Sunday, June 3, 2012

Grand Canyon 300km Brevet

Ride Report
June 3, 2012
Steve Atkins
On the run up to Flagstaff Friday night!

With Michael's high school graduation, house painting, and floor refinishing behind us, this weekend looked like a great chance to get away for a long ride. The Arizona Randonnuers had a combined 300km/600km event starting in Flagstaff and featuring a tour of the Grand Canyon. With the requisite honey-do chores completed, I signed up for the 300km event. So on Friday after attending a high school graduation party, I loaded up the Mini and headed north to the Flagstaff and the Woodlands Mall Motel 6!

Arriving about 10 pm I checked my Blackberry and saw a post to the AZRandon group from Carlton. After he unpacked and set up his bike at the Motel, he noticed two large rim cracks. He sent out a post hoping someone brought along a spare wheel. Luckily Dan Fallon had not yet left home from Prescott and brought along a spare and Carlton fitted it with his cog set early Saturday morning before we started.

It was a relatively small turnout of riders (12) for both events. The 300km event generally followed the same course for first loop of the 600km so both groups started together. We formed into a nice pace line of about 6 riders and were soon at the first control in Valle AZ. Other than an uncomfortably close pass by some knot-head in a pickup truck (with mountain bike in the back!) traffic was light and the weather was perfect.

Calton reloads the gear on his ride in Valle
Our group had split on the descent onto the Kaibab Plateau but we reformed at the control in Valley and worked well together all the way to the park. Lots of folks were heading into the park so we took a place in a lane. Dick had a Golden Eagle pass (usually good for 4 riders), but the park ranger let us all through on Dick's card, saving each of us the $12 bicycle entrance fee!
Dick using is Jedi magic..."These aren't the riders you are looking for...Move along!'

Perfect morning ride!
Carlton and I were the only two members of the group on the 300km. The 600km route continued to Hermit's Rest, our course took us to the Marketplace Store for the next control. We purchased some food and enjoyed an early lunch in the shade of the store. We couldn't help noticing the increasing heat and wind.
Enjoying the last of the cool weather.
We left the Marketplace and headed east along the Rim Road to the next control at Desert View. The Rim Road is not as heavily traveled as the road from the main entrance, has a good road surface, lots of rollers (relatively short climbs and descents) and has great views of the Canyon. But after 24 miles of increasing heat and cross winds it was starting to take its toll on me. When we rolled into the control at Valley View, Carlton made some derailleur adjustments and we enjoyed the first Popsicle's of the day.
Watchtower at Valley View
The East park entrance is just a few miles from Valley View and soon we were on the long hot descent into the town of Cameron on the Navajo reservation. Leaving the pines behind, soon we were on the high desert of the Navajo Reservation. With the Painted Desert just barely visible in the distance, we fought nasty cross winds with an occasional tail wind all the way to Cameron. At just over 4200 feet above sea level, we had dropped 2500 feet out of the tall pines at the South Rim over the last 50 miles. Turning right into a hot fierce cross/head wind, we had 53 miles to regain 3000 feet of elevation before dropping into Flagstaff and the finish line.

There are few services along this stretch of road, and with the Anasazi Inn 'only 8' miles up the road, we passed on refilling in Cameron and headed south. The winds were incredibly strong in this section, mostly cross winds that tried to push us back into traffic. With a narrow shoulder and heavy traffic we both bore the brunt of it and started the grind up Grey Mountain. Pulling into the Anasazi Inn, I think my arms and shoulders were more fatigued that my legs from fighting the cross-wind.
Shade and shelter from the wind at the Anasazi Inn/Store
While we were reloading our bottles and enjoying a Popsicle, a motorcycle rider asked us if the winds were as bad for us as they were for him, and he was heading north! We pushed out back into the wind. Along this section the shoulder widened, and I was able to tuck in alongside of Carlton as he dragged me along somewhat sheltered from the wind. We stopped at the only other store before reaching Flagstaff and just before the cutoff to the Watapaki National Monument. It also had benches, shade and shelter from the wind so we grabbed more water and Popsicles! The real climbing started here so when we left I told Carlton to climb at his own pace and not worry about hauling me up the hill. I settled into a steady pace and concentrated on drinking and eating to try and recover. With the gain in elevation it seemed a little cooler and the scrub pines provided some wind break.

