Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tombstone Wine Country Brevet of 600km

Ride Report
April 12-13, 2014

I'll take this one!


Most brevet riders would be all packed and ready to retire early for a 600km brevet. That would be most riders, your humble correspondent just barely had the van packed and ready for the trek to the start in Marana Arizona. With Michael arriving home from college, and my boss hosting a party at his home the night before the event, my night before the ride was spent enjoying the party with Debby, admiring RG's car collection, then running off to the airport to pick up Michael. I was in the sack just before midnight.

Day 1

Carlton runs the preride brief
For a 0500 start, the alarm went off at 0315 for the 1.5 hour drive to Marana. Heading down the I-10 I realized I had not packed a headlamp, important gear to be able to repair a tire or read a cue sheet at night. I pulled into the Love's truckstop and found one that would work. Soon I was back on the road to the Cortaro Road Exit. Pulling into the McDonalds to use the restroom, I recognized Carlton's (our RBA and Trail Boss) van in the parking lot. About 10 riders had assembled around the outdoor tables. This would be the start of the event! The weather was balmy, but with only a few hours sleep, it was already feeling like Day 2!

Patrick and Tom descending Gates Pass
After the pre-ride brief and lengthy discussion about loose dogs in Sierra Vista, we were off at 0500. A small group of 3 formed at the front (Patrick Rinckey and Tom Baker) and we were off down the historic cobble section that is also known as Silverbell Road. We quickly reached Sweetwater and started the climb up and over Gates Pass. It was nice to climb this section with fresh legs. Several brevet routes go through here, but normally Gates Pass is later in the ride. Also, being just after dawn, winds and  traffic were light and we had the road to ourselves. In a blink of an eye we were rolling past the Desert Museum and into the first control at Three Points/Robles Junction.

Carl manned this control, note the flag!
Carl rolled in just as we arrived. We were able to check in and reload without having to head into the store. The wind was blowing hard out of the southwest, a heavy headwind right on the nose. We took 1 mile pulls and congratulated ourselves when we could pull a mile in excess of 10 mph! Yes, it took hours to cover the 23 miles to the right turn to Arivaca.
Its easy to take pictures rolling at 11 mph!
With the turn to the east, the pedaling was easy and we covered the next 7 miles of rollers to Arivaca in short order!

Baboquivari Peak
The volunteer fire department had set up a rummage sale across from the mercantile store and lots of folks were out and about on this sunny morning. We reloaded our bottles and Tom picked up a small flat of strawberries. First time for me on a brevet, delicious! We rolled out together, and with a nice quartering tailwind, and generally downhill terrain, we covered the next section quickly and at our own pace. Normally, heading west toward Aravaca on this road is a sufferfest. Now we knew why, heading east with a tailwind and a slight descent we soft pedaled almost all the way to the I-19. Patrick rolled off the front, and Tom and I regrouped at a Border Patrol checkpoint and were able to work together for the turn south, back into the wind, and on the shoulder of I-19. Not a high point: heat, wind, and traffic.
Downtown Arivaca!
After hunting and pecking through the Mercado, we finally found the control at Tubac and had a light lunch. Patrick was there and left shortly after we arrived. Back into the wind for another 12 miles of heat, wind, and I-19 frontage road. Between Rio Rico and before entering Nogales, thankfully the route turns east on AZ 80. The route headed up to to the Arizona Wine Country, the traffic lessened, and the wind switched to a tail/crossing tail. The desert gave away to lush riparian habitat and grasslands. This section was spectacular and well worth the suffering on the I-19!
Riparian area just outside Patagonia
Historic site just outside Patagonia

Family shrine hewn into a cliff near Patagonia

Tom dropped off on the climb to Patagonia, and we regrouped at the general store to check in and enjoy a light meal. I was sorely tempted to head into the Wagon Wheel Saloon, but an extra hour here would translate to an additional hour of night riding. So it was a Sobe drink and a can of Campbells Cream of Potato Soup served cold on the sidewalk outside the market!
Riders check in, but do they check out!
All day I had been looking forward to the run from Patagonia to Tombstone. The views are spectacular and the road surface is good. The elevation is over 4000 feet, and with the wind still strong out of the west, it was easy to hold 20-25 mph nearly the whole way to Tombstone.
Finally - High Plateau Tail Winds
Normally, I would stop and reload at either Sonoita or Mustang Corner, but with the wind and the great meal in Patagonia, I was able to continue non-stop for 50+ miles to Tombstone!
Cochise Stronghold, from the road just outside Tombstone
Arriving at dusk, I put on layers and reloaded at the Tombstone control, The direction of the course changed, but I figured that the winds would tamp down with sunset. Nope, I was stuck with them all the way to Sierra Vista!

