White Mts Tour 08: Springerville to Hondah

In the morning, Phil and I headed over to the Rode Inn lobby for a freebie breakfast.  We sat with two ladies he’d met on the ride yesterday, and talked about our riding experiences.  They weren’t wearing pink jerseys but we enjoyed the company plenty.  One of the ladies talked at length about the Bicycle Tour of Colorado, a weeklong 400-mile loop through Colorado’s gorgeous scenery, including mega-climbing.   Sounded pretty awesome.

Jules soon joined us and Phil told me he again had gotten almost no sleep last night, so I’m not sure how’s he’s going to survive riding today.   After breakfast we quickly readied our gear, tossed our bags in the motel office, and hit the road.  We have a simple route today, following AZ260 from here through Eagar and all the way back to Hon Dah.

There were some obstacles in the way, however.  We headed off due west toward the Sunrise Ski Resort and the area of Mount Baldy, and we hadt some healthy climbing to do.  Our first 6 miles were gentle climbs through grassy windswept meadows, but we eventually started the primary ascent.   At the 12-mile mark we’d already climbed about 1500 feet to reach SAG #1.

On AZ260 just prior to the primary ascent (photo by Phil)
On AZ260 just prior to the primary ascent (photo by Phil)

Jules and I rested a few minutes and discussed our route options.  A side trip south, to Greer on AZ373, was being taken by some riders from this spot.  I was interested in doing it, while Jules decided to stay on AZ260 for more of the climb.  Phil was a few minutes behind us – so we figured we’d catch up with him at a rest stop ahead.

AZ373 descends from AZ260 a few hundred feet, but then regains it all in several rollers and hills.  The scenery is gorgeous with dense stands of tall pines, and the road has almost no traffic.   The “fast group” was a few hundred yards ahead of me and I figured I’d chat with them in Greer, so I kept them in sight all the way to town, but lost them just before Greer itself.   I pulled into town and stopped near a restaurant to check my map.  A diner called down from a porch, “Ya lookin’ fer yer buddies?”   I smiled, “Yeah, where’d they go?”  He nods, “On up the road.”

I continued down AZ373 another mile, and it eventually turned unpaved, which was quite a muddy mess in the damp conditions.  Pretty soon I’m spraying mud all over my frame.  I reached a clearing and some cabins, but no sign of the other riders.  The slippery conditions and mud were enough for me – I’m turning around.

I retraced the six miles back, through Greer and on to AZ260, dreading the last climb up to the highway.  It turned out to be no big deal, and I stopped to rest and munch on oranges again at the SAG stop.

Once back on the bike, the rest of the main climb awaited me.  The next 7 or 8 miles took us up another 1000 feet or so to a rounded meadow summit with fewer trees, somewhere over 9100 feet.   Just before the descent, SAG#2 and lunch appeared on the left, and I was glad to chow down some calories and rest.  The long miles and relatively quick pace of yesterday heavied my legs, and I was looking forward to the downhill ahead of me.  At the stop, I found “Captain America” Leon sitting in his truck and stopped to chat with him a while.  He was supporting the “standard route” riders, so when he heard I went to Greer, he stated he was not supporting me today <grin>.

The first few miles down were great, and I was soon zooming over 30 mph through some really gorgeous mountain scenery.  Due to my Greer option and rest stops, I think I’m one of the last dozen or so riders on the course, and so I’m riding by myself.  Of course, there is also the “fast group” back there in Greer, wherever they are.  I later learned they stopped for breakfast somewhere, but I sure didn’t see them.

While the scenery was beautiful, even the downhills required a little more work than I’d prefer, due to a few mph headwind.  Not a big factor, but it forced a constant cadence to stay up to speed.  Still, the road consists only of downhills and flats, lots of fun.

Enjoying the 2000 feet of drop, I’m at McNary almost before I know it, just outside Hon Dah.  My cell phone rang twice, then stopped – Phil trying to reach me.  I considered pulling over and calling back, but then calculated I was only about 3 miles from the car.  Keep on pedaling… My cell rang again about 1 mile from Hon Dah, this time Jules.  They must be finished.

Sure enough, I spied them both in the parking lot, and it felt pretty good to be off the bike for the day.   Jules had already changed and was looking fresh, while Phil and I were still a bit grimy.  Phil requested for one of us to kindly remove the bicycle seat  stuck way up his butt, and then stated that it probably needs to be surgically removed.

Captain America was there with some of the other volunteers.  He’s a great guy, but I heard him grumbling about things.  As an original designer of the route for this White Mountains Tour, I take it he does not like the optional longer legs now offered – I’m guessing he feels it dilutes the support team too much.  He also is not happy with the condition of the main route on US60, with its come-and-go shoulder and rumble strip, and he wonders why the organizers did not scout this road beforehand.  Additionally, it seems that he is miffed by some riders’ use of the SAG vehicle support as their personal shuttle service.

Jules has discovered the casino’s big buffet and recommended that we consider it.  After checking it out, it is a no-brainer – about $18 for all-you-can-eat and we’re real hungry.

Phil and I changed clothes and entered the casino to find the buffet loaded, including shrimp, a mountain of crab legs, prime rib, and seasoned tilapia.  Aside from the tilapia, the food wasn’t very tasty, but there was plenty of it, so we all loaded up.

Phil related another story about one rider who rode a tandem with his very young Down’s syndrome daughter.  While this may be commendable for the father-daughter bonding aspects, it’s probably not a great idea for a long two-day bicycle tour.  When the daughter got bored, this rider then asked the volunteers to watch her and then take her to the next rest stop.  Hmmm… I hope when I volunteer for an event ride nobody asks me to be a babysitter.

It was a nice long meal, topped off with chocolate cake, and we left there stuffed and feeling superb.

Total distance today: 54.2 miles (Rich’s odometer)
Total climbing today:  about 2960 feet (mapmyrides.com estimate)

Total trip distance:  150.1 miles (Rich’s odometer)
Total trip climbing:  about 5000 feet (mapmyrides.com estimate)