Paul Zak's Strava activities

Saturday, September 26, 2015

I will be leaving the tour tomorrow

Over the past few days, I've decided that this tour isn't the way I want to see the country and so tomorrow I will part with the ride. The schedule is, of necessity fixed and there is limited opportunity to see the things I'd want to see. Clearly I can keep up with the riders but I've been forced to ask myself why I'd want to.

It's never been about making the milage on a schedule or about getting to St Augustine, Florida. I naively thought I'd get to see more than in a car or plane.

The path this ride takes is often, of necessity, heavily traveled truck routes. If this were a passion I could justify the risk, but merely being able to say I biked across the country and didn't see much because of the demanding schedule doesn't justify this risk for me.

Adventure Cycling published a perfectly accurate description of the ride. It is exactly as they said it would be; a ride with a fixed schedule for the experienced and self sufficient rider. Any misjudgment is mine alone. The leader is seasoned and conducted all phases of the tour in an appropriate and professional way.

For the great and passionate folks who continue, I will miss them and wish them all the best and above all, a safe ride.

Monday I'll be able to rent a car, I expect to be back in the Bay Area by Wednesday or so.

81 miles and a broken spoke in Fort Thomas, AZ

At the 60 mile mark, we stopped at the Dollar General in Fort Thomas to have something to drink and I heard a ping. A front spoke broke. Better while stopped than while moving. Not really the highpoint of anyone's ride.

A broken spoke can cause a wheel to 'taco' and it is as bad as it sounds. If you're moving, you can go down. So thankfully it happened while sitting in the hot sun not going anywhere.

Then there is the problem of what to do next. Thankfully I carry a kevlar spoke which is a piece of very strong string and a fitting which screws into the spoke. I've never used one before but I'd heard good things.

It got me the 20 miles to town and an open bike shop. The very nice owner replaced the spoke, trued the wheel and sold me a tube of chain lube for $18. A bargain. They are closed on Sunday so I had to cycle like the wind to get there in time. Today is Saturday. I'm exhausted.

At least we're in an air conditioned rec center tonight. Hopefully I will be able to sleep better than last night. While the facility was nice, it got noisy. There were coyotes, drunks, dogs and motorcyclists. The sodium lighting made it as bright as day. I'm not sure anyone slept.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Globe, a thriving little town

Globe is a happening place. It supposedly has a population of 1600 but you couldn't tell from the Walmart, the dance and Marshall arts studios and banks. Road construction is booming here too. I saw a very large Republican headquarters, Democrats, not  brave enough to have a storefront? Or perhaps there just aren't any.

This afternoon we find ourselves in a very nice community center/park. The town has opened up the pool shower room and allows us to camp on a nice, flat grassy area. It's as good as camping can get!

There is a small archeological site here so since I'm all cleaned up, it's time to go exploring.

Tomorrow's ride to Safford, AZ is supposed to be 81 miles, but without most of the climbing we did today. No word yet on the relative safety of this segment, but it's pretty clear that AZ highway 60 is rough in places.

Lunch was a veggie omelet and a gallon of ice tea. The nice waitress says they get a lot of bicyclists. Apparently some part of the economy appreciates having us pass through.

One last thing about today's ride. We passed at least 2 very large open pit copper mines. One seemed to have some ore processing going on. In town, there are the expected urgent care offices along with company hiring, training offices and associated support companies.

Most dangerous part of ride so far

If I'd known what this morning's ride was going to be like, I wouldn't have done it.

Highway 60 out of Superior is largely uphill and under construction. There is a tunnel 2 miles out of town with a passing lane which was closed. This road has heavy truck and support vehicles. They move fast and many of the drivers are impatient and intolerant of bike traffic. At one point, it was so bad that I just leaned into the guard rail and stopped to avoid the tires only a foot or a foot and a half away from me. Some drivers want to make a point. Point taken.

I have never felt more exposed or in jeopardy and hope never to feel that way again. This part of the ride should be bridged by rental vehicle or other means, at least until construction is complete.

One of our group who's been struggling has apparently been told she needs to find alternate transportation out. Her ride is over. She's a very sweet and passionate lady who wanted very badly to complete this ride.

Unfortunately, she came without basic skills or abilities to do the ride. She was initially unable to change a flat or shift competently. She admitted not having trained for the ride and walked the hills. The heat caused even more trouble. She caught rides on many days. The leader worked with her until it became obvious that this just wasn't going to work.

The ride is a passion for many of the folks on this trip. For me, it's a lark. Fun to see new things, but not a bucket list item.

This would be a stupid way to die or get hurt.

I'm in Globe now, about 8 miles from the campsite.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

One order of WiFi please, hold the bedbugs

I added a 10 mile loop to today's 65 mile ride for a total of 75. I just missed a turn and would up in Chandler. Then I had to work my way back to the proper course. All in all it probably only added an hour to the day's ride.

It's been particularly hot out here, certainly over 100°F but it's hard to say how much. Once the road heats up you're pretty much in an oven.

