I have arrived in Palm Desert, CA, where my parents spend their winters.
I'm here to visit, and to ride in the 2007 Tour de Palm Springs.
I've done this ride before, and it's quite a spectacle. Thousands and
thousands of riders. Megabuck unobtanium road sleds are out there with
Wal-mart clunkers. Tandems haul trailers full of dogs. Recumbants. Very
old and very young riders. Thousands. It's like a critical mass only
with t-shirts and aid stations. Vast aid stations. Fifty-porta-potty
aid stations. Many of them. Bizarlo.
But this year all previous years' pomp and circumstance will be trumped. This year, Monte Hall will be the Honorary Cyclist.
have shared race courses with famous folks like Travis Brown and Alison
Dunlop, and that was cool. But how exciting is this? What's behind door
number two Monte? I get tingly when I think that I could be out there
sharing the tarmac with the Game Show Hosts' Game Show Host. I will
never be a pro cyclist, obviously, but if I play my cards right and
maybe get the right advice from The Master, I could be a game show
host. I think maybe I have a new career goal.
Think of the groupies!
12:14 pm February 7th, 2007
Race Camp Established
The POD has been moved into the spot she will occupy during the race. I
will be operating out of that camp with the help of my generous little
sister Meg, and my good friends Scott and Kym Campbell will also be
racing (Duo) out of this camp.
POD is literally less than 200 feet from "Wahoo Rock", which is known
by folks who've done the race. The race course trail splits less than a
quarter mile from the start/finish, one route (to the left) goes
through a rock garden then down a steep granite face probably near 30
feet long. The right-hand fork goes around the rock outcropping, and
the two trails meet up again just downhill from where the POD is
closest to the trail. That junction is perhaps 300 feet from camp.
These photos were taken of camp from the top of Wahoo Rock:
The trail junction and my neighbors' encampment are visible in the second photo to the right.
Today I'm off to visit the parents in SoCal.
It's all happening soon. Wahoo!
11:34 am February 6th, 2007
Monday dawned windy, but quite warm. I did some
organizing and minor trailer repair, then lubed up my chain and hit the
race course. I did two hot laps, with the addition of some singletrack
options that aren’t part of the course. I rode probably a little over
40 miles at a mostly brisk pace.
I went quite a bit quicker than I would be advised to ride during the race. I won’t make it past
if I try to establish such a hot pace--at least given my current level
of fitness. I’m feeling very good and fit, and I think I’ve made good
use of my training time. But honestly, I’ve only had about 5 weeks to
really get ready for my first 24 hour solo effort. I need to keep a
strong sense of my limits or I’ll wind up hurting really badly by dawn.
was a tiring day, but a fun day too. The best part is that I rode for
the whole time in a short-sleeved jersey and shorts. Wow, what a
luxury! The weather here still isn’t what you would call hot, but it’s
certainly quite a bit warmer than it was for all of January.
I probably won't do many hard rides. Saturday I'll be doing the Tour of Palm Springs, a huge
century ride (there are usually ~10,000 participants). I am going to
try to go at an easy pace, and I guarantee that I'll do lots of
wheel-sucking. But that'll probably be the longest, hardest ride I do
between now and Saturday the 17th. Today I'll go tweak my Fisher,
adjusting brakes and such so that it won't have a wrench near it for a
week before the big day.
Saturday was a wonderful day. Cool but not too cool. Sunny, and almost no W-I-N-D.
was time for me to get back on the training horse with a vengeance. It
was one of the very few days I’ve been here so far when it was not
difficult to get going by .
Well, almost nine anyway. I was all ready to go at a bit after nine,
the POD was locked, the bike was loaded, and I pulled on my pack and
got ready to mount up. I put my hand on the Fisher’s handlebar and
noticed that I was wearing no gloves. Gaah! It’s always that way this
winter with me! I need an assistant to get me all rigged up. Invariably
I have to get into the trailer one more time--or two, or three more.
Every time I put my keys in the pack I laugh at myself. Sure, I’m done
in the trailer. Right. Peel the pack back off, get out the keys, grab
the gloves, lock back up (laughing about how I’ll probably need in two
more times) and put everything back on again.
I roll. Even with the silly dance I did getting outfitted, I was
leaving relatively early. And I didn’t need to stop immediately to put
on a jacket! Nice!
My plan was to first go
ride an unofficial loop of singletrack that my neighbors have named
Painter Boy. It was created last winter covertly right under their
noses. They were aware that someone was making a trail out there, a
builder that they call Stick Man because he doesn’t use any tools, and
just marks turns by laying sticks down. The approach is minimalist;
just ride it, never move any soil, never cut vegetation. The routing is
inconsistent, sometimes really nice and rideable, other times just
plain dumb--straight up and down the fall line. It reminds me quite a
bit of the “secret” trails constructed around Salida.
