May 13, 2018

Four Corners Foray

The 12 Hours of Mesa Verde mountain bike race was fast approaching. The race is held on the famed Phil's World trails outside of Cortez, CO. My good buddy, Seron, aka Burrito Brother had posed the the question a few months earlier. Anyone interested in doing the race? I was down, how could I pass up riding at Phil's World and simultaneously resurrecting Team Burrito Bros.?!? This was going to happen and be a blast.

We were about a week away from race day and I received a text from Seron about his knee virtually imploding on him. Dude has had the absolute worst luck with his knees, yet still manages to get out when he can and keep a 'mostly' positive attitude. It's just not fair sometimes when your mind is ready for adventure, but your body won't follow. He vowed to give it a go as long as he could. I was also still nursing a squeaky Achilles. We obviously weren't podium contenders, never have been. We aim for fun and in this case at least a lap each!! I was hoping for two, maybe three if I felt good.
Start in the lower left and proceed counter-clockwise.
I had planned to drive separately so I could check out some other trails along the way. My plans shifted slightly the day of departure. I had ordered a set of prescription lenses for my sunglasses, they were now expected to arrive the day I was to hit the road towards Moab. I waited, then waited some more. The lenses finally arrived at 6:30p. It was going to be a very late, errr early morning arrival in Moab that I wasn't too keen on. Scott & Eszter weren't quite there yet anyway, so I opted to stay home an additional night and head to Cortez in the morning.
I still get a kick out of this sign on I-40 near the NM line. My hometown is Allentown, PA.
NM: High Desert Trail System
Gallup, NM is on the way and there's singletrack in town that I hadn't ridden. It was an extremely windy drive north, 30-40 mph sustained with gusts to 50!! It's only wind and it wasn't cold. I found the trailhead on the west end of town for the High Desert Trails. Surprise, surprise, no one else was around on this windy Friday afternoon.
My plan? Take all right-hand turns and ride everything.

I could see this mountain lion from the parking area. Cool.

My car looking mighty tiny very quick.

Fancy trail register.

Each trail junction was marked with a 'you are here' map.

I couldn't really get any closer to the Sun dial, it was so windy I felt I'd get blown off the ledge!!

A slice of Moab??

A really neat rock feature to ride under/around.

This area marked the split towards the opposite trailhead and a short loop.

Another metal creature.

More metal work.

Cactus explosion!!

There were a few rollovers, always a nice touch.

I had to chuckle at this map. The 'you are here' had me at the trailhead I started, some 11 miles away!!

Looks a lot like Passage 42 on the Arizona Trail.

I came around a fast corner, looked up and was a bit startled!! This one was well placed.

What do you see??

Now they're coming in pairs.

Meep, meep.

In spite of the windy conditions, the trails were a ton of fun. Fast, flowy, nice climbing grades, some rocks to play on & interesting views.
I'd definitely ride here again, preferably on a nicer day. The big takeaway? No Achilles pain, nothing. It was the best I'd felt on the bike since early March.

CO: Cortez - Phil's World (12 Hours of Mesa Verde)

Next stop, Cortez, CO. to pick up my race packet. I stopped for a post-ride refueling when I realized I forgot about the 1 hour timezone change. Crap. What time was the bike shop closing? 8p. Hmmm, I should be ok, but I better get moving.
A little past 7p when I crossed the line.
I gave the bike shop a call to verify the 8p closing. I was going to make it, but not by much. I parked and saw I had a text from Seron, he was picking up his packet now!! Funny that we both arrived in Cortez within minutes of each other. Seron's Mom was also along, she loves camping and offering support for the races. (Read: she cooks for us!!)

We found our way over to the county fairgrounds, across the road from the Phil's World trails, site of the race, as the sun went down. Jamie was there and had a space for us, but it was near a large pile of straw covered manure. We found a more suitable spot nearby for Seron's popup camper. 30 minutes later it was time to crack another brew open and relax.

