Tuesday, April 17, 2018

2018 Scorpion 600km Brevet

Ride Report
April 2018
Sunrise near Carefree AZ, about 90 minutes into the ride
A dozen or so riders lined up for the 2018 version of the Scorpion 600km brevet. In addition to the 600, several other ride options were on offer, so unlike last year, there was quite the crowd of randonneurs milling about the Red Roof Inn at 4:30 in the morning!
My companion for the next two days
After completing the registration paperwork and downing the first of many Starbucks's Frappuccinos, it was time for a rider brief from RUSA RBA Mike Sturgill and to get this one underway.

Mike Sturgill gives directions to start
The start included a couple or tricky turns through the adjacent shopping center, but soon we were rolling along, quite quickly, with the three powerful engines from the Calgary Express (Steve, Steve, and Paul) leading the way. My turn at the front came about 12 miles into the ride and while we were motoring along at a brisk pace, it was nice to be in a large strong group. Drifting back after my pull, it seemed like my rear tire may have been getting soft. Wishfully thinking it might be a ripple in the pavement, but after another rider drifted back after her pull, it was clear the tire was soft. The group stopped at the light on Scottsdale Road, and a quick squeeze of the tire confirmed my fear, a flat only 15 miles into the ride!

I pulled out of the pace-line into a well-lit shopping center to make the repair, as the group continued up toward Carefree and first control. After a quick stop of only 6 minutes or so, the repair was complete and it was back on the road, but that fast train was nowhere in sight!
Spectacular sunrise
The ride continues to tilt uphill toward the first control in Carefree. While somewhat concerned that that 50% of my spare tubes (1 of 2) was used only 15 miles into the ride, it was a relief to dial back the pace, enjoy the fantastic sunrise, take a few photos, and catch up on some calories riding solo!
The Boulders on the approach to Carefree
Rolling into the Carefree control, Mike Sturgill was there and said "At least I beat one rider to the first control!" He had to start the other shorter distance events that were running at the same time. Brian was just rolling out as I came in and the fast train was long gone! Double bonus: Not needing get a receipt since Mike signed my brevet card, and another Frappuccino out of Mike's cooler! Switching from clear (night glasses) to sunglasses and downing the creamy, caffeinated, sugary delight, it was a quick 3.5 minute control stop and back out on the road.

The route descends to Cave Creek, and connects with the Carefree highway. Approaching I-17, Brian came into view, but he decided to stop at the last water stop until Wickenburg, since my bottles were nearly full, I pressed onward. 

Continuing westward, with a slight tailwind, traffic was heavier than last year's event, especially near Lake Pleasant. Its a long pull but soon the traffic on US 60 to Wickenburg came into sight. With an ample shoulder that is actually ride-able, it was a welcome relief from the narrow Carefree Highway (AZ 74) with is nearly unridable shoulders. Heavy northbound traffic provided a welcome draft and offset some of the crosswind for the 10 or so miles to the next control in Wickenburg.

77 miles in, and 10 minutes at the Wickenburg control provided another Frappuccino, turkey sandwich, and chance to reload the water bottles before rolling out for the next pull to Congress and the start of Yarnell hill. Exiting US60, AZ89 heads due north and has been resurfaced since last year, a welcome relief from last year's bumpfest.
Yarnell hill in the distance
Yarnell hill starts a few miles outside of Congress. Its about 6 miles of steady climbing on an average grade of 6%. The new State Park in honor of the fallen Grant Mountain Hotshots (19 Granite Mountain Hotshots lost their lives fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013), is a about 2/3rd's of the way up the climb. A 2.85 mile hike leads from the highway to an observation deck that overlooks the place where they made their last stand when shifting winds pushed the fire into their position. Putting that on the list of places to visit for a time when the clock is not running, the climbing continued.

