Saturday, November 5, 2011

That was an adventure

When Gene and I do things together without supervision, one of us ends up in mortal danger.  Today, we both just felt like we were dying.

On November 19th we will be a pair of the over 9,000 participants in El Tour de Tucson, the 111 mile version.  Gene has been riding for about three months but had not yet done a century ride.  I'd not done one before three weeks ago.  Neither of us are accomplished riders.  To prepare we decided to explore the route to know how to plan our race day strategies.

Last night a winter storm blew in keeping me up most of the night.  The wind was incredible.  Today was to have a high in the upper 50's with a cool wind throughout the day.  Beautiful riding weather, but a bit chilly for us Arizonans.

We left my in-laws' house at about 8 am (they live just a mile from the race route), and headed south towards downtown Tucson.  A mile from the house I realized I forgot the map.  We turned around and I looked all over the house before finding it ... in my rear pouch.

Again we headed out and froze.  Road spray and puddles, wind and cool desert morning air had us feeling like we were in the lettuce crisper.  The road turned rough and was full of debris blown from last night's storm.  As the day warmed, though, the beauty revealed by the storm would far overshadow our cold first two hours of riding.

We made our way downtown to the race's start, at Armory park.  Riding downtown Tucson is pretty neat as the bike lane is wide, clear and smooth.  As we were leaving Gene's chain jumped off the chain ring, nothing major, but another unplanned stop.  Pretty neat as we turned off of 22nd street we passed a golf cart hauling a trailer.  The driver almost jumped out of his seat due to the shock of a pair of cyclists on his left.

We made our way through the wash (pictured above) and had to stop again a few miles later to clean our cleats to ensure a full engagement with the pedals.  We made our way across the south side of town, traveling west to east when Gene got a flat tire.

As we took the wide route around the south side of the airport we got to watch five F-18's taking off.  The last left a few minutes after the first four and had huge brightly painted missles attached to the wings.  When that plane took off, he really hit the throttle, an impressive show!

We headed north and I missed the turn.  This was entirely my fault, not due to the map being an approximation of the route.  We decided to continue our way and catch the route a few miles up the road.

After eating lunch at mile 50 we headed out again and the ride became stunningly beautiful.  We were at the base of the Rincon mountains.

Our route edged west as the Rincons met the Catalina mountains, Tucson's famous Mt. Lemmon.  The air was so clear, the sky intensely blue.  The asphalt was new, smooth and fast.  And this was the only portion of the day where we had the wind at our backs.

Shortly after this we had real issues with the "map."  The map suggested we turned on a road that didn't exist.  We compared the map to google maps on my phone and ... there were discrepancies.  All in all, we altered our route, for the second time, stopping repeatedly to find roads and figure out street names.  We added a solid 10 miles to ride as we made our way across the north side of Tucson, before hitting Oracle Road.

We climbed steadily up Oracle Road for a considerable distance before turning west.  The mountains were still stunning, but the vistas really began to expand.  The route lead us back west where the valley below opened up with clear views way into Mexico.  What a view!

Eventually we ditched the map and decided to blaze our own trail.  We flew across the desert with the temperature rapidly dropping.  As we neared our finish, an older, large African-American woman in a convertible Mercedes, top down, slowed down beside me.  I looked over at her.  She looked down my legs, then back up to my face and sped off.

All in all, it was a great ride, though a lot hillier than I expected.  I'm looking forward to race day and my goal is to qualify for a gold medal, which is under 6 hours.

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