We drove a mile to the Walmart parking lot where the ride was to begin, and met our fellow travelers. Once again, a spot where we were supposed to make a control stop was declared defunct! This was somewhere around 103 miles, and since there were not many other places to get food, the organizer had decided that he would get sandwiches for us and meet us somewhere there along the road. I thought this sort of support was not valid for the qualifying brevets, but he said if the support is for ALL riders, not just a given one, and provided without exception to everyone, then it was okay. Particularly so, I guess, if there is nothing else to eat or drink for miles!
Our first stretch was in the dark again. The sun rose as we went alongside the highway (although blessedly not ON the highway but some sort of service road nearby.) The landscape was beautiful. Good thing I saw it this morning, because on the return trip, it would be dark!
|Heading east to the sun|
Amazingly enough, out here in the desert, they are growing cotton! Yup. Never mind that there is no rain. The water is coming from somewhere. I was astounded.
Before long, we were into Saguaro National Park. This had to be the highlight of the trip. What an incredible landscape. So many fantastical shapes of cactus. It was stunningly beautiful. We were doing well for time. We stopped in at the Visitor's Center, hit the bathroom, and filled our Camelbaks. I figured we needed to head out but Roger suggested we watch the slide show. Honestly! We sat for 20 minutes and I felt refreshed, restored and as I always do in our national parks, so very grateful for the gifts of these parks.
|Saguaro and other cactus in the landscape|
|There were so many is was just amazing.|
|View from the Visitor's Center|
|Close up with some other cactus plus the creosote, which was blooming everywhere. Just gorgeous!|
|One of the better doorways to a restaurant I have ever seen!|
The next leg was rollers gently sloping up to Arivaca. This is a little tiny place a dozen miles from the Mexican border. We stopped to share a burger and a beer. The locals were enjoying the basketball games on TV, shooting pool, and drinking beer. Not a lot else to do in Arivaca! The Arizona visitor's website tells us it is "Quaint and quirky" and Wikipedia turned up a citation about a double homicide in 2009 by a nut job Minuteman. Fun town!
Leaving Arivaca, we thought we'd mostly be heading downhill, and we were. But again - compacting the profile leaves out a lot of little bumps! We had gained about 800 feet before we eventually descended 500. Roger kept asking, "what's our elevation?" and I had to say, "3400" over and over again. In any case, it was a beautiful, solitary road.
The only folks we saw on this segment were the Border Control agents. One of them passed us about every 15 minutes. The sun set while we were on this leg, and once again, it was stunning!
Finally the sun went down - usually our cue to start having flats but we made it to the little grocers at the next corner and were pleased to see the van there. We had a bit to eat, and connected with another rider who was on a recumbent bike. He seemed a bit nervous about riding alone on the next bit, as he was getting tired. I think it was about 9 pm by now. We said we'd ride along with him, but when we headed out he actually pulled away from us, and then blam - we hit a bit of gravel, and had our first pinch flat of the night. I don't think he even knew it, and anyway, it's every man for himself at that point! We had another flat or two as we rode the next stretch. Somewhere in this next bit we were going through the saguaros again, and we could see them standing in the darkness. The stars were wonderful - it's interesting to look up from the bike and see the Big Dipper!
|Border Patrol agents snapped a shot of us at the checkpoint|
By the time we arrived at the penultimate control (the McDonald's where we had been at 8:30 that morning), it was around midnight. Mile 211. (Roger had called off my first "double century" a little bit before then, when we passed 200 miles.) We had until 8 in the morning to finish the last 43 miles. We were pretty tired, but felt sure we would have no trouble getting in under our time limit. I observed that it would not be any less dark if we rested a bit before we headed out, and so that is what we did. We laid down on the benches as the McDonald's and took a short nap! When we got ready to leave, it was about 1:30 am, and we road along through the night (one more flat) watching the stars and stopping every now and then so I could massage Roger's arms and shoulders. We made it back to the Walmart at four minutes past five in the morning, put the bike on the car, and went back to the Denny's to change and have something to eat. There we saw Chuck, the guy on the recumbent, who had made it in not too long before we did.
We drove to Jennifer's house (Dana's friend who lives in Scottsdale) and crashed for a few hours before rising in mid day. It was nice to visit with her and her family, and we were thankful for a chance to rest before heading home the next day. As she told Dana later, "they looked like hell when they got here!" It took several days to recover. Neither Roger nor I have pulled an all-nighter for many years.
So, here we are, on the brink of our 600 K brevet. We are traveling to Texas for a combination visit with my family and attempt at the Luling 600. If we can manage our stops on the first 400 K, the route circles back to the start so we can sleep in the hotel a bit before starting the last 200. I'll let you know how that turns out!