Monday, December 31, 2012

Apache Trail 221 RUSA Permanent

Sorry pardner, RUSA members only!

Ride Report

December 29, 2012

Last month Paul Layton sent out a note that he and Mike Sturgill would be riding his Apache Trail 221 Permanent. Even though it was approved last year, this would be its first official running. What is a permanent you say, well, its not a hairdo! From

"A Permanent is like a brevet but you can arrange to ride it any time, not just on one specific date established by the organizer. Like brevets, routes can start and finish in the same location, but they can also run point-to-point, and can be any distance of 200km+ (100-199km for a Permanent Populaire). You must be a RUSA member to ride a Permanent (or a member of another ACP-affiliated country organization.) A Permanent may be ridden alone or with a group."

Paul's excellent route followed the same route I rode last year with some San Tan Racers (ride report), but it was not until last week that the family schedule opened up for this event. As an added attraction, Carlton van Leuven had signed up, so I sent Paul a note and I was on the start list!


Mike Sturgill is very happy that bar is open!
We met at the SE corner of Power and McDowell roads in Mesa Arizona for a 7:00 am start. We all arrived a few minutes before the start and rolled out with our lights blazing into the predawn darkness. Temperatures were in only in the high 30s', but the route starts up with a slight uphill so we all warmed up quickly. We made great progress through town with very little traffic and reached the Apache Trail just as the wind and sun rose from the east. As were heading out of town, Paul noted that this is his third permanent that includes a significant amount of unpaved road riding, which resulted in your humble correspondent assigning him the moniker of Paul 'Dirty' Layton (Dirty Mogollon Madness and 28C's Kelvin)!

Paul 'Dirty' Layton
Our little group stayed together most of the way to Canyon Lake. Traffic was light and the views were spectacular. Paul dropped off to ride at his own pace, but we all regrouped at the first Control at Tortilla Flats. As we walked into the bar at just after 8:20am to refill water bottles, my cell phone rang. Quite unexpected as the cell tower that serves the Flats was installed just recently!

Carlton van Leuven and Paul at the Flats
Tortilla Flats was a Postcard Control. That means that Paul included an addressed, postage-paid card in addition to our brevet card that we were required to note our time of passage on and drop in the mailbox. The mailbox was not especially easy to find, but we dropped our cards in just about the time that Paul rolled up on his machine.

Paul decided that Tortilla Flats would be his turnaround point. The headwind and his lack of recent training miles combined to make it an easy decision. We thanked him for organizing the permanent, refilled out water bottles and headed back out on the trail.


End of Pavement
The climbing continued for the next five miles until we reached the End of Pavement sign that warns travelers that the next 22 miles are unpaved. Most road cyclists (and motorcyclists) turn around here. Not today, we pressed ahead and rolled onto the dirt portion of the route. The Trail is well maintained and graded often, but it is a constant up and down affair so washboards form on most portions of the road.

The first mile or two on the dirt is a nice warm up, before the big descent down Fish Creek Hill. A single lane road cut into the cliffs. When two large vehicles meet, it is a challenge for them to pass. This morning we had the road to ourselves. The down grades were in excess of 12% and by the time we reached the bottom, our forearms ached as we were on both brakes all the way down!

Starting the descent
Steep downgrade to Fish Creek

Nice pool under the bridge over Fish Creek

Resting our forearms over Fish Creek

We continued along the Trail constantly looking for the smoothest, most compact line in the dirt. With the three of us constantly riding the road from side to side, its no wonder that one motorist asked us if we were lost! Noticing we were all on road bikes, he said; "You know it is dirt all the way to Roosevelt Lake!"

Traffic was light and the motorists we did see were very courteous, even when they encountered us on the 'wrong' side of the road seeking the smoothest line! As mentioned the Trail is a constant up and down affair with steep climbs and descents with tremendous views of Apache Lake and the Superstition Wilderness. The constant washboards take their toll on riders and gear. Mike lost a bottle, my saddlebag came loose, and our arms and back ached from the pounding. Happily however, no one had a flat tire on this grueling section of road.

Roosevelt Dam
Finally traffic started to pick up as we neared Roosevelt Dam. Quite suddenly around a bend we are greeted with sight of Roosevelt Dam and the return of pavement. We paused to take a few pictures before the final climb around the dam and the left turn on AZ-188
Mike resting, comfortable on pavement!
Very happy to be at the end of dirt!


We had been on the road nearly 5 hours and covered only 53 miles. We considered detouring into the town of Roosevelt to get something to eat and refill our bottles, but we were concerned about making the time cutoff at the Jake's Corner Control. We checked our bottles and decided we had enough fluid/food on our machines to avoid the detour and continue on route to the Tonto Basin Grocery store 17 miles up the road. The wind had shifted to a crossing tailwind and sharing the work, our trio made great time as we rolled into the grocery about an hour later. We ate a little food, refilled our bottles, and were ready to roll out when Larry on a mountain bike rode up to us to find out what we were doing and where we were going. He seemed interested in joining us on a future ride, so Carlton told him to go to to check out the 2013 brevet schedule.

We always meet interesting people on these rides!
We left the grocery refilled and continued on the gently rolling highway for the next 11 miles to the official Control at Jake's Corner. We stopped in to get a receipt and top off our bottles. Maybe it was the cold, or maybe the company, but we ended up buying some solid food and enjoying it on the picnic table inside the store!

Jake Corner Store and Control

Snow on the hills surrounding Mt. Ord

I bought an extra water bottle, since there are no services between here and the end of the ride (except a possible detour to the Marina at Saguaro lake). Rolling out of the Control, the temperatures continued to drop as we climbed our way to the high point of the ride, the saddle below Mt. Ord at about 4,500 feet. We stopped at the safety pullout. Carlton added a layer, I chowed down two Honey Stinger Waffles, and hopped on Mike's wheel for the long descent, it was quite cold already, and descending at over 40 miles per hour made it very cold indeed. There is a short false flat where the temperatures warmed before the descent into the Sunflower area. ADOT has improved the highway shoulder so we were able to stay off the highway the whole way from AZ 188 to the Saguaro Lake exit.

With the cold temperatures our water strategy worked well. Leaving Sunflower, there is a steady 3-4 mile climb with a constant 6 % grade. We stopped near to the top put on our lights and to grab a snack. I used my extra water bottle to mix up some more Sustained Energy and eat my last waffle. We rolled easily to the top and with Mike blazing the way we bombed down the Beeline Highway to the Bush Highway exit into an outstanding sunset!
Descending the Beeline Highway at Sunset


The route is generally downhill as we passed the Saguaro Lake Marina and the Salt River Recreation area and working together we made great time over the rollers on the Bush Highway. The ride's final climb is up the dreaded "King Kong" climb. Actually it was so dark, we were halfway up the climb before we realized it! With the climb behind us, it was only a few short miles to the finish control.
We rolled into the control 11 hours and 32 minutes after the start. We covered 137 miles (22 on the dirt) and climbed about 11,000 feet on this outstanding route. Riding into a beautiful dawn at the start and a stunning sunset near the finish reminded us that the Apache Trail 221 is no ordinary 200k!

We all agreed it was an outstanding day on the bikes, with great friends, on one of the best routes in the state!

Steve Atkins