February 8, 2014

AES: Tor de 50

I skipped the Tor de 50 last year to go skiing. As luck would have it, probably not a bad decision as riders were faced with 3" of snow on sections of this desert route!! This year the weather was more desert-like, mid-70's and the lure of Chad's carne asada tacos for the post ride festivities stayed fresh in my mind all day.

The route this year would be run opposite from two years ago when I last did it. There were also a few changes to boot.

I was a little surprised that it only took me 1 1/2 hours to get down to Catalina. Why don't I ride down here more?? I have a feeling that will change.

I was getting my stuff ready when James pulled in behind me, started getting his gear together, then gasped. He rummaged through his vehicle to no avail, shoes left behind. Gah! Time for an experiment of sorts, Chad had a set of flat pedals to lend out. Back in business.

I thought the turnout was a bit low, maybe 20 riders tops as a few showed up as we were rolling out. A couple of quick miles up Golder Ranch rd led us to the 50 year trail chock full of B-Lines & rollers over giant boulders. That is for another day, perhaps a future BBB Tuesday ride??

A couple of trail overshoots in the early stages slowly stretched the riders out. I was shedding some layers when James came up, not sure what the rest of the day entailed with the newfangled flats. A minute later Mark came by and we ended up riding the next few miles together.
Nice sized tank next to the trail.
The trail meandered through a riparian area and for a second forgot we were still in the Sonoran desert. The only thing missing was water flowing down the dry creek bed.

Mark and I were bumbling up & over some rocks when Rob came by. Hadn't he passed us a couple miles ago?? Yep. Then missed a turn & added a few bonus miles! Rob was sporting a singlespeed rigid clunker type bike, one you're more likely to see strolling down Mission Beach not on an AES ride!! But that's how Rob rolls, cool cat.

Rob pulled away on the downhill jeep road displaying his mad BMX roots. Mark's GPS kept popping off his handlebars and after the third launch the screen cracked!! It could still be used for navigation, but only the bottom half of the screen!! Time for an upgrade.
Somehow Mark spotted this fist-sized gopher snake on the screamin' fast jeep road decent.
The three of us popped out near SR77, crossed and began the trek north along Edwin rd. The Tortolita Mtns still a good ways off in the distance. I gradually pulled in front of Mark & Rob and I last spotted them finished up Edwin rd as I motored along the fast North Forty trail.

This was a new addition for me and it was tons-o-fun! Super fast smooth desert singletrack. I wondered how much else was out here?
North Forty trail, part of the Como Loop??
Confluence of trails.
Towering Mt. Lemmon, nary a snowpack.
I stopped at the windmill for a burrito break and was certain Mark & Rob would catch up. Ten minutes later I was ready to roll on and no sign of either of them. I was now making my way up Goat Camp into the foothills still a little unclear of exactly where the route was taking me. I couldn't see the saddle I needed to crest as it was hidden behind a hill up a side canyon. A few equestrians were out enjoying the area, so I was more than willing to pause for a moment as they passed to catch my breath.
Top of the saddle.
Finally into the Tortolitas.
I descended the jeep road for a bit looking for the singletrack turnoff onto the Wild Burro Trail. It was an easy find and the trail delivered the goods. One of the more all-around fun trails you'll find anywhere. Excellent routing, some interesting tech features and more importantly: stellar flow. I wanted this to go on & on.
Swooping contours of Wild Burro.
What a view!!
Looking back.
 From one wild animal to another, next up was Wild Mustang trail. I recalled how Seron & I suffered mightily two years ago in the opposite direction. Would this be any different? There was an initial climb chock-full of step-up waterbars to negotiate. I cleaned a bunch of them at first, but the trail continued to point towards the sky and I decided it was best to conserve some energy & walk.

Wild Mustang was more techy, steeper and full of loose sections than Wild Burro, but the views helped ease the pain. There was still plenty of HAB for me, but far less in this direction. I did manage to fall off the trail into a huge holly bush after misjudging a rock feature. I landed in the seated position, feet dangling above the slope of the ground, bike still at my feet on the trail. I couldn't get up. Nothing to push off on, so I sat there, in the bush for a minute or two analyzing my predicament. I thought, well, Mark should be along shortly. I was able to reach the large rock I tried to step on, with my right hand and grab my top tube with my left. A few rocking motions and I was able to stand up, back on my way!!
Thankfully, it wasn't all this bad.
Next was the Upper Javelina trail, the last of the bunch through the Tortolitas. A short climb to start then the mountain came to an end, down, down, down I go. Some of the switchbacks were banked!! Fun stuff.
The end of the mountain grows near.
Big views to the south.
It was getting a little warm by the time I exited the mountains. There was a golf course across the street, so why not top off my water there just in case. I don't think I really needed to, but I had started to guzzle a bit more on Wild Mustang. Now the hard stuff was over and a long stretch of mostly pavement awaited.
Nice saguaro lined trail by the golf course.
15 miles of pavement on Moore rd later, the Santa Catalinas are getting close again.
The route took us next to a large outdoor shopping center via greenbelt bikepaths. I spotted an In-n-Out burger and was so tempted to stop!! I was getting hungry too, but I was near Catalina State Park with only 7 miles or so left until Chad's post-ride feast. I opted to finish off my burrito for the final push.
Great spot for a snack break.
I plopped down my $3 at the entrance booth and found the 50 year trail once again. What I didn't expect was the long gradual rock infested bumpy climb over the first 2 miles. It wasn't hard, it was draining. I had this mental image of my bike gliding through the high desert back to the Golder Ranch TH. Only the last couple of miles met my expectations. Still a fun trail though.
Doesn't look like much, but it was tiring.
Late afternoon on Mt. Lemmon.
Tortolitas now seem farther away than ever.
Last couple of miles into the golden hour.
I made it back to Chad's and the sun was still high in the sky! A rare AES occurrence for me. I noticed James' car was gone, found out he bailed at some point. Carne asada was served along with beergarita's and chatter from the day's ride. Mark came in next, then a couple other fellas leaving only Rob unaccounted for. He didn't have lights and it was getting dark. He lives nearby so at least he's familiar with the trails in the area. Finally in total darkness, he rolled in, taco plate waiting patiently. Well played.

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