Since my wife, Carol, and I both love to climb on our bikes it was easy to be seduced by Susan's website offering 14,000 feet of climbing on a 400K brevet. We signed up and were excited by the prospect of the climbing and riding in a new area. We were not disappointed.
This brevet was based out of a working ranch located on the Verde river---idyllic. Arriving Sunday evening at the ranch we were greeted by Sally, the ranch dog who was waaay cool. There was the streaming in of riders from Susan's 600K to the Grand Canyon and the hustle bustle was exciting. We put lights on our bikes and prepared our gear for the 5am start...
Up early and ate breakfast and off we went into a perfect cool Arizona morning complete with the scents of the river/desert/ranch and the sounds of bikes rolling out on a dirt road. Does it get much better than this? Eight riders rolling off to Skull Valley and beyond--sounds kinda like a movie script! We met some way cool people on this ride and all was going good. Carol flatted (twice) but in her usual style handled the incidents as just speed bumps and motored on. I found myself riding with yet another rider who had done the Furnace Creek 508 (am I the ONLY rider in these events who has not done the 508? I found myself wondering.....)
The descent into Skull Valley was incredibly beautiful....the desert was in bloom with cactus blossoms, ocotillos budding and saguaros topped with flowers..a gift. Temps were still cool, the company was great and soon about 80 miles had flown by. I then found myself riding alone past desert ranches and killer scenery. Bagdad loomed somewhere on the horizon. Heat was building but light winds, so all was good. As I approached Bagdad the heat was taking a toll (Carol and I are mountain people and are more acclimated to colder temps)...So I stayed in Bagdad eating and continuing to hydrate in the shade..Felt good! 120 miles down and time to finish the ride.
Climbing out of Bagdad there was a slight tailwind and temps around 95 degrees. I began to seek shade at times (oh, yea there IS shade if you looked for it), sat a bit and hydrated constantly. Reaching Wilhoit (which had one of those "since this road looks flat, why?? am I going soooo slow grades")...I checked in and got more to eat and drink. The hill climbing out of Wilhoit and dropping into Prescott may have been one of the finest rides of my life...of course, timing helped since I was slow enough to have caught this climb just at dusk with a full moon off my shoulder, cooler temperatures and views that almost had me stopping to enjoy them. Both Carol and I agreed this was a WAY COOL climb. Dropping into Prescott was exhilarating and soon I was on the rolling sections of the course with a full moon and perfect conditions. I do not know enough about local Arizona weather to say for sure, but I think the day was a weather gift.
Rolling back into the ranch, I woke up Sally the dog and Susan the brevet administrator (Sally because that's what she does, and Susan because I needed to get her to check me in. And to thank her for all her work in arranging this weekend for us...it seems to be a huge organizational task to me and she did a fantastic job! Thanks again to Susan....) My wife, Carol, had a sandwich ready for me and we were both raving over this ride.
Overall I rate this ride 5 chili peppers on a scale of 1-5...guess I am trying to say it was huge fun. Traffic was light and most of the drivers were very courteous. When I was stopping in the shade, drivers would stop and ask if I needed help...there are lots of great people. Just as a sidenote, Carol and I are using the Niterider Moab Light system which is a little pricey but worth twice what it costs...we also do night mountain bike rides and its a gem. Cars would sometimes flash their lights wanting you to dim yours...very comforting on fast descents....