Riding into sunset at Picacho AZ

The Start:  After our morning riders meeting, along with warnings to stay on course and follow the rules we were set free to pursue our fates.  As usual, on the outskirts of town the “A” group soon detached itself from the rest of us and rode off into the pre-dawn.  The remaining riders did pretty well, managing to stay together until after sunrise.

Tom Mix:  In a couple of hours we made it to the first control at Tom Mix Monument; a little roadside rest stop along the route.  We found here, as always, Susan’s smiling face along with snacks and water.  Past this point the larger groups dissipated and riders were mostly in two’s and three’s, that in part aided by the 2 to 3 percent climb and some light headwinds.  With clothing adjustments, refueling and natural breaks we took a little longer than we would have liked at this stop, but we could make it up, right?

Noonish:  Okay, we made it over the top of the Pinal Pioneer Parkway and down to Oracle Road.  Winds were still light and this section went by quickly.  We stopped briefly at the next control and headed out again.  Joe and I were both ready for some food and we finally found a Subway shop at Tangerine Rd.  This turned out to be pretty popular with the riders and we saw many of them while we were there.  We stayed here a little longer than we should have.  Not to worry, we shouldn’t have any more delays, right?

Gates Pass:  Climbing Gates Pass went pretty well, it was mostly into a headwind but not too bad.  The climb is not steady and has shorts breaks in the grade but when it angles up it is probably has short pitches of 12% or more.  I cranked steadily up with no problems but just after I topped out and started the descent I heard a sharp ping from the rear and the bike started to wobble.  I pulled off at the first turnout and checked the bike.  Damn, a broken spoke, rear wheel drive side, this would be hard to fix out here.  Joe gave me a spoke wrench and I did what I could with it.  With a quick adjustment along with releasing the brakes I was able to get underway again.

The next control was just a few miles away and we pulled in just about 2:00 pm.  Susan had a few tools and I was able to make a temporary repair but it was sketchy and not likely to hold for the rest of the day.  I would have to trust to luck and go easy on it from here.  We ate some more and re-supplied before heading out again.  This was probably a half an hour stop with the repairs but we should be good from here right?

Marana:  Wow, how did we get to Marana so quickly, it was over 20 miles from the last control and we got here in under an hour.  The gods of tailwinds were smiling on us for now!  I guess after that stretch we deserve a break so we pull in and grab a snack.  It looks like the wheel repair is holding up so far.

Tailwinds:  The frontage road to Picacho Peak can be a long stretch but this year it was good.  Tailwinds allowed us to cruise at 20 mph+ and chit chat on the way.  This road always brings back memories of previous rides which had difficult conditions.  It’s hard to believe myself when I tell Joe about the vicious headwinds, sleet, flooded crossings and eventual hypothermia that were encountered here previously.

We blow right past the Dairy Queen as the sun sinks lower on the horizon.  We catch the last rays as we enter the little town of Picacho.  Soon after at Milligan and 87 we stop to put on our reflective gear and lights.  Another rider joined us and we decided to group up for the remainder of the ride in the dark.  I pretty much knew the way in from here so I put my route sheet away.  After all, what could go wrong, right?

Final leg:  Almost as soon as we got back underway my wheel repair gave up.  I had to release the rear brake all the way so the wheel would roll properly.  It was flat from here on in and the winds were still favorable.  We had a little trouble with the informational control, actually we couldn’t find it, so we got our cards signed instead.  That should be good enough, right?

Joe pulled all the way home and we were back in Casa Grande at about 7:30 pm.  We pulled into the last control at Walmart and handed our cards to Susan.  I explained our problem with the last control to her and she looked confused.  “What were you doing at La Palma” she said. “You were way off route!”  Crap, something went wrong!  Apparently, we took a wrong turn quite a ways back and I just followed a familiar route in from there, believing it was the correct way.

Bonus Miles:  Susan informed us that to get finishing credit for the ride we would have to go back out to where we went off route and follow the correct route in.  Crap again!  You know how you feel at the end of a ride, when you think you are done, you just want to be done.  Well, we returned to our hotel, ate some food, adjusted our gear and talked ourselves into finishing.  We went back out to where the infraction occured (near Eloy) and finished the ride again.  As we rode we could see the flashing lightning of the approaching storm, but it looked like we would beat the weather to Casa Grande. We did finally arrive again at 10:13 pm with about 25 bonus miles to our credit!  This was a good reminder to me not to get too complacent about the routefinding.  Pay attention or something could go wrong, right!