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.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Solo Night Riding with the Trickster

I had a hankering for a tough ride, and looking at that little mountain to the west of me - South Mountain - I felt like gobbling it up this fine evening. No C2C2C mind you, but just a journey deep inside the belly, up Mormon, and up further still up National, until the saddle just before Buena Vista. I'll get a view of the towers. Typical ride, other than the fact that I was solo, in the dark at about 9pm rolling around the techy parts of the mountain. There was a threat of monsoon rains all day for the evening, but they missed about 25 miles to the east, so the whole mountain was mine, and with temps that dropped at least 15 degrees. Yes, this apple was ripe for the pickin'.

The cityscape is pure flat desert. The Grid. Light bikes roll around between the predictable squares. Lights zoom in from the sky. Hues of blue, red, yellow and green. Human self-organization - I see proteins, a nucleus, messages, metabolism, catabolism, evolution. Isn't everything just a model of what is above and below it? We ebb like stars, die like black holes, change like the wind, and self-manage like an ant hill. Symmetry of form, symmetry of function. The entire physical universe is alive.
The night life is half the fun. Caught this Sonoran Ground Snake cruising down the trail. Never seen one before. I chased and took pics for a good 10 minutes. I was in no hurry. Strava was tucked away deep in my pack. My eye was on my lens tonight.

In the darkness, come playful light. Time moving, non-moving. I was there, but captured not. Ghost wheels carry me past.

The Octocog was poised for the night. My creature of the garage works as if it is normal. As if it is not function groomed to a form. It's been liberated from its Mono ways. It plays as if it's more than 8 times what it was, which it is.

A what? Imagine my surprise to find a toad on National. I had no idea.

The saddle. Towers in the background. What better time to dance the light away!

The clouds drifted silently across the moon all evening, showing small hints of red along the fringes. Parts of the city were getting hammered up north, but tranquility was mine here, alone, yet not.

Lights from the sky streak down across my darkened canvas. Patterns. Waveform. You think lights are attracted to lights?

So I make my way back from the saddle. The water fall is on my mind. It feels very attainable. It feels easy thinking about it. The line is clear in my mind's eye. The nerves are placid, the sky dark, the light focused. I think, "Shall I?" I don't answer. The feature shows itself, I roll to the top and without hesitation am rolling down the spine as I figured it would go. I've got this. My first water fall run. Whoa! What am I thinking?! Then the transition after the spine get dicey and I stall out. Re-situate and then roll the last half. Not bad. Now I've got a real appetite for it. 

I'm now past the Mormon junction on National coming up to the steps when I hear a guttural growl to my right. I try to place it - Coyote? Cougar? Javelina? None seemed to match. None other than the Trickster matched as it was slobbery and strangely human-like. Then....laughing? Too anthropomorphic, but not quite human laughter...the dark has caught me. The Trickster is already working my mind. My helmet light darts back and fort like a beacon of my location while I remain still as can be to hear another sound, to place this unknown from me, but nothing. Then the chills. "Go! Gotta get out!", is all I feel. Feet seem to follow me. I hear rocks falling behind me. Was that shadow moving fast, climbing the ridge? Is something following me? I try to let the techiness of National distract me, but the moves are too practiced, I can multitask the growing irrational fear. Care to it and make the Triangle. There's a strange satisfaction in running from unknown spirits yet hitting your marks. I glow in my own concentration. Finally reason fills the space between my ears again as I roll off National. See, there's only Nothing in the dark. I've been running from Nothing. The Nothing that gobbles you up, and leaves you empty. Fear drives solutions, but shouldn't manage outcomes. This is for the will. I made it back to the car.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Shultz to 418. A Mountain Biker's Delight.

This ride was the impetus in my mind for getting to Flag. We did it last year and both the climbing and descending were stellar. The AZT from Snowbowl road, up and past Aspen Corner and down to 418 is a great section of trail, one that I'll always want to come back to. The climb up is relentless, but attainable, and rolling through fern laden Aspen groves at 20mph down the backside is severely grin inducing. We planned to start at Shultz and make it an out-n-back. After the 56 miles the day before, we'd only need 44 more for a century weekend. How would it play out?

I was feeling a bit tight at the start of the ride, since I had only been off the bike for about 18 hours after the big ride the day before, but I worked through the morning aches quickly as we wound our way through the Fort Valley goods on our way to the AZT. Soon enough we were starting our ascent up to 9k ft.

The red hues make me think of Sedona, down on the bottom of the Kaibab. The speckled shade tickled my otherwise sun tattooed skin. I really like a good climb. Mabye more than a good downhill. The skill is more zen, more mindful, less reactive - its narrative is of will power and resource management, where blasting downhill is guts and glory, balls to the wall, blind faith in your assessment of your own stupidity to skillful ratio. Well, I do enjoy that too, but climbing makes me dig. It makes me breathe uncontrollably. I have to relinquish control for a few moments, at the summit. Slow can be cool.

