A place to share words and pics. Mostly bikes, but my photog eye does wander.

Bikes let the good times roll. In solitude or with friends. For a half hour or 8 hours. Pedals become the gears that turn the earth as the sun seems to track their motion, day after day. Miles become food, and you're hungry. The bike stops being a vehicle, or toy, or transportation and becomes an extension of will, allowing you to journey beyond the pain of self into the realm of almighty, joyous nature, she that feeds our souls. Pedal yourself into the maw of creation. Pedal yourself silly.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Lemmon Drop

The Lemmon Drop hung in my mind since last year when I saw it posted on the boards. Mt Lemmon, top to bottom. 9k to 2k ft. Hitting alot of the Lemmon trails: Aspen, 1918, Secret, Green Mountain, Bug Spring, Prison Camp (and probably a few others), and for those a bit heartier than I that day, ending on Milagrosa. Our day was ambitious. Freeskier and I were to wake at 2am to arrive at Le Buzz in Tucson at the base of the Catalinas by 5:30am to catch a ride on the shuttle to the top (for a nominal fee of $10). I might have fallen asleep by 11pm the night before, anticipation and excitement not letting me slip off to slumber easily.

Soon enough 2am came. Coffee, gear, bike. Out the door. Arrive at Freeskiers's. Load up. On the road. Somehow stay awake and join the group in the parking lot.
The shuttle was half loaded when we arrived. Some introductions were had. Some nods. Most were still half asleep. Some contemplating the day. The big day it was to be. A long day it would be.

After about a 45 minute drive to the top, we unloaded and went scooting down Aspen Draw. Steep, surrounded by pine, and rooty, it was a blast. Before too long we broke tree cover and crossed through the radio towers, maybe somwhere around Bigelow.

For coming down a mountain, there was an unjust amount of hike-a-bike. Punishing amounts which started at the start, and went right on through the end. They were spaced well apart - up here, which might be Sunset?, up Green mountain, up Bug Spring, etc., that you could get enough enjoyment out of what you've just ridden to push up the next hill.

With views like this, magnificent from top to bottom, it was easy to keep pushing on. This is just before/after Summerhaven.

The third week of October was the most perfect time to do this ride. The colors were in full swing with vibrant yellows and reds. Hard to believe we'd end the ride in the desert. And that was the real magic of this ride. Start in alpine forest at 9k ft and roll through pine and aspens, which give way to smaller trees and shrubs, eventually to the grass of Prison Camp and the cactus and cholla of the desert floor. So many ecological zones in a mere 8 hours!
Having spent my Mt Bike life entirely in the desert, riding through fallen leaves, and dense trees with roots is strangely a new experience to me, even though it seems so familiar, reminding me of my days riding bmx through the forests of the midwest. Twenty + years later and I think I enjoy it even more now.

Freeskier making the trail come alive.
Lots of yellows were splattered all over at the top.

A Bob Ross happy scene, if only lacking for a cabin.

Green and yellow married well here, with a reddish path between them. Elevation seems to have many beauties up its sleeve.

If the yellow were gold, I still couldn't feel richer than just being there, witnessing the leaves' firey death.

As we came around Bigelow and made our way to Green Mountain after slogging up Secret or some such trail, we were treated with views to the north, as we made our way around Green Mt. Great trail. Very technical, with steep pitches, off camber rock, tight switchbacks, and HAB.
We started above the towers on the mountain to the left, far in the distance.

The Voodoo is doing me well. Can't say enough about this bike, especially for all day riding. Perfect XC machine for me.

A taste of Green Mt, in its more tame form. It hangs precariously on the side of the slope.
Scott Forty G from San Diego was rocking a SS 32x18 with 780mm bars and killing it.

"Hey, with all these people we can finally move this rock form the trail." Ah, nope, we couldn't. This sucka was heavy.

Valet parking on the mountain?

