Sunday, February 13, 2011

ssaz '11 - the finale'

Sorry for the delay. Had some obligations that pulled me away from the computer.

like: Bringing Bobo's to New England. We made some bacon chocolate chip pancakes Friday night for dinner. Yummy.

Third time was a charm. I think we figured it out.

Then a day snowboarding at Sugarbush. The day started off with some high winds which did not make it enjoyable. However, the winds subsided and the snow started falling. Three inches worth of snow. Later on in the day the snow subsided and we had some sun before the lifts closed. Dinner at Positive Pie in Montpelier and then we managed to get back to Hartford but not without driving through a white-out on I89 as we left Montpelier. That lasted most of the stretch of I89 down towards I91. 3.5hr drive home was 4.5hrs and we were pretty beat.

Anyway.. Back to Arizona....
After Saturday's event, I had one more day in Arizona before my flight home. That day was spent doing what the previous few days involved: eating, riding bicycles and drinking (in no particular order).

Team Bike29
piled into the Executor with all our biking gear and made a stop in town for breakfast before meeting up with Darkhorse George, Niner Mike and Rudi. The plan laid out on the table was Bobo's but somehow the Executor arrived at the Hungry Fox. The team's mood was about 50/50 with this choice. I was optimistic and willing to try something new. Such optimism quickly disappeared when I took my first bite into my meal.


My chipped beef was heavy on the gravy and light on the chipped beef.


I was kicking myself for ordering a meal that is best ordered in the southeast US, not the southwest. Oh well, live and learn. Emily and Mandy ordered the Sonoran Skillet and the chorizo was tasty. Dicky took advantage of the Senior Citizen Special and had an omelet while George wasn't too happy with his biscuits and gravy but Keller was quite satisfied with his meal.

After breakfast we headed over to Rudi's house to gather up the remainder of the troops. Monte made an appearance and subsequently joined our bike ride. Rudi took us out on these trails in western Tuscon dubbed 'Sweetwater'. Sweet it was.

Smack in the middle of lots and lots of saguaro cacti. Such an amazing sight whilst riding.

Rudi having a blast.

I was reading up on the saguaros while thinking about this post. I came across this image.

Look at the ages for the various stages of a saguaro cactus. Now look at the photos I took and realize how old these cacti really are. That is pretty amazing!

Keller and Emily

The trails were fast and you can really get a rhythm going. Lots of small rocks here and there to keep you on your toes. I have to say that the previous two days of riding were lots of fun but this afternoon took the cake. Such a great way to end the trip.

Part of the crew hanging out at one of our stops.

Mandy and Darkhorse George

Rudi knows the gentleman who conceptualized and worked to make these trails what they are today. Seeing everyone in our group riding with a giant smile on their face, including myself, I think Rudi's friend has done a great job. Thanks Rudi and tell your friend thank you as well!'

Monte, Darkhorse George and myself

As you can tell, we stopped a bunch. The pace was moderate with a few trails taken at a faster pace (thanks to Niner Mike and George since they were 'fresh' from not riding much on Saturday). The rest of us were dragging to a certain degree because of what we rode the day prior. Either way, we still enjoyed being out on our bikes riding again.

One of the later trails we rode a few of us stopped to snap photos as everyone rode bike. Here's one I took of George..

and one of Mandy

and a shot of Darkhorse George

Mandy snapped this shot of me coming around a bend

photo: Mandy

and got this one of Dicky coming around the same bend

photo: Mandy

I caught this photo when Mandy was down in a little valley quite a-ways down the trail. I tried to get both her and George in the photo but he was a little too far ahead.

After about a 2-2.5hr ride we were invited over to Rudi's for a bbq.

Dicky having some fun with Rudi's dog.

After the BBQ we ultimately headed over to a local micro-brew to meet up with Dejay and his posse to celebrate his birthday and some of us watched the superbowl.

Dejay.. The birthday boy.

They kicked us out around 9pm and we made our way to another watering hole. Sometime later in the evening we ultimately got back to the hotel. I then had to take my bike apart and get it back into its travel case and also pack my clothes before I fell asleep. George was nice enough to take Keller and I to the airport at 7:30am the next morning.

This trip was a whole lot of fun. I am glad I decided to partake. I have to say thank you to both George and Mandy for figuring out the logistics and driving Team Bike29 around all weekend. It made this trip exponentially more enjoyable. Thanks!

It was also great to see people I haven't seen in months as well as to meet some new people. That aspect of the traveling is always fun.

I anticipate going back next year. I like the idea of heading off into the desert to get away from the snow mid-winter here in the Northeast. When you have a good sized group like we did the fun factor is even higher. Can't wait for next year.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

the Singlespeed Arizona

Continuing from my previous post...

