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On Sunday we packed up the Kia and picked up a friend to go down to Mexico for a women’s only mountain bike event.  Jen was invited by the Director of the Chupacabras Organization.  It was a fund raiser for a girls’ orphanage so Jen was more than happy to pay the $15 registration fee.  That’s right.  $15.  No license required.  There seemed to be around 100 women at the start line.  It may have been closer to 80 or so, but that’s a hell of a lot more women than we get at MOST races in the US.  The Puzzler had 4 women contest the 50 miler and maybe 10 in the other categories.

After getting off course twice and putting in some 2+ miles of bonus single track, Jen finally finished with a flat and another win.  It was very windy and pretty cold out so Connor and I hung out in the car most of the time.   The ladies looked to be having a blast.  All sizes and ages.  When I say all sizes, I mean it.  There were some bikes out that were put to their limit.  That was great to see as those women need mountain biking more than anything.

You count 'em.  Seems like a lot to me.

You count ’em. Seems like a lot to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'm the worst action photographer ever....a 6 year old camera doesn't help much.

I’m the worst action photographer ever….a 6 year old camera doesn’t help much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After Jen finished, I kitted up and rode Fargazmo back across the border.  I rode the descent to the now white Jesus statue (it used to be black) and then took the new’ish road to Anapra then west to the Santa Theresa crossing.  Anapra is the poorest area of Juarez.  Since they recently got pavement, the weekend street mercado was NUTS!

It was like this for about a mile.  Jen took this from inside the car.

It was like this for about a mile. Jen took this from inside the car.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I continued along the highway and was passed by only 4 vehicles.  After crossing and having a pleasant conversation with a very cocky DHS officer, I waited inside the gate for Jen so I could give her my hoodie.  I had no room for a XL cotton hoodie in my bike bags.  I was there for about 5 minutes and then some DHS guys got out of the truck that was about 30 feet from me and asked if I needed any help.  I told them I was waiting for someone who drove and he told me I couldn’t be there and had to leave the fenced area.  Seriously?  It took him over 5 minutes to figure that out?

After Jen got through, I handed off my hoodie and proceeded to put in about 55 more miles.  I hopped on the Rio levee and rode up to Berino and then over 404 back to the house.  I put my new dyno to use and took my phone from about 35% to almost 100%.  I also had an Ayup battery plugged in with it, but it didn’t seem to take a charge.  I’m not sure I can charge two things at once.  The electronics class at my high school built the unit for me, but didn’t really listen or read what spec’s I provided them.  I ended up reworking it and installing a USB female connection and the Ayup port myself.

Android, USB, and Ayup connectors.

Android, USB, and Ayup connectors.

 

Used a spare Ayup charger for the case.

Used a spare Ayup charger for the case.

Hub unit laced to a Blunt SL.  It feels rough when you turn the axle with your hand but it spins smoothly when you roll it attached to the bike.  Niner RDO fork is pretty sweet too.

Hub unit laced to a Blunt SL. It feels rough when you turn the axle with your hand but it spins smoothly when you roll it attached to the bike. Niner RDO TA fork is pretty sweet too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I ended up spending most of the afternoon building the tank bag for Fargazmo.  It turned out okay.  I had an idea what I wanted and sketched out the dimensions and just kind of winged it from there.

Storm flapped zippers.

Storm flapped zippers.

The window vinyl was kind of an after-thought, but it works great.

The window vinyl was kind of an after-thought, but it works great.

More than enough room inside and I may put in another divider or move the one I put in there.

More than enough room inside and I may put in another divider or move the one I put in there.

Nice little cable port.  Might fill that with glue or something to keep it from leaking.

Nice little cable port. Might fill that with glue or something to keep it from leaking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is on straight.   Remember that I had Walt put water bottle bolts on top so I could mount this on there.  I’m pretty stoked that it works.  Now I need to widen up the frame bag a bit as I built it too narrow.  I didn’t use velcro partitions either and my customers seem to be digging the ability to widen or narrow the bag with a velcro partition.  Plus, it’s much easier to make a multi-compartment frame bag with velcro for the partition.

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If you are regular reader of my blog, you will notice that my most recent entries are gone.  Apparently I really did hurt some people with my words.  Maybe my comments towards the overweight crowd were a bit much.   Instead of trying to edit those entries, I took them down.  Consider it a form of an apology.  I’m sorry I offended some people.

I have always had difficulty expressing myself in regards to the issues of obesity.  Living in El Paso hasn’t helped.  Being a graduate student under a “fat racist” (one who is discriminatory towards obese people) didn’t help much either.  I should be more sympathetic, especially after watching a season of Biggest Loser a few years back.  Jillian would pry and pry until she made a contestant crack.  By crack, I mean that she would continue either antagonizing or interrogating the person until some horrible life experience came pouring out of the person.  After the moment of clarity from the contestant, the pounds melted away.  15 pounds the next week, 11 the week after, 13 another week.  Ridiculous.  One little instance of childhood misunderstanding,  one poorly communicated issue, one accident….usually something related to a really bad episode in that person’s life (a death of a relative, sexual abuse, getting dumped, loss of a job) was the cause for obesity.  Not genetics.  Not laziness.  Not even a lack of education.  I truly hope that the reason for most of the obese people I come into contact on a daily basis is not something like that.  Horrible.  And by hoping that, I go back to my standard thinking of…well, those people’s lifestyles suck ass and they need to get off their gigantic ass, stop eating junk food, get out of their four wheel coffin, and ride a damn bike!  While that could solve the problem, it takes a lot more than just thinking that way hoping that telepathically that person is going to hear me and actually do something.  It requires education, motivation, a little bit of money (bikes aren’t cheap and the cheap ones ain’t gonna cut it under a 350 pounder), and a lot of support from friends and family.

My attitude may be similar in regards to mountain biking.  I sometimes forget that I’ve been riding mountain bikes for 31 years.  I was in my early 20’s when I got into mountain bike advocacy.  Mountain biking at a high level (at least technically) came early.  After moving west from the technical slime stone, roots, logs, and boulders of the Appalachians, I sought out more gnar.  Out west this was either provided via massive increases in speed or through insane trails in locations in southern Utah, Arizona, or Colorado.  A trip to Whistler definitely didn’t do anything to satiate my desire for more gnar.  Singletrack that demands skill, strength, and endurance to enjoy is what I thrive on.  But not everyone is into that kind of stuff.  My inability (or reluctance) to accept that hasn’t helped me in the past couple of years in regards to moving forward with the scene here in El Paso.