Two other riders from the event, Catherine and Ray came into view, and we started a game of leapfrog that would go on for the balance of the day. Reaching the top of the hill, with steady winds from the south, it seemed like it took no time and little effort on the descent into Peeples valley. About 100 miles into the ride, but not an official control, the Mountainaire Convenience store with a shaded patio and seats makes this a perfect stop between the official controls at Wickenburg and Prescott.
Reload in Peeples Valley
They were serving free Root Beer floats as part of a customer appreciation day, but I declined and loaded up on sugar, salt, and caffeine in more familiar forms!
Add more sunscreen!
Its 18 more miles and 2500 feet of climbing to the high point of 6100 feet before the final descent into Prescott. So without a cloud in the sky it was time to lather up with more sunscreen. The lotion and road grime combined to form a mud pack worthy of some high-end day spa!
Climb to Prescott
The climbing is steady past Wilhoit, but once in the mountains, the road twists, turns, rises, and falls until reaching the 6100 elevation marker a few miles outside of Prescott!
High point of the ride
One more roller, and its mostly downhill to the next control in the historic Town Square. At the edge of town the Calgary express was heading up and back after making their control stop in town.
Historic Yavapai County Courthouse
A receipt from any establishment on the square, including Whiskey Row, is the required proof of passage for this control. Skipping the whiskey and pizza joints, I hopped into a burger/ice cream shop, just looking for water, a coke, and a receipt. But the smell of fresh french fries lured me into a full stop for a large order for fries and a Pepsi! The fries took some time to prepare, but I was able to reload the bottles and get the bike ready for the next leg while I waited for the salty potatoes to arrive. I was especially glad I carried a lightweight cable lock on this ride so I could secure my steed to a light post just outside! Unable to finish the fries, but tucking a few into a Ziploc for some pocket food, I pushed out of the square.
The longer stop, and building headwind made the climb out of town somewhat less enjoyable, but soon reached the "Welcome to Prescott" pullout conveniently located near the top of the climb to finish the fries!
Once at the 'top' it was a series of fast twisting downhills with unpredictable cross winds punctuated with short climbs. Finally reaching Wilhoit, its steady downhill, but with the heavy cross and headwinds, it took extra time to reach the foot of the climb back into Peeples valley.
Ray and Catherine were reloading at the Mountainnaire Convenience store, and after procuring a Frappuccino and a can of Campbells Chicken Noodle soup (about a weeks worth of sodium in one can!), I joined them in the shade of the porch. 
Its a few miles of climbing to Yarnell before the 6 mile E-Ticket descent back to Congress. Happily there was no traffic on the descent allowing full use of the road for some tricky corners with random crosswinds!
New pavement between Congress and Wickenburg
Rolling through Congress it was again onto fresh pavement and a chance to switch to clear glasses and put on the lights and reflective gear! As the sun set, the light of Wickenburg came into view and after a short control stop it was back onto US 60 for the long run to Sun City and the last control before the sleep stop.

Ray and Catherine were there when I arrived, and after getting a receipt I pushed out quickly. Its about 15 miles to the Red Roof Inn, and of course, they caught me as we made the last few turns to the stop at about 11:30pm.

Wishing I had taken up Mike on his offer to put some dinner food in my room, I checked in, stored the bike and hopped in the car to the nearby Dennys. Food was good, but service was slow, and minutes if not an hour of sleep was wasted on my Grand Slam Breakfast!

I was in the sack at 1 am, and planned to get up at around 5 or 6. Waking up at 5, I grabbed some breakfast treats Mike had left for me at the front desk, and pushed out into the pre-dawn darkness.

Great addition to the Day 2 route
Day 2 starts in the city but soon was on the new Dove Valley road, new and lightly traveled, this road was a great change to the route. Eventually this valley will become developed but on this morning it was a great place to be for the sunrise!

The next control is on Dynamite Road, at the top of 9 Mile Hill. However, it could have been named 9 Mile Downhill for the decent to Rio Verde! After that welcome descent, about 10 miles of classic rollers lead to the next control at Fountain Hills. Rolling into the Chevron station, who else, but Ray was there finishing his stop!