The route continued through Tombstone and climbs all the way to Bisbee. About 10 miles out of Tombstone, Sierra Vista comes into view, about 20 miles away. It was a mental challenge to continue toward Bisbee, with the sleep stop slowing disappearing into the distance behind  me!

The route enters the mountains and the real climbing begins. Finally reaching the top, soaked from the work, and now descending into the cold, I stopped and put on all the layers just between the tunnel and historic Old Town. The control was a few miles further up the road. By the time I rolled in to the control I was shivering uncontrollably! I jumped into the store, poured a ton of sugar into a hot coffee, purchased a can of beans and a chocolate milk. The convenience store clerk was happy to have some company, so I enjoyed my picnic on the floor in front of the coffee machine.

I packed up, bought a chap stick, and headed back out. It was still 28 miles to the sleep stop, normally about 90 minutes of riding, but the wind continued and it was 2+ hours to the control in Sierra Vista. Carlton drove by a few miles out of town and was at the hotel when I rolled in about 20 minutes after midnight.

I was feeling the effects of being on the bike for the last 20 hours with only 3 hours of sleep Friday night. I checked in and found Carlton in the brevet room. He mentioned that Patrick had arrived about an hour earlier and Tom had suffered numerous flats and was at his hotel in Bisbee. Patrick heard me stumbling up the hall and asked what time I was planning on leaving. Normally I would take a 3-4 hour nap, then head out about before dawn, but I told him I was going to leave after dawn and try and grab 5-6 hours of sleep. I walked to the IHOP restaurant and loaded up on eggs, hash browns, and orange juice. I skipped preparing my bike for Day 2 and simply showered, put on my compression gear and crawled into bed at 0130.

Day 1 - 258 Miles, 20:16 hours, 11,054 ft climbing

Day 2

I had set the alarm for 0700; but woke at 0530 and decided to get moving. I grabbed some coffee in the lobby and returned to my room to pack up and leave. Patrick was rolling out of his room as I returned. With the sun up, I put my reflective gear and spare lights back in my drop bag. I checked out, left my drop bag with Carlton and rolled out under a cloudless sky.

Just a few miles from the hotel, the route enters the Ft. Huachuca Army base. Several of my friends have been stationed here, but this was my first time on the base. After checking my ID, I was cleared to pass.
Historic Buffalo Soldier Gate
The base is nestled at the foot of some spectacular hills that reminded me of the Solvang area of California. It was an enjoyable way to start the day. The route included a series of steep rollers, but with great views and perfect weather I soon reached the West gate and exited the fort.
Heading toward the West Gate at Ft. Huachuca
Leaving the base, the route enters the Coronado National Forest. The road surface was unpredictable, with lots of broken sections. Add many sharp turns, grazing livestock, and cowboy vehicles, this was a section to stay alert.
Off  the base, near Elgin AZ
Rolling into the control in Sonoita, I was surprised to find Patrick still there. He was taking a long break. I went into the store to get some food and when I came out Carlton rolled up to check on us. We rolled out together and soon were at the last Border Patrol checkpoint on the ride. We stopped to check a clicking noise on Patrick's bike. He thought it was his pedal cleat. We remounted and started again, but Patrick decided to stop and totally remount the cleat. He told me to go ahead, so I rolled on figuring he would catch me in Sahuarita at the next control.

The next 30 miles to the Sahuarita control would go by quickly, dropping 2000 feet back to the desert floor. The wind was back out of the southwest, but with the gentle downgrade, it was easy to take.
Sahuarita Road, Helmet Peak in the distance

The last control is a large convenience store in Sahuarita. I enjoyed some soup and chips before reloading my bottles for the last 38 miles to the finish. Carlton sent me a text mentioning that Patrick had to DNF (did not finish) because the clicking sound we heard was his crank arm failing on his bike. We were lucky he found it before the descent on AZ 83!

Helmet Peak road is about 6 miles of 3-4% climbing and went by easily. Reaching the top it was back on Mission Road with a slight tailwind all the way to Congress Ave in Tucson.
Cactus flowers on Helmet Peak Road
I was not looking forward to the last 10 miles to the finish. After all the rural riding with no interruptions, and great views, it was stop and go with heat, traffic lights, and rough road surface until reaching the Marana city limits. Added bonus: The wind shifted and was coming hard out of the northwest for the first time all weekend!

I reached the finish in just under 9 hours for a total brevet time of 34 hours 10 minutes. Carlton was there with some hot pizza and an O'Douls! I completed the requisite paperwork, thanked Carlton for putting together a fantastic route, and headed back to Tempe. After unpacking and cleaning up, Michael (home for spring break) delivered me to the Newman Center in time to catch the 9 pm Mass for Palm Sunday!

Day 2 - 116 miles, 8:52 hours, 4,512 feet climbing

Steve Atkins