9/22/17 – Usery Pass to Tonto Basin – The Day I Feared Most

Those of you who have spent any time talking to me about this tour know that today and tomorrow are the toughest days on the ride.  I have been fretting about them and training very specifically  to survive them for months.  I have never ridden anything close to the 66 miles and 5200 feet of elevation gain to Tonto Basin or the 55 miles and 5100 feet of elevation gain to Globe, with or without the Arizona heat.  I had discussed my concerns with Ken, our ride leader, who told me that on two separate tours, last year, several of the riders had to hitch rides, as they could not complete the course.   So I had a good friend, Catherine Ries, on standby–ready to drive her pickup truck up to pick me, and anyone else who needed a ride, up and haul us up the road, just in case it was necessary. 

The day started with our 71 year old rider, Terry, staying behind for the day.  His eyes have become progressively more painful and burning as he rode in the wind, which pretty much has been a factor every day so far, so he had arranged a ride to an ophthalmologist to have them checked out.  We were all sad to leave him behind, knowing it might be the last time we saw him, but at the same time, hoping we’d see him again up the road today.  Terry was an Olympic athlete, back in the day, and had great advice on everything fitness and cycling, plus his sense of humor lightened things up pretty routinely.  No comment about his cooking.

So we packed up our camp, loaded up with water, as there wouldn’t be any till we reached Jake’s Corner–50 miles out, said our goodbyes, and headed down the road toward Tonto Basin.  


I threw the route statistics in early as reference.  The day started out with an awesome descent heading down Ellsworth Rd. toward the Salt River Recreation Area tubing operation, then the climbing began, as we rode eastward toward Saguaro Lake.  

At the lake, we turned north, and things got tougher, but for the first time on the ride, we had a tailwind.  A tailwind, can you believe it?  At 10 AM, about the time the serious climbing kicked in, a very light scattering of clouds floated in–occasionally providing shade, and additionally, temperatures stayed unseasonably cool throughout the day.  Our riding conditions could not have been better.  The conditions continued through the  turn off toward Roosevelt Lake, at which point we started riding southward into the wind.  As the wind provided an assist up 7, 8 and 9% grades,  I thought to myself, over and over again, that God had heard my prayers and concerns and was blessing me.  I stand by that. 

The scenery today was spectacular throughout the entire day.  Arizona has the most beautiful deserts in the world, hands down. 

Four Peaks in the Distance
 

The Ride

I’ll confess here that I had a hard time getting out of camp in the morning, so started out at the back of the pack.  But as I rode along, I was riding my ride–keeping my cadence steady and attempting to keep my heart rate under 140.  On the steep grades, that was impossible, but still I made a point of not pushing myself unnecessarily.   As I moved down the road, I caught up with 5 riders who I normally trail.

At one point, as I looked off to the right of the road, I could see below us some stock trailers and cattle moving out from under a highway crossing.  Erwin and I pulled off to watch the tail end of a cattle drive.

The rancher, a woman named Lori Brown, was the nicest lady.  She told us about the cattle drive, introduced us to the wranglers, and offered us cold beverages from a large cooler.  Being low on water and still having about 10 miles to go to get to Jakes Corner, we were pretty jazzed.  She pretty much made our day.

At the turnoff to Highway 188, the winds changed and got in front of us.  Three miles in, we reached our water stop and indulged.

It’s Hard to See the 8 Bikes Lined up in Front of the Market
Item Missing from the Sign: Trump Lovers. VERY Risky.
 

The scenery changed as we headed south–less cactus and more open vistas.  Still clouds.  Still spectacular.  

The remaining miles to the Tonto Basin Inn were a tough slog over rolling hills and into a headwind, but thankfully, they were all generally downhill.  

The entire group had arrived the inn by about 4:30 PM to hear the word on Terry.  The ophthalmologist determined that his eyes were sunburned and he was experiencing something similar to snow blindness.  He has to stay indoors and wear sunglasses during his waking hours for 10 days, so will be unable to continue the ride.  We’ll miss him.

Erwin and Eric had a kitchen and propane grill to cook dinner on, so they went to town with the dinner meal.  Hamburgers, hotdogs, grilled onions, potato salad, coleslaw, spinach salad with all the fixings, and banana splits.  Life is good.

9/8/17 – Final Tuneup & Gear List

Sure am glad today is over!  I had planned to leave for San Diego this afternoon, but that didn’t happen. I never finished all the items on my “things to do” list, so that was out of the question.  Won’t bore you with the miscellany.  The most significants tasks of the day were getting some final tweaking done on my bike and a final gear check.

