After 2 centuries in a row we thought that a 69 mile day would be a cinch. Mary Ann and I planned to do laundry and stuff like that, and were looking forward to checking out the little shops and bars and bike shops in Prescott... NOT!
We started out on a gentle climb, which became less gentle as the day went on. The first 6 miles were OK, on rte. 93 right out of Wickenburg. Then we turned onto rte. 89 north, into the dreaded Santa Ana winds again. At 17 miles into the ride we were warned to be ready for a 7.3 mile climb. It was so much more than that! The first 3 miles of the climb were straight into the north wind, with no relief. Once we reached the foot of the mountain and started the switchbacks, the wind became more sporadic--when it was blocked by the mountain we went up fairly well, but as we came around the curves and got hit with it anew it hurt every time.
We climbed to our first mountain pass today, Yarnell Pass at 4,300 feet. It was a spectacular ride, and Mary Ann and I did not take any photos on the way up--we were too busy climbing that 7.3 mile climb. We thought that when we got to the top we would be able to take a photo of the road we had just traveled, switchbacks and all, but it did not work out that way. Still, we were thrilled with our performance and congratulated each other as we poured in the gatorade, gel, and other assorted unreal-food items.
After Yarnell Pass, of course we descended. It was the only big descent that required us to pedal! The wind was that strong! We stopped at a store in Peeples Valley for a snack and an indoor restroom, something we hadn't seen much in the previous two days of desert riding... Shortly after Peeples Valley, we came upon a cyclist down, and arranrged for her to be picked up by a sag van. Alas, another rider taken to the hospital.
Of course after a valley comes another mountain, and this time the wind was not blocked by the mountain. I lost count of the number of times we stopped to catch our breath on the way up. We thought perhaps the elevation had something to do with it... stopped and took a photo at 6,100 feet in elevation. This time the descents were scary! I am not sure if my breathing problems were from the elevation or fright! They don't use guardrails on these winding mountain roads! From the edge of the road you look right down to the valleys below--sometimes thousands of feet below! And the wind was relentless. I felt as if I would be swept right off the mountainside. The dropoff was right from the side of the road to nothingness. And there were a lot of crosses with flowers stuck in the rocks on the edge of the road. I told Mary Ann that they were memorials to all the cyclists who were swept over the edge by the wind, but she insisted they were for unfortunate motorists and motorcyclists.
Our notes for the later part of the ride mention that from Skull Valley to Prescott there were false flats and false summits--in other words, every time you think there will be relief from the climbing you are wrong! We were warned, however, that the last 20 miles of the ride would be a climb. We saw lots of van loads of riders being sagged in, but we did not give up, and were rewarded by a thrilling windy descent into Prescott--no pedaling needed for the last 5 miles. We were the last two riders to arrive at the hotel, in time for tomorrow's route rap meeting.
My average speed for the day was 8.8 MPH. Pretty bad. But I was in granny gear almost the whole day long--first time that ever happened! Total climbing for the day: 7,500 vertical feet. So yesterday was the most mileage for one day that we will do in the entire tour, and today's elevation gain was the greatest for any day in the tour! Mary Ann mentioned that the past 3 days riding were the hardest 3 days of cycling she has ever done. I agree.
Tomorrow is a short day with a tall climb. Can hardly wait! I will take my disposable camera in to be developed tomorrow in Cottonwood, and will have some photos to post.
Note to Heather: bonking in cycling is the same as hitting the wall in running. You are very suddenly completely out of energy. Just like literally running into a wall. Slam. You stop. And it is no easy thing to get going again. Fortunately I only bonked the one day so far, and was able to finish the ride. For any of you who thought I would come home from this tour thinner--think again! My mind is boggled by the amount of food I am taking in to be able to keep both wheels on the road and moving forward for these long rides. I am so tired of eating!