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, April 12, 2014

A Tasty Ripsey Lollipop

It had been literally 364 days since I had put tire to the AZT, and by any standards, that is WAY too long. Not that there was much I could do about it. A disintegrating knee and subsequent repairs, while mostly effective, do take time. Now that I had the high-tibial osteotomy to relieve the arthritic pain and the ACL reconstruction #4 for some added stability and a few months of rehab plus flat-land canal riding, I was ready to graduate to the big boy rides and who else would be ready with a route and the day off? None other than the good ol' trusty ride buddy Freeskier. Arturo would also join us for his inaugural ride on Ripsey. I was more than happy to join in, while a the same time dropping some agua off a the Freeman water cache for the AZT300 racers, the leaders of which would be passing through the Boulders and Ripsey segments of the AZT that we were planning on riding. Coincidental? Nah, what better way to see some of the race than to get out there!

The route was a lollipop starting on the AZT at Freeman Rd where we would take the AZT through the Boulders section (the stick of our lollipop) to Ripsey Ranch, where we would continue north on the AZT all the way to the Gila River. That gave us about 25 miles of glorious AZT to enjoy. We'd then take Florence-Kelvin Highway, also affectionately known at F--K Highway do to the big climb out of the river valley, up to some other back-desert jeep road that would take us back to Ripsey Ranch, then to the ten mile return on Boulders.

I was stoked beyond stoked. I've missed my endurance riding for more than a year, ever since I had to back out of the AZT Jamboree in January of 2013. Then I passed on the AES APC race in February, then the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo....then everything else. The writing was on the wall - the knee was pretty toast. I could ride, but I couldn't walk around the house getting stuff together! The knife/recovery and then again knife/recovery were the way through. Patience was utilized, ancient Jedi mind-dream-hibernation tricks were employed to calm the roaming leg desires - "These are not the adventures you're looking for"...... just so I could make it through the months and months of adventureless monotony, dining on Netflix and video games. Ugh. As much as I may enjoy that, it pales to hearing the crunch of granite crumbles under my tires, miles and miles from the car, with hours to journey, with a burrito in my pack and legs to burn, and even some friends to chat with.

Of course we met early. I was up at 4:30 so we could start riding at 9:30! After a round of car roulette figuring out who's car was the least worst, ahem, I mean most capable, we went with Arturo's.
I found a beautiful sunrise driving along the 202. The rewards of motivation came early this day. I love seeing the sun come up and go down. It almost makes me feel immortal, as I can survive the darkness, I am the light!

Doing our duty, we dropped off some water. We must have added at least 12 gallons. Always glad to help some AZT riders/hikers! The stretch from Oracle to Kelvin is about as remote as it gets for the 300. Most riders need water when they get this far out, around 30 miles from Oracle.

Well hello! Not ten minutes into the ride and we have wildlife! I'm surprised THAT wildlife didn't get us! John gave it a bunny-hop and let us know before we rolled up on a now aware and monstrous rattler. This is the largest one I've ever seen. What a specimen. Beautiful!

He didn't rattle and he barely flicked his tongue. This was one cool character. I let him have about an 8ft. personal space bubble.
Its not uncommon to see thru-hikers out on he trail. He was about 240 miles into his hike. Only 560 more to go! He already had a shuttle arrange for his dog around the Grand Canyon, since dogs or bikes aren't allowed through there. I think he was planning on about three or four months to get it all done.

We're getting close to business now. The riding along Boulders is easy and fast, while after you drop into Ripsey Wash, things tend to slow down.

John, rolling along some AZT jeep road.
Arturo gets his first look at the "Big Hill", Ripsey. Still seems far away! You can see the switchbacks from miles away.

AZT, how you please me!

I knew I was fine for riding, but was curious how the leg would do on some good old-fashioned hike-a-bike. That there would be my test!
We drop down into Ripsey Wash. The trails get a bit more primitive, as it's not ridden by many folks. Not to mention its a wash! They always tend to be loose.

We took a little detour to look for the bathtub spring, which this may or may not be it. This water could save a life!....if you have a filter.

You better not have any bee allergies too. These suckers seem to like water as well!

We got a little pre-HAB going on here. Overall the route didn't have much pushing at all.

Some primo "out there" singletrack. My favorite!
Ever closer we get. The siren song of Ripsey gets louder!

All mountain bikers seem to be amateur photographers. Gotta take some of this goodness home with me!

We started with wonderfully overcast skies, even if there was a wicked wind, probably gusting to 25-30 mph at times - which was at our back! I was pleased with that, but wasn't looking forward to turning around and riding back into the wind. The sun started to peel off the clouds about now, probably 5 hours into our ride, about 2pm. Luckily it didn't get too hot at all during the day. Luckily enough, because I was not heat acclimatized yet.

Arturo on the approach to Ripsey.

It looks like a big climb from far away, but getting up on Ripsey isn't too much work, really. What is rideable isn't too bad, then you get off and push.

Wild mountain biker, foraging for food. I'm glad I had my burrito tucked away - you never know what one of these hungry creatures will do.
I get to do some of my own habbing - without issue, I may add. Its a good thing I stuck to my reHAB through the early months of the year (yar yar yar...). Those stupid exercises seem to pay off.

