Tuesday, June 12, 2018

2018 Arizona Trail Race 750 - Day 6

I woke at about midnight to the sound of bike tyres crunching on gravel. A dim light rolled past with a little blinky red tail light flashing, then it was gone.....
I had set my alarm for 0330 and when I woke I really didn't know if I had dreamt about someone riding past or actually seen it.
It was a clear, cold morning on top of this hill and I packed up as quickly as I could to get rolling. The now dirt road climbed for 15 minutes which was good as it allowed me to stay warm, then it proceeded to drop from 916m(3000ft) to 650m(2130ft) which was a hoot, even if it was cold! Somewhere near the bottom of that first descent I crossed a small bridge, then there was a light coming toward me. Someone else out on a bike? At this hour? Cool!
We stopped to say "hi" and it turned out to be Aaron Denburg, the sole North to South AZTR750 racer! We chatted briefly and I warned Aaron about the big climb coming up, then we got back to it. (I later learned that Aaron was a veteran of this race and knows the course like the back of his hand)

The proceeded to be a lot of climbing, then descending, climb more, descend slightly less, as I inched my way along the side of Apache Lake toward Roosevelt Lake. The road was quite narrow but thankfully there was no traffic. I was off, walking all of the steeper pinches and trying to figure out who was leaving the tyre tracks that I was following. I was slightly heartened when I saw footprints. That meant I wasn't the only one pushing up these cursed climbs! Misery likes company!

Salt River dam wall.

One final pinch and I was looking down at the dam wall for Theodore Roosevelt Lake. I went down to the viewing platform for a quick look. The view of the bridge that carried Hwy 188, with the lake behind was pretty special but I wasn't feeling the love right at this moment. I was feeling pretty beat down and in need of a good hot feed.

Make it stop........

Riding around the corner and into the nice warm sun I suddenly felt much better and the view down to the bridge WAS special!

A cracking morning for riding your bike after all!!

I pedalled along the shoulder of the highway listening to the hummmm of my plus size tyres on the ashphalt. All I heard was draaaaaggg. Lots of  drag slowing me down. Why did this seem so hard? Riding along sealed road should be easy. I stopped at one of the bridges over an inlet to the lake and sat on the armco railing. I needed to eat something. I washed that "something" down with a can of Starbucks Doubleshot espresso while I watched a bass boat below me trolling for fish. This was nice! Why did I have to keep pedalling on toward Utah? Why not kick back and stay here?

Because I was "racing" the AZTR750, thats why! I think it is an indication of how low I was feeling this morning in that I didn't take another photo for several hours. I rolled past the first food stop, the famed (for it's name) Butcher Hook greasy spoon. During research Dave W and I had spied an IGA supermarket about 2 kilometres past Butcher Hook and figured that proper, unprocessed food would be a better refuel than the Butcher Hook menu.
It took a while to get to the Tonto Basin supermarket. Initially I left my bike out the front as I went for a scout around the place. Armed with a basket I began loading it up...until I got to the back corner of the place. There in the back corner was a little kitchen and some tables. There was cafe' of sorts back here! I asked if I could bring my bike into the diner to which they replied "sure" (you would be told to eff off in Australia) and I was stoked!! Nothing is usually too much trouble in these small places. I ordered a (ironically) greasy sausage and egg breakfast, plus all of the food and drink I had loaded into my little basket.
I sat down, first plugging my electronics in to charge. Getting my headlight, along with my cache' battery charged was a primary goal each day as there was so much night riding in this race. Then I proceeded to plow through  the food, check Trackleaders, FB home, read my route notes and provide amusement for the locals that came in. 
With regard to the food, it was ok but I did forget that sausage didn't mean "a sausage" like it does to the rest of the world. In the US it means fried sausage mince and it tastes just as appetising as it looks......

I could see Beth approaching Butcher Hook on Trackleaders and as I had been sitting for quite some time now, decided it was time to make a move. Wedging all of my food and drink into my bike bags was a challenge that I only just succeeded at. Not sure why I bought so much as Payson was "just up the road".

I resumed my grovelling along the shoulder of Hwy 188 until the turn off at Jakes Corner. I pulled my phone out for a quick snap but didn't even stop, just turning into the dirt road and continuing on. It was getting hot again.

These dirt roads were very much like the Tour Divide roads. Rolling hills with a constant, ever so slight upward trend to them. At the time I felt like it was taking forever to get anywhere but I see now from my gps track that I was actually making ok time through here. Like I said though, at the time, this is how I felt.

Rest from grovelling between Jakes Corner and Rye

Looking back toward Jakes Corner, AZTR southbound.

The road alongside Rye Creek was in the process of being graded which made for no corrugates but it was deep, loose gravel as a result. My plus size tyres were pretty good over this which was something to be thankful for. Overall, this Jakes Corner to Rye offroad section only took an hour. If you had asked me at the time though I would have told you it was three hours. I really needed someone to tap me on the shoulder and say "you are doing ok" today. I had spent too long in my own head.

Regaining the sealed road for a few kilometres I saw a sign that was amusing at the time.

Guns! Dunno what we got, but we got a lot!!

Then we crossed the four lane Highway 87 to do some more bush-bashing up some dirt tracks.

Crossing the 87 at Rye and looking back at the hills I came around this morning.

