Thursday, April 26, 2007

Day 4 Wickenburg, AZ to Cottonwood, AZ 102 miles & 11,000 feet of elevation gain

We started with a buffet breakfast at the Golden Nugget at 5:30 AM. Mike went over the route sheet and warned us about the descents, especially the last one of the day. It is important to make sure everything is tight before you head down, as the bike can wobble and cause stuff to fall off at high speeds … not good. He gave the example of a jacket flying off and covering the face of the rider behind … very dangerous.

Jerry and I were one of the first to load after breakfast and then hit the road … at about 6:30 AM or so. The first 15 miles or so were pretty uneventful. We passed a few of the riders who had pre-loaded – Vic & Pam, and then Phil & Kate. We catch Phil & then Kate as we start up the first big climb … up to Yarnell Pass at 4,850 feet. We climb and climb and climb … over 8 miles. On the way up we get passed by a bunch of the faster riders. At the top the van is there and riders milling about, getting pictures, watering the bushes, and general chit chat. Jerry, Ken, & I take off. We stick with Ken for 12 miles or so, then we fade back as we ride across a valley. It seems to take forever, and was awfully hard. A few of the faster riders again passed us by. When we get to the first Sag stop of the day and look back, it wasn’t flat at all, but definitely up a long, long hill. The sag stop was a welcome sight! We have a quick lunch and then are off to the second big climb of the day.

By Prescott, four or five riders have again passed us by. We weave our way through town and a very confusing route through a campus to avoid a dangerous intersection. At the end of it we turn the wrong way … south instead of north. Could have been a major problem, but we catch it right away and head back north. Soon we get to the second (last) sag stop of the day …we get there just before Barbara pulls in. A few minutes later other riders pull in … they had stopped in Prescott. Refueled, we head off for the last big climb … up to 7,023 feet. It seems to take forever, but we make it … with three of the riders who passed us just before the top there resting. As I pull in by the 7,023 foot sign … I keel over. My foot got caught in the pedal … my legs being too tired to yank it out. Aside from pride, no damage was done. We take photos at the sign and head off down the mountain after checking the bikes.

Wow! What a descent. The faster three pull away, but Jerry & I are still doing 35 – 40 mph. A couple of miles down, Jerry’s water bottle flies out – fortunately not in anybody’s way. We round the bend into Verde Valley and gust of wind slows us way, way down. Scary. We go on to the town of Jerome … not just a hole in the wall but a town in the side of the hill. We stop and have a Haunted Burger … very good! Soon the place fills up with most of the rest of the group. We still have 10 miles to go and lots more descending. I don’t know if I’ve ever gone that fast on a bike. It was fun ! A bit scary too! We pull into the motel as Barbara is finishing at the front desk. It felt good to be among the first finishers (Jeff was the first one in) on such a tough day.

After a shower, I get my gallon of water, a Gatorade & Mounds bar, then go and start writing the journal. Later, it’s off to KFC for a Mashed Potato Bowl and an Odwalla smoothie.

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