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Ride Report Archive February 2012

Fantasy Island; barking after some big dogs.

I checked the TucsonMTB website to see if anyone was riding this week. I have been here a few days now and did a ride on the Sweetwater trail system.

I found a rider that posted that he rode the Fantasy Island trail system a few times a week and I responded to it. Another rider also responded so on Wednesday there was three of us.

I showed up at about ten minutes to ten and spotted the Toyota that was Tim's rig. I unloaded my bike then rode over and introduced myself. Tim a young man entering his middle aged years, very fit and with just a touch of gray in his well trimmed beard.

Mouretsu (forum name; whose real name was Jay) had not shown up yet so I rode over to the trail head and waited.

I studied the trail head map, rode up and down the fence line, and worked on bike stands (I'm still not for squat when it comes to bike standing).

Jay and Tim showed up (Jay, very fit with a small stuffed animal attached to the bill of his helmet) and after a very brief introduction, we hit the trail hard.

Very much like most every rider that is showing their stuff on their home turf. We blasted down the trail and through a small wash, the tread was very firm with lots of rock and rubble lining the track. The constant use of the trail has pushed all the loose material to either side so that the descents through the wash are ridden high on a berm as you blast into the wash, followed by a climb on hard packed material, again the loose stuff lining the trail on ether one side or the other.

Every wash, no mater the size was very similar in development of the line. The descent would rail down into the gully on the edge of a berm formed by the ditch that was the trail. The ditch would be full of rock and rubble, except on the edges, forcing the rider to rail from one side of the ditch to the other during the descent. The ditch that formed the trail flowed into an arc as it headed down through the sandy wash at the bottom.

The trail would cross the wash and arc back up the other side, many times turning to blast back into the wash and cross again, repeating this two or three times before reaching a point where the line exited on to the flat.

The flat areas were solid firm packed track that made a distinctive sound as our tires crushed thru the alluvium mix of gravel sand silt and clay.

It didn't take but a minute or so to loose sight of Jay and Tim, Jay leading the ride and Tim right on his back tire like there was a rope connecting them.

After a couple of minutes, Jay and Tim were out of sight. I cranked it on at as high a rate as I could maintain until Jay stopped to adjust his seat post and I caught up. A quick couple of seconds of banter and we were off again.

I was able to keep them in sight as we rode, I would almost catch up on the climbs and flat but would lose them on the ripping descents through the little valleys that were formed by the washes.

At about ten minutes into the ride, they stopped to let me catch up. Jay asked how I was doing and I had to tell him that I didn't think I could maintain this 180+ bpm heart rate for too much longer.

We took off again and the pace was a micro measure slower. I worked hard to keep them in sight and I think they were slowing their pace on the flats so that I could catch up and regain a realistic heart rate for a few seconds.

Tim lives just a few blocks away from the area and rides here all the time. He works a night shift and gets off near midnight. He will come out and take a lap in the middle of the night. One night he was doing a lap when he was coming up a ridge line just above a wash where he ran into a Bob Cat. The cat sat in the trail and was belligerent. Tim said he stopped and inched his way forward, coaxing the cat to move until he was only about five feet away. The cat finally relenting and disappearing into the night. I would imagine the cat was blinded by Tim's lights and didn't know what to make of the situation.

We kept up the pace, taking in Christmas tree loop and the Burro Pit loop which has a distinctive feature known as the over and under. The trail runs across some expanded metal sheeting that is supported by some lumber, which is laid across what looks like an old concrete door opening. Maybe the entrance to an old root cellar or some other underground structure. The trail swoops around to climb up and behind the structure then take a line that drops down through the opening.

The trail has a few other features like the Shut, which drops at a radical pitch to shoot up the other side of a gully. The tread down the face of the gully lined with pavers to keep the trail firm. A lot of the riders hit this with big speed, launching off the top and hitting deep into the descent, this could be why they put down the pavers.

But the biggest feature has to be the half pipe. Nearing the end and after Bo's loop there is a narrow gully. The gully is not real deep but it is narrow and the soil composition is more dirt and clay than most of the surrounding area, which makes for a firm line that runs up and down the walls of the gully, making it fast and swoopie.

The approach to the half pipe has two lines, one that hits a drop of about 6 feet and the other just drops into the top of the gully. Jay hit the big drop and I followed Tim to shoot across the top of the gully and swoop up the side and back across, to repeat a half dozen times.

The ride through the Fantasy Island Trail system was fun and exciting. Jay and Tim hit it hard the whole way and we completed the run in one hour and two minutes. Jay said he normally rides the system in one hour and ten to fifteen minutes and the best time he has had was fifty six minutes so we did a fast lap.