Six years at the helm of the BMBA.  That’s a long time.  Why anyone would want to be the president of anything for that long?  I think my timing was off.  Brent Sanders and I brought out of the ashes a club that had turned into a Thursday night social club…..ride then drink.  We turned it into an advocacy group at the right time.  I don’t really think anybody in the group knew what the hell we were doing and I know that we all felt like we were maneuvering in waist deep mud when it came to getting things done.  Puzzler…..piece of cake.  Kind of.  A bit of stress and race weekend event management left us more exhausted than racing the 50.  Guaranteed.  I raced it this year.  I know.  New trails…..thanks to Robert Newman and a bit of money from Stanley Jobe….piece of cake.  Well….maybe a bunch of callouses and a few sore backs, but pretty cut and dry.  Get your ass out to the trail with a trail tool and a buddy, work your ass off and don’t quit until it’s finished.  Parking lot/trailhead.  Whoa.  Did any of us do any hard labor out there?  I think we had someone else do everything including installation of the kiosk.  The hard part was dealing with the city and finding people willing to do all the other crap.  Without Dr. Rick Bonart, that thing would have never happened.  Would it be a big loss if it hadn’t happened?  Hell no.  We’d still be parking on the street somewhere, cutting new trail through whatever new development, and continue bitching about all the houses that get built out there.  That project was a pain in the ass.  Lots of frustrating email exchanges, lots of trips to city offices by Steve Ainsa and others, and finally, it was completed.  I don’t want to know how Dr. Bonart got it done, it just seemed like too much of a pain in the ass to me…..and I don’t like driving to the trails when I’m perfectly capable of riding there.

I personally think that we made a mistake putting in that trailhead.  I think that by doing so, we set a precedence for our city planners/doers that they don’t have to do anything since we’ll do it for them.  We need trailheads more than anything else….well….except maybe signage at Redd Rd.

My vision was mostly for better trails.  The Lower Sunset reroute and the northern pass to Hitt Canyon are just slight scratches to the surface of my big ideas.  I was super stoked about those routes coming to fruition and I think most mountain bikers (at least those capable of riding that far) feel the same way.  They are incredible routes.  And this is where my bad timing comes in.

I now see that maybe we need to focus on the other riders.  Those just getting into the sport.  Those who don’t know how to read a map, load a gps or smartphone with a route, or are willing to risk doubling their outing time due to a wrong turn.  Maybe it’s time we focus on them more.  I can’t say it’s never been in the club’s master plan.  I can’t say that I’ve never mentioned those things a million times…..well maybe only a thousand times.   I think that my timing isn’t right.  I think that maybe in 10 years, if I’m still living here and all those other things get done, then it will be time to move forward on my vision of mountain biking in El Paso.

So you may be asking yourself, “What’s the problem Big Dave?  Why aren’t you willing to guide the club in that direction?  Why aren’t you willing to push for those things that are less visionary?”   I could care less about trail signs and parking lots.  To me, that takes away from what I like about mountain biking.  “But Big Dave, you even said that we need those things…trailheads, signage, skills park, etc.  Why don’t you continue forward with those plans?”

My question for you is, “Why don’t YOU move forward and do that?”  I had a guy tell me recently, “We need a Saturday race series here.”  I said, “Hell yeah we do! Why don’t you start one?”  He didn’t like that response.  Lots of people have lots of really good ideas.  When it comes down to it, only a few have the time, or are willing to make the time to do the things that make our community a better place.  I probably could squeeze in the time to keep this club rolling.  Hell, I’ve done very little in regards to anything club related in the last couple of years anyway, so why get out now?  That’s just it.  I’ve done very little and I know so much more can be done.  I need out for a while.  We need someone else to motivate the mountain bikers of El Paso to go to city council meetings (with a 90% chance that you will totally be wasting your time), show up for trail building and maintenance, lead ride clinics, volunteer for races, draw up plans for parking lots, apply for city permits, manage emails, communicate with IMBA, and so on.  I feel like I’m not doing it effectively and with my attitude over the past few months, I need to step out for an undetermined amount of time.

Hopefully someone will step in.  I’m hoping that someone shows up to our club meeting Tuesday night at 6 at Ardovino’s on Sean Haggerty.  FYI, for all you Redd Rd. riders out there, that’s in the Northeast.  Even if you aren’t a paid member, if you love mountain biking half as much as I do, please come to the meeting.  It might motivate you to do more.

I just took a look at my comments and one from September 2013 noted that my CTR ride report ended at day 2.  Whoa!  I’m pretty sure I wrote the entire thing.  Computers suck.  Or else I just didn’t notice that it didn’t post.  Funny (maybe a little sad) that nobody said anything until over a year after.

So…..go back to the Colorado Trail…..WOW! for the rest of the story.

 

 

A few years ago, my mom told me about the Palmetto Trail, a trail route stretching across the state of South Carolina.  Over the past few years, the Palmetto Trail Conservation has worked to put in as much trail as possible, link it up as best as possible, and present it as a traverse of the Palmetto State.  For those of you who don’t know, I grew up in SC….1st grade through high school.  I grew up in the Lowcountry where it is pancake flat, swampy, marshy, and the roads are heavily traveled by people who aren’t necessarily in a rush, but they drive like maniacs.  Owning a mountain bike in 1983 meant hitting up defunct rail lines and woodsy play areas where the BMX’ers hung out.  I did make it to the Upstate a couple of times to ride, and even up into North Carolina where I rode in the Smokey Mountain National Park before it was illegal to do so.  My first visit to the Nantahala Outdoor Center was so early in the sport, there was one Stumpjumper parked outside the shop, and one inside.  The shop was closed….for lunch or something.

Here I am 30 years later.  A few emails and forum posts and I’ve got a full gps track of the Palmetto Trail.  I never heard back from these guys (college people tend to come and go).  A bit of nervous fretting began to occur as I first acquired a SPOT recorded track from this guy in Asheville.  SPOTs only send out a signal every 10 minutes or so.  Needless to say, this track was almost worthless.  I sold a seat bag to a guy in Greenville….Mark Sackett the current Trans North Georgia SS honch.  He emailed me with a phone number and said he had info on the PT.  He also emailed me a gps track of his ride from this past summer (’13).  UGLY.  Apparently he and a buddy gave the route a go starting in Spartanburg during some pretty massive rain storms.  His track had probably 25 spots where he went into the trail, but then had to back out and detour.  Not pretty at all.  He also had to bypass most of the passages in the Lowcountry.  Finally, I got a call from Steve Collum (he was a Vulcan operator with Air Defense here at Ft. Bliss) who is the lead cartographer for the PT Conservation.  YAY!  He had delayed contacting me because he was connecting all the trail passages with road and working up suitable bypasses for me around passages closed to bikes and around areas that are exceptionally swampy right now…just for me!  This came in the form of a Google kml file which I had to put into Topofusion, fiddle with a little more, contact Topofusion developer/owner Scott Morris, fiddle with even more, then finally…I had a complete .gpx file for my gps. I will be traveling in the opposite direction indicated by the arrows.

pt pic

 

 

 

 

 

Now I don’t have to carry all of these….and that doesn’t include the other sheets, one for each map, that give other details to the passage.

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I do have a small bit of paper….the cue sheet you see to the side in the picture above and the weight weenie’d state map shown below….with all chances of a side trip to visit Dicky cut out of the picture.

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I was hoping this bad boy would be here by now.

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I’m kind of glad it’s not here yet as I’m sure I would have pulled several all-nighters making bags for it and getting it all dialed.  Instead, I just stayed up late a couple of nights getting Dirty Girl packed up and also packing up Jen’s road bike to send back to SC for the 10 days we’ll be there.  Dirty Girl got some new brakes, smaller rotors, new tires, and some extra parts to help with all the flatness.

