Up at 6, and as usual, Phil is up quickly but I’m dragging a bit. There is a free continental breakfast in the lobby, a cheese Danish, and I really enjoy the raisin bran and whole milk – tastes like another dessert!
We’re out on the road a little early this morning, by about 7:45am. Before we go, I hear Sharon say that many riders will usually meet at the McDonalds or The Good Egg at Chandler Heights Blvd and Alma School Road, and so I make an arrangement with her to pick up my panniers there.
We head north on Henness Road. The cue sheet indicates a turn onto Kourtsen, but Henness ends in a tee with no Kourtsen to be found. We head left on Cottonwood for a mile, which doesn’t have a bike lane, and we then turn right onto Peart, which does. A nice convenience store clerk tells us that Pinal Ave. is just a mile over to the west, although I scratch my head when she calls it PINE’-el Avenue.
We head west on Kourtsen, and I get a big smile when I see one of my bright yellow cardboard signs on the roadside that reads “PMBC ↑↑”. It is a leftover from the Casa Grande Century ride held on January 11, so this sign has been out here in the rain and weather for over a month. Surprisingly, it has held up pretty well. I grab the sign, and unfortunately I must fold it in order to stow it in my trunk.
The morning is cold, but the sun is shining, and Phil and I are soon rotoring up Pinal Avenue with another quiet tailwind at our backs. I stop at McCartney Road to take off my rain jacket – I’m dripping inside. We cross I-10 and start a slight uphill on AZ187.
Our next turn is onto Casa Grande Road, which then heads downhill into Sacaton. Sacaton is a very quiet little Indian farming town just south of the Gila River with some nice features, but I can’t help but notice that the place hasn’t seen a trash pickup in years. We cross the river bridge and battle some crosswinds for a couple miles northeast, out to AZ87. Sharon is already there in the van, and we stop to chew the fat with her and stand up for a few minutes. I immediately pull out a granola bar and start chomping, and then I spy Geni in the van’s passenger seat, grinning and pointing a finger at me for eating again.
Turning northwest, the winds are in our favor again, and I call back to Phil for us to crank it up and take advantage of them. I’m soon at a fairly steady 19 mph. In just a few miles, the right turn onto Gilbert Road appears, so Phil and I stop for a moment to see whether he might want to turn north and head to his house. He shakes his head no, that’d actually be further away.
We continue up AZ87, finally hitting Hunt Highway, then Alma School. When I reach the McDonalds on Chandler Heights, I start searching around for cyclists but see none. Nor do I see any signs of The Good Egg. Circling around the McDonalds, I soon spy three riders exiting the parking lot across the street, and figure The Good Egg must be over there.
Sure enough, Sharon and Phil are there waiting for me. Phil and I are the only riders there so far, since the other three have headed further north to Chipotle’s. We take a table on the outside patio, complete with radiant space heaters – nice. We also grab our bags from Sharon. Pretty soon, lots of other riders start streaming in. Mary Ellen, Diana, Jesse, Mike, Zach, Russ, Jill, Alex, John, Tom, Jan P, Jane, Carol, and Paul are soon taking over the patio and enjoying breakfast together. It is practically a farewell meal to the tour, since many riders will scatter from this point, and there is both hugging and picture taking.
As we are finishing up, Peggy arrives to take Phil’s bag to his house (it is too big and heavy to lug on the bike). I reluctantly load my heavy-ish panniers onto my rack, and roll out onto Alma School with Carol, who is surprised that Jan P has taken off without her. As we just about catch them, they turn left at Ocotillo Road, and so I wave goodbye to Carol.
The winds have picked up even more during our breakfast, and I am really enjoying the tailwind from the south at even higher speed. Heading east is a bit more of a chore, however, with the crosswinds and my added weight. I’ve got a good route planned home – with bike lanes the whole way. North on Alma School, east on Frye, north on McQueen, east on Chandler Blvd., north on Cooper, east on Houston, then north on Lindsay all the way to McDowell.
The last four miles east on McDowell are slow going, but it felt good to be getting home. The day’s weather turned out fantastic, and I arrive home feeling great.
Miles today: 59.0
Total miles 2009 tour: 241.0