….pumpkin spice is in the air….

Hello dear readers!  It is officially autumn in the western hemisphere, although we Phoenicians have yet to enjoy “cool” weather.  Today’s high is 100F / 37C.  Yes, it is STILL HOT.  But the mornings are cool, at least…..I can’t believe it’s been a month since my last post!  Despite my infrequent posts, I am happy to report that I have not been adventuring as much because of work.  Ever since the end of August, I’ve been talking with various music connections in order to grow my freelance business.  At this point, I have a steady choir accompanying job, several other accompanying gigs, and a recital in Prescott, AZ next month.  However, all work and no play makes me cranky and irritable, so this blog post will chronicle a few fun things that we have been fortunate to experience.

Two weekends ago, my “self-appointed trainer” (or, SAT) and I checked out a road cycling route that goes by Usery Pass in the northeast corner of the greater Phoenix metropolitan area.  This area is visited often by mountain bikers and hikers looking for easy to intermediate trails to enjoy.  Our road ride began innocently enough, with lots of easy flat miles as we rode out of town.  However, we did not know that we would get a little rain nor did we plan on a flat tire (I’ve been getting a lot of flats lately and have reached that mental riding state called “tire paranoia” — I now expect flats and other mechanical issues each time I ride.).  After my SAT fixed my flat, we reached the climbing portion of the ride, during which we stopped for a few minutes to wait out the wind and rain.  Despite those little mishaps, the rest of the ride went smoothly and we treated ourselves to fresh bagels at our local bagel shop when we finished pedaling.

Last weekend, we checked out Oktoberfest with a couple of friends and I finally did something we talked about for a long time: commuting to an event by bike.  Oktoberfest took place really close to my SAT’s workplace, so I decided to ride my bike to his building instead of driving.  Parking would have been a pain in the butt and expensive, so cycling just seemed like the obvious choice.  Too bad I got a flat tire on the way there….good thing I was almost at my SAT’s building (maybe I should start calling him my self-appointed mechanic?).  Oktoberfest itself was loud and full of beer, as one may expect.  We enjoyed some drinks, German food, and good company.

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(Photo 1: bicycle valet parking at Oktoberfest; Photo 2: amusement park rides at Oktoberfest.)

In retrospect, the food and drinks consumed at Oktoberfest can be considered ‘carb loading’ — the next ride we did was, sadly, MY idea: let’s ride our bikes to Tortilla Flat!  It’s “only” 90 miles or so!  It won’t be THAT big of an increase in distance from last week!  (The Usery Pass ride turned out to be 67 miles.)  Well, the Tortilla Flat ride turned out to be 105 miles, which is a BIG increase in mileage from the previous week’s “big” ride.  It was also a very warm day for a century ride (my first AZ century!), especially since the bulk of the climbing was done in the hottest part of the day.  Thankfully, I did not get any leg cramps or suffer from dehydration.  I just suffered from poor decision making (i.e., choosing to do this ride in the heat).  There was some pretty scenery along the way, as our route took us through the Superstition Mountains, Lost Dutchman State Park and along Canyon Lake.  Our steepest climb was probably a 6% grade, which made the descent VERY fast (I hit 40 mph!).  We treated ourselves to Mexican food after the ride to replenish our salts and spirits.

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(Canyon Lake is one major point of interest along the ride.  It is about 5 miles from the “end of the pavement,” or EOP.  You can see the EOP in photo 4; most high-clearance vehicles can probably navigate the dirt road, but we did not have a choice!  Tortilla Flat is a small unincorporated community located in the central part of the state, northeast of Apache Junction.  It started out as a stagecoach stop in 1904.  Today, it is the last surviving stagecoach stop along the Apache Trail and an authentic remnant of an old west town.  Population is apparently 6 people!)

So, why are we doing all this riding?  We have this crazy idea of riding our bikes down to Yuma, AZ for Thanksgiving weekend to visit my retiree parents who spend the winter there.  In order to have a viable chance at completing our goal, we have to train.  (Of course, if my work schedule changes — which it does frequently – then I will have to bow out of this endeavor.)  There is madness to this method (lots of pain on the bike) and a method to this madness (lots of pain on the bike).  Stay tuned for more two-wheeled pain and suffering….