Saturday was THE event; commonly referred to as 'SingleSpeed Arizona'. This is an event that Dejay Birtch has been putting on for a few years now. Seeing as he travels the country throughout the year participating in other people's events, this is his way of giving back. Giving back while also challenging just about every one. The trails he took us on and the combination of how he linked it together makes for quite a difficult ride/race.

Pushing a total of 50 miles in duration and upwards of 6,000ft of climbing. Pretty sporty for an event in early February.

We got up at a reasonable hour, organized all the bikes and gear into the Executor and headed off for some breakfast on our way to the start/finish. In typical Bike29 fashion on this trip, we arrived quite early. Early enough that the campers were just starting to trickle out of their tents. It was quite cool early this morning so most of us opted to stay in the warm Executor and listen to Iron Maiden and kill some time.

In case you were hungry or needed a drink, Dejay had it taken care of:

The whole Bike29 contingent was participating with the exception of George. His knee was acting up again so he opted not to ride (a difficult choice) and helped Dejay with the logistics of the event. We gathered together around 9am to listen to a few words.

Once Dejay was done we all casually rode on a few roads to the base of the first climb and the official start of this year's Singlespeed Arizona.

(Mandy and Dicky are in the foreground)

I ran into Keith from PA who I used to race with a few years ago. He moved out to AZ not too long ago. It was great to both see and ride with him again. He snapped this photo of me.

After re-grouping and some of us shedding clothes (I lost my woolie and my knee warmers) we were requested to remove our front wheel and leave our bike up the road around the bend.

And just like that... We were off up the road to find our bikes, put the wheels back on and start pedaling. I walked a brisk pace to my bike as I had no intentions on 'racing'. More like riding my bike but riding my bike at a not-so-leisurely pace.

First turn I saw George from Darkhorse Cycles (lower left).

And around the next bend I saw Mandy

and saw Dicky around the following bend (no picture). Dicky and I settled into a pace and stuck together for most of the climb. At one point he rode ahead of me as Dejay was chasing him with his dildo.

Up and up and up. This climb went on for quite a while. Word has it we were climbing for 8 miles but I couldn't really tell as I didn't note the mile marker we started at.

One of the things I noticed while out here in the desert is that there really aren't too many rules in regards to guns. On multiple occasions I saw people shooting guns on either side of the road into targets. Their locations were such that there was an earthen backdrop for them to shoot into. Some guns were quite large and the rounds were being shot very rapidly.

A few miles into the climb we crested the steepest part and the dirt road became undulating.


Dejay said that if we made it to mile post 13 we went too far. This was my gauge as to how far we had to go. I think it was about halfway between mile post 12 and 13 we rolled up to the aid station where Dejay and his crew were hanging out. Didn't really stop long enough to see what was available. We filled our bottles back up with water and hit the trail.

Windy and technical singletrack that is. I was stoked. No more road climbing and some technical singletrack that my tires had some grip on. Dicky and I rallied through this section before it dumped us onto some flat sandy ATV trails. A few gated fences later we were in a dried up river bed.

There is a trail in there somewhere.

We rode a bit of the river bed but the later portion of it became too rocky and sandy to ride so we hoofed it.

Onto the side of the creek and eventually onto more ATV trails.

He's got a smile on his face..

We were now about 20miles in from where the neutral roll-out began. We're about an hour and a half since we started climbing... I think.

More ATV trails as we climb up to the top of High Chiva. Then a technical descent and undulating forest service roads back to the main road we climbed in on. Ran into George and Mike from Niner at the intersection with the main road we climbed in on. Stopped to catch our breathe and grab some more food from my bag inside the Executor. I think we were around 2hrs or a tad past 2hrs by this point.

Dicky and I then headed back onto the road and climbed a few miles of what we rode in the beginning of the event. This part sucked. You try to maintain a decent momentum on the road but fatigue is setting in and the road has a few steep sections that just punch you in the gut.

Back at the aid station and Dejay says we've got about 10 miles left. I didn't believe him and kept telling myself we have at least 15 miles or so. We refilled our bottles and snacked on some food. Dicky found a bag of peanut M&Ms at the aid station and went to town.

You could see for what seemed like forever. Dejay kept saying the best part is coming. We hopped across the road and onto some more singletrack, uphill. As if we needed to go up further.. I was starting to feel the effects of not riding much the past few months and therefore was slowing down. Dicky was speeding up. I think it was those damn M&Ms. Both them and mustard are his energy food. Not caring about the 'race' I let him go and decided to ride my bike at my pace.