It was called “Painter Boy” because the builder(s) marked many turns by building cairns
then painting the rocks bright white, and by painting huge white arrows
on larger rocks. A local bike club claimed the honor of having built it
last year and put a map and glowing commentary on their web site. The
State of Arizona, who
owns the land here, was shown this web site and the trail. They were
furious, and they ordered the web site to remove the map, and they told
the painters to do something about the defaced rock. The solution was
to paint the white stuff over with beige. One of my neighbors is from
Crested Butte, and he named the trail “Painter Boy” in honor of the
mine in CB, and the fact that these “kids” got their hands slapped for
My neighbor the JuneBug had shown me and a group from Tucson
the trail a week or so ago. I wanted to GPS it, just for the heck of
it. It goes through some pretty country, but the routing makes it
annoying and it’s difficult to follow at times. And there are several
barbed wire fences to crawl under or climb over. But I wanted to record
it for posterity. So I rode the sucker pretty quickly. I made a
less-than-6-mph pace even though I was not loafing. It GPS’d at almost
exactly 6 miles.
The famous Jerry Q, former Mayor of 24 Hour town, riding Painter Boy
After I did that I made my way through the venue to the Willow Springs Road.
I did not want to spend my whole day out here since there are a ton of
people around now that it’s a weekend only 14 days from the race. So I
rode south out of the venue on the Fisher, then hit the pavement and
rode to Catalina. From there I climbed up the Golder Ranch Road
to intersect the Fifty Year Trail. My plan was to climb up to the end
of Fifty Year and then maybe ride the Deer Camp trail I’d heard about.
It was perhaps when I got to Fifty Year. I’d been on the bike for 3 hours, but lots of it had been relatively easy. The trip down Willow Springs Road and the highway had been mostly downhill and down wind. The climb up Golder Ranch was not very hard by Colorado standards.
Year is really a great trail. I had several miles of the fun, swoopy
part before I came to the Chutes and started climbing. It was a
surprise that there weren’t more riders up there. I ran into quite a
few mountain bikers, then a group of 15 relaxed and friendly horse
people from Missouri (their horses were wet with sweat).
are a number of brief anaerobic efforts in and above the Chutes. I
started feeling overdressed and underfed. I peeled off my arm warmers
and continued. As the trail wound up into a Saguaro forest, I stopped
again and took off my leg warmers. Riding with short sleeves and shorts
felt great. But I was definitely starting to feel that the bottom was
within reach. It was around
I had a minimum 2-hour ride home. A good hard training ride was
definitely in order, but bonking is never a good idea. When I ran into
a gate that formed with upper end of the Fifty Year Trail, it was
pretty clear that I should just turn around and go home. I want to see
the Deer Camp Trail, but not at the cost of a bad bonk.
The northern end of Fifty Year, snowy Mt Lemmon in background
I took the fun descent down through the Chutes, then the fast section of Fifty Year back to the trailhead at the end of the Golder Ranch Road.
Good fun. Then I rolled down into and back up out of the deep and wide
Cañada del Oro wash, then down to the highway. I turned north into a
cool headwind. Ah yes I thought, good thing I turned around.
I started home around 3 and actually arrived at the POD at .
I wasn’t bonking, but I was really tired. I warmed up some leftovers. I
sat down at the table and using a spatula to load my plate I
immediately dropped a warm hamburger onto my lap. It was as if I was
Pretty danged good day, in spite of the stain on my pantleg.
09:12 am February 3rd, 2007
you live in a tiny trailer, crappy weather feels permanent. I spent a
day and a half in an 8x8 space reading and working on a laptop not
connected to the internet. It felt like a week.
could have driven to town to be in a different space and get on the
internet, or to get other things to read, or to rent a dvd, but that
really isn’t consistent with the spirit of this journey of mine. I did
not come here to live like I do when I’m at home. And frankly, at home
I don’t start up a vehicle every time I want something that is not
available in my immediate area.
were also practical reasons for me to avoid leaving the POD during the
last several days of bad weather. The road I would need to drive almost
10 miles each way when I leave and return gets very slick and messy in
bad weather. My truck was already a mess, but packing even more adobe
mud into the undercarriage doesn’t seem like a great idea, especially
when it is not necessary. And it would be possible to actually have an
accident or get stuck. There are some stretches of clay that are
crowned and get incredibly slippery when saturated. I’ve seen a few
vehicles get stuck in the ditch, and the truck has wiggled around a
couple times on those wet stretches, even in 4-wheel-drive. And then of
course there is the cost of going even without mishap.
all those reasons is my desire to live in a more zen existence and
therefore to council myself—this time is not ideal, but bad weather
That has turned out to be true. This too did
pass. I woke up Friday morning with a large moon shining in my eyes.
