December 3, 2022

AES: Unpleasantville

 The final event on the Arizona Endurance Series, AES, calendar was upon us: Pleasantville. A big, 61 mile, clockwise loop around Lake Pleasant. I was looking for a bit of redemption from last year's DNF due to tire issues early on. The initial forecast looked good, but the night before it had changed to a 30% chance of afternoon showers. Good thing I checked as I hadn't planned to take rain gear!! I didn't think too much of it since by afternoon I'd be getting close to the finish anyway.

Kirsten offered to host us again which is just about the coolest thing ever. It also makes it very convenient to access the Maricopa Trail as it's only a few blocks away.

The morning was cool, but not cold, although my hands would still be complaining for the first few miles. I was a few minutes late off the start because I forgot to load the track on the GPS and it was taking longer than normal. Oh well, I'd be near the back anyway.

The hot air balloons were out early on this overcast morning.

A less than spectacular section of the BCT.

I caught up to Nancy while she Macgyver'd a water nozzle hack for her pack. She and Jeff would opt to cut the ride short when Jeff wasn't into the long day ahead. This turned out to be a very fortuitous decision.

This area is seeing more dispersed camping and along with it some unfortunate scenes. I wonder what the story here was. This was literally crossing the trail.

The route drops off the ridge into this fun canyon area as it nears Lake Pleasant.

The New Waddell Dam which creates Lake Pleasant.

Rude awakening to the trails!! I've never seen this much water here. The footbridge to cross this area is still 25' away. I managed to keep my feet/shoes dry as I crossed.

A very receded waterline of Lake Pleasant, somewhere near 60% capacity.

With the low lake levels we could simply ride across the old site of the floating bridge which is scattered about.

Lake view from the trail.

Clouds building as we begin to circle the north end of the lake.

Now looking south towards Lake Pleasant.

The SXS crowd had the dust flying, but not for long.

Some chunky, but fast dirt roads around the north end.

Bottoming out in another dry finger of the lake.

Hard to believe this area fills with water on occasion.

Steven and I made the short detour to Solo Spring to filter some water and get the advertised time bonus. It's a cool sight. Clear, cold water tucked under this overhang.

Back on route, we near the mesa as light rain begins to fall sometime around 12:30p.

It's enough to wet the ground and break out the rain gear, but the riding is good.

Ouch. A relatively new Subaru Forester well over it's head. I wonder what the story here is as it's been reported to have been here a while, yet to everyone's surprise it isn't riddled with bullet holes or has much missing. That's how remote this section is. There is a flat camping spot on top of the hill to the right of the photo, that's my guess on its destination. The road deteriorates further after the hill. I'm shocked it made it this far back to begin with.

Friendly reminder that this route is CLOSED between Dec. 15 - June 15.

Steven takes the plunge to the next obstacle: the giant field of cockleburs!!

At first we could follow the path of the faster riders, then it closed. Every rider for themself!!

This fella just stood there staring at us, laughing inside I'm sure at our stupidity.

Revenge of the cockleburs!! They attach to everything and were 7' tall in some areas. Apparently they spawned the invention of VELCRO. Seems logical.

We finally made it to a real path through the burs.
The rain continued, but was light and steady. The riding was fine as we crossed a dry Agua Fria River and began a short stint on Table Mesa Rd. The ground was now well saturated as we began the Black Canyon Trail, BCT. We stopped for a snack, which included a semi-soggy slice of Chicago style pizza thank you very much.

I joked beforehand that any rider would receive a one minute time bonus for each cocklebur still on their bike or person at the finish. Steven is looking to trim an hour off his time!! Hahaha.

I took off a little ahead of Steven and crossed the one dirt road on this section to begin the meat of the climb away from Table Mesa Rd. It was the last time I'd see Steven as he opted to bail from the route and get picked up since he didn't have any rain gear. I found this out after the ride.

I kept climbing, slowly. I was about 2/3 of the way to the saddle when the dirt began accumulating on my tires. Eventually it was too much and my chain came off as the sticky mud clung to everything. Ugh.
My poor bike not exactly rideable at the moment.
I topped out on the saddle, bike loaded with mud. I knew a good downhill was coming, so I didn't need to bother with my chain at the moment, hoping a good bit of mud would fall off. It didn't. At the next 2-track crossing I tried to get the chain cleaned enough to put back on but to no avail. I opted to coast the downhills, Fred Flintstone the flat sections and walk the uphills all while stopping every so often to try and get the chain to stay. I doused it with water from my bladder, scraped it, nothing worked.

Finally, about the 5th try it didn't fall off!! I slowly soft pedaled for a bit until I knew it would stay on. Relieved, I could now cover ground at a reasonable pace.

Saguaro Alley.

Gavilan Peak near New River through the rain.
For the most part the trail rode fine the next few miles. I was about a mile or so from the Emery Henderson TH when my phone rang, it was Igor. He, along with a few others, managed to finish the route and were back at Kirsten's place soaking in the hot tub. Where are you? He asked. I said about 8 miles from the finish. He insisted I skip the dirt road connecting the BCT to the Maricopa Trail as it was all death mud. I asked how the BCT rode south of Emery Henderson and he said it was fine. So, my plan was to stay on the BCT until I linked up with the Maricopa Trail, then ride it in reverse of what we did in the morning back to Kirsten's place.

A few minutes later I cruised through the trailhead intent on knocking out the final 6 1/2 miles relatively quick. That didn't last long as I was almost instantly bogged down in gooey muck after crossing New River Rd. The mud was piling up quickly on my bike & shoes, then the chain came off again. Shit. This was truly horrible stuff, heinous. I had barely gone 1/4 mile from the trailhead. No way I was pushing my bike through this crap to the finish. Plus, it was already 4p and only a little over an hour of daylight remained.

I called Igor back asking for the odds of him picking me up. Zero. He didn't have his truck. Bob was there and overheard my plea and offered to come get me from the trailhead. Hooray!! Bob also rescued me from my AZT300 DNF in 2017 in style. What a guy!!
My Pleasantville ejection wasn't quite as glamorous!! Ha!

It may look innocent...

...but it's pure evil!!! Gah!!
It took everything I had to lift the bike high enough to clear the horse gate back at New River Rd. I bet the bike weighed over 150lbs easily. Back at the trailhead I walked the bike through a series of puddles on the pavement to attempt a little bit of cleaning.

Pretty sure my bike hated me after this ride.

Somehow I managed to find one more section of the BCT to avoid when wet.
I have to admit, it was a gratifying DNF, calling it after 55 miles of a 61 mile loop. Most of the DNFs on this day were after 50 miles due to mud. At least we all were able to ride the best part of the loop!! Thanks again to Bob for bailing me out. Back at Kirsten's place it was great to hang out for a bit, soak in the hot tub and share the tales from the day. Thanks also to Kirsten for once again hosting this silly route and being the awesome host everyone loves!!

The Battlewagon the following day, still not completely dried out. Took about 30 minutes to get all the muck off.

Would you look at that!?! It's a nekked SSP. I've had this bike for almost 1 1/2 years and I had never seen it without bags. Haha. It went straight to the bike shop for a major overhaul.


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