Saturday, May 22, 2010

Camp Verde to Flagstaff Training Ride

Camp Verde to Flagstaff Training Ride

May 15, 2010

I have ridden this route a number of times. This is one of my favorite Arizona rides! Generally when it gets hot in the Valley and I want to get some climbing and altitude I head toward Camp Verde. Susan Plonsky, our Regional Brevet Administrator suggested I modify the route to make it 'permanent' worthy. That is, find a start/finish with a commercial business that can print a receipt to document start and finish times. I pulled out the old Topo USA program and went to work. If I moved the start from the Clear Creek RV resort back to the Historic Downtown Camp Verde, that would be just over 300k to the Flagstaff city limit sign. So I packed the Mini Cooper with my trusty steed and I headed up the big hill toward Camp Verde. I left the house at about 0415 and was in the downtown area just before 0600.BINGO! A 24 hour Circle K is right downtown. I parked across the street in a big strip mall and got ready to go. I went in, bought an extra bottle of water (the first 'checkpoint' is 40 miles away, I figured I would need three bottles to get there) and got a receipt. Time out 0615!
Here at the top of hill, looking back at the 6% grade warning. I took my time today enjoying the climb. The view back toward Sedona was great:
Its about 32 miles to the top of the Mogollon Rim where you reach a 7450 elevation marker. Then AZ 87 narrows, but a nice downhill takes you to the first checkpoint at Clints Wells. There is a post office (more like a shed), Mustang convenience store, and restaurant here. As you can see below, it was hopping Saturday morning:
Water here is available at this tap, no charge for two water bottles! I topped off my bottles, bought a chocolate milk and headed out toward Mormon Lake. Its just a few tenths of a mile for the left turn onto Lake Mary Road.
The road widens again and has a great shoulder. There are lots of rollers from here to Flagstaff. Clints Wells is at 7000 feet and we will climb up to about 7500 just past old Happy Jack before descending again to Mormon Lake. Here is the ranger station that is closed in old Happy Jack:

Just a little more climbing from here, then a short descent to the next checkpoint at Mormon Lake. There are all kinds here; cyclists, bikers, horseback riders, 4 wheelers, ATVs and lots of folks just trying to get out of the heat. I grab another chocolate milk, water, and a receipt and I am on my way.

Mormon Lake Lodge, Restaurant, and Store

Its about 7 miles on Mormon Lake road before you rejoin Lake Mary Road for the final push to the Flagstaff City Limit. I was jotting down my mileage at the turn when this dude rolled up. He had a buddy from Flagstaff that was riding with him for this leg of his journey. I thought I was riding a long way today. My ride is nothing, this guy is riding to Oregon. He recently had a knee replaced and this ride was his rehabilitation! We visited for quite a while, then I was on my way.
About a mile after the turn-around at the Flagstaff City limits sign, you can reload again at the Lake Mary Country Store. There is a great picnic table out front so I bought some lunch and plopped down. One of the guys working came out and joined me while I had a little lunch. We talked about boys and toys. We talked about bikes, his friends race car, and then he pointed out this grader parked a few yards away. He collects the Yellow Iron as his hobby and does earth moving side jobs in addition to working at the store to help pay the rent!

As I rolled out of the store on my way back to Mormon Lake I stopped at this overlook on Lake Mary. The butte in the distance is just west of Mormon Lake, the next checkpoint.

Soon I was back at the store at Mormon Lake. I considered going into the restaurant, but decided to head back, so one more chocolate milk, and I was on my way. Then this guy, Dublin Driscoll rolls up on this motorized Chinese bicycle and kid trailer.

Dublin is on his way to New Mexico. His rig gets about 100 miles to the gallon. The only drawbacks; on steep hills it has a tendency to stall and his trailer has about 80 pounds of gear! We were heading the same direction, I would catch him on the hills, but he would pull away on the flats. On the climb to Happy Jack he stalled out and turned around. He called out; "I've changed my mind!" I rolled up and decided to take a break and visit with Dublin. He had come to the conclusion that his rig was better suited for the shoulder of the interstate where the grades were more consistent. This 'short-cut' was just a little too steep. Also, we discussed how little shoulder the AZ87 has, and how his trailer would be hanging well into the highway.

He was wearing a faded hi-vis vest and his flags say "Jesus" "Died" "For" "You." I told him good luck and "Vaya con Dios," which he shouted back to me, and we went our separate ways.
I pulled into the Mustang Market with the sun setting and the temperature dropping, I pulled on my night gear (with my nifty new WalMart Hi-Vis vest), arm and leg warmers, and tossed down the last chocolate milk for the day.

This next section can be a little intimidating. The road is narrow, but traffic was light, and before I knew it, I was back at the 7450 elevation sign and ready to bomb down the 87 to toward the AZ260 turn. The sun had set and I pulled over to take this photo:

The moon and stars were out and traffic was very light. Soon I was on the big descent toward Camp Verde. With my Schmidt engaged and a slight headwind, I don't think I reached much over 40 mph on the descent!

Riding past the Clear Creek RV resort I thought, if you had started here, you'd be done now. As it was, I still had 6 miles to the finish in Historic Downtown Camp Verde! Its slightly downhill, except for the last half mile into town, and went by quickly. Actually, it was probably better to spin easily for a few miles before climbing back into the car for the ride home.

I bought a big Mountain Dew and pulled a receipt at the Circle K. It was a little after 9, and the only place open was the Circle K. I packed up and headed home.

This was one of the most enjoyable days I have spent on the bike. Great route, awesome scenery, perfect weather, and interesting characters. Hopefully next time I ride, it will be a RUSA permanent!