The switchbacks don't look to bad, but hell if I could get one. Loose and tight. A session might have been fun, but we were already running at record picture pace. Still about 30 miles to go!

"This is about the easiest one to get here, I think." "Oh yeah? Did you get it?"....."Ah, nope." And so it went.

The stretches between the switchbacks are very rideable and provide some awesome views.
This country makes you feel big and small at the same time. Yep, I'm in there.

And we finally reach the top!
Lunch time on the ridge. Only a dad might bring a juice pouch on a ride.

I wish this was my office view. Why didn't I go into wildlife conservation or something other than cell culture - that means you work inside dummy! Every time I ride, I wish I would have studied geology. So much history here. Cosmic history, really, from the bellies of stars to the rocks under my feet.

A small gift form the desert. I'd like to think its the AZT blessing my derailler for the rest of the ride. "If you're going to ride the AZT, be sure to put some flowers in your derailler...." It almost works.
The apex. That's about six hours of work right there. Well, for us, anyways. It would be days of work for some 300 racers!

This guy is having some fun, but I think his backpack is having the most fun....

And....this is pretty amazing. Now we ride down that! To the river!

Words don't work here. This language is older.

Taking a lazy break on the way down Ripsey. I finally got my seatpack on dirt, after getting it for Christmas in 2012! It probably has 1000+commuter miles on it, but that really just doesn't count. I didn't need it, other than to get weight off of my back, which is key. I had my filter, night clothes (I was certain we'd be out at night), lights, and a burrito and other food in there. This let me carry 220oz of water in my pack easily. There's a water cache at the Kelvin TH, but I wanted to leave that to the racers.

Not much tech, but lots of going down!

As we left the AZT for F--K Highway, I put on the bandana and tunes. The sun was starting to tingle and music always helps on a long steady climb. The highway would carry us about 1500 ft up from the river over about 4 miles. That's about 45 minutes of work. Good work. Work that pays.
The top of the F--K climb. Its over! Classic shot.

Arturo survives.

Second rattler of the day. He didn't care about us.

The Voodoos hanging out together - without the requisite mechanical juju!

The Golden Hour catches us as we come back to Ripsey Ranch.

This once glorious behemoth had been slayed by winds the year earlier. Now it is a pile of death. Poor, old creature. How frail we all are.
And this is night riding on the AZT. The leaders came through as we were heading back, but I just missed #1 Kurt Refsnider as he was on his way to a sub 48 hour finish - of the AZT 300! Simply amazing. No sleep, but maybe 20 minutes, 300 miles and about 40k of climbing. Whoa.

These little birds, the Common Poorwill, sit on the trail until you're just on top of them then they take off. I finally got a pic of one. He didn't care much. I was only about ten feet away. I got to see one take off straight into the air, catch a moth by my bike light, then come back to the trail and sit. Pretty cool.

We each took our own pace back to Freeman Rd along the Boulders section, as it's pretty basic night riding. I passed Neil Beltchenko about 4 miles from the TH, and then saw Aaron Gulley at the water cache! Your third and second place finishers! Pretty cool to see them in action. I hollered to Neil as I let him pass, "You're killing it!" "Yeah, buddy" was his reply. I'm sure 200+ miles with no sleep, passing someone where you don't think anyone is going to be can be kinda weird. I didn't want to mess with his flow.
Here are some fun 3D maps of the ride. We went CCW around the loop. Ripsey is the ridge on the left, and the F--K climb is on the right. We're looking south here.

Another look at Ripsey, but looking northwest now. The Gila River Valley is indeed a pretty decent sized valley!

Ride profile. 56 miles for the day! Not bad for a first big ride back. 4400ft of vertical too.
It was my biggest ride in a long time.The last decent mileage ride I had was....Kentucky Camp on November 17, 2012, but that's only 47 miles. The last 50+ mile ride was...November 3rd, 2012, AES BCT at 50 miles. That's 18 months. Oh my. The AES McDowell was a bust that year as it poured cold soaking rain on us. It was fun until we got through the competitive track. By then I was cold to the bone. Got picked up at about 33 miles.

Well, for this 56 miler, I was smiles all day. Total confidence, not half a thought about the knee. I asked, it performed. We were pretty leisurely, I'll give you that, but coming up FK, it was a machine, no hitch in the giddy up. As I reached the steepest part toward the top, Dig, by Mudvayne comes on and I just get into it and power like I love to on a good climb. You start to feel like you're lifted by angels wings. Couldn't keep up with Captain Legs, but was probably about ten minutes behind him. Even standing and mashing felt good. I was ready to go all day. I never felt tired, or that I wanted the day to end. We rolled in at 8:30pm, eleven hours after we started and I felt like I was out there for four hours. I just loved every moment of it. Those 18 months disappear pretty fast! No GI issues but I also had no space food other than some CarboRocket from Arturo. Thanks! No Gu's, no Blocks, tabs, sodas or nothing. Raisins, banana, burrito, pickles, apple. Not that I didn't have some space food! I forgot it at home. It worked out in the end. Maybe I figured out my stomach deal. Then again, we we're pro-style picture pace out there. I'll have to put the screws to it somewhere, maybe ITT AES  Aspen Asphyxiation. I'm dying for some #34!