Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Full Moon Ride on the AZ Round the Bend 400K

by Tammie Nakamura

Tammie, Eric Simmons, and Susan Plonsky pre-rode Susan's 400k, and then volunteered on the actual event.  -jle

I had the pleasure of pre-riding the inaugural offering of the Round the Bend 400K with Susan Plonsky and Eric Simmons in Arizona.  I remembered last year’s crushing defeat last year in the Arivaca 400K where I was introduced to an Anvil storm.  These devil storms go off like a bomb with enough energy to lift tons of desert dirt and gravel hundreds of feet into the air and crash down with a punishing ice storm in their wake.    I had a score to settle with the desert.  The pre-ride chit-chat heightened the sense of adventure for the ride.  Susan was matter of fact: “… nobody knows anything about Gila…Arizonians don’t go there because it’s so… OUT there.

 The desert in bloom near the Gila River Indian Reservation

The start was chilly- may be even chillier than the early morning temps in Denver.  The sense of remoteness was driven home when I stopped at a convenience store and the clerk uttered a startled yell when she saw me.  I wondered if I had taken the hooded super-villain cyclist thing too far.  True to the other brevets that I’ve enjoyed in Arizona, the RTB travels through Tribal lands, national and state parks offering surprisingly beautiful vistas of the desert.  And the desert was in bloom: a rainbow of wild flowers that seemed even more special when set against the harshness of the landscape.  We rode with a massive full moon in front of us morning and night and the sun at our backs.  And no storms to hammer us into the desert!  It was perfect and one of those special memories of a lifetime.

Susan rides across the Sonoran Desert

We rode through agricultural areas with crops that fluoresced with that unnatural green of plants on drugs.  And shrimp farms in the desert?  Susan suggested it was a conspiracy to unload black-market Costco shrimp.  The control at Gila Bend was an odd combination of a border town containing an all out invasion of retirees.   The seniors firmly controlled the lines at McDonalds, each customer requiring the third retelling of the terms of the 2-for-1 special in complete detail.  I felt sorry for the clerk. 

But every ride must have its comical relief.  Eric and Susan puzzled why I kept disappearing down the road out of sight yelling at the top of my lungs.  They don’t know about a peculiar and annoying feature which JLE calls my ‘animal magnetism’.  Benign lapdogs who wouldn’t bother a woof with a cyclist are sparked into crazed action with full primal instinct intact to bring down the weakest member of the herd when they see me. I had a full introduction to what seemed like the entire population of trailer dogs of Arizona - each one channeling Kujo as it chased me down the road.  Two such dogs exploded out of the dark near Coolidge.  Rattled, I missed a turn.  To my alarm I discovered the Garmin was drained and dead and dual backup batteries oddly were also dead.  I had a cue sheet but no map to reorient. After wandering vaguely in circles I tried to wave down drivers - politely explaining that I was lost and simply wanting directions.   But no drivers would stop or even offer a sidewise twitch of eye contact.  A truck gunned through a stop sign rather than talk to me.  One motorist stopped, responding to my inquires by rolling down his window a sliver and silently jabbing the tip of his finger vaguely down the road.  That motorist also sped away at top speed. Clearly, the local residents thought I had taken the hooded super-villain cyclist thing too far.  A cyclist wandering around at 3AM - very shifty.   Fortunately, by first light - and with great gratitude - I could tell I was on the route and headed for the finish line.

Randonneuring superheroes!
Susan, Eric, and Tammie 

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