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.

Friday, December 30, 2011

AZT Picket Post to Kelvin Space Shuttle

The word was out that that finishing touches were on the AZT through the Gila River valley, since they stuck the finishing stake into the ground, so John was wise enough to set up a little shuttle day for us to partake of this new section of trail. We had been out to what was previously trail's end at 15 miles out from Picket Post, but this time we were to take the trail for another 22 miles, all the way to Kelvin, where we stashed the vehicles. We would finally be able to take the plunge down to the river.

We met at Picket Post and it took an hour to set up the shuttle. By 9am we were on the trail. And by 9:20am we were already down a man as AzTa had some mech issues and had to bail back to the car. I felt bad with all the good trail ahead of us, but better here than 20 miles in.

Picket Post is a good sight early in the morning because it means I'm riding on some sweet trail.
While we waited on the fate of AzTa, I played with my new camera. Color accent, oh yes.

Harry rode strong all day. I had some gas early, but petered out a bit towards the end. The terrain out there is relentless. If you're not going up, you're going down and by the time you get to the Gila, they legs are feeling it.

Looking towards the White Canyon Wilderness. Luckily, the AZT does not travel through there anymore. The reroute was an excellent windfall for MTBers.
Photo by John.

The vastness of the desert begs your mind to let go of time and place.

One last bit climb before breaking through to Martinez Canyon, at about mile 12. There has already been almost 3k of climbing, but we were keeping a pretty steady pace, and the pack stayed together pretty well. For a larger group, we kept it going moving without issue - lots of strong riders. And this was a good thing, as it would turn into about a nine hour day.

Looking east to White Canyon Wilderness again. Expansive and beautiful. Its a great feeling being out there.
John riding on through this little train set.

Miles 12-15 are some of the most eye popping out there, the way the trail contours and finds its way through the canyon.
One of my favorite shots that John got. This is coming south through Martinez Canyon. It cuts! It carves! This trail flows! It makes me feel small and big at the same time. I love it.

Breaking through to the other side is like a revelation, like being born form vertical ascension into gravity fed perma-grins. Not many better places for lunch than right here.

Taking a look back, I almost want to ride back up to do it all again, but alas, new trail beckons. The Gila river needs some visitors.

We start the descent, some of us in miniature form to conserve energy. It will be needed.

Seven miles and 2600ft later we'd be at the Gila. Down, down we go.

Where does one find such small cholla for a diorama such as this?
We pause for a minute to look back up at what was the previous end of trail. Very happy to be moving on. And on, and on, and on. The descent was flowy, with plenty of chances for speed, which I didn't get too much of, since I couldn't stop eye-balling the scenery, thinking about how lucky I was to ride through there. I wanted to bomb it, but I held it a bit, like a tender cut of steak, just to savor it, to enjoy nature's gift to me, to relish in the exquisite nature of this mtb moment. This magic moment.
His bike probably loves the trail too. Harry was out front all day!

Weaver's Needle?

Journey to the center of the sun......
The river valley lays below us and this is how the trail rolls. Just hold on and let the gravitational constant take hold. Your only job: Breath. Smile.

Clearly the Predator has been here. But I thought they took the heads....must have been something else then.

We finally hit the Gila at mile 20 and got ready for 17 miles along the Gila until we get to Kelvin. Compared to the rest of the profile, this looked DC-esque, but that wasn't necessarily the case. It rolled smooth for a spell, but as we got closer and closer to the end, the climbs got bigger and bigger.
We took a few minutes in the wash to regroup, and we were all feeling it. It took significant effort to get out here, and we had a spell yet to go. "It sure would have been nice to stash some supplies at the Gila," one of us mused. Two of us at the same time reply, "Yeah, like a car!" But that's the stage of the ride we were at. Pain and numbness were both ahead. Then we'd be done.

A little ride through the saguaros.
BW rolling through some grass. There were a few nice groves along the Gila, along with some nice views. I'd like to ride from Kelvin out to The Climb one day. That wouldn't be a bad 34 miles.
It was late in the season, but the foliage in the valley still had some color to it. The tressel let us know that we were close.

Tired. Pooped. Need chocolate milk. Hungry. I was feeling all of these as we came within 3.5 miles of the finish and we were hit with a 400ft vert HAB section. Ugh. Nice trail, no doubt, but a kick in the cassette. I was pushing, dreaming of the top. Then I heard a train and took a minute to take a snap. Then I got some crap in my contact that wouldn't clean, so to the glasses it was. Sheesh, it took me a while to summit....