The guys were riding fast enough that if I had washed out on a corner, or lost the line anywhere, I would have lost them. The key for me was to stay as close as possible without setting myself up for a faster pace, since Tim owns this trail I just needed to follow Tim's line and avoid washing out and losing them.

A few miles in the White Tank Mountains.

After reading some reviews, especially Mountain Biking Bills review (he split his face open on the Goat Canyon Trail and had to have stitches), I decided on a route that looked more benign.

The Mesquite and Willow Canyon Trails, which come up to just at 7 miles of riding.

Seven miles, how hard can it be? I left my wife, her brother and my sister-in law at the trail head and started up a wide track.

The tread was firm compacted dirt. It climbed gently at first, turning to a very steep, low gear grind after about a quarter mile.

The trail was headed west, climbing along the south face of a ridge. Following in and out of the contours until it crossed a small wash and started switch backing up the north face of the opposing ridge.

The track had become narrow with every foot of climb until it turned into a rocky single track as it crossed over to the north face.

The climb had turned into one continuous rocky set of steps, broken up with rock water bars. The line pulled me from my bike time and time again as I attempted to bounce up the to clear the front wheel but not able to maintain enough momentum to drag the back wheel over, mostly on the water bars.

Determined to ride instead of walk, I would push a few feet then remount my bike and crank my way over jumbled rocks and step up after step up. Surprising myself with what I was able to clear.

The trail climbed through a series of switch back turns and around the edge of a ridge to cross back over to the south facing ridge one more time.

The upper end of the south facing ridge turned from all large rocks steps to lots of rock and rubble.

The loose rubble shifting and breaking free as I powered my way through to ascend up and over some of the rocky water bars and find my self off the bike again in a few places, one time steeping back into a thorny bush that let me know it was there by drawing a little blood and leaving some nice scrapes down the back of my leg.

I had started the climb between two groups of hikers, one about a quarter mile ahead of me and one about a quarter mile behind. No mater how hard I tried I could not gain or drop ether group, we were all maintaining about the same pace even though I was on my bike.

The trail broke up over the top of the ridge to present a flat smooth single track, a real contrast to what I had endured for the last two plus miles.

The line ran on an almost flat course. The trail cut into the hillside with a very strong drop off and exposure, to the extent of being on the edge of a cliff in a few locations.

Easy riding along the next mile or so, a nice line that ran into and out of the crevices cut deep into the ridge until it reached a rocky wash.

The track across the wash and up the other side was a mix of large rock, rubble, and sand. One of two locations where I had to dismount and walk on both the ascent and descent. This one because of the steep pitch to the ascent up a series of rock steps.

I rode on, bouncing again over the large rocks and rocky water bars until I reached the Ford Canyon trail junction.

I took a short break while I put my armor on to protect my shins, knees, and elbows before the descent.

All the way up the climb, I had looked at the long series of steps and drops, stuff I just could not clear on the ascent and thought about the best line on the descent.

The descent started with the return down the rocky steps and water bars. Lots of drops and steps that had my seat lowered all the way down and my weight shifted back.

I maintained just enough speed to keep moving forward but not enough to get into trouble. I was always looking for the best line, and in some cases the best line might be over some large boulders or a series of rocks.

Back at the last wash, that I had crossed, I had to dismount and carry my bike down a series of rocky steeps to pick up the line again and cross the wash.

The trail was again a sweet smooth surface that ran fast in both the ascent and descent; but was all too soon over.

The power run down the rock and rubble, punctuated with rocky steeps, a sharp switch back and at least a half dozen hikers (who all stepped to the side when they saw this old white haired man bouncing and dropping over step after step, with a few hard pulls and cranks to make some of the rocky stuff).

Back into the large boulder and rock steps to descend some very chunky stuff. The switch backs in the bottom portion were so sharp that two of them had me off my bike, to flip it 180 degrees and step back over the saddle and continue the descent until I finally hit the compacted trail.

The trail turned from bucking chunky rock drop and roll to a smooth fast screaming descent.

The upper part of the compacted section was very steep with lots of water bars and switch backs but as the slope started flattening out, my speed increased until I was launching over the water bars all the way back to the parking area.

Getting ready to head back down to Tucson.

I have been back a month and my wife and I decided we wanted to go back and get a place to stay for a month or so to see how we liked it.

I have over a dozen rides to document but have not had the time or inclination to do so. I have been riding the wet, sloppy trails all month with the dry, chunky trails of the south west becoming a quickly fading memory.