So here are the plans:

Plan A – If weather is good (no snow or rain in the Upcountry), I will ride the first 3 miles of open trail at the western terminus of the PT starting on the 27th.  I’ll then take the Cherokee Scenic Parkway for close to 70 miles or so to more trail near Spartanburg and hopefully complete the route by the 30th.

Plan B – If weather isn’t looking so good in the Upstate, I’ll start on the 28th (maybe the 27th still if the weather looks better that day) closer to Spartanburg….skipping that huge road section that bypasses the Wilderness.

If things start to look too sloppy in the Lowcountry, I’ll see how long I can tolerate the roads before I call one of my parents to aid in my abortion of the ride (that sounds so wrong).  I’m hoping things stay sunny and dry and I’ll see nothing but rainbows and unicorns (more likely to be Texas wheel chairs and Phil wannabes) in route to Buck Hall Landing on the coast just a few miles north of my Dad’s place.  My mom is pretty pissed that I won’t stop back at her place on the way down as she only lives about 5 miles off route.  She doesn’t get it.  I am trying to put down a fairly fast time and I want to give the PT Conservation feedback on their route as seen from a very jaded mountain biker with a little bit of experience under his belt.

Wish me luck.

Some of you may know that I started a little garage business making bikepacking bags, odds and ends, and doing gear repair.  It’s been a lot of fun and after cranking out some batches of the smaller tank bags, I’ve decided to back off and focus on the custom frame bags.  I’ll still make everything else, but I won’t be killing myself to keep an on-hand inventory.  I love making the frame bags.  The features I put into them are pretty cool.  My competitor(s) don’t know what the hell they are doing in regards to the most important part, so I’ll capitalize on that aspect and build my reputation one customer at a time.

If you’ve been following my Nuke Sunrise Facebook page, then you’ve been seeing much of what I do.  You’ll start to see more stuff here.   I’ve got something really big planned for this summer.  The shop will definitely be closed for the first half of the summer…..maybe the entire summer again.  I feel the need to blog a little more in order to keep track of some thoughts/ideas and to kind of “put it out there” so I’m more motivated to reach success in my endeavor(s).

Stay tuned here to see what’s up.  It includes a new bike, new bags, big miles, east coast, big views…yadda yadda yadda.

The weekend before AZT, Jen and I decided to give the 12 Hours of the Wild West a second go ’round.  The inaugural year was pretty fun with a fast course, despite a nasty head wind on the final descent.  We had a babysitter that year with my mom joining us for some help with the C-man.  We took the win in the coed category that year and we were third overall.

This year Jen was pretty motivated to do this race again.  I figured it would be a good, albeit late, tune up for AZT.  With no babysitter and Connor in a pretty new cast on his lower leg, we were a bit nervous as to how this race was going to end up.  When Jen registered us, she mentioned that she wanted to win the whole thing.  I figured it would be possible as long as no 4 person male teams were too stacked and Connor understood that he wasn’t going to get much attention.

We got to the venue near Ft. Stanton, NM and set up in the gravel parking lot right near the timing tent.  Jen got out for a pre-ride and I just chilled with the C-man checking out some of the other rigs at the race.  The weather was perfect with only a slight wind/breeze.  The course was much longer than the first year and we were looking forward to getting in a few miles.family photo 12 hour wild west 2013

Since there was no Lemans start, I went first.  I put it in cruise control and let Paul Pacillas lead things out.  I kept it rolling on the second lap and put in a chase for Paul’s teammate Jay.  I was reeling Jay in when my chain started skipping on my cogs.  Uggh.  That’s what I get for thinking all my wheels/cassettes are worn about the same.

I held my position in the race and handed off to Jen.  Jen came back with a pretty substantial gap on the leading team and I switched over to my Superfly 100 which was set up with a 32×21.  It was a bit easy for the course, but I made it work.  What sucked was that the brakes on that bike have been getting louder and louder.  I cleaned them, lubed them, did a bleed on them, put factory pads in, tried different rotors….no difference.  Howled like a wolf who had just smoked a pack of camels.  Oh well….brakes only slow you down.

jen finish 12 hour wild west 2013

Our lead grew throughout the day and we ended up finishing up in less than 11 hours with the overall win.  Jen put in lap times that were equal to mine….and where much faster than the slowest members of our opposing teams.  The longer laps were definitely beneficial to us with lap times of 1:10 or so.  Some riders took almost 2 hours to get in a lap.  My suggestion to the race promoter was to stick with a slightly shorter lap in order to allow teams to put in more laps.

12 wild west podium

Connor did quite well and stayed occupied with all of his trucks.  He even noticed when one of my tires went flat and immediately let me know.  I had punctured through the rim strip.  Luckily we both brought two bikes each so we were never stressed about bike related issues.  Other than my howling brakes that frightened the bajeezus out of more than one rider, and my skipping gears, no major issues slowed us down.  Notubes….NO FLATS!

Click here to see the official results.

I always get asked about what I take with me on the big rides.  I’ve covered my packing list in the past with my CTR equipment list.  This year’s AZT was MUCH warmer than last year’s and the CTR, so a few things were different.

On my back I carried my Osprey hydration pack with a 100 oz. Camelbak bladder, my non-functioning SPOT, multi-tool, arm and knee warmers, an empty 1.5 liter platypus bladder (I used this once), spare shorts, a spare pair of socks, sunscreen, spare AAA and AA batteries, and PI rain jacket (packed more for warmth than rain protection).  I later found out that at the bottom of the pack I had an extra pair of arm warmers.

On the top tube, I carried as many snacks as I could as well as my cell phone and my gopro HD3….The Black!  I took more pics this year, but they weren’t all that.  On the bars I carried my full length neo air pro pad, tyvek bivy, and my 30 deg bag…..which I could have gone without.  In the bar pouch….extra glasses with clear lenses in a hard case, and my hygiene kit.

In the top frame bag I had another 100 oz. camelbak bladder in a fabric sleeve to prevent punctures.  Also in that compartment were 3 MRE meals and heaters with some MRE crackers, cheese, and bread.  I packed a wool tee and a light weight beanie cap.

In the bottom compartment….2 bottles of Stan’s sealant, one tube, 2 Big Air cans, 6 lipo Ayup batteries (24 hours total), Pur Hiker (now Katadyn) water filter, and my Fenix LD 20 flashlight, a micro LED blinky light, and my tire repair box with Leatherman micro, Crank Bros mini pump, needle and thread, plug tool, spare brake pads, chain master link and spare links, super glue, and patch kit.

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That’s it.

Each day I’d start off with a small snack and a bunch of water and walk a short distance before jumping on the bike.  Sometimes I’d remember to lube the chain….but using ProGold Extreme usually meant I could go a day and a half before lubing.  Eventually I’d stop for a more substantial snack and brush my teeth.  When the sun started coming up I’d apply sunscreen.  I tried to eat as much as I could when riding, but after the first store stop, I seemed to be out of bars and other items that are easy to eat while riding, so I seemed to stop a lot to eat.

