To Jinx or not to Jinx?

Ah…yes, dear Reader, that is the question. Do we talk about this year’s upcoming adventure? Or, by talking about it, will we send the adventure the way of our last great adventures….aka, no where? Alas…we have pondered this question long and held off, but….but….but….the human and I are in training again for this summer’s PAC Tour Northern Transcontinental. OK. There. I’ve said it. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting for the lightening to strike. Waiting, Waiting. Hmmmm…so far so good. OK, let’s talk.

Last year. Sigh…the year of isolation. The year of illness. The year of yearning for more. We were, of course, going to do the Southern crossing again last September, but, blah, Covid the Destroyer took care of that dream. It was to be our 3rd attempt: on the first attempt we were 116 miles short of the goal; on the second attempt we crashed out the week before; and the third attempt…well, Covid the Destroyer took care of that. Last March, the humans fell ill and we got very little riding in until late summer so there was no way we were going to ride across in September; finally the crossing was cancelled when Covid the Destroyer came through for a second pass. So, like many, we transferred our registration to this year’s Northern Crossing.

Are we nuts to try? Oh yeah. That’s a given. The Northern is harder — bigger mountains, longer rides, faster riders. And us? Uh…well…we’re training and we’re training hard, but…did I mention about not riding last spring? Oooo…that has really hurt and, let’s face it, my human is not getting any younger. To boot, Edwin’s human is not doing as well as mine. Edwin’s human has taken a lot longer to come back — only in the last week have we been able to ride a metric together. So that means the human and I are out solo most of the time. Well…not completely solo, Edwin’s human is a sweetie and brings us lunch on long days. As a fully PAC Tour trained crewmember, Edwin’s human, like all PAC Tour crew, is rider support extraordinaire. Just check out that spread for a single rider: soup in the thermos, juice, water, chocolate Silk, ladoos, bananas along with sunscreen and hand sanitizer. What more could a rider want?

So, we are in training, riding the Lon schedule of at least 300 miles a week. Unfortunately, for us, that is not 300 miles/week in 20 hours per the official Lon-schedule, but what we lack in speed, we make up for in enthusiasm and are riding now more than 300 miles in a week. Well, maybe. Since my human is still working, but remotely, we no longer have a daily commute. Instead the human puts in 4 hour indoor rides twice a week while participating in meetings (heee..hee…do they know that isn’t a fan, but a bike in the background?!?!?!). With indoor hours, it is hard to tell how far the human rides in a week. No matter how hard we train, though, it probably won’t keep us out of the van when we miss a time cutoff, but at least we can say we gave it a solid try and we will enjoy the time on the road we do get.

But, dear Reader, a request, if I may. Since the human and I are riding alone, we have taken to listening to books (through bone conducting headphones that keep both ears open to even the quietest of road noises, of course). We have listened to a wide variety of non-fiction books from psychology to behavioral economics (yeah, psychology by another name, but don’t tell that to a behavioral economist) to plant physiology to biographies to politics to history to …. we have read and enjoyed many books, most thanks to the public library, although occasionally we purchase a book. But….we get stuck in ruts (darn those recommendation engines). If you, dear Reader, have a non-fiction book that you found great, let us know. We are always looking for ways to expand our horizons. Today we listened to Looking for Calvin and Hobbes by Nevin Martell and tomorrow will be listening to Just as I Am by Cicely Tyson. The day after? Got a recommendation?

It is All Relative

No…not like Edwin and I are sibling bicycles…relative as in comparison, I guess.  Today we rode out of Tucson to Nogales.  Now, if you recall Dear Reader, I gushed last week about riding Mission Road (Happy New Year!).  After all, it is one of the prettiest roads to ride (even with the great, big honkin’ mine).  So, today’s route which began down Mission Road should have been awesome, right?  Well….

Yes, Mission Road was lovely and it was greener than last week, but…..Mother Nature seems to be a bit cranky and threw some headwinds at us.  Not the nagging headwinds of 5-10mph, not even irritating headwinds of 10-15mph….nope…..we got 25+mph headwinds all the way down Mission Road.  Ouch.  10mph moving average.  Just like that ride into Bisbee — strong headwinds with a slight incline.  We were worried, the human and I, that if those winds kept up we wouldn’t get to Nogales until after 6PM.