Verde River from the Beeline Highway Bridge
We left together but soon Ray was up the Beeline Highway at a faster pace, he took a break at the Bush Highway turnoff, but I rolled through wanting to get started on the descent to Saguaro Lake and the Salt River.
More new pavement on Bush Highway
Over the past several years, sections of the Bush Highway have been repaved and/or slightly widened. One of the last sections to be completed is the run from Salt River Recreation to the climb up King Kong (Power Road). On the Saguaro 200 earlier in the season it was still under construction and quite rough. With 325 miles in the saddle so far on this brevet, any smooth pavement was welcome relief!

Feeling the sun/heat, radiating from the new pavement, it was time to find some shade and again lather up with another sunscreen mud pack! A small tree at the Salt River Recreation entrance gate was a perfect place for a stop. Ray flashed by while I enjoyed the shade!

Rolling into the Subway (control point), Ray had just arrived so we enjoyed our lunch together. Chips (salt), Coke (sugar/caffine), and a 6" Turkey (protein/carbs), covered most the important food groups. I was ready to get this one done and pushed out after a quick stop.
Strong winds in Fountain Hills
Last climb, Shea Boulevard at Fountain Hills
The route continues through Mesa, back to the Beeline Highway and up to Fountain Hills. Heat, wind, and a few more climbs were the order of the afternoon. Exiting Shea Boulevard after the Fountain Hills descent, its 25 miles of city/residential streets to get back to the start/finish at the Red Roof Inn at I-17. The route is probably the best way across town, using residential routes with bike paths to avoid the heavy traffic on the main roads in Scottsdale and north Phoenix, However, with all the turns and traffic stops, it was hard to get momentum going again. That said, this is still the best possible route across town avoiding major roads and traffic.

One more stop for water with about 8 miles to go and this one was finally in the books 34 hours and 13 minutes after our early start on Saturday morning!

Next up, the Blue Ridge to Bay 1200!

In the books!

Steve Atkins

Ride with GPS data

Monday, March 5, 2018

2018 Around the Bend 400km Brevet

March 2018
Ride Report

Riders assemble at the start
17 riders were on the start list for this one, and with two riders checking out the course earlier in the week, that made for a small group setting out from Sun Lakes AZ Basha's parking lot! Tom Baker would be the Trail Boss with pre-rider Roger Peskett helping out at the lunch control in Gila Bend. The forecast called for a perfect winter day in AZ in the mid-70's with light, potentially favorable, winds during the day.
Tom Baker provides the pre-ride brief
We were all checked in and with a short a pre-ride brief, Tom Baker says, "well its 6 a.m., you guys should get going!" And we were off.

We rolled out in the predawn darkness with temperatures in the low 40's, but just a few miles in we riding through irrigated fields on the Gila Indian reservation. What started as a reasonable warm-up pace became a race for warmth as the temperatures continued to drop (the Garmin recorded a low of 30 in this section) and the pace continued to climb. The course continued through wide-open desert on Beltline road until reaching Laveen with more agricultural sections interrupted by random housing developments until we reached the next control in Buckeye Arizona.
At the first information control in Buckeye
The first control was an information control (answer a question on the brevet card), but since Tom Baker was already there, and there was a taco food truck across the street, the peloton rolled over and refilled bottles and soon we were back on our westward journey toward Palo Verde.
Straight, flat, and with a tailwind
The winds had been quite favorable, but began to shift from the east to south causing some cross-wind. Just past Palo Verde and before the rollers leading to Gillespie dam, the pace was too hot for me and leaders disappeared into the distance!
Gillespie Dam Bridge
Gillespie Dam marks the spot where the road turns south toward Gila Bend, and the winds were right on the nose and would swirl from the west or south for the remainder of the day.
Just add water!