Before going to sleep, I always made sure my belly was full, my ass and crotch were clean, and my teeth were brushed.  My second night was tough because I had downed 3 big glasses of Coke so it took me a while to go to sleep.  I should have ridden longer to get that stuff out of my system, but the camp spot I found was just too awesome to pass up.

On the bike I ran my favorite tire of all time….the WTB Weirwolf LT 2.55… on the front.  This tire is now about 5 years old and had 750 miles on it.  It held up great and still shows little wear.  On the rear, I ran a brand new WTB Exiwolf.  I had run one of these for 750 miles on the CTR and the Coco 250 with ZERO issues.  For this effort it got cut early in the ride.  Aaron Boatman gave me a tough time about using WTB tires as their quality has been hit or miss for the past few years.  Some tires made in Taiwan, others in China.  Some in different factories in China.  Some with sidewalls so thin they started showing thread immediately after installation.  Some with 60 tpi, others with 120, and others with 31 tpi…???  Whatever.  I’d love to be able to afford EXO Maxxis tires, but I even saw one of those with a stitched up sidewall.  I honestly believe that getting a cut sidewall is just pure lack of luck…..and sometimes lack of skill.  Looking at past AZT’s and this year’s AZT, the best riders get cut sidewalls.  How you deal with it is what makes the difference.  Having some mad stitching skills will pay off.  I had some practice before via a Stan’s clinic I gave in El Paso.  I gave a clinic the weekend after AZT and took a knife to the rear tire I used.  I was able to stitch it up and it held air at 40 psi (in pic below).  I rode it around my neighborhood a little and it still held air.  Practice is important so you know what you’re doing when crunch time comes.

slashed sidewall stitch repairI was super amazed at how well my feet, butt, and hands held up.  My hands started getting numb as I approached the Gila, but nothing compared to last year when I had blisters on my palms.  My feet did real well also, but three days after finishing, both my big toes went numb and I’m still having some issues there.  My butt didn’t bother me much at all and I only applied Okole Stuff once.  I got a bit nervous when I went to apply as it was the same container I had used for CTR and Coco 250 and I’d yet to replenish it.  It was almost empty.

The biggest equipment mistake I made was on the last evening when I stuffed my sunglasses into my top tube bag instead of in a sunglass case.  The fabric inside the bag wore off the mirror coating in a couple of spots.  I’m horrible with sunglasses.  Someday I’ll figure out how to make those things last.

I have no secrets to hide, so if you have any questions, ask and I’ll do my best to give you an honest answer.

My second attempt at the AZT 300 snapped up on me much faster than last year’s.  My fitness was WAY below what I had going into last year’s, and I spent the final week trying to figure out what bike to ride.  I really wanted to ride my Superfly 100 set up as a SS, but I couldn’t get the brakes from sounding like a howling wolf with a tracheotomy.  They chattered and howled and drove me nuts….not just with noise, but with inconsistent feel.  Not a good thing.  So I went back to the Dirty Girl which proved her worth on about 750 miles of the toughest single track routes known to humans on some of my adventures from last year.

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So Dirty Girl got a new chain and the much more powerful Elixer brakes from my Superfly.  I also switched over to my Fox fork which hadn’t been used since AZT 2012.  The night before the race, I rushed to finish a new frame bag for it in order to highlight a new fabric I recently picked up, but my rush caused a poor fit that I wasn’t pleased with…at all.  Oh well, there was nothing wrong with my old bags.  I still got more sleep that week than the week previous to AZT 2012.

Our drive to Parker Lake was uneventful and we arrived to see Judd and Rhino setting up camp.  Rhino was rocking one of my harness/pouch systems and it looked good on his bike.  Later, others started to show up and sometime well after I had crawled into the warm covers, a large group rolled in.  It was the shuttle from Picket Post (the 300 mile finish point) which was supposed to leave at 5:30 pm.  It’s only a couple of hours driving from Picket Post to Parker Lake, so I secretly hoped they had hit the bar to begin the dehydration process early.

DAY 1

The next morning was gorgeous and the parking lot got packed quickly.  There were a few other Nuke Sunrise product spottings.  One was the tiny Rich Wolf and his red and yellow seat bag.

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A bit of socializing and a briefing from Scott Morris, and we were on our way.  This year I led it out.  Aaron Gulley quickly moved past on his way to a record time.  I never saw him again.  A couple of other guys got around me as well, but knowing the trail and my fitness, I held back as much as possible.  The first section of the Canelo Hills brought little drama except for the unnecessary hefting of Dirty Girl over a fence which was off-route.  A re-heft found myself and the 3 others I caught up to at that time quickly back on course where I pulled away from them all.  I drained my first bladder about a half mile from the end of the trail.  I waited till I hit the pave to trade bladders and make a small adjustment to the front brake caliper.  On the road I spun my giant legs and clown feet as fast as they could spin and actually caught up to Chad.  Ross from Australia caught me and the three of us were soon at Sonoita where some early starters were exiting and Pete Bassinger was eating.  After grabbing a bunch of crap food, I went outside to eat, top off my bladders, and finish a bottle of Gatorade.  Pete was helping Neil with his fork which despite looking almost brand new, was not working at all.  Pete grabbed his shock pump back and rolled out.  Ezster rolled in and I rolled out after Pete and Chad.

The next section of dirt took us into the Kentucky Camp section.  I forgot how difficult this section was, distracted by the fun sections of swoopy descending and flume singletrack, quickly catching and passing Pete and Chad both.  Thinking I could make it all the way to Colossal Cave with the water I had, I passed on topping off at Kentucky Camp…..bonehead move #1.  At this point in time I was well ahead of Pete and Chad and well ahead of my time from last year.  I cruised on and eventually had to take a break where Chad, Pete, Aaron Boatman, and a guy from Tennessee came past me.  I eventually got going again and caught up to the last two and put a little time on them.

Night started to come and the lights came out.  I eventually passed the spot I camped the previous year and wasn’t near the level of tired I was the previous year, but I was starting to worry about water.  About that time I heard the worst sound ever.  The psssst of air quickly leaving my tire due to a cut sidewall.  This of course was payback from Aaron B. as about an hour before he warned me to heed the rocks I was popping out from under me with “save those sidewalls”.  The previous year I was shocked to see he did not have his GPS tethered to his bike, and sure enough, he ended up losing it….backtracking the next day to find it still on.

I quickly got off and tried to get my wits together.  The cut was pretty big, but only about 3/4″ went through the threads of the sidewall.  Stitching it up was the only desirable choice in my book.  I removed the wheel, found my repair kit, and went searching for my needle and thread.  Grabbing the thread, I pulled it out….sans needle.  I searched the box for the needle and found it stuck in my Leatherman Micro.  Crap.  Threading the needle was going to suck.   It was dark and my close up vision is long gone.   I focused my lights on everything and after only two tries, I got it threaded and knotted.  Leaving the tire seated on the rim, I stitched it up quickly.  In the meantime, a bunch of people passed me….Eszter, Aaron, Tennessee, Chad, ???  They all asked if I was ok.  I mumbled that I could use some water, but nobody wanted to lighten their load for me.  After running the stitch up and then X’ing it back down, I tied it off, added a bottle of sealant, and hit it with an inflator.  It held!!!  I packed everything away and was back on the trail.  I’m pretty sure it didn’t take me much over 5 minutes….but then again, time is weird on rides this long.

