Sunday, May 25, 2014

Council Rocks, Last Big Ride Before Antelope Wells

Wow, it's getting close. Another longish ride this weekend, with the goal of camping out someplace to see if the stuff on the bike actually makes sense. My plan for the Divide is to head for hotels wherever I can find them, but I know that some times I either won't make the distance, or weather will interrupt, or the timing just won't be right for a hotel stay, so nice to know that we have a workable camping solution.

Rolled out of Tucson about 6 am or a bit after and headed down Mission Road for Green Valley. I expected to get passed by the "Shootout" which I thought started at 6:30 from UA.  Never did see them, instead saw a bunch of riders in little groups going North on Mission ( wonder if it has anything to do with the traffic tickets that were handed out last weekend for riders blowing some of the stop signs ? )

Got to Green Valley and stopped for breakfast. Best part of the day I think.  Then headed over towards Madera Canyon and then took Box Canyon road to get over to Highway 83 and Sonoita.  Box Canyon cuts through the Santa Rita range and exits the range close to where Rosemont wants to build that ill conceived mine that will destroy wildlife and water for the whole Santa Rita area.  This part of the ride went pretty well, finally crossing the Arizona Trail and getting to Hwy 83.

Santa Ritas from Box Canyon Road before we start climbing

Yep, it's a mountain pass

Looking down at Box Canyon

Once you get to 83, you are in another world.  It's high grassland, rolling plains, completely different than the Sonoran Desert around Tucson.  I stopped at the Shell at the intersection of 83 and 82 and got a soda, a piece of chicken and a chimi.  The gas station/restaurant seemed to have two types of clients, either cowboys with numbers on their backs ( for a rodeo someplace ? ) or people buying Bud to take to Parker Canyon Lake or one of the other lakes.  ( Look, Bud Light is not beer people ! )

Left the Shell and headed east towards Eglin and Whetstone.  Pretty fast riding actually with a good tailwind behind me and I crossed the southern end of the Whetstones.  That would make 3 ranges so far, the Sierrita foothills getting to Green Valley, the Santa Ritas in Box Canyon and now a bit of the Whetstones.
Not the Sonoran Desert

A stop at another Shell at the intersection of 82 and 90, and then on east towards Tombstone.  I crossed the San Pedro and stopped at the "ghost town" of Fairbank.  Looked at the one room schoolhouse and the remains of the once bustling train station.  When I crossed over the San Pedro I could look down and see the railbed of the old railroad.  Would make a nice Rails to Trails project sometime.

Train Station

Fairbank Schoolhouse

Left Fairbank, and then on to 80 to roll pass BootHill and onto Allen Street in Tombstone.  Didn't take any pictures, my thoughts were only on food.  I conspicuously walked my bike up the middle of Allen with a mix of tourists and wild west re-enactors all over the place and me the only cyclist !  Tied up the bike in front of a restaurant and went for a great steak and baked potato.  Then it was time to leave, so headed back the way I came and I went up MiddleMarch road towards the Dragoons.  I took FR687 past Slavin Gulch on my way to Council Rocks, but darkness fell, I had about 123 miles in me and saw this really big rock with a flattish surface on top and decided that would be the place to put my sleeping gear.
Turn from MiddleMarch Road onto FR 687 with Dragoons in front of me

Loosing Daylight
The stars were beautiful, slept for a couple of hours until the local off road contingent decided to make several buzzes down the road with lights blazing.  I was far enough off the road that it wasn't a problem other than the racket. Leroy and Cletus gave up around 11:30 or so and it was a pretty good night.

Up to a surprisingly chilly cloudy morning.  A Hostess fruit pie for breakfast and then to Council Rocks where Cochise agreed to "come in".  Some neat grinding holes and some pictographs that I took pictures of.  It's always impressive to think of those who came before us, who lived in this land for thousands of years before us with our technology.

Kitchen Fixtures

Dragoons have big rocks like this all over

Makes you wonder

Cut across Stronghold Ranch to Dragoon Mountain Road, and lots of up and down stuff to St David, then Benson with breakfast #2 at Rebs.  Another stint on Interstate 10, to Marsh Station, and back home via bikepaths and assorted streets with a pretty good headwind.  Wind is just plain hard on the bicycle and it got warm.   And more gas station food for lunch in Vail ( ala what I'll find on the Divide ), it was a pretty good cheesburger, that I ate outside sitting on a bag of firewood.