Stars were visible from horizon to horizon. When dawn came it was
clear. The desert, which loves moisture, looked fat and satisfied.
There was thick, frosty ice on the truck’s windshield. But I scraped
it, loaded up the truck and got going early. I had a list of things
that weren’t frivolous or unnecessary, and I wanted to get to pavement
before the road thawed. Along with my laundry, water jug, and grocery
list I loaded up the Surly.
parked in a Pima Community College parking lot on the west side of town
at mid-morning, pulled on lycra (including legwarmers—it was sunny but
less than 55°) and rolled out to climb over Gates Pass toward the low
desert beyond the Tucson Mountains. My legs felt fresh after two days
of forced rest. It only took about half an hour for me to summit GatesPass and zoom down the western side. I found an almost deserted road (McCain Loop Road) that rolled up and down through the Saguaros in TucsonMtnPark then exited the Saguaro forest to the west and rolled down a long gradual descent on Mile Wide Road.
I headed west until the road turned to dirt, followed the dirt until it
turned north, then turned around and headed back up. I went south to
the Ajo Highway and followed that east back into the Tucson basin and rode surface streets back up to the PimaCommunity College.
About three hours, never felt the need to remove the leg warmers, but
it was so wonderful to ride in sunshine. It was wonderful to ride.
got back to the truck around 2:00 PM, spent the rest of the day running
around getting things taken care of, like laundry, groceries, a shower,
then returned to the POD as the sun was setting. Surprisingly, the road
was still pretty wet even though the sun had shown on it all day. It’s
gotten really beat up since I’ve been here.
evening was so sweet and pretty, I felt compelled to mount the lights
on my bike and go ride for an hour or so. I had a really nice, really easy 90 minutes on the bike. Then went back to the POD and ate dinner, watched an episode of SouthPark on my laptop, and hit the hay.
Back to the life I came here to live. Yeah baby!
09:05 am February 1st, 2007
Cold, wet Arizona
This morning (first day of February) a news guy on the radio announced that this had been the coldest January in Phoenix in 30 years. Super. I’m so happy to have been part of this historic January!
I dashed off early on my Surly (heh!) when the low clouds looked
ominous but there was as yet no rain to the post office in Oracle.
Fifteen miles, more than half of it dirt--seemed like I could make a
surgical strike and be back at the POD before the inevitable rain
The road was soft with
Tuesday’s rain, so it was difficult to carry momentum. Then the drops
started to fall. It wasn’t blowing in from the west or the north, the
clouds all around were dropping lower and it began to rain all around
me at once. I got a good soaking in pissing rain just as I hit the
highway. I climbed into Oracle with traffic hissing by raising mist. I
got to the post office just before it opened and went inside to peel
off my wet windbreaker and replace it with the rain jacket. I wasn’t
cold because I’d been climbing, but the ride home was going to be
Luckily the rain stopped and I only
had chilly wind, wheel wash off the pavement, and then an even softer
dirt road to contend with on the way back. When I returned to the POD I
considered doing a quick mtb ride, since it was windy but not raining,
but my feet were numb and I was cold. So I went inside to warm up. By
the time I was halfway warmed rain returned, and then hard wind-driven
sleet, then even more rain.
Blah. It’s been a good trip, really. And Colorado has had a really
harsh winter that I haven’t been too disappointed about missing. But
man, I have nearly worn out my leg warmers and winter jerseys. And who
would have guessed that it would have been a good idea to rig up
fenders for the Trucker before heading down to AZ to ride? An hour
before dawn, I sit in the POD listening to rain and sleet coming down
outside as the heater fires up and runs--again.
bed time last night the gibbous moon shone in a mostly clear sky, and
the promise of a clear day sent me to sleep with a hopeful smile and
visions of tacky singletrack dancing in my head. Will today be another
day spent lounging around reading or passing time driving to town to
surf the internet?
The weather has sure been
a pain in the ass for the last 8 months or so. Let’s hope that it’s
just El Niño or bad juju or some other temporary shit. Cyclists in the west may be praying for the return of the drought this year.
02:10 pm January 30th, 2007
Tuesday rain--a day early?
I'd been tracking a weather blip that was due to hit Wednesday.
