Monday, April 29, 2013

Arivaca, Arivaca, How Are You?

So, I wonder how many people just ride out their front door to begin a solo, unsupported 145 mile day  ride that is not part of any groupie anything? I know RAAM riders do so. Why, they will even come home from work on a Friday night, hop on their bike and ride 36-48 hours straight with no sleep break. But then, as Perry Stone, Producer of the award winning film, Bicycle Dreams, that chronicles the 2005 RAAM, says: "There is no way these people are normal".

Couldn't find any riders to join me so I sent my route to my Tucson-based son and a riding buddy (Kirk was out of town) so someone would know where to look for me if I didn't show up, and then I took off for a simply delightful ride into the deep desert. Here's a snapshot of the route that doesn't include the from and to my house which adds about 10 miles to what you see.

I love this route (save the first 25 or so miles on Ajo Way full of traffic and oft less than trouble-free shoulders):  lots of desert, lots of quiet time, plenty of mostly gentle rollers, Altar Valley, Baboquivari Peak, a 7,730' sacred peak to the Tohono O'odham, and Kitt Peak National Observatory. Arivaca is my turn-around point at about mile 77. 

Saw these beauties along the way. The Gopher made it to the other side of the road. The Coachwhip and been injured and was unable to drag his body across the road. All he could do was raise his head and cry for help. Had there been a stick I would have lifted him off the hot road. I felt badly leaving him there. My snake handling skills are now years-ago old.

Seems the population in Arivaca is less than 1,000 and has been a flashpoint for border/immigration issues including the murder of Raul Flores and his 9 y.o. daughter in 2009 by a group of anti-immigration activists in 2009. 

In some small places it's the well that serves as a place of congregation, or others it's the community bath. Out here I guess it is the mailboxes.

For me the wood-floored Mercantile is Arivaca, a place to eat my can of tuna, fill up my water bottles, and move on. No bathrooms at the Merc, have to go to the one cafe in town, right across the street. I must have looked like an alien as I walked into the Cafe. Social graces are not the gift of Cafe patrons as two males and the bar maid hee-hawed in knee-slapping laughter as I asked for directions to the restroom. Oh well. 

I found a coffee shop about 3 miles further out of town. I hear I might have a more welcome reception there. Next time...

The middle 100 miles of my ride the only motorized vehicles were those of the Border Patrol. Otherwise it was just me, the snakes, the long-eared jackrabbits, long-horned steer, and the 90 degree sun. Speaking of which, I came across this fire in one of the washes on my way out of town. Don't know if it was  spontaneous combustion or...but fire hazards are high from now on till next winter.

Amado and Green Valley meant I was within 45 miles of home both a welcome and wistful knowing. Welcome, it was getting quite hot, and wistful knowing that it won't be till Fall until I'll take this ride again. Just as the rest of the nation is clipping into their pedals for long-awaited long rides, we here in Southern AZ will be trimming back the miles. Rides will start at 5:30 a.m. and finish by 9:30 a.m. to beat the heat.

Tourist Attraction in Amado

Pecan Groves in Green Valley

 I met this guy 3 miles from home. Too much partying the night before. Had to ride bike #2 back to where he left it the night before and then get 'em both bikes home. 
Today was a grand and glorious Day Ride.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

March Madness Of A Different Sort: Part 3--PAC Tour Desert Camp

Goodness knows I've ridden lots of miles alone and with others, in planned, organized rides and spontaneous rides, far from home and in my "hood", in the remote of the desert and on the interstates across the country, and everywhere in between. 

But! This Week 5 of PAC Tour's Desert Camp will long be remembered as my favorite multi-day ride. I've pondered on what made it so and I'm not sure I have a definitive conclusion. I can tell you what some of its characteristics were, but in the end, I feel certain the heart of this memorable week has most to do with my own heart. And with most things of the heart when one tries to analyze "it", "it" loses some of its magic and sacred beauty. That said, I feel compelled to do my best to capture some of the week's essence as triggers for my own memory of this glorious week.

