I know the first section to Antelope Peak very well, each switchback and turn. I passed some of the sections, recalling flats I have had or seen other people have during the Antelope Peak Challenge. "Please don't flat, I only have two tubes left" echoed in my head during these moments. I stopped for just a few minutes to take some pictures, otherwise I kept riding at my steady pace.
I passed some Grand Enchantment Trail thru-hikers after Bloodsucker Wash. We chatted for a bit about the water cache. According to them, there was plenty of water available up ahead. I had been conserving my 250 ounces of water up to that point, so I decided to drink a little bit more than I had previously been doing.
I filled up some water and kept on moving. Many thanks to those that have brought out water to this remote area; it made me feel more comfortable as I pressed on into the Boulder Section in the 90 degree weather.
I came across another rancher after the Ripsey Segment. He had his diesel pump roaring, shooting out water into a huge tank (must have been 3,000 gallons). More diesel pumps going on at the next gate, this time into a small trough. The cows had come from all over (likely because of the noise) to the area, I had to round them up and out of the way as I sped down the hill into the corral. I think I have mastered the cowboy "haaayahhhh" that gets the cows moving after all these times riding in this area. I had a flat a huge stan's leak after the corral; I managed to plug it with a stick and continue to roll.
The Florence-Kelvin Highway was a hard section for me, mentally and physically. Since this section is relatively flat, I was spinning out on the singlespeed. Oh and they heat, I craved a good head soaking about then or at least to stop in sit under a palo verde tree. I kept saying to myself, highly motivated and kept spinning.
The road down to the Gila River seemed a little better, but not much. I was so delighted to finally get some hills when I turned onto the powerline road. This excitement quickly faded when my rear Stan's began to shoot out. Another sidewall tear, really? I tried to seal it several times and ride on it withough luck. I was close to the finish line, finally I just figured it would be faster to put a tube in it. Another flat in the books and one spare left, I cruised down the sandy road to the Gila River.
I had read about the 'tree groves' in the cue sheets along with 'ahhhh shade!' Scott had written these as a source of hope for riders like me that were crossing this section with 90 degree weather. I was looking forward to seeing them since the Florence-Kelvin dirt highway.
I was coming up over a hill, when the first trees appeared. There were clusters of trees on each side, providing the perfect rest stop for a weary mountain biker like myself. The only thing was that a car was blocking the route. It appeared that there was a man in the back of the truck also. I thought to myself, they must be stuck or since it seemed like their truck was too small to fit between the trees. Or maybe they are cutting firewood. In fact, my conclusion became more reinforced when I saw a guy in the tree nearby.
As I rode up to the car, I heard the following exchange in Spanish:
Guy in truck: "Hey, there is a guy on a bike, what do I tell him to do?
Guy in tree: "What? where?"
The response from the guy in the truck: "In front of the truck."
Guy in tree yelled back: "Tell him to go away, it is too dangerous here"
This is where I chimed in (since I speak Spanish): "What happened? What is going on?"
The guy in the back of the truck motioned me over to the south side of the truck and told me to get in the back of the truck, to which I willingly agreed since it seemed smarter than being on the ground at that point. Here is why: About 10 feet away from me, there was a bull charging at the guy in the tree. The black bull was bleading all over his head, which appeared to be a result of the bull hitting the tree. Well that and the fact that the man in the tree would perodically come down low enough to kick the bull in the head. Additionally, the man behind me would perodically get out of the truck, bend down to pick up a rock, and get back in the truck before the bull charged over to us. Then, he proceeded to toss the rock at the bull. There was also a cattle dog that added to the tense situation, running and barking the entire time.
My first thought was I just want to ride my bike, why me? The highly motivated sense of mind does not work in these situations. After a few minutes, I started thinking about the situation. I asked the guy, es su toro, esta enojado? He politely replied that it was in fact his and that he had just branded it, hence the bull being mad. Hmmmmm. Interesting, right? Well, I just wanted to ride my bike and I was in the middle of nowhere. I decided not to press the issue rather just ignore any inclining to ask more questions about the situation.
After a few minutes of guy dropping down to kick the charging bull and man gets down to grab rock/stick to toss at bull, I think the bull finally got tired and charged out into the thick trees. The cattle dog followed behind, barking and shuffling of the trees. Both the noise of the bull running and the loud bark of the cattle dog grew fainter, a sign for me to get down from the truck and continue on my bike.
I got down from the truck, grabbed my bike, said goodbye (they were putting dirt on the fire and putting the branding iron in the back of the truck) to the ranchers. After riding about 200 yards down the road, the faint bark of the dog reappeared. I looked back and the bull jumped out of the grove area 150 yards back and started to run toward my direction. Pedal, pedal was all I could think of. My mind flashed to those home videos of the running of the bulls in Spain, you know which ones I am talking about, right? The ones that the guy gets proded by the bull. The dog barking was getting slower for a few seconds. I turned around to see the last half of the bull as it exited the road and ran south. Highly motivated was back on my mind as I sped away, I crossed the diversion dam
and continued on Box Canyon Rd. The Box Canyon was a nice relief, the tall walls on either side blocked the sun.
Two larger groups of off-road enthusiast wanted to pass, a perfect excuse for me to take a quick break. The exit of Box-Martinez is a bit steep, it takes a bit of strength to get out. I was muscling out of Martinez Canyon, when my chain just snapped off. Bummer, but I knew I could fix it. I fixed it with a link and continued on up and up. Upon reaching the windmill, I checked for water in the tank. No such luck for any AZT racers this year, it was nearly dry.
The same situation as before occured. I was pushing the pedals to get up a uber steep section when my chain broke. Panic mode. I only brought one link. Who would have thought to bring so many links!? I thought of breaking the chain and moving my sliders, no luck. The links were to far away from the break to make that possible. I found both broken pins on the ground and desperately tried to put them together. I had flat rock on the ground, then the chain with each pin in its slot, another rock was used to beat the pins end. Ah it worked.
I started to pedal and it seemed to finally be holding. I went for about 3/4 mile like that and the pin broke again. I put it all the pieces in my pocket and began to hike up to the top of that long, last mountain before the AZT. When I got to the top, I saw the following
along with the cue sheet, 12 miles left. It was already about 6pm, another hour of daylight. I did the same setup as before, rock, chain with pins in their correct spot, hammer rock. This time I was desperate, so hitting the chain as hard as I could was an option. It worked again and this time it held! Notwithstanding, I was not home free yet. I had a flat on the last few miles of the singletrack as the sun was setting. I pumped it up with changing it, hoping it would seal. No luck, I had to change it.
I finished without using my lights since the moon gave me plenty of light once it rose over Picketpost Mountain.
I rolled in at 7:40pm on Tuesday, 3 days 10 hours after starting with Scott from Parker. 3rd time is a charm, and on a rigid singlespeed nonetheless. I rolled into Superior to eat at Los Hermanos, found a nice RV that let me sleep on the front lawn, showered, and fell asleep.
The next morning I woke up at 6am and rode to Florence Junction to hitchhike back to Tucson (~100 miles). I waited for about 10 minutes before a fellow road cyclist and retired superintedent picked me up. High schools and bikes was a common theme of the conversation on the way home.
See my bike/gear setup on bikepacking.net along with other multi-day bike setups.