Cycling in support of Limbs For Life

Cycling in support of Limbs For Life
Cycling in support of Limbs For Life

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Kurt? You can stop screaming. The AZT has left the building

As a matter of saying I am a huge fan. I'd like to thank anyone and everyone who raised a rake or shovel and/or helped in anyway to create this fantastic trail! I couldn't help but feel sad as my tires left the trail head at the Utah border. There were thoughts of turning right around and heading for Mexico (except that I was still sore and limping). I have now a much deeper appreciation for the state of Arizona. The Sonora desert, Saguaro national park, The Superstition mountains, Coconino national forest, The Kaibab plateau and not to be left out; The Grand Canyon who's beauty runs as deep as the canyon walls.
I was on the AZT for a total of 10 days and enjoyed the pig crap out of it! A great little jagged strip across a fantastic chunk of the earth. What a ride! Joan Wilder What a ride!

A little shuffel through the big ditch

I already knew my chances for an over night permit in the Grand Canyon were pretty much nill. But I went to the back country office to check anyways... yep... nope. Wait 3 days for a permit or hike rim to rim in one big whampum?
"As long as I don't set up camp and my wheels don't touch the ground then I'm good, Right?" "And little naps and long breaks are fine just no camping?" "Yea? Ok, got it".
I had my bike broken down, strapped to my back and was ready to cannonball in by about 1pm Friday. Down down down I went reaching the Colorado river by late afternoon. I felt like Chewbacca carrying C-3po. We took a long break at Bright Angel but got stumbling again towards Cottonwood at about dark. Man, miles seemed a bit longer with the bike riding me.
3po and I were crunching right along enjoying the ditch in the light of a half moon. Well, till our ol' friend the rattler suddenly showed up and made my pack feel weightless for half a sec. From there on my head-lamp blazed the path.
I'd give the shoulders and feet a rest about every 2 er 3 miles. I'd set C-3po down and feel like I was gonna float away. Somewhere about the 18thish mile my steps became more like dragging shuffles. In the middle of the night we're passed by other headlamps strapped to heads of pshyco human machines running rim to rim to rim. We shambled on.
I took my first little nap leaning back against a rock, just before the climb up the North Rim. When an eye unfortunately popped back open it was greying to the east, We got back to hobbling. Another power nap at the Supia tunnel put a bit of wind back in the sails to get me to the top. Where I was promptly almost tackled by Rangers. "You were in the canyon over night!" "You were told: No Camping" (Man, ya gotta love to hate'em). I said, "Look at me do I look well rested?" "Do I look like a guy who has been poaching camping spots and getting all sorts of beauty sleep?" "Was I supposed to power-walk all 24 miles in 6 hours with that load in these cycling shoes?" "I've been hiking all night you rat bastards" (OK, I didn't say the rat bastards part but I thought it) They let me off with a stern warning as I gimped around like a 90 year old man.
Soon I had the bike back together, pried my leg over the top tube and got on towards Utah.

But most days....

Weave through trees, ford little streams, enjoy the beauty of Arizona and just ride down the trail

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ladies and Gentleman: The Gila and Um... The Gila?

The Saguaros stood guard as a few scorpions and I shared a warm night under a sliver of moon and a staggering dome of stars.
I said good-bye to my friends and got rolling in the sunrise. I had crossed the Gila river the evening before on a small diversion dam. Ahead of me was a box canyon section, fairly famous to ATVs and Jeepers. As far as I knew (by my out dated guide book) was that I pass through the canyon and follow jeep roads north, 20 er so miles to highway 60.