The route follows Old US 80. The highway was resurfaced in recent years, has relatively light traffic, and wide-open views. The views are mostly agricultural as we are following the path of the Gila River, but a few solar farms, one planned community (including gate and entrance with no visible homes), and the Arizona Shrimp Farm add some variety and distraction from the headwind!

Solar farm: Less water, more power!
Just a mile before Gila Bend, the route heads due west on a secondary road that included about 500 meters of hard packed gravel. No flats here, thank you, and with a few more turns, it was back on the pavement and the lunch control at Gila Bend.

Tom Baker and Roger Peskett were overseeing a great lunch spread in the shade and on the picnic tables at the convenience store. Time to strip off a layer, lather up the sunscreen, reload the bottles and grab some calories.

Pushing back out on the road, the route heads up through the Sonoran Desert National Monument. The road parallels the Santa Fe rail line on a steady 1-2% grade for about 20 miles. The wind was favorable, especially when the freight trains rolled by (about every 30-45 minutes or so). Finally reaching the top, a slight downgrade carries you to Maricopa.
On the Climb toward Maricopa
The shoulder disappears but with the tail wind it was easy hold 20+ mph on this section. Several groups of motorcycles passed by, some giving more room than others! Glancing in the rear-view, it looked like another group, so preparing for the next burst of Harley noise, it was surprising to hear the familiar "ding-ding" of a bike bell. It was Paul and Jennifer Danhaus on their tandem taking full advantage of the wind and downgrade, blowing by at 25+ mph. They were gone before I even thought of jumping on board that train!

Rolling into Maricopa, it was time to reload the bottles and get some food. Paul Foley pulled out just as I arrived at the Circle K to pick up some water and a Frappuccino. Not an official control, but at about 150 miles, a good place for a break.

The route heads south, and the friendly quartering tailwind alternated to a quartering headwind for the next 15 miles to the informational control at Stanfield. The route is flat, straight, and once outside of Maricopa, there is one Indian Casino and lots of agriculture all the way to Stanfield.

Information control in Stanfield
The control at Stanfield was another informational control so no receipt was necessary. Paul Foley was there and suggested we ride together. He had some extra water, so I topped off the bottles and we headed right back out targeting our next stop in Coolidge.

It was great to have some company and share some stories as we made our way through Casa Grande. This was Paul's first time on this course, so with him taking most of the pulls, and me providing the local route knowledge we kept rolling.

Coolidge is less then 10 miles from the Florence control, but with empty bottles we stopped for a quick top-off and were back on the road for the quick run to Florence.
Paul Foley on the Adamsville road to Florence
The sun was setting as we hit Adamsville road, just outside of Florence, featuring contrasting views of the Superstition Mountains in the distance, old Florence, and the Arizona State Prison!
Sunset from our 'table' at Chez Circle K
The Florence Circle K was our planned dinner stop. I was craving a hot dog, and even though they were out of buns, I still procured the tubular delight, protein style, with some chips washed down with a Mountain Dew. As we were getting ready to head out, Paul and Jennifer Danhaus rolled in on their tandem. They had taken a long break at the Starbucks in Maricopa!
Paul Danhaus and Paul Foley get reflective
We used the break time to don the reflective gear, arm and leg warmers, and set out for the final run through Queen Creek to Sun Lakes. While a little warm at first, as we headed back into the rapidly cooling desert, and then the even cooler farms of Queen Creek, it was the right call.

Back into the urban sprawl for the last 12 miles on Riggs road, we hit about half of the traffic lights, but with the slight downgrade, and little or no wind we made great time to the final control at the Sun Lakes Basha's grocery store.

We arrived 14 minutes after 9 pm, putting this one in the books at 15 hours; 14 minutes. With no volunteers in sight, we congratulated each other on getting this one done. It is always great to have some company for the night riding and companionship to keep up the forward momentum. Thanks Paul!

After grabbing a receipt at the closest store, this one was officially in the books!

