Posts tagged ‘travel’
What an amazing trip we had out west this summer … 21 days and just over 4000 miles of visiting family and sightseeing in 8 states. The genesis of the trip was our cousin’s wedding in Phoenix for Memorial Day weekend. But there was also a really cool mountain bike race the next weekend in Flagstaff giving us a chance to visit other cousins who live there. Along the way here are some highlights from our trip:
- Camping for a couple days at the Grand Canyon: Kristine ran to see the sunrise, Josiah and I biked 9 miles to see the sunset, Analise was the girl scout camping expert pretty much single-handedly showing us how to set up the giant tent we borrowed from the Mabry’s
- Phoenix for the wedding and to visit family: Analise absolutely loved the wedding – especially getting to dance with her cousins and the bride and groom during the reception, Analise and Josiah both enjoyed swimming and playing with all four cousins, Josiah and I biked through the canals, and I had a chance to bike with Uncle Bruce in an awesome mountain bike park (Deem Hills). I also drove down to Tucson to do the longest, highest climb I’ve ever done on the bike (Mt Lemmon – 41.8 miles starting at 2300′ and ending at 9000′)
- Flagstaff to visit family and race the Barn Burner: Analise and Josiah enjoyed playing and biking around town with their cousins, Kristine hiked up to the highest point in Arizona (Humphreys Peak – 12,600′), I placed fourth at the Barn Burner 104 mountain bike race, and we all camped at nearly 9’000 feet on the side of the San Francisco peaks. Also, Analise was totally into astronomy with the Lowell Observatory, the transit of Venus, and viewing Saturn through the 100+ year old Clark Telescope
- Los Alamos: Kristine and the kids enjoyed exploring the Indian ruins at Bandeleir national monument while I had the opportunity to climb up and into the Valles Caldera – an ancient massive supervolcano
- Tulsa for the Tulsa Tough bike race: the kids enjoyed biking all over town and doing well in the kids races. I had a chance to race three days including the climb up Cry Baby Hill which was very Tour de France like – check it out:
Some maps and stats – just over 4000 miles of driving … 1242 miles of riding and over 90,000′ of climbing split over 37 rides…
Sunday, Day 14 – Flagstaff, AZ
Bike to work week kick-off parade, Garmin search and non-rescue, Lowell observatory Saturn rings
We slept in a bit on Sunday having a leisurely morning before Kip and I took all the kids on a bike ride down to the “bike to work week” kick-off parade and bike swap while Kristine relaxed at the house. We made it just in time to tag onto the back of the parade. Lots of people were dressed up in costumes, and there was a competition for the most creative human powered vehicle — the winner ended up being a bike with trailer adorned with butterfly wings that flapped as the bike was ridden.
One guy did tricks on his BMX bike that Josiah really enjoyed, including standing up on the back pegs of the bike and letting the bike coast downhill no-handed. When he started to pick up a lot of speed he hopped off the bike and started running beside the bike while the bike continued on alone. Then before the bike fell he grabbed it and hopped back on again. My favorite part of the parade was the Alpine Pedaler (see video) with up to eight people lined up in two rows facing each other pedaling hard to move the large vehicle. The driver navigated at the front like a stage coach. After the parade we went to the bike swap where we got two helmets to replace the kids old helmets. Analise got one that exactly matched Eliza’s new helmet.
After lunch at the Beaver Street Brewery, we headed out to look for my Garmin – driving along some of the forest roads that were part of the race course before parking in a shady spot so I could bike the rest of the way to the area where I thought the Garmin had fallen off. After nearly two hours of searching, I couldn’t find it. There was so much loose pine straw and tall grass in the section where it came off that it would have probably taken many people and hours and hours of careful scanning to find it since my search didn’t turn up anything. C’est la vie.
We headed back and had a really nice chicken taco dinner with everyone including Beth who was back from work. Frozen yogurt for dessert, but the real after-dinner treat was heading up to the Lowell Observatory to explore the museum and look through the 100+ year old 24-inch Clark telescope at the rings of Saturn. The kids loved it, although they were a bit tired.