Freeskier getting some EL. (-avation, that is.)

A little ways up the climb is this nice lookout. Be sure to stop and take it in.

Pano-attack with Wing Mountain in the background.

Getting geared back up for the 1400ft left to the top.
We start to crest and the ride evens out after about 2.5 hours of climbing from 7200 to 9000ft. Great workout. Now come the aspens.

CW clips a pedal and takes a digger! Could have been ugly, but a fat lip will allow him to say, "You should have seen the other guy!"

Freeskier exiting fern gulley.

Is it a cow? It made me think of some prehistoric predatory worm-fish.

Rolling off the back-side of the San Fran Peaks to 418 is easy rolling hold on a holler old fashioned good times. You'll feel like a kid, you'll feel like a sprite of the forest.

Gazing to the skies.

Freeskier ahead! Caught him by chance.
FS was nice enough to catch me in action.

Stopping at mile 19 for a belly refuel of PBnJ and some Gu, shadows seemed crisp to me, my awareness slightly heightened by the impassioned communion with nature.

The area begs for some bikepacking, and Utah isn't even that far away.
Mexico is a bit further though. We were down there for the AZT300 in April. Boy I sure would like to give either AZT race a go. The 750 sounds like a great vacation.
Back down at Snowbowl Road. What good trail!
 I was a bit pooped at the turn around point, but still feeling plenty of reserves inside. The worst part was the saddle rub I was getting form my seat that apparently had a seam cutting right across the cheeky part of the seat. Great design. The 19 miles back were a bit painful. It didn't help that my belly went belly up about 10 feet from the summit on the way back. It settled, but had made its self known. Heading back down the south side was done at mach 7, or as close to it as I could get. I was relishing the non-control/control of bouncing off of everything and dodging half of everything else, it was a blur, and to be spit out at the bottom was a relief - because my ass was done, literally. Back down through Fort Valley. FS takes the AZT to Shultz to get the 44 miles needed for the century. I just want to quit sitting on my bike. My jump stop spins around, hits my rear tire. Don't want to fix. Hit with rock. Fixed. Poorly. Chain keeps jumping. One more drainage. One more drainage. Last one. Shultz. CW's truck. Finally. Store. Choco milk. Ruh-roh. Don't upchuck in Chuck's truck! Fades in a minute. More Choco milk consumed. Dinner. Fire. 94 mile weekend. I'm pleased.

The profile. Up down. Up down. That easy. 38 miles total. I was thinking about 25. Oops. I was happy to work on the difference though.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Raybum's Tour de Coconino AZT

Phoenix. Summer. Dreadful heat. The mind bake. Sublimation of sweat crystals. Seconds to swamp-ass. It was cooking our psyches down to a gelatinous mess of temperature induced ennui, and biking time to inside a few hours per ride so we weren't turned to ash. It was time to open it up, get out of Satan's kitchen and break free from the nuclear radiation that can eviscerate clouds in seconds as they approach the valley. The legs needed to be run out a bit, get some miles under them. My last 50+ was Sedona AES the beginning of March, and the most since was 23ish on DC, meh. I wanted to get into the pit, and stay there for about 8 hours. Flagstaff would be our destination, some new AZT would be our goal. Who you gonna call? One Gear Raybum, that's who. He dreamed a route, and we collected a few more takers.

The plan was to camp on the south side of Flag, then hit some of the AZT down there around Lakes Mormon and Mary, and any other goodies Ray might have dug up. We ended up at Fort Tuthill with the trailer, but we also had a rendezvous only a few miles down the road. Everyone needs to break free from the valley stir fry at some point during the summer, and no better reason than to ride a bike in the pines. Lucky for a few of these fellas, they get to come up often. For me, its the sweet taste of that prize, cherished then realized only after time saving and working, or cooking and sweating.

Tuthill was kind of empty, and while we had neighbors, none were on top of us. We had plenty of room! The camper made it all pretty easy, which is nice sometimes. I'll hurt enough on the bike, so this is good.

We had the dogs, and they were busy tying knots all weekend. The ropes were better than carrying around chains though, for sure. Although I did wake up one morning to find the yellow rope eaten through at the base of the tree. Probably some old gray squirrel, "NIMBY!". Maybe he has a TOA.

Saw this in town. Dogs. Whatchya gonna do?

J and I even took on the Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course while at Forth Tuthill. This wall climb was about 35ft off the ground.

Zip lines! Ah, Costa Rica!

