11.29.2013

Flight of the Pigs!!

A few years ago I had heard about an underground ride called the Flight of the Pigs. I later learned that it was a 70 mile loop around downtown Phoenix, no way I could do that I thought. A year or two passed and my mileage had increased to a point where I thought it may be something I could try. Two years ago I gave it a try, solo on Thanksgiving day, to see if I could really do it. Last year I was again unable to join the group and went solo once more.

Third time's the charm, right? This year I was able to make the Black Friday group ride with the other piggies. There sure were others, 81 riders at the start!! We all checked in with Jim, the host for the past 18 years!  I stood on the weigh-in scale: 227 lbs with all my gear & bike, not really close to the heaviest somewhere around 287. We all attached bright pink string to our seats so we could tell who was with the group as we rode through South Mountain park and the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. We were also handed a playing card, this would serve as our meal ticket for our pre-paid lunch.
Pre-dawn check-in. Photo by Noel.
There's only one time check on the ride. From the Pima Canyon TH to the Buena Vista lot needs to be 1 hour or less. I had never cracked 1:10, but I also never really tried. I took the Mormon Loop up instead of National since I knew I'd be faster on Mormon.

I topped out at Buena Vista around 51 minutes with Jeff and we rode the next section to Telegraph pass mostly together. There's usually a tricky spot or two on the way over to Telegraph, but I only dabbed a few times the entire way, it was a good run.

It was really cool to see so many riders out on the west end of National high on the ridgeline. Such an underrated section of trail.

I made it to the first of four re-group areas at the San Juan lot somewhere around mid-pack. This is what sets this ride apart from the rest. Socializing with friends, meeting new ones, cracking open a beer and waiting for the rest of the group to filter in. Not to mention it was a near perfect day outside.
San Juan parking lot, end of the National trail.
Donna, Nancy and I relaxing. Photo by Doug.
James is quick to start new fashion trends. Photo by Jeff.
We departed the San Juan lot and made a quick re-group just outside the park. We were now heading out onto the flats, some road, some canal, then more roads to our lunch stop in downtown Phoenix. This was the first time I felt like I was in a true peloton, except it sounded like a swarm of bees due to all the knobbies!! It was a brisk, but not crushing pace towards lunch.

Jim's wife was behind the counter as the herd arrived. We swapped out our playing cards for a sandwich, chips & drink then filled the place inside & out in a flash.
Lunch stop.
 After lunch I ended up near the front of the pack and stayed there as we entered T100 in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. T100 is a cross-country burner for the most part, a couple short steep sections get you off the bike but otherwise it's a fast roll.

As I approached the final descent to the grassy knoll, there was a gentleman sitting trailside in a camping chair with a cooler of beverages for the riders! He didn't have many and his only obligation was to save one beer for his son. The rest of our small group helped to drain his cooler low.

I arrived at the knoll and there were only a handful of riders there. I cracked open a Yuengling that I schlepped around along with my bag-o-bacon, mmmmm. Soon a throng of riders arrived and so did a rather large ham!!
Occupy Grassy Knoll!!
Such a great spot right next to the trailhead.
Photo by Doug.
These AES guys have no shame, gimme that ham!!
Nancy & Caroline enjoying the day.
All ready to go.....leader gets a flat!!
Jim took care of his tire issues and the group made its way south on more pavement. A short stint on the canal banks followed by some greenbelt led us to Papago Park. We took a bit of a scenic route through the trails, hitting some of the fun popular loops over to our meetup location at Hunt's Tomb.
Noel captured a pic of me taking a pic!
Hunt's Tomb overlooks both Papago Park & the Phoenix Zoo.
The last riders pulled up to the top as the sun made it's quick retreat over the horizon. There was a short discussion on doing a small re-route through downtown Tempe due to the Mill Ave closure for the Tempe Festival of Lights parade that was due to start shortly. We decided to do one more quick re-group at the Mill Ave bridge and make a game-time decision whether to proceed down Mill.
Mill Ave bridge. Photo by Noel.
 Mill Ave. was already barricaded off by police, people were lined up on both sides of the street and we simply rode on through!! The police didn't seem to care as the crowd began whooping it up as we passed. It was the highlight of the ride!!
Kicking off the Festival of Lights parade!! Photo by Noel.
We exited Mill Ave and finished the remaining miles on pavement back to where we started some 70 miles earlier. We only needed our lights for the last few miles. Most of the riders stopped at Jim's for the post-ride festivities: catered BBQ, 2 kegs of beer, distribution of the custom FotP2013 pins and stories from the day's ride. There was an announcement that there may only be 2 more 'official' rides as Jim's been the host for 18 years. That's quite an impressive run stemming from a little ride with friends so many years ago.
Beer & BBQ time!!
Flight of the Pigs schwag!!
Pigs really do fly!! Photo by Noel.
As long as my schedule allows, I'll be game for the next two renditions. How about you?

Finally, here's a wonderful video of the day put together by my friend, Ryan. Enjoy!!

FOTP2013 from Ryan Nelson on Vimeo.

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