We dropped straight down that ridge to where I took the snap. Lots of nice switchbacks in there.

Tight squeeze for FS.  I couldn't  make it with my 711mm bars. Just a bit too big.

After banging out way down and hiking up Green Mt, we exited at the start of Bug Spring, which wold lead to Prison Camp. Here you can see the Catalina Highway cutting across a portion of Mt Lemmon, as it makes its way to the top. We were shuttling up that about 7 hours earlier.

Bug Spring has some roll and flow to it, but it is only book-ended with two wicked HABs. I was feeling the torment of the several HAB sessions of the day, which there were no less than 4 extended sessions of probably a few hundred vertical feet and 20-30 minutes each one. My poor arthritic knee had had about enough. But when Bug started to point down, with the Highway in the background, I forgot all that, easily. Once Bug opened up, it was joy all the way down to Milagrosa.

The grassland reminds me of the area around Sonoita and Kentucky Camp. Its white tips gently wave in the breeze and seemed to swoon for riders as they went speeding past.

Prison Camp set us free with some smooth elevation loss.
At this point we had aligned with the AZT. For the 300 race, we'd be going up this section. Oy.
The rocks around this elevation, 3k ft, are pretty similar to the formations at the top of the McDowells around Tom's Thumb.
Well, we were up at 2am, drove for 2.5 hours to take a shuttle 45 minutes to the top of Mt Lemmon and then rode for  7.5 hours to only get to the bottom of Prison Camp, which is the start of a 30 minute hike up to Milagrosa. We were pretty toasted. My knee was already screaming. Beers and chocolate milk were at the car, six downhill road miles away. We still had 2.5 hours to drive home. We bailed and we still feel like we won. It was a tough ride. Especially considering we were just coming down the mountain.
There is way too much up to come down that line.

2D of the same track. Milagrosa would have taken us over another saddle further to the east, but that will remain for another day. And I'll have to think about another Lemmon Drop. The damage to the knee was rather significant. I can ride all day, but extended time pushing the bike and the bone on bone becomes unbearable.

What a great profile. Down she goes! There are those out there that have ridden up this, to only turn around and head back down. These men; not mortals. That is some serious effort.

Monday, October 10, 2011

National Towers from Home

The boss let me have a Monday free for all the good, hard work I put in (or for all the recent holidays I had to work) and I figured no better way to make good use of it than to ride my bike. I didn't feel like driving, so I took off form the house to my favorite local mountain. I'd hit the radio towers on top of South Mountain, which seem so far away from home, but the bike makes them so close. It was a good 4 hours and 30 miles on the bike. Couldn't ask for a much better day off. I even sampled Corona de Loma for the first time. Its times like this that I can collect myself outside of the rat race and recharge.

If I didn't have the bike, this ridiculous world we live in that moves at lightning pace anymore for no other reason than a cheapened likeness of purpose, like a dog chasing a laser pointer, my head would blow up. The simplicity and focus of a long bike ride instills richness into my being, makes my will strong. It makes lot of things tolerable. Most of all, it makes me feel like I can do anything. Success breeds success and I've been getting stronger every month. And I can have this from my doorstep. Excuse me while I count my lucky stars.....
Nothing wrong with a little pavement pedal to get things rolling.

Some smooth SoMo climbing.

From home to the mountain, just me and my bike. A good day.

The trail opens up towards Buena Vista lookout. The towers get ever closer.

The section of National from Buena Vista to the lookout road doesn't get much attention or talk, but it is as good as any of the trail up there. I've been on it twice, and that's hardly enough. There is still plenty of chunk to be had. Lots of places to end a ride. Alone like this, I like to carry my Spot with me.

Finally under the towers, a mere 2 hours or so from my house. About 15 miles in, and bout 15 more to go. I'll be catching the road at Telegraph, then back to BV where I'll catch Corona de Loma for the quick descent back to Desert Classic.

Nice little ribbon of trail, almost at the top of the mountain.