Monday, Day 15 – Flagstaff, AZ
Road bike ride with Kip, Lowell Observatory revisited, primitive camping on the side of 12,356′ Agassiz feet
After Kip’s kids were off to school, Kip and I went on a 3 hour ride that headed out one of the more popular road riding roads – Lake Mary. On the way back in, we saw a HUGE bald eagle fishing in one of the lakes. Then we headed up a popular climb up the Campbell Mesa to the research telescopes for the Lowell Observatory.
Kristine and I took the kids to the Lowell Observatory where we took the observatory tour. Analise got to move the dome on the observatory and look through a telescope at the sun – the sunspots were really cool. Afterwards, it was a stop by Mama Burger and then on up to the Snow Bowl ski area for a real wilderness experience camping. Ironically, we were high enough up on the mountain gto get 2 bars of a 3G connection probably from a tower back down in Flagstaff. On Monday we hiked up to a meadow to watch the sunset and then look at the stars before the full moon came out. Then on Tuesday we hiked to some cool petroglyphs, where Josiah and I did some rock climbing to make it up high on the cliff in search of more petroglyphs.
Tuesday, Day 16 – Flagstaff, AZ to Los Alamos, NM
Meteor crater, transit of Venus, Snow bowl ski resort climb 2x
We started out Tuesday with the hike to the Indian petroglyphs before Kristine and the kids headed back to Flagstaff. I stayed behind to climb the Snow Bowl road a couple times followed by a nice tail-wind ride back to Flagstaff. From there we set out on the first leg of our trip back home to Alabama – driving to Los Alamos, NM where I had spent a little bit of time during high school on a two-week science camp.
On our drive, we swung by Meteor Crater where we used our solar filter glasses to watch part of the transit of Venus. It was hard to see at first, but eventually you could see the tiny dot of Venus making its way across the face of the sun. Every time we stopped for gas or food on our drive, we would pull out the solar glasses and check out the progress of Venus. Analise and I got to see it the best at a Sonic near Houck, AZ where Venus had moved to about the middle right of the sun. We stopped one more time a little before sunset and it was really, really hard to see but we think there was a tiny dot just below the middle. The transit of Venus in front of the sun won’t happen for another 117 years, so we felt really lucky to be able to see it.
Wednesday, Day 17 – Los Alamos, NM
Bandelier National Monument, Valles Caldera, Pizza Timeout Express
Day 17 – Indian ruins at Bandelier National Monument
Kristine took the kids up to the Bandelier National Monument to explore the Indian ruins while I went on the best ride of this trip so far — a long climb from White Rock, NM up and over the side of the Valles Caldera down into the huge caldera from this supervolcano that erupted a long time ago. The climb was awesome consisting of some long gradual sections as well as some really steep sections, but the best part of the ride was being inside the massive caldera which is now a giant valley with mountains in the middle that are actually huge lava domes. On the way back down, I swung through Los Alamos and stumbled upon the Pajarito ski climb. This was a really steep 4 mile climb with amazing views of the Rio Grande river valley far below. The descent down this climb was the fastest of the trip with several 50+mph sections. Back at the hotel, I met Kristine and the kids where we walked down the street to Pizza Timeout Express for a fun pizza dinner and games.
Thursday, Day 18 – Los Alamos, NM to Tulsa, OK
Pajarito Ski Hill revisited, Drive to Tulsa
Before we took off on the long drive to Tulsa, I had a chance to ride up the Pajarito Ski Hill again, but this time I started all the way down at the Rio Grande River. The 18 mile climb went from about 5300′ to 9000′ making it an HC climb. It started out gradual with one steeper stretch, before staying gradual all the way to the base of the Pajarito Ski Hill where the road really kicks up for the last 5 miles of the climb. I was trying to go easy to save up my legs for the first day of Tulsa Tough on Friday, but an 18 mile climb is an 18 mile climb.