So the weekend was about 213 miles and maybe 7000 feet or so, a couple of honorable rides.  No major problems.  I do need to replace some brake pads and both tires ( one was leaking and down to 15 lbs when I got home, but I can't find the leak ( even with water )).   Will think about the clothing just a little bit, but I think I am pretty much as ready as I am going to be.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Gear Shakeout Ride

I needed to start getting serious about doing the Divide and one remaining thing is to checkout all of the gear that I will be taking.  I have bought several bags and lots of miscellaneous items to take with me and decided that this weekend would be a good chance to put it all on the bike and go for a long ride and see how it played out.

My buddy Gene E and I decided we would head for Wilcox AZ mostly on dirt roads, stay overnight there and then ride back to Tucson.  We met at 6 am and rolled across Tucson to eat at Viv's on the east side before we headed up Reddington Pass.  Reddington is a nice dirt climb with some great views.  The pass splits the Catalina mountains and the Rincon mountains,  and you climb about 2000 feet in seven or so miles.  Once on top its a set of rollers until you get to a long descent down to the San Pedro river valley.

Looking back at Tucson from half way up Reddington Pass

Gene climbing
 The climb isn't too bad, pretty good surface and the 4 wheeler types were pretty well behaved and didn't dust us all up.
Mile 18 about 6 or 7 more to go to Cascabel Road
It's a good long ride across the Pass, but eventually you do get to the other side.  We cross the San Pedro river, which is quite dry at this time of the year, and connect up with Cascabel road.  The sign below welcomes you, showing 18 miles to the north to San Manuel ( which has a Circle K and nothing else ) and 40 miles to Benson.  Our plan is to ride to Wilcox and we would make a turn to the east on a road called 3 Links Road.
Intersection of Cascabel Road and Redfeld Road ( dirt in both directions )
 So at this point, we have climbed a few thousand feet, ridden 30 miles on dirt roads since our water refill at Viv's and we are Ok but will need more to make our goal.

Mesquite thickets 
 The road winds along and has a surprising amount of climbing involved.  I drove this a few years ago and didn't remember any of the little climbs.  Oh well.  Our water plan was to resupply in the little community of Cascabel.  But you know plans are only as good as first contact, and Cascabel just isn't that obvious of a place, so apparently I and then Gene rode right past it.  There weren't any signs telling you that you were there, just two or three houses close to the road.  When I passed the Oasis Bird Sanctuary, I knew I had overshot and missed that water resupply.  Nuts !

Cliffs along the San Pedro
 These cliffs on the other side of the San Pedro would be interesting to explore.  There is a pretty good sized geological fault line running along here.  The Rincons seem to have lifted like a trapdoor with the high side to the east.

Shortly after we passed this point, I was quite a bit ahead of Gene and got the the intersection of 3 Links and sat down in the shade of a road sign.  It was getting to be about 92 or so and a little windy and I didn't have that much water left.  After a bit, Gene rolled up and he was out of water.  We looked at 3 Links road and it ran along the southern end of the Winchester Mtns and that looked a bit harder than going the next 10 or 12 miles to Benson, so we headed for Benson and water resupply.  The distance to Wilcox or Benson was about the same.

Gene recognized the name of a farm that provides produce at some of the farmers markets here, and he made a turn into Sleeping Frog Farm.  The folks there were great, and let us both into their kitchen and we refilled our bottles and petted their doggies and were on our way.  They also told us that 3 Links Road was really very  rough, and figured we had made a good choice going on to Benson.

Benson is an Amtrak Station

 After a couple more hours we finally got to Benson, rode under I-10 and up the main street and I went straight for milkshakes.  I got a large one and a large Coke and both were delicious.  Yeah, we got a little dehydrated out there, but had 99 miles on us and about 6200 feet of climbing with our fully loaded bikes, so not too bad.  After ice creaming it up, we rode up the street to Reb's Cafe and had dinner.  Then rode on some backstreets to stay off I-10 and got to a Motel 6 for the night, so ended up with about 110 miles for the day.

Rincon Mtns behind me
 The next morning we rolled out, breakfast at McDonald's and we were westbound on I-10 with the trucks.  Had to stay on it for a while until we got to Marsh Station Road and then took it and got away from the freeway.  The rest of the ride home was pretty nice on a lot of roads that we've done road bikes rides on.  We had a strong headwind and later in the day you could not see the mountains for all of the dust in the air.  The dustiness started after taking these pictures.

Bridge over Cienega Creek
 Crossed Cienega Creek and took a few pictures.  Cienega Creek is a little wetland that still stays damp in the heat of the summer.  It was pretty dry down there today, hope we get some rain soon.