The next morning the burritos were being fired up when the PA system announced a racer's meeting in 5 minutes. What time does this thing start?? I thought 7:30a, it was 6:45a or so and at the meeting I found out the race started at 7:00a!! Gah! I better jam 1/2 a burrito down and get my number plate on my bike. I think this is the first race where I didn't really research anything. I barely knew where the camp location was, didn't know when the race started and hadn't looked at the route other than knowing it was about a 16 mile loop. It was kinda nice. We were just here to ride some fun trail.

Let's see if you can tell the difference in the next three photos:

Pre-race meeting. Bike staging area for the Le Mans start.

Lap 1 racers stage at the start line.....BOOM!! Go!!
To my surprise everyone, I mean EVERYONE, began running. What is this? I was used to the Le Mans start at the 24 Hrs in the Old Pueblo, where 1/2 the starters walk and accept beer handups. Not today. Ok, ok, I'll lightly jog...

Racing!!!....into a bottleneck leaving the corral area.
The bottleneck areas actually weren't bad at all and I was fairly far back in the field. A few miles into the lap and the riders had stretched out well.

I surprised myself by not stopping for almost 7 miles. Nonstop riding just isn't my thing. Racing, really isn't my thing either.

The wind was picking up and with it, some dust.

Yeehaw!! Great capture by the race photographer Barak Naggan Photography
Ribcage is the signature section of trail at Phil's World. It's about a mile of mostly downhill whoops, banks and one short hill. The photographer was staged here, at the top of a rise. I saw the sign signaling him ahead, then as I dropped down into the dip I didn't quite have the speed I would've liked. I hit the lip of the exit and pulled up, I saw the camera flash and thought 'crap, that's going to look stupid!!' It felt like my front wheel had gone too skyward. I was very surprised when I saw the capture, I don't recall leaning the bike right at all!! Needless to say, I'm stoked how it came out. For a brief moment, I look fast!!

Our relay strategy was very relaxed. We'd text each other when we were finishing up, if we weren't in the exchange barn, we'd probably be at camp...enjoying a brew.

Seron ready for a lap with his freshly minted 12 hrs of Mesa Verde jersey

I hung out with Deanna during Seron's lap and we watched the racers dodge dogs, little kids and a minivan while waiting for Walt to arrive. Here he goes back out for another lap, riding solo!!

Found another buddy, Shawn, getting set for his ultra fast team lap.

I started to feel a slight presence in my Achilles during lap 2, so I took more pics and breaks along the way. Here the San Juan mountains near Durango can be seen. Not much snow left from a very lean winter.

Looking south towards Mesa Verde.

I took a nice 10 minute shade break while dreaming about the high country.

Plenty of small things along the way to keep you entertained.

One of the cool looking mile markers.

The exit of the exchange barn.
I wrapped up my second lap, a full 30 minutes longer than the first and called it a day. Seron's knee wasn't too happy and he reluctantly opted out of a second lap. That's about what we thought going in. Ride bikes, have fun. Mission accomplished. I hung around for the afternoon meal then packed up and pointed my car towards Moab.

Flyover: Lap 1 (Slightly different at the start of the race)

Flyover: Lap 2

Route: Lap 1
Route: Lap 2

UT: Moab - Horsethief Trails
Scott & Eszter were in town and getting the all-star treatment from Salsa. They sent a film crew, of one (Sam), over from the U.K. to document ScampLife. How cool is that? They still had one day of filming left, but it's always good catching up & hanging out with those two.
You are now entering the Twilight Zone.

You can tell you're getting close to Moab when the landscape begins to take odd form.
First order of business however, a shower. They are easy to come by in Moab and I was refreshed in no time. Now, to find the Scamp before it was pitch black. Eszter provided superb directions and I remembered to reset my odometer at each intersection. I arrived just as lights were necessary. We chilled out for a while hoping the relentless wind would finally subside.
The Scamp has a new engine!! It's quite the setup. There's actually a bit of 'extra' space.

