I put out the social media call to see if anyone else was interested. Of course there were!! My ride plan was to start down near Oracle early, ride the dirt control rd. up the north side of Lemmon, grab some lunch in Summerhaven then sample the trails up top before returning back down the control rd.
As I neared Willow Springs rd. I saw Neil, hammering away on the shoulder of AZ77. He left his house around 4am to meet us somewhere along the climb up. He's a super strong rider and I knew he'd have no problems catching us on the control rd, but where?
I rolled into the American Flag trailhead, outside of Oracle, just before 6am to find Jason & Jennifer getting their bikes ready for the climb. We were rolling out at 6:05a.
|Early morning rays as we make our way along 11 miles of undulating terrain.|
|Eventually we'll start climbing into the foothills.|
|Jennifer topping out on an early climb.|
|Oracle Ridge as seen from below.|
A couple miles later Neil caught up to us and shortly thereafter Shannon came flying down towards us. She too rode down from the top only to turn around and ride back up. I ride with some tough chicas and usually end up eating their dust!!
|The Tucson trio, Wendi, Shannon & Neil.|
|Jason catching up on the climb.|
Somewhere near the halfway point I began to feel a slight twinge in my left quad. Ruh-roh. Sure enough it began to cramp, aargh. I had to slow down and nurse it while the others pushed on up the road. Unfortunately for me the cramping only became worse as we rode on. It alternated from left quad to right, never fully locking up, but unpleasant enough to make me stop pedaling. At least I could walk for a bit.
|Marble Peak during a cramp stop.|
|Trees were now prevalent about 2/3 the way up.|
|Ahh, shade and another cramp break. Grrrr.|
|The vistas were unfolding the higher we went. A real sense of how for we've come.|
I knew once I hit the pine trees there was only a few miles to go. I rounded a turn and saw a cattle guard and thought (hoped) that signaled the end of the climb. It did!! The trio was waiting with snacks and I was actually happy to see the Oracle Ridge trailhead!!
|Flashbacks to my time on the AZT300 back in 2013.|
|The Arizona Trail is only one of a few ways down the north side of Mt. Lemmon.|
|Mt. Lemmon summit (9131'), still a ways up even after all the climbing we did.|
|A couple of finely tuned race machines!!|
|A kinder, gentler view of Oracle Ridge.|
|Scenic skyride at Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley.|
|Distant view of Mt. Wrightson (9360').|
|Not sure how Shannon pulled off the smile to the camera during this drop, but she did!!|
|Wendi railing some corners.|
|A rare smooth section of trail.|
|Neil bashing over this sketchy logroll.|
|Shannon went with the 'more speed' approach.|
|Thunderheads were popping up all around.|
|Stormy weather down in the valley too.|
|The monsoon flow keeping the hillside green.|
|Another dirt road option for future rides.|
|Steel cow says: Moo.|
I could see it raining up ahead to my right for a few miles, but with 7 miles to go the raindrops began to fall my way. They were huge and freezing cold!! It felt wonderful!! It never rained hard, just enough to make the road wet, but not terribly muddy and thankfully not sticky!!
|Riding in the rain.|
|Abundance of shade at Peppersauce campground.|
|Runoff next to the road.|
|Full rainbow framing a localized downpour.|
|A really fun section of trail after surviving an Oracle Ridge descent.|
|Gateway to the desert.|
|American Flag Ranch.|
|Still standing the test of time.|
|That's western for 'Keep Out!'|
|I'm diggin' the new color info graphics on the AZT signs.|