Riding Willow Springs loop trail

July 14, 2013

We were supposed to be halfway to Oregon today, riding the motorbikes. If we’d been able to go with our original summer vacation plans, that’s where we’d be. However, fate seems determined to keep us off the road so we had to find other ways to be on two wheels. With ALL the motorcycles now in the shop, except for the hero of last week’s riding story, Little Beast, my riding partner and long-suffering friend, Hal, and I had nothing left but to go mountain biking. It proved to be an adventuresome day! We drove to Payson, Arizona, as usual, to get the day started with breakfast. Payson is the gateway to Rim country, where it is cool. “Rim country” is what we call the area up on the Mogollon Rim, and where all the Phoenicians go to escape the relentless heat of the Phoenix area.

I ate a big breakfast in Payson because I figured I’d need as much energy as I could get.  While at the restaurant, Hal dragged out his laptop so we could try to find a mountain bike trail that included singletrack, and was a trail we hadn’t ridden yet. I had sort of planned on doing Houston Mesa loop again, but only because it was convenient, and I was not up for a huge workout. All week I’ve been doing difficult workouts, and Sunday is supposed to be for riding motorbikes, in other words, taking a break from doing a workout! So, that (the laptop) is how we found our choice of trail for the day, the Willow Springs Lake loop.

At first I wasn’t too enthused. It seemed like the usual thing: forest road or jeep trail, not singletrack. Hal drove to FR237, where, just off Hwy. 260, there is a trailhead. In the pullout where we parked, we could hear electricity zinging through the wires that were nearby, high above us. It almost sounded like rain falling, but it was electricity traveling.

Noisy power lines:

As Hal finished getting ready, I saw another mountain biker, and asked him where the trail was. He pointed to a sign and said he was going to ride that loop, too.  “It’s easy to follow, just follow the little brown signs with the bicycle on them, and also the blue diamonds. But at the lake, it gets confusing. At the dam, go left, and then you have to be careful to follow the blue diamonds.”

He took off, he looked like he would be super-fast. I went over and relayed this information to Hal as he finished getting his gear on. Then we got on the trail. It started out as rocky double track, and I thought it was going to be a boring ride. But the scenery was pleasant, the sky was beautiful with the building clouds, and then the track started to go downhill toward the lake. When we got there, after about three miles, we turned left at the dam as we’d been told. I knew where we were from our many visits to Willow Springs Lake. We’d walked to the dam from the other side a couple of times, but the trail we were mountain biking on took us along the north side of the lake.

Follow the blue diamonds!:

The guy we’d talked to was right. We did have to be careful that we followed the trail. I was in front for the beginning of the ride, and I lost the trail soon after we’d made the turn. A short distance into the woods, and I knew I’d missed something. So, we backtracked to where I’d seen the last blue diamond, went slowly, and looked again, carefully. It was easy to miss, but once we found the trail again, we climbed a short rocky climb. The rest of the way around the lake, we were on glorious singletrack!

Hal, at a fallen log:

I picked up my bike and lifted it over the log. Then I noticed how other people were getting over it. They lift the front end of their mountain bike, stick the chainring into the log, and use it to propel the bike up and over. See the little holes?:

It was mostly flat with a couple of rocky areas, either climbing or descending. One little climb was fun, and as I stood on the pedals to get up it, I chanted, “Bacon! Bacon!” as I climbed. I’d eaten four pieces for breakfast, along with two eggs and some heavenly rye toast, and I was feeling pretty good. I waited for Hal a couple of times, but he did pretty well today keeping up with me. Speaking of toast, my legs were tired from all the workouts I’d done during the week, and they were closer to “toast” than I wanted to admit. Every time I felt tired, I stood on the pedals and made myself work harder. I guess it’s that racer work ethic that still kicks in, even though I haven’t raced mountain bikes since 2002!

Rocky terrain:

Soon we came out near Hwy. 260, but farther west on the road than where the car was parked. We followed the signs and more blue diamonds to get on the part of the loop that would return us to the car. The sign said it was going to be 2.5 miles, so we got going. The sky was getting ominously dark by this time. We’d been watching it since we left, but the storms seemed to be going northeast. The problem was, so were we, and soon after turning onto the last section of the loop, the rain started.