After finishing up the ride, we loaded up the car and headed to the Los Alamos science museum where we learned a lot about nuclear research and the history of the nuclear bomb. Very interesting and intriguing. Then we took a scenic drive through Santa Fe on our way to the very cool two-lane US highway that took us over to I-40.
That’s a summary of our trip, but the pictures below tell a much better story:
Thursday, Day 4 – sunset adventure with Josiah
After a fun hobo dinner over the campfire, Josiah and I set out on a sunset adventure. We took the new trail I found to the Bright Angel lodge and then connected with Hermit Rd, which is open only to shuttles and cyclists. I pushed Josiah up the big opening hill before we took a gatorade break at the first overlook point. Then we continued on eventually making it to Maricopa point, which is closed to cyclists. BUT, as we started walking our bikes along the trail, we realized there was nobody there! So we hopped back on and rode the paved trail all the way out to the lookout point where we got the picture and video below:
Josiah showing the view looking west … note we were able to ride to the edge of the canyon because Maricopa was empty!
Friday, Day 5 – worst ride ever – Grand Canyon to Flagstaff
The views were great, but there was a lot of traffic, and the wind was horrendous. 20+mph steady headwind with gusts up to 50mph. Once I finally made it to Valle, I was hoping for a cross-tailwind, but instead it was just a nasty knock your front wheel sideways crosswind. As the road climbed gradually towards the San Francisco peaks, the wind got increasingly worse. Eventually, going across the Kendrick Park meadow, the wind was sustained at 30-40mph with gusts probably in the 60mph range. It is easily the worst wind I have ever ridden in. The only redeeming part of the ride is that after about a mile or two of descending from the high pt of 8046′, the road had bent enough to give me a tailwind. So I had a fast downhill with tailwind to end the ride. I made it to the Snowbowl climb turnoff ahead of Kristine, so after waiting a few minutes I headed up the climb even though I was tired and out of food. Shortly after starting the climb, Kristine drove up so I gladly called it a day – I had had enough of the wind. The views were great – see these pics from Hermit Rd in the grand canyon and much later in the ride approaching the San Francisco peaks.
View looking west from Hopi Pt at the start of my ride
The San Francisco peaks outside of flagstaff
Saturday, Day 6 – exploring Mummy Mountain and Camelback Mountain in Phoenix
We drove down to Phoenix later in the day on Friday arriving while everyone was at the rehearsal dinner for the wedding. The next morning Josiah and I went for an hour long ride exploring the very cool canal trail and tunnels while Kristine did a 5K running race with her cousin, Kimberly. When they got back, my uncle Jim helped guide me through the canal tunnel system over towards Camelback Mountain and Mummy Mountain where I tried to find every way possible to get high up on the mountains. There were many mansions built into the side of the hill with super long, steep driveways but they were all gated-off private property. Still, the roads leading to the driveway were really fun with several steep sections.
Approaching Camelback Mountain from the west – praying monk on the left
Approaching the “castle” climb on Camelback Mountain
Sunday, Day 7 – South Mountain KOM and North Mountain KOM attempt – 104.5 miles
The ride down Central Ave to South Mountain was relatively easy with a bike lane for most of the way. The route when straight through downtown Phoenix, which was deserted on a Sunday morning. Most of the lights could be timed so that I think I only had to wait at one or two lights. This road takes you directly into the climb. The Strava segment that I had looked at was the one that started at the restrooms so when I passed a parking area that looked like it had restrooms, I drilled it. I was trying to maintain 350 watt average, but after about 5 minutes of this, my average started to slowly come down until I ended up with a time of 24’27” and a 324 watt average. I saw a sign at the entrance that said “Silent Sunday, no motor vehicles” which probably explains why there were hundreds of other cyclists climbing the mountain. It was motivating for me to always have people up ahead to chase. On the way back down, I explored all the side roads and lookouts enjoying the amazing views.
