Sunday, March 9, 2014

Around the Bend Brevet of 400km

March 8, 2014
Ride Report

Tom Baker at the rider briefing
60-46-28. Is that the combination to my middle school gym locker? No, its the number of participants on the first three 2014 Arizona Brevets. As the distance increases, the participants decrease!

28 riders gathered in the parking lot of the Casa Grande Walmart for the 0600 start of the Around the Bend 400km Brevet. This is the third edition of this Tom Baker designed route. Based on 'prevailing' wind patterns, this route's clockwise layout should provide tailwinds throughout ride (winds out of the north east with the sunrise, and out of the south west in the afternoon and sunset). Alas, we will have to wait another year for that perfect wind day, as a huge weather cell parked over the Four Corners area, providing building and gusting winds out of the North and East most of the day! 

Dick Wiss and Roger Peskett descending into Sacaton
We rolled out of the parking lot in predawn darkness and by the time we reached AZ 387 about 7 miles into the ride, a group of 7 had formed. The usual suspects were there, Carlton van Leuven, Dick Wiss, Roger Peskett, Mike Sturgill, plus two newcomers, Greg Sarbo and Patrick Rinckey. The group was evenly matched and worked well together. So well that, combined with the building tailwind, we reached the first two controls a few minutes before they opened.
Entering the Sonora National Monument

Ready to start the descent to Gila Bend

Curios at the Control in Gila Bend
The control in Gila Bend is a Texaco Convenience store with covered tables and ample rest rooms. A great place to check in, peel off layers and apply sunscreen. It also has one of the finest selection of authentic Mexican curios in the Southwest! Mike Sturgill flatted and dropped off from the group in the Sonora Monument, but he rejoined before we rolled out, so our group of 7 left Gila Bend together. Another route change had us wander through parts of Gila Bend that were clearly off the beaten path. Soon we were back on the Old US 80. The worst portions of the pavement have been recently resurfaced. However, we were greeted with a strong block headwind that we would fight for the next 40 miles to Palo Verde. 

At least the worst sections of old US 80 were recently repaved

Before we reached the Gillespie Dam Bridge, Greg and Mike Sturgill decided to exit the group and fight the wind, mano a mano!

Gillespie Dam Bridge
 After crossing the bridge, there are a series of short steep rollers, then you enter a valley of stark contrasts; the floor lush with heavily irrigated crops, and the upper slopes, Sonoran desert!
Desert and Farm Country near Palo Verde
The rollers provided a brief respite from the wind, but soon we were battling it again for the last several miles to the lunch control at the village of Palo Verde. This is a manned lunch control, and Tom Baker promised plenty of food for the riders.

Nearing the Palo Verde Control
Carton had gotten a call from Tom Baker as we entered the Palo Verde valley. A rider had crashed on the descent into Gila Bend. Tom was escorting the injured rider to the medical center in Buckeye. The rider was released later with a severe case of road rash and a concussion.

Patrick and Carlton enjoying the Baker's covered camp chairs
When we rolled into the control, Mrs. Tom Baker was there. She met Tom, traded vehicles and got to the control with enough time to spare to set it all up. Food, water, and shaded camp chairs, and great company made this a hard stop to leave.

Dick repairing his flat
The route turns east, and the wind rotated to a perfect cross-wind. Dick organized us into a rotating double pace line to fight the effects of the wind. Along this section, Dick says, "hey Steve check out my rear wheel when I pull through." FLAT! We stopped at a shady spot and Dick and Patrick removed the wheel, found the guilty thorn, and were ready to go after a quick repair.
Last year NASCAR was in town!
The wind and the heat was taking its toll. Like last year we decided to stop at the Circle K near the PIR raceway. It was less than 30 miles from the lunch control, but bottles were going fast, so we stopped to reload. Unlike last year, the NASCAR race was not going on, so it was a lot less busy. We refilled and continued on.
My faithful steed near Laveen
We made our next stop at the convenience store just inside the Gila Indian Reservation on 51st Avenue near Laveen. We were all one bottle down, and we were concerned that the wind and lack of services for the next 17 miles would leave us dry, so we stopped for a quick reload.

Dinner at the BK!
Soon we were back into town (Sun Lakes, Chandler, Queen Creek), getting stopped at traffic signals every mile or two. At least there was a little protection from the wind. The sun was setting, and we still had a few miles to make it to our planned dinner stop at the Burger King in Queen Creek. Dick suggested we stop and put on our lights and reflective gear. We were glad we did, Rittenhouse road was narrow and traffic was heavy.

We rolled into the BK and ordered dinner and dug out the layers we stashed in Gila Bend. While the drive through was hopping, the inside 'dining room' was ours for the taking. So we spread out over several tables, enjoying our meal, reloading our bottles, and putting on our night layers for the last 45 miles to the finish.

With the cooler temperatures two bottles were plenty to make the it to the finish. Also, with the route turning south, the wind (still surprisingly strong at 8 pm) was strong from the north and helped push us along at a great pace.

We stayed together and our group of 5 rolled into the finish just a few minutes before 10 pm (15 hours 57 minutes total time). Tom and his wife were already there enjoying some Denny's fare. We turned in our paperwork, shared stories of the event, and ordered some post-ride grub.

It was a great day with old and new friends! Thanks Tom, for organizing another great 400.

Roger and Tom at the finish - Denny's in Casa Grande
Steve Atkins

Click here for Ride with GPS data