Showers. After my night ride on Tuesday evening I woke up at 3:30 AM to
the sound of rain hitting the POD. Of course bikes were out and my
generator wasn't covered up. So I staggered out of bed, pulled on my
shoes, and went outside to get stuff out of the wet. Then right back to
squalls have been blowing through all day, and it's clammy cold.
Mid-40's, but given that I could still use a little recovery I'm taking
a trip to town to hit the internet and grocery store.
unsettled here through Thursday, but the weekend is supposed to be
lovely. Sorry to my CO friends, just wanted to let you know that it
isn't all sunny skies down this way, even though it's much better than snow and sub-zero.
Monday morning I woke up exhausted. My legs were tingling, my back was
tired, and my right index finger which I smashed with a rock doing
trail work Sunday morning was throbbing. Normally I’m up and brewing
coffee by , but it was nearly by the time I dragged myself vertical on Monday. I felt beaten.
Obviously I needed to take it easy for a day. Actually easy, not the phony kind of easy where I just do a 35 mile ride.
drank coffee and ate breakfast, went outside to tinker with a couple
things that needed tinkered with on the POD, then drifted over to talk
to my neighbors. They were moving their camp to the spot they occupy
during the race weekend. Normally they would move next week, but there
has been quite a bit of activity up here. Over the weekend there were
perhaps half a dozen RV’s and campsites set up as riders came out here
to spend time practicing on the course.
I visited with my friends for a while, I wandered back toward the POD
and got into a leisurely discussion with a young couple who had set up
a travel trailer near the POD. They had two scruffy little dogs, which
of course meant they couldn’t be bad people. Turns out they had a pair
of cats in the trailer. I wound up bringing a chair over from the POD
and hanging out in their “front yard” for the rest of the morning. It
got nice and warm.
Keith, the guy half of
this couple asked me if I wanted to join him for a ride. I told him
that I wasn’t going to ride that day—but perhaps an easy night ride
after the sun went down?
So that seemed like
a pretty good easy day plan, loaf around all day doing as little as
possible, eat a big lunch, maybe have a nap, then strap on the lights
and do an easy lap after dark. That would give me 36 hours off the
bike, and a day’s worth of recovery, then take a really easy lap just
to loosen up a little before bed.
I never did
nap, but after lunch I pulled out the comfy plastic chaise lounge and
sat in the sun reading a book. It was probably the nicest day here yet,
by the way. About 68°, windless, high clouds--perfect.
the sun went down and I put my lights on the bike, suited up and rolled
around warming up for 20 minutes while Keith finished his dinner and
got ready to go. I actually have not done any night riding since
getting to AZ. It’s been too danged cold at night to really get excited
about riding after dark. Monday night was cool, but really very
and I rode really easy, chatting quite a bit. I insisted that he lead
at one point and he rode away from me--pretty danged quick rider. I
hustled for the first time a little just trying to close the gap. Then
the pace went back to easy for another couple miles.
we finished one of the singletrack sections we saw a group of riders
who were passing through one of the gates and had it open. I called out
for them to keep it open a few seconds so we could ride through. It was
a group of guys I’ve met before who spend quite a bit of time at the
venue. One of them is Wayne, a really good guy with fireplug legs who
rides a Santa Cruz Superlight. Wayne
was warning me about how I should move my trailer because of the 2 week
limit on camping in one place. We discussed the finer points of Arizona
State Trust land use as half a dozen riders rolled together in the dark
down a rutty doubletrack.
When we got to the end of the doubletrack and the start of one of the last two sections of singletrack on the course, Wayne took the lead and I went behind him. Wayne’s lights were
starting to run down, and he made a mistake and went wide around one of
the first curves. I passed, and now I was leading. This caused a switch
in my brain to be flipped, and I picked up my pace a little. Suddenly Wayne was right there. Then the game was on.
I started going faster, and soon was knifing around the corners. Wayne stayed right on my wheel. The whole line of riders were close behind. I would pick up a little gap, and then I’d hear Wayne
right on my wheel again. Cactus and mesquite started to blur a little
as I studied the trail in my headlight and looked for places to pick up
time. I would roll over something, then almost instantly I would hear Wayne
hit it. His lights were weak and orange since they were failing, so it
was hard to tell just how close he was. 4 or 5 other riders’ lights
back there were throwing all sorts of weird shadows around. It was
intense, just like a moment from an actual night race.
I made a mistake and went wide. My front wheel was headed for a joshua
tree at the outside of the turn, so I steered back onto the track,
simultaneously braking hard. I felt Wayne’s
front tire hit my rear tire then I heard him go down. I stopped, and
instantly there were four more riders all skidding to a stop. Wayne had
just fallen over in sand and wasn’t hurt so we all laughed and started
talking about how fun and fast that was, and how this same section of
the course invited lots of crashes during the first lap of the race.
really got me going for race day. This is going to be fun. By the time
it gets dark on race day I’ll be at least four laps in. I may not have
the kind of speed that made this game of follow-the-leader exciting.