Right to left – Camelback Mountain, Mummy Mountain, Squaw Peak, North Mountain, Thunderbird, Deem Hills
View of the summit climb on South Mountain from the San Juan side road
Later in the afternoon I headed out to meet Uncle Bruce at the Deem Hills park to go mountain biking. Along the way I climbed North Mountain to see if I could set the KOM on it the same day that I set one on South Mountain. Unfortunately, the climb was far too steep and technical and it was all I could do to make it to the top without putting my foot down – ended up third on the KOM. To give you an idea of how steep part of the climb was – there was one stretch of the descent where I was leaned all the way back off the back of the saddle because I felt like I was going to tip over the handlebars if I hit the brakes too hard or hit a rock. Here are a couple pics of North Mountain:
I continued on up towards Deem Hills and met Uncle Bruce for some awesome desert singletrack riding. We started out by climbing from the parking lot up to the top of one of the northern peak. The climb was pretty steep in parts – particularly in the tight switchbacks. I was able to ride a couple of the switchbacks but had to walk one or two of the others. The trails were rocky in spots, but not overly technical. You could have fun on both the climb and the downhill. Perhaps the thing that stood out the most, though, was all the different kinds of cactus and cholla with the trails clearly visible on the sides of the hills. After we finished riding, Bruce directed me on a much better route that involved a small climb up Thunderbird canyon followed by some very cool canal trails all the way back to 7th avenue.
Finally, here is a gallery of some other pics that I took while riding. They are mostly in chronological order with pictures from the sunset with Josiah first and my rides yesterday last – except for some reason the mountain bike pictures in the afternoon are before the road ride pics from the morning.
Day 1 – Birmingham to Mt Magazine – 450 miles
We arrived an hour or so before sunset after driving well over 400 miles from Birmingham. The kids were excited to go for a bike ride around the state park loop to go see the sunset at Cameron Bluffs – found cool trail connecting the campground to the overlook. Analise was really brave to ride her bike down a 15% grassy slope. Josiah felt it was quicker just to hop off and run down the slope with his bike. Beautiful sunset (see timer picture below). We had a nice dinner at the lodge and a good night’s sleep waking up to an absolutely amazing sunrise overlooking the valley 2000 feet below. Here is my favorite picture from Mt Magazine:
Day 2 – Mt Magazine 2x plus drive to Bernalillo, NM – 830 miles
Rolling descent down to Paris – zero traffic, turn around in Paris – rolling climb back up, realize running out of time so pick up the pace before the top. Zip back down the other side to the low point before Havana … turn around do just below AT effort on the long climb back up. Very cool climb, short hiking trail at slow speed up to the true summit – cat 1 climb. Lunch at the lodge – 830 mile drive to Bernalillo – arrive at 12:30AM, asleep by 1AM
Day 3 – Sandia Crest plus drive to Grand Canyon – 425 miles
I picked Bernalillo so I could be close to the Sandia Crest climb. The climb started out as beautiful pavement, but then I saw a sign fairly early on that says “unimproved road ahead, local traffic only”. The pavement was great, though, with cool pueblo neighborhoods and fantastic view of the Sandia Crest peak and all the rocky outcroppings for several miles of the climb so I didn’t think much of it – thought maybe it was an old sign … didn’t believe it.
Then I saw another sign that says road closed for winter proceed at own risk. Shortly after that sign the beautiful pavement transitioned into a rocky, dirt road sometimes steep, basically a rouge roubaix style road except continuing on and on forever (7.5 miles of climbing to be exact). I immediately backed off the pace and picked my line very carefully not wanting to flat in such an isolated area. I passed by the entrance to Sandia Cave where there is a picture of a woman next to a sign that said “unsolved murder 1999″. Most of the climb was rocky, but there were several hard-packed non-rocky dirt sections that were fun, absolute beautiful scenery narrow roads. I lost my gps signal a couple times through the canyons.
After 7.5 miles of the dirt road, I emerged onto NM-536 which was nicely paved and had lots of horseshoe switchbacks on the way up to the crest. It was hard to push any harder than 240-250watts. I’m not sure if it was the altitude or the length of the climb? There was a stunning view at the top of the mountains and crags below and Albuquerque stretched out far below. The gift shop is built at the high point with a radio tower armada immediately adjacent. Amazing views.