Time-lapse over Canyonlands for Sam's production. I can't wait to see how it turns out.
We were all stirred awake by an all too foreign sound: raindrops. What the?? Just a passing dark cloud or two in the early morning. The good news? Calm winds. It was going to be a good day.

Since I was not on a rental full squish bike like my previous two visits, I was given some trail advice for my hardtail. The Horsethief Trails were nearby and for the most part, all rated intermediate. It's not that I can't take my bike on the advanced stuff here, it's just not nearly as fun!! Plus, I needed something with options if my Achilles were to act up.

After breakfast coffee & porridge w/jam, I bid the gang farewell with a possible summer reunion in the Colorado high country in the works.
Beautiful Sunday morning and only one other car in the lot.

With so many tourists, most of the trails are signed very well.
There's never a shortage of viewpoints in Moab.

La Sal Mtns peeking around the corner.

The dots/dashes are color coded to match the signage.

I only rode a bit of 7-Up, some singletrack, some jeep road.

Slickrock shelf.

The colors were still popping too.
I rolled back through the parking lot and took a snack break. I decided to check out one of the newer trails, Rodeo, which was across the street. Eszter's morning comment had me intrigued, 'if it wasn't in Moab, it would be a fantastic trail.' I had the time, so I wanted to see for myself.

Found some amazing rock work in this wash crossing.

Mother Nature did most of the work here.

Plenty of open trail on the slickrock playground.

Cruising along, I heard a metal-on-rock sound. Sure enough, part of my SRAM shifter fell apart. I swear, I was 'Just riding along'. I was in a comfortable gear and roughly 4+ miles from the car. I didn't risk shifting.

Just enough chunk for my hardtail, yet still plenty fun.

Rodeo was fun, but Eszter's description was accurate. Moab is loaded with first class trails.

I wrapped up the ride shortly after 1p. I needed to get on the road so I could squeeze in a final ride in Flagstaff to complete my Four Corners Tour.
Spotted the Scamp at Navajo Rocks on my way out.
Gold Bar Rim trail towers high above US191 on the cliff to the right.

Wilson Arch along US191 south of Moab.

The world famous Monument Valley.

Back to the Grand Canyon state.

Adios Utah, it's been fun albeit quick.

Shadows growing long as Flagstaff approaches.
AZ: Flagstaff - AZT to Picture Canyon

I debated a bit about what to ride. At first I had hoped to do a loop on Kelly Pocket, but the day was getting away from me. Now that I had potential shifter issues, I needed to keep it short. Campbell Mesa? Duh, AZT. It always delivers. I'd do a short lollipop on the Arizona Trail out to Picture Canyon and back, some 5+ miles total. Perfect.

It was now in the mid-50's, downright chilly!! I'll admit it, I broke out my arm warmers.
Sandy Seep TH.

I always feel at home on the AZT.

I was cruising the well packed dirt and gave the shifter a It worked fine.

Splitting off the AZT onto the Tom Moody trail.

Nice sampling of petroglyphs next to the trail.

Very cool and only a few hundred feet from the AZT.

Trees, water and cool temps in Arizona.

Follow the red diamonds.

I took a different trail to complete my loop and naturally found hike-a-bike. I think this is the old AZT alignment from years ago.
I finished up just as the sun dipped. Tour complete, but still 3 hours away from home. I made it back before 10:30p, not too bad by my standards. :)

Another fun, action packed weekend of riding in the books. So good to hang out with Seron and team up for a bit during the race. Also great to see so many friends killing it at Mesa Verde, impressive. Always a fun time meeting up with Scott & Eszter, they're just so hard to track down sometimes!!

This post started with a collage of state signs, here's a final collage of pics (from above), one from each state. I showed this to a bunch of co-workers and had them try and guess which state each picture was from. To the untrained eye, it's tougher than you may think.
3 Days, 4 states, 4 rides.

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