I don’t need no stinkin’ car…

I was gifted a fair amount of paid vacation from megacorp this year. Naturally, there was a string tied to it: it had to be used within the first quarter. They seemed to purposely load up my first quarter with 50 hour work weeks, but I would not be fooled into thinking I couldn’t take my gift from megacorp. I bit the bullet and loaded up the car with my bicycle & climbing gear and left for Tuscon (Casa Grande actually).

The ride left at 5am from the Round Trip bicycle shop in Casa Grande, AZ. They seemed like there were quite a few people ready roll out, but I knew absolutely no one. No one but D of course, but she wasn’t riding. We took off in the dark and naturally, there was a paceline of people racing off a head. This huge big paceline is like dangling a big fat juicy worm in front a starving fish. But as all smart fishes, I ignore it as I know it will bring me pain in the near future.

Start of Ride in Casa Grande, AZ

I did, however, notice a contingent of people behind me. At least I wasn’t carrying the lanterne rouge. Something I don’t mind doing, but prefer not to. Those behind me were kind enough to send me to the back of the line and let me relax a bit. Eventually, we pulled through Eloy and nature was calling. I let the group go ahead as a pump from the irrigation canal kept thoughts of flowing water in my head. The rest of the trip into Marana had people strung out up and down the frontage road. The call of nature knocked on the door a couple more times, and we all just kind of trickled into the control.

Picacho Peak at sunrise

I did my song and dance at the Circle K in Marana and took off. It’s a little weird not getting your brevet card signed, but rather collecting receipts. It’s the exact opposite in Texas. Either way, I did what I needed to do and took off. I was a little nervous for the climbs ahead, as I am not used to it. The rolling hills of Texas are not the same. I made the climb into Saguaro National Park and had to stop to take off my wool sweater. Time to let the arms sizzle and work on my farmer’s tan. I finished the climb which wasn’t too bad and stopped to take an obligatory picture of the steed and a saguaro. I made the decent towards South Mission Road and stopped for some water, although it wasn’t an official check point.

The Le Tour and Saguaros

I pushed off towards the next checkpoint down S. Mission Road. I thought I was bonking, as I continued to push hard and was only clipping 10-12 mph. The wind was being quite kind, but I may have had a slight head wind. The road looked to be flat and I couldn’t figure out what my struggle was. I continued to push on at my slow pace. I would figure out what my struggle was the following day.

The Tucson Bicycle Classic was having a stage of their race along the southern part of the road. It was neat to see them push by. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be clad in spandex with colors that matched my helmet, sunglasses and bicycle frame. I heard it adds about 2 mph.

TBC Cyclistas

I cruised into Continental, AZ to find a control. Another odd thing is that there are open controls, so you get to pick which place you stop at. I saw rando riders going up and down the other side of the road as I stopped at the easy gas station on the right, where there were coincidentally no rando riders but some other roadies. I got some water and slung a leg. I crossed under I-19 and was confused on where to go. I stopped to get everything straightened out and after about 5 minutes, I pushed on. The roadies at the gas station passed me a few miles down the road. I made the right turn on Sahuarita Rd and continued to climb towards Sonoita with a pleasant tailwind. The right turn onto SR-83 made it look like I was going downhill, but I was only clipping 10 mph, and that was a stuggle. I stopped to make sure a brake wasn’t rubbing or anything weird. I took it for what it is worth and slowly pushed on. A few miles later, I stopped at the picnic area to lay down for a few minutes and crack my back. The climb was the real deal, including a 6% grade. Finally, about 8 miles from Sonoita, I reached the summit, took a few pictures and pushed on.

Top of Climb near Sonoita, AZ

Le Tour posing at the top of the climb

I made a quick stop in Sonoita for water and got a free cookie. I grabbed a free cookie for D, thinking she may meet me at Elgin. The trip into Elgin was fast with a strong wind at our back. I finally reached the meal stop before the sun went down. I went in, had the sandwich and tomato soup and got going. The sun was just setting, so I put on cold weather gear and slung a leg.

The trip to Tombstone was fast, there was a wind at my back and we descended about 1000′. It was a full moon and it was rising in the east. I finally hit the bottom of the descent and then made the short climb up to Tombstone. There was a nice 4 mile loop add on for bragging rights, but I opted to just stop at the Circle K. For some reason, the Circle K’s are always packed in Airzona. I grabbed the extra cookie I had got for D in Sonoita and ate it in line. Maybe it was karma for eating D’s cookie, but I instantly felt like I was going to throw up in line. I rested my head for a few minutes on the Hostess rack trying my best not to toss my cookie. I got my receipt and got out. I sat on the almost sanitary ground for a few minutes and slowly added some more cold weather clothes. I felt better. I was talking to D when I felt nauseous and she then told my father. Who then texted me to tell me it sound like hyponatremia. While I didn’t have the time to phone the Mayo Clinic, I did what any good randonneur would do and slung a leg. Luckily, some other cyclists pulling up noticed my helmet sitting on top of the ice container, and not on my head. I unslung my leg, grabbed my helmet, reslung the leg and pushed on.