On Friday I rode with a crew of under employed. We hit the Growlers trails early, 9:00 AM. The weather was outstanding for this time of year; sunny skies, moderate to cool temperatures (a few frozen patches) and a moderate breeze. It almost made me rethink me plans to leave but after hitting a few mud holes those thoughts all evaporated faster than the puddles dotting the trail.

There were ten of us and we decided to ride lower trails, since a few of the riders could only commit to a couple of hours of riding.

We started on Predator, hitting the line hard; we bombed down to the seasonal creek and started the climb back up. About half way up the climb, I rolled over a rise and swung into a turn to feel my bike slide on solid ground. I looked down at the rear tire and it looked good, a couple of squeezes and punches to confirm that it was indeed solid, I remounted my bike and after a couple of pedal strokes realized the front tire was flat.

Now when I was down south, I had put slime in my tires to protect them from all the poky things that were on the trails (mainly spiky desert plants) and I was surprised to find the tire flat. I decided to pump it up and see if it would seal. By the time I hit the junction with Cousin Eddy, it was again going flat.

I pulled the front tire and inspected the tube while the others hit Cousin Eddy. I could hear their banter fade as they rode down through the woods. As I inspected the tube I found a small whitish blob forming about a third of the way around the tube from the stem. I ran my hand around the tire and found a thorn sticking through the tire.

I removed the thorn and installed a new tube, I tried to release the air from the old tube but it did not want to deflate very much as I stuffed it into my pack.

Later that night I pulled the tube out and pumped it up to see if I could patch the leak, I could feel the squishy sealant inside the tire so I thought it might be repairable and reusable. As I inspected the tire, I found the leak, frothing away. Then I found another just a few inches away, and then as I rotated the tube around I found four more. The tube had been punctured six times in all, and all were weeping small amounts of sealant.

The guys finished the turn around Cousin Eddy just as I was riding out to the road. We did a lap around Beauty, then one around Belly.

We rode up to hit Carnage trail followed by Piece and Pound then hammered our way back on the Creek trail. I was following close on Jim LeMonds tire and he was right behind Brian Mohan. I came around a corner just in time to see Brian doing a little side step dance with his bike, trying to keep his balance as he hopped sideways down the bank of the creek, pulling his bike along with him, until he fell over backwards. A classic tumble with no harm done to Brian; he recovered and headed on down the trail.

By the time I reached the road, the group had started back toward the cars. Barry DeSemple and Nick were behind me, and they wanted to do a little more riding. It had been a couple of hours but they were still craving trails.

We headed for the top.

The view from Legacy was outstanding. The sky completely clear and blue with the exception of one little whiff of a cloud, we could see the Olympics; the range was stretched out across the far northwestern horizon. Turning toward the east, Mt Rainer was so clear and striking in the cold crisp air, covered in bright white snow from top to bottom. Mount St Helens equally striking with Mt Adams right off her shoulder and the Goat Rocks stretching north from Adams; a chain of rugged rocky peaks covered in fresh snow.

It was very breeze up on the top but mitigated by the warm sunshine. We spent a little time talking about the climb and then returned to the trail.

A blasting fast descent down Legacy, that had us cranking through the dips and humps as we headed toward the big steep. A short but uncontrolled descent that was frozen solid today, although that had no real effect since the key was not to break hard enough to skid but to break just hard enough that the wheels kept turning. There is a slight rumbling sound that comes from the breaks as they modulate on the steep descent.

The trail exit from Legacy has a couple of features that I had to come up and session a few times to get the hang of them, a log/root drop on a corner that catches almost everyone a few times, followed by a couple of old logs right at the end of the trail.

The descent through WTF and down Vortex were very fast and flowed good, the ground still a little wet and slick in spots but overall a great run.

By the time we hit Jekyll all the frozen stuff was gone and there were just a few wet spots, Rob Larson had done some work on the approach to the log over bridge on the small creek that has improved that sketchy little section immensely.

There were a few more improvements on the trail, a new banked corner and a couple of areas that the drainage has been improved, making the descent through those spots smoother and quicker.

It had been four hours of riding and I was toast. After a short discussion I left Barry and Nick to take on the rest of the descent and headed back to my car.

I will be heading south next week; my wife and I will start with a visit to Santa Cruz, to see some friends from our youth. I plan on riding a trail or two while there.

Since we are not going to drive straight through I will be looking to discover some new trails along the trip. We will probably stay in a couple of other location along the way for a day or two, with the goal of reaching Tucson before the 24 hours of Old Pueblo race begins.

I will be updating my web pages from the road, hopefully more consistent than I was on my last trip.