At first it was just big drops, and I thought it was going to stop. But, then it started to rain more and more, and soon it was very heavy. I was getting soaked, and I know from experience that if I don’t put on the little rain jacket I bring with me when I ride on the Rim, I would soon be cold and on the way to hypothermic. With these storms, the temperature drops drastically as well, to about 60° F. At the beginning of the ride, it had been almost hot, with the temperatures in the mid 80° F. and the sun was beating down.

Unfortunately, I’d waited too long, and my jersey was already quite wet. Hal wasn’t paying any attention to me, and he kept going, but it was worth it to me to stop. At this point, though, the rain was blinding, and the clouds seemed to lower and close in. When the rain began, I’d also thought I saw blue sky up ahead. It seemed like the storm wouldn’t last long, but now there was no question we were in this for the long haul. Lightning was flashing, and thunder was rolling and booming. A couple of times the lightning flashed and the crack of thunder was literally immediate and right above my head. I put my head down and kept going!

The rain was running in streams now under my tires. We were back on doubletrack at this point, but it was difficult to go fast. In the meantime, I had caught up to Hal, and now he was behind me. I felt the water squishing in my shoes with each pedal stroke; my socks were sodden.  The whole landscape turned the same shade of dull gray. Finally, we reached the “Y” in the trail where we’d turned near the beginning. I was watching my computer on the bike count the miles, too, and knew we should be close to the car. Then, I saw the line of power lines near where we’d parked, but the only problem was we were going to have to cross a big open area underneath them to get to the car, leaving us vulnerable to be struck by lightning. The lightning seemed to be getting more and more frequent and intense, but at that point, I was willing to take the chance. I put my head down and kept going, but pedaled faster.

Soon, I could see the car. Water was running down my face and every exposed bit of skin. I pedaled harder, wishing I would get across that open area. It seemed to last about 10 miles. Finally, I reached the other side and the gate we had to pass through to get to the car. It was still pouring when I pulled up, and Hal was right behind me.

The rain was so loud that we had to shout. “Let’s get over to the bathrooms!” I shouted. “There is a small overhang we can get under!”

“Okay!” Hal agreed, and we fled to the relative safety of the concrete block building where the toilets were. When we got there, it was stinky, but at least we were somewhat out of the rain.

“Whew!” I said.

“That was fun,” replied Hal sarcastically. We were both dripping, soaking wet, and the longer we stood there waiting for the rain to let up a little bit, the colder I got. It made no sense, though, to stand out there, load the bikes, then get the whole interior of the car wet by getting into it with our drenched clothing. We watched as a patch of blue sky moved toward us from the west. The rain never stopped, but finally, it slowed down enough for Hal to load the bikes. We also quickly grabbed dry clothes, changed, and got into the car before the next wave of heavy rain. As Hal drove the short stretch of unpaved road to Hwy. 260, he actually put the heat on in the car for a couple of minutes so we could get warm!

This was the rain after it had started to slow down a little so we could get out of there!:

On the drive back toward Payson on the 260, we went through patches of heavy rain. The view in the distance was beautiful with the sheets of rain turning the mountains blue. Once we came down off the Rim, it warmed up and became partly cloudy. The rainstorms of the Rim are so localized that you can be in cold rain one minute, and hot sun the next.

On the way home, the scenery looked so beautiful:

Soon we were back in Payson at our favorite Circle K, buying a cup of coffee, a bottle of lemonade, and energy bars for the trip home. We agreed that the trail we’d ridden was a really fun, fast, and mostly flat one, and that we’d come back soon. Next time, though, we’d get started a little earlier in the day and maybe be early enough to avoid another afternoon rainstorm!

Who needs Oregon, right?

Countdown to summer heat

Normal Saturday. I woke up wanting to mountain bike one last time before the heat sets in permanently. I chose McDowell Mtn. Park again, mainly because I have been really enjoying the trails there, and I am burned out on my usual network of trails, at least for the moment.

It didn’t start out great. When I got my mountain bike out to load onto the car, I found the front tire flat. It only takes a few minutes for me to change it, but it was the thought of one more thing to do before I left. I was already running behind. But I changed it quickly, and loaded up the car.