The Facts:
  • Perfect weather all week--mid 70's, negligible winds, and no rain, but rain's a rarity in the desert anyhow,
  • About 500 miles for the week of riding.
  • About 65 riders and crew,
  • Hubbed in Sierra Vista with nearly-a-century ride/day (ah the joy of not needing to load up the gear bags daily),
  • Friendly nutrition, i.e. I was able to manage my nutrition more easily (food allergies/intolerances) hubbing in one place in a hotel with a refrigerator and microwave and in a town with restaurants a step or two above fast-food.
  • Informative lecture/discussions each evening by coaches and accomplished endurance cyclists
Me Factors:
  • My roomie, Carol Bell, and I were a great match on and off the bike.
  • Riding these Southern AZ roads felt like a celebration. They are now "my" roads, not just roads I come to visit once a year. Since I can now visit them anytime, riding with 60+ other riders I felt like I has sharing my home with my friends.
  • Speaking of friends, I probably knew a quarter of the riders and crew so it was, indeed, like a homecoming. 
John Prince, Carol Bell, and Dan Aaron
Carol Bell and Me
  • Jim Kemper also rides recumbent so it was fun to share the roads with another bent. 
  • I enjoyed riding alone sometimes, riding with others sometimes, and having choices about how far I rode each day including sometimes going off-SAG. 
Jim Kemper, Carol Bell, Me, and Gary Duvall
  • I had a host of issues with the carbon seat on my bike which, in turn, created a host of problems on the seat of Susan. But, with the help of Lon, Jim Kemper, and John Prince we solved the bike seat issues. And, with the help of Barb Bohaty (Massage Therapist) and my own work-on-self I was able to manage my personal "seat" issues. Nice to know that "issues" don't always have to be ride-stoppers.
  • I think sometimes when I've ridden PAC rides I've felt intimidated, that I wasn't good enough, strong enough, fast enough, just wasn't enough since there were always amazing cyclists who have a portfolio of amazing accomplishments.  But this time I felt like I was enough; I didn't have to prove anything to anyone including myself. I've ridden 10,000 miles with PAC Tour; have ridden 12,000 miles/year for the last half-dozen or so years; can climb every hill and mountain Tucson has to offer me. I am enough just as I am and that is a huge victory. That doesn't mean I will not continue to improve my performance, but doing so will be for the complete joy and gratitude of doing so, not to earn a spot at the start line or around the table. 
And so I ended the month of March with 27 days of riding and 1,357 miles. A good month's work of joy.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

PAC Tour Hall of Fame: A Bucket List Milestone

Susan Notorangelo, Me, and Lon Haldeman

I lived about 40 miles away from Lon back in the early 80's when he won the Great American Bike Race racing against John Howard, John Marino, and Michael Shermer. That was the true beginning of Ultradistance Cycling. Today, RAAM is the coveted, ultimate ultradistance cycling achievement. 

In the early 80's I had 3 pre-school and early school-age children along with my own professional career and Kirk was working days, evenings and weekends as a United Methodist Pastor. I tabled any fantasies of transcontinentals for 25 years. The kids would have by then graduated from college, married, have young'ns of their own, and I would have had several back surgeries and complicated physical rehabs post surgery. I would develop an extensive array of food allergies/intolerances that would make fueling along the blue and unpaved roads of America a challenge, to say the least.

But, in 2001 I "came back" on a recumbent bike, a Vision R 40, that I crashed on my maiden ride. Lots of damage to the bod--broken jaw, teeth, wrist, facial lacerations, deep road rash on my hands, and internal bleeding. Undaunted, I was back up and riding a couple of weeks later, as soon as I could grip the handlebars. 

I re-found Lon and Susan in 2005 riding with them in one of their PAC Tour Wisconsin Training Camps and immediately signed up for my first Transcontinental with them in 2006 which would follow their Southern Route from San Diego to Tybee Island, GA.

Riders who have ridden 10,000 miles with PAC Tour get a commemorative Hall of Fame jersey and their name written on the Lunch Truck. So, that became one of my milestone bucket list goals achieved this March at the beginning of my PAC Tour Century Week Desert Camp. 
The lunch truck is the red one. Names are on the opposite side of the truck.

March Madness Of A Different Sort: Part 2

Me (left) and Michelle Williams (right) at the Rincon Country Market on Old Spanish Trail

We have Rob Welsh, RBA of the MN Randonneurs, to thank for introducing us. Rob and Michelle met at PAC Tour Desert Camp in 2010 just months before her Northern Transcontinental also with PAC Tour. Rob facilitated an iMeet for us back in 2010 and she and I have been chasing each other around the country since riding our bents, hers a CA2, mine a Ti Aero, in LA, IL, MI, WI, and now AZ. Stay tuned for this year's upcoming big event--riding a 200k Brevet and the Fireweed in AK, plus some Anchorage day rides in July.