Back on the trail I passed a guy that had fallen in a cactus.  (This may have been before I flatted.)  There’s no other way to describe his predicament as other than being ‘effed.  He knew it too.  I was actually afraid he might go into shock.  I asked him if he had duct tape….he which had wrapped not so neatly around his seatpost…..and told him to get to work with it.  I asked him if he had a Leatherman…..which he did….and I told him to start digging.  He eventually gave up and made his way to the highway flagging down a Border Patrol vehicle finally making it to a hospital.  His saga is highlighted with a picture of all the thorns he removed on the bikepacking.net forum here.

I continued to cruise along towards I-10 in hopes of some trail magic in the form of a gallon jug full of water.  I caught back up to Chad as we crossed the highway to the final section of trail to the I-10 tunnel.  I mentioned that I was getting tired and that if I found water I’d put down for the night.  As we entered the tunnel, I saw 3 jugs of water!….or what appeared to be water.  They were not full, so I assumed that the intended user had already topped off and left behind what they didn’t need.  I filled one of my bladders with fluid from two of them, and sure enough, one of them was not water.  It was pretty weak tasting so I couldn’t pinpoint it.  Fermented Vitamin Water?  Fermented Gu2O?  Zima?  Bartles and James?   I wasn’t sure, but it wasn’t burning my throat or making my stomach upset, so I cruised on soon catching back up to Chad…..soon followed by bonehead move #2.

Chad and I worked our way up the final climb that would have taken us over to Colossal Cave and on to a totally sweet picnic area with a water spigot, but we wimped out and camped in a flat spot where the train woke us up 4 times in about 5 1/2 hours.  Cramping also woke me up.  Most of it occurred in my feet and in my back/neck.  I was hoping this was not due to dehydration, but it was most likely that combined with my poor fitness and the fact that I did a pretty stellar job hauling my big ass up and down a bunch of hills for 95 miles.  Sleeping here was not the best choice.  Chad didn’t snore, but that train was VERY loud.  In hindsight, I’m sure I could have made it to the picnic area without much more suffering and had a much quieter sleep in cooler temps.

Strava file for the day here.

DAY 2

Early the next morning Chad and I wound up at the picnic area where we came across Neil.…the guy with the blown fork.  He, Luke, and Casey got around us sometime in the night.  Luke and Casey were not there.  I emptied the suspect water from my bladder and topped off quickly chasing after Chad where we ripped some sweet singletrack that was added to the course since the previous edition.  Soon we rolled into the Rincon Market where the bitchy owner told us about calling the Sheriff on a couple of riders who slept on her porch.  I bought two Don Miguel breakfast burritos and a crapload of other crap and enjoyed a break on the porch with Chad and Max Morris who had put down early….I think I passed him before I flatted.  I got reloaded and headed out alone realizing that I left my coffee cake on the table next to Ray’s bike.  Ray was another singlespeeder who had his sweet Seven frame get crushed by a truck on Reddington Rd. during last year’s race.  He looked pretty beat and also mentioned a cut tire on which he had stitched in a patch.  I wasn’t too worried about him and took off wondering where some of the other racers might be….maybe at the Safeway?  Maybe already to Prison Camp?  Meh.  I kept moving.

The cruise up Reddington was pretty uneventful and traffic was non-existent.  Pretty awesome for a Saturday.  I messaged Jen at the bottom of Reddington since my SPOT refused to work.  It was 10 am local time and the heat was starting to come on.

I saw Max headed up the road a couple of switchbacks down, but he didn’t catch me until I stopped under some shade to eat a snack.  We rode together all the way to the top of Milagrosa where we topped off with water.  Max was pretty beat down, super skinny, and mentioned something about finding some shade.  I took off to tackle the switchback hike-a-bike to the Molina Basin campground where I topped off with water again….both efforts were quick, but I chose to pump from the creek so it took more time than you’d think.  The next water was more than 15 miles up the road and I did not want to go dry.  Max said the nice restaurant at the top of the mountain closed at 9, but I wanted to be there before dark.  I topped out on the climb just as it went dark….7:15ish??  I went into the restaurant surprised that it was almost empty on a Saturday night.  I quickly ordered two meals….a pulled pork sandwich with soup and salad, and a turkey sandwich to go.  Then came bonehead move #3.  I ordered Coke.  I’d yet to take on any caffeine, but I figured I’d ride until midnight or so and it would help keep me awake.  In a few minutes, Casey, Luke, Max, and Ross all poured in followed by Neil.  I was super stoked to see Max for I feared the worst for him after we parted ways at the top of Milagrosa.  I spent over an hour inside taking care of hygiene and refueling.

When we left it was buttass cold and we were all layered up for the decent down Oracle Ridge.  I couldn’t wait for this portion as it was one of my favorite portions from 2012.  The road down was no fun as a dozer…. or a crew of idiots in crappy jeeps….WTF?…. had completely softened up the road surface.  I struggled to get down safely and finally got to the singletrack where it seemed the temps went up quite a bit.  I worked my way through the climbs and decents until I came to a really nice spot with soft sand and no wind.  It was only about 9:30.  Since I love sleeping outside, I put down for the night.  A few more riders came by, but I wasn’t worried as I really wanted to get a great night’s sleep.  I  removed my shorts and wasn’t even all the way in my sleeping bag and passed out for almost 6 hours of sleep.

Day 2’s Strava file here.

DAY 3

With no alarm set, I got up around 3:30 (according to Strava…which may be reflecting MST instead of the wacky non-daylight savings AZT).  I quickly got back on the trail and passed somebody tucked away on the side of a gnarly section of trail.  Whoever it was kind of freaked out thinking I was going to hit him.  No problems though and I was on my way.  Then I passed the trio of Neil, Luke, and Casey.  Neil was up and about, but I kept on rolling.  The sun was coming up and I was dreading the passage across the desert to Kelvin.

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It has some great trail, but it can get hot and seem endless out there.  Not long after the sun rose, I was rolling into the Kanally Ranch house and quickly cleaned up at the hose.  Luckily I did not top off my water here as it turned out it wasn’t so great, almost causing record setting finisher Aaron Gulley a disaster in the middle of the desert.  I cut the top half off my home made tyvek bivy and threw it in the trash just to drop a half pound, and changed my socks.  Bonehead move #4…..I didn’t reapply sunscreen after washing my face.