As I began to climb an adventure moto came down the trail toward me. How I wished I was on that Africa Twin this morning. Of course, it was hot, hot , hot and by now I was starting to get some elevation again so the density altitude was high too.
As I grovelled along (my particular racing style it seems!) I saw a small cacti bloom. In this monotone of washed out desert it stood out vividly and I tried in vain to capture it's beauty.

Looking back, Hwy 87 is at top left. I had come around the hills to the left of the highway corridor a few hours earlier.

Turning back to the track, I trudged upward. Trudged? Yes, I was walking again.

Hard to convey steepness in a photo.

Up. Up. Up.
This trail just zig-zagged up the hillside slowly climbing to Payson. I had read plenty of blog accounts that warned not to expect an easy day to Payson. I hadn't expected it and I was NOT dissapointed! This was slow, hot climbing. The view was starting to compensate though.

Hwy 87 centre left. The hills and dirt roads that I crossed are to the left of the highway corridor. Yes, that IS the same view as the cacti photo above. The cacti photo was somewhere down there in the middle of shot, on the lower hills.

Once I had finally reached the summit of the climb I took a wrong turn up another hill as the highway was on my right and I thought that we would be staying away from it. Wrong! So, after climbing another small hill unnecessarily, I returned to the pink line on my gps and crossed Hwy 87 again, onto some dirt double track - again! The trees had changed to pines and it was obvious that I had gained some elevation. Goodbye southern Arizona heat!

Some more climbing, but thankfully fast double track and the trail popped me out in the parking lot of Sonic in Payson!! What a freaking awesome place to resurface into society!! No really!! Go Sonic!!
I rode over, sat at an outdoor table (they are all outdoor) and never having been to a Sonic, tried to figure out how to order a huuuge thickshake. I couldn't see how so opened the door to what I thought was the shop. Turns out it is just a kitchen and all of the ordering is done via speaker/microphone boxes at the menu boards outside. The two young guys working inside looked at me like I was about to rob the place. I quickly apologised and ordered (face to face) their largest chocolate thickshake. When it came out I thanked the guy profusely and gave him a solid tip for the lifesaving thickshake.
It was perfect.

BEST. THICKSHAKE. EVER. Bigger than my helmet!

From leaving the Tonto basin supermarket to popping onto the rim into Payson, it had been a 800m(2700ft) climb over 51km(32mi). That was a solid ride in the heat of the day as Payson was at 5000ft elevation and now I dropped into town with a plan.

Welcome to the wild west...er Payson. The Mogollon (pronounced Moggy-on) rim in the background. YES, I was going up there tomorrow via Highline trail.....

I thought I needed some brake pads so a quick stop at 87 Cyclery for some (I didn't. I just carried them until the end of the race for extra ballast. D'oh!)

Now, during my pre race planning I had spied a Budget Inn with a Denny's right next door near the centre of town. Lodgings plus food - together - with no back tracking or side trips. No extra miles. Solid plan right? Um, next time check street view as well as the maps view. Turns out that Budget Inns in the US are just that, budget, not a chain of decent motels like they are in Australia.
Ahh, to hell with it, I was here and it was only $42US. The Mexican workers loitering around, the work trailers filling the carpark, the rough looking woman sitting on a chair outside a room? Just ignore 'em.
I just wanted a wash, food and a good sleep - in that order. The first wash in a week revealed the rigours of riding the AZT in southern Arizona. I thought I had come away a winner in the battle with catclaw and cacti but my now clean legs told a different story.

 I pulled a big spine out of that scratch on the right shin 6 weeks later back home in Oz. That is where the Cholla got me prior to Ripsey. Blister on right ankle/shin was news to me!!

I had thrown my socks on the floor and laughed at them now. They were ready to jump right back into!!

Standing to attention.....

This shit needed a wash. I proceeded to wash southern Arizona down the drain. It took some time....

Wash every 7 days kids - whether it needs it or not!

I did some catching up with family and friends on FB while I ate an ordinary chicken Caesar salad from Denny's, then went back out to shop at the Bashas up the road. It was almost dark now and it was cold!! Shit, where did that come from? The 5000ft elevation might have something to do with it?
I donned my puffy jacket and went for a walk. I filled a basket with goodies for the next few days as there wouldn't be much resupply until Flagstaff. Pine, tomorrow would be a top up of perishables but that was all. Flagstaff was a long way off....

Fig Newtons.....mmmmmm. Those plus dried dates became a firm favourite. Plus a breakfast buritto for tomorrow(and in fact, the day after as well)

I did walk back a block or two toward Phoenix to go to Alfonso's mexican restaurant, which John S recommended. I ordered a breakfast buritto for tomorrow and an enchilada for tonight. "What meat would you like in the breakfast buritto"? "Um, it has bacon, thats a meat" I replied. Its funny, these little interpretations and nuances and these interactions are part of why I enjoy doing these crazy races.

I headed back to the room, ate, set an alarm for 0430 then fell soundly asleep in a real bed.
Tomorrow I was going to attack the Mogollin Rim and specifically, the infamous Highline trail. But first there was the 5 hour/35km(22mi) bash across to Pine.....

Day 6.


1 comment:

  1. That thickshake does look enticing.
    I think the picture of those socks say it all really.


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