 360 km must be covered during the event. Multiple teams start from various locations and all finish at one location the same time. One additional 'feature' of the event is that the teams must be at a penultimate checkpoint on their route 2 hours and 20 kilometers from the finish. This rule helps to synchronize the finish of the various teams. This was the first year a Fleche was held in Arizona. Two teams formed; one riding from the Grand Canyon to Tempe (Extreme Picnic Society); and the second, consisting mostly of Mormons (Mormon Batalion), riding a loop that started at the finish location (The Boulders Restaurant/Bar).

Curt, Paul, Steve, and Carlton at the start
On the 400k Brevet, Carlton mentioned that he was putting together a team of Mormon guys for the Fleche, and still had an open slot or two and would were open to Hindus, Protestants, and even Catholics joining the team. I told Carlton I was in. Carlton and Paul designed a team Jersey based on the flag carried by the Mormon Batalion in 1847. (In case you are wondering about the spelling of the team name, it is based on this flag carried by the BATAlion).

I knew this was going to be tough brevet since I would be responsible for all the team coffee and beer consumption during the event. At the start, I was given the unofficial moniker of 'designated drinker' and we were on our way!

Interesting Roadside artwork in North Scottsdale
Our route took us north through Scottsdale toward Pinnacle Peak. We made great time and decided to take a rest stop at the Pinnacle Peak Grocery Store. Since we were riding only 360 kilometers with a 24 hour time limit, and we were riding at a good pace, we ended up needing to take longer and more frequent breaks to prevent us from getting too far ahead of schedule. It made for a nice pace and long breaks that were conducive to more 'human' food along the way.

Our route took us down 9 mile hill, through Rio Verde, to the first official checkpoint at the Denny's in Fountain Hills. Since it was Good Friday, I ordered Clam Chowder and fries. Carlton and Curt ordered the same, not realizing they were doing their part for interdenominational harmony! I used the time calculator so we knew when the checkpoints would 'close' so we didn't get too far ahead of schedule. We had plenty of time, refilled our water bottles and headed out the Beeline highway toward Saguaro Lake and Bush Highway.

Paul on Bush Highway near Saguaro Lake

Curt powering up Bush Highway

Paul and Carlton enjoying the fresh pavement on Usery Pass
Paul put together the route for the team and lives in the area. He guided us to the Usery Park visitor center with a water fountain to refill our bottles. It made for a very pleasant stop and gave me a chance to start adding layers as the sun was starting to set and the temperature was beginning to drop. We were able to continue all the way to Gold Canyon and the next official checkpoint without having to stop again...that is for water.

Carlton and Curt at Usery Park
Our route took us to the US-60 outside of Apache Junction. The sun had set and we had our lights and reflective gear on. At this point the route is a divided four-lane road with wide shoulders. Unfortunately; it had lots of uneven pavement (recently resurfaced), tons of debris that included a dead owl (most likely hit in mid air by a passing vehicle) that seemed to stare us down, and something sharp that punctured my front tire just a mile before the checkpoint in Gold Canyon.

We stopped at the Red Sage restaurant for dinner and we enjoyed more of Clam Chowder. Much better than the Denny's version. It was a fun local restaurant nestled in the heart of a retirement community. I don't know the average age of our team, but I certainly wouldn't call us young. But it was a crack-up when one of many curious patrons said it was nice to see such a 'clean-cut group of young men' out on a bike ride!

We rolled through Florence AZ (well lit by the various houses of Correction) and noting that we were again an hour ahead of schedule rolled into a Burger King. We were fortunate that the manager let us in the dining room (we arrived at 10:05 and it closed at 10:00 but she said we could stay inside until the drive-though closed at 11:00). Curt made a bike repair and we all enjoyed a snack.

Curt enjoying an ice cream after his bike repair
A mini-PBP scene; eating, sleeping, and chilling in reflective gear
Next stop; Casa Grande and where else for the next checkpoint: Denny's! We arrived with nearly two hours to spare, so we enjoyed another meal and ending up snoozing in the booth until the Drunk Rush started to fill the restaurant at 0230! Carlton's cousin is a member of the police department and was able to stop by visit with the team as we were paying the bill. Ready to go, I grabbed my bike and noted my front tire was flat again! Paul headed up the road while I put in my last spare tube, and Carlton's cousin headed out, with great haste, to respond to a burglary call!
Getting a little drowsy in Denny's - Casa Grande
By now traffic was very light, but it was becoming more than a little cold. I thought I had brought way too much gear, but by the time we left Casa Grande I was wearing every thing I had brought along and was still chilled. We even stopped at the Walmart so Carlton could buy beanie cap, no they don't stock winter wear this time of year, so he went on without one. It was especially cold around the irrigated fields that surround Maricopa.

We rolled into the next checkpoint (Circle K) in Maricopa shivering! I went right to the coffee pot and hot dog grill (now about 5:00 am and Easter Saturday) and enjoyed a hot brevet breakfast. We all plopped down around the soda fountain and enjoyed a break on the floor. Its always fun to see the reaction of folks walking and seeing Randonnuers sprawled out on the floor of a convenience store!
"A table for four please, oh no tables, the floor will be fine thank you!"
Since Carton's house was just a mile or two off the route and very near the 22 hour checkpoint, he offered several couches and the floor of his home theater for a rest stop. That was a good thing, since the temperature really dropped when we left Maricopa (just before dawn) and we were quite chilled. Again a little more than an hour ahead of schedule, we were able to stretch out and grab a snooze for about an hour before checking in at the 22 hour checkpoint (an Arby's) and getting a receipt for proof of passage.

We rolled through Chandler and Tempe to the finish line at The Boulder's Restaurant and Bar. We arrived at a little after 10:00 am and the other Fleche team rolled into the parking lot just minutes after we arrived.

The Boulders is very bike friendly and even has an indoor bike rack. Our waiter gave us all date/time stamped receipts so we could officially end the ride (10:25) and begin the celebration. Friends and family from both teams joined the fun, food and festivities. We shared stories from ride and had a great time.
Doing my duty for the BATAlion with Joey and Ryan from the Extreme Picnickers

It was a great ride with awesome teammates! Normally at the end of a Brevet every one files in at different times. With the Fleche format, all the participants arrive at about the same time and that made the finish (always a relief) very enjoyable indeed.

Paul Layton writes a great blog and he has his side of the story here.

Here is a little video from the ride:

Steve Atkins