Getting there was even more of an ordeal than usual. There is this impediment called the town of Fountain Hills that is in the way. It’s normally a big pain in the butt because the speed limit is 35 mph all the way through. It doesn’t matter that I am the only one who ever adheres to it; I’d probably be the only one who got busted, too, if I dared to drive faster. Today they had some “event” going on near the fountain, which made it a cluster f*ck. Which it usually is anyway, but today it was beyond tolerable.

When I finally got to the park, one of the things I saw was a huge truck parked by the entrance with about 10-12 mountain bikes on it. I thought it was probably waiting for some big group to show up to ride. Oh, great, I thought. More people to clog up the trails. When I got to the trailhead, it was crowded as well. I took the bike down from the roof rack, and then got the wheel out of the back. Guess what? It was flat again. I looked at it for a minute, then my mechanical intuition kicked in and I thought it would be fine for the ride if I just pumped it up, so I did.

I took Pemberton main today, and started the climb. After all the frustrations of the morning, I thought, I’m done. It’s time to find something else fun to do on Saturdays for a while. Next Saturday I already have an epic dirt bike (motorbike) ride planned. I get tired of doing the same things over and over, but sometimes I get into a pattern that’s hard to break.

I felt super-tired today, and I was afraid my lap time on the loop would reflect that. I knew I went through some sections today that I was a lot faster on last week. Oh, well. It was a crappy week at work (again); no wonder I am tired. I was so darn glad to be outside riding my mountain bike, it didn’t really matter after a while.

I met too many people out there on the trails, mostly going the other way. I think the other way (clockwise) is harder, but since I’ve ridden it that way for almost 15 years, I thought I deserve to ride this way for a while. Plus, during the 12-hour race that is going to be on Pemberton trail next December we are riding it counter (anti-) clockwise, so now’s the time to start planning for that. I really want to do it this year.

When some of the riders passed, I saw a couple of young girls out there with spaghetti-strap tops, and no protective gear. I guess they never heard of skin cancer. And, once they go down hard, they won’t dress like that again. I’ve had my share of “mishaps,” so I know better than to dress like that, fashionable though it may be.

When I got to the top, even though I was slow on the climb, I was ahead of schedule, judging by my watch, so then I really kicked it. My front tire was holding fine, but I let a little air out of it so I wouldn’t get the crap beaten out of me on the rocky sections coming up. I dropped into the big chainring, and it was pure flying all the way down.

I did allow myself two opportunities to get some photos. I passed a cactus with the beautiful yellow flowers on it, and I said if I saw another, I would stop and get a photo. It was prickly pear cacti, and they seem to bloom a little later than the rest of the plants.

Prickly pear, yellow flowers:

Already the wildflowers are almost done, and many of them are drying up. I stopped and got another shot of this hedgehog cactus, just because I like them. I got a few photos of the ones out on the network of trails that I normally ride, but I wanted one more before the desert dries up.


In the middle of the fast descent, I stopped for a shot of this  fallen saguaro:

These tall stately cacti weigh hundreds, sometimes thousands of pounds, and you don’t want to be under it when it falls over. People are killed if they are in the path of these plants when they topple. This one was a big one, as you can see. It was also very old. The arms don’t start to develop until they are several years old. I am not sure what causes them to fall over. Maybe it had a weak spot and the wind pushed it over. Maybe it just fell over on its own. It’s kind of sad, I think. They are beautiful in their own unique way. These big cacti grow only in a couple of places in the world, and one of them happens to be here in the Sonoran desert. It is an iconic cactus, symbolizing Arizona.

Soon, I was back at the car, my riding day was done. I made it down to beat my lap time from last week, and my average speed was 10.7, .6 more than last week. I wasn’t surprised. I glanced down a couple of times while I was bombing down the rocky descent and saw 16 mph each time. That made up for the slowness early in the ride.

So, the tire held, I did an okay job even though I was tired, and I was finished before it got too hot. All in all, a good day. Next Saturday, an epic dirt bike ride. I hope. We’ll be heading out of town now on the weekends to get away from the heat. Right now there still is a hint of coolness in the air, but that will soon be gone.

A good riding day in the desert

After last weekend’s mountain bike ride on Pemberton trail at McDowell Mountain Park, it was all I thought of all week. I was itching to explore the new trails, and also to ride hard and long. I made up my mind that I would not sleep in too late this morning so I could get out there before it got too hot.