A stream of water came trickling down as I made my way up through the narrow red rock walls. When the gorge opened back out, Jeep tracks went in all directions. All I could think was to follow the most well used looking route as northish as possible. One track led into another into another getting smaller and smaller until I was lost as a fart in the wind. I back tracked a few times trying to make corrections but every time ended up with the same result, scrammbling over sandy, super rocky double track wondering how jeeps even make it through here. By afternoon with the sun overhead I had no idea which way I was even supposed to go anymore.
At the top of one ridge I saw way off in the distance a valley with trees and what looked like a full dirt road paralleling the far side. The closer I got I could see water and grass? Water? a River? The only river out here has to be... THE GILA RIVER! I had just done a huge effin' loop.
As oddly disappointing as it felt, still it was a beautiful tour of the Sonora desert and at least I knew where I was now (sorta).
I picked my way down to the river where the track I was following just stops. Kaput, totally dead ended into some trees 20ft in front of the river. Dry grass spread out from me in either direction up and down stream. I could hear it but I couldn't even see the water through the trees and brush along the bank. I started walking up stream and ofcorse not more than a few feet into the grass the first rattle starts firing off. I jumped out of my skin and back to the open patch around my bike. Well, too sandy/rocky to ride and too snakey to walk. Hum... Taking a moment to pondering my situation and sip my last sip of warm water. A few moments later; Hip-Hop starts blasting from just a short ways down stream. (and just when I thought it was me and the rattlers)
Pushing through the brush and stepping out into the water I could see a couple SUVs on the far bank. The water was swift moving and brown but looked shallow enough to cross. Though I rather quickly found myself nipple deep and making much better sideways progress than I wanted. For a second I thought I was gonna be swimming for it and clawing at the brush on the far side. But luckly thats as deep as it got and I stumbbled through on my feet.
No sooner was I dripping on the beach mumbling that I'm mountain biking and lost than I was sitting in a lawn chair eating a BLT and sipping a cold drink.(I'll have to get lost more often)
Debbie, her teenage son and her son's two friends were out camping for the weekend. We chatted for a while but they were still in the midst of setting up camp and digging the amenities. So I sloshed back to get my bike.
Another bonus to a frame bag is a good spot to support your bike while you balance it on your head during deeper river crossings!
I got out my water filter and went to get water out of the river but Debbie wouldn't hear of it and gave me two small bottles of water. Soon after I thanked them all for the lunch and water and pushed on.
The two bottles of water went quick and the road I thought would just parallel the river turned away into the heat of the desert. I could ride some bits but mostly I had to push through soft sand in and out of dry arroyos.
At the remains of an old ranch I went to check the windmill. Thinking that by some chance there might be water in one of the tanks. It looked like I was about 20 years too late for that.
After sitting down in the shade to once again ponder my situation... thats when a truck drove up. The words from the woman driving were: "If your trying to get water from that old windmill you could probably use a ride"
She lived in Florence and had brought her dogs out to the river. I though it was odd and uncanny but she said she just put the two and two together when she saw me turn in there. Florence was in the wrong direction of the way I was actually trying to go but I saw a cup of coffee and a shaded park in my near future.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

and clawing at faces

Ahh and then comes the beast. A mole hill if yer moles are effin enormous. Just a dizzy headed, gut wrenching, knee splattering climb up Mt. Lemmon is all. Known as the island in the sky. 25 miles from the bottom to the Summerhaven community at the top. I like climbing hills but the loaded single speed threw something of a new monkey in the bath.
At the bottom I swore not to walk, any of it! We went to dinner! Him and I. This was my Island! My mole beast to tame! My afghan to knit!

I took a few breaks to stretch and massage the legs but I mowed it. I had to dig deep I had to forget what I was doing. I though of riders back in the early 1900's in the tour de france doing 300+ Km stages on fixed gears over the Alps on dirt roads. I also thought of a few years back when I did the Everest challenge. We climbed 28,000 in a two day stage race and it took every thing I had just to keep the bike moving forward. I did that I can do this. Stay in the saddle and you'll get there. Mostly I thought of Kelly and her wonderful smile as if they were waiting for me at the top. It all worked. One of the harder bits of cycling I have done in a while. 25 miles and 4000ft of elevation. I pulled it without ever shifting into the walking gear! I kinda just wanna go do it again now.
Word mashers note: this seems a bit dramatic now that I read it. But to my defence I'd ridden 68 miles up to the base of the climb.

