Jesse had mentioned to me that the roads around Maricopa might be good for a club ride someday, and so I designed this route as a possible alternative to the current Casa Grande Century. After riding it today, the results are in, for better and worse. The route needs some work, but this ride has some good potential.
Jesse and I planned to ride it together, but Jesse’s lingering head cold flared up and in the end he decided to rest and repair. Since I rode it solo, there isn’t a whole lot of story here, but I will document a few things, especially the condition of the route for bicycle passage.
This was only my 8th century ever, so these longer rides are still relatively rare for me.
Miles 1-2: Started at the Safeway/McDonald’s parking lot at Chandler Heights Blvd. and Alma School Rd., the same place as the CG100 starts. Good marked bike lane south on Alma School.
Mile 3: East on Hunt Hwy. Thin bike lane but low traffic.
Miles 4-17: Southeast on AZ87. Excellent wide shoulder with only a narrow rumble strip. Lots of traffic at 65-70 mph, including tractor-trailers. Winds this morning were from the SE, but only a few mph.
Miles 18-21: Continuing southeast on AZ87, about ¼ mile past the AZ187 turnoff, the shoulder disappears. This segment is very treacherous due to the fast traffic – the semi’s will blow a bicycle off the road. The segment is unacceptable for the CG100.
Miles 22-28: West on AZ387. A really gorgeous small climb through desert mountains. Great wide shoulder the entire way.
Miles 29-34: South on Pinal Ave. (AZ387). Excellent wide shoulder. A brief squeeze across I-10, and riders must use plenty of caution when passing the exit ramp of I-10 onto Pinal Avenue.
Mile 35-38: Continued south on Pinal, south of McCartney Rd. I then took Cottonwood Lane west for a mile, then Thornton Rd. south for another. All this passage is poor – little or no shoulder and moderate traffic.
Miles 39-42: West on Gila Bend Highway (AZ84). Excellent wide shoulder and smooth surface, up to the Francisco Grande Golf Course and Sports Complex.
Miles 43-49: Continued west on Gila Bend Highway (AZ84). After the golf course, shoulder stays fairly wide but gets extremely rough for 2 miles. My tires are 40mm, and so the roughness was tolerable, but on rock hard 23mm tires this segment would have been brutal. Traffic is thin, so a cyclist can ride out in the lane, but must be careful of 60 mph rear-approaching traffic.
After the rough 2 miles, the roughness continues for another 4 miles, but it gradually gets better as you reach the town of Stanfield.
Mile 50-56: Continued west on Gila Bend Highway (AZ84), west of Stanfield the shoulder is wide and smooth. Great riding – I took this road all the way to Amarillo Valley Road.
I passed by and stopped for a Western meadowlark killed by the roadside. Even dead, these birds are real stunners – I’d never seen one this close.
Miles 57-64: North on Amarillo Valley Road, west on Century Rd., then north on Warren Road. Shoulder width is modest but the road is smooth and the traffic very thin. A very pretty area – desert mountains rise up all around. This area looks prime for encounters with dogs, but I never tangled with any.
Miles 65-70: Continued North on Warren Road, which turns east in Papago Rd. North of Barnes Road the road surface gets a little rough. Again, I didn’t mind it but a rock-hard road cyclist might. This continues up to where there is a cantina and Farmers convenience store.
By the way, I had been scheming to eat my PB&J sandwiches at this spot. As I rolled up I passed by a big truck announcing TACOS, and in front were two ladies under an awning sitting in plastic chairs. I rolled up and one said, “Food?” Reading from the truck, I tried “Tienes tacos de lengua?” She nodded sí, and I was definitely in for this. Sitting there chowing down two beef tongue tacos with tomatoes and onions and hot sauce plus an ice cold Coke, listening to the ladies (and eventually a male friend of theirs) converse in Spanish, sitting outside on a fine fine day, well, you can hardly beat that.
Miles 71-73: Continued east on Papago Road. Mixture of great smooth shoulder, and then roughness. I found a brand new orange bungie cord on this part.
Miles 74-77: North on John Wayne Highway (AZ347). Excellent wide and smooth shoulder. Moderate amounts of fast traffic.
In this segment, I had originally intended to head east on Peters and Nall Road, then north on White and Parker Road, in order to detour around Maricopa. Somehow I got distracted and never saw the sign for Peters and Nall Road, and so headed up straight into town.
Miles 78-79: Continued north on John Wayne Highway (AZ347), right through the heart of Maricopa. This is bad bicycle passage – no bicycle lane and moderate amounts of traffic. I took the sidewalk in a few spots, but even that only comes and goes. This segment would be unacceptable for the CG100. We’ll need to explore those detours to the east.
Miles 80-97: Continued north on AZ347, north of Smith-Enke Road, now called Maricopa Road. This turns into Queen Creek Road heading east. Excellent smooth and wide shoulder, very nice for cycling. There is high speed traffic up AZ347, including trucks, but the shoulder is wide enough so they don’t bother. In fact, the wind break (and entrainment) provided by the traffic is a nice factor. On Queek Creek Road, I found an extra long screwdriver and picked it up.
Rolling up this long stretch, my mind started to wander, and so I pulled out my camera and took (another) “shadow shot.” <grin> (Here’s my previous one.)
Miles 98-101: South on Price Road, south on Dobson Road, east on Ocotillo Road, then south on Alma School, back to the Start. This area has a smooth marked bicycle lane. Not only that, but it is tree lined and very pretty, rolling by the Orbital Sciences building and the Intel plant. This final 4 miles is an especially nice finish for the century.
I also noted that the return entrance from the north into the Safeway parking lot (right at the McDonalds) would be much more conducive to staff with a “cheerleader,” you know, someone to clap and congratulate riders as they come in.
A very nice day’s ride. Terrific weather. Westerly breezes to finish out the ride, so I actually enjoyed some tailwind assistance. I met some nice people on the way, especially a friendly guy outside the Circle K in Stanfield, AZ.
74 miles of this route are really excellent for cycling. Fourteen miles have some roughness that a hard tire road cyclist might not like, but are certainly passable, and not unlike some existing segments of the CG100. I’d say that 2 miles (on Gila Bend Highway) are quite rough and barely acceptable. Another 10 miles are not acceptable due to traffic and lack of shoulder (on AZ87, and through Maricopa). Cue up revision 2.