The views were so amazing that I found myself constantly looking around and not looking at where I had to go on the trail. This resulted in many panic stops coming into turns and lots of speed scrubbed. Not the most efficient way to ride a bicycle offroad.

Killer views. They kept getting better as we kept on riding.

There is a trail in there somewhere.

By now I'm definitely past the 3hr mark of riding from the bottom of the first climb. I've also made it through most of this high tundra region. Over a few cattle guards and through a few gates within fences I was now entering Milagrosa Caynon region. The last section of the race/ride/whatever you call it.

Fatigue was setting in deeper in my body while the terrain was becoming more challenging and technical.

I found myself getting off the bike more to walk down some gnarly sections of the descents. When I did this I also snapped a bunch of photos. Part of me was fooling myself by thinking I had to walk just because I was quite fatigued. The other part of me was thinking I wouldn't ride that last section even if I was 100% fresh. Mind games here and there.

My mind was also stuck on a bunch of Iron Maiden songs and Star Wars themes. I was also out there by myself and could not see another sole anywhere. When I could, my thumb and index finger were making music with my bell on the handlebars. Something I've often done in 100milers when you are out there riding your bike in the woods for upwards of 7hrs and pretty much solo.

I just rode down that. I found myself po-going on the front wheel and my 'lefty' fork quite often.

Where I had to go next:

How awesome is this? Despite the high level of difficulty this trail brings, and the fatigue throughout my body I still found time to take a few seconds and take in what was around me. That brought a smile to my face and made me forget the negatives. This was some cool shit, and to be doing it in early February. Even better.

The trail we were on (Milagrosa trail?) within the Milagrosa Caynon region pretty much followed this ridgeline. It definitely played games with me. I'd think I'm climbing the last ridgeline and then I had a descent down into the valley and on towards the finish. I'd get to the top of that ridgeline and sure enough, another ridge to climb.

Finally getting in near that canyon:

I do remember passing the tequila tree and passing on some tequila. I'm not much of a fan of hard liquor and I wasn't quite sure how much energy I had left in the tank. Kind of a party foul in the grand scheme of the theme for this event but whatevers.

The last descent was brutal. It was a lot of rock and a lot of giant steps at a very steep pitch. I rode into it near the top and got partway down after saying such things as:

'Om Namha Shivaye, Om Namha Shivaye, Om Namha Shivaye...'


'I am going to die...'

I eventually got off the bike and did my best to walk down these rock faces. Then onto some ATV trails and the the road back to where we started (Dejay's friend's house).



5hours from when we started at the base of the first climb. 15minutes behind Dicky to take 18th place overall. About an hour or so from the first guy. Not bad considering the last time I rode over 3hrs in length was quite a few months ago. Guess all the yoga I've been doing is helping me somewhat.

I managed to say out of the cacti but did scratch up both my legs and both my arms on all the shrubbery I rode past. I look like I got attacked by a dozen or so cats. I did step down funny on one dismount and somehow got a bunch of cactus needles in the side of my left foot. The needles hurt but I knew I was close to the finish so I didn't touch them and just dealt with the pain in my foot. Probably not the best of ideas but I managed nonetheless.

We hung out at the finish for a while drinking beer and eating pizza and watching everyone come home. It was a fun time and I was quite surprised with how I recovered. The food took about an hour before my body wanted some but the beer wasn't a problem from the minute I got off the bike.

When all of the Bike29 Contingent were done riding and had enough resting we piled into the Executor and high tailed it back to the hotel to get cleaned up. Saw an awesome sunset on the way. The sunsets out in the rockies and western US are awesome and worth living for.

On our way to the after-party we stopped at a Chipolte for some dinner (I think that's when we stopped for burritos).

The remainder of my photos are here.

The Bike29 Contingent:
George's write-up is here

Mandy's write-up is here

Emily's write-up is here

Dicky's write-up is here

Keller... he's busy doing cool stuff with snowboards.

Thank You Dejay for your hard work and a big thank you to all of your friends to helped make this happen. With all the snowfall we've had in New England this January alone (50+ inches), a trip to the southwest was necessary for me. Having a posse from Bike29 and knowing a lot of people from all over the country helped solidify the decision to make my first trip to Arizona. I look forward to the next one.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

ssaz '11 - days zero & one

Tuesday and Wednesday were met with snow. By Wednesday night I was pretty beat from shoveling and throwing snow 15-20ft from my driveway. Late Wednesday night I somehow managed to throw a bunch of clothing into one of my travel bags. The intent was to pack light while not really knowing what the weekend's plan was beyond riding bicycles. Normally I would not be comfortable with going on a trip not knowing any logistics but lately this has added to the adventure of my bicycling trips away from home.

