Saturday, April 22, 2017

Scorpion 600km Brevet

Ride Report
April 2017

The final brevet of the 2017 spring season is the aptly named Scorpion 600km. This was the second running of this Mike Sturgill designed course that provides an outstanding sampler of Arizona road riding. With Arizona's territorial capital (Prescott) to the north, Saguaro Lake to the east, and a healthy slice of metro Phoenix (Phoenix, Sun City, Cave Creek, Carefree, Fountain Hills, Scottsdale, and Mesa) in between, it is quite a route. Throw in the sting of 15,000 feet of climbing over 375 miles, and it rightly earns its moniker of Scorpion 600!
Bob Larson, Roger Peskett and Mike Sturgill at the start
As is typical with the brevet season, as the distances increase, the number of riders decrease. This brevet was notable in that not only was is lightly attended (three riders); the pre-ride (ride organizer and several volunteers) that occurred the previous week, actually had more riders!

The brevet day riders were Bob Larson, Roger Peskett, and yours truly. Mike Sturgill, organizer and Trail Boss, met us at the start/finish line at the Days Inn at I-17 and Deer Valley Road to provide our brevet cards and rider brief. He joined us for the run up to Carefree/Cave Creek. We were treated to a glorious sunrise, and spectacular desert scenery to the first control in Carefree. The route continued through Cave Creek and descended to the Carefree Highway. Somewhere along here Mike, flatted on a descent while riding fourth wheel. Our momentum quickly carried us out of earshot. We thought he had dropped off to head home, but we had inadvertently dropped him!
Bob and Roger on AZ 89 toward Congress
Thankfully lake traffic was light and with a slight tailwind we headed east to US 60 and the second control in Wickenburg AZ. After a quick reload we headed north toward AZ 89 and Congress AZ. Leaving Wickenburg, we crossed Vulture Mine Road, last year my brevet season ended abruptly with that ride. Bob said, "Hey Steve, Vulture Mine Road, isn't that where you crashed last year?" "Yes, yes it was (2016 ride report)!"

The real climbing on this ride starts at the Yarnell Hill (6 miles at 6%) and you can see the road cuts in the mountain from miles away. Congress AZ is at the foot of the hill, and as we entered town, my Garmin computer froze. While resetting it, I ran up on Roger's realwheel for a bit of a scare and flashback to last year!
Desert in full bloom on Yarnell Hill
The trio worked well together all the way to the base of the hill, but alas, the legs were not there to keep up, so Roger and Bob slowly disappeared in to the distance!
Roger and Bob on the climb!
Roger and Bob waited in Yarnell, and we rolled through Peeples Valley together and a reload at the convenience store there. The next official control was 30 miles away at the turn around in Prescott, but as the climbing resumed on the road to Wilhoit, we separated again.

The high desert grass and scrub soon disappeared and was replaced with Pondersosa Pines as the climbing continued to the high point of the ride at 6200 feet. With a little snow in the shadows, and expansive mountain views, it was quite a scenic section of road. The only drawback; a constant stream of motorcycles (mostly loud Harleys) on their way to Historic Whiskey Row in Prescott!
Yavapai County Courthouse in Prescott
The Prescott control is any establishment on the Town Square. Spotting Roger and Bob finishing a slice at Bob's Pizza, the decision was easy where to stop. A slice of meat-lovers pizza washed down with a Mountain Dew (and a receipt) hit the spot nicely. Roger and Bob were off mid-slice just as a few sprinkles threatened a potentially wet departure from Prescott. Luckily, the sprinkles stopped before the road became wet.

The route climbs out of Prescott for a few miles back to the 6200 foot summit, then generally descends all the way to Phoenix. However, the winds, which had been favorable for the whole day, were now right on the nose and especially heavy in Peeples Valley!
Just a little windy in Peeples Valley
Lush farms and outstanding scenery
The convenience store in Peeples Valley was a great place to get some relief from the wind and reload some calories. A half-pint of potato salad washed down with an Ensure shake provided a quick 600 calories and it was back into the wind and the short climb to Yarnell and finally the payoff of 6 miles of 6% descent. The descent was tricky with the constantly changing winds due to the many twists and switchbacks on the road!

Reaching Congress and turning south, the winds shifted off the nose to a crosswind, a welcome improvement! The sun set as the road continued to Wickenburg and another control and more food at the Burger King! As the lights of Phoenix eventually came into view, the route continues southeast to Sun City and another control before heading north and back to the control at the Days Inn.

Rolling into the motel at 11:30pm, the plan was to check-in, eat, shower, and get a 4-5 hour nap and be back on the road by 5 am. After a Denny's Grand Slam, quick shower, it was 'lights out' as my head hit the pillow.

Waking before the alarm went off at 4 am, and wanting to get this one done before it got hot in the afternoon, it was back on the bike with lights blazing into the morning darkness. Again treated with an awesome sunrise, the route heads east to Pinnacle Peak and the fun 9 Mile Descent to Fountain hills.

The Fountain of the Hills
The route continues along the Beeline Highway to the Saguaro Lake/Bush Highway exit. Winds were relatively light and favorable, and unusual for a morning ride along the Beeline. The route continues past Saguaro Lake and the Salt River Recreation area to the steep but short climb up King Kong. Another control in Mesa before crossing the mighty Salt River to rejoin the Beeline Highway back to Fountain Hills. At the foothills to the Superstition Mountains, the expanse of the Valley is clearly visible, along with the realization that the finish is on the 'other side of town!'
Gilbert Road Bridge over the Salt River
The Gilbert Road crossing consists of two bridges, one that can withstand heavy river flow, and one that is designed so that the approaches 'wash out' before the bridge gives way. All traffic was diverted to the larger bridge as the lower bridge was stranded by the last flow of the Salt River!

Wind back on the nose for the last 30 miles of the ride!
The route generally heads west across the valley through Scottsdale and North Phoenix to the finish at I-17 and Deer Valley Road. BANG! Only 4 miles from the finish, a blowout. The tube had worked its way through a sidewall cut on the rear tire. After a quick stop, using a PowerBar wrapper as a boot (to prevent the replacement tube from the same fate), the tire was repaired and I was on my way to the finish.
At the finish
My faithful weekend companion!
33 hours and 35 minutes after the start, this one was in the bag! After last year's shortened season, it was nice to have this year's series completed. Thanks Mike for a great route and Roger and Bob for the companionship on the first 200km!

Steve Atkins

Click here for map and ride data