March 26, 2016

AES: Sedona BFL Modified and DNF'd

The AZTR750 was fast approaching, this was going to be my last big effort ride leading into that event. I wanted it to be extra grand, I mean who doesn't want to make an AES race harder? More Sedona singletrack couldn't possibly be a bad thing, right? The Forest Service had recently adopted a bunch of old social trails back into the official trail network, so why not ride those as part of my loop. I also have been riding Broken Arrow trail a lot on these big rides, so I opted to skip that in favor of a loop (or two) through the Hogs area.

My route was set, I was ready to ride some red rocks!! I also figured since I was adding more terrain, I should probably start a couple hours ahead of the group. That meant my alarm was going to buzz at 3am for a 7am arrival. Much to my own surprise, I arrived on time!! Jeff & Nancy also wanted to get an early start, so the three of us grabbed the prime parking spaces at the local IGA - not like it mattered. They weren't tagging along on my extra bits though, I was on my own for that nonsense.
Even the ride to the ride is gorgeous!
A few ups & downs & roots to begin with, then the main event begins on Hiline.
Hiline is a signature trail in Sedona for obvious reasons.
Looking back towards Bell Rock.
High above Red Rock Crossing.
I did have one 'oh shit' moment along Hiline. I was on the exposed section of trail, much of which has vegetation on the cliff side, but this one area of about 20 feet is barren. Barren, except for the lone small tree to the mountain side that seemed to have an exceptional gravitational pull this particular morning. I rode too close to the tree - avoid the cliff area, and happened to hip-check the trunk. This bounced me a solid 6+ inches to the right, putting my tires on the cusp of going down an unforgiving slope of rock, cacti and pointy shrubs. Let's just say my heart rate increased a bit. I tagged the tree hard enough to leave a bruise on my arm!!

Shortly after my near incident, Jeff caught up just as we reached the apex of the climb. It was time to rip some curvy red lines down to the slickrock segment. So fun.
Jeff taking off from the overlook.
Moab on a small scale.
The slickrock leads to this, a steep, loose chute of rock that I'll be happy to walk down.
The banks of Oak Creek make for some nicely shaded riding.
I caught up to Jeff for the last time at the water crossing. Not too bad for a barefoot plunge.
This was where my route would alter course. Instead of heading directly to Old Post & Herkenham, I'd veer right onto Ridge, Sketch, Carroll Canyon, Old Post & Skywalker. This brought me to the top of Herkenham where I spotted the fast guys of the AES race. I still had a planned loop on Scorpion & Pyramid before returning back to the top of Herkenham.

Ridge started off with a robust HAB. Not too long, but you gained viewing elevation rapidly. I passed by a hiker and a little ways up the trail somehow my backpack got caught on my seat adjustment screw!! I was doubled over the frame trying to untangle myself when the hiker approached - I could hear her laughing!! I almost needed assistance to undo the loop knot, but at the last second it came free. Jeez.
Nice views from Ridge trail.
Sketch wasn't as sketchy as I thought it may be.
Great signage at all the junctions.
Skywalker had plenty of flow.
While taking a snack break at the top of Herkenham I chatted briefly with a few of the AES riders. I knew I wouldn't be catching up to any of these guys. I peeled off and started down Scorpion, really cool trail. Pyramid was just as fun, but did have one steep section that I walked down similar to Hiline. At the bottom I rejoined Scorpion and decided to check out the entire length. So, I rode up Scorpion to the split with Pyramid.
Scorpion trail.
Really nice additions to the trail system.
Beginning of the steep descent on Pyramid.
Stunnng topography around every turn.
As I readied myself to head back down Scorpion a rider came towards me looking a bit confused. I asked her if she was doing the race and when she said 'yes', I informed her she was no longer on route. I invited her to ride with me for a bit as I'd be linking back into the race route soon enough. She came over from Los Alamos, NM for the event, but got turned around at the top of Herkenham.

The return back down Scorpion was a hoot and we quickly rejoined the route. Two other ladies were on route taking a more relaxed pace on the day. The first girl decided to cut the route short & took the road back into town. I continued on down Ledge-n-Airy & Last Frontier.
Somewhere along Last Frontier.
Eventually I connected to Girdner. It's a love/hate relationship with this trail, some really good stuff, but the countless sandy/rocky streambed crossings get old. A few were rideable, but most required a dismount.
A few pools along Girdner.
A bit much to navigate through.
Yay, another streambed crossing.
Adios Girdner, now maybe I can make up some time?
I was really looking forward to the next bunch of miles along the route, some of my favorite for flowy singletrack. The real fun began after exiting Rupp where it links to Cockscomb, then onto Aerie and over to Mescal Mountain.
Mingus Mtn doesn't seem so evil from here.
Caramel chocolate chip brownie bar from a co-worker. Yeah, that was good!!
How I love thee, Aerie.
Mescal Mtn. approach.
Mescal Mtn is a mix of singletrack and slickrock ledge riding.
A few riders taking an alternate high line the opposite direction.
Opted for extreme today.
The line hugs the rock about halfway up.
I was feeling great, coming off a rider's high after that section. I was already looking forward to riding the Hogs in a short while, when my chain skipped down to the granny ring out of the blue. Every once in a while I'll drop a chain or something, nothing unusual, but this time I couldn't shift back out of granny?!? A bit annoyed I down shifted a few gears in the rear to make it manageable and continued on towards Chuckwagon.

I was now getting hungry for lunch and Famous Pizza was going to be the spot, slightly off route, but before the crappy Thunder Mtn. trail - which I also planned to skip in favor of Andante. I just had to knock out a couple miles on Chuckwagon and some fast pavement before lunch. Then this happened....
That's not good.
I stood on the trail in disbelief  as my non-drive crank arm lie in the red dirt. Well, looks like my day is done. I didn't have a large enough allen key to try and futz with it, but by an incredible stroke of luck I was only 50 feet or so of downhill trail away from pavement. I coasted down to the road just as another rider was going by. I flagged him down to see if he had the proper tool. He had one down at his vehicle, so I coasted some more. It was here when I realized what the issue really was, the spindle stripped out. No allen key was going to revive this one. Again, I lucked out as I was on the road that led to pizza and it was mostly downhill. So, I Fred Flintstoned the flats, walked a couple of uphills and flew down the rest.
Crippled Voodoo.
I lobbed Jeff & Ray a text to see if either of them had finished and could come pick me up. Ray, of course was already done riding and on his way back down the hill to PHX. Jeff had just wrapped up his ride and came to my aid as I finished lunch.

In the end, this was a blessing in disguise. I would much rather DNF the Sedona ride than have that happen in a few weeks during the AZTR750. That could really spell trouble. Now, I just needed a new set of cranks...and pedals. My hijacked Shimano flats from my 25+ year old BMX 20" Freestyle Flatland machine were starting to make grinding noises near the end of the ride.

Back at Bike-n-Bean the gang all cheered when I showed up with my hobbled machine. Many asking when the Voodoo was going to be retired. Not yet, not yet. There's still a few more adventures left on that rig.

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