Early ice coffee and snacks. We decided to forego a proper breakfast in order to dive into this ride. I’m so looking forward to it. Even after doing this ride, what, five time now, this third day is really special.
It’s one long-ass climb out of Reserve, and in print I won’t grind through each mile of it. But Jack and I sure did (grind, that is). It’s 2,300 feet in 14 miles, with the last 1,500 feet in about 5.5 miles (5% grade). I know, real alpine cyclists would sneeze at that, but for us mortals, on two-thirds loaded touring bikes, we weren’t sneezing at all.
This is elk country but we never spotted any. Instead we just got absolutely gorgeous scenery. Concrete picnic tables are the reward for this 1st climb to 8000′. We spent minutes overlooking the sweeping valley below us.
From there it’s a luscious 6-mile downhill into the town of Luna NM. These miles are among my favorites – easy rolling at 20 mph through fabulous old growth pine forests.
Today’s second climb goes back up to 8100′ peaking exactly at the Arizona state line. Although a chore, I don’t think it bothered Jack and me too much. Compared to the 1st climb, this one is easier. And after that 1st climb, I think we both were plenty used to the slow grind mentality of it all.
I found another tarantula on a roadside barrier and stopped to photograph. I later learned that these guys are typically out seeking mates following rains.
From the state line it should be an easy glide down into Alpine AZ, but we encountered some moderate headwinds on the way. Jack typically tolerates these much better than I do. I worried that these might dog us the rest of the day.
We passed by Luna Lake itself, the ride’s namesake. It seems rather dried up and not too much to look at today. Entering town, I also spotted a managed herd of elk and stopped for more photos (anything to break up riding in the headwind).
Lunch time! The Alpine Grill & Still beckoned once again. The regular dining room was closed so we took a seat in the bar area. The decor is much more interesting and I’ll sit there from now on. Sorry I got no photo in there, but lunch was good! We cracked up at the restaurant’s sign out front: STOP STƐAㄥ!NG R ㄥETTƐRS
I could sense Jack was getting slightly nervous looking at the time, and with good reason. 32 miles in, about 33 more to go, and here we were 6.5 hours in to a 10 hour day, with another climb ahead of us. Still, I knew from previous rides that some typically smooth sailing is ahead – IF those headwinds don’t bite us.
3rd climb, this time to 8500′. This is probably the easiest climb of the day, but still slow going on touring rigs. Then, from the top, wow, I’m smiling as I think about it. 25 mph for free for 12 miles. Beautiful alpine scenery. Headwinds? Nah, in fact there was probably a tailwind. Glorious riding!!
A stop at Nelson Reservoir to catch our breaths, then onward to Springerville. I had whined to Jack about that pesky climb right before town, the one that turns south into the wind. Probably overcooked it in my memory – it really wasn’t too bad today, and we soon found ourselves zipping in to the outskirts of town.
Back to the SUV. There’s something about today’s ride that always makes me feel wonderful. All the early hard work, all the beautiful scenery. Somehow that wind-assisted final 20 miles leaves one feeling, well, great about life in general.
Jack and I have a mountain of matchless first-rate memories on our bicycles, and yet this tour managed to add yet another stellar chapter.
Source: Jack’s cyclemeter app https://cyclemeter.com/51ced2364be66c17/Cycle-20181010-0733-65308
Distance Today: 62.60 miles
Climbing Today: 4,501’
Descending Today: 3,322’
Tour Distance: 166.90 miles
Tour Climbing: 8,352’
Tour Descending: 8,352’