Chasing shadows

Things have taken a turn for the more interesting. Not that they were all that dull before. But now I don't feel like I'm hunching in the wind just plowing from town to town.
That said, I pulled my first 100+ mile day of this trip. I felt commited and for some reason I just pushed hard to reach the border before dark. So in the dusk of that long day at a unglorious spot in the brabed wire fence. I dipped my back wheel into Mexico and started north. When complete darkness mugged me I slept in the brush amongst a maze of imagrant trails and wild turkeys calling to each other in the night.
The border patrol swarmed worse than the flys. Hauling ass on the narrow dirt roads and leaving me to choke on clouds of dust. Though after Parker canyon lake I turned onto my first taste of Arizona single track! This section over the Canelo Pass is not recomended in the guide book, saying its to rocky and technical for bikes. Yes the first and last bit of the 14 mile section require a fair amount of Hike-a-bike but the middle 10 or so miles were fantastic flowing good times.
From Patagonia to Sonoita I stayed with the guide book, bypassing the Mount Wrightson wilderness section that is off limits to bikes.
The end of that day I camped at Kentucky camp. (A historic ranch restoration project thingy) Lee the amazingly nice caretaker lady set me off in the morning with a bag of homemade cookies!
Coffee was had under the glare of John Wayne in Vail and we (John and I) mashed the outskirts of Tucson.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Crossing the gap

A couple good days of heat, head wind and excellent cycling have gotten me to Bisbee, AZ. Bisbee is a pretty sweet old copper mining town all stacked up on top of itself. Lots of historic, patchy, oak tree lined Lombard streets. Kinda like if a crackhead made cammels hump of a wedding cake. Complete with daily red light district and haunted house tours.
Just around the corner now from the old mexico border and bottom of the AZT. I'm gonna stock up on supplies, go thrash about and see if I can't be the first single speeder to thru-bike it to Utah. (If anyone knows anyone else who has let me know)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Camp and plant duces where you like! No one is around to care!

Thanx to Julian in Grants for hooking me up with a spare computer. It sure makes following a designated off-road route much easier!
I left Grants into a screaming head wind. It was funneling into the Zumi canyon and had me leaning over the bars,walking the flats. Though as the sun was setting it shut right off like a switch (yes, I almost fell off the front of the bike). So I rode on into the dark guessing the camber of the roller coastery chain of craters back country byway. To my surprise in the morning I'd shared a camp spot with a couple dead cows (well more coffee for me then!).
Pie town is truly a fantastic little place in the world. Divide bikers and hikers over lap here and brawl over the delicious pie. Then relax in the shade of the Pie-o-neer cafe with what crust or fruit bit they have been able to win.
I for-went a stay at the infamous toaster house and crept on my way down through the sacred Gila Wilderness. I'm now here in Silver city New Mexico. Its definitely a close runner up to some other really great places I cant think of right now. Its tucked away in the deep south west corner of New Mexico. It takes a bit but once you penetrate the franchise crap and get into old town, its a friendly and relaxed place. A Petaluma of the desert. Great folks at the Gila hike & bike shop and good coffee time action at the Java-lina.
P.s. thanx a bunch to William here in Silver City for providing me with a good and much needed rest in your guest villa! Truly a great spot you've got there!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Won't be gnawing that leg off till its thawed out.

Access denied. Leave it to a California goon to underestimate a Rocky mountain winter. I was crossing my fingers and hoping but the high passes are still quite snowed in. It only took me 2 days of hard riding and a 10,000 pass to figure this out, yep. So from Chama I took a lower half paved half dirt route down to Cuba, NM. Part way along that route my cycle computer finally figured out what it was in for and jumped ship. Kaput. Even fresh batteries would not bring it back around. The lack of odometer has made things a bit more interesting. Well just in the sense that the Adventure Cycling Association warns that this route is "impossible with out one". Its possible, just a bit more of a route scavenger hunt is all.

After Cuba the divide route flattens out and runs a long barren stretch to Grants. Beautifully wide open land. Countless arroyos and crumbly old homesteads. It was nice to ride all day and pass only one truck.