February 15, 2019

Maricopa Trail: X-Ray Vision

The Maricopa Trail (MT) is a mixed terrain route that encircles the metro Phoenix area linking many of the Regional Parks together. A few months ago marked the official completion of the route. I had been keeping a keen eye on the progress knowing I'd be rearing to ride the entire loop in one multiday ride.

The main loop is about 230 miles, but there are a few spurs into nearby Regional Parks that when added, push the total upwards of 330 miles. This would be my goal. Ride. It. All.

February seemed like a good month to give it a whirl and the extended President's Day weekend fit the bill. I was aiming to ride the route in 3+ days averaging near 100 miles per day and finish early on day 4, Monday.

I lobbed the idea to Shannon & Beto, but Beto had committed to pit crew duties at the popular 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo race that weekend. He gave Shannon the nudge to come along for some big mileage training days. She then invited the Hanson's, Jason & Jennifer. This was gonna be fun.

The desert southwest seems to be locked into a steady El Nino weather pattern lately. Desert wildflowers are everywhere and so are the rain clouds. A system moved in and soaked the region on Thursday and when we woke on Friday for the start, the roads were wet, skies gray, but things appeared to be clearing at least a bit. The weekend forecast looked ok, maybe some sprinkles on Sunday, but that was a couple days away. Let's ride.
Team #Loco primed and ready!!
We'd be riding the loop in a clockwise direction and starting from my house. I happen to live one mile from the San Tan spur, so we'd be knocking out the longest of the spur routes first. I typically ride my bike from home whenever I go for a local spin at San Tan Regional Park, the only difference in the official spur route compared to my route is the MT stays on Sossaman Rd. longer than I normally do. The only reason this is any concern is Sossaman Rd. doesn't have any shoulder or bike lanes whereas Hawes Rd does. This came into play early on as a large pickup truck pulling a trailer decided to not use the center turn lane to give us our lawful space. It was uncomfortably close, like less than a foot. Nothing like a good vehicle buzz to wake you up in the morning. Thanks a-hole.
We eventually turned on the Sonoqui Wash trail much to our delight.

San Tan Regional Park. Park #1 on the tour.
I'd like to give a quick shout out to my buddy, Charlie Kemp, from Florida. A few months ago he was in town and rode one of my loops and as a thank you he gave me an Arizona flag themed mesh netting add-on for my seatbag. Looks sharp and you can stuff all kinds of extra items in there on the fly. Thanks man!!

There was a Park Ranger at the trailhead and she reminded us to steer clear of any puddles on the trail. San Tan tends to hold up quite well in the rain or right after a storm, so I was liking our chances for hero dirt. Ranger pro-tip: 4 bike riders at $2 each = 1 car entry for $7. Save a buck or more, ride with friends!!
Shannon cresting the Dynamite trail climb.

Jennifer rides San Tan on occasion, but had never ridden Dynamite trail. She likes it!!

The Navy Blue has been sun bleached to purple.

Finishing our interior park loop, the Goldmine trail awaits in the distance.

This guy. Always smiling, goofing and will crush you on the climbs.

Here's proof. I'm already walking.
When I poured over the track I was taken aback when I saw the MT divert off the Dynamite trail to use the Goldmine trail. I've hiked it once, years ago and it's tough hiking!! I never really considered taking my bike on it. Recently I had heard the park had done some work on the trail, maybe it was more rideable??

Perhaps, but this wasn't one of the sections. Holy moly this was steep & rugged!!

I told Shannon we'd get an early dose of hike-a-bike!!

The big push leads to a false summit, but cool views of Four Peaks through the mist.

Appears to be blue sky approaching. South Mountain would be our next park destination.

From this perch the San Tan Mountains seem more like a mountain range.

Jason drops into the Goldmine descent.

Shannon's hot on his heels.

The elevation gained is rapidly lost.
I had to walk a couple of short pitches when my brakes weren't exactly slowing me down. It was quite the white knuckle descent, but overall very rideable. I'm sure plenty of riders can clean the whole thing, but it's a solid test.

Park #1 complete.
I realized halfway through the park that I had forgot my HR strap and I really wanted it for this ride. Luckily for us, we had to ride the MT back north to the Queen Creek Wash trail, which is only one mile from home. We all decided to make quick adjustments back at the house since we were going there and we'd divert off Sossaman Rd. in favor of the friendlier Hawes Rd. shoulders.

I'd love to see the inside of this property. It sits just outside the San Tan Goldmine trailhead.
We were cruising up Hawes Rd. took a turn into Desert Mountain Park where we'd link into the Queen Creek Wash trail. I always take this slight detour when I ride home from San Tan because it allows you free passage under the roads via trail. I've done it hundreds of times. Today was different, there was a small puddle of water right where the turn begins to enter the wash trail. It's all paved. Flat. The puddle was a little slimy and I saw it, slowed down, then felt my tires begin to slide...then slightly grip before sliding completely out from under me. Of course all of this is happening in one or two seconds, but I distinctly recall telling myself to not put out my left hand to brace my fall. I tucked it in, but when I hit the sidewalk on my left side, my right arm must have come around me and backhanded the pavement. HARD.

I looked up and saw Jason on the ground too. We both went down in an instant much to the surprise of each of us and the folks sitting on the park bench nearby. Jason popped up, but my hand was beginning to sting. The pain intensified almost to the point of nausea. I began pacing around hoping it would let up and we could get on with the ride. As the minutes wore on I began to realize that this could be serious. I had no grip power, I could barely move my wrist and it was still very uncomfortable. Ugh to the nth degree. My ride was over.

I slid across the sidewalk, the pain just starting to hit.

Looks innocent enough, but check out the skid marks Jason and I put down.
The good news was we were only 3 flat miles away from home. So, with Shannon's assist, I got my gear back on and made the ride home...one handed.

Down a man, the others head back out much to my delight. I'm glad they didn't alter their ride plans because of me.
Here's the intended route overview with our starting location buried in the far southeast corner:
Full Maricopa Trail + spur routes
Hopefully the weather holds out for the crew and they finish the entire thing. My attempt will have to come another time. While it was short, it was fun!! Thanks for the great riding company.

Meanwhile, I made a Doctor appointment to have x-ray orders sent in. I was able to get the x-rays completed early enough that the doctor gave me a call with the early results. The diagnosis: Soft tissue swelling with no acute fracture. However, if the pain persists for a week, then a second x-ray will be needed. Back in 2015 it took two x-rays to confirm my break, so my hopes are tempered at the moment.
Definitely not what I had planned.


  1. Shit mate, that is no good! You should have cut onto the grass on the inside of the corner...nice and grippy looking. I really hope you get off with just some swelling. Fingers are crossed here in Oz for ya.;)

    1. What were the odds?? I can ride down gnarly mountains, but can't navigate a sidewalk turn. Oy. The wrist is a slow healer, but I'll be ready to go in June. It did cost me a return ride on the AZTR this spring. Pretty bummed about that.