This was a new event on the Arizona Brevet calender and I thought I would give it a try. The route is basically an out and back from Chino Valley to Peach Springs via Hwy 89 and old Route 66. There aren’t many sections of old Route 66 left and I thought it might be interesting. The weather forecast was pretty crappy with winds at 15 to 25 mph with gusts to 40! My plan was to start out and then if it was too horrendous cut the ride short. Here is the story of the days ride!

We started at 6:00 am from the Days Inn in Chino Valley and headed north. There was already a breeze up but it was a quartering tailwind which we would enjoy all the way to the first control at Ash Fork (36 miles). Past this point we knew the wind would be in our face pretty much for the rest of the day! There were only 5 riders doing the ride and we were all together when we departed Ash Fork. We joined Hwy 40 heading east for a few miles (photo above) and started our echelon into the wind.

After a few miles however our group became 3 riders, Lonnie, Bob and Steve.  We had a great strategy, stick together and try to beat the wind. We remained that way for the rest of the day! When we turned off onto old Route 66 it looked like the forecast wasn’t quite accurate. Oh we would still have the wind but our high temps would now be in the mid 60’s instead of the forecast 70’s!

With the strong crosswind we formed an echelon to try and fight it. We had to be more alongside one another to get any relief from the wind. It was the first time I have ridden side by side and in the draft! We took 1 mile pulls then rotated and were able to make some good progress. We were pretty compatible as a group, it would have been twice as much work to ride alone here.

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Traffic was light and we were able to use much of the road for our echelon. The section of road in this photo had a good shoulder but much of it was not. We rode through a lot of debris on the shoulder trying to stay in the draft and I am surprised that we did not have more trouble with flats. The rumble strips were a nuisance too and made staying in the draft even more challenging!

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Peach Springs was our turnaround point and once again we found our trusty support team there waiting for us. Jim Pettit an accomplished rider himself, along with his wife Robin kept an eye on us all day long. We thank them for their efforts in supporting the event. They did a wonderful job looking after us that day!!!

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Passing through Seligman I was surprised to see that Elvis lives there. He flagged us down and wanted to get his picture taken with us.  We agreed but told him we couldn’t stay long, we had to get down the road. Elvis stayed cool as always. I don’t know who his girlfriend was but she seemed a little pushy and tried to get into the picture!

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Meanwhile, Steve struck up a conversation with Marilyn. She had seen us a few hours earlier when we first came through Seligman and apparently had been waiting for us to return. Steve noticed and casually made his way over to her. Bob and I tried to get Steve going again but I think he was getting her number.

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Enough with the celebrity hangers on, we had to keep going. We headed back east on Route 66 along with the crosswinds. We kept our crosswind tactic with the echelon only the direction was reversed. There was also more traffic now and the last rider occaisionally had to duck to the shoulder to get out of the lane. Oddly, we occaisionally picked a little draft from the passing freight trains!

We made it back to Ash Fork, our last control on the route and re-supplied. On the way in, Bob’s rear tire was getting a little soft so he checked the tire and changed the tube pre-emptively. This is a great example of Rando multi-tasking, tire repair and refuelling with chocolate milk, all while getting your brevet card signed! Steve was doing double Starbucks double shots while I had a V-8 and M&M’s.

Paul was already here when we arrived and Pete pulled in shortly after and we were able to enjoy a unique moment in randonneuring, all the riders in the event were at the same place at the same time! If you’ve done events like this yourself you will know how rare that is.

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Leaving Ash Fork we prepared ourselves for what we all feared would be the toughest stretch of the ride. This was where we turned back south on Hwy 89 and more into the wind. Up till now it had mostly been a crosswind but now we turned into the teeth of it. We departed as a group of 5 again but within minutes we were back to our trusty team of 3, Steve, Bob and myself. We ground our way into the wind and rolling hills for the next 36 miles. This stretch added the challenge of a really crappy shoulder of the road. The shit we were riding over wasn’t fit for a mountain bike! Excessive gravel, road debris and potholes made this section treacherous, even more so because we were tired. I have to commend my fellow riders who were obviously well prepared with their equipment and abilities and we overcame this section without any problems. This is the worst time to have a mechanical, when you are tired, late in the ride and in failing light. A short time later darkness set in (about 8 miles from the finish) and we stopped to turn our lights on and prepare for night riding. The route turned slightly uphill from here and this is where I started to fade a little. I will thank my fellow riders once again for pulling me in over the last leg and finishing together!

This was one of those rare rides where our group rode together for the entire day! Randonneurs are unique individuals and often go their own way, at their own pace. On this day however, our group of 3 was perfectly compatible and we were able to support each other for the entire ride. For me it was a rare pleasure to participate in this ride with the company of good friends and I appreciated your preparedness and trusted your stability as fellow riders. It is not often that you can overcome a difficult day and consider it to be among one of your better rides!

For a little more on this story be sure to check out Steve Atkins video, taken during the ride.

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