When I arrived at the park, I had to wait at the gate. There were five cars in front of me. In years past, I would be almost the only person in the staging area. It’s getting too crowded everywhere now; no wonder people go crazy all the time, there is no escape, no peace and quiet anywhere. As I was getting ready, the parking lot was full of cars, and in one of the picnic ramadas there were people talking loudly while their screaming kids ran around. I looked forward to getting out on the trail, and away from all the noise.

Once I left the staging area, peace and nature prevailed, and I enjoyed the trail. A young guy passed me, and I was going to go after him, but I told myself to go slow, get warmed up first. If I go out too fast, my legs feel like lead. I took it easy at first, and I didn’t feel too bad as I started up the climb. I was solo today, and wanted to explore one or two of the new trails.

When I got to the newest part of the trail, I could feel how bumpy it was. I don’t mind rough trails, obviously, when they are naturally that way, but this was thanks to a group of horse riders. They were asked to stay off the trail one of the days it was raining, but they insisted on riding it anyway. Of course, the horses’ feet made deep holes in the mud, and now that trail will stay that way for a long time. They just couldn’t stay off it for one of the two or three days all year that it rained. It’s all about them, you know.

Today, unlike last week,  I turned onto Lariat trail, which I found to be very fun. It wound in and out of the desert vegetation, but turned and went east again, the way I had just come up. I didn’t care. I was loving every moment of being on my mountain bike in the desert. When I got to Granite trail, I stopped and pulled out the map. I wanted to hook up with an unnamed trail that was supposed to be fun, and lead back to Pemberton main. It was supposed to be right there, to the west of Lariat, so I got back on the bike, and within a quarter of a mile, I found it. That trail was even more fun, and I could see how riders would enjoy riding it down, east, because it rolled and turned as it went back down the hill.

While out on the trail, I saw the remains of this saguaro, which had fallen over on the trail at some point.

Plant material breaking down:

I find things like that so interesting, and even though I normally don’t stop too much, I was fascinated by the pieces of saguaro scattered over a wide area.

I wanted to get back to Pemberton, and after a couple of miles, I came out at the tank, which is the top. I paused up there for a moment and took a long pull of water from the Camelbak. After the short rocky climb in front of me, it was going to be all big chainring flying from then on. I looked at my watch, set a goal of being “down,” as in being in the parking lot, in 45 minutes. I was at mile 8.88 at that point, and from my estimation, had about 10 miles to go. I thought I could do it.

I flew down the trail, being careful, of course, to not come flying around blind corners or over the top of short steep climbs. I didn’t want to run headlong into other riders. I felt really good. At one point, I went hard up one of the short climbs, standing on my pedals  and powering up and over. I felt like I wasn’t even breathing hard.

The only glitch was when I had to pull over and let another rider come by, and moved over too far. I got a bunch of cactus needles in my arm, hand, and side for my trouble (my own fault), and then I had to stop to pull out the ones jabbed into the back of my hand. One wouldn’t come out easily, it was in laterally, right under the skin. Later, I saw it had made a huge bruise. The thing with the needles is they aren’t just needles, they have little hooks on the ends that stop them from being pulled out easily. After I got out the ones that hurt the most, I kept going. Then I really stood on it.

I was in my biggest gear, and I stayed there all the way down the rocky descent. When I got to the last wash, I powered through the deep sand, and up the other side. The longer I ride and the harder I go, the better I seem to feel. I can’t wait until next fall when they have the 12 hour race out here. I missed it last December, but I won’t miss it again.

When I got back to the parking lot, I had made it inside my 45 minute window, and then my husband, who was waiting (and reading)  in the car, took a photo of the cactus needles stuck in my arm:

I had on some of those “arm cooler” things, which are ideal for wearing in the hot desert sun. As I rode, I knew the needles were in there, but I didn’t feel like stopping to get them out. They were mostly stuck in the arm cooler anyway, but as I pulled them out, I could feel them then.

I packed up the bike, changed out of my sweaty gear, and we drove home. I felt great after 18 miles of riding, and I was so glad I got to come back.

I hope I can make it back out to MMP one more time before it gets too hot, but even then, I will probably come back to ride during the summer. I’ve done it before. I just have to keep an eye on the vultures circling overhead as the temperature climbs to 110° F. or more, and the sun blasts down mercilessly.

