Waffle House at 7AM. Jesse was already there with raisin toast, coffee, and orange juice. I wasn’t too hungry and so ordered the same thing. Unfortunately, Jesse had been battling a chest cold since day one, and this morning it was definitely worse.
Various group gatherings in front of Motel 6, and finally we hit the road by 8:15AM or so. Today is traditionally the easiest riding day on clockwise years, a long gradual downhill into Casa Grande, but I could feel the northwest breezes into our faces right away.
The winds shifted slowly to the west, and I took turns drafting and pulling with that fast red Missouri tandem I’d ridden with on day one, around 18 mph, with Denise in the train as well. We stopped briefly at Marana Road, and then on to the beloved DQ at Picacho Peak. On the way, I dropped off the tandem’s pace. I just didn’t feel like working that hard. Fortunately the westerly winds occasionally contained a 5% helping component from the south, great when it appeared.
Just about the entire J&P group enjoyed a talkative lunch at the DQ, and I shared a table with Mary Ellen. Denise and I had been kidding all morning dreaming about what kind of ice cream we’d buy here, but I decided to start with a cheeseburger. We then got our soft serve cones, hers dipped in chocolate. Oh, the simple joys…
Most of the group had left when Mary Ellen and I finally got going. The winds had picked up significantly from the W and WNW, and we headed up the frontage road NW into it. We drafted together all the way to Eloy and the Circle K at Eleven Mile Corner Road, meeting up with a subset of riders there.
On previous J&P rides, we’d continued straight up AZ84 a.k.a. Jimmie Kerr Boulevard, into Casa Grande, but this year the cue sheets had us going N up Eleven Mile Corner. That sounded good – finally we’d be out of those headwinds. But as we took off, and just like yesterday, we very soon realized that strong crosswinds are worse than strong headwinds.
Denise, Mary Ellen, Bill and Dana, and I rolled up Eleven Mile Corner, laboring to maintain 14 mph, but with 20 mph crosswind gusts that ground us down to 7 or 8 mph at times. The tandem pulled us all for a while, and I ended up pulling the last 4 miles N to Florence Boulevard.
I eventually stopped to put on my rain jacket due to a rapid drop in temperature into the 40s, and lost the group. Mary Ellen and I hung together, and as we turned W the winds were direct headwinds. As stated earlier, it was much easier to hold our line, but even slower going.
Occasionally we’d pass a homestead with cottonwood or similar trees, and the winds would cease behind them, like being in the eye of a hurricane. Then we’d emerge beyond the treeline to meet with a seething headwind. As we methodically made progress, the skies decided to add some rain into the equation. Not a huge amount, but a steady thin pattering for a half hour, so I stopped to put on my shoes covers and seat cover. Slow going, 8-10 mph, a grind. But really, I do find such conditions interesting and not unpleasant.
We met the group again and proceeded up over the I-10 overpass into Casa Grande, and found the Super 8, Mainstay Suites, and my place, the Comfort Inn.
I’d invited Mary Ellen and Denise to share in some wine after today’s ride. I’d been hauling around a bottle in a pannier the entire trip, figuring we’d drink it the first night but never got the chance. The bottle was sort of a specialty item for Mary Ellen, Mississippi River Red from the Park Farm Winery in Bankston, Iowa. She and I (and our Ragbrai gang) had particularly liked this wine during Ragbrai this past summer.
The three of us thoroughly enjoyed it. Mary Ellen brought out some beef jerky. Denise commented that even though she is not a red wine fan, she was enjoying the semi-sweet flavors of this one. Great stuff. Great company. We ended up discussing at least a few of the things on our respective bucket lists. And it felt really great to be done with the day’s ride, out of that wind and rain.
We regrouped at the Super 8 for a general J&P happy hour, funded by surplus from our sag contributions. Jane had purchased chips, dips, beer, and wine, much enjoyed by all. The discussions ranged all over the place, but the central theme was certainly our collective toiling in these weather conditions.
Jules, our friend from Casa Grande, showed up, and then joined us all for dinner at the nearby Golden Corral. I semi-affectionately call this restaurant “The Trough.” The food is plentiful but fairly tasteless, and I’m always amazed at how packed these places seem to be. I started with a vegetable plate of brussel sprouts, cauliflower, beans and broccoli, along with a little of the New Orleans chicken, which turned out to be the best thing offered. I finished with another plate of pot roast and green beans, a piece of bland chocolate cake, and then another dessert plate of cheesecake and spinach. Ho hum.
Final odometer: 3702.7
Miles today: 59.7
Tour miles: 162.5