Arizona Trail – Day 1 on a Mountain Bike
June 18, 2018
April 7 – Start of the Arizona Trail Race
Friday – Race day Goal – No rest till Kentucky Camp
My mom had brought Cinnamon Rice Chex as a special breakfast treat. Thanks, mom!
We packed up and made the drive from Sonoita, AZ to Parker Canyon Lake. I wasn’t the last person to show up, but I was cutting it really close. Aunt Tish didn’t make it out of the truck to wish me off. My mom, Becky, took a few photos and wished me well. After the standard prep talk from Scott, the pack is off.
I give my last goodbyes and head off into the Canelo Hills. This year starting on time afforded me the opportunity to ride with a lot of different riders. A lot of riders complimented me on the Triumph Over Kid Cancer frame bag. This was a prime opportunity to let folks know why I was out on the trail.
Casper from Denmark and I seemed to play tag all through the east hills. Good news, I didn’t seem to have weak lungs like I did in this section of the ride last year.
A few miles in I learn that my bag test the day before was not thorough enough. I was questioned with a group of riders about a missing orange bag. Yes, I was the owner of the lost orange bag. I really didn’t believe the rider when they said someone had it and was bringing it up the trail. I had just put my bike down and was ready to head back down the trail when I saw Jeff Hanson and his wife Jennifer coming up to greet me with my handlebar bag. I was grateful.
Riding in a group had its benefits and drawbacks. I had plenty of water and knew a waterhole was getting close. I wanted to be sure to always keep 1 liter of water until I made it to the next refuel stop. So I missed a water spot I used last year.
In the next mile, I found a small pool of suspect water. This water was not flowing so I used my tabs to treat it before loading it into my hydration pack and sending it through my Sawyer mini. I chose to put the Sawyer inline this year so I had immediate access to water. On my 2016 ride, there were too many times where the 35 min tablet wait was a pain to deal with. The Sawyer allowed me to scoop my bladder into a pool of water, hook up my water line and start to drink. This would also work as a gravity filter. I could just hang my bag in a tree and let it drop into my bottles.
By mid-day, I kept passing riders hiding in bushes. I couldn’t blame them. It was hot on the trail. Last year I hit Patagonia 5 minutes after the stores closed. This could not happen this year. The Canelo west trailhead hosted 4 or 5 resting riders. one rider asked me something like “How’s it feel to kick the Canelos in the ass?” I let him know it was the other way around.
Canelos west meant fewer riders yet an easier ride despite the gusty winds. You get out on the trail and feel all alone. There might be riders out there but you don’t see or hear anything. Around 5 I hopped off trail to take care of some bush business.
If you are ever feeling lonely or need to see someone just stop off trail for a #2 … someone will show up.
The need for water
Down Under Tank 03-035a (Mile 18) was my next water stop. I had a mission this year. I missed the cement damn with the pipe that feed off the bottom Trap Tank. It was a minor victory, but I was glad I found it. Very nice and cold water off the bottom of the stock tank. As I was topping off I met a fellow Texas rider named Don Schwieters (750). He quickly earned my respect for being a Tour Divide 2016 finisher with the time of 29:07:58. Congrats on that achievement Sir. Don’s AZTR750 time was 13:08:25. Congratulation on that achievement also.
Evaporative Cooling – My best friend in the desert
If I was stopping for water I would fill up to capacity and then work on cooling off my body. My hometown is so humid I never get to take advantage of the body’s natural ability to cool itself. On the trail I got into a routine of taking off my long sleeve shirt, soaking it in water and putting it back on. I would also wet my hair to enjoy the cooling effect. This helped me lower my body temp so I could push on in the heat of the afternoon.
The Canellos – Translation – what bicycle tire nightmares are made of.
Mile 20.5 – sidewall gash – Orange Seal to the rescue. This was larger than my cut from last year. Stan’s couldn’t seal that one, so I knew a tube was in my near future. Orange Seal, do your thing to my front tire, please. I really didn’t want to use up a spare tube and lose my sealant setup. I pulled my front wheel and placed it where the cut was face down in the dirt. I was hoping the dirt from the outside and the sealant from the inside would make a bond. It did and I was back on the trail. I strolled off the trail to a mine opening and waited for the fix to work.
It worked! After pumping a bit more air in I was back on the trail. It wasn’t long before my slacker riding got me in trouble. It was just a little sidewall rub but it was at the perfect spot to rub off my dirt seal. Once again, off the bike yanking a front wheel out of the forks while pulling for a superglue pack. Waiting for the glue to set I kept placing bets in my head of how long this might last.
Getting back to civilization
The ride to Patagonia was pleasant. I was a bit surprised when the trail ran out and I was on the blacktop. All this happening when the sun was still up. Wow.
The women with the white dress on?
As I was on the blacktop heading into town I saw a greenhouse farm and then looked up to see an angelic woman walking in my direction. This same scene was repeated a 1/2 mile later. So if someone knows where the ladies in all white are going please let me know. It was intriguing to me.
In Patagonia, mom and aunt were ringing a bell and cheering me on. Well, my mom was, my aunt didn’t seem herself. Not at all.
Once in town, hit up the Velvet Elvis for a large hot plate of spicy spaghetti.
Next door, the Mercantile had a few rides hanging out cursing the Conelos, but today it was not the Conelos that was the problem but the heat.`As riders would come to the store I would hop up from the restaurant and go trade war stories. I was hoping my 2016 riding buddy Steve would show up. He never showed up.
After night fall
My sidewall gash was letting air out of my tire but I chose to air it up and ride to Sonoita, Arizona. Becky and Tish were staying another night at the Xanadu Guest Ranch and I knew it was an option for good rest. During my 12 mile ride to Sonoita, I had made a change of plans. Sleep 3 hours at the ranch and then head out to Kentucky Camp. I made the ranch 3 hours earlier than I did the year before.
I walk into the room and quickly notice it feels like an inferno. Tish was shivering and could not get warm. Mom pulled me to the side and said she had booked Tish on the first flight to Texas the next morning. They tried to get into a clinic but couldn’t get an appointment.
Overall I was feeling good at this point. I grabbed a shower and put on my camp clothes. It was bedtime. Around 2 am someone is waking me up. What the hell? This is a bed for one. It was Tish. She wasn’t talking to clear and when I asked if she was climbing into my bed she just mumbled and made herself at home. Long story short Becky was alarmed and a few moments later we called 911 thinking Tish was having dying on us. It freaked me out so it was back in the truck and we headed off to the hospital in Sierra Vista.
I was taxed with the job of calling loved ones sharing the bad news.
Well, what about your race? They all asked.
To hell with the race, that old trail will always be there. I can come and ride it another time. I was seriously shaken by the shape my aunt was in.
We trailed the ambulance and fire crew to the hospital. The doctors ran some test, rehydrated and boosted up her potassium levels.
After a few hours, she started to make complete sentences and could walk again. They ran a culture but would not have results for a few days so they let her go. She didn’t seem perfect, but she didn’t stroke out so I felt like continuing my effort on the AZT.
Day 1’s sidewall gash had grown a stalactite overnight. I noticed when I started riding and something was ticking the fork on every rotation.
We traveled back to Xanadu so I could get back on the bike. A quick stop for a food order at The Chuck-wagon and I was off into the wind at 10:30 am. Despite the stroke scare, the trip to the hospital, and really slow food service, I was still ahead of the game by 3 hours.