Riding the new Pemberton trail

Uncharacteristically, we chose to ride mountain bikes (instead of motorbikes) on Sunday, at an old familiar trail, Pemberton Trail, at McDowell Mountain Park near Fountain Hills, Arizona, USA. Little did we know how much it had changed since the last time we rode here in the beginning of December.

We had decided to ride Pemberton counter-clockwise, or anti-clockwise, as we had last time we were here. I’ve ridden it the other way for 16 years, and find it to be much more fun if I start on the north side. Maybe I am just tired of the clockwise way (no surprise)! We got on the trail in the staging area at the entrance marked “Scenic Trail,” which is another trail that can be accessed by going this way. Pemberton trail starts out turning and rolling gently through the desert, and soon we were at the road crossing. That is the unofficial start of the gradual climb that takes us up to the highest point in the trail. This part is fun, but farther up, it goes into a wash, and from there the trail is just a long slog through sand that may or may not be hard-packed.

We kept going up. Hal got far behind me, but that’s because I was riding a rocket (the S-Works). I met several other mountain bikers on the way down, as well as a couple of horses. I began to notice how bumpy the trail was, and soon I was thinking to myself, hey, aren’t we supposed to be in sand by now?

As I rode, I noticed how the wildflowers made everything look lush and green.

Wildflowers make the desert look so alive in the spring:

Soon all the greenery will be replaced by burned, brown vegetation, but for now I was enjoying the beauty. Eventually, Hal caught up to me, and I put away the camera.


Interesting saguaro cactus:

More wildflowers:

After I passed the spur that leads to the 168th St. gate, I was sure that this trail was different! I felt like I was much farther south than we normally are, and then, the trail started to look freshly cut. I also felt it, the surface seemed to have that “not ridden in yet” feel. Then the trail began to swoop and turn, and I got really excited because it was a lovely, fun trail! My smile grew because I was elated that they had finally changed Pemberton, and in my opinion, made a good trail even better.

New singletrack:

Through the rocks:

I was trying to visualize the map of the trail in my head, and thought I was going more southwest than usual. I thought that the new section was probably going to cut off that far northwest corner, which was always basically just a glorified jeep road anyway. I was just thrilled with the new trail, though, and that was what I was mainly thinking about. Finally, we came to the tank, and when I came to a split in the trail, it was as I thought. The old trail was now a maintenance road, and closed to trail users. It’s okay with me!!

Split in the trail. Until recently (February), the “service road” was the old Pemberton Trail:

Then I was back on the familiar part of the trail, a section of singletrack that had already been updated over the past few years. I also saw trails marked that hadn’t been in the past. Another mountain biker that I was talking to told me that one little trail had been a “secret” trail of singletrack for years. Dummy me, I stayed off all the places that weren’t officially marked, thinking that I was protecting desert that we were not supposed to ride on. Now that that trail, and others, are officially marked and on the map, I’ll ride them and enjoy them.

At this point, we went up the short steep little climb that leads to the “roller coaster” section of Pemberton. The weird thing is, though, after that, my bike seemed to really take off like a rocket. I was mostly in the big chain ring the whole rest of the way, at times topped out in the biggest gear on the cassette. I saw 19+ mph on the computer a couple of times as I glanced down at the handlebars, but the bike was swooping and diving through the turns and elevation changes. I am not sure how the bike was so jet propelled, but it hardly seemed like any time had passed at all until I was at the last section of the trail, the rocky downhill part on the south section.

Last leg –

Almost at the last rocky downhill stretch:

Up on top, ready to make the final descent to the wash:

Ocotillo plant:

View of Four Peaks:

I waited for Hal, and then we went. He stuck behind me for most of it, and we went down fast. It didn’t take long to get down to the bottom and go around the banked turn that marks the end of the descent. We met some riders going up, and I thought, that banked turn is the last fun they’ll have for some time!

After that, it’s only a couple more miles back to the staging area, but there is a deep sandy wash that lies between. My bike flew through it. I had to move to the right to let some riders by, but I just sailed off the ledge and into the sand. The bike kept flying beneath me. I hardly even knew I was going through sand, and then I was climbing up out of it. I went on through to the parking lot because I wanted to see what my total mileage was, and how different it was from the “old” Pemberton. When I came through the gate to the parking lot, the computer turned over exactly 16 miles. It used to always be 15.6, and I was glad it was actually longer! Then I went back down the trail about a half a mile to find Hal. He wasn’t that far behind, and he was riding a bike that is much heavier than mine.