But, thankfully, those winds did scale back into *only* the irritating range.  Funny thing was, after Bisbee and after today’s segment on Mission Road, those irritating 15mph headwinds almost felt like a tailwind.  Yep, it is all relative.

But, everyone was tired coming in today after fighting headwinds for 80 miles.  New week; new group of riders.  While we’ve never met a rider group on PAC Tour we didn’t like, this group seems especially nice.  Should make for a fun week even if we are riding solo most of the time, the human and I — Edwin’s human is doing better, but this week he is crew (<chuckle>nothing like having an inside line to the chuck wagon to keep my human fueled and riding</chuckl>).

Half-way

What a lazy day!  Edwin and I have our tires up, resting and basking in the sunshine and warmth.  No riding today for us today.  Today is a rest day.  Tomorrow with a ride to Nogales to start another week of riding.

So, Dear Reader, when last I left you we were exhausted, pooped, tuckered out, totally done in after the ride into Bisbee.  That headwind really, really did us in.  We spent the night in the trailer while the humans wined and dined in Bisbee and slept in the luxury of the Copper Queen.  All was well……until….right on unfortunate schedule, Edwin’s human fell victim to dry desert air and higher elevation.  Bummer.

So, we left Edwin and his human in the capable hands of Lon and Susan, and we toodled our way down the road.  Once at lower elevation, Edwin’s human was doing better so Susan put him back on the bike for the final leg into Tucson.  It went well and so we’re hoping that Edwin will get some time on the road in the coming week, as well, although Edwin’s human is officially crewing (as in supporting riders, not rowing on the San Pedro — it does have water this year, but not that much).

But…so far, so good.  The human is not in best of shape, and today was no riding to rest up.  Weather pending (<grrr>snow in the forecast</grrr>) we hope to try to get in one century.

Here’s to Week #2!

Four

Two squared?  Square root of sixteen?  Well, yes, but also apparently the preferred size of fast moving groups of cyclists.  In past years it was “the boys” — two brothers, their friend, and a guy that became their friend just, perhaps to make it four?  But over the years, we’d always encounter a fast group and it almost always was a pack of four.

This year, we have two packs of four.  The electric-assist gang come in a foursome and a group of ladies out of California often travel as four.  Both are fast…well…the electric-assist gang were fast until they ran out of juice a mile shy of Bisbee.   True to desert form, the winds today were strong…really strong.  Edwin and I rode in with a 10mph moving average.  It was unrelenting wind for 30 miles — the kind that make you pedal down 4% grades and most of that 30 miles had a 2-3% uphill gradient.  So, the electric-assists faltered and just when the incline does its final kick into town.  Ouch.

But…back to packs of four.  This year we have 2 fast packs, both are packs of women.  And if that isn’t cool enough 69% of the 40-ish riders are female.  This is the most women in a PAC Tour week ever.  And, in case you’re thinking, “oooo…must be a really slow paced Historic Towns, then, eh?”  Uh…nope.  Not unless my human is really, really out of shape and I don’t think so.

Some years, particularly back when this was Bike Friday Week the group moved pretty slowly.  But this year, despite some pretty hefty winds, we’re all moving along relatively well.  The human is setting a steady pace to see if Edwin’s human can make it to the end.  Windy days like today aren’t good for Edwin’s human, but, despite being tired, we all made it into town together.  Yes!

If things go well, tomorrow we’re going off sag to visit the fort.  If we get our passes to the fort this week, then next week we’ll get an extra ride through the fort when we come out of Nogales.  Yippee!  Ain’t no way you can get too many rides through the fort.  Uphill…and whoosh down…uphill….and whoosh down…..wheeee….

 

 

Butts on Bikes

No, no need to fear Dear Reader, this post will not be about saddle sores, sit bones in rebellion or stories about those fragile humans’ “sensitive bits”.  No, this is about more bikes out on the road.