 We reached to the top and started the descent back into Flagstaff. The first services were available at a Chevron Station 13 miles from the finish. I pulled in starting to feel better with the dropping temperatures and found Carlton sitting by his bike. He looked up and said " I feel as bad as you looked back there!" We reloaded our bottles, I downed a Frappachino and recommended Chocolate Milk to Carlton. With the sun nearing the horizon we pointed our steeds toward the finish and rolled in to the Motel 6 at 7:55 pm.

It had taken over 5 hours to cover the last 43 miles!

Ryan Guzy was this event's trail boss and he had an awesome spread prepared at room 249! Soup, pasta, and I daresay a craft beer or two. We enjoyed a meal, regaled in tales about the day, and packed up. Just as I was leaving 4 riders on the 600km event rolled in for their half-way check in and meal.

I bid them good luck and headed down the hill toward home. A beautiful full moon was up and part of me wished I was out there with them on the 600, but I must say another part had had enough and was happy to be on my way home!!

Thanks to Ryan and Susan for organizing a great event, and Carlton for putting up with me on another long ride.

Trail Boss: Ryan Guzy prepared an awesome meal

The 600km riders arrive for a quick meal


Dan said...

Steve ... me (Dan Fallon) to Susan P about the Flagstaff 300K:

When I got to the Motel 6 last night around 8:30pm I told Ryan that a) I was not MIA and still out on the course, b) that he wouldn't be signing the RUSA card because I completed all but 7 miles of the course, approximately 183 miles.

The course to and from the Grand Canyon is great and well worth it. With one ten mile exception.

Coming south on 89 when the rider gets to Antelope Hills/start of the kaibab National Forest, the road becomes a 4 lane divided highway. I had expected that the road shoulder would also be wider, too. Not the case. Instead, right of the white line there are deep, `industrial strength' 6"x6" sharply ribbed gouges constituting the `rumble strip.' To the right of the rumble strip there was only 2 feet of angled shoulder before a steep graded drop off to the gravelly ground.

This section is difficult for any recumbent bike. Add to it a 3 - 5% incline and a gusting 20 mph wind from the west and it is more than difficult; it is potentially lethal.

The upright bike has far more balance capability than the bent. The upright rider can get out of the saddle and rock the bike back and forth with minimum of difficulty in order to ride a straight line. The bent rider doesn't have that option. By design the bike and the rider are one unit. Under difficult conditions the bent rider has to expend far more care.

After riding about 3 miles on 89 after it turned into divided lanes I concluded that it was too dangerous for me to continue. I hailed a truck and he gave me a lift about 7 miles to a (Chevron?) gas station shortly past where the shoulder opened up again.

On three occasions while riding on that narrow, rumble strip shoulder the wind blew me into the rumble strip, further destabilizing me such that I entered the traffic lane. Trucks and cars were wizzing by at 60-75 mph. Fortunately there was no vehicle when that happened or I would have simply been road kill.

My decision was the right one and if I were to have done anything different it would have been to do it sooner, as soon as I recognized that the road was unrideable.

When the truck driver dropped me off I completed the remainder of the route on my own power, eventually trailing Russ Cummings and a few other riders into Motel 6.

Again, this was a very challenging and rewarding brevet. But I'm going to have to give this issue much thought for safety reasons.

Steve Atkins said...

It was a challenging situation. I am glad you made it safely through. Also thanks for bringing your spare wheel to the start for Carlton!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on finishing. That was a brutal ride. Good thing it had such beautiful scenery!


Steve Atkins said...

Thanks Paul, great seeing you out there as well! We had most of the Mormon Batalion out in force!