Final Bike Tuneup

The day started with a final bike tuneup with my bicycle hero and personal mechanic, Jay Stewart, who happens to be a fellow McClintock High School alumni and personal friend of my Home Teacher, Todd Rallison, who thankfully hooked us up.  Jay helped me get my mind wrapped around the bicycle touring mentality.  Over the course of several months, he tricked out my bike with new gearing, super comfy handlebars, and a custom-made rear reflector that will hopefully keep me from getting run over, and tweaked and tuned various components to perfect the ride.  After attending  numerous classes on general bicycle maintenance, I still needed help figuring out how make adjustments to the types of brakes, shifters, etc. that are on my bike.  I appreciate Jay’s willingness to help any way he could at any hour of the day or night.

EE0D0E18-CCAA-4039-B5B3-56AE01480571.JPG
Jay Stewart Adding Final Touches to my Bike in His “Shop”

One training day, a while back, I was hill climbing in the Usery Pass area, and my bar end shifters stopped holding their gear, which made climbing extremely difficult.  The phone advice from my local bike shop mechanic was to load up my bike and bring it in to the shop, which would have been impossible, as my car was about 6 miles away.  Knowing intuitively what the problem was, Jay talked me through fixing it, which took less than a minute, and I was able to  continue riding for another couple of hours.

Gear List

As you can see, there’s a lot of gear, but it organizes neatly into several bags, then pack down to fits nicely into two panniers, and a lunch back from Target that sits on top of my rack, a little zipper bag that hooks to my aerobars, and an even  littler frame bag.  Fully loaded with four full water bottles, the beast weighs 65.8 pounds, which may sound like a lot to someone who does any kind of road or mountain biking.  But to a bicycle tourer, it’s an ultra lite setup.  The last few weeks of training, I have ridden my bike fully loaded to get used to the load.

2055F9B0-51A2-4584-A0EF-73AB2DB2380A
If I’m not Wearing it, my Gear all Fits in the 3 Bags in the Back and the little black Top Tube Bag that’s Forward and to the Right

Bike:

  • Salsa Marrakesh
  • Profile Design T4 Carbon Aerobars
  • Profile Design 7 cm Aerobar Riser
  • Profile Design UCM XL Electronics Mount
  • Lizard Skins DSP 3.2 Bar Tape
  • Grab On Maxi Foam Touring Grips
  • Water Bottle Cages (4)
  • Neoprene Bottle Bag (Repurposed as a Feed Bag)
  • Seat Bag
  • Schalbe Marathon Supreme Tubeless Tires
  • Cable Lock

On Bike Clothes:

  • Pearl Izumi Cooler Cap
  • Performance Ultra Cycling Shorts (4)
  • Pearl Izumi Sun Legs
  • Sugoi Leg Coolers
  • Bandanas (4)
  • Swiftwick Socks (4)
  • Terry Soleil Jerseys (4)
  • Performance Cycling Tights
  • Patagonia Rain Jacket
  • Rain Pants
  • Rain Oversocks
  • Patagonia R1 Hoodie
  • Shocktek Gloves
  • Pearl Izumi Gel Gloves
  • Pearl Izumi Wind Gloves
  • Lake Cycling Shoes
  • Giro Helmet
  • ESS Ice Sun Glasses

Off Bike Clothes:

  • Swimsuit
  • Sleeping Shorts
  • Underwear (4)
  • Shirt
  • Tights
  • Vionics Sandals

Electronics:

  • IPhone with Handlebar Mount
  • IPod Nano
  • Garmin 520
  • Cygolite Metro Light
  • Cygolite Hotshot Tail Light
  • Cateye Rapid X Tail Light
  • Anker Multi Charger
  • Anker Battery Pack
  • Black Diamond Headlamp
  • iclever keyboard

Sustenance:

  • Camelbak Podium Water Bottles (4)
  • Platypus 2.5 Liter Hydration Bag (2)
  • Mio Electrolytes (2)
  • nuun Electrolytes (3)
  • Various Other Supplements/Vitamins/Minerals

Hygiene:

  • Coppertone Sport Sunscreen
  • Chapstick Lipshield 365
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Wal-Mart Shower Scrubbie
  • Shaver
  • Dental Floss
  • Toothpaste
  • Oral B Battery Operated Toothbrush
  • Dove Deodorant Minus the Dispenser
  • Travel Sized Bottles of Favorite Shampoo, Conditioner, Soap, Lotion, Etc.
  • Q-Tips
  • Comb & Tiny Hairbrush
  • Hairbands (7)
  • Eye Liner Pencil
  • Lipstick
  • Blush
  • Makeup Remover Wipes
  • Freshette (if you’re curious, ask Google)

Toolkit:

  • Lezyne RAP Multi Tool
  • Nylon Twine
  • Rubber Gloves (a bunch)
  • Cotton T-Shirt Squares (a bunch)
  • Wet Ones
  • Tire Boot
  • Spare Tubes (3)
  • Tire Levers (3)
  • CO2 Inflator
  • CO2 Cartridges (2)
  • Tire Patches
  • Valve Stem Wrench
  • Stan’s Tire Sealant
  • Missing Links (4)
  • Loctite Thread Locker
  • Extra Silicone Bands
  • Velcro Zip Bands (6)
  • Lighter
  • Length of Electrical Tape
  • Length of Aluminum Tape
  • ATB Chain Oil
  • Swiss Army Knife
  • Sewing Kit

Touring/Camping Gear:

  • Ortlieb Backroller Pannier (2)
  • Ortlieb Map Case
  • Embark Lunch Bag (Rack Top Bag)
  • Topeak Tri Bag Frame Bag
  • Granite Gear 5 Liter Zippsak (Handle Bar Bag)
  • Granite Gear 12 Liter Zippsak (Clothes Bag)
  • Granite Gear 12 Liter Zippsak (Supply Bag)
  • Sea to Summit Dry Bag 5 Liter (Laundry Bag)
  • Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Dry Sak 8 Liter (3)
  • Neoprene Water Bottle Bag
  • Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 Tent with Footprint
  • Tyvek (Cut for Tent Vestibule Footprint)
  • Silk Sleeping Bag Liner
  • Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite
  • Therm-a-Rest NeoAir AirTap
  • Exped Air Pillow
  • Sleeping Bag/Quilt (made from Costco Down Quilt)
  • Portable Clothesline
  • REI Camp Towel
  • Solo Man Titanium Cup
  • Toaks Titanium Spork
  • Rubbermaid Containers (2)
  • Headnet
  • Repel Sportsman Max Mosquito Repellant

9/6/17 – What Final Preparations?

I should be franticly readying myself for this ride, but today, I needed to spend some time with my daughter and grandkids.  After all, I won’t be seeing them for 70 days!  I put in one climb of South Mountain, then headed over to 4 year old Ella’s swim lesson.

After our post lesson regimen of McDonalds yogurt parfaits and Burger King Play Land, my daughter brought the grandkids by to play while she helped me figure out this blog.  The girls had us both completely distracted with their non-stop snacking and activities (aka messes) in every room of the house.  I’ll worry about being prepared tomorrow.

I’m Going to Miss These Guys

Today’s Ride:img_5420

9/5/17 – Training with Lisa Hatch

There have been a lot of training rides leading up to this point:  Serious sufferfests, like repeated climbs of South Mountain, and long boring rides circling South Mountain.  But the best rides have been with friends and relatives.  And the very best was today when I went riding in scorching heat of the Usery Pass/Bush Highway area with Lisa Stapley Randall Hatch, a lifelong friend.

IMG_5416

We started out at the bottom of the hill leading up to Usery Pass and quickly ran into our first of 3 herds of wild horses.  On the road toward Saguaro lake we ran into more horses and the very first Coatimundi either of us had ever seen.  Then on our way back down to our cars, we pedaled past our very first in-the-road rattlesnake–coiled up and ready to strike.  Being the brave girls that we are, we circled back for a photo and had our cameras at the ready when, out of nowhere, a massive pickup truck flew up the road and spoiled our fun.  He took aim and ran right over that snake, causing a loud snake explosion that sent the snake flying through the air toward us as we both screamed in horror.  As we sped away, I glanced back to see that the snake was still moving.  Felt kind of bad leaving it there, but we were traumatized.

Wild Horses

img_5413-e1504763233434.jpg

Lisa’s summary of our ride was poetic:  28 miles, mostly uphill, 3 packs of wild horses, a raccoon/monkey coatimundi (true, look it up), rattlesnake exploding in front of us cuz it got ran over, and gorgeous scenery–all before 10 am. The day is young, what next?

Can’t wait to ride with her again!  Only a few more training rides left before San Diego.

Todays’ Ride
img_5419