Last October, the humans took us on a road trip to Colorado.  We took the train to Denver so Edwin and I got to ride assembled (no crampy, little boxes…ahh, the luxury).  From Denver, we rode to Colorado Springs.  While there, the humans took a course on the care and feeding of bicycles from the most awesome KB and her entertaining sidekick Mike at Barnett Bicycle Institute.  One of the topics was electric bikes.

Now, you might assume that as a fine, beautiful steel bike with no intention of ever allowing a non-human motor that I would bemoan the introduction of electric bikes.  But, you’d be wrong.  After all, it is all about “butts on bikes.”  If electric assist gets more people riding bikes, seeing the countryside and out of the steel isolation chambers they call cars, I’m all for it.  Getting outdoors and exercising is good and the electric-assist just makes it more accessible.

In the city we’re seeing a lot more electric utility bikes, but this is the first time we’ve seen multiple electrics on a PAC Tour.  A few years ago one of our favorite PAC Tour riders came on a electric as a way to ride while recuperating from some hefty surgery.  This year, however, we have 4 riders on electrics and they’re having fun.  So far the bikes are holding up to the roads and the batteries sufficient.

Hotel Week for PAC Tour is the easy week daily distances around 50 miles and overall time limits set at 10 mph (which equates to about 12mph moving average) so the Townie-style electric assists are doing fine.  But those are heavy bikes and many will admit a little worry about what will happen if the batteries don’t make it to the end of the day.  That said, bike manufacturers are now making electric assist road bikes that aren’t quite so heavy with tiny, but powerful batteries.  The bikes are designed so that they would ride well if the battery died.  Makes you wonder if we won’t be seeing more electric assist road bikes as the years progress, even on PAC Tour.

But, fear not, Dear Reader, my human may be slow and out of shape, but while I’ll welcome the new-fangled electric-assists, I will be staying fully mechanical, for now.

 

Saguaro, Cholla, and Bears, oh my!

Teddy Bear Cholla, that is!  Lots and lots of teddy bear cholla.  They look so nice and fuzzy, but appearances can be deceiving and all that.

This trip has a lot of new bikes (and riders, of course) and those newbies keep looking at us strange when we say we’ve been coming down for many a year.  But, you know, today is New Year’s Day to me — the year begins with the ride down Mission Road.

Mission Road leads out of Tucson down to Green Valley (where the bike lanes are wonderful because they’re built for golf carts — seriously).  The ride is easy and because of the consistent gentle grade, slow.   So you have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and the birds.  OK, we can only hear the birds, but happy birds they were.

But, dear reader, I must tell you an embarrassing story.  Today, we took a wrong turn.  Yep.  We’ve done this route several times.  The human had the cue sheet and even had the GPS running.  Did we follow it?  Nope.  We just went the way we always have, ignorant that the route had changed.  Oops.  But the really embarrassing part was that the humans did the GPS tracks and both of them didn’t catch it when they re-checked the routes last December.  Egads.  I sure hope they get some better GPS skills between now and this summer or we’re going to be riding in circles all over Wisconsin…oh, wait, that’s idea.  Get in shape down here in Arizona and then ride Wisconsin come spring.  One day in.  Keeping the rubber side down!

If it is February…

…it must be Tucson.  Yes indeedy we are in Tucson.  Edwin and I came down in the gentle hands of Susan and Beth last week and the humans arrived today to let us out of our boxes.

It felt good to stretch out again.  The humans complain about the tiny seats in the airplane, but it is nothing like being a beeee-aaaaa-uuuu-ti-ful bike living in a 26x26x10 box.  Egads.  Handle bar drops thru my rear wheel, crankset tucked over the hoods, and if the parts aren’t aligned just right, my wheels get damaged en route. And the humans have the audacity to complain about a little loss of leg room.  Hrrrmph.

But, enough complaining.  All is good again and we’re back to looking like bikes.  We only got a little bit of a shake out ride because it is raining today in Tucson.  Well, the locals call it rain, but we’d call it very sporadic drizzle.  All day it has been like this, but rarely is there enough water coming out of the sky to connect the dots on the pavement.

