|Near our campsite.|
My alarm started chirping at 4:15am, one snooze hit later I was up and on my way to the AES start at Safeway. I had slept really well, but for some reason wasn't super amped to get going. It took me forever to get all my gear in order and I finally rolled out of the parking lot a few minutes before 6am.
The AES route begins with a 2 mile or so neutral rollout to the Elden Lookout rd. I hadn't yet reached the dirt road and I was already trying to convince myself to keep riding. Not exactly the mentality you want at the beginning of a 100 mile ride. Whatever the reason, I just couldn't 'get into it', but I pedaled on hoping my mind would snap out of it.
The climb up Elden wasn't helping matters. It was work. It was also much longer than I had remembered. I was pretty cooked at the top and took a few moments to enjoy the incredible views off to the east.
|Cinder cones pock-mark the Earth.|
|Upper Sunset trail is divine.|
|One of these days, I'm going to descend Heart trail.|
|Off the ridge and into the forest.|
|Hobbit Forest section.|
By this time I had already abandoned my big plans for the day. It just wasn't happening. So, now what? Do an ATM loop anyway? Stay on the Elden side of things? There was a re-route of the Arizona Trail, AZT, coming through town that I wanted to check out. That was the deciding factor, stay over near Elden.
|Nice place for a snack.|
|That downhill was so much fun, even Angry Ray is smiling!!|
|Chase & Kaitlyn puttin' the hammer down.|
|Eric rounding out the lead group in 7th position.|
|Humphrey's Peak across the way.|
|Ran into Mike, who decided to go the opposite direction after mixing up his start location.|
|Blasting through an old burn area.|
|Class of '16 AZTR750 rider: Jason Hanson!!|
|I was up there a few hours prior.|
|Mike finally making a group start for an AES ride.|
|Marcus was attending his first of many AES rides!!|
I stopped for a snack break as the lead racers were now heading towards me on the Loop Trail. Ray flew by me, still smiling I might add, holding down 2nd place only 20-30 seconds behind the leader. They would later finish in a tie. Eugene was bummed to hear how far ahead Ray was when I told him '2 miles'. Chase & Kaitlyn were hot on his heels, then a solid 20 minute gap ensued before Joe rode past me. It was fun seeing my friends out on route, pushing themselves. I was feeling better, so I decided to check out a different trail leading back towards town.
|Flat & fast describes this route.|
|All of a sudden the 2-track is gone - singletrack takes over.|
|These deer weren't too concerned about the guy on a bike.|
|Nice climb up the mesa/|
Even though my ride plans were altered, it was a great day to be out on the trails. Good to see some friends I hadn't hung out with in a while. Thanks to Ray for putting on another fun, but tough AES ride.