Tom’s last email indicated that the group would meet Bob and me at 11:30am. I figured that riding with the loaded rig would be slower, and so I budgeted 2 hours for the 18 miles. However, when 9:00am rolled around, I was so amp’d up to go, I just rolled on out of the driveway and started out onto Recker Road.
My bike was certainly a different beast with its load. Of course, the extra weight made start-ups slower, and accelerations took a lot more pedal effort. Handling was particularly sensitive to grooves in the pavement, and even rolling at a thin angle over raised white lines made the bike a little unsteady. And any downhills were great – what momentum!
I followed my normal route to Western Skies golf course, heading west on McDowell, then south on Lindsay all the way to Warner, then back east 2 miles to Higley. When I pulled in to the Circle K parking lot, I looked at my watch – 10:15am. Geez.
I sat in the parking lot, watching a stream of employees come out for smoke breaks, and the time passed very slowly. I eventually hopped back on the bike and cruised the nearby neighborhoods for a while, returning periodically to the Circle K. I kept looking for Bob Turner but didn’t see any sign of him.
About 11:10am, the first riders started rolling in, and I waved at them and took a few pictures. I was immediately surprised that almost half the riders rode recumbents. I was also immediately surprised that nearly half the riders were toting loaded panniers. I thought I was going to be an oddball with mine.
Bob showed up with the group already there, and we soon all rolled out and headed south on Higley. It seems traditional that the group hangs together through town on day #1, and we cruised about 11 mph toward our lunch stop, only a few miles further at the Flight Deck Café at Williams Air Force Base. Mary Ellen, Carol, and Jan met us there – it was good to see them.
It’s actually a nice little café down there, almost hidden. But good patronage – so the locals must know about it. I sat down with Phil, Bob Turner (Gilbert), Jesse Jackson (Tempe), and Diana Spickerman (Seattle) for lunch, ordering hamburger, fries, and Coke. I learned that Jesse rides more than 200 miles a week! Wow.
I got served relatively late, and had to wolf down my hamburger. Then ran outside as most of the riders had left already. From the AFB, we took Sossaman south, then Pecos Rd. east, Ellsworth Rd. south, Queen Creek Rd. east, Signal Butte Rd. south, and Ocotillo Rd east. The next turn on the cue sheet was listed as Vineyard Rd., and as we passed Ironwood (Gantzel) I looked hard at it wondering why we weren’t turning there. We continued about 4 miles on Ocotillo, looking for Vineyard before encountering another group led by Mary Ellen, indicating we ought to turn around. Bonus miles! Jan and I pumped it up to 20 mph trying to catch Mary Ellen’s group and finally latched on to the end of it. Pushing that hard with my loaded bike was a bad idea for my knees, however, which started twinging. We finally stopped for about 3 minutes, and the knee pains went away quickly.
We continued our stair-step progress southeast, first south on Gantzel, then east on Combs Rd., south on Schnepf Farms Rd., and east on Skyline Rd. We finally turned south onto Quail Run Rd., and were then following the eastern stretches of the 2009 Casa Grande Century route. An east turn onto Judd Rd., then south on Attaway, east on Arizona Farms Rd., and then south for a longer stretch on Felix Rd., down to Hunt Highway. Along the way, I linked up with Jan, Phil, and Jesse for a while. Jesse eventually left us and Diana joined us.
Our final leg took us over a small knoll on Hunt Highway, and Jan started telling me some of the interesting archeological sites around this area, including an ancient Indian ball field. We came out on AZ 79, the Pinal Parkway, just north of Florence. I was fairly fatigued and my knees were twinging again. I was somewhat concerned about this since we had three more riding days to go.
Jan requested a stop for the “hysterical” marker on the west side of Pinal Parkway, one in honor of Charles Poston, who is known as the “Father of Arizona” and was the first elected delegate to Congress from the Arizona Territory. The marker informed us that Mr. Poston’s remains now lie in a pyramid grave on top of Poston Butte, ahead of us to the west.
All the riders pulled in to the Blue Mist Motel on AZ79, and we chatted it up for a while. Phil and I were staying at the Holiday Inn Express across town, and Jan generously offered to show us the way there. Before we left, Diana called them to check on room rates and was quoted a whopping $189 for a non-smoking double. Thanks to Linda, Phil and I had paid only $85 using a Priceline bid.
The ride was only about 1-1/2 miles. The hotel is new and the rooms are large and very nice. What’s amazing to me is that it was apparently sold out as well, all 4 floors. After a shower and settling in, Diana called and asked if we’d like to meet at the Old Pueblo for Mexican food, and we accepted. Most of the group was meeting at a Greek place near the Blue Mist, but Jan says the food is not very good, overpriced, and the service is spotty.
We met the girls (Diana, Mary Ellen, and Jan) on foot at the Old Pueblo and enjoy margaritas and very good Mexican fare. My machaca beef dinner was not the best I’ve had, but I sure am hungry after today’s ride. We sat about 2 hours, enjoying the food, and enjoying the company even more.
Phil and I walked back to the room in the dark, and it got really cold quickly after sundown. Hope our riding tomorrow is not too freezing. After some writing in my journal, we are asleep before 9pm.
Miles today: 64.0 (from my house). Phil rode all the way from Scottsdale and so rode further than me.