March 22, 2014

AES: Sedona BFL '14

It's springtime in the desert, so it must be time to head north for the AES Sedona BFL (Big Friggin' Loop) or as I've been doing the past three years: Be Fashionably Late!!
And they're off!!
This year I arrived in time to see everyone start at least. 15 minutes later I too was on the haloed red dirt climbing towards the Hiline trail. I'm guessing a few others started a bit late too as I began catching up to riders barely 2 miles into the ride. I was also feeling really good, early. That doesn't always, if ever, happen with me. The lower flanks of Hiline seemed to be easier this year, perhaps some trail work had been done?

Hiline trail is a 'must-do' when riding in Sedona.
Look closely, there are two riders out on the trail that I'm about to ride. Lucky me.
While up on Hiline I asked myself a recurring question: Why don't I ride here more often? I don't have an answer other than I need to correct that situation.

I began the descent off the backside of Hiline enjoying the slickrock and still passing riders. So weird. I walked down the chute and other gnaly bits before riding out the final pitch into a tree-lined wash. Well, almost riding it out. I got bounced off my line on the final slope only to be redirected into a wheel grabbing rock that sent me flying over-the-bars (OTB) into a bush!! Thank goodness it was a sandy wash. I hardly felt a thing, but gave the two fellas changing a flat tire a nice show.
Near Red Rock State Park.
Back on my bike, I knocked out a bunch of fast miles towards our crossing of Oak Creek. I opted to leave my shoes on and the cool water felt really good on my feet. A short pavement connector led to the Old Post trail. I wasn't too keen on this one from last year, but the route was modified for the 2014 version and we diverted off onto Ramshead trail.

The singletrack ended onto another short bit of pavement and I was really surprised to see a bunch of familiar faces: Caroline, Alexis, Doug, Max & Rachel were all there. We all crossed over US89 and found the trail continuing up on an embankment. I led the group out, but a hundred yards later the trail ended with a large boulder and an open area below. I thought, 'I can roll this rock', but as my front wheel dipped lower I realized it was much higher than it appeared!! The fastest way to stop is to go directly into the ground, which I did. My right knee taking the brunt of the crash, but my calf decided this would be a good time to cramp as well!! Gah!! Again, providing in-ride entertainment for the others.

Aside from the constant barrage of spectacular scenery in Sedona another great reason to ride here is the ever changing trail surfaces. A trail may start out as packed singletrack, then slickrock, maybe dive into a sandy wash area or wind through a grove of trees all within a two mile stretch.
A bonus for starting late: let the other riders pack down the sand!!
I was riding with Caroline & Steve B. for a bit and as the minutes went by I could feel my right knee getting more & more stiff. No way I'm DNF'ing this ride, especially after only 12 miles or so. I cracked open some ibuprofen in hopes it would allow me to finish somewhat comfortably. I simply needed to stay on my bike for the next 38 miles!!

I caught back up to the rest of the group while they were taking a break and kept going. I didn't want to stop just to stop due to my knee issues.

A few miles later I ran into Phil & Arturo, they took off before the mass start knowing they'd be taking their time on the route with all the picture taking. I wished them luck and pressed on to one of my favorite sections of the route, the Cockscomb/Aerie/Mescal Mtn area.
Snack break at the Cockscomb TH, Mingus Mtn. looming in the distance.
Aerie trail, great dirt, unparalleled views.
One of the coolest natural trail features around on Aerie.
The trail continues its pump track ways for a few miles. It's tough to wipe the grin off your face when you encounter all the hikers at the next trailhead. The fun doesn't stop there, on to Mescal Mtn!!

I was approaching the turn onto Mescal Mtn and who is sitting in the dirt eyeballing a giant area map of Sedona? Mr. Transition Klunker himself, Rob!! Going straight old school, no gps, I was amazed he made it this far into the route without missing a turn!! He looked up & smiled, 'man am I glad to see you!' Turn here, Rob, let's go! I already knew Rob was a cool dude and a stud rider, so it was really fun to ride the next 20 miles together BS'ing about all kinds of shit. After he learned of my part-time airport gig, we quizzed each other on airport city codes for a few miles, what a hoot. MCI - Kansas City, MCO - Orlando, MSY - New Orleans just to name a few of the oddball ones.
Rob on Mescal Mtn trail.
I was about to ride a step-up ledge when I heard a familiar sound, TING!! Drat, broken spoke. Out comes the universal fix-all...gorilla tape! Back in business once more we both opted for the 'more difficult' line instead of the 'extreme' version a bit farther down the trail.

The miles seemed to melt away and before long we were ready for a snack break on Girdner trail with Thunder Mtn not far away.

Not many people are fond of Thunder Mtn, it doesn't really flow, the dips in/out of washes are a rubbly, chunky mess and it's well into the day. Rob spotted a small water cache near the trailhead and as we were topping off our bottles Caroline, Alexis & Doug came rolling up. They weren't too thrilled when I didn't give Thunder Mtn a ringing endorsement, but I did remind them it was relatively short-lived!!

I surprised myself and rode more than I have in my previous two attempts on Thunder Mtn, it was over before I knew it!! I was now looking forward to the slick decent on Teacup.
Coffee pot rock.
Amazing view from Teacup trail.
Ooohh, ledgy singletrack.
Devil's sinkhole.
I tend to forget how long the Jordan trail can be, but we eventually plopped out on pavement and wound our way through downtown Sedona dodging pink jeeps and tourists enjoying the red rocks.

By some cruel route design we rode right by Oak Creek Brewery at Tlaquepaque, I was so tempted to stop in for some suds, but the end was near. We had our own beer & pizza waiting back at the Bike & Bean and I was determined to finish with plenty of daylight.

Rob and I started up Broken Arrow, but the singlespeed klunking was taking its toll on him. He mentioned that he was slowing down and I shouldn't wait, so I gave him my best guesstimate on the remaining trails and kept going.
Rob still hanging in there on Broken Arrow.
Chicken Point, now it's time to rip.
Riding down Little Horse to Llama is always a good time. Add in some stair-step rock features and it's a great time. A short connector to Templeton took the route under hwy 179 over to the final climb up Slim Shady.
Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?
I reconnected with Hiline to complete the loop portion and the sun was still high in the sky!! Only a short one and a half miles of swooping downhill remained. Done. Beer me.

I was glad & relieved a bit to see Rob already there as I missed a few trails during my directions to the finish. It was nice to be part of the post-ride festivities for a change. A short bit later Caroline, Alexis & Doug finished up.

This was my third time doing the BFL, each time the route has been slightly modified. I really enjoyed the overall flow this year ranking it at the top of the list. See you next year!

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