Next up is the Scorpion 600!

Steve Atkins

Click here for GPS data

Monday, February 26, 2018

2018 Vulture Mine 300km Brevet

Ride Report
February 2018
RUSA RBA Mike Sturgill at the rider brief
About 30 riders assembled in the Safeway parking lot at Desert Ridge mall in Phoenix for the 2018 version of the Vulture Mine 300. It was good to see Paul and Jennifer Danhaus at the start. I didn't recognize Paul at first, unlike the rest of the riders, he was still in his street clothes. Unfortunately, their van had been broken into in the early morning hours in the motel parking lot. Luckily, a security guard stopped the crime in progress, no one was hurt, and none of the bikes were lost or damaged. But after being up most the night with the police, and with the van missing a window, they decided to follow the event and let fellow Yuman, Suzanne Stack ride her first 300 solo!

The crew bundled up
We rolled out at a very reasonable pace, and as we warmed up the pace quickened, but even with several traffic light interruptions, nearly the entire group arrived together at the first control in Sun City nearly 90 minutes later.

The group splintered on the run to Wickenburg, as a light cross-wind and gentle grade took its toll. A few miles outside of Wickenburg, Steve Kenney and his group was on the side of the road. He had suffered his first flat, with the second coming a few miles later.
Ever-present Mike Sturgill at the Wickenburg control
Mike Sturgill set up his table of supplies at the Wickenburg control. After checking in, topping off the bottles, and grabbing some pocket food, it was a quick stop and back on the road in only a few minutes.
US 60 just before the Vulture Mine turnoff
Most the rough roads in town have been repaired with fresh pavement, and with no special events downtown, we were able to cycle straight through town and start the final rollers to the top of Vulture Mine road.  Just after reaching the summit, I could see Steve Kenney and his group closing fast in the rear-view mirror. Steve said hello, and said "ride safe," as they powered past. I hopped on the train, although not too close, for the descent.
Trailing the Steve Kenney Group
It was right about here in 2016...
In 2016 my brevet ended at about mile 77 when I crashed after a moment of inattention and touch of wheels in a fast group! I stayed with Steve's group for a few miles past mile 77, but when the road flattened out, they were gone!
Lots of wide open space on this ride
After a short stop to peel off a layer and add some sunscreen, it was back onto the lonely Vulture Mine road. Finally in the distance, I-10 with a constant stream of big rigs came into view, and the next control at the TA Truck-stop in Tonopah.

Again, Mike was there with lunch and supplies. I had been craving potato chips and a Mountain Dew, for what seemed like miles, so I passed on the lunch, purchased and consumed the aforementioned items at the TA Travel Store and was back at it!
Alfalfa growing in Palo Verde
The route continues south through Tonopah, past the Hickman Egg Farms, to the green fields of Palo Verde. The sweet smell of alfalfa was much better than the stinky egg farm!

The route heads back north, over the I-10 and onto the Sun Valley parkway. Once upon a time it had a good shoulder, now the frost heaves force riders back onto the main road. No worries though, its a four lane boulevard, with very light traffic, and most drivers simply passed using the other lane. Of course there were a few that seemed irritated by a cyclist on their road, and passed within the 3 foot limit!

Somewhere along here a group of three appeared in the rear-view and soon we were a group of four heading to the control at Canyon Springs.

Susan Stack and I rolled out of Canyon Springs after reloading and we worked together to the last control, about 15 miles from the finish. Of course Paul and Jennifer Danhaus were there to cheer us along as we grabbed receipts and pointed our steeds toward the final control at the Desert Ridge Mall.

We rolled in at 6:15 and found Mike in the Safeway Starbucks to complete the paperwork and put this one in the books.

Next up, the Around the Bend 400 on March 3. Click here to sign up!