We loaded the bikes onto the car, and changed out of our dirty gear, well, most of it, in my case. Then we drove to the Visitor’s Center to get an updated map. I talked briefly with the guy there, praising the “new” Pemberton. He showed me all the new trails, and now there are about 30-40 miles of trails from which to choose. They all seem to loop into each other, and back to Pemberton main, so there isn’t much chance of getting lost. There are lots of opportunities to explore and ride, and I am so looking forward to doing just that.

We got back in the car and Hal drove out of the park and back to Fountain Hills. We stopped at Denny’s for a well-earned lunch. I wolfed down a big sandwich, some veggies, and some fries. I thought that would do for the day, but later I ate a big dinner as well! I must have needed some more rocket fuel!

Now, all I want to do is go back and ride the many trails on McDowell Mtn. Park. It’s too bad summer is rapidly approaching because it will mean the end of nice weather – and riding after 9 a.m. Well, I guess those trails will still be there next November when it finally cools down.

The desert blooms

I went out to ride in the desert again today since I had the day off from work. After last week’s ride, I took the bike in to the shop to be worked on, and it came out all beautiful and clean. I even have functional brakes now! It was a bit hot already, but I wanted to ride anyway. Here are some of the things I enjoyed today:

Clean and beautiful:

Blooming hedgehog cactus:

Cactus “bones” on the left, nearly camouflaged:

Wonder who, or what, lives here?

Delicate flowers amid the spines:

Lovely singletrack:

View toward downtown Phoenix far in the distance:

Just before I descended the last big hill:

Interesting plane overhead (airport is nearby):

Soon I was in the air conditioned car going home, dirty, but content. It was another great day of being outside.

Gravity bites

Wildflowers in the desert:

It was a rough weekend. I had fun, but the gravitational pull of the earth seemed to be especially strong around me for some reason. Saturday, while out mountain biking, I loved being out, but on my usual network of trails, I rode the switchbacks a slightly different way. I wanted to go down the rock bridge, but I walked it once again to get the lines into my head. For some reason, this seems to be the wrong thing to do. Or, maybe the way I’ve always ridden it is so deeply mapped in my brain that anything else throws it off. This time while going down, I started riding like a chickenshit, and that is always when bad things happen. You can’t ride like this! I shouted to myself – just before I did a “superman” over the handlebars. Only three weeks ago I rode this clean, and gloated to myself. That’s what I get for gloating.

I was mad. Got back on the bike. Rode the rest of it clean. Fumed the whole rest of the ride. There’s nothing I hate more in myself than being a chickenshit.

I felt like a loser, in my highly competitive mindset. At least until I rode up on some 20-year-old kid who I thought was going to go up the climb in front of me fast, but I almost hit his back tire as we climbed. Then, I was breathing down his neck on the twists up to the split in the trail, and he pulled over. Probably sick of me being an annoying old cow (who was kicking his ass) behind him.

I took the mountain bike directly to the bike shop. I kind of messed up the shifting when the bike flew through the air behind me. I might have messed up the derailleur. But not having that gear is why I was going so fast up that hill. I didn’t have the smallest gear in the middle chain ring anymore, so I had to make do with the next biggest. Which sent me up the hill like a rocket, on that bike. So, the S-Works will get worked on, and will have a new rear tire besides. I was kind of sick of the “racing slick” on the back that kept slipping when I climbed. Enough was enough.


Based on the account of Saturday’s mountain bike ride, you might wonder why I chose to take the GS motorcycle out even for a short easy dirt ride today. Well, it’s part of my “man up” campaign (just wait ’til next week). Kind of a long story, but the gist of it is that I need to just ride my GS instead of trying to figure out if there is a bike that is between my TTR225 and the F650GS. I love the GS. The more I ride it, the more I love it. Yes, almost 43,000 miles later. I’ve already ridden it through everything, so I don’t know what my problem is when I freak out and think the terrain is too rough. It’s a mind game that I need to quit playing.

Today’s easy ride was to take the paved road to Kearny, AZ for breakfast/lunch, and then ride back on Florence-Kelvin Hwy., which is dirt. After a lengthy delay in Gold Canyon because of the Renaissance Festival (could that please go away!!?? Now??), we had a pleasant brunch in Kearny.