However, the rest of the week is looking good.  A little cool, but for northerners, it will still feel balmy.  This year we’re down for 2 weeks.  Yay!  My human is going to try again to ride the Southern Transcontinental in September.  Third times a charm or three strikes and you’re out.  We don’t know which it will be, but the only way to find out is to try.

On the first attempt, we failed on 116 miles in New Mexico; on the second attempt the human was really fit and ready, but then Galanas crashed and broke the human’s pelvis 4 days before the start; this time?  We shall see.  Stay tuned.  Maybe I can get that lazy human in shape; maybe not.  But, trust me, dear reader, I will give it a solid try because…..if I have to be honest….because *I* want to be out riding (the human?  meh!  the human just comes along for the ride!)

Alas, poor Edwin….

…we knew you well, but now you ride upon the van.  Sigh….your human did so well the last couple of years on this route, but this year we blew him out and he joins you in the van.  Oh, dear reader, have no fear, Edwin’s human still has fun hanging with the crew, but Edwin?  Not so much.

And the day started out so well.  A little chilly, but today we started up the short side of Mule Pass.  Back when we were going to do the southern crossing again and I went in for an overhaul to get me in perfect shape, the wonderful mechanics at Emery’s Cycling stepped back, realized that my less-than-optimal human engine could use a boost and saw that they could give me a bigger cog on the back.  Oh, those guys are smart!  The short, steep ride up Mule Pass was a no-op.  And then…..wheeeeeeeeeee…..down the long side.  More decline today than climb.  We flew!

And  then, we lost Edwin’s human.  With the snow came a lot of sand and grit on the roads, but also the desert plants are starting to bloom and sending out pollen.  That was just too much for him so we had to ride the last 1/2 of the ride solo.  Not as much fun, but still an absolutely lovely day, all things considered.

Bisbee!

Our favorite town (although Patagonia is quickly catching up).  Tombstone is nice, but kitchy…and if it didn’t have the bestest brewery in Arizona the humans would probably just sit back at the hotel and chill with me in the parking lot  looking at the mountains.

But, Bisbee!  Ah….here the humans are happy.  Good food.  Art galleries.  People watching.  Oh, lots of people watching…..tourists, of course; artists; miners; ranchers; and cyclists.

But, best thing this year I don’t get locked up in the shed.  Traditionally, all the bikes have had to spend the night in a shed….a very, very cold shed.  But this year, I came up to the room in the Copper Queen.  And, what a room!  Enough room in here for a dozen bikes and the humans.  Oh, and apparently, Teddy Roosevelt slept here….don’t know why that is important.  He rode a horse, not a bike.

Today’s ride was warmer, but just as pretty as always.  Maybe more so because the riparian section was greener than usual due to the snow fall.  We think maybe that’s why the birds are being so vocal this year.  Heck, even the dreaded slog into Bisbee was pleasant today as we had a gentle tailwind to take off the edge.

So, why is Bisbee, *my* favorite town?  Because Bisbee has Mule Pass!  And I get to show off my climbing skills.  As a steel bike I may weigh a little bit more than those plastic bikes, but I have the gears that will let my human get up to the top of the pass just as good if not better than them!  Last year we came up the long side; this year we’ll take the short, steeper climb out of town.  Fun!  (hope the human is up for it!)

 

F…! F…! F…!

Not a good day for the tour.  What started out as a lovely day of riding ended with the depressing view of the paramedics on the road just outside of Tombstone.  Every bike and rider approaching that scene immediately fears it is “one of us.”  This time, it was and it was one of our most beloved fellow riders.  The rider is declared to be “fine” after an ambulance ride to Bisbee and a helicopter ride to Tucson.

“Fine” is, of course, a relative term for fragile human creatures.  But we’re assured that while things are broken and the human has work ahead of them to get back, really, they’re “fine”.  But, still, it is a scary site to see and empathy immediately goes out to that rider.

Hang tough, fellow rider!  You can take it!

Oh, and, of course, dear reader, you want to know how the bike is doing.  Last we saw, it was not too worse for the wear…but feeling guilty.  A bike doesn’t like to lose its rider, particularly a rider who had already been tossed by another bike (and an angry boar).