Steve Atkins

GPS Data Click Here

Friday, January 19, 2018

2018 Saguaro Lake 200km Brevet

Ride Report
January 2018

Riders gather at the start
About 50 riders assembled in the Safeway parking lot in Fountain Hills Arizona for the 2018 edition of the Saguaro Lake 100km and 200km brevets. Mild temperatures, sunny skies, and a start time at dawn attracted riders from Alberta Canada (Calgary), New York, Colorado, Utah, Wisconsin, Washington, and Minnesota! The 100/200km routes share the same loop to start, a fantastic and scenic run up the Beeline Highway, over Usury Pass, and returning to the start via Power Road/ Bush Highway. The 200 includes a second loop with a run through Scottsdale, North Phoenix, Rio Verde, and back to Fountain Hills.
Mike Sturgill provides the rider brief
RUSA Regional Brevet Administrator Mike Sturgill, and former RBA Carlton van Leuven pre-rode the course a few days earlier and provided fantastic support all day. Mike handled the Usury Pass, and Subway/Starbucks controls, and Carlton covered the Butcher Jones support and Cashman Park controls.
Paceline on the Beeline Highway
The ride begins with some steep rollers on Fountain Hills Boulevard, certainly not the best warm-up routine, then a descent to the Beeline Highway and a gradual climb to the Bush Highway turnoff. A sizeable lead group formed and we made great time heading into the sunrise.

It was time to exit the group a few miles from the Bush Highway turnoff and drop back at a slower pace. Reaching the Bush Highway turnoff, we were a group of three (other lost souls from the lead group) as we made our way to the first control at the top of Usury Pass.

Reaching the control, it was a quick stop to reload the water bottles, grab some pocket food, get the brevet card signed and head out and down toward McDowell road. Being a popular cycling area, plus recent improvements to the roads meant that there were plenty of other cyclists out enjoying a spectacular morning!
Salt River just below Saguaro Lake
The route heads west to Power Road, which becomes Bush Highway, then descends down King Kong hill to the river and back upstream to Saguaro Lake. The road improvements were in process here, some of the shoulder was scraped away, so there were still a few miles of rough/narrow pavement until reaching the new surface, which was marvelous!

Lake traffic was light, and with the sun coming up, temperatures warmed and made for some great photos around the lake.
Four Peaks
Heading up toward the Beeline Highway Russ Cummings hopped on my wheel and we traded pulls to the lunch stop at the half-way point. After checking in with Mike and skipping the Subway Meal Deal, it was a quick stop at the truck to reload the bottles, drop a layer of clothes and head out for the second half of the ride.

Leaving Fountain Hills, the route takes the best possible path through urban Scottsdale, but with lots of turns and traffic lights, it was still a bit annoying after such a nice morning on the first half of the route in the Tonto National Forest.
Carlton manned the Cashman Park Control
Passing the Mayo Clinic and Desert Ridge Mall, the next control is the Cashman park. Today it was staffed by Carlton and he provided refreshment and encouragement as again it was a quick stop and back on the road.
Brevet machines at rest
The route heads north then east and back to the Pinnacle Peak area for the last control at the Shell station at Dynamite and Alma School road. No volunteer here, so my proof of passage was the receipt for a Frappachino, water, and PowerBall lottery Ticket! (Lucky for me, it was a 'winning' ticket, matching 3 numbers, my prize; $7; which covered the cost of the stop, so I had that going for me!)

The real payoff of this brevet is the 10 mile descent from the last control. From there the route turns south for the final 10 miles of rollers back to the finish. Last year, a favorable tail wind pushed the riders to the finish. Which of course meant that this year it was a headwind to the finish!

Another one in the books, time to clean up the truck!
At last arriving at the Starbucks, I found Mike, completed my paperwork and loaded up the machine for the ride home. This year I completed the ride in just over 8 hours, and was able to be home in time for a movie!

Looking forward to the Vulture Mine 300 next month, and hoping for a better result that 2016!

Steve Atkins

Link to Saguaro 200 GPS Data