Finally caught Corona de Loma for the ride back home and turned to take a shot before it took a bead straight for the bottom of the mountain. It was loose, steep and fun. I like more flow for my downhill reward, but sometime pointing it straight down can get the blood pumping too. Going up this would be silly.

Here's a nice TF view of the CdL drop. It falls fast. It falls loose. The brakes got a workout the whole way down. There are hardly two seconds where you could open it up without danger of flying off the mountain somehow.

Hmmmm....I wonder where the mountain was.... TF gave me a bit over 3500ft for the day. Not bad. Road and canal miles are a decent way to cool down too.
I consider myself extremely lucky to be into mountain biking and have such a wealth of riding within a few hours of my house. But to be able to ride form my door and hit the great trails on South Mountain make me even more lucky. I'm sure there aren't too many places in the US where so many good trail systems are within and on the outskirts of the city. The next city I live in must have this same characteristic, because I have become very spoiled here.

Total view of the ride on the mountain. Loved it. Gotta get some more of National past BV. Really good stuff.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Racing Yourself, Chasing Chuck.

I've never been much of a racer, but every now and then I like getting into a big event with lots of mile and give it a good go. I'm hours from first place, but I get to race myself from last year.....and race Chuck. Its good to have a Chuck. Someone a bit faster and a bit stronger, to drag your sorry ass into a higher level of riding. Never saw Chuck, bit I knew he was in front of me, and I got a lot closer to him than I thought I would. Great day for me. 60 miles in 6:38.  Last year it was 35 miles in 4:53. Another 25 miles in 1:45! I must have been flying!

I've been riding a lot in the last year, and its good to see it paying off. I'm getting into a category of rider that I thought was a bit silly lasty year. "Sixty miles? What? Are they crazy? I'd have to bring a sleeping bag." This year it was done without a second thought. I can only dream about next year. I can see some big races in the future, I'd like to be in some of them.

The start of the sixty miler. It was a bit chilly at 6 am, but by race start at 7:30, I was feeling good. A little coffee, a little breakfast burrito and I was off. 141 racers total for the 60. 
FS and myself with a stupid race smile ready to go.

Aid station #2. Los of bananas, oranges, oreos, mini muffins, cheezits, goldfish, Heed and water. If not for the stations, I would have moved much slower. They're come just at about the time you should refuel. Great for keeping the legs pumping.

Nice action shot of #45 at about mile 22.

Aid Station #3. Big hike-a-bike climb after this. Was not fun. Ugh.

CW keeping it real on the SS. He was just behind me all day. If I didn't have the gears for the flats, he probably would have caught me.

And the push. I'd like to note that I wasn't passed on the HAB section. It was pretty steep in some sections and a long 490 ft. However the reward after that was Los Burros, which is great fun, and then the Country Club Connector, which was pretty fast in most regards.  That was a fast 20 miles.

Bike performed flawlessly all day. New Control in the back worked well too. Still loving the framepack to keep the tools off my back and the gas tank was great for getting a Block when I wanted one. I also had the camera in there. Always good to product test during a race.

Good ol' 101 this year.

Freeskier came in DFL, but was quite happy about it. Way to pound it out. Made the cut-offs by minutes at aid #4 and #5. Now there is some grit. I think some lingering stomach issues kept him off top game.

8+ hours on a bike and loving it.

Gotta love the sweep crew.

FS took this nice pic with my camera in the morning of his bike impression after the night long drizzle.

Ma caught me with the camera phone as I was rollin' in for my finish. Too bad they were doing rewards as no one was paying attention. The beer was already gone too. At least Mom was there! Thanks!
Its a nice route. About half of it is on forest road - the part heading out to Lost Burros. But after that, almost the whole way back to the start is singletrack. We started at the top left, then headed east, clockwise around the two loops.

Good day for some climbing. Over the 60 miles there is only about 4000 ft of climbing, give or take.