Rolling into Oracle I was pretty bummed that the grocery store wasn’t open yet but I plowed on to the Circle K.  It had a surprisingly decent selection, but since I had just finished off the sandwich I ordered the night before, I didn’t grab anything substantial.  They did have bananas!!!  At this point I probably made the smartest move of the weekend.  I filled my empty bladder with ICE!  As I was rolling out, Neil was rolling in.  He looked great and was super motivated.  On my way back to the highway, I saw Luke and Casey killing time at the trailhead on the Oracle road.  I waved and rolled on.  I rode for another couple of hours on the awesome switchbacks up and down the washes until my tire finally gave up.  Here came bonehead move #5.  I removed the stitches from my tire and without removing the tire from the rim, I restitched it wrapping a tire plug under the stitch.  This did not hold well so I attempted to patch it.  My glue was unopened, but it had turned to a gel and it didn’t work.  I then plastered a piece of Gorilla tape on it.  At this time, Neil rolled up and hung out with me while I finished it up.  This seemed to do the job and I punctured my last Big Air cartridge.  We rolled on down the trail to see a pretty amazing sight for sore eyes.  It was Jen Judge (Aaron Gulley’s girlfriend), Caroline Soong (Kurt Refsnider’s girlfriend) and another female.  Was I hallucinating?  We quickly exchanged pleasantries and rolled on.  Caroline took this rad photo of me and Neil.

neil and dave azt 2013Neil and I wound up at the Beehive Well and took a break under the shade of the building there and I took off without him.  Eventually I made it to the Freeman water cache to find Aaron from Wyoming taking all the shade under the Mesquite tree.  I quickly topped everything off (both 100 oz bladders were dry) and rolled on.  I noticed it was getting kind of late in the day so I stopped to eat an MRE.  It was delicious and I was on my way.

Soon though, my tire went low and I pinched it crossing a wash.  This time I wasted no time taking it off the rim so I could do something to the backside of the hole.  I removed the flapping Gorilla tape (I couldn’t believe it was still clinging on) and balled up all the adhesive from on top of my stitch job.  Then I dabbed some Gorilla brand super glue on there.  I then put two layers of Gorilla tape on top and used the last of my Big Air to seat the tire.  Yay!  Still tubeless.  Neil finally caught back up to me and we rolled on….into this very nice Crotalus atrox.  It didn’t even rattle….pretty rare for a diamond back as they usually get all pissed off and let you know where they are.

?????????????That was the third snake I saw that day.  The other two were WAY too fast to photograph…..one being a black racer of sorts maybe 6′ long, the other a red snake about 5′ long that came right at me!

Neil and made the goal of getting to Kelvin before dark.  FAIL. At the bottom of Ripsey we  saw this cheesy love note from Jenn to Aaron.

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We got to the top of Ripsey as the sun went bye bye and we had to break out our lights.  We did our best to rip the switch backs down to Kelvin where I ended up getting Cholla balled for the first time ever in my life.  I pulled out the Leatherman micro where the ball promptly jumped from my leg to my hand.

Neil and I finally got to the large parking lot that’s about a half hour from Kelvin and it was DARK.  We knew nothing would be open and I was pretty bummed at the thought of having to pump water from the Gila.  Lucky for us some kind trail stewards were keeping the trailhead stocked with Kearny water.  We at first thought it was reserved for a group calling themselves Kearny, but then we saw multiple dates on the jugs going back a couple of weeks and I remembered that there was a town called Kearny.  Duh.  Let’s top off!!!  We then hitched our bikes to the hitching posts in the parking lot and ate dinner.  It was 9 pm local time and my last MRE tasted like a million bucks.  Beef ravioli!

On we went to the awesome singletrack that lasts forever.  FOR EVAH!!!  Sheez.  4 hours later (and we weren’t goofing around) we still weren’t climbing away from the Gila.  So when we hit a nice gate in an even nicer sandy area, we decided to take a 30 minute nap.  Alarms were set and I rolled out the bed roll and spent a couple minutes getting enough air into my pad to be comfortable.  A nearby cow seemed a bit distressed at our presence and I shouted out, “Sing us to sleep Bessy!”  The next thing I remember was waking to my alarm.  Holy crap!  That was the best nap ever. Just as we started packing back up, Ross rolled by.  He said his knee was shot and he was quitting after 300.

Not long after the nap, we were finally climbing away from the Gila.  I told Neil that I didn’t want to climb that last section in the daylight as 2012 put the hurt on me and it wasn’t even that hot.  I was bummed to escort the young rookie through one of the most beautiful desert environments on the planet.  Saguaros 50′ tall, grottoes, and huge barrel cacti, cliffs and rocks and tons of vegetation,  and we couldn’t see any of it.  What was really trippy is that every time we passed a Saguaro, it felt like we were riding in a dense forest.  The temps were perfect for putting in a hard effort at the end of a 300 mile jaunt across one of the most unforgiving deserts anywhere.  We hear frogs (saw a good sized toad on the trail) in some the cold side canyons indicating that water must be present.  I ran up on a bobcat that trotted up the trail and then turned to stare at me for a while.  I waited on Neil to proceed as I didn’t want to mistake what I thought was a bobbed tail for a full size one attached to a 200 lb super cat.

On we went eventually catching up to Ross who was taking a rest near the crux of the top of the inner canyon.  I got a bit excited and turned up the heat a little as we began some descending.  From this point on I never saw Neil again until the finish.  As the sun came up I ripped the final descent to the sound of waking birds to the parking lot where Jen and Connor were still sleeping.  I finished in 2 days, 21 hours, and 23 minutes.  11.5 hours faster than the previous year and on a single speed!  5th overall and no other single speeders nearby.  It was an awesome ride!

post AZT 2013

No….that is not an ice pack on my crotch.  It’s the leftover crust from an entire loaf of bread from which my family thought I’d enjoy.  The butter was delicious.

Final Strava files here and here.

 

 

2012’s return to the 12 Hours of Old El Paso had me motivated for a repeat win despite the lack of steep climbs and gnarly descents that I prefer on a race course.  Being the first of all the solo riders last year on my SS, I really wanted to do the same again this year with hopes of a bit more competition that might push me a bit more than what I’m used to.  Vince Anderson from Grand Junction was supposed to make the trip, but his name never showed up on the start list.  I thought I saw Gustavo Fierro’s name on the solo list, but he ended up doing it with a team.  sem Gallegos was not on the solo list.  A couple guys from New Mexico were rumored to show up, but not Cameron.  Juanito was returning, but I beat him last year and he’s older than me.  My ride last year was really the only big ride I did all year other than the Chile Pepper road ride. This year I had 4 races under my belt for a total of 1,078 miles…..racing miles.  I knew I had the endurance from my bikepacking races and I knew I still had a lot of speed from my Horny Toad rally.  I was still concerned about my knees, but they seemed to be getting better.

While I love the venue at the Bowen Round House, I did not like the way the pit areas were arranged.  Solo row was not at the end of the lap, so I parked on the road about 100 meters from the finish tent.  A couple others joined me on the road including last year’s solo women’s winner Alison Kinsler.  This ended up being a huge advantage for us for several reasons.  First, we didn’t have to start out of our pits with some short power climbs, and second, we were able to see our competitors coming down the road.

This is the only photo I took the entire weekend.

Notice the clouds?  Those didn’t last long.