At the top, we found where they had the AZT Completion ceremony a few weeks before, along with the BLM brass cap commemorating the event. It took 25 years for Dale Shalewater's AZT to come to fruition, and I'm sure grateful for everyone that has put in time to make the trail a reality. I spent a lot of time on it this last year, and the miles have kept me begging for more.

Finally, trucks. Happy to see you! It was a great ride, we all survived without issue, other than the early lost of AzTa. One of my favorite rides of the year, and also one of my most taxing.
The stats may not relay it, but getting out there was a lot of work. The first 12 miles are fairly constant climbing and even along the river require more and more effort as we approached the end.  We ended up coming down ASARCO's road that they constructed for some mining activities, but it will shortly be turned into singletrack and the two mile section from the Kelvin bridge will be open for business. This is going to be one of the premier sections of AZT in the state. Between the views, remoteness and effort, it is something special. Not to mention that it connects directly to Ripsey and Antelope Peak, which has some sweet ST which bypasses the gasline. Oracle to Superior is going to be fun bikepack territory.

We go up, we go down. TF gives a total of 6700ft vert for the day, Garmin a little less. It felt like the bigger number. You want a big ride? Do an out and back to the river. 42 miles and just shy of 9k ft of climbing. Oh my. And there have been those that have done it SS! And others that have barely survived.....It's a great piece of trail.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

1st Annual Turkey Ranch MTB Getaway

December was the month for the first ever Turkey Ranch Holiday Gathering and Celebration and I was quite pleased to take part. The nigh before I had a little gathering at my house, end of semester type of thing, and 1 pm the next day was starting to look early, but somehow I behaved myself and got my keester off the couch and showed up. It was easy, really, since it was an opportunity to ride my bike.

The day was centered around beer, bikes and food, so every turn at Turkey Ranch was the right turn. I arrive and the keg is already tapped - excellent - pre-ride calories! I also have the chance to burn the pre-ride calories on a pre-ride loop that circumnavigates the Turkey Ranch property - rock feature and everything - my singletrack envy grows. And with good reason - Turkey Ranch sits just south of the Gold Canyon trail system, which has been maturing quite nicely over the last year. We were even going to get to try the new, secret Secret trail. Most excellent.

We were about 15 strong rolling out of the Ranch. Everyone smiling, anticipating the K-trails. Photo by Mrs. Turkey Ranch.

Freeskier brought the ol' bmx freestyle bike from his flatlander days. I forgot to try and talk him into some cherry picking.....and you thought he made a 26er look small.
Quite the perfect day to ride the bike in the desert.
Riders present!
After rolling up Cougar, we took Lost Goldmine to K-trail and proceeded to play on the rocks. Erin got the guts to roll this line and made it look easy.
Rolling up through the boulder section which is set just next to the Superstitions - and Wilderness. Just a little hike away there are petroglyphs from those who've played here before us. This is a fun playground with about four lines heading off of the rock face. Try and make the loop down and then back up. Challenging both ways!

There was a new outer line present on the boulders called Outer Limits that I put the skills to with success. John got this cool shot for me.

K-Man himself showing off the steep line I hadn't eyed before. Photo by John.
Thought I'd give the steep line a go and almost lost it. Good thing I've got the wide bars to leverage the tire back into line or I might have got tossed. I straightened it out fast and rolled it out, luckily making it. I'll have to refine my style on the next visit. Photo by John.
I caught a few people rolling through this wash. GilaMonster makes it without sacrificing skin or mechanical bits to the MTB Gods.
The man himself, our host, Mr. Turkey Ranch - keeping his eye on the prize.
Some of us love riding so much, we'd be crucified on our bikes before we gave it up! Funny, sometimes I feel riding hard is penance for screwing something up during the week. The lactic burn eats through inadequacy and ineptness or frivolity of character, general anger - whatever - gravity pulls you down and you fight through - sacred cleansing at 9.8m/s squared. 
Fatbikes fly! Who knew? He probably has about three inches of travel with those tires. He landed without issue and looked good doing it.
John got the other perspective. Big tires don't fail me now!
Ride into the light. MTB can save your droll soul. Light shines down on Turkey Ranch. The Gods are pleased, and so am I.