And with that, Gene and I navigated the next 20 miles or so across the city area to the west side of Tucson, had lunch at the Mercado and were home.  It was a good 2 hardish days out on the bike and I think our gear worked out pretty good, nothing fell off and I just need a few little tweaks.  Have to do another couple of rides like this before the Divide.  It's 30 days now till Antelope Wells.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Chino Valley Gravel Grinder

Well, one week after freezing in Prescott doing the Whiskey, I am back up there doing the first Chino Valley Gravel Grinder held on May 3.

This is a 106 mile long ride, with about 8500 feet of climbing on 60 miles of dirt and 40 miles of pavement.  You get to ride from a little baseball field in Chino Valley out into some really empty country and up to a ski area in the city limits of Williams.

There were about 120 riders, some pro mtb riders and pro cycle cross riders, ASU cycling team members, and some pretty good riders who did this ride, along with guys like me.  We all lined up at 7:30 with a cloudless fairly warm morning and started out.   At the very first turn I look ahead and there is a mountain bike peleton going like crazy up this paved road that we had just turned onto ( that's the last we saw of those guys ).  Me and the rest of the tail end charlies proceeded mostly singly the next mile or so until we ran out of pavement.  We would be on dirt for 30 miles as we climbed just slightly and then took a long descent to the Verde River.  Once at the Verde, we crossed a one lane metal bridge, and then up a pretty steep climb.  Finally we get to Hwy 73 and we are back on pavement again.

The next 20 miles were a bit weird.  We were climbing the whole way, and you could feel the climbing in how much effort you were putting in.  But we were in small oaks and then into pines and you did not see an appreciation of just what you were doing.  When I do Mt Lemmon, it's easy to look out and see the progress that you are making, this road looked flat but certainly was not !

Finally we get to Williams, and make a turn to the ski area, up a couple of miles of slippery loose red dirt and get to our turnaround point.  They had BACON !  and Cokes !  It was most excellent.  Felt pretty rejuvenated after that rest, got back on the bike, negotiated that loose slippery stuff ( same crap I fell on when I did the Whiskey pre-ride, still very nervous about that ) and got back on the highway.

So now the fun is supposed to start, we have a downhill of close to 20 miles, and it went by pretty quickly.  Finally did the turn back onto dirt and it's beginning to get warm out there.  Still was descending a bit until we get to the Verde.  Another section of thick loose dirt, and we're trying to not loose the bike ( I kinda scooted all the way to the other side of the road in one place almost into a stupid ditch  LOL ! ).   Then back to the SAG/aid station at the Verde.

Felt pretty good, a little group of about 5 of us would leapfrog one another, as we started up the climb out away from the Verde.  But it got hotter, and the 90 something miles we had done started to take it's toll on me, so I was moving pretty slow at the end.  The wind had started gusting pretty strong ( someone said 18-20 ) and it's hotter, I'am putting water on my hat under my helmet, getting passed by the SAG truck with people in it who had been picked up asking me if I needed anything ( there's like no way in hell that I am quitting now, even if I have to walk back ).

So I cross that last little hill that we sailed across earlier in the morning, wait for some cows to cross the road, get passed by a bunch of OHV's doing 30 plus miles per hour raising a cloud of dust that you couldn't see through ( or breathe, but who needs air ?? ).  Finally get back to pavement, know that I got this thing and I finished it.

Something like 9.5 hours was my time.  No major issues, my Pivot bike was great, my tires were good, ( lots of flats out there with other riders ), and I didn't fall apart, so it was a good experience.  I didn't hang around the finish very long and headed to a McDonalds for a Coke and fries.  Got back to the hotel and one of the motorcycle riders standing in front of the hotel goes "this guys got a number on his bike" and asked about it all.

Unless I think of something in the next 7 weeks, that's the last "event" before lining up at Antelope Wells on June 13.  I got a chance to ride with Steve A who is also doing TD.  A great fellow, it will be fun to meet him someplace in Colorado or Wyoming this summer as north bound and south bound TD riders run into each other.

I took some pictures, but I seem to have misplaced my little Sony camera ( it may be on the ground at the ball field in Chino Valley ).   The countryside out there is absolutely beautiful.  It is the open West, with unspoiled scenic vistas in all directions, starting with grassland, going into oaks, and then pine forests and not all that much traffic.  The red rocks of Sedona are visible ( from the west side ), and it's just a stunning set of vistas.  Worth a drive and doable in pretty much any good vehicle.
Close to finishing