I took my first lap on my hardtail because the Superfly was still skipping a bit even with a new chain on a cog that was not showing any visible wear.  The fork on the hardtail needs a bit of love, so I was not enjoying the ride very much.  I came through the pit somewhere in 3rd or 4th with the solo riders.  Remember, I’m not just racing the single speeders.  I wanted to take the overall solo win again.  When I pitted, I decided to ditch the hardtail due to the lack of comfort and because the dropout set screws were loose.  Jen had it ready to roll on lap 3, but the Superfly only skipped twice so I decided to stay on it.  My third lap, it only skipped once.  On lap 4, I caught Juanito.

This is where I made a dumbish move.  I followed Juanito through Lazy Cow and we got to the Tin Mine Rd, he was going way too slow for me.  He appeared quite tired already, bobbing up and down a lot and looking like he was having to make quite an effort to go fast.  I wasn’t sure who was ahead of him at this point and I thought he might have even been the leader.  I went to the front, and pulled away leaving Juanito to smolder in the crater he created blowing himself up at that pace.  Problem was, I was feeling it too.  It was really hot….high 80’s.  In 2011 I drank 2 bottles per lap.  Here it was lap 4, and I was almost finished with 2 bottles before heading down to Mad Cow….about 15 to 20 minutes from my pit.  On lap 5 I cramped up Polecat, stopped to stretch, and drank ALL of my water.  I made it up to Robert Newman’s aid station below the top of the course and filled my large bottle.  I ended up doing the exact same thing on lap 6, only cramping a bit higher on the course.  Not good.  On lap 7 I carried a third bottle so I wouldn’t have to waste time filling at the aid station.  After lap seven, I drank an entire bottle of water in my pit before heading out with NO botttles.  Whoops.  I back tracked to my pit losing about a minute or so.

By this point in time, I figured out who was ahead of me.  Some guy on a 29er hardtail wearing a Feedback Sports kit was about to get crushed.  He only had a couple minutes on me and I knew the hardtail would take it’s toll on him.  I figured I’d get him on one of the pit stops when we had to get lights on.  Mine were already mounted and all I needed to do was change helmets.  At about 5:05 I headed out for lap 9.  I made the entire lap without lights and passed Mr. Feedback in his pit.  He was sitting on the ground and looked completely shelled.  I bottled back up for lap 10 and still didn’t need my lights until I got about 10 minutes down the trail.  Now that it was night, I picked up the pace a bit but it was still really hot.  When I came through for lap 11, I tried to figure out the time gap, but was having difficulty doing the math.  Since I was leading, I was trying to do an estimation from the previous lap.  I guessed I had about 8 to 10 minutes on second.

Lap 11 wasn’t any cooler and Jen told me the snakes were out as Alison had seen two on the previous lap.  I caught Alison going up Tin Mine and just after I passed her I almost ran over a diamond back.  It didn’t rattle, but appeared to be doing all it could to get off the trail.  My bike was making some weird noised but I was too busy trying to stay on the gas.  I wanted to make sure I was doing a sub hour lap with the possibility of doing lap 12.  As I came out of Deadman’s Drop, something made a horrible sound.  My chain was jammed up and I noticed that I was down 2 chainring bolts.  Oh no.  I ran the bike up the climbs and soft pedaled the descents.  Running was kind of nice in that it used muscles that weren’t cramping, but I was pretty paranoid about snakes.  After making it to my pit, I traded bikes and bottled up for lap 12.  It was 9 pm on the nose.  I went to the finish tent to do some math.  Second place was only about half way into his lap, so I raised my arm in victory and headed back to my pit for some food, drink, and a shower.

Eleven hours, eleven laps, 25 bottles of fluid, 2 lost chainring bolts.  Keys to victory?  Having all my bottles already filled up in a cooler packed with ice.  That saved me so much time.  I’m sure my total time in the pits wasn’t much over 5 minutes.   I went with the same food as last year….a foot long Subway club and a cheese pizza.  I didn’t start eating any real food until after lap 5 which may have contributed to my cramping issues. I also snacked on fruit leather, Z-Bars, and some chews.  Heat was the biggest factor for all the suffering on the clockwise loop.  It’s amazing how fast you can stop cramps if you drink enough water.

Thanks goes out to Mike Rossen and the Bicycle Co. staff.  Turn out was pretty low for this event due to some conflicts in northern New Mexico and possible burnout by those who did Chupacabras.  Maybe next year we can have this thing in November during a full moon.  Maybe turn it into an 18 hour race……Ride all night!

Here are some pics I jacked off of facebook.  Priscilla Rossen was all over that course and took some pretty good photos.

Dropping in on Tu Madre. Photo by Priscilla Rossen.

Cruising Lazy Cow. Photo by Priscilla Rossen.

The Coconino 250 was something that was not on my radar screen at all until about a month before the event.  The main event was a 4 day stage race consisting of 3 nights of camping between each stage.  I knew my buddy Beto would be interested in doing an ITT of the loop as he’s yet to do a bikepacking stage race.  So Jen and I had to figure out if we really wanted to do this.

Pros:

  1. With great riding in Sedona and a shload of desert singletrack, I had no doubt Beto would be ready for this one despite the short notice.
  2. Delivering a couple frame bags would net me some cash to help pay for the trip.
  3. We’d stay with our friends Dara and Troy so Jen could do some trail running and riding.
  4. Troy was willing to do some kid sitting while the girls played.
  5. We’d take the Kia.   I figured the Kia would get close to 30 mpg driving at about 75 mph, much faster and cheaper than the truck camper.
  6. We’d leave Wednesday evening so we could car camp somewhere…..Connor’s first car camping trip.
  7. The weather was looking stellar.
  8. I have plenty of sick days!

Cons:

  1. My knees have been killing me since CTR.
  2. Only one big ride since CTR….125 miles of road the weekend before Coco.  It killed my knees.
  3. We wouldn’t be driving our second home.
  4. I knew very little about the course despite printing out the cue cards.
  5. My classes would fall behind.
  6. Motivation was low.

We loaded up Tuesday night and Jen picked me up after work on Wednesday.  That car was packed.  A quick stop in Cruces to give Smokin’ Ray his bikepacking kit…then we battled the headwind up to the free campground west of Socorro.  We had a great night of camping other than some plant causing Jen to have some serious allergies.  I slept outside the tent on my bivy while Connor and Jen got cozy inside.  Connor was super stoked to be in the tent.  He thought it was so cool and could barely contain himself.

Connor enjoying the cozy tent.

The next morning we stopped for pie in Pie Town (rip off) and took the dirt road short cut (NOT!) to Gallup.  We made good time in the Kia and got to Dara and Troy’s early in the afternoon with Les and Jill not far behind to get a couple of frame bags I made for Les.  After dinner I headed over to The Place, the official starting point, to meet with Beto.  On the way back I missed a turn and got pulled over and when the cop realized I had not been drinking and was only frustrated driving in an unfamiliar place in the dark, he let me go with a warning.  I spent the rest of the evening getting my shit together for a 6 am roll out from the house.

I met Beto at the Place on Friday and he was ready to roll.  We checked the back parking lot and pounded on Les’s truck, but no answer so we rolled out at 6:25.  We made pretty good time and took needed breaks to make adjustments.  Beto had to change shorts as the ones he was wearing were causing him some issues.  Luckily he brought a second set.  I only had what I was wearing.  We soon found ourselves at the top of Schnebly Hill overlooking Sedona.  This was our first missed turn.