Thursday was a loong day. Up at 5am to go to work. Work for half a day or a little more. Grab a ride to the airport. Cross my fingers my packing worked well and the airline would accept my bags. Get out of Hartford before another storm rolls in. Arrive in Tuscon with all my gear.


A quick phone call to George and I had a ride from the Tuscon airport. At least I thought I did.. The catch was that the crew was on 'dejay time' and would show up when they showed up. After some amount of time passed, Dicky called me to say they were on their way and wanted to know where I was. A few minutes later I was walking out of the airport terminal and the Executor was rolling by with Dejay hanging out the window yelling. Moments later I was in a bear hug by Dejay whilst toppling over onto my bike box in the middle of the airport arrival lane. The rest I don't recall too correctly as Dejay was hanging onto my beard and it hurt really bad (guess that's better than someone kicking me in the nuts). Somehow all my stuff made it into the Executor as did I. Picture a Nascar pit stop. I think that's at least what happened (everyone spilling out and grabbing myself and my gear and piling back in). The rest of the night was a bit of a blur except I do recall Mandy arriving at some point and a southwest dinner making its way all over the outside of the Executor (it was not me).

I knew quite a few people coming out to Dejay's race on Saturday but I wound up staying with the Bike29 Contingent (George, Mandy, Emily, Dicky, Keller and myself) as George was graceful enough to square up enough space for our gear, sleeping arrangements and transportation for the weekend. This was one of the big highlights of the weekend. Call it a 'gang'. Call it a 'posse'. Call it the 'Unofficial Bike29 Winter Training Camp'. Whichever way you look at it I was, and continue to be, super stoked to be a part of. George has put together a great group of individuals that have a common love for bicycling. This year is going to be FUN.

Friday morning 'Team Bike29' piled into the Suburban and we made our way over to Bobo's for breakfast. I got word that they will do a bacon chocolate chip pancake and immediately had to have one. When I saw the prices I thought it would be prudent to get two of them but George warned me that one pancake was enough. He was right. It was also very tasty. Definitely have to make these at home one morning.

After breakfast we were looking for a carwash to clean the Executor but due to the sudden cold spell in Tuscon most of the car washes were closed due to frozen pipes (yeah, it got that cold on Thursday). We eventually found one and after multiple passes through the carwash the truck got clean.

With a hearty breakfast digesting we got our bikes together and headed out for my first bike ride in Arizona. Destination: Southeast Tuscon to ride the 'Fantasy Island' trails. Some fast and twisty trails on the outskirts of Davis-Monthan AFB. It was mid-day and the sun was out which helped bring the temps up slightly. I think they were in the 50s (kind of cool for this time in AZ).

The first thing I noticed is how loose the trails are. We're riding in a mixture of sand and stone so yeah... its loose. I traditionally let the tires (in this case WTB Wolverines) carry me through a turn and I lean heavily on the wheels. You can't really do that out in AZ. I found myself sliding out a lot. In a panic from potentially falling I wound up getting too heavy on the brakes and slowing down too much before coming into a turn. By the end of the day I was getting better and was gradually pushing the corners a little at a time. I still never did comfortable with carrying a decent amount of speed through the turns.

Without really knowing the location, you could assume this is the Mexico border.... but, alas, I believe it was the border with the Air Force Base as we were still quite away from Mexico.

Fast, Sweeping turns.

Check out the inside of that turn. Cactus. Yup. This place is riddled with them. Most of them were far enough from the trail where you don't get pricked. It was the shrubbery that would get you. While the shrubbery doesn't have needles it still is kind of rough. Since I have a tendency to lean into turns my arms and legs are now shredded from the shrubbery. More on that tomorrow.

I was playing around with the 8mm camera I have on my iPhone. Enjoy..

Check out that bad boy!

Photo: Emily

The trails are directional here. To maximize the 'fun' factor.

Relatively flat, with mountains in the background. We would see those mountains on Saturday when Dejay put us to his little test.

Photo: Mandy

Later on we grabbed some food for dinner (I forget where) and headed over to the Sky Bar to meet up with Dejay, Mike@Niner and a few other people. We should have recalled 'dejay time' but forgot and arrived almost an hour early. That hour was quite interesting as we saw a gathering of meteorite collectors having some gathering and internet (live) awards ceremony within the bar. Someone else in the bar was hanging out on the couch knitting hats. And a few other people gathered to see stars out on the patio. A very eclectic mix so to speak.

Tomorrow we'll get into the pinnacle of this trip: Singlespeed Arizona. Dejay's pet project through the winter months.

All photos taken by myself unless specified. My photo album from the trip is here.