Her March AZ trip was to be a shake-down about totally disassembling her bike in MS, packing it in a snowboard tube (Sporttube III), reassembling it in AZ and then reversing the process to go home. 
It was actually a smooth process that engendered a lot of confidence (and competence) in both of us to fly off  into the tundra. The PVC portable bike stand, engineered by Mark Doumas, made the whole rebuild/dismantle process totally doable.Thank you Mark!!

We've made a list and have checked it more than twice to make certain between us we have the tools we need to take with us. 

I think we thought our week together in Tucson would be a big mileage week, but instead we stayed closer to home doing Day Rides in the resplendence of Tucson: Saguaro National ParkColossal Cave, parts of Tucson's Multi-use Path around the city known as The Loop, and commuting, commuting everywhere, like to the Christian Seder Meal, a Cubs v Dodgers Spring Training game with Kirk, and Tucson's twice-annual 4th Avenue Street Fair. 

Alaska is just 3 months away. See you soon Michelle!!


Monday, April 01, 2013

March Madness Of A Different Sort: Part 1

January and February combined yielded 252 degrees below normal in Tucson. While still 20-30 degrees warmer than Chicago, home for 42 years, these were not the temps that allured me to Tucson.

The end of February we went (without bike) to New Hampshire to celebrate my good friend's retirement (Barbara Cleveland) and my brother's (David Walcher) new marriage to a wonderful woman, Linda Harding. New snow is beautiful, but to have to wear crampons just to get from your car to your house--well that's why I came to Tucson--not to have to don such silliness. 

Tried my hand at replacing my bottom bracket and headset with the oversight of the helpful mechanics at BICAS all in the ready for some long-anticipated touring with friends in March.

First up would be "Wayne's Ride," Wayne Cullop being the President of GABA. Our 3-day ride to Rio Rico, Tombstone, and back to Tucson would be his retirement celebration which 100 of his closest friends helped him celebrate the end of December.

Weather for our 3-day Tour was Tucson-glorious with prevailing winds. What he didn't tell me was that were about 175' of climbing in the last 0.7 of a mile up to the Esplendor Resort in Rio Rico. 

Wayne and me leaving home for Rio Rico
He and I had ridden from Patagonia to Nogales and back to Tucson the end of December (a day ride), so it was fun to see Tubac, Tumacocori and Patagonia in reverse a couple of months later .
Mission in Tumacacori

Our route from the Nogales Airport to Mustang Corners in Whetstone (Rt 82) feeds my soul. The hills are long, basically gentle, expansive grasslands (yep saw long horned sheep and antelope) and rounded, steep cliffs atop which I swear I can see Native Americans mounted on their horses keeping watch over their precious land. I saw this beauty for the first time in 2007 on my first 200k Brevet, also my first time to be so far from home without a SAG/support crew. Little did I know that would be just the beginning of solo, far away from home, journeys.

Day 2 to Tombstone was a long, slow 75 miles (~4,000' climbing), Wayne feeling the miles after having not logged tour-training miles while still working, and in the Jan-Feb Tucson chill. I found I appreciated the opportunity to pause atop the various grades waiting for him; I could feel the breeze, take in the grand expanses surrounding me, and feel humbled by my minuteness in the grand scheme of universe history. Bill Bryson's, A Short History of Nearly Everything, came to mind.

We opted to amend our route from Tombstone back to Tucson the next day shortening the mileage by about 20 and decreasing the climbing by a couple of thousand feet. It would mean riding for about 20 miles on I-10 between Benson and Vail, but the shoulder is wide and we expected traffic to be minimal on a Saturday. Wrong x 1-1/2.

The 18-wheeled traffic didn't seem to know it was Saturday and pounded by us, not a problem when we had a good shoulder. But, there were 3 miles of road construction that ended up being potentially murderous or suicidal. You choose. The last 1-1/2 miles of the road construction left us with a rumble strip and 18 inches of "shoulder" between us and the 18-wheelers. It was nothing short of miraculous we made it across safely. It was the operational definition of "there is no way out but through". 

Many prayers of gratitude and a wishing that we had opted for Marsh Station Rd. We had ruled Marsh Station Rd. out because it was a few miles longer and the road surface was reputed to be of poor quality--pretty puny reasons after seeing what was behind "door 1". 

Lunch in Vail at the junction of Colossal Cave Rd and Mary Ann Cleveland Rd. felt like we were home, although we had about 35 miles to go, but the miles ahead are ones we both ride regularly around Tucson metro. We split at Kolb and the Julian Wash to head our separate ways to Tucson's northeast and northwest.

There will be more Wayne and Susan rides, this much I know is true.