The goal has been to get out as early as possible but Adventure Cycling has a rule about not riding in the dark. We are warned daily that this is contrary to the rules, but there is little choice but to ride. I was on the road at 5:08 this morning and pulled in to Superior AZ about 1:30 pm. That's something on the order of 11 miles per hour which is about right for me on this bike, loaded.

The country is beautiful, but we climbed quite a bit in the last 10 miles, at the hottest part of the ride. Those last 3 miles were hard. I drink water continually but when I rolled into town I drank another 3 x 36 oz cold drinks. I am continually amazed by how much water it takes to stay hydrated in the desert.

I was able to get a private room at today's stop. Bunking with 8 other guys is a serious plain in the ass. I've had my fill of the homophobic shit, the farting and what ever else passes for bunkhouse humor. I'd have thought the presence of three women would tone it down a bit but it doesn't seem to be working that way on this trip.

This motel was a last minute replacement because the campground we were to stay in closed. Because this is a high class outfit, the leader sprang for only enough beds for 2 to a queen sized bed. In reality, I expect people chose for the bed and some got the floor. This trip is all about roughing it.  I had no idea how rough it could get. I'd rather be in a tent except for the heat. It doesn't cool off till very late in the evening.

Folks are breaking things and shipping stuff home. Yesterday in Phoenix, a large contingent went on pilgrimage to REI to replace heavy stuff with lite.

I am purging, not purchasing. I can still trim more and it makes sense to do it earlier rather than later.

We do a bit of serious climbing tomorrow from Superior to Globe but thankfully most will be in the cool of the day.

These towns all appear to be hanging on by a thread. This town has a copper mine which reopened recently, but a fluctuating copper price is playing havoc with the local economy.

There is a thing which motels and campgrounds do which is pretty tacky relative to their advertised WiFi access. They provide a password but fully half the time it doesn't connect. Then they shrug their shoulders and say it works for them. I have a phone and a tablet and there must be another 10 - 15 devices throughout the group. We can't all have misbehaving devices. In truth, these places aren't even up to the high standards of a Motel 6. I'm pretty certain that I'll wind up with bedbugs at some point but bedbugs with WiFi is better than bedbugs without, if you see my reasoning.

I'm spoiled. I know this low end mad-dash of southern US won't kill me, but it's a little madder than I'd imagined. I'm wondering if an exit in Austin might be a thing to do. I could spend 2 or 3 days by a pool considering my situation and then proceed along the same route, but at my pace. I don't need to get to St Augustine, ever but I do want to get to Linda's parents in Zepher Hills. If I divert rather than go to S.A. I could save something like 5 days of riding. I could make my way from Austin to Zepher Hills at a slower pace staying in a few towns for a couple of days each. That's the theory at least.

I'm not entirely sure I understand the point of speeding across the country on a bicycle. I'm feeling rushed. Perhaps getting through the west quickly is the best way to do it. But once I'm in the south, it would be nice to see something, eat something other than carbs and maybe hear some music. The breakneck speed of this tour precludes much of this.

It's not going to take much convincing. I just need to work out the dates.

Linda gets to ZH on November 14. It would be nice to get their on or before then. I think I can work it out.

More after I look at a calendar.

WiFi courtesy of the local public library!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Someone is sleeping in my bed. No really.

I must need a karma adjustment. Someone moved my stuff and went to sleep in my bunk. These are the indignities of travel like this. Kind of nervie, huh?

The biking is not all that complicated or difficult. The people part is not easy or intuitive.

The old saw: 'Family stinks like fish after 3 days.'

What's the time period for biking acquaintances sleeping in the same room?

The rain has come to Phoenix

It has just started pouring in downtown Phoenix the likes of which I haven't seen in a while. Some of us got to the hostel before noon and went exploring others napped. I'm on foot, downtown looking for dinner but I'm pinned down in the doorway of an office building. The temperature has dropped to a very comfortable level but I'm getting hungrier.

We rode from Wickenburg to Phoenix today. 59 miles, mostly level or downhill but with a slight headwind.

The route took us on a series of bike trails which led us about 20 miles into town. Kudos for an extensive and well maintained bike path system.

The transit system is also quite good. I've bought an all day pass and probably will again tomorrow for the rest day.

Send your suggestions for what to do if you know Phoenix.

Wickenburg was a very pleasant time. I went for a walk and found a hole in the wall Mexican restaurant for dinner. I'm developing a reputation for going it alone. When I include people, they decline so I've stopped offering. Many seem to want to be led. Perhaps they figure they paid for the food so they should never range far from the floating kitchen. 16 bikes can carry an impressive amount of food.

Last night's map meeting was a train wreck. No amount of explanation was sufficient for some. For gods sake, these people are traveling cross country on bikes. They need to do some navigation! The maps we have are outstanding and the specific detail related to the hostel's location were flawless.

Most folks are intelligent and competent. A few, shall we say, are interesting characters.

The rain is still coming down but the grumble in my stomach is drawing attention. Time to weather the storm and find a tavern with an alcoholic beverage or two.