But it’s going to be fun.
Today was my second Pima Trails Association
guest worker program day. We were back at the same section of the AZT,
only this time I had to drive in from out north. I showed up a little
late, but then immediately was given a chance to do Rock Work!
The Rock Wall I directed building
After yesterday's punish fest on the bike, today was a great day to grub around in the dirt fitting rocks together.
Check out this beautiful bit of new trail I've been able to help with:
Not it's off to the grocery store to provision up for another week of Trayler Livin.
On Friday I did a ride with some of my friends from the local area,
seeing a bit of secret trail called "Painter Boy". Reminded me of home:
hidden trail entry, a hard to follow trail with some really nice
sections and some insane routing. Several fences to cross. It was fun,
but with flaws. Then I ran to Catalina on the road bike, flogged myself
pretty hard for a couple hours so I could go to the library (that's
livin large baby).
I was a little worked, but there was a long ride I'd been pining to do
in the tradition of my favorite rides from home: taking off right from
the front door and riding many miles including whatever but at least
some singletrack. My plan was to ride north the 10 or 12 miles on the
Willow Springs Road to the Freeman Road (both dirt) then Freeman for
about 5 miles east to the intersection with the Arizona Trail. Then
take the AZ trail north all the way to Oracle, then west on hwy 77 to
my intersection with Willow Springs Road and home to the POD. I figured
it would be at least 45 miles, maybe 65.
Off I went at 10:15.
Plenty of clothing, plenty of water, full bottle of HEED, flask full of
hammergel, camera, the works. I spent 1 hour getting to the Freeman
Road, then probably another half hour getting to the AZ Trail. Perfect.
AZ Trail starts with a doubletrack bit. I followed carsonite signs for
a little over a mile, then singletrack started. Wahoo! It was narrow
and very untravelled. At first the routing was a little strange. It
would start switchbacking off a ridge, down around a couple turns
traversing nicely, then boom staight down the hill. But I was having
fun. Seemed to be heading a little too east, when I'd been expecting to
head straight south toward Oracle, but I went with it.
was good. I was having fun. I ran into a few places where the trail was
hard to follow, and I encountered some jumping cactus (not a myth):
But I was having fun. Then the trail got really cool and started winding through Saguaro Forest.
I whooped and hollered. Not a single track other than bovine, and great trail.
this thing switchbacked it's way down into a big wash, and I followed
carsonite signs carefully to go right past this classic old desert
climbed hard out of that little basin, got onto a doubletrack which I
followed for quite some time. Then I got a bit more fun singletrack
that took me into another wash. The way was carefully signed across the
scrubby wash bottom to a sandy doubletrack that went up the wash. About
the time I left the ranch house, I started seeing some foot
tracks--boots or shoes that had circle patterns on both heel and ball.
I followed those tracks all the way to the wash road, then followed
them up the wash for perhaps 3 miles.
Eventually, the AZT carsonite signs directed me and circle-foot to take a left, south onto a gasline road.
are straight-as-a-rod gasline roads out here all over the place. The 24
Hours in the Old Pueblo course has a gasline bit that is known as "the
seven bitches" because it has seven hills. Since the gasline roads
don't even attempt to countour, they just throw the rises and falls of
the land right at you.
Well, the gasline road I got on as part
of the AZT was my destiny for several hours. It was the hundred and
fifty bitches. Check this, the road you see to the horizon is road I
have been on, and will be on for another half an hour when this was
had been congratulating myself for being a pretty clever SOB following
these obscure trail markings through miles and miles of desert that I'd
never seen before. But now I started feeling like a tiny piece of dust
in a windstorm. My HEED was almost gone. They day was stretching into
the far part of the afternoon. And this thing seemed destined to go on
for a long while. After a while I stopped even watching for AZT signs
and started watching for signs of civilization. I wanted to get to
Highway 77 so I could just pedal in a direction that I knew would take me back to the POD. I wanted dinner. And a comfortable place to sit, and some gatoraide. And a motrin.
story short, I found my way off the damn gasline roads onto a graded
gravel road. That took me past a very guady trailhead for the AZT (so
apparently I did miss a singletrack departure) but I got onto my
desired hwy 77. I climbed for about 20 minutes, then road flat pavement
with a mile headwind for another 20, then got onto the Willow Springs
Road with a mile tailwind. Four miles from the POD I drank my last
water. The sun was just touching the horizon when I rolled up to the
lovely, lovely POD.