No way I was going to do the dirt descent, so I headed all the way back down to 536 to the I40 corridor back into Albuquerque where I called Kristine to coordinate meeting her at an exit ramp (#164) from I40.
Day 4 – Grand Canyon – Kaibab National Forest
Woke up early just after the sunrise … rode with the kids in search of the Grand Canyon. I kid you not – we couldn’t find it! It was pretty obvious which way the canyon was, but all the trails that headed that direction (e.g., through the Shrine of Ages) had “no biking” signs. So we headed up towards another lookout but the kids were exhausted by this point, and the hill was kinda steep. I found out later on my mountain bike ride that we only needed to make it to the top of the hill to get to a nice lookout point. So we headed back down to the cafe for breakfast and then the kids walked over with Kristine and her parents to hike to a lookout. They promised me they would take me over there later, and I headed out on a 60 mile mountain bike ride through the Kaibab National Forest.
The trailhead was about 13.5 miles from the campground so I had a bit of riding on the road to do – but there wasn’t too much traffic, and the road was wide. Eventually I made it to the turn off which immediately turned into a dirt forest service road. After about a mile or so, I made it to the Arizona Trail trailhead which theoretically goes all the way down to the border of Mexico. My plan was to ride out 10-15 miles and turn around to get about 20-30 miles of singletrack practice. The trail was kinda cool because it went through different kinds of terrain. It rolled constantly on short ups and downs with only a few longer downhills and uphills. It was mostly non-technical in terms of boulders or roots, but the rocks and dirt on the trail was loose and the turns tight meaning the speed was kinda slow. I’m sure with more practice you could really fly through it.
After about 10 miles of single track I saw a double track road with a sign that said “bike route” so I left the Arizona Trail and headed on the double track which eventually turned into a forest service road. This road alternated between sections that were sandy and others that were quite rocky (basically a flatter version of the skyway epic course). So after another 10 miles of this, I was tired of getting beat up and turned around bypassing the singletrack and instead taking the forest service road all the way back to the main highway.
This time I stopped to climb the cool fire tower, which is no longer used as a fire tower but instead serves as a great lookout where you have an excellent view not only into the grand canyon but also the surrounding area – it was used as a fire lookout at some point in time so you’d expect it to be able to see for miles and miles in all directions – and I was not disappointed.
We’re leaving after dinner tonight to start our long trip back home to Birmingham, AL from Minneapolis, MN. By the time we make it home, we will have logged over 4000 miles round trip, 8 bike races, and only 5 nights in hotels staying the other 11 nights with family and friends scattered throughout the upper midwest where Kristine is from. Check out my annotated topocreator map of the trip!
- Birmingham, AL – Home
- St Louis, MO – Midtown Alley Criterium 22nd, Tour de Grove NRC 8th, Kids races
- Dubuque, IA – Hotel Julien – arrived at 1AM after finishing Tour de Grove
- Shell Lake, WI – The Cardwell House – Kristine’s home in the northwoods
- Minneapolis, MN – Dale’s weekday apartment
- Cottage Grove, WI – Shelly’s and her family – traveling to Tour of the Dairyland
- Grafton, WI – Giro d’Grafton USA Crits 14th
- Green Bay, WI – Rick and Robin’s house – two nights while racing Dairyland races
- Appleton, WI – Appleton Criterium Tour of the Dairyland 79th
- Elkhart Lake, WI – Road America Tour of the Dairyland 4th
- Minneapolis, MN – Back to Dale’s weekday apartment
- La Porte, IN – Grandma Vivian’s house in Indiana
- Cincinnati, OH – The Atrium Hotel – two nights while racing the Ohio Triple
- Madeira, OH – Madeira Centennial Criterium 28th
- Hyde Park, OH – Hyde Park Blast USA Crits 11th
- Columbus, OH – Tour de Grandview 14th
- Birmingham, AL – Finally back home!!!
It’s been a great trip with some great races — only three more to go — hoping for at least one more top 10 finish!
Update – we made it back home – and I came oh so close to a top 10, placing 11th in Hyde Park.