Working on the climb back to 5000′ or so, it suddenly got cold. It was like someone flipped a switch. I don’t really like it that cold, because if something were to happen, I would freeze on the side of the road. I slowly made the climb plugging away at 8 mph or so. It seemed to last forever, but I finally made it to the top and made the slight downhill into Elgin. The left turn south towards Elgin lead to an even colder road. But, it was short lived. I made my way inside, taking the walk of shame up the steep gravel road into the Elgin Club. I took 20 minutes or so to eat some food, got my card signed and got out of there. The food sat pretty well with me. I also warned some riders who just woke up and were leaving that it was cold out.

I feared the cold outside, as I never really warmed up in the Elgin Club. I had about 10 miles or so to go to Sonoita, where I would get a warm shower and sleep in a bed with D. My plan to fight the cold was to spin my legs fast and keep the legs going. I made the walk of shame back down the hill (you can never be too careful after 230 miles of riding) and took off. I was shivering for a mile or so, but then it warmed up enough to make the ride pleasant. I cruised into Sonoita.

D met me at the door and let me in. My attempt to get a room on the ground floor was unsuccessful, so I left my bike in the lobby area. D grabbed some cheese and crackers for me as I staggered up the stairs making a ton of noise with my bike shoes. I took a shower, ate some crackers & cheese and fell asleep. While sleeping, D found my helmet to be of some comic relief.

Helmet after the first day. Notice the Salt.

Close up of salt crystals

My alarm went off around 5:15 am, I actually got out of bed around 5:45. I made up some silly story that I wanted to wait until later because I didn’t want to ride in the dark. I did my normal morning routine which consists of putting on sunscreen first thing. My bibs weren’t dry from the day before, so I put on the old bike shorts. Come to find out, bibs are really comfortable. I forgot how much I disliked the cutting of regular shorts. I finally shoved off around 6:07, most likely waking the entire hotel walking down the stairs in my bike shoes. Between when I arrived around 1 am and 6 am, someone had consumed the wine the hotel lady had left out. I assumed they were still sleeping.

It was a beautiful morning and I could sense a slight tailwind. I stopped to take this excellent picture a few miles out of Sonoita.

Moon Setting on the First day of Spring. Near Border Patrol Checkpoint north of Sonoita, AZ

A Border Patrol guy with dogs stopped to make sure I was alright when I stopped. Uber kindness. I finally made it to the Border Patrol checkpoint inconveniently located at the bottom of a hill. They must have consulted the Austin City planners, who stick stop lights in the middle of hills. It was cool in the little valley and the BP agent was walking towards his little shack. He waved me on. Various thoughts went through my head along these lines, “Drug smugglers should bike the drugs.” But, by the time I had chewed on that thought, I was climbing and any thought of adding extra weight seemed to be the worse idea in the world. Even if the weight is worth more than gold. I finally reached the top and it was time for a little down hill action.

Le Tour showing off

I made quick work of the rest of the ride to Sahuarita Rd, even the turn on Sahuarita Rd was a pleasant downhill. I skipped the water stop and carried on. This road in particular was pretty rough, making me wish I had my new Circle A with Grand Bois 32mm tires. But, that was neither here nor there. Once I got to Sahuarita, I stopped chez MacDo to hopefully get a hamburger. Of course, they were only serving breakfast, so I got a sausage McMuffin, hashbrown and orange juice. No hyponatremia today. It all went down well and stayed down.

The climb out of Sahuarita was not something I was looking for. 5 miles of mild to low grade steady climbing. I dug in and made my way up slowly. Then a right turn on Mission Rd and a nice descent. Mission Rd made my Brooks seat feel like a 2×4 on edge, and I had further daydreams of the new ride with 32mm tires. But, the mystery of bonking was solved, as I declared I was certainly facing an incline the day prior.

I made it to the control and again had to wait in line (what’s up with AZ gas stations?). I grabbed an ice cream, went outside, sat down and enjoyed it. I slowly moved some things around and shed some layers and finally took off. It was the last climb of the day over Saguaro National Park. The wind was picking up and luckily, mostly at our backs. I was cruising up hill and at one section, clipping 25 mph to 30 mph uphill. Of course, this made a car timid to pass and when they finally did, a queue of motorists had formed. One of the last motorists, driving his boyfriend’s yellow modern day VW bug, mustered up every last brain cell to yell, “Get off the road.” I wasn’t in the mood, and let my feelings get the best of me as I shot him the bird.

Finally, I was headed downhill, had a nice tailwind and was cruising towards Marana. Life was good. I reached the control in Marana, got a few snacks and ate them off the bike. I pushed off with 44 miles, hoping the wind coming out of the south would push me into Casa Grande. I passed a few Sunday morning cyclists going the other way, thinking, too bad they have the head wind. It took a few miles, but then I realized, it’s me who has the headwind. I was all alone on the frontage road. I stopped at the next gas station to get some water and rest for a few minutes, secretly hoping some other cyclists would come by for me to work this wind with. But, the wind continued to get worse and no other rando riders came by. But…I found this jewel!

...my bike will take me just as far.

Made me laugh. And U-turn.

The rest of the ride, while flat, was windy. I did catch a break north of Eloy before I-10 when a train was cruising by. It put me on the leeward side of the wind, and I didn’t mind the lack of wind on bit.

Finally, I stumbled into the Round Trip Bike where D was waiting for me. I threw everything in the back, put the bike on the top and headed for the Comfort Inn. I turned in my card, took a shower and called it a day. 36 hrs 5 mins. Details and Stats here.


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