Then we got on Flo-Kel. This road is graded, hard-packed dirt, with a few sandy spots. Might as well be paved. Easy and fun. I stopped to get some photos of the wildflowers that are carpeting the desert right now. I will save the photos to look at when, after the next couple of weeks, the desert heats up, the plants turn brown and dry up, and there is nothing but non-stop, pounding heat until November.

I had a great riding day, and then when I got home, I asked Hal if I could ride his DRZ in the backyard. He said yes. But, he was going to have to catch me at the end because when I am on his bike, my feet are about 4 inches from the “floor.” Even if I dropped it, it would be in the grass. So, I got going on the bike. Loved it.


Can I go now?

Didn’t like it much, did I? LOL

I could ride this literally anywhere! I thought. As long as I didn’t have to stop. At the end, Hal didn’t catch me, and the bike fell over. No one minded but me, of course, but I couldn’t pick it up on my own either. That was the only down side, and my second brush with gravity this weekend. But at least I thought it might work if I decide to get a DRZ in the distant future. You know, for my really big trips, the ones that include major off-road roughness and last for several weeks (Alaska, Canada, Iceland …)!

It was a great weekend, though. It’s never bad if I am on two wheels!

Riding the (downhill) trails

Yesterday I was able to ride my favorite mountain bike trail system starting all the way at the top. I was lucky, I was dropped off by my husband at the trailhead, and then he drove down to meet me at the bottom. That isn’t as easy, and all fun and games, as it seems. The first thing I had to do to get to “the top” is to climb almost a mile straight up.

There is a story behind this particular “trailhead.” A few years ago, as with so many open places, it was easy access by riding to the end of the pavement, then continuing in the dirt on a maintenance road to what we commonly used as the trailhead. No problem, right? Then the developers showed up. They fought to keep us out. The city had to make them give us access, but their answer to that was to make it so difficult that they thought no one would use the trail. They made it rocky, and an 8-10% grade the whole way. That is typical of these greedy, self-serving types, and was actually no surprise.  What they didn’t count on, though, is that the climb is actually a great workout, and even though it is impossible to ride, we can “hike-a-bike” up. This helps the very muscles that we need to ride.

The day I went, I brought my light hardtail, the  Specialized S-Works that is my best bike. It hardly weighs anything, and I don’t mind riding it as a downhill bike either. It has old school v-brakes that are almost useless, but who uses them anyway? I climbed up the trail, looking down occasionally at the ruined desert, covered now by their sprawling development called Las Sendas. It means, ironically, “pathways.”

Well, the view beyond it is nice:

The last laugh is ours, though. These people pay big bucks for the privilege of living there, and all they get is flimsy houses made of very light material and thin sticks. You can see the flimsiness in the white thing behind the finished house in the photo below. All the structures are built like this. I’ve watched them being constructed over the last 15 years that I’ve been riding here.

You can also see from the perspective of the photos that I had hiked far up on the trail. I started at the level of the streets shown. It was beautiful where I was in the mountainous terrain far above. I left the residents to their stinky, crowded existence, and turned my attention to the trail. At the highest point, I took a photo of the trail:

It is lovely single track, just like it always has been. Those of us who love these trails own them, not the developers. Thank goodness for Tonto National Forest or the developers would have taken our trails, too. It makes me really angry that their ugly development is there bordering the national forest. It is a major impediment and eyesore to those who use the network and enjoy being out in true nature.

Here is the radio tower on the top of mountain, bike in the foreground:

After that photo, I was too busy riding and smiling as I rocketed down the mountain. I yielded to some hikers coming up, but then they let me go by, their mouths agape, not quite believing that I was riding down that trail. It was super-fun.

Where the trail split a couple of miles down, I turned right toward the saddle. The short climb that was immediately before it felt good, even after all the hard physical work I had been doing during the days previous to this ride. In fact, it felt especially good for some reason. I swooped down that part of the trail, pedaled along a roller coaster section, enjoying the fine weather. I’d better enjoy it now before the blast furnace sun really gets impossible. It’s already no longer the benign sweet golden sun of winter.

I finished the descent, and soon I was flying along the cooldown section of trail, and then I was back at the car in no time at all. It was another glorious day of freedom, and I loved my ride from beginning to end. I hope these trails will remain untouched forever.