Great day with some great peeps. Everyone was fun to ride with, saw some sweet air-time, got some nice, new Secret trail in, drank a few beers and snacked on some awesome guac. The dinner would have been just as good, but I had to take off before the feast began. Here's hoping for a repeat next year as the company was good, hospitality inviting and the dirt was in singletrack form. What else could you ask for? Thanks!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

AES McDowell 46er

On this great day, we took part in the last AES event of the year, The McDowell 46 up in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and McDowell Mountain Park. It was to be the McDowell 60, but there turned out to be a foot race on the comp loops in MMP, so we were nice enough to cut those miles out to minimize the impact on their event. Not to worry, there were plenty of miles left for us, and 46 seemed about right for me. This ride was all business since the easy rolly stuff on the comp loops was cut. Sunrise, Sonoran, Prospector, Tom's Thumb, with just a bit of Pemby to lets the legs rest a short spell was the dujour of the day.

The looniness of the day started with a lunar eclipse which followed me all the way to the start, from darkness to dawn. Strange, seeing the Earth's shadow. Makes you feel like you are really floating in space, rather than tethered to terra firma, the Earth's crust, our painter's canvas, as mountain bikers. Then I was glad I was tied down, because I need dirt and friction to get this mountain bike thing working! And as I was working on it in the parking lot, 30 seconds before take-off, "Let me add that water bottle cage...."' I smashed by trigger shifter in the hatchback of my car and a little plastic bit plinks onto the ground. Hmmm.....Looks like the downshifter......it is. Damn. Snapped clean off. Check the upshift - works - sacrificed one gear to learn that, but it works. Looks like three left out of nine. I head out after, ashamedly, thinking, "I might be out." Silly talk. One gear is all you need. Besides, I have a few here to spare. That lasted about 20 minutes until I was headed up Quartz. Click, click! No gears left, and so it was for the next 5 hours. 32x34. Good thing MSP is full of climbs.

The morning's lunar eclipse. It's not every ride you get to start your day with a galactic phenomenon.

Up and over the top of Sunrise, the first big climb of the day. I like it. The Santans show up in the far south.

The fountain of Fountain Hills.

I came around the corner and John was smiling. It certainly couldn't be because he has a cholla in his hand, but it was.

It doesn't take much for one to tag along. "I've got some needle nose, but I need to take a snap first, you know." "Of course." What is glory without proof?!
The culprit, looking guilty and everything.
Showing off my mad tech skillz. This was my first time on Sonoran, and it wasn't too bad, but I hadn't heard much good about it, so that made it better, since it was supposed to be so bad. Some HAB, but the downhill was sweet. Photo by John.

I'm totally spun out on my 32x34 gearing as we hit the flats of Pemberton. John was getting bored as I led at a stiff 8mph pace. I decided something had to be done, so I investigated my trigger situation. Turns out I can push in with my finger the little metal bit that is left inside the shifting chamber. Click, click! Sweet, I was back in business after 5 hours of SSing it.

The low-lying trail is mostly uneventful, and only adds miles. Its a nice change of pace, but I prefer the meat of the McDowells. Well, enough of that ahead. We still had to hike up the north face of Tom's Thumb.

Pemberton took us far from the McDowells. We'd have to ride back up to them to find Tom's Thumb.

America, F#%K yeah! Even with all the stupid crap that goes on here, its still one bitchin' country.

And we reach Tom's Thumb. 30 minutes of HAB. Joy. Unending joy.

Nothing like a good ol' HAB sesh in the early evening. Photo by John

And we reach the almost the top. The terrain is pretty slick up here, with a geology that seems distinct from the rest of the McDowells.

Freeskier rocking this singletrack out. One more little HAB, then we go down!

Jonathan coming down a bit of the fun stuff on top of TT.

It's time to head to the valley floor, and drop this mountain like a bad habit. About 20 switchbacks later, and a stroll on Desert Park Trail, I was at the finish, about 8.5 hours after starting. Sweetness.

It looks like a Quadruple Bypass, but only Sunrise is a pass and TT is just climbing the whole damn mountain. Sonoran doesn't take you much of anywhere, and Prospector only hits Bell, but doesn't make the pass. It sure looks good though! About 7k ft of climbing. Good stuff, there.

Color map of the route. We rode CCW from the stem in the west.

Sunrise is at the bottom.

The red is Tom's Thumb up and over, left to right.

The Sonoran and Prospector climbs. They all add up.

Great day, and thanks again to John for the pics.