The Blue and Black courses get even higher. It got a bit hairy up there. Lots of fun.
For our ride, we took of from Mountaineer, and wandered over to the AZT by way of Lake Mary Road. We'd end up taking the AZT north to Flag, riding a bit through the city, then finding the Campbell Mesa trails, which took us back to the AZT by way of Fisher Point. Rather than head back down the AZT, and climb back up onto the mesa, we passed by Fort Tuthill and took some jeep roads back to the cabin. The value of local knowledge is priceless on days like this as we half planned, half wandered around this little piece of our planet. Nice work Ray and NG!

Indeed, all day.

NG has a sweet cabin that leads right to Priest Draw, a nice ribbon of singletrack.

We're not purists, so we'll take some road if it gets us to what we really want, namely the AZT.

We did a few miles heading south on Lake Mary Road, which has nice shoulders for bikes, but then had to head straight up 300ft to the top of Anderson Mesa to catch the AZT as it rolled along the top. It was imperative that the weather was dry, as death mud is known to spring from otherwise nice dirt here.
Back east boy has to show off his back east duds, or suds, as it were. Starting to look like a riding kit now - watch out! Spandex in your future?

And we hit the AZT.

This was the flavor of the trail before we dropped off the mesa. The five of us were keeping pretty good time together, even if Ray would pull ahead easily on the climbs. It just looks effortless. I forgot my O2 tank, on the other hand. Going from 1500ft to riding at 7k+ can have a little effect on oxygen delivery.
"Where do we really feel like going? Where are we headed?" Hmmm....I like figuring it out on the fly. The rough outline got us on the trail, details were then found therein. It's like discovering geocached choose-your-own-adventure waypoints. "We go up and around? Or down then through?" Good times. I liked being towed around. "Just keep giving it to me!"

After around six miles of the AZT, we were obliged to drop down into Walnut Canyon. Cholla B is well in front of me here.

Ah ha! I know this rock! It comes from a Coco 250 scout trip form Mr. Morris and friends. Found it!

We took a little detour to check out Fisher Point. We'd be back here in a few hours.
Its a fast out-and-back.

Our 11 miles of AZT ended as we came into Flagstaff. I always like the feel of riding into a city, getting some supplies then heading back out. "Sorry! No time to read the meter!" I've got to get back to the habit - I'm having latic acid withdrawals.

A short stop at Absolute Bikes to resupply some Gu's and tighten a BB. We then continued on our urban attack.

After cavorting around Flag for a bit and even passing the Scottish games and tubs of hagus, some of us consulted maps and iPhones, to locate Campbell Mesa, which had some smooth, fast ST for us to devour. It's often great to plan a route, get the time, resources, stops and navigation just right, then on the other hand, it's great to just hang on and say, "Whatcya got that's good?" This approach gave us miles of smiles. At mile 30ish, we were feeling good, and the weather was perfecto.

 We skirted to the edge of Campbell Mesa, but only after cutting down and up the other side of an ancillary drainage that leads to Walnut Canyon. It was fast and nicely cut in, and the climb on the other side was doable, but that is where I started feeling it. Time to shift to secondary power, which is just often ignoring the pain of fatigue until peaceful bliss rolls like warm morphine through your body, at least for a spell. I didn't go that far, but crossing the mesa had me at the back of the pack with no closing speed. Ugh, ran over and over in my mind. The views of the canyon allowed me to easily ignore it.

We were soon at the junction we passed through hours earlier, to check out Fisher Point.

The work of a little downhill to Walnut Canyon and some easy ST got us back into the groove and feeling cool. Maybe a bit too cool.

Yes, it was definitely too cool. Some drops turned into a drizzle which started to pour until it was raining. Then we put on jackets and hid under the trees. Luckily we were clear of death mud territory, being closer to Flag.

It lasted maybe 10 minutes, but they were quite calm minutes. It's a steady rain you don't see much in the valley - I was slightly ensconced by the simple nature of it. That quiet pitter-patter is much like the rhythmic rocking of of an overnight train in India from Hampi to Hyderabad. It pulls the waking mind to Delta waves.

And what 56 mile bike ride doesn't end in a hike-a-bike. Sheesh. Small hill, but I was huffing it.

And we finished right at the back porch! Now that is mountain bike spoiled. Thanks NG and family for the hospitality and adult beverages! Sorry for being a shmuck and 40 minutes late! I hate that guy!

56 miles and all kinds of up and down. The first climb is the hill from Lake Mary Road to Anderson Mesa and the AZT. The drop is down into Walnut Canyon. The second big ditch is dropping off of Campbell Mesa, down to Fisher Point. Good stuff out there. Sure want to do some more exploring. Next: AZT down by San Francisco Mountain.