The Arivaca 400km brevet got off to an auspicious start when the wheel that powers a headlight for my bike showed up at 5pm instead of 10 or 11am making me not get out of town until 630pm once I had gotten the light and wheel set up. After making it past Payson I pulled over and slept for an hour before driving into Casa Grande at 3:45am to get a little breakfast before the 5am ride start.
After starting we got a good pace-line of about 10 riders going out into the dark. Once we reached the Frontage Rd along I-10 I played the "little sister" and called for a pee stop that pretty much everyone took advantage of. At this point 2 more riders caught up to us while we were stopped. We all made good progress along the frontage road working a rotating pace-line because of the head wind. We pulled into the first check-point to find Mike Stugill who provided great support through out the ride.
We pulled out with 10 riders and worked our way towards Saguaro Regional Park and the hills that awaited there. The hills did their number on the on the group and by the time we were rolling down into Tucson we were down to 4. At the check-point in Tucson a couple of others caught up and we were back up to 6 heading out onto Mission Rd into a strong headwind which at times had us down to 2 before we knew it and waiting for the others. In the end 4 of us made it to Green Valley together, I definitely had a bad spot through this section and was glad that the others slowed up a bit.
At the check-point one of our group decided to wait for a friend of his so it was just Stephen K, Roger Peskett and myself rolling out towards Arivaca to battle the ever increasing headwinds. Roger hung with us until the turn onto Arivaca Rd and at that point Stephen soldiered along into the headwind with me doing everything I could to stay on his wheel. Through these last two sections it was a battle to maintain 12 mph or 20 kph (since Stephan is from Calgary). All in all this was pretty demoralizing and the lunch stop in Arivaca was a welcome sight. Wraps, soda, cookies and a V8 were welcomed to the stomach. As we were getting ready to roll out 4 others showed up and we all complained about the conditions.
Mike Stugill spent our time at lunch getting us psyched up for the next section saying it was annoying but not that bad. In truth, compared to what we had gone through in the last 70 miles getting to Arivaca it was down right pleasant until we made a right turn onto 289 and were hit with a wailing tailwind. The next 80 miles or so was spent at or above 20 mph until we hit the dreaded Frontage Rd on the way back. Through much of this Stephen and I rode side by side just talking about all sorts of stuff while the miles rolled by. The sun went down while we were motoring up the hill back through Saguaro Regional Park and the bike lights came back on.
Heading back on the Frontage Rd the wind was more of a cross wind, but in the dark, same as in the morning it really did not seem all that bad, though long and straight. That is until we got near Picacho Peak which caused the wind to funnel through, increase and become very erratic, on the verge of being dangerous to ride in since you would be blown sideways 5 feet by one gust then come to a virtual stand still with the next. I was hopeful that once past Picacho Peak things would get better again and they did though it was more of a cross wind at this point and slowed our progress again relegating me to following Stephen's wheel. After crossing under I-10 it seemed to take forever to reach our turn into Casa Grande, but it eventually came along with a loud series of honks from a passing car that turned out to be another rider, Tammy, being driven back into town after not making it through the headwind out to Arivaca so they were congratulatory and not aggressive, thankfully. Stephen and I rolled back into the Bike shop at the finish at exactly 10pm, 17 hours out, 15 of them on the bike.
All in all there was a lot of self inflicted abuse on the ride just getting out to Arivaca but it was rewarded with a wonderful ride back to Casa Grande. After the hand shakes and thanks to Stephen for letting me sit on his wheel for so much of the ride it was off to In-and-Out to get a burger and shake and get on the road. About an hour later and 10 miles out of Casa Grande the rain started, so a huge congratulations to all that finished in those conditions, they probably made the finish as bad as the headwind on the way out. With all the rain I tried to get a hotel room in Fountain Hills just outside of Phoenix before heading up the hill to Payson but was shut down by a convention going on in town. So I headed up the hill fighting heavy eyes trying to find a road to pull off on and sleep. I found a spot not too far up and crawled into the back of the truck. Here is a photo of what I woke up to in the morning.Driving conditions were terrible for the first couple of hours the next morning with snow covered roads and on occasion near white out conditions. The front wheel of my bike sits just out beyond the side of the truck and this is what it looked like when I stopped to get coffee before getting on I-40.
I hear that you go faster with some extra weight on the wheel to keep it moving around. Here is a short video of the driving conditions, it was like this for about the first 2 hours in the morning, and there were still a few riders finishing the brevet back in Casa Grande, they are the truly burly ones. I was just lucky to beat the rain and near freezing temperatures that they dealt with.
Congratulations to all who finished and attempted the ride and thanks to Stephen Kenny for riding 250km with me, Mike Sturgill for the great ride support and the weather for holding off.