Schnebly Hill….the spot of our first missed turn.

Back on track we rallied the gnar down to Mund’s Trail where we had to bypass the infamous Hangover Trail on our beeline to town.  It was getting pretty hot and we needed food and water.   We took about a half hour break at the Circle K hiding in the shade on the side of the building chowing some sandwiches and ice cream.  The next leg was a bit of a struggle on the single speeds despite a low’ish gear (32×22 for both of us) and some familiarity with the trail system.  I forgot how much up and down techy stuff there is in Sedona.  Luckily it’s beautiful and we knew we weren’t going to be on it for long.  Soon we found ourselves crossing Hwy 89 for the Lime Kiln Trail.  The sun was starting to fade and the climb up the ridge was not rideable on a SS.  On this trail we missed a couple more turns, but ripped up the last section into the campground where we washed up a bit in the bathroom.

Looking towards Sedona from Lime Kiln.

Cottonwood was the site of our first major time suck.  I did no scouting of the town, but knew we’d have to go off course for anything but gas station food.  About a half mile towards town we stopped in a grocery store/grill.  We spent about an hour waiting on food and refueling.  We got a bit worried as we were the only customers who did not buy a tall boy or two and drive off in a shitty car.  Needless to say, since I had the blinky tail light, I followed Beto up the road to Mingus.

It was only about 9:30 when we passed the airport, but my eyes were burning due to lack of sleep the week prior and  a controlled burn in the area.  We found a flat spot and set down for a few hours sleep.  We were probably about 1,000′ up from town, but it was really warm.  We decided to hit the trail again whenever we woke up….which we hoped would only be about 3 or 4 hours.  At 1:30 am or so, we got going again enjoying the cool weather up the hill….which we were grateful for as the hike-a-bike up Mingus sucked ass.  I’ve done worse, but not that long with that level of difficulty.  We got to the top at 3 am and ate breakfast in the campground.  We weren’t real quiet, but I don’t think we woke anyone.

On the way down I missed a major turn and lost some vertical.  Beto waited for me at the top and we eventually got back on track.  The single track to the bottom was really good and quickly made us forget about the difficulty of the hike-a-bike up Mingus.  We made it all the way to the Verde without having to stop for water.  Being a Hispanic, Beto thrived in the heat drinking about 2/3rds the water I drank.  When it was cool, I had the jersey unzipped and he was putting on arm warmers.  We laughed about this more than once, but sometimes I got a bit nervous about running out of water or overheating.

There was a large crew of single speeders under the Verde bridge getting ready to head the direction we just came…which would be a really long climb for those guys…..in the heat….and probably pretty stiff for their gearing.  Where we were headed wasn’t much better.  It was getting hot for me and the climb was a slight grade that went on and on finally getting back into the Ponderosa and cooler  temps…..only to come to our last spike on the elevation profile.

That spike was Bill Williams Trail where the top half consisted of a rarely used switchbacking hike-a-bike.  We pushed up and forward looking forward to the backside descent into town.  The backside descent was pretty burly and really put our gear to the test.  If there was any trail that would expose any weakness in your bike or anything attached to the bike, it was this one.  Ledgy with lots of wheelie drops and BIG water bar blockages, this trail pounded the crap out of is.  Both of us only walked a couple small sections and afterwards we spoke about how other types of bar setups would handle that mess.  My setup was so solid. I felt no bouncing or twisting and nothing shook loose.  Thumbs up on the latest configuration that both Beto and I were running.

Into Williams we rode in search of pizza!  We rode right past the Safeway….neither of us seeing it as I was glued to my smartphone looking for the pizza joint.  We spent about an hour at the pizza joint then headed out of town…..away from the Safeway.  After asking someone for directions, we turned around and headed back to reload with snacks and stuff for the last stretch.  Ben and Jerry’s, beer from Smither’s (a finisher in last year’s Coco), and not quite enough room in our packs, we headed back towards Flag.  We rode for about another hour before finding a place to crash out under some small trees.  It was only about 7 pm.

We both ate a bit more in our very nice camp spot, but were soon being high beamed by some redneck who was in an RV nearby.  We did absolutely nothing but stare back and continue getting ready for the night.  I had to glue the sole back on my shoe and kind of appreciated the extra lighting during that moment.  We crashed out hard and I awoke a bit before 4 and ate some more.  At 4 I finally woke up Beto and we took our time breaking camp as it was pretty cold.  We got to the Sycamore Trail just before daybreak.  On the rim we heard lots of elk bugling away.  We took some pictures and ate lots of snacks.  I took us down some more singletrack that was off course.  We lost a lot of time here because we stopped to take off some layers and never noticed we were off course.  After heading off in the wrong direction, my gps died just as I noticed we weren’t on the track.  I had Beto lead the way and we got back on course immediately exiting the canyon and on to the power line.  We spun away to the Texaco where I dropped $6 on 4 AA’s to get my gps going again.

JC Penny model pose overlooking Sycamore Canyon.

We missed about 4 more turns, but soon found ourselves railing the final singletrack into town.  I called Jen to let her know I planned to eat a big breakfast at The Place, then we finished up at around 2 pm.  Beto was pretty stoked to finish unscathed and I was excited to have completed another bikepacking adventure….my 3rd for the year.  I was quite impressed by the difficulty of the course, and was not at all disappointed that we weren’t even close to record pace.  Our first 2 days were tough and I knew that if we pushed on, I’d still have to call in sick on Monday to safely make the drive home.

Beto ready for this ride to be over.

Jen got to do the Wardog Trail Run with Dara, and Troy took care of the kiddos.  Many thanks to the Marinos for being such great hosts.  I owe Troy a big one.  Also thanks to Chad Brown and Scott Morris for putting together what had to be a bit of nightmare in regards to connecting gps files for this big loop.  Keep up the good work brothers.

To summarize:  The Coco 250 is a brutal test that can easily be done in under 3 days.  It is not SS friendly.  It is not hardtail friendly.  I give it a Gnar rating of 5 stars.  The views are about 4 stars.  The camping was 5 stars.  Water accessibility was 5 stars.  Food availability was 4 stars.  I highly suggest you try this route if you haven’t already.

GPS TRACKS!!!  Don’t use these if you do the course.  I missed way too many turns.

Flagstaff to Cottonwood

Cottonwood to Flagstaff

A most trusty rig!

MY BIKE:  I rode the exact same setup I used in the CTR.  I had only cleaned and lubed it since then and added a bit of sealant to each tire.  I ended up breaking a spoke nipple on my rear wheel (no adjustments needed) and by the finish, my chain was sagging pretty good.  No flats in 750 miles!  I made a couple mods to my bar harness which made it even more rock solid than in the CTR.  I also carried a bit less stuff and more water.  Only one tube, no spare shorts and socks, and no rain pants left plenty of room for a 1.5 liter bottle of water.  I had a bit of clunkiness in my fork which after returning home I discovered to be too little air in the negative chamber.  Not bad for a 4 year old fork.